Archive for October, 2006

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Handy

October 27, 2006

Via Mother Anarchy, via Hathor the Cow Goddess comes something that really sums up everything that is wrong with our culture.And while you’re at it check out this cartoon from Hathor which sums it all up nicely.

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Dopamine

October 25, 2006

This from an article linked from Ran’s site

This suggests that the longer one uses [heroin], the more fierce the psychological addiction, yet we also assume that psychological factors—childhood trauma, history of family dependency, unhealthy living situations, poverty, etc.—make some of us more vulnerable in the first place. A chicken or the egg sort of cycle. Some research indicates that people who get addicted to opiates may already have a deficiency of dopamine in their brains, which predisposes them to addiction to substances like heroin. But whether you’re predisposed or not, if you use heroin with any regularity, you will get addicted because heroin takes over a natural function of brain chemistry: it replaces dopamine. When the heroin stops, no dopamine, your nerves are screaming. Physical addiction is simple. If you don’t do it, you experience pain; since you did it in the first place to alleviate or avoid pain, you just do it again.

And via Regaining Soil and Sanity an Guardian newspaper article on the lack of Omega 3 in our diet and what happens to our brain when the body uses Omega 6 in it’s place:

Communication between the nerve cells depends on neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, docking with receptors in the nerve cell membrane.

Omega-3 DHA is very long and highly flexible. When it is incorporated into the nerve cell membrane it helps make the membrane itself elastic and fluid so that signals pass through it efficiently. But if the wrong fatty acids are incorporated into the membrane, the neurotransmitters can’t dock properly. We know from many other studies what happens when the neurotransmitter systems don’t work efficiently. Low serotonin levels are known to predict an increased risk of suicide, depression and violent and impulsive behaviour. And dopamine is what controls the reward processes in the brain…

There is also evidence that deficiencies in DHA/EPA at times when the brain is developing rapidly – in the womb, in the first 5 years of life and at puberty – can affect its architecture permanently. Animal studies have shown that those deprived of omega-3 fatty acids over two generations have offspring who cannot release dopamine and serotonin so effectively.

I’m not intending to draw in conclusions but the cross pollination of these two articles is kind of interesting.

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The Fall

October 21, 2006

In my last posting I quoted a small part of an essay by anthropologist E Richard Sorensen. In it he has been focusing on what he calls ‘pre-conquest’ consciousness. He has spent a large part of his career living amongst hunter/gatherer communities throughout the world and reports that if it wasn’t for the large amount of time spent immersed in these cultures he would never have become aware of their profoundly different state of mind. In fact, by his own admission it took a very long time to even recognise that there was a different state of mind – so alien was it to our own way of thinking. 

It’s important to note too that Sorensen would never have achieved what he did if he hadn’t lived in amongst his ‘subjects’ as he has done. Normally academics are expected to maintain an ‘objective’ distance from their subjects but fortunately Sorensen is not one of them, the richness of his observations and understanding is far in excess of anything an ‘objective’ technique could have produced. 

In ‘Ischmael’ Daniel Quinn uses the metaphor of fingers on a hand to describe how members of a tribe relate to each other and to what degree they are individuals – here is a passage from Sorensen conveying that same sense: 

One day, deep within the forest, Agaso, then about 13 years of age, found himself with a rare good shot at a cuscus in a nearby tree. But he only had inferior arrows. Without the slightest comment or solicitation, the straightest, sharpest arrow of the group moved so swiftly and so stealthily straight into his hand, I could not see from whence it came.           

At that same moment, Karako, seeing that the shot would be improved by pulling on a twig to gently move an obstructing branch, was without a word already doing so, in perfect synchrony with Agaso’s drawing of the bow, i.e., just fast enough to fully clear Agaso’s aim by millimeters at the moment his bow was fully drawn, just slow enough not to spook the cuscus. Agaso, knowing this would be the case made no effort to lean to side for an unobstructed shot, or to even slightly shift his stance. Usumu similarly synchronized into the action stream, without even watching Agaso draw his bow, began moving up the tree a fraction of a second before the bowstring twanged. 

Later on Sorensen describes what happens to these cultures as they lose this state of being due to exposure to the conquest oriented cultures of civilisation, sometimes it is a slower process but sometimes it happens very suddenly, this next quote is long but very revealing; 

…in cases of accelerated change, a whirlwind psychological debility would sometimes suddenly break loose. The following, abstracted from my field notes, is a firsthand description of one such case: 

I’m out, back from the Andaman where I’ve just been through an experience I’ll not soon forget. Only by pure chance did I happen to be there when their extraordinary intuitive mentality gave up the ghost right in front of me, in an inconceivable overwhelming week. I’m almost wrecked myself, in a strange anomie from having gone through that at too close a range, and from staying up all night too many times to try to understand just what was going on. I never was much good at keeping research distance, always feeling more could be learned close in. And I’d come straight into the Andaman from two months of tantric philosophical inquiry in a Tibetan monastery. Perhaps that tuned awareness up a notch too much. 

There really was no way to have predicted that, just after I arrived, the acute phase of their ancient culture’s death would start. To speak abstractly of the death of a way-of-life is a simple thing to do. To experience it is quite another thing. I’ve seen nothing in the lore of anthropology that might prepare one for the speed by which it can occur, or for the overwhelming psychic onslaughts it throws out. Nor does my profession forewarn of those communicable paroxysms that hover in the air which, without warning, strike down with overwhelming force, when a culture’s mind gives way. 

Yet this is just what happened when the traditional rapport of those islands was undone, when the subtle sensibility of each to one another was abruptly seared away in a sudden unpredicted, unprecedented, uncognated whirlwind. In a single crucial             week a spirit that all the world would want, not just for themselves but for all others, was lost, one that had taken millennia to create. It was suddenly just gone. 

Epidemic sleeplessness, frenzied dance throughout the night, reddening burned-out eyes getting narrower and more vacant as the days and nights wore on, dysphasias of various sorts, sudden mini-epidemics of spontaneous estrangement, lacunae in perception, hyperkinesis, loss of sensuality, collapse of love, impotence, bewildered frantic looks like those on buffalo in India just as they’re clubbed to death; 14 year olds (and others) collapsing on the beach, under houses, on the pier, in beached boats as well as those tied up at the dock, here and there,   into wee hours of the morn, even on through dawn, in acute inebriation or exhaustion. Such was the general scene that week, a week that no imagination could have forewarned, the week in which the subtle sociosensual glue of the island’s traditional way-of-life became unstuck.           

To pass through the disintegrating social enclaves was to undergo a rain of psychic blows, a pelting shower of harrowing awarenesses that raised goose flesh of unexpected types on different epidermal sites along with other kinds of crawlings of flesh and skin. There were sudden rushes, both cold and hot, down the head and chest and across the neck, even in the legs and feet. And deep inside, often near the solar plexus, or around heart, or in the head or throat, new indescribable sensations would spontaneously arise, leave one at a loss or deeply disconcerted.           

Such came and then diffused away as one passed by different people. Sensations would abruptly wash in across the consciousness, trigger moods of awe, or of sinking, sometimes of extraordinary love, sometimes utter horror. From time-to-time nonspecific elemental impulses arose just to run or dance, to throw oneself about, to move. All these could be induced and made to fade and then come back, just by passing through some specific group, departing, and then returning, or by coming near a single friend, moving off and coming back. That this was possible so astonished me that I checked and checked and checked again.           

Such awarenesses, repeatedly experienced, heap up within the brain. Eventually the accumulation left me almost as sleepless and night-kinetic as they had become. I did discover that with body motion, mind becomes less preoccupied within itself, therefore less distressed. With kinetic frenzy mind-honor lessens very much. But it left them exhausted during the day, somnambulant, somewhat zombie-like. When night returned, the cycle would re-begin, as if those nocturnal hours, when they would otherwise be sleeping, were the time of greatest stress.           

Though the overt frenzied movements could be observed by anyone, the psychic states that so powerfully impelled them were not easily detectable to outsiders. It seemed as if one had to have some personal rapport within the lifeway before the mental anguish could be sensed. Then it would loom, sometimes overwhelm. One Westerner looking casually on said, ‘How exotic to see these uneducated types staying up throughout the night, dancing strangely, relating to each other in nonproductive ways. This place must be an anthropological paradise: Tourists happening on the scene thought it a fillip to their holiday. Intimacy and affection seem prerequisite to connecting with these inner surges of human psyche, even overwhelming ones.           

Eventually I retreated, mentally exhausted, cognitively benumbed, emotionally wrung out. I tried to thwart that siege (when I finally recognized it for what it really was) by getting key people out. A useless foolish gambit; for no one would leave the spot, as if they were welded to it, as if it held some precious thing they very greatly loved, which they neither would nor could abandon.           

When the mental death had run its course, when what had been was gone, the people (physically still quite alive) no longer had their memory of the intuitive rapport that held them rapturously together just the week before, could no longer link along those subtle mental pathways. What had filled their lives had vanished. The teensters started playing at (and then adopting) the rude, antagonistic, ego-grasping styles of the encroaching modern world, modeled after films and then TV. Oldsters retreated into houses, lost their affinity to youngsters, who then turned more to one another, sometimes squabbling (which did not occur before).           

It seems astonishing that the inner energy of such passings is so undetectable to minds not some way linked to the inner harmonies and ardors of the place. Research-distance yields abstractions like ‘going amok,’ which could have been easily applied that week, or ‘revitalizing movement,’ which also could have been (in a perverse kind of way). It seems that only by some mental coalescence with the local lifeway can one access its deeper psychic passions, not just those of adolescence, but graver ones like those which for a time were released in inconceivable profusion, when the collective subtle mind of the islands, built up over eons, was snuffed out. 

When I was first learning about ‘pre-conquest’ cultures I remember thinking that it felt like they were still living in Eden and this report from Sorensen certainly conveys a sense that this tribe was ‘falling from grace’ in a truly biblical sense of the phrase. 

I now think it even more unlikely that any civilised person could ever achieve that same mental state and I’m even less sure that we as a people could ever get back to it under our own steam either, no matter how many years and how many generations we had to do it in. 

I have been, and still am, greatly inspired by the Continuum Concept in terms of what we can do to help out children grow up as whole people but I also see more clearly now that it will be impossible to prevent things like sibling rivalry and squabbling amongst them. As always our task as parents is to teach out children how to cope with their ‘fallen’ state.

 

One thing I kind of disagree with the author about is the implication that the pre-conquest culture was the result of evolution. I don’t think we evolved from something else into this way of being, I think it’s simply the natural state for all beings and the state that most properly wild animals are in. Jason Godesky (who’s putting out some staggeringly good work at the moment by the way) just posted this piece about the changing elephant culture which seems to be portraying something similar amongst elephant populations.

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Free Range Organic Intellect

October 17, 2006

There’s a great post on Free Range Organic Human (I hope Ted doesn’t mind the title I’ve used). I think it’s essentially about how our intellectual way of thinking isn’t really that great for us – and I guess it stands to reason that if Civilisation reveres intellectualism we need to be cautious about it.One likely response to this line of thinking is to try to get back to a non intellectual state. Idon’t think this is a bad idea but I do wonder if our capacity for intellectual thought is the only thing that can get us out of this mess now that we’re in it. It’s a kind of catch 22.

I talk a lot about raising my kids according to lessons learnt from the Continuum Concept book but what would happen if I actually succeeded? Assuming for a moment that it’s possible (I think it’s not) we wouldn’t be doing our kids any favours if we did succeeded, they would be totally ill equipped to cope with the world we live in. It’s an issue I need to dwell on some more but for now here’s a quote from an article that a reader sent me. It’s called ‘Preconquest Consciousness’  by  E Richard Sorenson

Preconquest regions were often fringed by intervening zones of mayhem and disorder, induding warfare, piracy, extravagant sexuality, and brigandage.  Getting through to them was often dangerous.

Groups only lightly touched by aggressive cultures retained much of their basic sociosensual child nurture and instinctive intuitive rapport. These core traits declined as the force of conquest increased. In the face of sustained demanding contact, open sociosensuality largely disappeared from view, to reshape as a confined covert type (seen inside houses, at sea on boats, in obscure nooks, and in isolated social fringes). Where preconquest populations were unrelentingly besieged by harsh conquistadorial demands, intuitive rapport sometimes suddenly give way en masse, precipating a period of acute existential crisis. Arising from such crises was the `savage-savage’ who caused much of the mayhem and disorder seen in those disturbed and dangerous zones that so often barricaded entrance to remnant preconquest areas.(4)

I think I’ve mentioned this stuff before, I’m not sure what the solution to the catch 22 situation but in a previous post about an evil psychiatrist turned advertiser I concluded that the only way around him was through personal growth and increased self honesty. I think this is all we probably can do with any of the conundrums civilisation throws at us.

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Five Year Rule

October 16, 2006

We had a great midwife. Chosen totally via Karen’s intuition, she nudged us gently toward having a homebirth and to considering attachment parenting. Today we champion both these ideas but I’m only just cottoning on to what she was saying about age gaps between children. She herself already had one child but wasn’t planning to have anymore until the oldest was five.

We paid scant attention to this idea and when our oldest reached 18 months started talking that usual talk of how she ‘needed a playmate’ and all that. Aside from the fact that this might be a rationalisation for us not wanting to be the playmate this is one of those standard ways of thinking that we tend to assume are our own thoughts when we’re not on guard.

There’s a gap of two years and nine months between our two and it’s true that they’re starting to play with each other now that the youngest is past 18 months but the rivalry is really obvious and the effect it’s had on our oldest is also terribly apparent.

I remember we used to sit at lunch and often both of us parents would just look at her in a kind of rapt fascination. We tried to prepare her for the birth as best we could but it must come as a massive shock to any oldest child when their parent’s devoted attention shifts from them to the new baby in the blink of an eye. We’ve heard horror-stories from other parents about how the first child has been violent toward the new baby and things like that. Luckily we haven’t had any of that but our oldest has for well over a year now been in a permanent phase of acting like a baby in an attempt to get our attention back. It’s heart breaking to watch but it can drives us up the wall she persists with it. She’s past the super cute baby phase and we’re less indulgent with her but there is obviously a strong unmet need there.  

Typically my thoughts run to my usual “If only we were in a village” but also I dwell on what things might have been like if we had a five year gap. No doubt this is a slightly idealised view but my expectation is that with a bigger gap the oldest would then be part of the caring team and when the adults did the usual “ahhh isn’t the baby cute” routine she would be more inclined to join in rather than feel like this is attention that has been stolen from her.

 

I know I regularly focus on the negative aspects of parenting in this blog – I  hope I’m learning better ways of doing things as well as getting things off my chest but I should add that I don’t feel completely helpless about this one. There are many occasions where our two girls are absolutely delightful when they’re together, and we’ve realised that we can do much to create these occasions by doing the groundwork of loving them and meeting their needs really well. The days when we do do this well stand out for the marked lack of squabbling between our two girls.

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buttons

October 10, 2006

Ran provided a fascinating link to an article about an advertising psychiatrist and his quite evil technique of pushing our buttons at a subconscious level and concluded by saying we’ve all got to figure out a way around this sort of thing.

I’m going to be presumptuous and claim that sometimes I am aware of when my sub-conscious brain is having it’s buttons pushed, but please let me emphasise the word ‘sometimes’

When I’m having my buttons pushed I feel like I’m being taken on a ride somewhere, it can feel good but at the same time it feels very uncomfortable to me because I’m no longer in control. The last time I noticed it was when I was in the clutches of a good car salesman. Even without him I was aware that a lot of my decision making about buying a car was being affected by the style of car I wanted. I found it quite hard to over-ride but I found the salesman easy to deal with because I really didn’t want to make the decision while I wasn’t in control.

Now that I’ve written that paragraph it’s obvious I’m in danger of confusing the salesman’s pitch with the far more subtle effects of advertising. The real clue as to my abilities to resist this stuff is in my admission that my judgement  was being affected by issues of style even when there was no salesman present.

I didn’t want to listen to my rational side which said just take the practical option, I rebelled against it and went for something a little bit cooler. I was in no danger of blowing the bank account but nonetheless it happened.

This brings up several questions, such as; How is cool defined? Who defines it? and who convinced me that that I should even care about it at all? And, even more scary; why am I still subject to these dictates even after I become aware of them?

The answer to the last question might have something to do with my lack of well defined identity but that’s a whole ‘nother confession.

The problem was that I didn’t want a car that looked basic and functional. This is really quite absurd. Considered from a practical point of view I shouldn’t have wasted more than half a second on this issue but in the end I handed over extra money for what was purely a human construct and I rebelled against my own judgement in doing so.

So, now that I’ve established my own ineptitude in dealing with the effects of advertising I’ll offer you some advice on how I think we might all escape it’s effects.

I’m was being honest with myself by admitting that issues of ‘coolness’ affected my purchase decision. This is an easy thing to do six months down the track. Clearly I wasn’t able to do it at the time but I figure it’s a skill that can be developed – and it’s a skill we should develop because being brutally honest with ourselves might be a way to beat these people. As the evil psychiatrist said, the rationalisations that people gave for liking a particular product really didn’t stand up to reasoned analysis.

We can apply some ‘reasoned analysis’ to ourselves anytime we like but it’s hard to do because being honest with ourselves tends to get in the way of the complex denial algorithms we’ve set up in our lives. Basically though I think  we need to grow as people (mentally, emotionally, spiritually) in order to counter this stuff.

I’m hoping it’s similar to the way our body starts to refuse bad food if we improve our diet. If we try to listen to our conscience it’s voice will become clearer and we’ll get better at admitting we have no sensible reason for buying that 2-foot high concrete ornament sitting by the front door.

And one last thing, if you’re going to seek help to do this sort of growth don’t go to a psychiatrist! Find someone with a lot of experience who has good recommendations but minimal professional training.

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Later on Ran mentioned  that ‘reptilian’ is a term that has been used to make the evil psychiatrist look smarter. It’s undoubtedly one of those ‘codes’ that the psychiatrist was talking about. No doubt the term ‘code’ is a code itself, ‘breaking the code’ being something the ingenious hero usually does at the last minute in countless movies we watched while growing up.

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 And don’t you think this quote from the pychiatrist really gives the game away:

“I’ve designed a session where we started with the cortex, because people want to show how intelligent they are, so [we] give them a chance. We call that a purge or washout session. We don’t care what they say; we don’t believe what they say. And usually they give us all the cliché. They tell us everything that we have told them already through advertising, communication, the media, the newspaper.”

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Sneaky Sneaks

October 1, 2006

A while back I wrote a post on a PR firm called Netvocates whose mission was to post fake messages on blogs and chat rooms supporting the point of view of their paying client. The post was piggy backing on the work of other bloggers and my only contribution to the debate was the idea that even though Netvocates presented a professional appearance and had codes of conduct that they were nonetheless engaged in acts of deception and were essentially contributing to the massive avalanche of propaganda that we are all buried under.
This appearance is in fact part of the deception and disguises the sneakiness of their behaviour. Happily a netvocate has recently visited this site and beautifully illustrated this point.

A few days ago a comment was posted to my previous Netvocate posting by someone referring to themselves as Cowicide. It read:

Someone needs to make a website that will start keeping track of all these guys and thier polictical/corporate motives, etc. Hopefully, if the site is done well enough and becomes a popular clearinghouse for this, it’ll pop up on Google searches and more people can start to become aware of these scumbag activities online and align against them. They are the caustic, artificial sweetener of the blogoshere.

Certainly seems to agree with what I am saying but below it was a link to a Netvocate web page defending the Netvocate position and in case you failed to take that opportunity the name Cowicide also linked to the same page. Sneaky indeed, typically in our society if a child behaved like this it would be sent to it’s room.

Generally speaking, I figure if what you are doing is above board and honest there shouldn’t be any need to sneak about the place pretending to be something you’re not. I’m just glad I was never so short of cash that I had to get involved in something like Public Relations.

Lastly, I’m sure I’ve seen the name Cowicide somewhere before, perhaps as a commenter on Deconsumption but if anyone can remember where, it would be interesting to look back at what they have had to say.