China, COVID-Zero, and the Guarantees of Authoritarian States

Confluence of the Salmon and Snake Rivers from the air

One of the more pathologically fascinating things to watch, as the COVID pandemic winds down for the rest of the world, but is in full swing in China, is to watch the various riot/panic videos as the forces of the CCP implement various instantaneous quarantines on the ground. I’ve discussed this before in this piece — that at some level, the more extreme measures are political moves against certain memetic factions in the larger Chinese landscape. Which should come as no surprise. If you don’t think the government bureaucrats are jealous of the wealth being generated in Shanghai, think again. The video below is from an IKEA in Shanghai, where a child was found to be exposed, and the security staff immediately attempted to trap the population inside the store. At this point in the pandemic, the population is having far less of it than in earlier days.

At some level, I’m limited in the videos I can post, because of fear of them vanishing. The ones from major news sources are more likely to be here a year from now. But the really wild ones are on my Twitter feed. People are getting fed up.

But the government is still doubling down. Here’s a video of barricades going up in Shenzhen, which is China’s version of Silicon Valley (and having been there, it really is.)

I suppose if you were going to get stuck in a store, an IKEA might not be the worst option. Dibs on the bed!

But why would China persist in this? That’s the real question. And why would a population of 1.4B people go along? The answer is, as always, in the v-Memes.

Even with the reforms initiated under Deng Xiaoping, China remains largely an Authoritarian society, with extensive legalism applied to major sectors. The civil service exams originated likely over 1000 years ago. And while at the time, the innovations that occurred in the Tang and Song Dynasty were profound at the time, they also had the effect of freezing the culture. For 1000 years! I’ve written a couple of pieces on this, that are really relevant concerning the U.S.’s cultural freezing around the issue of race. Parallels are there — but are worthy of a post of its own.

Authoritarian societies can persist only if they, like every government, follow a social contract based on a given population’s aggregate level of development. China is no different. And for the last 35 years, China has been lurching into the future, dangling improvements in quality of life in front of the population, while maintaining the baseline promise of any Authoritarian regime — utter safety for the majority of the population. China has it relatively easy as far as population homogeneity — some 90% of the populace is Han Chinese. Those that are not occupy an ambiguous circumstance that ranges from ‘OK’ (a lot of the small ethnic minorities, isolated in various spots across China, but still following the party line) to ‘Awful’ (the situation in Xinjiang Province with the Uyghurs is appalling and approaches full scale enslavement.)

China’s governmental elite, in the CCP, have managed to walk a thin line between rewarding the majority population for obedience and personal sacrifice with increased material prosperity, while maintaining almost total information control over much of the country. To the extent that there are real problems that might fuel unrest (like environmental issues) the government then even creates GONGOs (gov’t organized NGOs) to release pressure. You can protest. Just sign up at your local government office.

But COVID has radically rewritten the script. As I discuss in this piece, I believe that COVID was an accidentally released bioweapon (its release was NOT deliberate – but rather a system failure in a weapons development trajectory) from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. China’s racial homogeneity offered an angle that its bioweapons designers took to heart. Through extensive genome research, my hypothesis is that China was not able to engineer a virus that would deliberately target, say, white people, or brown people. Pandemic history curves basically bear this out. But they could create a virus that would not affect East Asians, or rather, affect them less. Looking at population spread and infection curves have convinced me that this is a worthy hypothesis.

The problem with all bioweapons, however, is they are nigh on impossible to control once they’ve escaped. And once escaped, they will continue to mutate. If one looks at the original strand of SARS-COV2, it was likely successfully contained inside a virally naive population in Wuhan, especially considering that there may have been residual immunity in the Asian populace from the SARS version from 2003.

But the problem with engineering a virus is what I call the ‘sharp knife/dull knife’ problem. Any particular specificity one puts into a virus, like a sharp knife, will erode over time. That is fundamental entropy at work. And then you end up with a virus that anyone, including the native population that might have had some a priori protection from, can get infected with. And once infected, even with extreme measures, the viral cat is out of the proverbial bag. You then are facing a disease that you created, without the lack of affinity that was originally programmed into it. And your population, especially if you’ve been disrupting normal civic life for a couple of years, are now profoundly virally naive, with weakened immune systems.

It is now this bed that China and the CCP, having created it, must now lay in. And it’s worse than that. As embodying a preeminent narcissistic authoritarianism with 2500 years of history behind it, trust me that the CCP has convinced everyone (like Zero COVID activists) everywhere that their lack of the disease was a direct result of a eugenic and cultural superiority.

So when you promise, especially in regards to safety concerns, AND you’ve actively undermined any validity grounding on the issue, you better deliver. Or you compromise the entire idea that the current emperor, Xi Jinping, actually has the Mandate of Heaven. I’m not an expert in Chinese history, though I’ve read quite a bit. But believe me when I tell you that the Mandate, unlike the Western, genetic version, is allowed to pass to other houses.

That’s what has the CCP fired up, especially in the run-up to the CCP’s big meeting, the 20th Communist Party Congress, on who should be the new emperor. Xi is running on being granted a third term, which is basically against the rules. But Xi is devious in a way that only a country with 2500 years of history in mastering deception can be. All this was in the bag until COVID came along. But here we are.

And China, like many of our modern states, is facing major economic misalignment from the usual suspects — real estate, banks, and building disruptions from COVID Zero policies that have disrupted supply chains across China and the rest of the world. China has built much of its recent economic success on importation and partnership of foreign talent into its factories. But COVID Zero has shut that down. To get into China now is a two-week quarantine, followed by an additional week if one moves out of the gateway city to another part of the country. No American engineer I know wants to sit in a Chinese military hotel, being served food behind a locked door, for three weeks. Having slept in those hotels, with their rock-hard beds, I can tell you it’s a non-starter.

So what do you do, if you’re the CCP, and especially if you sit on the Central Committee of the CCP, who extremely likely knows the whole backstory (as do our various organs, like Fauci/NIAID and the CIA)? You double down. Because you now know that you’re in Nazi High Command territory, where when the Big Lie comes due, your head will roll. Forget about Grandma. People in China love their kitty-cats too, and no one wants to be the one that tells the general public they murdered their pet for a failed governmental strategy. (Note — I am not inserting easily found Youtube videos on this because it is so upsetting.)

If there’s a meaningful analogy behind today’s high tech., hyper-efficiency economies, it’s something near and dear to my heart — a spinning piece of machinery in the 100K RPM range (some aircraft component rotors spin that fast.) When such a piece of equipment becomes unbalanced, it rapidly, and unpredictably shakes itself to death. There is so much inertial energy stored in such a piece, that when balance is lost, it shakes itself apart. China is looking at exactly this problem. There is no way that COVID can be restrained from mutating. And with a virally naive population of enormous extent, there’s also no way it can prevent it from spreading. Large economies — especially manufacturing systems –are highly socialized, peer-to-peer systems. So China will have a choice to make. Roll back the veil on the Big Lie, which is the linchpin of its reinforced Authoritarian promise to its people, aka Mandate from Heaven, or watch its developed manufacturing capacity move offshore to Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

That places the inevitable grounding validity of Mother Nature against the bullshit spread for the last 2.5 years by the CCP. And Nature bats last.

PS – there’s some actual good news in this post — and it’s about the potential for creating bio-super-weapons. Not bloody likely. The epidemiological/bio-engineering physics are fundamentally against this. My super-bright son actually told me this after playing the various viral simulation games over and over. “Spread vs. lethality, Pops.” Remember that the next time someone tells you about engineered super-weapons.

Masks, Memetic Devolution, and the Price Our Young People Will Pay

Araras (blue macaws) Pantanal, Brazil

One thing we have yet to reckon with, simply because not enough time has passed, is the cost and the trends that masking and social isolation has cost larger society, and in particular, our young people. You don’t have to look far to see the educational toll of remote learning. Who honestly believes that an 8 year old can stare at an iPad all day in a coercive fashion and absorb anything?

While there are tons of articles now coming out about this subject (Google away!) I’ll tell you some observations from my own perspective. Having a 22 and a 24 year old myself, as well as teaching F2F for almost all of the pandemic, the cost will be significant. Young people indeed are resilient — I’ve seen some pretty amazing snap-back in my classes as far as general affect and mood. But the deeper problem I’ve witnessed is that students in my 18-22 year old cohort, regardless of how they feel, are looking at a future with huge social capital debt. I emerged from both undergrad and graduate school with large networks of people who were deeply loyal to me, and with whom I still stay in touch with today. My own kids profoundly do not have this. And even in my classes, though there is a natural tendency for students to congregate in small groups of 4-6 individuals, there is little cross-talk. Even the students in classes are coming out with far fewer connections than pre-COVID.

Why does that matter? I’ve found that the large benefit to a university education is the social network you emerge with. As time (and life) march on, we tend to draw down that social capital account with profound, long-term friendships that simply aren’t able to be created later in life. I think part of this is developmental — there’s some kind of sweet spot in emotional bonding that occurs between 16-24 that one just doesn’t see in later years. And I know my own sons will be suffering that deficit, even though that by conventional benchmarks they’ve been very successful, for the rest of their lives. Case in point — even my picture at the top of this post is of a couple of large macaws, it was taken with dear old friend Pedro Litsek in Brazil in 2006. I still correspond with Pedro, and plan on visiting him in a year or two. But for my sons, there is nothing but a void.

Masking has driven this social isolation more than any one factor. I say this from the perspective of a professor running a highly interactive classroom environment across three masked semesters. Students simply didn’t step out of their immediate, familiar work groups to talk to other students. Even me, who masters students’ names in the first week, couldn’t hang on to those names, nor read various students’ affects.

While masking was widely mandated, all the effects I talk about in this piece were manifested. It’s very different in a mandated mask environment than our current situation. When everyone is masked, then you have a combination of trauma, with an assortment of pathologies, as well as broad-scale degradation across everyone’s development. And while it slowly makes the more healthy crazy, it really bolsters the various social phobia pathologies for those that crave them, or are imbued with the fear that they will die if they get COVID. None of this good.

But it IS interesting. Where we started with a broad-based developmental loss, fundamentally emergent in nature (the mandates were obviously deliberately championed in some cases, but also reactive in others) when the mask mandates were dropped, the larger emergent effects also had to start dying down. I was sitting in Sea-Tac airport not too long ago, and the fact that 10% of the population was still masked might have been a bit irritating, it was nothing like my own aggravation and induced paranoia of that time a year ago, nursing a beer at the bar so I wouldn’t have to mix with the larger population and be accused of NOT wearing a mask.

What that means is that now masking is almost complete badging of the different memetic tribes. If you want to find out who the true believers are, or who is most affected, well, they’re wearing a mask. I hesitate to generalize that there are more Asians wearing masks (I can almost hear some of those Asian moms of my students badgering them to mask up) but outside the obvious American cultural alignments, there are more young people in that social capital-deprived cohort wearing masks. Healthy young people, many who likely have already had COVID, are still masked up. And likely because they have lost the social opportunity to develop the skills to build that social capital in the first place. Masks have become a ‘safe space’. But worse — before, you couldn’t identify your neighbors’ politics without some level of engagement. And that engagement might lead to an independent empathetic connection that might transcend the tribal forces extant in larger society. Now you know which of your neighbors to avoid — or hate.

I’m still speaking out against masking, mainly because I fear deeply (which might be my own PTSD) that there will be a resurgence of demand for all the ineffective NPIs when cold season actually hits in North America, for our young, and youngest people — those least affected by COVID. This will be a tragedy. One can only lose so many developmental years before one’s life course is irremediably altered. Whole Western countries (like Germany) still are demanding rigid and worthless protocols. And that doesn’t even get close to the Zero COVID panic in Asia. As I type this, my wife is sitting in quarantine in a Taiwanese hotel room. They’re demanding seven days of isolation before she can be released. And it is enforced with cell phone tracking.

And even that’s nothing compared to the terror the CCP is inflicting across China with regards to COVID. You don’t have to look far to see the terror of people fleeing from being locked in a building if someone has a positive COVID tests. And it’s no consolation to see a nation as large as China literally tear itself apart for a scourge they likely created and released. There will be large-scale consequences.

What’s the short take? During the pandemic, with masking, we saw both the effects of trauma, and broad-scale devolutionary effects across populations, dependent on the v-Meme stage that people occupied, as well as large scale social capital depletion as people were turned against each other. Now, we’re witnessing the end-game. Only the afflicted and the psychopathic are masking, or enforcing it. Psychopaths exist in their natural state in Tribal/Magical v-Meme social organizations, and manifest a function of rabidly and ferociously attacking those outside their masked tribe.

I’ll close with this letter written by one of my older-aged critics to a column I wrote in my local paper, The Moscow-Pullman Daily News, as a testament to their mental state. COVID has been particularly hard on the elderly — those that have refused to grow and develop during their lives (mostly men, at least in the US) had to spend 2.5 years fermenting in a collapsed egocentric state of paranoia of instant death. It has not aged well.

Ah, life in The Matrix.

Unanswered COVID Questions

Ovenbird — Pantanal, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil

I haven’t been writing much on the blog lately — too many issues are so easily misconstrued, and there’s only so much hassle, after fighting the COVID fight, that I’ve had the belly for.

When it comes to COVID, though, as we OUGHT to be winding down the pandemic, there are still questions that I think are so basic, yet unanswered, that need to be addressed. I DON’T have answers — that’s the point. But it’s time for all of us to start asking these questions. Otherwise, we’ll get drug back into the whole pointless NPI craziness by the current administration, whose lackeys desperately want to do this to all of us again. I’ve already covered the memetic reasons why they’d want to do this to us. So this behavior will, in the end, just be emergent. And hit is in between the eyes.

So, here goes.

  1. Why is there no explanation for COVID other than viral transmission from one person to another?

This makes absolutely no sense to me — when a population is virally naive, I can understand that interpersonal transmission is the primary mode of catching the virus. But this seems increasingly unlikely as time goes on. Viruses live in viral reservoirs in our pets, and our own systems, and are somehow seasonally triggered. Additionally, if you look at the other primary coronaviruses that cause cold, I refuse to believe that one person originates the common cold each year, and then everyone else just catches it through initial exponential spread.

2. We’ve gone through a series of mutations of COVID, each given some name, and called a variant. These variants move through a given population for some 4-6 week period. We never have an explanation of how the virus is mutating, and how that causes symptoms to vary. The COVID virus I had at the beginning of all this does not have the same symptoms as the latest Omicron variant. Is the virology community so clueless as to not have any suggestive story on how this is working? Or is the press the problem — they simply can’t understand what the scientists are telling them?

3. Why is there basically no discussion of the CIA’s role in understanding the potential lab leak from the Wuhan lab? I have my own theories — but how can our whole group of journalists believe, especially in the context of weaponization, that the CIA has had no monitoring, or role in current events? Is the journalistic community that incurious?

4. Maybe I’m just missing this, but is there a chart anywhere where the symptoms of the different variants are tabulated?

5. Why is there no discussion, or even a rough guess, of the ratio of effect of all the various pieces of the immunity puzzle on whether one is susceptible to getting COVID? I have friends who have never had COVID claiming ‘Long COVID’ symptoms, which, of course, I’m not particularly receptive to. But nonetheless, here we are 2.5 years into this, and we have no “rule of thumb” about populations and their vulnerability. Could they have had a mild symptomatic case of COVID, but been vulnerable to downstream effects?

These are the immediate ones that come to mind. I may come back and add some more to this post.

Using Principles of Empathetic Evolution in Fundraising

Troublemaker Rapids, S. Fork American River

I’ve been preparing some materials on understanding Spiral Dynamics and empathy in fundraising lately, directed at my junior faculty, and have decided to post them occasionally on my blog. Of course, if anyone’s interested, I’m available to consult.

Here you go! This stuff is worth its weight in gold. Which may not mean much, because, well, they’re just electrons!

Donor Identification – A Working Theory

Chuck Pezeshki, Professor, School of MME, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-2920

People give money to universities for all sorts of things.  But what people will give money to, in the context of their donation pattern, varies wildly.  There are many factors, and as with all things, the why of how people give will be at some intersection of some state.  

But there are some ways to understand how all this works.  And it is useful to have some model on that whyas you go out there in the industrial world.

The short version of why people give is that people will give for external factors – remember that we are asking money from companies, and inherently, if those individuals are giving corporate money, those factors are part.  But they also give for internal factors – ways that they can find meaning in life. 

Here’s the thing – those things that people find meaning in are largely social interactions – either with their own selves, or other people.  It’s up to you to figure out those places in life/developmental stages and present your request in that light.  Let’s dig in!

Value Sets/v-Memes

All people (you included) are run by your brain and how it is programmed.  And while we may believe we are very much in charge of our conscious brain, the hard, unpopular reality is that we are not.  Our subconscious programming will create our perspective and how we receive data from the outside world, as well as shape our actions. 

That subconscious programming can be summarized into an aggregate of a canonical sets of values.  These were named “V-Memes” by Don Beck, and my scholarly work has expanded on how these work.  These v-Memes dictate how we view social interactions, and how we structure relationships, which is obviously key in asking people for money.  No one person is just one v-Meme – they are a combination, though there is usually one dominant.

These v-Memes are:

Survival – “I’m giving this money because if I don’t, I’ll be harmed/die.”  Almost no donors to universities function at this level.

Tribal – “I’m giving this money because I remember my college years, and they were the best times of my life.  Go Cougs!”  Lots of people return to the university and initially give for this reason, though other v-Memes will inherently come into play.  All Super-Cougars (people that will give the university no matter what we do) are fiercely tribal.  

Authority-Driven – Many people in the donor pool are driven by status – they want to give to WSU, but also want others to know about it.  Though this is not typically a capstone project donor, they are out there. Someone who is authority-driven often wants to give to either a high-status project that we label, or want their name on something.  Universities function largely on status, and status is often inherently irrational. Why do you need that LV bag anyway?  So this “makes sense” to people in the university, and these alternatives are often trotted forward.  These types of people also tend to give to a static cause.  An example might be a building, or a scholarship – something that will not change over time, and is not keyed so much into a student experience.

Legalistic/Absolutistic – People who are institutionally oriented fall into this v-Meme.  They are giving largely for the continuity of the institution, and are less concerned about having their name appear on a building.  They may still give, for example, to a building fund, or something that will add to institutional strength.  

A point of reflection.  Donors who are dominated by the v-Memes above are mostly institutional donors.  They are not the ones particularly oriented toward individual student experience, though, if suggested, they can be motivated by it.  The v-Memes above also describe other institutional motivations – more toward providing benefit back to the institution doing the giving.  Examples might be an HR benefit, or good publicity.  These are also donors who likely do not focus on student development as a driving factor in their philosophy.

Let’s keep going!

Performance/Goal-based – Now we’re getting into the prime capstone giving categories.  People in this v-Meme believe that students having an experience where they learn business skills, build something, or otherwise learn how to collaborate with other students, is extremely valuable.  These are people who don’t care about getting their name on a building, and it is no incentive.  In fact, people in this v-Meme often negatively view people asking for money for those types of things!  They are interested in students building agency to think for themselves, succeed in the job market, and live successful lives.  They are dynamicgivers, more than happy to give money for short duration projects.  They also will be very interested in measurable outputs (all capstone projects have a deliverable as part of this) and often want to participate in some fashion.  Capstone mentors almost always have a large part of this v-Meme in their v-MemeNA.  “Students have to learn to get work done!” is a compelling argument to this group.

Communitarian – While some people may think this v-Meme describes “people wanting to give students a hug”, the Communitarian v-Meme is a bit more complex than that.  Communitarians are very much into identifying students, and student development as an individual/small group giving opportunity.  A successful pitch to them will involve you displaying knowledge that shows you can accurately identify targeted individuals.  While some diversity giving falls into this category, it will be met with skeptical glances if you have no real experience yourself with a given diversity community.  It’s important to remember, especially now in our overheated polis, that more people are asking more questions than ever before about what we’re doing.  It is important for you to be able to answer them.  Communitarians will definitely identify with team-based projects, and will want to participate in a meaningful fashion.  Most people do not evolve to this point until the age of 35 (of course there are exceptions) and are coming back to the university for more profound connection.  They didn’t get enough out of football, or the Cougar Nation, and are looking to make a deeper difference in this world.

People as communitarians will often have ideas on how the class should be taught.  You should listen to them, always.  The key to reaching them is to appeal to their desire for an authentic experience, which they will basically instantly recognize. 

Point of reflection – the two v-Memes above function relationally very differently than the lower four.  The lower four may be impressed by your status (a Distinguished Professor!) The last two far more by your individual program and attempts to build student agency.  The lower four v-Memes are very much low empathy and low connection with individuals.  The higher two will recognize and value attempts to build connection between all stakeholders in the process.  

There’s obviously a lot more going on here regarding relational dynamics, but this is a good start.

The final two v-Memes you will rarely see, but you can cultivate.  These two depend on reflective process and self-awareness, and are useful in discussions with people engaged with making your process better, as well as evolving their own perspective.  They’re included more for completeness.

Global Systemic – Global systemic v-Meme thinking sees the value in assembling the various pieces from each of the lower v-Memes in order to generate a comprehensive solution for the challenge, in our case, of helping students transition into the workplace.  They may see both the need for authority-driven advice, as well as good rules, while supporting a donation so students can actually build a given project inside the context of a structured community.  This v-Meme will also accept limitations in knowledge and uncertainty. In fact, if you act like you know it all, they’ll immediately see you as a fraud!  Humility is key here, as well as discussing experiments and positive/negative outcomes.  

Global Holistic – Global holistic thinkers are truly rare.  It’s not enough to be worried about large problems, like global warming or racism.  They will be interested in exposing students to larger global issues, and will often write The Big Check if you can show a given project will deliver the kind of experience that will truly broaden student horizons.  

The key element here is that people will address directly what they don’t know, and expect you to present the background that you can, at least, make a dent in a given issue in student enlightenment.  They absolutely will not line up behind standard political categories of Left/Right, and if you do, you’ll disqualify yourself.  

There are more and more of these donors out there, especially in the Pacific NW, and we are poorly serving them.  Lots of these people will have a ton of international travel and work experience in their portfolio, and it is important, when appealing to them, that you clearly delineate what you know and what you don’t.  They are often looking for a shared journey, even if they don’t accompany students physically on it.  When presenting to them, you have to understand your own authentic self, as they will form a model of you from their own experiences, which are likely larger than yours.  

That’s a lot.  I hope all of you re-read this at least three times.  The next thing I’ll send out will be understanding how these different v-Memes come into conflict.  It’s important for you to understand them, as well as how they apply to yourself.  Conflict isn’t always disqualifying in the donor relationship – but a lack of self-knowledge PLUS conflict certainly is.  

You can get a head start by reading this piece.  I guarantee it’s one of my best pieces of thinking.    

Why Fauci and Walensky will never apologize

Braden on his first big cross-country driving trip — Tonopah, NV

For someone who prides themselves on being grounded in all sorts of paths of life, when it comes to theory, I, like many professors, have a bit of a problem living in my own head. How that manifests is that somehow I assume that everyone is fully conversant with what I write, and will be bored if I explain something over that I’ve already covered on the blog, or that you ought to be able to reason toward from the first principles I’ve written about. I think at some level it’s the academic hammer beating on the side of my head for the production of novelty.

This is, of course, ridiculous. I can’t even remember everything I’ve written.

With that in mind, I thought I might explain, in compact form, why the various experts during the COVID pandemic, who have advocated for all sorts of extreme positions like lockdown, masking children, forced vaccinations, etc., will never apologize for their actions, as well as why it would never occur to them to apologize. That’s just not what they do. It’s not in the social physics.

To start, one has to understand that the main folks driving our COVID response can be roughly partitioned in a couple of ways. From a disciplinary perspective, it would be epidemiology and medical doctors. From an organizational perspective, it would be federal and state agencies like the CDC, as well their upstream suppliers of all sorts of information in the university system. Though experts from a vast array of academic institutions have participated in the COVID melee, the heaviest hitters always come from the most famous and highest status schools, with the largest programs. This matters in terms of attracting media attention (no one’s going to quote an aerospace engineering professor from a second-tier land grant institution, no matter how insightful) when they can get someone on the line from Harvard or Johns Hopkins.

It’s also no surprise that inside the medical community, the most vociferous advocates for all the various power-and-control interventions are emergency room physicians. Yes, there are others. But there is likely no other group as traumatized-as-a-norm as ER docs. So it should be no surprise that they are statistically likely to support any and all power-and-control measures — precisely because their own lives are so chronically out of control.

Even people who are on the opposite side of the Zero COVID crowd are more likely to engage in what is called schismogenesis — the creation of identity through division. You only need to spend a day on Twitter to see that most of the COVID Zero takedown crowd will find the most obtuse of the COVID Zero crowd and literally beat that dead horse. It IS entertaining, but what it also does is keep debate inside mental models that people are inherently comfortable with. Though it can shed light to solution pathways, it usually doesn’t, and well meaning people end up in the trap of repeating the message of the people they’re fighting far more than actually advancing their own worldview.

Which then says something about the way they think. They were authority-driven, but now they’re shocked that the authorities have betrayed them. I think that for many, they’ve become more rational in the process — that’s the result of Survival-based grounding validity. The tragedy of the various COVID Zero positions have destroyed their lives, or altered their children’s development. And now they’re reconstituting their worldview with new data that they likely just ignored before. That’s OK — just realize that whenever there’s a dance going on, it usually involves multiple parties.

What that also means is that people are still in closed informational systems — the difference between the ones in the institutions arguing for COVID Zero policies, and the critics on the outside, is that the critics have one ground wire that has forced them to change their minds. The stories I’ve read on Twitter about mothers with special needs kids are a great example. You might want to believe that masking your kid will prevent them from getting COVID –so absolutely nonsensical when you consider that a six-year-old has more in common with a baby orangutan than a 40-year-old person. Just try to keep a mask on a baby orangutan!

But it turns into a horrific daily event if your child is severely autistic, or has a hearing disorder. You can’t deny reality, because reality is the child that you love screaming at the top of their lungs at you while you attempt to get them ready for day care. You’ll stop believing in masks right away, because you’ll just get overwhelmed by the insanity of all of it. It’s as Survival V-meme a moment as any one of us is likely to have.

The key point here is that sub-institutions inside bureaucracies are inherently ungrounded. What that means is that information is contained inside closed structures. And dependent on the culture of that institution, they will be more or less rigid. And as we’ve seen, it’s mostly “more”.

So we have a series of social structures running the COVID Zero side of the debate that are basically Authoritarian/Legalistic. And basically all of them have heavy penalties with disagreeing with the decrees that issue from the top of the hierarchical stack. Disagreeing quite literally means getting cast out. Look at the fate of the various FDA commissioners that quit in disagreement over various points in the vaccine efficacy debate. I’m not quite sure what happens, employment wise, but quitting is unlikely in the current milieu to open up lots of interesting employment opportunities.

What it does do, though, is, to use the vernacular, show that said individual is not a “team player”. The general public thinks that being “right” ought to be what is prized out of an organization ostensibly dedicated to public health, which should have some connection to reality. Actual truth, or “Right” implies a complex knowledge structure, blending laboratory and real-world experiments and experiences that aspires to a higher truth.

But nothing could be less desirable to an institutional rigid hierarchy. This kind of nuanced truth will inherently make the people in charge appear stupid, or at a minimum, unworthy of the kind of devotion they expect inside their shop. And here is the key point — such an individual who figures something out that goes outside the accepted wisdom disturbs the institutional homeostasis – the desire of a given institution to self-regulate both the presented knowledge and the knowledge structures, as well as the social structure of the organization. If the top dude or dudette, and there is no better example of both than Tony Fauci at NIAID/NIH and Rochelle Walensky at the CDC, has staked themselves to a particular piece of knowledge-as-reality (like masks work against viral transmission) then if the organization is authoritarian enough (and obviously, both NIH and the CDC are) scientists inside those organizations going against those pronouncements must be eliminated. And they will be — as these types of organizations have all sorts of institutions-inside-institutions that function like our own immune systems to devour anyone presenting profoundly different memetic knowledge.

It’s why such organizations are great at refining knowledge while totally sucking at changing their minds or self-correcting.

What is also wild was that such organizations like the CDC and WHO had long-term established bodies of knowledge on how to handle pandemics. Masks, for example, were known to produce no positive outcomes before this all started. But now one can see how the memetics of a moment of crisis were utilized to throw that baby out with the bathwater.

This is a complex thought — so you may have to read it over.

All institutions, regardless of their social structure (even rigid hierarchies) have some potential to get at absolute truth. But if you’re stuck in that rigid hierarchy, the way you will end up covering the solution space will be an endless fractal cascade, down to smaller and smaller refinements. You’re not going to come in and just dump what you know — unless, of course, it IS a crisis.

And what will happen in that crisis? Organizations will have their own moment of extreme neuroplasticity (masks didn’t work, but now masks work!) in order to hold on to their position of authority in a society. And what they will reconstitute as their guiding knowledge must inherently map to the v-memes/value sets that compose the social structure — especially in the short term. That evolved complexity of prior solutions just gets flushed down the toilet.

What that means is inside an organization like the CDC, obviously run by people with OCD and extreme social phobias, who are organized in a rigid hierarchy, will grab whatever strategies on the outside that reinforce power and control — like lockdowns, social distancing and masks — regardless of their researched history. The brains of the people in that organization will have no natural affinity for the complexity of the long, historical narrative. In a crisis, that narrative is the first thing to go.

And what comes after will be what is immediately accessible to the brains in those organizations. And it’s not some complex, nuanced narrative. The new, freshly generated narratives come about emergently in the absence of the rational process we believe these organizations should follow. But if the pandemic chaos hasn’t been enough to convince you that rational process DOES NOT underlay these organizations, you’re beyond my reach.

And worse, the implicit safeguards inherent in creation of policy also get thrown out. These organizations (and really — all federal agencies) are set up with seemingly endless rule-making processes, that demand public input, outside review and so on, before a regulation is enacted. NEPA is a great example. There’s an emergent reason for all this — legalistic agencies really don’t produce rational people. But they do produce algorithmic rule followers. And those algorithms at once bound these organizations, while at the same time remove any self-development that would cause the majority of folks working in those agencies to think for themselves.

It’s not called GroupThink for nothing. My friend and fellow activist, Al Espinosa, a fish biologist with the US Forest Service for most of his career, characterized the bureaucrats he had to deal with while protecting fish habitat from logging inside the agency. Lap Dogs, Displacement Specialists, True Believers and more. The names are more than descriptive enough.

While inside any institution, there is emergent forcing of social physics inside a given organization to maintain that institutional homeostasis, it’s also important to understand that there are very likely individuals at the top of any given institution that know when a given policy, like masking, isn’t working. Masking is especially easy because the level of complexity to understand how it doesn’t work in stopping viral spread is relatively low. The basic grounding, easily observable — masks leak, they can’t stop aerosols, RCTs fail, and population curves between masked and unmasked populations with similar demographics are undifferentiated — are really obvious enough. So you can be sure that at least SOME of the leadership knows this.

But now, especially at this point in the pandemic, it’s that you run into what I call the “Nazi High Command” problem. This is not necessarily to insinuate the various powers-that-be are Nazis, nor are equivalent (though I think there is an argument to be made about responsibility for human rights violations by the principals). Nor is it to go full Godwin’s Law either. It’s just that the extreme situation generated by Nazi behavior during WWII is very useful in understanding system dynamics, as a limiting case, precisely because the behavior was so depraved and out there.

By 1943, the Nazi High Command had figured out the war was likely lost. Allies had, for better or worse from a military perspective, landed on Sicily. It was becoming obvious that there would also be an attack from Britain through France. The Eastern front had deteriorated. So the conscious leadership KNEW they were cooked.

But instead of working through a peace process, in spite of a few Hitler assassination attempts, they doubled down on the war. Why? Because the top of the leadership pyramid knew if they lost, they would hang. And there was another fact. The Nazi High Command would, of course, be held accountable for all the different war crimes in combat that occurred during the war. But even worse, they were hiding a bigger secret — the Final Solution and the methodical extermination of the Jewish and Slavic people.

This layered issue, though obviously of lesser magnitude (let’s make this perfectly clear!) has similar potential in the current situation. Not only might leadership be held accountable for the tragedy of public policy regarding lockdowns and other harms during the past two years. But more importantly, they might also face the music for the origination of the pandemic itself. We know enough that Tony Fauci and others have historically supported Gain of Function research on viruses. We have the whole Peter Daszak debacle with Shi Zhengli, the Bat Lady, at the Wuhan lab. And regardless whether you regard me filling in the blanks regarding bioweapons in this piece, or you care to read the excellent Vanity Fair article here, there is a ton of evidence of layered wrongdoing that maybe insisting that children wear cloth masks is the least of their sins. When you cap it off with the fact that masks themselves communicate Tribal-v-Meme memetic information, it’s no surprise that people like Walensky will return again and again to that well. We’re going to badge all of you so you cannot question what we’re doing. And the nonbelievers will sort themselves automatically into the other pile.

This memetic defense is particularly fascinating in the context of the notion of a Disqualifying Narrative that I’ve written about here. Disqualifying narratives inherently divide a larger social system (in this case, the USA) through a hard boundary or series of boundaries that other views can’t penetrate. No matter how supported with data, they simply won’t be considered by the “other side” — or the larger polis. In my piece on bioweapons, I posited what many may find a disqualifying narrative — that China, facilitated by the US and the CIA — were/are crafting racially-based bioweapons as a response to U.S. hegemony in all other aspects of military competition. Here’s the wild thing, though. If history is any illuminator, the odds are that any story I can create through connecting various paradigms is likely less bizarre than what actually happened. One person’s imagination and knowledge pool simply cannot keep up with the vast numbers of interactions inside and between self-interested, insulated transnational bureaucracies.

That’s why we end up with conspiracy theories. The thing to remember is not that the outcomes of the various conspiracy theories are necessarily wrong (though they often are.) It’s that the outcomes of the actual systems in question emergently rise out of those social systems interacting at multiple levels. And precisely because these are complex systems, the outcomes are typically outside the guessing game of even a very astute observer.

And you only have to look at the Daszak proposal to see how imagination is immediately stretched. Who would have thought it was a good idea to spray SARS-COV2 viruses on bats in caves in Yunnan province? Yet here we are.

I could go on. But let’s recap.

  1. Institutions are inherently filled with people interested in maintaining institutional homeostasis of their systems. Stability is what bureaucracies provide, and people who cannot provide that stability, and disrupt that homeostasis are rejected.
  2. Leaders of such institutions may be self-aware, and actually conscious of outcomes they are either advocating for or propagating. But those acts of advocacy must intersect with the same needs of institutional homeostasis, or that leader will be expelled.
  3. People in such bureaucracies will inherently move up to leadership positions inasmuch they promote institutional homeostasis.
  4. Larger apologia of wrongdoing simply doesn’t fit into any of the social physics of these types of institutions, unless the institution is in danger of collapse from outside forces. Truth telling only happens as an end game. And even then, most of the players will not only deny, but often advocate for historic policies. That is exactly why Adolph Eichmann had no problem in making sure the trains ran on time to the death camps.
  5. Nazi High Command problems occur when there are two levels of understanding of institutional action and strategy. When leaders are forced at one level of accountability to confront the possibility that confessing at that level will necessarily lead to exposure of even worse sins, even if they are self-aware and making data-based decisions, they won’t give in.
  6. These types of scenarios occur over and over in history. For those that are interested, read up on Watergate, or the Challenger disaster.

It’s really just the same old institutional shit. It’s the way they roll. And apologies only come after the external forces are so powerful that they basically steamroll the institution committing the sins. Because of the actual Nazi High Command problem, Arthur “Bomber” Harris, of RAF Bomber command fame, burned down virtually every city in Germany with nighttime incendiary bombs, and was, at the time, considered to be a war criminal himself by Winston Churchill himself.

Something to think about! But don’t hold your breath for that apology. It ain’t coming. It’s not in the structural memetics.

And the memetics never lie — because they’re the information physics you’re up against.

Transhumanism and Empathy Development

Scene from the 2019 Coeur D’Alene Tribe Pow-Wow

I’ve thought a lot about what might happen to our species if we could live, if not forever, but for a longer time than we currently live. I’m not the only person, of course — this question has likely been covered by serious philosophers (I don’t honestly know who) but certainly by writers I’ve read. Time Enough for Love, by Robert Heinlein, devotes about 1000 pages to it, in amalgamated short story form. And one could argue it’s a major theme of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings as well, where the entire elven race lives essentially without death from old age. Do note that Tolkien is very clear about death — he calls it the gift from God to Men, though chronically misinterpreted by those selfsame humans.

Time Enough for Love centers on the adventures of the main character, Lazarus Long, who is sent periodically into the rejuvenation machines of his time, while skittering about other places with time travel. Long also has as his various companions various sexually uninhibited women — that certainly might make a man want to live longer — but in the end, Long confronts the deep existential crisis of depressive boredom and has no desire to be rejuvenated. He has crossed between the poles, and there is no mystery. As apt a metaphor as the challenge of immortality as any. Having done everything, he lives in frustrating boredom with others that have not, and it wears. While not quite Lazarus Long’s age, there are many days I can relate.

Various stage theorists, though, might argue that if we just had a bit longer on the planet, we might further evolve and become truly wise, deep beings. But if I’m to judge on the old people I know, only a minuscule number even approach the bar. I was lucky enough to be friends with Stewart Brandborg, ED of the Wilderness Society, who helped lay the foundation for the Wilderness Act, as well as ANILCA, the Alaskan National Interest Land Conservation Act. Brandborg was as ebullient a human as has ever lived, and by the time he passed (his wife, another wonderful human, passed first) he was still a handful to his more normal children. I remember the last time I saw him, just a year before the end, and he still remembered me. He is one of the few people who have died that I honestly miss.

A true pair

But age as a barometer of wisdom and empathy? Not so sure about that. I remember my earlier searches around that paradigm from my years as a lifeguard at 16. There was a family with visiting children from Jackson, Wyoming, living in a West that I could hardly dream of, with a grandmother who would bring her grandchildren to Dreamland Pool every day. I was tight with the little girl, Shannon, who at seven would hang off the back of the lifeguard chair (I had my own entourage of seven-year-olds at the time.) And I would sit with grandma on a bench at the shallow end of the pool. One day, I asked grandma a simple question. “With all the suffering in the world, what is the one thing we might do to help at least fix some of it?”

She responded “Kill all the N****,” she matter-of-factly said. “Those people cause nothing but problems.” So much for age bringing enlightenment.

I don’t really want to put words into the various stage theorists’ mouths (Kegan, Piaget and such) but even though I am a fan of much of their work — it is ALL crippled by the lack of social evolution inside the context of worldview — it’s also not quite clear that we walk up the various ladders into a larger space anyway. There’s no reason to think extending out the timeline would change that factor. So what would that mean?

Fellow traveler Ugo Bardi sent me a paper today on that topic. Titled Will Life Extension Affect Our Social Judgments? Evidence That the Possibility of Indefinite Life Extension Increases Harshness Toward Social Transgressors, , the paper posits that as we get older, we get meaner and more Legalistic/Absolutistic toward others inside our in-group. The methodology is profoundly suspect. The authors base their results on giving surveys to college students — standard Psych 101 fare — and then essentially reading chicken entrails to come to appropriate p-test conclusions.

But maybe I’m being too harsh, and it’s not as stupid as it seems. If you look around the world, the cultural code reinforcement contingent is inevitably grandmas. This was as true for the Taliban — grandmas are the foremost enforcers of the Taliban’s strictures on women– (read Anand Gopal’s AMAZING book) as it was on the last river trip I was on. And I’ve yet to find a culture where the majority of old people are more open-minded. In fact, if you are, the people you’re likely to memetically identify with are younger than you. And they have an entirely different set of cultural references than you do. You may match them, v-Meme-wise. But you’re still not likely to get the joke. Or know how to elegantly program the latest electronic device. And you just end up alone, isolated from your age-appropriate cohort as well as the younger people that really have to get on with their lives.

Ugo highlighted this section (putting aside methodological questions) and I think it is likely spot-on. ILE means ‘indefinite life extensions’…

” these findings suggest that a world approach-
ing ILE may be one in which individuals would be harsh toward those in their
social circle who violate social norms, and societies’ criminal justice systems
would become harsher toward those judged to be law-breakers in order to fulfill
the protective, deterrent, and retributive functions those systems serve. This may
be especially troubling consequence, given that people with greater power and
influence would likely be the first to have access to ILE technologies”

Now we can start getting into the memetics of such a circumstance. What the authors are saying is that rigidity would create behavioral narrowing, an increase in sophistication, and a loss of agency. And worse — you’d see a new, toxic form of what we’ve observed during COVID — Elite Risk Minimization — where policies are created to protect elites, and the messaging is then skewed, weaponized, and refined by psychopaths.

How humans might spend their time mentally evolving is really constrained to the two axis plot I’ve discussed before, charting Sophistication vs. Evolution of knowledge structures.

Sophistication vs. Evolution

We might take that time to become more deeply wise — there’s no question about that. Time and experience are amazing teachers. But that also posits that by the time we’ve reach advanced age, we’re already started on the path of more powerful metacognition, recognizing what we don’t know, and being better listeners, and being more data-driven.

It’s also likely that we’d just become more self-centered. And the big problem with that is now the memetics of our elders might come into direct conflict with the small handful of people attempting to create change. I discuss this kind of memetic conflict in this piece. No one knows what might actually happen if we fix our telomeres. There’s no question that our diets full of sugar are quite literally rotting our brains. But maybe, damn the lengthy telomeres, the more reinforcement of relational patterns, if they weren’t already started down the path of enlightenment, would just make us a more crafty, sinister version of our younger selves. And likely just as fast as we were – because we fixed that neurophysical problem. There’s a reason behind David Mamet’s humorous old saw, “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.” You haven’t really become more expansive. You just have more case studies on how to win.

I see this in my own progression in the Industrial Design Clinic as a professor/manager. When it’s game on, the students can’t even come close, and I work on mindful deference. They just can’t think of as many downstream paths as I can.

I like this quote from Seneca quite a lot:

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”

What might happen if the Ray Kurzweil’s of the world get their way? I can see some of the billionaires like Elon Musk thinking in terms of advances in trans humanism as some way to become an interstellar species. But there are fundamental problems in our neurobiology, with attachment, habituation/boredom, and so on that also set timescales in our lives. I loved raising my boys, but not quite sure I’d be up for it again.

There are some successful paradigms that we might follow if we all figure out how to live 120-140 years that would make us all much happier. I really like this interview by Morley Safer about the Abkhazians, who claim to be in that age range, and preach the virtues of sex, wine, red meat and smoking.

But the odds that we’d up with a truly Second Tier cohort of aged, sharp rulers, that would shepherd our society through whatever turmoil showed up? There’s just not much evidence for it. Even Max Planck, one of my personal heroes, said “Science advances one funeral at a time.” Would we make it to the point of wisdom where we would work on developing everyone for greater empathetic development? Or would we get stuck in a thousand year spell? It’s impossible to tell. But we haven’t done such a great job with the more evolutionary concepts in this blog up to this point.

Quickie Post — From Friend Ugo Bardi

Ghillie, looking very much like the Northumberland Border Collie that was his sire

Super-Quickie post — I’m friends with Ugo Bardi, recently emeritus professor from the University of Florence, Italy. Like me, Ugo is fascinated by long-form history, holobionts, and larger transparadigmatic connections. Ugo is crazy-prolific — a real rock star. One of these days we might write a book together. He just finished editing a compilation noting the anniversary of one of the first systems thinking books — Limits to Growth, called LTG II. I contributed a chapter on multi-perspectival thinking.

Ugo’s comment on my last blog post on Dune, jet engines and psychopaths —

“The Dune characters are Medieval minds operating in a high-tech environment. Exactly as our leaders today.”

Boy, does that make sense. If you don’t believe, watch any House or Senate hearing on technology. It will blow your mind.

You might also check out Ugo’s many blogs. Here’s one.

Of Jet Engines, Dune, and Psychopaths

A less complex time — Braden and Conor on the Meadow Creek Trail

One of the things I beat my drum on and on about is the idea that information rests in various, well-defined structures in our mind, and that the brain uses this canonical set for whatever comes its way. Virtually none of it involves the top-level information, at least structurally. And those structures come from deep-seated relational patterns that are defined in how we know each other. “As we relate, so we think” is the tagline of this blog.

What that means is that your brain may encode your understanding of a jet engine in much the same form as it encodes information on how you perceive an organization or movement like Black Lives Matter (BLM). This is deeply counterintuitive for people. We’re used to thinking that somehow our brains, when they were born, or through the process of a traditional education, had slots for the different types of information, and then some kind of environmental stimuli or degree program created the actual way we think. “Oh, you have a degree in engineering” is one that I hear quite often. “So therefore you must be big-picture rational.” If they only realized how many rational and irrational engineers I’ve known over the course of my life, they’d understand why that was a total crock.

It’s not that education doesn’t matter at all. It does, to some extent, give us fragmented tools that we can combine into narratives that may prove useful. But it’s really about personal development that gives us the ability to either be able to trans-paradigmatically associate different things we know. Construct similes. Or something like that.

Once you really cement the notion that relational patterns and their practice open the gateway to understanding complexity, you rapidly descend into a World of Pain when you’re listening to various stories, ostensibly written for one’s amusement. I recently listened to Frank Herbert’s masterpiece ‘Dune’ with my Audible account, and then, lo and behold, the movie came out six months ago. For those unfamiliar with the plot, it’s a classic intersection of competition between two royal houses, one virtuous, one not so much, over the control of the stuff/drug needed to dope up on to achieve interstellar travel. Getting dropped into the mix is a tribal society (the Fremen) who mostly stay on the run from the two houses. Yeah, the plot is more complicated, and I really did enjoy both the audio version and the movie.

But if you practice the principles laid out on this blog, the biggest question you’ve got to have is this:

“How did these nitwits build a spaceship in the first place?”

There is essentially no way that a monarchy as described by Herbert could do much of anything save build castles and stab each other in the back. We have our own histories to show that this is what monarchies do. And it’s even worse when you let 16 year olds run the show, which is inevitably where you trend to when you set up these types of BS genetic succession schemes. Barbara Tuchman’s exquisite book, A Distant Mirror, that profiles all the maundering of nobles that went on during the 14th century — even before nation-states were really a thing.

But ALL paradigmatic shifts require “out-of-the-box”, or better said, out of the knowledge hierarchy encoded by experts. This is the hard thing to accept. Whole societies didn’t even consider the wheel as a viable paradigm for transportation. The Incas sure didn’t have it. Nor the Aztecs, save on small toys. It just didn’t occur to them to combine such a device with a road network, which they did have.

But here’s the crux. If a concept, regardless of how complex/complicated it is, has persisted for a long enough time, people will fundamentally take the complexity contained in it for granted. The device will get integrated into use, with little or no regard to the complexity inherent in the object, that had to first be developed, a la Conway’s Law, by an organization embodying that complexity.

So, though it is highly unlikely, a society like the one portrayed in Dune could indeed exist, as long as it followed the social physics of the v-Meme that it primarily embodied, with technology inherited from quite a long time ago. That interstellar Spice drive could have been invented, through a combination of lots of different v-Meme organizations (you’ve got telepaths and all sorts of potentially magical, but also super-evolved modes — think of the Bene Gesserit) who just happen to exist in that point in time, in the universe of Dune’s DEEP past, with technology that seems complex to us, and is potentially impenetrable to those in their current space. But in the process of development, as well as the obvious devolutionary decline of government and people, that the system boundaries of that technology are so robust that it just doesn’t matter. Dune, in the present, means you take some drugs and fly to another planet. Easy peasy.

I think this must be what Elon Musk, intuitively, has in mind when he talks about windows for spacefaring civilizations. He rightly intuits that this may be the only time humans can really aspire to get off the planet, and I agree with him. There needs to be a happy intersection of many factors, including our own evolution from biological origins, to the necessary networked complexity to build a starship, as well as the resources to do so. And that includes energy.

Elon musing on the fate of life

Short version — it’s complex. It gets invented because mapping the complexity of the time and knowledge resources happens to coincide with the social evolution of the society and its people at a particular time in their development. Then 10,000 years pass, and we societally and empathetically devolve. But the tech. is so solid, with hard system boundaries, that it simply doesn’t require a more complex society to use it. It’s plug and play. And humans being humans, encode managing the boundary conditions for that technology without really knowing what the hell is inside.

This is the whole theme of the 1970 movie Beneath the Planet of the Apes – a nightmarish sci-fi flick (at least to a ten-year-old boy) in the Planet of the Apes series that results in the destruction of Earth. In the movie are a group of telekinetic mutant humans that surround the Omega weapon, a bomb that they don’t quite know is a bomb. They’re responsible for Integrated Bomb Management, or safekeeping, or something.

The mutants in front of the Omega Weapon

What’s wild about this paradigm is it’s actually memetically accurate. The mutants have no idea about the tech. inside the bomb that might destroy the world. They just know that it can. And true to memetic form, they’ve organized themselves into a rigid mutant priesthood/hierarchy, working on tweaking the boundary conditions to keep the bomb in tip-top shape. Which they do.

In hindsight, I’ve been to more than one oil refinery that essentially runs on this principle. Folks aren’t super dialed in on the exact chemical process inside the different processing columns and such. That was worked out in the relatively distant past. But they absolutely possess extremely sophisticated knowledge on moving around the various set points on the outside of the system to effect appropriate tweaks to product quality.

A more relevant example might be jet engine technology. IMHO, there is probably no better example of a technology hitting up against the edge of physics like a modern jet engine. These things operate at the edge of theoretical thermodynamic efficiency, and consist of over 25K individual manufactured parts. Yet these same engines, encapsulated inside the boundary of the engine nacelle and body, are used around the world in environments ranging from futuristic to primitive. China is busy developing passenger planes for the world market. Yet they simply can’t compete globally with Boeing or Airbus, because they have yet to develop a competitor to an engine like the Rolls Royce UltraFan engine, or one of the many GE models. They don’t have the empathetic social structure in their development environments to innovate such a device.

Yet here is the point. You can have all sorts of complex technology on the inside and absolutely need a super-complex and sophisticated organization to create it the first time. But as time goes on, the engine (or whatever) gets a boundary wrapped around the outside of it. Fuel and air goes in, and thrust goes out the back. And you have to make sure it’s nailed to the wing, or it will come flying off, big time. So the Chinese can build airliners, at least for their home market, and buy the engines from the outside. They won’t be as good as a Boeing or Airbus aircraft. But they still fly.

So the information structure for the engine, in the MEMETIC system, as they use it, is actually pretty simple. The compaction process works the same, as I’ve discussed in the past, as a definite integral, where you take this super-complex function and boil it down to a scalar — a single number. You can’t reconstruct all the complicated stuff inside the engine without an equivalent social network to tell you what goes where. But the average — the thrust going out the back is all you really need.

The more interesting, connected topic for all of this, especially in the context of Dune, is that you had a whole galaxy of planets and stars who went through a dramatic DEVOLUTIONARY process of governance, where instead of developing and evolving social systems that optimized personal agency, and distributed decision making, went backward. And as we’ve discussed before, devolutionary leadership must be relationally disruptive — breaking different levels of agency and relational classifications– in order to get things back to the age of kings and queens. Certainly, that type of leadership can be sophisticated. Dune does an exquisite job of telling a story of battling royal houses, and magical space witches, and their various machinations. But it cannot be evolutionary, save in a magical sense. Which is why the character of Paul Atreides exists. He is an interdimensional “chosen one” that can unite everyone above all the ridiculous nonsense these people, that actually have the ability to careen through space, perpetrate. In a physical sense, it’s impossible to imagine them fighting for anything real, other than chronic status assertion. Once you’re at that level of technological mastery, physical needs are just not relevant. Except maybe a swimming pool. But fight they do.

So now let’s bridge this into the world of ideas, memetically. In stagnant social systems, people will co-opt and potentially resurrect ideas, just like those jet engines with closed boundaries, or a starship’s Spice navigation system, that are so tried-and-true in both input, effect, and output, and use these for whatever relationally disruptive modalities they desire.

Your brain probably isn’t overfond of mapping a complicated theory of race relations with the same (or really, meta-same) complicatedness of a jet engine. But as you remove the various ground wires from either knowledge construction — in racism, it might be actually dealing with folks you interact with and their actual sorrows, or in the case of jet engines it might be knowing the exact composition of the titanium allow needed to make the rotor blades on the inside — the result is the same. You’ve got this piece of constructed knowledge, and it ends up as a tool you can use. You know the surface configuration, and roughly what it does. I guarantee you that you don’t think of the metallurgical content of a hammer head when you drive a nail to hang a picture on your wall.

And if you’re a psychopath, with relational disruption on your mind, you’re far more likely to attach to a tried-and-true powerful idea, or mental model, that has somehow gotten distorted through history, but has shown it has the power for emotional manipulation, than you are to explain a complex truth.

And here’s the thing. As history fades, and those with actual grounding experiences die off, if your society doesn’t do a good job of coding ambiguity and grounding in its primary cultural myths, then you lay yourself open to those extremely superficial interpretations. As long as air and fuel go in the front, and exhaust comes out of the back, it will be good enough for the relational disruptor’s goals.

You might look around at many of our political debates that seek to drive us apart and ask if the above analysis applies. I’d argue, of course, that it does. We use weaponized, simplified myths of diversity for whatever our egocentric desire du jour might be. With regards to race, I grew up in a segregated community with actual, intentional violence directed toward African-Americans. I still argue that racism is somewhat of a problem in this society. But it is not the same as the very real racism I grew up with. It is positively dwarfed by economic disparities in a privatized society that runs on money, and trauma if that money is not present. Black folks are poor, and that has profound consequences for attempting to lift people out of poverty, and crime.

One can easily generalize to all the various mental models used to drive us, as a society, apart. If there’s any consolation in understanding, well, this piece is it.

As we wrap up here, let me be explicit about the point made.

  1. It takes lots of time, experience, and folks arranged in the correct social system to generate for the first time all sorts of complex mental/tech models.
  2. The only difference between the larger meta-process required, between social system manifestations and physical manifestations, is that one is demonstrable in the social sphere, and one in the physical sphere. Both are products of social systems and their interactions.
  3. As time goes on, if there is no innovation, or information brought in from the outside to change their structure, the boundaries of either of these phenomena become “how” they are known.
  4. This process of boundary solidification allows them to be processed by people of lower development. You don’t have to know how to invent something in order to use it. You just have to be able to identify with its superficial function.
  5. Especially in the social sphere, the level of societal evolution can be quite low to allow an established mental model to be weaponized.
  6. This is highly likely in stagnant social systems, where experienced actors seeking power and control rise to the top, and become expert in pushing societal buttons with particular mental models.

We might think about all of these things and how they actually affect progress in our own evolution of our societies, and be aware of when we’re being played. Otherwise, we’ll be back on Dune, identifying with the House of Atreides, or the House of Harkonnen. Mores the pity.

The Memetics of the Abortion Debate

Sandhill cranes, outside of Othello, WA — a true example of wildlife abundance

I’ve been putting off writing about the abortion debate, recently re-fired up by the premature release of a drafted decision from Justice Samuel Alito, and apparently very politically timed as Democrats’ November prospects. It’s not clear to me that anything can turn around the disaster that the Democrats have created with regards to their electoral chances. But if there is one thing, it’s this issue. So, clever political theater, or honest concerns, you get to decide.

I want to state at the start of this that I am very much supportive of the outcome of Roe v. Wade, and women’s ability to control their reproductive futures. At the same time, I also look at a lot of this debate as a huge spin in decentralizing a country that has obviously gotten too big for the two primary factors that make countries and their identities. Those are actual population of that country, as well as the personal/empathetic development level of that country. I’ve said this in other posts — but the reality is that a given country, with a given diversity of people, requires a certain amount of information, with a certain amount of robust complexity, in order to function. That information comes in the form of national identity, shared history, and a whole laundry list of other items. Feel free to add anything in a friendly fashion in the comments.

But the root of all that is how a given society, on average, allows relational formation — whether relationships are externally defined and titular, or independently generated by the individual, and data-driven. This one dichotomy drives the thought process of nations, and I’ve argued that is the core element, statistically distributed of course, of how a country processes information. I’ve been pretty alone out here advocating for this (it is life in The Matrix, and most folks don’t realize we’re even in The Matrix) but I’ve gotten some strong support in Joe Henrich’s latest book, The WEIRDest people in the World. Joe is the chair of anthropology at Harvard, so if you’re in the first, externally defined relational camp, you can read/listen to his book, if your brain is having a hard time accepting the arguments made on this blog. For a scholarly book, it’s actually a great ‘car listen’ as well.

COVID served as a particularly opportunistic moment in history for the Externally Defined Relational folks to get a jump on the other v-Memes. I’ve written about this extensively as well, and as is the typical case with what is truly a Memetic War, that the particular side took advantage of it, and are still, even at this late date in the pandemic, going full bore against the more profound empathetic development forces. Relational disruption, and social distancing, be it with masks, vaccine mandates and passports, or arrows on the grocery store floor, are stock in trade, and trust me on this one — at this late date, are being wielded only by those remaining with either social phobias, or psychopaths. It is weaponized empathy — connection for me, but not for thee — that has allowed all this. Feel sorry for grandma, but not for kids shut out of school. Nor especially for folks with special needs. But I digress.

It hardly needs to be stated, but in the standard dichotomy of Left and Right, the Left favors COVID restrictions, which inherently violate bodily autonomy of an entire population, while the Right has waved the anti-abortion flag, and advocated forcible violation of bodily autonomy of women. Roe only concerned restrictions on abortion before 24 weeks of gestation, and was labeled a “right to privacy” — meaning that until 24 weeks, at least to me, it was within a woman’s purview that her pregnancy was only hers to know about. It really didn’t cover what I would consider (and others as well) a basic human right for a woman to control her body. FWIW, the government has never granted a true right to bodily autonomy ever (skip the ridiculous criminal arguments, please) to any citizen, and that’s problematic in and of itself. So Roe has been a weak decision, for a long time.

And Alito said that in his draft decision, which at this time we must remember is potentially apocryphal. Alito’s basic argument was “this is a weak decision, these folks have had a long time to pass a piece of legislation on a national level, and they haven’t, so let’s send it back to the states to decide, who seem more than happy to provide legislative definition.” Of course, what I just stated is somewhat simplistic, and those that really are into the complexity of the issue can dig down to find whatever devolution or sophistication they want. That’s not the point of this piece.

And so we see that further memetic devolution of a country too large to maintain nuance on one of the hot-button issues of our time.

One of the things I hope to provide with this piece is some perspective on the deep memetic “why” people will argue what they will argue, and while it may seem inconsistent, it actually is not. So now we need to talk a bit about information coherence and the why/how people generate worldviews.

The issue of abortion, because it is about the fundamental origin of human life, starts down in the bottom of the v-Meme stack — at the Survival v-Meme and Tribal v-Meme level. From a knowledge creation perspective, that means the decisions regarding whether to carry or abort a fetus are extremely visceral to the party involved. If you are a poor, young woman, you very well may be looking at a profound survival crisis if you have a child. You’re not really worrying about larger moral issues, or even issues of law. You either want the baby, or not. And in a culture that is profoundly hostile to young, single women having babies (look at the amount of child care at most universities that’s easily available for that demographic — not much) you’re going to likely want an abortion.

That happens across the board. I was just reading a piece in MedPage Today that said 1 in 6 female medical students had gotten an abortion. That is stunning, and tells you the extent of Survival v-Meme thinking about abortion. You know having a baby will certainly end your pursuit of a medical degree. Wild.

Tribal v-Meme concerns are up next — deep mythic structures that reside in all of our brains, and are based on cultural values and familial and religious beliefs. None of these things are to-the-point rational, grounded in immediate circumstance. They are long-time, multiple perspective-aggregated, with deep buried roots that translate into simplified narratives for people to use and guide their thinking. And so the expectation that one has a particular myth (abortion is bad and should be banned) should somehow be coherent with another myth (vaccination for COVID is good, and in support of the larger population) is a foolish one. The brain at the Tribal level just doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t NEED to resolve that conflict any more than it needs to resolve a myth to eat beef, but not shrimp. And because it’s rooted so deeply in folks’ limbic system, if that’s where their point of convergence is located, well, good luck. It’s down on the Old God level. And those Old Gods are hardly easy to dislodge.

Moving up to the next two v-Meme levels — Authority and Legalism — there is also no change in response to discordance. A couple of points are in order, though. Authority at a larger social level cares not one whit for any sense of bodily autonomy someone might claim. What that means is either Authority ignores the pregnancy, its consequences, or its termination, or that Authority believes that the social system under its control is threatened with losing its homeostasis. Though resistance to abortion has no race, or particular color, the reality is that regardless of all that, nor popular opinion, poor, white and evangelical people in this country feel profoundly threatened. They feel profoundly threatened for reasons that the Left refuses to even give a basic head nod to, which of course feeds back into the way they view the world. Social systems thrive on homeostasis, and it’s not hard to see the collapse of the middle class in this country would make many in that demographic group come out on the abortion issue.

Once again, no higher coherence in principles is needed. Worse, the knowledge structures available to even discuss this are fundamentally dichotomous in nature. “Abortion is wrong” or “abortion is a sin.” It’s either/or. And lest the liberal Lefties reading this feel some smug satisfaction of sticking to poor white people, the debate on the Left not surprisingly occupies that same knowledge structure. All you have to do is see the various protests where people are saying, prematurely, that Alito’s opinion “bans” abortion in any case, are falling victim to the same dichotomous thinking meta-structure that their opposition is embracing. It’s absolutely nuts to watch, once you realize you’re in The Matrix. Alito asked for a devolution of authority to a smaller sub-population that he deemed more representative. I’ll discuss the Death of Geography a little more below.

It’s really only once we pop above the Trust Boundary, into the Performance v-Meme and Communitarian v-Meme, that the knowledge structures even permit any nuance in discussion. Should an individual have a certain HUMAN right (as opposed to a civil right) to control their outcomes? This argument does get made, but not often, in the cacophony of voices on the abortion issue. And even one click up, in the Communitarian v-Meme, where we look at multiple voices and perspectives for nuance due to all the things that happen in a population (such as severe birth defects, or anencephalic fetuses) we finally have the more complex knowledge structures available to have a more complex discussion, with fractal optimization for a variety of circumstances. But there are simply not enough people evolved at that level to even carry the discussion. And so inevitably, we get a variety of situations, seen monolithically from the lower v-Memes (remember — you can only process information at the level that you’ve evolved to — meaning you’re looking over your head attempting to understand a more complex problem.) It’s just wrong or right.

What that does is turn very individual, low probability events into ‘Partial Birth Abortion’ or other dichotomous situations. The individual tragedy simply doesn’t matter in the larger aggregate. It’s like taking a complex bimodal probability distribution, and saying it’s represented by one number that’s an average. Large scale empathetic connection would yield the relational networks, and number of experiences so people might have given examples, and replacement stories for people to hold on to. But in case you’re wondering why there’s such a rapid dismissal of exceptions, even for rape or incest, which do have the potential to be rooted deep in Tribal v-Meme reaction, well here you go.

It’s not until we get into the Second Tier — where the conscious mind starts to dominate, that we even have the ability to have the profound consequential thinking on a societal/global level, to have the debate. The Global Systemic v-Meme (Yellow) says we ought to be able to arrange all these lower level knowledge structures in a way that preserves individual rights, as well as some right of a developed fetus to life (remember that Roe only covers the issue up to 24 weeks) . But now we’re really into sinking virality of any knowledge structures to propagate and elevate the debate. I’ve seen all sorts of guesses for how many Yellow v-Meme operators are out there, and they’re all in the 1-2% of the population. Good luck with spreading those ideas.

And then, at the top — Global Holistic/Turquoise — it’s not even worth discussing. Less than 1% of the population is going to have a true Guiding Principles perspective on all this, that incorporates all the inherent trade-offs (including for the planet), that might give a truly optimized range of social attractors.

So what happens is the force on the entire system for Roe is really around what Alito did. I’m not saying that Alito was particularly wise in what he did. He’s been famous for being a conservative justice since the day he took the bench. But the emergent forces on his profoundly Legalistic perspective are toward devolution of authority. And emergence will out — because that dude is low empathy (is any group of people more bubbled up than SCOTUS justices? Did you hear the nonsense out of Sotomayor’s and Breyer’s mouths regarding vaccine mandates? ) in a bubble of diamond. I think there may be some grounding validity that is going on in all their thinking — reviewing the consequences of a given decision, and the trauma that will likely ensue in a nation that really doesn’t need any more division right now. But the Legalistic v-Meme they occupy only allows very limited consequentiality — in their case, it’s “We do this, and the states will then get to do that, and it’s not our responsibility because we executed our duties ethically. It’s not our problem if people riot in the streets.” But they’re not stupid people either.

Meanwhile, the devolutionary Left is having a first-class fit, and will throw everything against the wall, every slur and insult, in the public sphere. The Republicans, outside of most of the coastal states (there are exceptions) have neglected both the needs and the voices of the entire flyover states in this country. It’s not like the champions who have emerged in those states are true champions of the health and wellbeing in their populations either. Please. But the Ds have made it far easier for the nihilists in the Republican party to seize control. When you devolve people through the combination of poverty, and arbitrary government programs, you create vast potential for entire populations to operate down in pure Mythical/Tribal thinking.

We can see the signals of this in the plethora of conspiracy theories propagated across the heartland. The idea that all those conspiracy theories are necessarily wrong, either, is another flaw of the Left. When you lose your job, and the property in your possession in your hometown is worthless, moving to a richer state is extremely difficult, if not impossible. One of the pieces of advice I give my own students, who will go on to become successful engineers, is to think geographically where you want to settle. It is easy to go down from a rich area to a poor one. But making the reverse trip will be difficult.

The other thing that fuels all this is something that I’ve written about extensively — the Death of Geography. What that means is that people in given states, and economic zones in the country, now, through the Internet, have memetic access to the best and finest propaganda across the United States. Much is made about Russian or even Chinese bots spreading disinformation. I’ve always looked at this as ridiculous. We have plenty of homegrown seeds, as well as fertile ground. And as we continue to neglect the economic prosperity of most of our country, all we’re doing is seeding the wind. And the more you stoke Survival v-Meme fears, coupled with powerful moral myths regarding being anti-abortion, you should expect people to want more babies. Intrinsically, people understand that population is power. You’re really having to battle Agent Smith in this scenario to convince anyone otherwise.

And here is the other problem — it maintains the myth that somehow even states are monolithically representative in their beliefs. Southern states are conservative, northern states are liberal. Considering the electoral differences in most of these states, such geographic labeling does not capture the true opinion diversity that rests side-by-side in geography, but is clearly delineated through the memetics. That leaves a whole lot of people in any Red or Blue state unhappy with whatever decision comes out. They can find their tribe online. And they do.

As with all our problems, including the one regarding abortion, the answer is a development of empathy in our society. But we’re not even close to having a discussion around what really is causing us to think the way we do. This blog post may go viral, and get read a couple thousand times. But that’s it. And all that lecturing I gave above about virality above applies to my work as well.

I’ll close with why I feel the way I do. It’s not a long argument. Who gets hurt by abortion laws that don’t respect women’s bodily autonomy? Poor people. Rich daughters will have nothing to worry about — they will receive abortions because their parents will insure they do. And I honestly think that some of this will be ameliorated from the situation 50 years ago, when Roe was originally decided. New abortion pills like mifepristone are now available that were not in the ’70s, and these are easily mail-ordered, just like Viagra. If you’re stuck in a state where abortion is unavailable, due to the tremendous demand for abortion, you can get one mailed to you. And a quick look at the stats on abortion show that most indeed happen in the first trimester. I’m just not receptive to the argument that life begins at conception. If that’s true, then whole lines of birth control would have to be banned. I leave it to the reader to understand the hormonal changes that birth control promotes, that prevents attachment of the zygote to the uterine wall.

But we can’t evolve as a society until we realize that on our little Spaceship here, everyone has to come along. And that is what is so heartbreaking about all of this.

Airplane Masking, Empathy and Elite Risk Minimization

Boo Boo and the Ladies go to tea

In the Land Where Misery Can Never End, a.k.a. the USA, a few days ago, the infernal transportation mandate was struck down by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the mandate as “arbitrary and capricious” — the legal standard that must be met in order for a halt (as opposed to some kind of on-the-fly amendment) for federally imposed action. The “arbitrary and capricious” action is an especially high bar for anyone suing the government to meet. Why? Because the federal government and the first line of the court system operate on the principle of Sovereign Immunity — “the king can do no wrong” — and you can only sue the federal government basically with its consent. No federal official, for example, can be held responsible for damages caused by their decisions, nor are they accountable to the public.

But there are grounds (the federal consent thing) where you can sue. I know, because I’ve been part of teams of individuals who have done it, and won. I’m not so bad at legal strategy, but it’s still an eye-opener. Essentially, especially at the first level of the federal court system — District Court — the judge listens to you, then the agency experts, and if it’s Round One, bangs the gavel and sends you packing. Because, as we all know, federal officials never lie when on the stand, and if they say “no harm, no foul” well, it is.

This is crazy-making at its finest, but having done this numerous times in the mid- to late-90s over environmental law, well, let’s just say it’s not my first rodeo. But most people are surprised. If you really want to overturn a federal rule-making, odds are you’re going to have to go up at least to the Federal Appeals Court level, which will then not allow any new evidence added to the record, but at least will look at the evidence of whatever you packed the case file with. So, as you’re busy losing at Round One at the District Court level, you really have to be looking upward to picking yourself up off the floor, wiping your bloody nose, pondering your empty pocketbook (it costs at least $10K, likely more just to lose in Round One, and then there is all the work to apply to the Court of Appeals) and getting back on the bull.

If there’s anything to recommend it, at least the federal system is only partially packed with incompetents. You think the federal system is bad until you end up in state court. But I digress.

At any rate, Judge Mizelle, whom everyone is pointing out is not ABA certified (she’s basically too young and not enough experience — 12 years), and a Trump appointee, listened to the evidence and decided that the CDC had run a shitty rule making process (they had) and had arbitrarily excluded certain groups from masking (2 year olds and people with disabilities) and threw the whole thing out. I read the decision, but obviously didn’t go through the case file. Still, considering the nonsense of the whole masking debacle, I’m not surprised. I don’t know what the CDC might base a winning case on, because all of this is so crazy. Or rather, driven by the structural memetics, which you can read about here. We’re in the Matrix with this one.

The liberal media made much hullaballoo over the fact that Mizelle was a Trump appointee (a Tribal v-Meme play), and new on the bench. But the case wasn’t really particularly complex. It was a procedural decision (just FYI — when you beat the feds, it’s almost always on procedure because when it comes to the facts, they get their experts up there to lie) but that’s not that surprising. What IS more surprising that Mizelle didn’t take on face value the CDC’s testimony, and cancelled the masking order. That’s gutsy for Level One (see explanation above) but it also must mean that the case the CDC put on was especially rancid. Federal judges serve for life, but they ALL hate to be overturned by a higher court. Something about status in court-land.

And it constrains them. Memory fails me for the specifics, but I did get to witness Judge Edward Lodge, a long-time Boise Cascade supporter, actually rule in favor of some of our US Forest Service lawsuits. That’s how big a shit sandwich these judges view getting overturned is.

As I write this, the DOJ will appeal, but not ask for an injunction, though also, as I write this, the CDC is asking them to in order to preserve their authority. This argument is actually bullshit. What the CDC wants is the authority to stick people back in masks; not just maintain their general authority. That’s how bad they suck, and that’s also how strong the memetics are.

Masking on airplanes is driving hard on the concept of Elite Risk Minimization. It IS true that mask wearing has been lifted pretty much across the nation, and all but the socially phobic and OCD sufferers have given up on wearing them. Most of the students in the classroom building I teach in don’t wear them. Of course, a good hunk of the professors I see when I peer in the window ARE, which is a damning indictment of the university as anything resembling an enlightened place. But it’s also true that for the most part, people were already “empathy bubbled” up. And folks were only associating who they wanted to associate with. The only place really left with the unwashed masses, quite literally yearning to breathe free, was public transportation. Well, and university classrooms. Professors really do view students as the unwashed masses. Go to any faculty meeting — but I digress (again). (Just FYI — faculty meetings are the source of endless jokes once you leave them. Inside them is another matter.)

So you’ve got a memetic Double Whammy going on here. If you’re stuck on an airplane, odds are high they’re all strangers to you. And if you’re really unaware that you’re in the Matrix, and have already closed your identity inside your in-group as those in your out-group are unclean, well, you’re really screwed on an airplane. You’re going to join the Mile High Club, but not in a fun way. You actually have to site in close proximity to people you don’t know. And those people might be eating pretzels. Or nursing their Bloody Mary. With their mask off. Just FYI, I don’t even dangle mine around my ear.

The other part of that Double Whammy is that you’ve got an organization — the CDC– run by a bunch of empathy-disordered narcissists with OCD who can’t even countenance losing control. There’s a phenomenon that’s really poorly understood in play here called ‘narcissistic rage’. When someone with a personality disorder (you’d be amazed how many quiet people have something called Avoidant Personality Disorder) is actually challenged, if they’re not in an external system where those constraints are pre-defined, you’ll see Silent Sally totally go apeshit on you. You might have thought the best thing to do with these kinds of bullies is to stand up to them. And you may HAVE TO.

But the way they deal with that is to double down on the rage-driven crazy. It’s something to watch. And I have. But those stories will have to wait. The only thing that’s worse about calling one of them out to their face is to have them sue you. Uh, once again — that story will have to wait. But suffice it to say that they are very good at manipulating the judicial system. Because, well, they’re good at using positive mental models in the context of human shields for their psychopathy. Think weaponized empathy. You come in with a nuanced, sophisticated, but well-crafted argument. They come in and declare you Satan. It’s even odds if the judge believes you or them.

And hey — it’s really a Triple Whammy. The last part of the memetic v-Meme craziness is that minorities, memetically, are literally caught in the middle. Most minority communities are far more v-Meme Authoritarian than white communities, for a variety of reasons. Most are poorer, save Asians, which also have a cultural bias toward masks, though this is overstated by the white folks with OCD looking to grasp onto any straw that links to racial sublimation and that white folks suck. The others (Hispanics, African Americans) are uniformly poorer, and that stronger family structure has severe drawbacks if you’re attempting to navigate a hazy information environment. You listen to your mother, or you’ll get a whooping. Couple that with yet another double whammy of previous betrayal by white authority (think the Tuskegee experiments) and false dichotomies (mask and vaccine equivalence) and when you have to choose between protection, one from getting something injected in your body, and the other just putting a piece of cloth on your face, you’ll go for the cloth. It’s something that you can control.

So those are the three v-memetic tripwires in the whole transportation masking nightmare.

  1. Close proximity by elites with the Unclean.
  2. Demand for more power-and-control from the social-phobic CDC and academic epidemiologists.
  3. Fear from minority communities stuck between a rock and a hard place, belief-wise, between vaccines and masks.

The general public, however, continues to hate masks, regardless of the nonsense bullshit the media produces. I just read a story about a poll that said that 56% of Americans still want masking on planes. At the same time, something like 22% of the people polled (1085 samples) never flew. It just got more crazy from there. I have some sympathy for the pollsters. Cell phones have completely wrecked their random sampling methodologies, and I can’t believe that they’re not selling apples on the street yet. But Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, after all the experts and pollsters lined up to declare Hillary the winner by a landslide, should give any reasonable person pause.

But who we’re up against is not a group of “reasonable people.” At this point in the game, it’s plain to see that the remaining real maskers are trauma victims of the liberal media, or a stack of people with phobias and personality disorders. And there is the grounding validity touchstone of all the videos inside airplanes showing what people did when they could take off their masks.

Virtually all of them sure as hell took them off, over and over. The flight attendants and the passengers literally screamed with joy. Yes, there were a couple of shrinking holdouts — of course there would be. But the rest of us are tired of the bully game. You want to wear a face diaper while you’re on a plane? Please. But, Bitch, please, stop holding yourself up as some virtuous idiot. You’re not preventing disease. And you’ve just lost your control on making the rest of us suffer for your paranoia.

One final note — it’s not the Republicans that need to forfeit polling and get off Twitter. It’s the Democrats. Any D that wants to believe that poll — a legacy media tool at best — and ignore the fact that the public really hates all the nonsense NPIs is really asking for the end of their party. And Twitter, where I spend far too much time whiling away the hours coming up with somewhat witty shitposts, is the worst government policy, self-reinforcing empathy bubble on the planet. Listen, D strategists — no one in the real world even knows who Rochelle Walensky is.

As a lifelong Democrat, I want the party to get back to what it used to support — working class people and environmental protection. But have it your way, New Wave D strategists. It’s just gonna be Armageddon in November. And then we’re gonna really be left with the nihilists.

Three pieces of supporting blog posts:

  1. How masks really work in The Matrix
  2. The endgame of all of this. It ain’t pretty, but some of us are catching on.
  3. How narcissists manipulate the game.

BTW — Hat tip to @annbauerwriter for some of the thoughts in this piece. You are awesome!