Cognition & Reality

Monday, 9 May 2011

Surrender Monkeys?

Filed under: Television,War & Statecraft — drtone @ 3:24 pm

I’ve been streaming “War and Remembrance,” the 80s miniseries based on Herman Wouk’s book of the same name, which I have also read. I had forgotten what a good job Wouk did of portraying the realities of the war. I’ve just gotten to the defeat of France. Fred Ikle’s Every War Must End gave me a new slant on the French surrender, portrayed as cowardice during the war, but clearly the only avenue open to them at the time. Wouk, who also wrote the screenplay for the miniseries, does a great job of showing the problem the French faced.

People tend to forget the connection between “the Miracle at Dunkirk” and the need for the French to surrender.

If the French situation was salvageable, as the propaganda has ever after claimed, why did the British withdraw from the Continent? The British had to leave because the Germans bagged the French army, and the French had to surrender because, without that army and without the British to help them, they had no means of carrying on the war. The French military and political leaders understood that to continue the war, at the cost of countless civilian casualties, would serve no purpose and lead to a more dishonorable surrender in the near future. Amazingly, the British, after having left the scene, were peeved at the French for not continuing the war from North Africa. I suppose it is they who afterward fostered the self-serving impression that the French surrender was an unnecessary, cowardly act.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

AA & The Establishment Clause

Filed under: Justice System,Propaganda — drtone @ 3:47 pm

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…

Alcoholics Anonymous has become such an accepted part of American culture that it has become, among other things, an integral part of the justice system. When someone comes before a court for an infraction or as part of a civil action, and one of the issues at hand is the use of intoxicants, it has become SOP to order the person to attend AA meetings. For example, I met a young man recently who regained the right to drive after a DUI conviction by, among other things, attending seven AA meetings. Judges do this in spite of AA’s existence as a separate volunteer organization without, as far as I know, a legal designation in the laws regarding drunk driving or in any other laws. Furthermore, judges order individuals into AA in spite its being a religious organization with a credo that makes specific reference to belief in God.

The so-called “establishment clause” of the US Constitution is the foundation of the separation of church and state that we enjoy as Americans. Nevertheless, AA has been established as the “go-to” outfit for the justice system when it comes to dealing with the use of alcohol (and other drugs). I doubt that I am the first person to raise this issue, but it is baffling and irritating.

AA manages to evade being called a religion through various qualifications and circumlocutions. For example, it refers to a Higher Power in its main pitch, and it places dependence on “God, as we understand Him.” It should be obvious, if only because AA indicates belief in a male deity, and refers to that deity with capitalized nouns and pronouns, that we are dealing with a religion in the Judeo-Christian tradition. It is a religion that has been melded with the forces of the state.

How can that continue to be? Arguments about the good that can come from AA membership have no weight in this domain. Good can come from membership in a variety of religious organizations, but courts do not force miscreants into Krishna Consciousness or the Catholic Church, or even into, say, Transcendental Meditation. It is only when it comes to AA that prohibitions we otherwise take for granted do not apply. I would suggest that this is in part because of the number of politicians and other powerful persons who are AA members, and because of the cowardice of many who are not.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Bin Laden, 9-11 & False Consciousness

Filed under: Propaganda — drtone @ 6:28 pm

The term “false consciousness” has a technical meaning in Marxism. It refers to something like global confusion by members of a subordinate class, a confusion that serves the dominant class. I’m not sure that the combination of muddled ideas, rewriting of history, and misdirected anger regarding the events of 11 September, 2001, fits the Marxist meaning of “false consciousness,” but it sure seems to be to reflect a false consciousness.

Once again, we are to be treated to the flag-waving and chest-beating crap that followed the attack on the World Trade Center. I was sick of it then, and found it scary. I’m still sick of it, and it’s in some ways even scarier that it never went away. The death of Osama bin Laden, a decade after those attacks, has revived the sickening jingoism that led to the America’s disastrous adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. I suspect that the we’re in for weeks of rhetoric about the “war on terrorism,” a maybe worse than that. Who knows?

Let’s face it: This is about Americans, citizens of the most powerful nation on earth, having to see themselves as victims. Why this is ingrained in the American soul is a good question. Possibly, it is an inheritance from the Scots-Irish who peopled the early frontiers of this country, and who already had a long history of victimhood before they landed on these shores. Possibly, it is represents a reversal arising from an unwillingness to accept that our wealth and power derives from centuries of conquest, of victimizing weaker peoples, Native Americans, Africans, Arabs. Inevitably, we have turned those we wrong into the “savages” of our mind, casting them as brutes and barbarians, even as we kill and torture them. In any case, if our self-perception as having been terribly wronged is any kind of consciousness, it is a false one.

As a consequence of this despicable national habit, we have fetishized the great defeat on 9-11 in much the same way the Serbs fetishize the Battle of Kosovo, and with much the same result. We look backward. We blame. We fume and fuss. And hate. It is all based on lies about who the winners and losers are, and about what is wrong with our world.

I’m writing this in response to having heard the attack on the WTC referred to, during the broadcast of a basketball game, as “the attack on America.” That’s the way it’s been processed and homogenized and turned and twisted, finally retrofitted to involve us all in a giant Hatefest. As far as I am concerned, the only good thing the Bush Administration did was to lose Osama bin Laden in the wilderness. Now the Obama Administration has demonstrated its desperation by reviving the whole sick affair. Sad.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Medical Science: An Ideology

In a previous post, I referred to “medical science” as an “ideology.” Modern medicine, since its beginnings in the 19th century, has had a number of amazing successes: Open heart surgery, and the use of insulin to treat diabetes have saved countless lives; orthopedic surgery has literally made it possible for cripples to walk again. Vaccination, pasteurization, and other health measures have virtually rid the industrialized world of a host of plagues. Advances in obstetrics are in a class by themselves because they have been such a huge factor in reducing human misery. These successes have led to the arrogant presupposition that every ill has a cause that will ultimately fall under the purview of the physician.

Although the amalgamation of medicine with biological science has been fruitful, it has led to the belief that the two together can provide the answer to every question. Germ theory has been important, both theoretically and practically, but it has led to the confused idea that every observed “pathology” has an identifiable physiological cause. Medicine has likewise embraced molecular genetics, leading to the similar confusion that every observed variation must represent an underlying genotype. These unsupported propositions have been applied to the understanding of human behavior.

Therefore, the idea that behavior results from physiological substrates has become an article of faith. Behavioral geneticists have more or less deliberately exaggerated the heritability of behavioral traits by using statistical techniques that magnify the apparent “genetic” component. Meanwhile, despite increasing evidence that antidepressants and other advanced pharmaceuticals don’t work or don’t work well, the medical community has continued pushing chemicals that are supposed to modify mood and behavior. In this, they are aided and abetted by the entertainment industry, which continues to make reference to genetic influences on behavior and to the role of “chemical imbalance” in psychoemotional distress.

They can continue to do this as long as the public buys the medical ideology, something that is supported by the news and entertainment media. Although medical community has conceded that “chemical imbalances” do not explain depression and other psychoemotional disturbances, the myth survives, in large part because it’s easy to believe and relieves all parties of responsibility.

As we have seen, the imperium of medicine extends beyond behavioral questions into other areas where medicine has repeatedly failed, but continues to exert an all-powerful influence. The “war on cancer” has gone on for decades without yielding the long-promised cures. Instead, doctors prescribe chemotherapy, which causes great discomfort, often prolonging life at the cost of a patient’s misery. The cure is worse than the disease, or no better, at any rate. For example, after successfully fighting brain cancer that spread to her brain, the wife of a former client has spent the past two years suffering from iatrogenic conditions that resulted from her initial treatment, and has had to have a shoulder and a hip replaced because the medications made her bones brittle. The last I heard, she was still not out of the woods with her cancer, either.

The success of medicine has come at a great price. In the first place, it is literally very expensive. Secondly, we have allowed the many successes to blind us to the many failures. We have forgiven the latter in part because of the ungrounded expectation that present-day failures will turn to success later on. Rarely does that happen. Most advances that have occurred, such as in heart and orthopedic surgery, have been incremental. New discoveries that change the entire life-and-death picture seldom occur. Because of the faith the public and the medical profession have put in genetics, for example, the Human Genome project was long expected, to yield answers about various forms of mental illness, but has not done so.

It is quite possible that the great discoveries that propelled medicine for a long time, vaccination, sterilization, etc., which mostly occurred in its early days, do not in any way predict the future of medicine. The discovery of DNA, over half a century ago, was possibly the most spectacular, but it might also be the last. Those early discoveries bequeathed to industrialized society a false model of medical progress, one that has not applied for some time. The great hope for medicine that remains is based largely on laurels accumulated long ago. It is time to see that our society has idolized and idealized medicine out of all proportion to what it can or will deliver.

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