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Saturday, February 24, 2024

RAW on the hypnosis of 'reality'

Prometheus Rising,
one of Robert Anton Wilson's best-loved books, has a passage that is one of my favorites:  

"When the Russian mathematician, Ouspensky, was first studying with Gurdjieff, he had great trouble understanding Gurdjieff's insistence that most people are machines and totally unaware of the objective world around them. Then,  one day, after World War I had begun, Ouspensky saw a truck full of artificial legs. These artificial legs were being sent to the frontline hospitals, for soldiers whose legs had not even been blown off yet, but whose legs would be blown off. The prediction that these legs would be blown off was so certain that the artificial legs were already on their way to replace the natural legs. The prediction was based on the mathematical certainty that millions of young men would march to the front, to be maimed and murdered, as mindlessly as cattle marching into a slaughterhouse.

"In a flash, Ouspensky understood the mechanical nature of ordinary human consciousness." 

This is from the Hilaritas edition of Prometheus Rising, and it's certainly one of the RAW books you should buy and read, if you are a RAW fan. 

This passage comes to mind when I think about the current U.S. presidential election, which, if all goes badly, will gives us a Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden rematch.

We are sleepwalking toward an election that many Americans dread. The Republican Party could select at random any sitting Republican governor of any U.S. state, drawing names from a hat, and would have a candidate who would seem to have more apparent common human decency, and apparent connection to reality, than Donald Trump. Similarly, in the minds of people who aren't fanatical supporters of the Democratic Party, any sitting Democratic governor would be better than Joe Biden.

I probably don't have to defend my characterization of Trump for most RAW readers. If you really need a refresher, see "Who Can Best Destroy America?" by the philosopher Michael Huemer, which I offer because Huemer cannot be dismissed as a partisan Democrat, and because getting to know Mr. Huemer's Substack seems worth  your time. 

As for Biden, Prop Anon and Paul Graham have been doing a pretty good job on X of chronicling Biden's apparent indifference to the situation in Gaza, but given the culpability of Hamas and the complexity of the situation in the Mideast, I also will point to another recent example that there seems to be something wrong, "Secret Service Had to Adjust Tactics to Avoid Bites From Biden’s Dog," a story from the New  York Times (similar news reports are available elsewhere.) 

My link gets you behind the Times paywall; read the story and see if you think most Americans would allow their local mayor to treat employees at City Hall this way, for months at a time.   Biden allowed his dog, Commander, to bite Secret Service agents (i.e., his bodyguard, for non-American readers) 24 times, and that figure is not a typo. (In fact, for  reasons cited in the Times piece, 24 apparently understates the situation). In many cases, these were serious injuries. In one incident, tours of the public portions of the White House had to be interrupted, so the pool of blood could be mopped up from the floor first. Biden only finally sent away the dog when news reports became too embarrassing. There's also a wonderful quote from a White House PR sycophant, Elizabeth Alexander, that stands out, even in the annals of political lying: “The president and first lady care deeply about the safety of those who work at the White House and those who protect them every day." 

I see postings on social media from various left wing British fans who I'm fond of, and often they will post about some supposedly terrible British politician. I think there may be some sort of regional/cognitive  bias at work here -- I assumed Oklahoma politicians obviously seemed like the worst in the U.S. until I moved to Ohio -- but I think I can defend the proposition that national U.S. political figures seem obviously worse than comparable Brits. In your face, limeys, we have the Olympic gold medal worst politicians in the western world! USA! USA! 

Jill Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander, who wants you to know that "The president and first lady care deeply about the safety of those who work at the White House." Duly noted, Liz! 


Oz Fritz said...

Congressman, soon to be Senator Adam Schiff said on Bill Maher that he'd vote for a ham sandwich for President before he'd vote for Trump. I agree with him, but I'd also vote for a ham sandwich before voting for Biden for President. So if any ham sandwiches out there want to run for our highest office, they have my vote and I don't even eat pig.

Lvx15 said...

I will hold my nose and vote for Biden. I will not pass up any chance to vote against Trump holding any office, anywhere, at any time. I'd rather be bitten by Biden's dog than know I sat there doing nothing while the Orange one was elected.

Doctor Richard Waterloo said...

I'm at a place now where I entertain the belief that these political issues are consciousness issues. The Red/Blue dialectic is an entrancing one which produces a synthesis of hypnotic repetition and a yearning for fixes that look like previous ones. It looks like we're going further and further down a rabbit hole of abstraction: narrative, identity, quantification, and tautological context.

The problems don't seem solvable using the solutions that got us into such a mess: Raise the debt ceiling, start a war, pass a law, build a wall, begin sanctions, hold your nose and vote for Turd Sandwich. The core issue (I see) here is that of statism and seeking solutions from within a centralized power structure. This mental structure places all other solutions outside the realm of imagination or experimentation. To break out of that centralized solution-structure is to become a nomad (in the Deleuzian sense), but that really doesn't scale to an effective degree. It can be maddening for idealist non-statists, libertarians, etc. which can lead one back into the practicality of Red/Blue statism.

So, a solution? I don't have one... and I don't think One solution is The solution. What I've found helpful is to keep a tight Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern. To effect the world through direct action and mutual aid in a way that looks fun, unusual, and effective. It's not much at scale, but to our individual selves and our Others, it can be everything. Keeping those circles tight keeps the main thing the main thing and allows that which does not serve our aim/game/purpose float by, occasionally looking at the political circus the way Carlin did, remembering that the world is fine and we're all fucked, but we can still enjoy the best produced political show we've ever seen. (And with a $200M+ war chest for Team Blue, we're sure to get one!)

That's the way it seems to me right now...

Eric Wagner said...

I like Mr. Biden. I think, as happened with Jimmy Carter, he will look better as the years pass by. I respect his accomplishments on infrastructure, climate change, and gun control, as well as his handling of Ukraine, Covid-19, and the economy. I would prefer it if he had chosen not to run again, but I still think highly of him.

michael said...

Biden was corporate America's most conservative choice among the non-white supremacists/fascist sociopathic narcissists who were possible choices in 2020.

Biden is old, is a holdover from 1970s NeoLiberalist, and is a bit embarrassing to me. His dog should be on a farm upstate, possibly, and not in the WH.

Biden, given the apparent (9 years since the escalator ride and I'm surprised I'm still clinically "sane") alternative, is a Glorious Ham Sandwich. To equate the two as "both sides" really makes me wonder about a person's ability to make decent, rational discriminations.

As bad as Biden seems to me, he's the fucking Dali Lama compared to the Unspeakable Alternative. Please. C'mon now!

Oz Fritz said...

Sorry for the confusion, I'll explain. The ham sandwich reference is a metaphor meant to express dissatisfaction at the choice of Biden or Trump for President. It doesn't express any equivalence between Trump and Biden and ham sandwiches. Like most people, I suspect, I'll vote for what I consider the lesser of the 2 evils. I won't insult the millions of others who disagree with my opinion for who will make the less evil President.

The Dali Lama has been a force for peace his whole life. For whatever reason, The United States, currently under the Biden Administration has chosen multiple times in recent years not to be a force for peace; as recently as a couple of days ago vetoing, for the third time, a U.N. resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

I suspect that how Biden will look over time will depend on whether he wins the 2024 election. If he loses, his hubris for believing he's the only candidate that can beat Trump – the reason given for running again – will be exposed. Vegas oddsmakers have Trump up by a clear margin.

Criticizing Biden doesn't equal advocating for Trump despite how the either/or programmed mind reads it.

michael said...

Oz: I didn't think you were equating the two.

I see US politics since Ntl. Security Act of 1947 as being increasingly run by the Pentagon/Fortune 500 companies/families, AKA "the owners of the country." Talk about 2nd circuit ideologues with evermore omnilethal weaponry!

In my now-long lifetime every four damned years I've voted against the person I found more likely to end any semblance of what we so laffingly call "democracy." And I almost always have lost even there. Most of the violence around the world done in our name doesn't even get covered in the mainstream news.

I like all sandwiches and didn't mean to demean any of the perfectly good ones out there.

quackenbush said...

I'm probably a fool, but I don't think Trump has a chance in the general election. I look forward to the entertainment of _Weekend at Bernie's 2_, now with double the Alzheimers.

Prop Anon said...

Biden or Trump seems like a real nightmare scenario. I've been pretty public about the shocking display of arrogance and disregard Biden and most of the rest of the US gov't has shown towards a Live Streamed Genocide that's still happening!
I think what's happening in Gaza has forced many to confront the demonic legacy of the Military-Industrial Complex and how our politicians are just puppets for these entities.
Biden has been a severe disappointment. For one because he is presiding over a gotdam Genocide!
I'm sorry everyone but this was one of the main messages I received from RAW's work. To stand Firm Against the War Machine. This was a main principle to the "counterculture."
That said, Trump or Biden?
My fantasy involved Trump being rendered unable to run for POTUS, from too many fines and being barred from ballots, AND Then Biden Finally gets the message that Most Americans are not OK with the full scale slaughter of mostly Palestinian Women and Children.
But I don't hold much hope.
AIPAC has taken over the American political scene over the last few decades and the American political system needs to figure all this stuff out
Or else, I do believe, we are properly fooooked

As far as the British political scene, I think they are f'ked too. I view Jeremy Corben as their only hope, in terms of politicians, and the political establishment placed an antisemitism bad-jacket on him those few years ago and that screwed him.
Every Tory politician looks like an absolute Twat. But this has gone back to Thatcher. She single-handedly did more damage to the everyday person in Britain, and she promoted a vile racism that played out in all sectors of British society, imho.

I don't know what RAW would think of today, but I think all these pols stink like pigshit in an elephant's asshole.
They All Suck. And We All Need Something Different.
"Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong."