Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

Yesterday, Occupy Bar Harbor hosted a public showing of Charles Ferguson’s film Inside Job documenting the effects from 30 years of deregulation of the financial services industry. What did we get but exploitation of the many by the few?

What struck me most in this, my fourth viewing, was the unbridled collusion between 1) giant international investment banks, 2) rating agencies that evaluated their offerings, 3) insurance companies that guaranteed a profit even if investments proved worthless, 4) business schools that lent respectability to dangerous practices, and 5) state and national governments that dismantled the legal framework preventing the industry from abusing its clients.

Bill Clinton summed the attitude up in his maxim, “It’s the economy, Stupid!” Which, perversely, I now read as, You’re stupid if you think the economy is all there is. That is, the economy is life itself. No, there’s more to it—this muddling life of ours.

Exploiting others is only one example of an extreme way to live. Of setting oneself as the standard and computing all benefit from that narrow perspective. What’s in it for me, me, me? is no philosophy of life. Particularly in a self-proclaimed democracy that claims to respect all citizens as equal. Social (misapplied) Darwinism that leads to treating the elite as more equal than the rest leads to eugenics, dysgenics, winning at all cost, and exploitation of those deemed inferior and less worthy.

Which is why we play games by rules that apply to all players. We share, take turns, are fair in our judgments, and accept loss as a temporary setback, not an evaluation of our humanity.

As I see it from my individual perspective, the drive to dominate others’ minds for personal advantage is at the heart of entrepreneurship and our capitalist version of democracy, including notions of corporate personhood and the spending of money as a variant of free speech (CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK, p. 262).

That’s where Inside Job takes me each time, to the deliberate abuse of public trust for personal advantage—which is called cheating. I continue the passage in that vein:

Capitalism sets up two classes of people: owners and workers. Because owners have wealth, workers have jobs—we take that as the desirable state of affairs. Getting a job means working for somebody else. Owners, on the other hand, are seen as public benefactors in keeping workers off the streets and public dole. This formula gives all power and all virtue to owners, to whom workers owe the duty of arriving on time, working hard, not complaining, and being grateful for regular paychecks. But as company men, workers lose the right to exercise their own minds, which is more than any man or woman should bargain away for the sake of employment (p. 262f.).

Power is the issue here, or the unequal distribution of power:

The powerful have always depended on the labor of others—spouses, children, servants, minions, slaves, laborers, stewards, consultants, staff, hands, and all the rest. Bodily control depends ultimately on mind control, so workers are expected to devote their lives to the welfare of those they have the privilege of serving (from Latin servus, slave). The economy is designed to justify such a situation as being true to the reality of how life really works—as if individuals were born to one class or the other as children of the owning or of the laboring class—an idea whose time should have come and gone long ago (p. 263).

The collusion between various elites treating the public as losers, dupes, and fools is at the heart of the latest financial collapse as depicted in Inside Job. How is it possible for a class of people to evolve the belief that they can duly suck the blood of the masses like so many vampires—and think they are clever in doing so? In the process wreaking subsequent havoc, chaos, waste, and destruction on a gullible public, generating massive amounts of entropy where civilization depends on sustained social order for the indefinite future.

It all comes down to how we choose to engage with (not in opposition to) our fellow passengers on this planet of ours. If we live at the expense of those we deal with, we are so many lampreys or vultures. If we elect to live as peers equal to the cohort we are born to, respecting others as much as we do ourselves, then there may be some hope for us all.

It is no accident the Occupy Movement chose to camp out on Wall Street where the entire financial services cabal could see their faces. Who wants to grow up in a world where your future is co-opted before you arrive?

Enough already. As ever, –Steve

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Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

Yesterday, Occupy Bar Harbor hosted a public showing of Charles Ferguson’s film Inside Job documenting the effects from 30 years of deregulation of the financial services industry. What did we get but exploitation of the many by the few?

What struck me most in this, my fourth viewing, was the unbridled collusion between 1) giant international investment banks, 2) rating agencies that evaluated their offerings, 3) insurance companies that guaranteed a profit even if investments proved worthless, 4) business schools that lent respectability to dangerous practices, and 5) state and national governments that dismantled the legal framework preventing the industry from abusing its clients.

Bill Clinton summed the attitude up in his maxim, “It’s the economy, Stupid!” Which, perversely, I now read as, You’re stupid if you think the economy is all there is. That is, the economy is life itself. No, there’s more to it—this muddling life of ours.

Exploiting others is only one example of an extreme way to live. Of setting oneself as the standard and computing all benefit from that narrow perspective. What’s in it for me, me, me? is no philosophy of life. Particularly in a self-proclaimed democracy that claims to respect all citizens as equal. Social (misapplied) Darwinism that leads to treating the elite as more equal than the rest leads to eugenics, dysgenics, winning at all cost, and exploitation of those deemed inferior and less worthy.

Which is why we play games by rules that apply to all players. We share, take turns, are fair in our judgments, and accept loss as a temporary setback, not an evaluation of our humanity.

As I see it from my individual perspective, the drive to dominate others’ minds for personal advantage is at the heart of entrepreneurship and our capitalist version of democracy, including notions of corporate personhood and the spending of money as a variant of free speech (CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK, p. 262).

That’s where Inside Job takes me each time, to the deliberate abuse of public trust for personal advantage—which is called cheating. I continue the passage in that vein:

Capitalism sets up two classes of people: owners and workers. Because owners have wealth, workers have jobs—we take that as the desirable state of affairs. Getting a job means working for somebody else. Owners, on the other hand, are seen as public benefactors in keeping workers off the streets and public dole. This formula gives all power and all virtue to owners, to whom workers owe the duty of arriving on time, working hard, not complaining, and being grateful for regular paychecks. But as company men, workers lose the right to exercise their own minds, which is more than any man or woman should bargain away for the sake of employment (p. 262f.).

Power is the issue here, or the unequal distribution of power:

The powerful have always depended on the labor of others—spouses, children, servants, minions, slaves, laborers, stewards, consultants, staff, hands, and all the rest. Bodily control depends ultimately on mind control, so workers are expected to devote their lives to the welfare of those they have the privilege of serving (from Latin servus, slave). The economy is designed to justify such a situation as being true to the reality of how life really works—as if individuals were born to one class or the other as children of the owning or of the laboring class—an idea whose time should have come and gone long ago (p. 263).

The collusion between various elites treating the public as losers, dupes, and fools is at the heart of the latest financial collapse as depicted in Inside Job. How is it possible for a class of people to evolve the belief that they can duly suck the blood of the masses like so many vampires—and think they are clever in doing so? In the process wreaking subsequent havoc, chaos, waste, and destruction on a gullible public, generating massive amounts of entropy where civilization depends on sustained social order for the indefinite future.

It all comes down to how we choose to engage with (not in opposition to) our fellow passengers on this planet of ours. If we live at the expense of those we deal with, we are so many lampreys or vultures. If we elect to live as peers equal to the cohort we are born to, respecting others as much as we do ourselves, then there may be some hope for us all.

It is no accident the Occupy Movement chose to camp out on Wall Street where the entire financial services cabal could see their faces. Who wants to grow up in a world where your future is co-opted before you arrive?

Enough already. As ever, –Steve

Reflection 237: Being There

February 27, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

I had it all set. I was working on the handouts I would give out tonight. Then the phone rang: “We cancelled the class because only one person signed up.” Leaving me with five sessions mapped out in my head with nowhere to go.

After Welch poet Dylan Thomas drank himself to death in 1957, his wife wrote a book, Leftover Life to Kill. That’s what it felt like. But in my case it isn’t terminal. My hyperactive loop of engagement had suffered a setback, that was all.

The class was (past tense) called “Being There.” It was about my favorite topic of putting my body where my values are so that life becomes a full-bodied experience. With working folks these days shut away in cubicles ogling digitized words of other people while the rest of us walk around with cellphones glued to our ears, we are growing more and more out-of-touch with our physical locations in the world. And with our collective impact on that world.

That is, we find it easier to use technology to engage people like ourselves than to have immediate experience of our places on this Earth. Meaning the state of the Earth is out of our minds as we grow increasingly self-concerned.

Being there, for me, means being actively engaged with my environment so all my senses connect me to the place where I am. Inviting that place to nourish my hungry spirit. That’s how I learned how estuaries work—by tracking horseshoe crabs fitted with sonar transmitters. I practically lived in an estuary for two years, listening for signals from those 26 transmitters, being there with my senses alert and aroused, noticing everything that happened. Making me in my open boat an honorary member of the estuary community, which I learned to know from the inside.

That’s the sort of thing I wanted my class to talk about. Astronaut Edgar Mitchell being moved by sights of sun, moon, stars, and Earth from his Apollo 14 capsule. Carl Sagan waxing eloquent about the sight of Earth from space. Bill Fraser living on the Antarctic Peninsula, taking it all in, beginning to grasp the living complexity of the place. Thoreau being stunned by being present on Fair Haven Pond in 1850. May Sarton becoming herself through full immersion in a poem she was struggling to write.

Being there is about our loops of engagement in action in particular places where we direct our attention to where we are, so we can be fully who we are in that place. That is how we grow larger than our former selves. How we become the people we yearn to be.

That’s what I’m not going to teach about tonight. But I am going to live anyway.

As ever, yours, –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

In the concluding chapter of CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK  I wrote these words:

The general welfare is best improved by each of us having equal opportunity to conduct her own affairs without falling prey to those who would use us for selfish purposes. Introspection shows me that individual opportunity is not only possible, but is the desirable state of affairs in which we thrive on the basis of our mental skills and effort, not our vulnerability or submission. In a democracy, it is an oxymoron to conduct our affairs by seeking to take advantage of our peers. True power is the power of the individual to lead her own life as her unique self, not as who others tell her she should be. Self-determination, in my book (which this is), is the source of individual personal power. It requires not only empathy and compassion, but agreement that our uniqueness is our gift and our strength (p. 265).

Having recently viewed Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job, I thought about how I could steer my own loop of engagement to counter the mayhem presented in that powerful film. Here’s a slightly edited version of an email I sent to a co-worker and friend.

The documentary film Inside Job details the results from a 27-year campaign to deregulate the financial services industry. Now our effort should focus on finding ways to effectively rebuild a regulatory system that has collapsed due to constant pressures applied from without and within government. Add our wars in the Middle East as a vital component of our modern economy through the arms industry, and the trashing of campaign finance regulations by the supreme court of the land—all this adds to the sorry state we find ourselves in today with the one percent in control of our destiny.

Now is the time to shore up our gutted regulatory systems and restore our ethical priorities for peaceful, private enterprise. We also need to stress the regulation of for-profit activity so the govern-ment controls the economy rather than the other way around. The court, the wars, and the film show that laissez-faire doesn’t work. What’s missing is the will of the people to fight for what they feel is right. We need a half-time pep talk so we can personally take a hand in making our democracy work. Our individual efforts are so diffuse, how can we organize so our collective efforts can meet the challenge we face? United we stand, divided we fall. How can we get our—the people’s—act together at this time of crisis?

In an era that decries regulation as anti-business and un-American, it struck me how regulated our sports and games are as a matter of course. Think of these games without umpires, referees, or rules: football, baseball, basketball, soccer, track and field, boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, tennis, golf. Think of poker, blackjack, chess, bridge, even solitaire. Think about kick-the-can, hop-scotch, mother-may-I? Think about plagiarism. Think about armed robbery. It is one thing to artificially enhance your breasts or fanny or shoulders, another altogether to defraud investors by pushing bundled subprime mortgages on the public while insuring your own risk with credit default swaps.

How does regulation for the safety of investors differ from playing by the rules? The claim is that markets must be free to regulate themselves, which is a variation on letting the fox guard the henhouse. My view is that sports and games are right up there with the arts and sciences as pinnacle achievements of our culture—because of how we conduct them to be fair to all players and practitioners.

How we conduct our engagements with others and the world makes all the difference. I am in charge of my loop, you are in charge of yours. If we seek mutual engagement, we both must play by the same rules, not one set for you and another set for me. Not one set for the financial services industry, another for investors. Or one set for the rich and another for the poor. Or one set for Republicans and another for Democrats.

I reached this conclusion through a 30-year program of first-person introspection. Surely it is time the swindle was over. For Wall Street to adopt a code of ethics that truly levels the trading floor.

That’s my thought for today. I remain, as ever, –Steve

Reflection 235: Time & Space

February 23, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

While working on CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK (lulu.com, 2011), I came to see that my actions amounted to moving things around in space, while my perceiving the world resulted from the world altering my awareness. At one point I had the sudden insight that my actions took place in space and my perception took place in time. Here’s what I wrote:

In waking life, space is the medium in which I act; time is the medium in which the world makes its response to my acting. Round and round we go, my world and I, always testing each other in trying to achieve some kind of accord in time and space, the here and now. Wherever I am, I am always here. Whatever time it may be is told by assorted worldly agents as they affect my presence in the now. Space is a measure of my acting in the world; time is a measure of the world acting on me. Both modes of consciousness giving me a sense of being in the world, of the world being in me. Eureka, my spatiotemporal reality (p. 115).

That is my ongoing, looping, phenomenological, bioenergetic reality, which is spatiotemporal in nature because it couples sensory input to behavioral output in a continuous stream from one to the other, uniting them within one coherent system of awareness, which it is my job to maintain.

That realization came to me in a fraction of a second, joining what seemed like two parallel systems into one serial system. It was an intuitive thought rather than a rational deduction. It just struck me, and I immediately took that thought to be true.

Was I out of my mind? Or was I looking truth in the face? From the moment of that realization, I acted as if I’d had a revelation of the way my mind actually works, surrendering to what came to me as an obvious solution to one of the mysteries of my conscious mind. Without my acting on the world, I would have no realization of space. Without the world changing on its own, I would have no sense of time. It was patently obvious to me in one instant.

My looping engagement with the world generates the possibility of time and space. To actualize it, all I need is some kind of calibration in appropriate units so I can measure space and time through comparison against respective standards, and so talk about relative distances, dimensions, durations, motions. When I die, all that will die with me. Others will act in my stead, and the world will keep changing on its own. The world will go on its way without me, but I will know nothing about it because my looping engagement has ended. I can no longer act or perceive.

When I was born to the world, all that was before me. Time and space are products of my calibrated, conscious mind. My culture gives me the calibration; I do the rest by activating my first-person loop of engagement. The calibration belongs to my culture, the rest—actions, perceptions, and consciousness itself—are my contribution.

Once it came upon me, that realization changed my life. It may sound crazy to you, but that’s who I am—the guy who saw things that way by introspecting his own mind.

As ever, yours truly, –Steve

 

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

All people on Earth depend on looping engagements with their surroundings for air, water, and food—both intake and elimination, as well as for reproduction. It should come as no surprise, then, that the human nervous system should depend on a similar looping engagement between energy received by the senses and actions directed at the physical environment. Yet we tend to look upon our brains as the whole story on the theme of consciousness without considering the inherent order of sensory stimulation and the ordered serial gestures we make in response.

The job of consciousness is to make our actions appropriate to the situations we judge ourselves to be in. Those situations as told by the energy they relay to our senses are every bit as essential as correlates of consciousness as the relevant regions of our brains. Consciousness requires embodiment in a physical body within a situation that includes air, water, food, and opportunities for sexual engagement. And a brain to boot.

Without brains there would be no consciousness, just as without sensory stimulation and occasions for action, ditto. Nothing new there. We all assume as much. But what we forget to mention is the unbroken circulatory relation between environment and brain on which meaningful perception and action depend.

Our loops of engagement are responsible for the kinetic quality of consciousness, what William James called the stream of consciousness. Memory is essential to our realizing that stream as an ongoing process of situated awareness. Without a glimmer of short-term memory, life would be a blur of one moment of “booming, buzzing confusion” merging with the next without end.

Instead, we are able to fix our attention on the instant, and to develop stable relationships with the many tools or accessories we use to boost the effectiveness of our actions in the moment. We enlist a host of accessory devices in accomplishing our plans—vitamin pills, Doberman pinschers, monkey wrenches, computers, skateboards, Glock handguns, etc., upon which we come habitually dependent in conducting our engagements in order to feel like ourselves. We relate to such possessions in a master-servant relationship as if our engagements gave us the authority to actually own them and determine their use.

A great portion of human law is given to regulating human loops of engagement through legal use and possession of personal property. That is, local, state, and federal governments have an interest in how we conduct our loops of engagement so not to cause harm or undue discomfort one to another. What freedom we have in conducting our affairs is supervised by judicial bodies in assuring we do not inflict mayhem on our neighbors through the use of private automobiles, weapons, animals, toxins, and so on. 

Our relationships with our partners and children are of particular interest lest we abuse those we are most intimate with in our everyday engagements. But, too, those with great wealth can arrange for laws to favor them in particular, so a great many special arrangements are protected by the law, giving significant advantage to those in positions of power and wealth, rendering the law itself unjust in favoring one group above another.

My purpose here is to suggest the importance of our individual loops of engagement by which we act on those who share our life situations, and are in turn acted upon by others. Marriage is a form of engagement, as is education, warfare, commerce, and entertainment. Nothing is more important to each one of us than how we engage our life situations.

Neuroscience would make a significant advance by acknowledging and accounting for the looping engagements by which we conduct our affairs. There’s more to our relationships than we commonly allow. And it lies at the heart of how each one of us views the world through personal consciousness.

Thanks for stopping by. As ever, –Steve

Reflection 233: Ownership

February 17, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

The loops of personal engagement by which I see us reaching out to our worlds through various gestures, and those worlds reaching in to us as parties responsible for such actions as we have taken or are considering—these loops exist in our brains as molecules, ions, neurotransmitters, and pulsing electrical charges coursing across cell membranes and through networks of nerve fibers. Wholly oblivious to this rush of neural traffic, we entertain only a flow of sensory phenomena through our minds, which we duly interpret, understand, emotionally probe, compare, remember for a time, and even feed forward to the planning areas of our minds. In due course we answer the world by making a physical response appropriate to our grasp of the situation we think we are in. (CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK, p. 112.)

I was not thinking about ownership when I wrote those words, but it strikes me after the fact that in owning anything at all, it is because we regard a great variety of things as extensions of our mental domain as established by our personal engagements with our surroundings. We use those extensions as accessories: tools, cars, vitamin pills, clothing, tobacco, liquor, partners, pets, etc. We treat them as essential to our interactions with the world, and come to rely on them because they help us define who we are. Without them, we are unsure what to do and how to proceed, much as a robin is lost outside its territory.

I didn’t encounter what I’d call an ego during my 30-year bout of introspection, but I did meet a sort of slavish devotion to my loop of engagement—which amounts to much the same thing. I sometimes get so engaged that I forget that there are other ways of doing things than I am used to, which may well make me come across as woodenheaded or set in my ways. Without my glasses or favorite winter shirt it is easy for me to feel lost. My loop is broken, requiring new methods if I am to carry on as before.

My glasses are crucial parts of my daily routine, as are the clothes I wear, the food I eat, the pills beside my plate, my laptop, and the three books I am concurrently reading. I feel these items are necessary to my well-being. I own them. They are mine because they render me recognizable to myself. Take them from me and I’m not sure who I am, much as the Koch brothers would be lost without their family fortune, or the robin without its own worm.

Ownership, accessories, loops of engagement—there you have an alternative scenario for a good deal of human behavior. I thought you’d want to know so you could try it out as a new way of looking at your own behavior.

Yours for an interesting today and a better tomorrow. –Steve

Reflection 232: Zero IQ

February 16, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

My brain doesn’t know the capital of Maine is Augusta or that 7×8=56. My brain doesn’t know it’s a brain, or anything at all about the English language. My brain knows zip, niente, nichts, nothing.

Why is that? Because if it knew anything it would have to have a knower module analogous to the screening room where perception is alleged to occur.

No, understanding and perception are kinetic events, not vaults where data is stored. Making experience and consciousness kinetic events, which can be stored in a distributive fashion in neural networks made up of pathways and synapses, true, but the experience and consciousness have to be recreated each time they appear by the neurochemical signals that animate them. Consciousness exists solely in the patterns and relations of such signals within the particular contexts and situations in which they arise.

This is the view I have come to after wrestling with this blog on consciousness, writing CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK, and realizing my efforts have taken me to a new place. The book, by the way, has appeared in nine versions under three titles (Know Thyself, At My Peril, and now C the B.) As I wrote yesterday, memory is the key to consciousness, as it is to knowledge and understanding. As is language, as is our number line, as is our calibration by the culture we grow up in. We are a team effort, each unique one of us, and exist in the electrochemical processes we host in our heads within the contexts around us and the energies impinging on our sensory apparatus.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Which is why orderly minds will never understand it. The only answer is to give yourself to your own consciousness and see what it tells you. If you look for it a certain way, it will be lost in the mists as soon as you set out. You have to let it come to you. You can’t get there from where you are.

No, I’m not on drugs. Or if I am, consciousness is my only drug. This is written by my consciousness, not by any physical me.

Stay tuned to this blog for further bulletins. Better yet, tune in to your own mind and see what it tells you. As ever, –Steve

Copyright © 2012

Consciousness is memory come to life. It resides neither in the brain nor the world but in the interface between the two. Neurochemicals passing across synapses built-up through experience enable the past to map itself on the instant as if it were more of the same—until we realize that it’s not.

My bet is that all those neuroscientists questing after the neural correlates of consciousness are on a wild goose chase because consciousness itself is distributed throughout the unique network of billions of neurons each of us builds from personal experience. Consciousness lives where memories live, and there is no one locus in the brain it calls home.

Anyway, writing CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK has taken me to a new level of appreciation for consciousness as each of knows and loves it. It is an electrochemical process involving our bodies, brains, culture, and physical surroundings, itself residing in the ongoing interaction between all of its parts. Monists and dualists are wide of the mark. Ya gotta be there in your first-person experience to meet consciousness face-to-face. Introspection is nothing less than giving yourself to consciousness to see what you’ll find. You’ll never find it through fMRIs and physical studies.

Consciousness is the casting of shadows from yesterday on the forms of today, rendering the now in terms of the recognizable past.

Stay tuned to this blog for further bulletins.

[Sorry I’ve been away for so long. I’ve been too busy chasing consciousness flitting through my mind to post regular updates. From now on I’ll try to be good.]

Thanks for visiting. As ever, –Steve