Class Warfare Blog

February 11, 2021

Context Matters, Right? Right?

Filed under: Culture,Morality — Steve Ruis @ 12:13 pm
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I want you to consider this photograph:

How about this one?

Indoctrination of the worst sort, no? Vile. Despicable. Teaching young minds to blindly obey authority is not acceptable. The second example is especially despicable when you realize that the children in the second photo are children of German Jews.

So, scroll down, now. You will see another photo.

Keep going . . .

A bit further . . .

Just a tad more . . .

Do you see the flags? These were American kids. Were American Nazi sympathizers indoctrinating their children? Nope. This is how children were taught to say the Pledge of Allegiance . . . until 1942.

Teaching children to say the Pledge of Allegiance and then requiring them to say it over and over and over and over (almost 4,000 times in ten school years) is an indoctrination tactic and all it really teaches is that a solemn pledge wears off in as little as 24 hours.

The Right-Wing: Symbols, Not Actions

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 8:54 am
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It is almost like the debate between Christians as to whether one needs good deeds to be saved or will just faith suffice. According to those on the extreme right-wing of the political spectrum of this country, it is symbols, not actions which are more important.

What this refers to is the playing of the national anthem at the beginning of every professional sporting event in the U.S. Fascinatingly, these events are not political events, or patriotic events, or sacred events, or really having anything to do with politics or religion, so why is it so important to play the anthem at the beginning of every game? What would happen if we did not? Well, now we know.  Nothing. The Dallas Mavericks of the NBA did not play the anthem before the team’s home games this season. The Mavs managed to get through 13 preseason and regular-season contests at the American Airlines Center over 56 days before anyone seemed to notice.

But then someone noticed and the right-wing propaganda sphere lost its collective mind. Either they were trying to distract people from the dumpster fire that was Donald Trump’s insurrection, or they thought there would be dire consequences if the anthem were not played. Maybe people might forget which country the game was being played in.

“During our games, most people don’t even show up for the anthem. When they’re at the game, on the concourses they don’t stop. Some don’t even stand,” said Mark Cuban, the owner of the Mavs and the person who made the decision to not play the anthem. “I would rather not play it if people won’t respect it, and I would rather not play it if it is going to be used as a weapon when people disagree with what it represents.”

“I wanted to see if anyone noticed,” Cuban added. “No one said a word.”

Interestingly, I don’t remember the anthem being played before high school basketball games, so if that is generally true then the “tradition” of playing the national anthem is apparently restricted to profit-making sports and the practice is not important enough to teach our young.

Also, the people complaining the loudest are identical to those telling professional sports figures to “shut up and dribble” and “keep politics out of sports.” Apparently this crowd thinks that “consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” When Mark Cuban obliged them, they blew their tops.

I wanted to see if anyone noticed,” Cuban added. “No one said a word.”

February 10, 2021

Religious Privilege and What It Buys Us

The wages of sin religious privilege are death.

This is quite worth reading, regarding recent Supreme Court rulings on religion.

No Place for Science in the Supreme Court’s Christian America

February 9, 2021

News Media Finally Stumbles Over the Truth

The Guardian ran an article today entitled “Amazon’s mushrooming power has met an unlikely foe: Bessemer, Alabama” by Hamilton Nolan. The author sets the stage with this:

Which brings us to the unlikely town of Bessemer, Alabama, where voting has just begun on the first real union election at an Amazon warehouse in the US. To be an Amazon warehouse worker today is to find yourself in the odd position of simultaneously having kind of a crappy job while also being perhaps the single most important kind of worker in America. That is to say, these workers represent the embodiment of where all of our corporate and economic trends are headed – low-wage jobs dictated by algorithms, in which people act as living automatons, completely at the mercy of the arcane needs of a trillion-dollar company. As small businesses across the country fail, more and more people every day wake up to find that these kinds of warehouse jobs are all that they can get. If our economy keeps evolving as it has been, any one of us could be forced to become an Amazon warehouse worker soon enough.”

But the real message came a bit later, namely:

Likewise, the labor movement in America has a rich history stretching back more than a century, but you can understand its key purpose like so: it exists to make working people as powerful in our economy as companies are. Without strong unions, the imbalance of power between employers and employees is so hopeless that it can produce a society where a tiny handful of super-rich people get ever richer, even while wages stagnate for everyone else and labor rights are constantly eroded, making the ‘American Dream’ of upward mobility a cruel joke. In other words – what we have now.

In other words – what we have now.

The diminishment of the American labor movement is often portrayed as something that just happened. They say things like “The union movement declined . . . blah, blah, blah.” This is a little like a description of a prize fight in which one of the fighters, overmatched, is viciously bludgeoned to the canvas by saying “The challenger fell during the seventh round and couldn’t get up, thus losing the match”

The American union movement was deliberately undermined by the same forces running the country right now. It began in the 1930’s but didn’t pick up steam until the New Deal created new supports for labor unions. The unions surged and the opposition started to organize big time. The Powell Memo of the late 1970’s was a blueprint for the suppression of government regulations and labor unions and the efforts behind it haven’t let up since then. (Hatred of the New Deal is still a hallmark of fat cat status.)

For those who claim this diminishment came about “naturally” please note that in the 1960’s both the U.S. and Canada had about 31% of all jobs being union jobs. Sixty years later, aka now, Canada has about 31% union jobs and the U.S. has somewhere south of 10% union jobs. If the diminishment of labor unions was “natural,” why didn’t it also happen in Canada?

The reason why unions were slated for destruction is clear. It was stated clearly in the article referred to above “Without strong unions, the imbalance of power between employers and employees is so hopeless that it can produce a society where a tiny handful of super-rich people get ever richer, even while wages stagnate for everyone else and labor rights are constantly eroded, making the ‘American Dream’ of upward mobility a cruel joke. In other words – what we have now.”

In politics if you want to know why something happens, you are taught to “follow the money.” Can you see who might benefit from “a society where a tiny handful of super-rich people get ever richer?”

Now you know who the puppetmasters/stringpullers are.

February 8, 2021

Whatever Happened to the Founders’ Virtue

The Founding Fathers of our government spoke often of virtue and by this they were not talking about personal or individual virtues, how individuals live a virtuous life to impact their own well-being; they were speaking about public virtue. It may be an oversimplification but in a political context public virtue is the subordination of individual benefits to benefit the whole of society. The Founders seemed to have believed that if public virtue were not preeminently demonstrated and encouraged, the grand American Experiment in Democracy would fail.

We also occasionally laud healthcare workers and charity workers, etc. but mostly there are no calls for people to sacrifice for the “greater good.”

Currently, in the U.S., the only public virtue that is acknowledged is military service. Young men and women forgo “earning a living” to serve, often in dangerous situations, the greater good of the U.S. interests. (Would that U.S. politicians acknowledge those contributions with less venal declarations of what our interests are.)

We also occasionally laud healthcare workers and charity workers, etc. but mostly there are no calls for people to sacrifice for the “greater good.”

This especially applies to the very wealthy in the U.S. who seem to think that their great wealth is a sign of them being better than us and have decided that their ideas are best to run this country and have since taken over our political system by the simple expedient of buying it. That they have since used that system to expand their wealth shows that their public virtue is almost non existent. (Often the very wealthy use philanthropy to make overt statements of public virtue, but their other activities belie those gestures.)

This is where capitalism and the economic intellectuals who laud “market economies” come into play. Economics is larded with “principles” based upon “every man for himself” (they call it “enlightened self-interest,” really). Market economies are claimed to work best when people act in only their own self interest. Where in economics is the public good and the greater good and sacrifices that constitute displays of public virtue come into play? Well, they do not. They do not because the wealthy masters of that field want personal greed established as being worthy. “Greed is good,” they say.

People not only do not vote on candidates and issues that are contrary to their own interests “for the greater good” but vote against their self interests to inflict punishment on those they deem as being less worthy. (Yes, I am painting with a broad brush and not “all” do this but very many do.)

Is public virtue dead, and with it the American Experiment in Democracy?

February 7, 2021

Capitalism is Civilization 2.0

Filed under: Culture,Economics,History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:23 am
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Note This may be a bit repetitious but I keep reading about it and it keeps shocking me. Steve

If you have followed this blog for long, you have read my take on civilization, namely that I am not a fan of civilization per se (See my post “Not a Fan of Civilization?”). The history of the first civilizations is often portrayed as “humans discovered agriculture and grew so much food they could afford kings and priests and the like.” (These descriptions are starting to sound like whitewashed Bible stories generated to proselytize children.) Actually, in almost every case, agriculture—large scale agriculture—was driven by elites or elite wannabes. Agricultural work was far more strenuous than hunting and gathering and people didn’t flock to the fields begging to be agricultural workers. The archeological record shows that people got physically smaller (shorter, less heavy) and more disease ridden because of agriculture.

Since cajoling people rarely worked to get them to toil in the fields, force was employed, and a set of new elites was created, full-time guards/soldiers. (Imagine volunteer firefighters being offered full-time jobs, with benefits. Such would have been the case for those who would arm themselves to defend the village from predators and marauders.) These “guards” made sure the field workers didn’t run off and also participated in slave raids in nearby villages. Yes, civilization was built upon widespread slavery, much like the American South.

As I have mentioned before, when capitalism and industrialization came along, “workers” didn’t show up and get in cues to be hired. Most English “peasants” valued their freedom and didn’t bite on various offers to “get a job.”

So, capitalists did what they normally do, they used governmental power to force people into their factories. They used every dirty trick in the book to get people off of the land and onto factory floors: laws were passed, taxes were levied, etc. You know the routine.

These are the same people who, today, laud how self-regulating markets are, that markets can organize our economies to be “Yuge, really yuge.” Except then they don’t and the bayonets come out.

As I stated in that post mentioned above: “From foragers being forced off land they’ve lived on for centuries because they cannot produce deeds of ownership, to eighteenth-century Scottish Highlanders who preferred to tend their sheep, to today’s college graduates saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt before they’ve landed their first job, nonparticipation in the market economy has consistently and effectively been eliminated as a viable option. To those who suggest we should “Love it or leave it,” I’d suggest that neither option is—or has ever been—a realistic possibility. It’s as if people are being forced into casinos at gunpoint, where they lose everything, generation after generation, and then they’re told they’ve got a gambling problem.”

February 6, 2021

Capitalism is Civilization 2.0

If you have followed this blog for long, you have read my take on civilization, namely that I am not a fan of civilization per se (See my post “Not a Fan of Civilization?”). The history of the first civilizations is often portrayed as “humans discovered agriculture and grew so much food they could afford kings and priests and the like.” (These descriptions are starting to sound like whitewashed Bible stories generated to proselytize children.) Actually, in almost every case, agriculture—large scale agriculture—was driven by elites or elite wannabes. Agricultural work was far more strenuous than hunting and gathering and people didn’t flock to the fields begging to be agricultural workers. The archeological record shows that people got physically smaller (shorter, less heavy) and more disease ridden because of agriculture.

Since cajoling people didn’t always work to get them to toil in the fields, force was employed, and a set of new elites was created, full-time guards/soldiers. (Imagine volunteer firefighters being offered full-time jobs, with benefits. Such would have been the case for those few who would arm themselves to defend the village from predators and marauders.) These people made sure the field workers didn’t run off and also participated in slave raids in nearby villages. Yes, civilization was built upon widespread slavery, much like the American South.

As I have mentioned before, when capitalism and industrialization came along, “workers” didn’t show up and get in cues to be hired. Most English “peasants” valued their freedom and didn’t bite on various offers to “get a job.”

So, capitalists did what they normally do, use governmental power to force people into their factories. They used every dirty trick in the book to get people off of the land and onto factory floors: laws were passed, taxes were levied, etc. You know the routine.

These are the same people who, today, laud how self-regulating markets are, that markets can organize our economies to be “Yuge, really yuge.”

As I mentioned in that post above: “From foragers being forced off land they’ve lived on for centuries because they cannot produce deeds of ownership, to eighteenth-century Scottish Highlanders who preferred to tend their sheep, to today’s college graduates saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt before they’ve landed their first job, nonparticipation in the market economy has consistently and effectively been eliminated as a viable option. To those who suggest we should “Love it or leave it,” I’d suggest that neither option is—or has ever been—a realistic possibility. It’s as if people are being forced into casinos at gunpoint, where they lose everything, generation after generation, and then they’re told they’ve got a gambling problem.”

February 5, 2021

Renaming Public Buildings

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:02 pm
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There has been a flurry of attempts to un-whitewash many historical artifacts: flags, statues, building names, etc. Whether these efforts have merit is debatable but a recent article in the The New Yorker began with “News last week that the San Francisco Board of Education—a group of seven elected commissioners charged with shaping policy—had voted, 6–1, to rename forty-four San Francisco schools came with the shock and panic of an unexpected quiz.” Once you get over the shock of The New Yorker addressing issues in San Francisco, you may, like San Francisco’s major, think that the BOE has other tasks more pressing.

In any case, I can solve this problem so it shouldn’t borrow us any more.

In the practice established by major sports stadia, I think we should sell the naming rights for all public buildings, say ten years at a time which then, the buildings names shall be changed (no second term for building names). We do this though simple public auctions, which we do all of the time anyway.

So, if some racist troglodytes manage to sneak the name of a white supremacist onto one of our buildings, we can just smirk, knowing that in ten years, the name will be changed, and . . . here’s the important part . . . we have their money.

Oh, and if no one bites on the naming rights we can use New York City’s scheme and call them “Public School No. 47” or whatever. I suspect these name changes will result in a flurry of creativity as school songs and chants and sports fields, etc. will all need to be “adjusted” to include the new names. Think of all of the students vigorously crowd sourcing the funds to call their school whatever the fuck they want to call it. Cool!

PS One of the schools they want to rename is George Washington High School, a school I had the honor of being on an accreditation team for, and which is a spectacularly good high school . . . and George Washington is no longer acceptable? WTF?

Anti-Mask Protests

Filed under: Culture,Medicine,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 12:05 pm
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There continues to be anti-mask wearing protest rallies occurring fairly frequently (Only slaves wear masks . . . only slaves wear masks! Yeah!). The question is: what to do about those protesting by not wearing masks?

These are our fellow citizens so I think we should treat them with respect. I also expect them to treat the rest of us also with respect. So, they are free to make their own life choices. They are also free to suffer their own life choice consequences. This is a problem that solves itself, we just don’t want them to take us down with them.

So, we will respect their desire to not wear a mask, but this means that they cannot attend an event that requires masks. If a store/restaurant/whatever requires people to be masked, they may not enter. If the city or state they are in requires masks be worn out in public spaces, they must stay home. If their children’s schools reopen, but require the kids to wear masks, they will have to home school their kids.

I would also suggest that since they are engaging in reckless behavior that they should be last in line for respirators and oxygen in hospitals and last in line for vaccinations. Oh, and should they get the ghastly disease, their health insurance should not have to pay for their treatment because they were undertaking reckless behavior that they were warned against, but continued doing.

Oh, about the Anti-Vax Rallies . . . <ditto>.

Do realize I am being consistent. In my home state, California, a law was passed that motorcycle and scooter riders had to wear helmets when operating their rides on public roadways. Ah, the anguish expressed! “They are taking away our freedom!” riders complained. Not being someone to take away someone’s freedom, I also think that actions have consequences. So, if a motorcyclist gets into an accident when helmetless, then their insurance company should not need to pay out anything as reckless behavior was involved in the accident. (Yes, they still need to have insurance, silly!) Also, their health insurers shouldn’t be liable for paying to have them patched up, either. So, emergency healthcare professionals can, if they choose, patch them up a little, but only after their ability to pay has been established.

The cost of liberty/freedom certainly isn’t cheap. Sometimes it involves more than eternal vigilance, sometimes it involves hard cash. Maybe we should have the helmetless/maskless/vaccineless post a bond . . . hmm, still thinking about this one.

Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Filed under: Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:57 am
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We distinguish between two modes of thinking: conscious and unconscious. The primary distinction is conscious thinking is something we are aware of as it happens. There are various theories of what “consciousness” is but none has reached the status of being preeminent, so those theories are not guides for us. We have experiments galore and speculation in excess but little, really, to go on.

The crux of the matter is that some researchers believe that consciousness is an illusion because we cannot know our thoughts directly. We definitely do not yet know where our thoughts come from. Certainly some come from memory, which can be consider to be, in part, thought storage. But ask any old person whether they have ever experienced the situation where they know they have memorized something but no matter how hard they try they cannot recall the exact thing, only to have it pop up later, often much later. (Happens to everyone eventually.) So, recall of memories isn’t an exact science just yet.

We are learning more and more about memory, but still what about the thoughts we seem to be aware of as they happen?

Some say these are an illusion because we are not aware of the processes that create those thoughts and may never be aware of them. That we may never be aware of them seems acceptable. Why would evolution provide us with a constant stream of background chatter that might distract us in a life threatening situation? But, again, so what?

We seem to be aware of some thoughts as they are processed and if that is an illusion, it is a useful one. I feel that the mental trait that distinguishes us from other animals the most is imagination. Many animals can store memories and, I would suppose, be able to compare a current situation with one stored in memory (otherwise, what are memories for). But, we seem to be able to create what is essentially a false memory, based upon rules we see displayed around us. The classic case is “was that rustle in the tall grasses due to the wind or a leopard stalking me for a meal?” I can see both of these possibilities in my “mind’s eye” and make a decision based upon both the likelihood of these things being the case and also the repercussions if I guess wrong. I can take a memory of a leopard and weave it into the scene in front of me creating, as it were, a new memory, which can them be processed as other memories are.

But imagination would be a poor tool if we had to call it up when we thought it might be useful (Computer, execute program “Imagination.”). That is much too slow for many possible scenarios that threaten our existence. So, our imagination force feeds us. How is that done? I don’t know. But it certainly creates at least one category of “thoughts that come to us.”

When someone declares something mental to be an illusion, I say “Join the crowd.” It seems that everything mental is an illusion. Conscious thought may be illusory, but it is the illusion that includes us being aware of the thoughts as they are fed to us. That’s all.

There are those who argue that reality is an illusion, for whom I have the same argument. It seems that we take in sensory information and create a simulacrum of the “reality” around us. We update it as we move around. (They say we create our own reality … no, we create our own simulacrum of reality.) Why we do this is almost obvious. For one it is a form of storage control and the other is that we do not have the capacity to acquire and store a whole database of information on our current situation (standing at a bus stop). Then a new acquisition needs to happen because a bus has driven by (not our bus), but what do we do with the previous set of data? Do we dump it to make space for the new acquisitions, or do we just adjust those parts that have changed, kind up like how computer backup programs make “incremental backups.”

All of the colors in our mental landscape are “illusory” to the extent that they are constructed from sensory input. Genetics studies show that we have three color sensors in our retinas but that two of them are related. One, apparently, was created through a minor mutation of the other. So, what that means is that our original “design” (via evolution) had us seeing in what is called duochrome. If that mutation hadn’t happened, then what we saw then would be considered normal. No one would wonder why we didn’t have “full color” vision.

Old duotone/sepia photo (only two colors are brown and black)

So, are colors illusory? I suggest we just add in front of any description of a mental attribute of humans “an illusion of . . .” Such a claim, “consciousness is illusory,” doesn’t get us anywhere. We just have to explain the illusion of consciousness rather than the mystery of consciousness.

And I find that the claim that we are “not aware of the processes that create those thoughts and may never be aware of them” to be specious. We are trying to explain/understand consciousness, not the causes of consciousness. One thing at a time here. And even if we do explain both, clearly not being aware of the process that result in consciousness does not limit our use of conscious thinking, just as not understanding how our muscles work doesn’t inhibit our use of them.

If we collectively learn where conscious thoughts come from, so that we have parity with how we collectively know how muscles work, we still do not need to be aware of them to use their product. It seems to be an additional criterion has been placed upon understanding the mystery of conscious thought—that we be aware of the process that cause the thoughts we are aware of, which reminds me of the “tortoises all the way down story.”

Other than such a claim getting one some philosophical street cred and maybe a whole slew of academic articles (it is still “publish or perish”?) such a claim doesn’t seem to really further our understanding.

So, what are your thoughts?

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