“We can’t win against Vladimir Putin in any way because you cannot win against someone you cannot say ‘no’ to. Period. And we can’t say ‘no’ to Putin because we sold our soul for his oil and gas,” he said.
The popular commentator said he’d cut off energy supplies to the EU if he were the president of Russia
Popular conservative political commentator Jordan Peterson has tried to get into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s head and predict how Russia’s conflict with the West in Ukraine will unfold. Peterson said that if he were the Russian president he would leave the EU without energy supplies in the winter.
“I know what I’d do in his shoes,” he said on the Piers Morgan Uncensored show on Thursday. “I’d wait till the first cold snap and shut off the taps.”
Peterson was referring to supplies of Russian natural gas to EU nations. He argued that Moscow indirectly warned that a full shutdown would happen when Russian gas giant Gazprom started curtailing deliveries through the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany, citing maintenance issues.
The political commentator declined to endorse a notion popular in the West that Putin resembles Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin in his thinking, calling the claim “foolish” and not backed by any actual evidence.
Putin “is a lot more like everybody else than anyone thinks,” Peterson argued. He added that “there is a bit of Hitler and Stalin in everyone,” before going into an explanation of how accepting government-imposed lies under pressure was part of human nature.
“The totalitarian state is actually the grip of the lie. And people would certainly go along with that. We’ve seen this emerge with [the] cancel culture. It’s like ‘Lie! Or else!’,” he said.
He mocked the idea that Ukraine and its Western backers could “win” against Russia as “naïve.”
“I just don’t understand that. What do you mean we are going to win? What are we going to win exactly?” he demanded.
The Russian government, Peterson believes, would consider simply devastating Ukraine an acceptable outcome, if no better alternative can be achieved. And the West would not be able to stop it due to Russia’s role as a global supplier of energy, he argued.
“We can’t win against Vladimir Putin in any way because you cannot win against someone you cannot say ‘no’ to. Period. And we can’t say ‘no’ to Putin because we sold our soul for his oil and gas,” he said.
“And we did that to elevate our moral stature in relation to ‘saving the planet.’ And here we are, facing a very dire winter, hoisted on the petard of our very own foolishness and moral presumption,” he added.
Peterson was referring to the concern that humanity was facing an existential threat due to climate change, a threat that he believes to be exaggerated. The unintended consequences of the West’s conflict with Russia are a far more imminent and real threat to humans, he pointed out, as “the World Bank already estimated that we’ve put 350 million people into what they call ‘food insecurity’.”
“But the planet has too many people on it anyway, so, you know… It’s just poor people,” he added.
Peterson is a Canadian psychology professor who rose to international prominence over his commentaries on various contemporary issues, such as transgender acceptance policies in the West, the role of Christianity in cultures originating in Europe, and geopolitical conflicts. His YouTube channel has over 5.5 million subscribers.
We all seek to understand the root causes of the COVIDcrisis. We crave an answer, and hope is that we can find some sort of rationale for the harm that has been done, something that will help make sense out of one of the most profound policy fiascos in the history of the United States.
In tracing the various threads which seem to lead towards comprehension of the larger issues and processes, there has been a tendency to focus on external actors and forces. Examples include the Medical-Pharmaceutical Industrial complex, the World Health Organization, the World Economic Forum, the Chinese Central Communist Party, the central banking system/Federal Reserve, the large “hedge funds” (Blackrock, State Street, Vanguard), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Corporate/social media and Big Technology, the Trusted News Initiative, and the United Nations.
In terms of the inexplicable behavior of the general population in response to the information which bombards all of us, the denialism and seeming hypnosis of colleagues, friends and family, Mattias Desmet’s 21st century update of the work of Hannah Arendt, Joost Meerloo, and so many others is often cited as the most important text for comprehending the large scale psychological processes which have driven much of the COVIDcrisis madness. Dr. Desmet, a professor of clinical psychology at Ghent University (Belgium) and a practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapist, has provided the world with guide to the Mass Formation process (Mass formation Psychosis, Mass Hypnosis) which seems to have influenced so much of the madness that has gripped both the United States as well as much of the rest of the world.
But what about the internal psychological processes at play within the United States HHS policy making group? The group which has been directly responsible for the amazingly unscientific and counterproductive decisions concerning bypassing normal bioethical, regulatory and clinical development norms to expedite genetic vaccine products (“Operation Warp Speed”), suppressing early treatment with repurposed drugs, mask and vaccine mandates, lockdowns, school closures, social division, defamation and intentional character assassination of critics, and a wide range of massively disruptive and devastating economic policies.
All have lived through these events, and have become aware of the many lies and misrepresentations (subsequently contradicted by data) which have been walked back or historically revised by Drs. Fauci, Collins, Birx, Walensky, Redfield, and even Mr. Biden. Is there a body of scholarship and academic literature which can help make sense of the group dynamics and clearly dysfunctional decision-making which first characterized the “coronavirus taskforce” under Vice President Pence, and then continued in a slightly altered form through the Biden administration?
During the early 1970s, as the (tragically escalated) Viet Nam War foreign policy fiasco was starting to wind down, an academic psychologist focusing on group dynamics and decision-making was struck by parallels between his own research findings and the group behaviors involved in the Bay of Pigs foreign policy fiasco documented in A thousand days: John F. Kennedy in the White Houseby Arthur Schlesinger.
Intrigued, he began to further investigate the decision-making involved in this case study, as well as the policy debacles of the Korean War, Pearl Harbor, and the escalation of the Viet Nam War. He also examined and developed case studies involving what he saw as major United States Government policy triumphs. These included the management of the Cuban missile crisis and the development of the Marshall Plan. On the basis of these case studies, examined in light of current group dynamic psychology research, he developed a seminal book that became a cautionary core text for most students of Political Science.
Irving Janis (1918-1990) was a 20th century social psychologist who identified the phenomenon of groupthink. Between 1943 and 1945, Janis served in the Research Branch of the Army, studying the morale of military personnel. In 1947 he joined the faculty of Yale University and remained in the Psychology Department there until his retirement four decades later. He was also an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Janis focused much of his career on studying decision making, particularly in the area of challenging habitual acts such as smoking and dieting. He researched group dynamics, specializing in an area he termed “groupthink,” which describes how groups of people are able to reach a compromise or consensus through conformity, without thoroughly analyzing ideas or concepts. He revealed the relationship peer pressure has to conformity and how this dynamic limits the confines of the collective cognitive ability of the group, resulting in stagnant, unoriginal, and at times, damaging ideas.
Throughout his career, Janis authored a number of articles and governmental reports and several books including Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes and Crucial Decisions: Leadership in Policy Making and Crisis Management.
Irving Janis developed the concept of groupthink to explain the disordered decision-making process that occurs in groups whose members work together over an extended period of time. His research into groupthink led to the wide acceptance of the power of peer pressure. According to Janis, there are several key elements to groupthink, including:
He observed that:
The group develops an illusion of invulnerability that causes them to be excessively optimistic about the potential outcomes of their actions.
Group members believe in the inherent accuracy of the group’s beliefs or the inherent goodness of the group itself. Such an example can be seen when people make decisions based on patriotism. The group tends to develop negative or stereotyped views of people not in the group.
The group exerts pressure on people who disagree with the group’s decisions.
The group creates the illusion that everyone agrees with the group by censoring dissenting beliefs. Some members of the group take it upon themselves to become “mindguards” and correct dissenting beliefs.
This process can cause a group to make risky or immoral decisions.
This book was one of my assigned textbooks during undergraduate studies in the early 1980s, and it has deeply influenced my entire career as a scientist, physician, academic, entrepreneur, and consultant. It has been widely read, often as required reading during undergraduate political science coursework, and A Review of General Psychology survey (published in 2002) ranked Janis as the 79th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.
Janis’ insights into the process of groupthink in the context of dysfunctional public policy decision-making profoundly foreshadowed the behaviors observed within the HHS COVID leadership team.
A high degree of group cohesiveness is conductive to a high frequency of symptoms of groupthink, which in turn are conductive to a high frequency of defects in decision-making. Two conditions that may play an important role in determining whether or not group cohesiveness will lead to groupthink have been mentioned – insulation of the policy-making group and promotional leadership practices.
Rather than paraphrasing his ideas, below I provide key quotes from his seminal work which help shed light on the parallels between the foreign policy decision-making fiascos which he examined and the current COVIDcrisis mismanagement.
I use the term “groupthink” as a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that peole engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the member’s strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action. “Groupthink” is a term of the same order as the words in the newspeak vocabulary George Orwell presents in his dismaying 1984– a vocabulary with terms such as “doublethink” and “crimethink”. By putting groupthink with those Orwellian words, I realize that groupthink takes on an invidious connotation. The invidiousness is intentional. Groupthink refers to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.
Hardhearted actions by softheaded groups
At first I was surprised by the extent to which the groups in the fiascoes I have examined adhered to group norms and pressures toward uniformity. Just as in groups of ordinary citizens, a dominant characteristic appears to be remaining loyal to the group by sticking with the decisions to which the group has committed itself, even when the policy is working badly and has unintended consequences that disturb the conscience of the members. In a sense, members consider loyalty to the group the highest form of morality. That loyalty requires each member to avoid raising controversial issues, questioning weak arguments, or calling a halt to softheaded thinking.
Paradoxically, softheaded groups are likely to be extremely hardhearted toward out-groups and enemies. In dealing with a rival nation, policymakers comprising an amiable group find it relatively easy to authorize dehumanizing solutions such as large-scale bombings. An affable group of government officials is unlikely to pursue the difficult and controversial issues that arise when alternatives to a harsh military solution come up for discussion. Nor are members inclined to raise ethical issues that imply that this “fine group of ours, with its humanitarianism and its high-minded principles, might be capable of adopting a course of action that is inhumane and immoral.”
The more amiability and esprit de corps among the members of a policy-making in-group, the greater is the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against out groups.
Janis defined eight symptoms of groupthink:
1) An illusion of invulnerability, shared by most or all of the members, which creates excessive optimism and encourages taking extreme risks.
2) Collective efforts to rationalize in order to discount warnings which might lead the members to reconsider their assumptions before they recommit themselves to their past policy decisions.
3) An unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, inclining the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
4) Stereotyped views of enemy leaders as too evil to warrant genuine attempts to negotiate, or as too weak and stupid to counter whatever risky attempts are made to defeat their purposes.
5) Direct pressure on any member who expresses strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, making clear that this type of dissent is contrary to what is expected of all loyal members.
6) Self-censorship of deviations from the apparent group consensus, reflecting each member’s inclination to minimize to himself the importance of his doubts and counterarguments.
7) A shared illusion of unanimity concerning judgments conforming to the majority view (partly resulting from self-censorship of deviations, augmented by the false assumption that silence means consent).
8) The emergence of self-appointed mindguards- members who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter their shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.
It is relatively easy to identify errors of thought, process, and decision-making in retrospect. Much harder is to devise recommendations that will help to avoid repeating history. Fortunately, Dr. Janis’ provides a set of prescriptions that I have found useful throughout my career, and which can be readily and effectively applied in almost any group decision-making environment. He provides the following context for his treatment plan:
My two main conclusions are that along with other sources of error in decision-making, groupthink is likely to occur within cohesive small groups of decision-makers and that the most corrosive effects of groupthink can be counteracted by eliminating group insulation, overly directive leadership practices, and other conditions that foster premature consensus. Those who take these conclusions seriously will probably find that the little knowledge they have about groupthink increases their understanding of the causes of erroneous group decisions and sometimes even has some practical value in preventing fiascoes.
Perhaps one step that might be taken to avoid further repeats of the public health policy “fiascoes” which characterize the domestic and global response to the COVIDcrisis is to mandate leadership training of the Senior Executive Service (much as mandated within DoD), particularly within the leadership of the US Department of Health and Human Services. Whether or not this ever becomes the governmental policy, below are the nine key points that any of us can apply when seeking to avoid groupthink in groups that we participate in.
Nine action items for avoiding groupthink
1) The leader of a policy-forming group should assign the role of critical evaluator to each member, encouraging the group to give high priority to airing objections an doubts. This practice needs to be reinforced by the leader’s acceptance of criticism of his own judgements in order to discourage the members from soft-pedaling their disagreements.2) The leaders in an organizations hierarchy, when assigning a policy planning mission to a group, should be impartial instead of stating preferences and expectations out the outset. This practice requires each leader to limit his briefings to unbiased statements about the scope of the problem and the limitations of available resources, without advocating specific proposals he would like to see adopted. This allows the conferees the opportunity to develop and atmosphere of open inquiry and to explore impartially a wide range of policy alternatives.
3) The organization should routinely follow the administrative practice of setting up several independent policy-planning and evaluation groups to work on the same policy question, each carrying out its deliberations under a different leader.
4) Throughout the period when the feasibility and effectiveness of policy alternatives are being surveyed, the policy-making group should from time to time divide into two or more subgroups to meet separately, under different chairmen, and then come together to hammer out their differences.
5) Each member of the policy-making group should discuss periodically the group’s deliberations with trusted associates in his own unit of the organization and report back their reactions.
6) One or more outside experts or qualified colleagues within the organization who are not core members of the policy-making group should be invited to each meeting on a staggered basis and should be encouraged to challenge the views of the core members.
7) At every meeting devoted to evaluating policy alternatives, at least one member should be assigned the role of devil’s advocate.
8) Whenever the policy issue involves relations with a rival nation or organization, a sizable bloc of time (perhaps an entire session) should be spent surveying all warning signals from the rivals and constructing alternative scenarios of the rivals’ intentions.
9) After reaching a preliminary consensus about what seems to be the best policy alternative, the policy-making group should hold a “second chance” meeting at which every member is expected to express as vividly as he can all his residual doubts and to rethink the entire issue before making a definitive choice.
Robert MaloneRobert W. Malone is a physician and biochemist. His work focuses on mRNA technology, pharmaceuticals, and drug repurposing research. You can find him at Substack and Gettr
How the use of violence to teach lessons has outlived its authority
For years I had been working on a book on how earth-shattering catastrophes had birthed our religious and political order, and how we can heal our wounded species by reparenting ourselves with our birthright of unconditional love. A year before finishing it, I decided to experiment with Twitter. Trying my hand at various topics, I stumbled on the subject of vaccines and discovered that the mainstream campaign to censor the truth about them left me with a lot to say.
So there I was, caught up in two different strands of thought. The first had to do with a religious and political structure forged in a cauldron of catastrophes, ten or fifteen thousand years ago. It was traditionally designed to be supported by three pillars. A body of laws enforced by punitive judgments. A penal system based on hell and damnation, torture, imprisonment and social death. And an infrastructure of war built for mass murder and mayhem. And then there was the second strand that had to do with one of ‘the great triumphs of modern medicine’ – vaccines.
When I was contacted for an interview by Demand the Truth, I hadn’t quite figured out how, or even if, these disparate strands of thought fit together. In the few days I had to prepare for the interview, I discovered what they have in common. They are both founded on the same teaching principle. And this teaching principle may just help us unravel the mystery of history.
Let’s take it step by step. Vaccines work on the theory of using dead or inactivated viruses – along with neurotoxic adjuvants and preservatives that would make a health inspector blanch – to teach the immune system to protect itself from disease. The problem, as we’ve discovered to our horror, is that vaccines instruct the immune system by catastrophically damaging it. In the course of training the body to fight disease, vaccines wage war on the immune system and wreak havoc on it with a range of afflictions – brain inflammation, cardiac arrest, central nervous system breakdowns, bowel disorders, and of course the very diseases we are being vaccinated for.
All this is not in dispute. Anyone who has studied vaccines will attest to the truth of it. The evil of vaccines can be summed up in two words: toxic teaching. The method of teaching employed by vaccines is to inflict all sorts of toxic violence on the body. Since the formal word for a teaching method is pedagogy, we could say vaccines represent a system of toxic pedagogy.
Toxic pedagogy is nothing new. For millennia the accepted method of teaching children was through violence. Parents hit children in the name of discipling them. Teachers cane children in the name of instructing them. Does all this violence make children better? Not in a million years! It traumatizes them. The scars on their bodies heal in a few days, the damage to their psyches lasts a lifetime. All this is common knowledge. Swiss psychologist Alice Miller helped pioneer the study of toxic pedagogy decades ago. All that remained was to trace its origins to a series of earth-battering catastrophes that decimated life on this planet thousands of years ago.
Anthropological records are abuzz with stories of gods almost annihilating the human race. Geological records abound with evidence of interplanetary comets and asteroids colliding with earth and laying waste to it. The problem is not with falling solar system debris per se. It is with the few who survived and went on to repopulate the species. They were so traumatized that they came to terms with these cataclysmic forces by personifying them as angry gods that passed a sentence of mass death on man. Infernal fire and brimstone from heaven were not the random outcome of astrophysical forces. They were symptomatic of gods of wrath, determined to teach an errant species the lesson of its life. And voila! We have the origin of toxic pedagogy – the grotesque idea that the way to teach man to behave properly is through violence and destruction of a literally cosmic order. Gods modeled this toxic pedagogy for man. Man in turn modeled it for his children. He unleashed thousands of years of violence and aggression against his own flesh and blood under the guise of punishing them, disciplining them, teaching them a lesson.
Now psychologists know how children cope with corporal punishment. Typically, they split off from the victimized part of themselves and learn to identify with their victimizers. Thus the violent things parents did to their children, their children grow up to do to their children. It is how violence cycles from generation to generation. But in the big picture, it is the so-called gods who got the cycle of generational abuse rolling. They are the originators of abuse on a cosmic scale. And so the usual coping mechanism by which the child breaks his sympathetic connection with the victimized self, and goes over to the side of the victimizing parent, is now replayed in a religious dimension between gods and humans. As man disowns his victimized self, he learns to treat human nature as an object of shame, contempt and mortification. And the gods – who are, after all, what we might call doomsday gods – are exalted as objects of reverence and veneration.
Counterintuitive as this seems, it reprises the process by which battered children divorce their abused selves and espouse the cause of their abusers. But when it happens in a collective arena, the consequences are far more extreme than when an abused child grows up to dominate a household as an abusive parent. By framing dreaded gods of destruction as objects of worship and devotion, religion gives birth to a class of institutional guardians who presume to rule over society as the incarnation of Doomsday Gods. These quasi-divine rulers exercise their authority by passing violent judgments on mankind. They gather the reins of power by setting up elaborate penal systems to crack down on man for an endless litany of sins and crimes. From ancient kings to modern commanders-in-chief, the primary function of these leaders is to wage war. To this end, they literally weaponize cosmic fireballs and celestial barrages of fire and brimstone – at least, as far as the state of technology enables them to do from age to age – and then they deploy these super-weapons to inflict death and destruction on errant members of the human race.
This is where we went wrong as a species. Humans are hardwired for unconditional love. Being nurtured and cherished is how we grow and thrive. But now we have a class of rulers that trade in the love that is man’s birthright for the death-dealing wrath of Doomsday Gods. Their function is to maintain social control and serve as bastions of law and order. But their mission is to do so by following in the toxic steps of the Doomsday Gods. They keep humanity in line by handing down a battery of punitive judgments. They correct the transgressions of fellow humans by impersonating Doomsday Gods and hurling doom and perdition from on high. First, as flaming arrows shot from bows and fiery boulders flung from trebuchets. Then, over the course of time, as cannonballs and cluster bombs and ballistic missiles raining down from the heavens.
Thus the arsenals of war are not born of human aggression. They are born of human beings coping with their terror of monster gods as children do, by trying to imitate them and instrumentalize their fiery wrath. The whole system of corporal punishment as a disciplinary tool – of capital punishment and warfare as methods of chastisement and correction – is not inborn in humanity. It is born of a faulty, utterly fallacious interpretation of cosmic catastrophes. Thus the gods did in the beginning. And thus humans (as quasi-gods) do over the course of history.
For millennia we put our health, wealth and welfare in the hands of these psychotic specimens of divinity. Thanks to the better angels of our nature, we are finally coming to our senses. We’re beginning to understand that our trust is completely misplaced in a class of pseudo-divine rulers who are more bound to grandiose delusions of godhead than bonded to the reality of their own flesh and blood. How can we entrust the administration of our laws, the governance of our lives, to those who channel the brute insentient forces of the universe, laboring under a delusion of being doom-dispensing gods? How can we delegate the burden of upholding social order to those who embody the forces responsible for a breakdown of cosmic order. How absurd is that?
Something profound was lost when the human spirit was acculturated to imitate the gods. We lost that loving feeling that is our main reason for being. We lost that integral connection with our inner child that is the mainspring of our empathic identification with the weak and small among us. That is what the Reparenting Movement sets out to recover. Our civilization went off the rails when, under the hammer blows of celestial catastrophes, our leaders split off from their humanity to identify with a syndicate of wrath-crazed gods. A Reparenting Revolution frees us from this mad misalliance. It creates havens of unconditional love where, by reconnecting with the violated self – the innocent victim of childhood abuse – we quit aligning with heavenly and/or earthly Father Figures that cycle and recycle the brute forces of cosmic violence and destruction.
In reparenting, we conjure up the Good Parent – the Loving Mother/Father we were always meant to have. We envision who we would have liked our Good Parent to be. We focus on what we would have liked our Good Parents to say. We call to mind how we would have liked our Good Parent to relate to us as children. We experience the grief, anger and anguish of never being treated that way – and by virtue of experiencing it all, we’re able to get it out of our system.
Deep in our DNA is an infallible blueprint of our birthright of love. Even if the Good Mother or Good Father is conjured up in our minds, our bodies respond as if they are actually present. We get to cry, scream, yell, and rage and do all the things we never got to do with our real parents. By modeling the Good Parent for each other, we deprogram ourselves from a cult of the Bad Parent that enslaved, exploited and exterminated us for ages. We refuse to embrace the various forms of toxic pedagogy that a majority of authority figures still practice to this day.
We are now at a crossroads of history. By realizing that violence against children is bad, we are ready to withdraw our trust from authority figures who have always used violence to teach us a lesson. And nothing brings this lesson home to us like vaccines. It turns out the pedagogy of the Needle is as toxic as that of the Rod. An entire book has been written on how the medical assault on the American brain has spawned an epidemic of social violence and criminality. The poisoned needle destroys our emotional intelligence, our capacity for prosocial interaction, by creating a raging inferno of inflammation in our brains. And the punitive rod destroys our capacity for fellow feeling, our ability to peacefully cooperate, by stimulating a cauldron of rage and aggression in ourpsyches. It is no wonder, then, that guardians of public health, armed with the needle, have failed us as miserably as guardians of public order armed with the rod?
It’s about time we come together to declare the age of institutional guardians over. Can we trust guardians of public order to save the world, when under the pretext of safeguarding it, they give ample proof of their compulsion to build up the means to destroy it? No more than we can trust guardians of public health to protect future generations, when under the guise of immunizing them, they give us abundant proof of their obsession to do our children a world of harm.
The thrust of progress from the Renaissance and Age of Enlightenment is towards greater autonomy, greater democratization. We abolished the Divine Right of Kings. Next up is to abrogate the Divine Right of Capital. But to truly emerge from our nonage – to genuinely co-create a world that works equally well for us all – we have to undergo two seminal shifts. One is to be disabused of our faith in truncheons and tanks as pedagogical tools to teach a lesson. Two is to realize the religion of power is as much a superstitious cult as the power of religion. Those playing god over us have always derived their power and authority from an irrational, nay, insane misreading of cosmic cataclysms! Because it is so alien to our psychobiology, the cult of authority only succeeds by brainwashing the mind and bulldozing the body. When we come from love, we are all on the same side. Love advocates for us. It empowers us to give voice to what ails the body and assails the soul. By definition, love is not something we fight. That which is imposed from above us can never be congruent with that which rises up within us – which is why it has to be rammed through with coercion and force. You want to stick it to me, better bring a Big Stick.
As it turns out, the sweeping distrust in authority figures caused by the toxic pedagogy of vaccines couldn’t come at a better time in our history. It’s just what the doctor ordered to give us the final push to topple an ideology of dominance and violence. For the idea of gods battering an evil species to death isn’t merely the template for corporal punishment. It is also the template for racism and genocide. Gods cleansing the earth of a polluted race is the model for Kurtz in the novel Heart of Darkness, and his demented clone in the film Apocalypse Now. When they cry, Exterminate all the brutes, they follow in the steps of the Doomsday Gods who did exactly that.
In this sense, it can be said that vaccines are a veiled form of imperialism. The poor immune system is looked on as a benighted entity to be instructed and improved. That’s the excuse for the needle going in to disrupt its intricate workings and ravage it with chronic ills. And that’s the way the body is exploited in perpetuity by the medical industrial complex. Just as there is no appreciation that humans are designed to thrive as a communal body, there is none that the body flourishes from coexisting with trillions of bacteria and viruses. Vaccination is based on a militaristic model of medicine. Viruses are stigmatized as the enemy. Zap the virus, cure the disease. Many biologists don’t even believe in the existence of viruses (which are free-floating bits of RNA). They believe a virus is only able to invade a cell and take it over because the cell is weakened by faulty diet, stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise and of course, the chronic lack of love.
The same thing is true of the bad guys. There are no human enemies, just unloving attitudes that can be changed. You don’t want flesh-eating bacteria? Fine, just change the biological terrain. You don’t want mean, angry people preying on their kind? Fine, just change the psychosocial environment. Don’t abuse children. Don’t abandon or neglect them. Attend to all their needs, understand and empathize with them, free them to find the joy in existence. That’s the way to rule out antisocial behavior and make it impossible for evildoing to gain any traction.
The bottom line is humans are good. If it weren’t for being terrorized out of their wits by celestial catastrophes, personified as imaginary gods of wrath, humans would be happy to be led by the loving kindness of their nature. Give the body the kind of nourishment it needs, and there is no need for the Needle to protect society from various sorts of pathology. Give the psyche the kind of nurture it needs, and there is no need for all those extension of the Rod – like spears and arrows, assault rifles and missiles – to safeguard society from various forms of psychopathology.
In the end, the iconic image of Napalm Girl, running down the street, flailing outstretched arms, merges into the autistic boy, running around flapping his arms. Both are the casualties of a militaristic mindset, harking back to the brutal absurdity of a war the gods waged on our species. Sooner or later we have to remember our religion and politics still bears the imprint of a Day of Doom when gods destroyed the world to save it. Only then will we no longer be doomed to go on mindlessly destroying the global village to save it – or wrecking the human body to protect it.
Vaccination, Social Violence and Criminality, Harris L. Coulter
Neville Raymond is the author of The Reparenting Revolution – From a Power-Based to a Love Based Society (2018) and The Genesis of Genocide – Breaking Through to the Heart of the Holocaust (2001). His latest book, The Hand to Heart Book of Reparenting – Co-creating a World where the Human Race Falls in Love with Itself is due out in November 2019.
Anna Merlan has made a distinguished journalistic career out of covering conspiracy theories, particularly far-right ones, for Gizmodo Media; her book-length account of conspiratorial thinking, Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power, is a superb tour not just through the conspiracies that have taken hold in American public discourse, but also in the real, often traumatic conspiracies that give these false beliefs a terrible ring of plausibility.
Merlan’s thesis is that the “contagion” model of conspiracy thinking — the idea that some people are just so danged convincing that merely hearing them will make you a conspiracy theorist — is at best incomplete, and at worst, totally overblown.
After all, the arguments for the flat Earth, or anti-vax, or eugenics, have not gotten better since they emerged decades or even centuries ago, and to an objective ear, the people who advocate these ideas sound ridiculous.
Some people argue that the rise in conspiratorial thinking is about contagion, but that patient zero is the internet, where Big Tech’s almighty algorithms can use machine learning to systematically explore its targets’ cognitive defenses, finding and exploiting their weak spots and winning converts, with fully automated proselytizing tools that allow even the most fumbletongued conspiracy peddler to amass a following and found a cult.
This theory is supported by Big Tech’s own commercial communications: if you want to find testimonies to the devastating power of Big Tech’s persuasion tools, you need look no further than their own sales literature, in which they boast that potential advertisers can expect endless returns from their machine-learning mind control rays.
It’s weird that we’d believe these boasts, though. Big Tech, after all, is led by “morally bankrupt liars” whose every pronouncement about their labor practices, economic activity, tax planning, private data handling and political lobbying turn out to be bullshit — it would be pretty remarkable if the only time Big Tech told the truth was when they were trying to entice customers to given them money in exchange for access to their advertising products.
It’s indisputable that Big Tech’s nonconsensually assembled deep dossiers on billions of internet users are good for something, though, and that something is finding people based on whether they possess certain hard-to-find traits, like “people who are thinking of buying a refrigerator” or “people who have nonbinary gender identities” or “people who are fed up and ready to get involved with #BlackLivesMatter” or “people who want to carry tiki torches through the streets of Charlottesville, chanting ‘Jews will not replace us.'”
This people-finding capacity is at the heart of the rise in conspiracism. It’s what lets recommendation algorithms find people who are susceptible to videos about eugenics or the flat Earth, and it’s what lets people who find these ideas compelling locate similar people to form groups with; groups that give them a sense of belonging, community and capacity for action.
Which leaves us with the question: why are so many people so vulnerable to conspiracism? What are the traits that give rise to a susceptibility to believe in conspiracy theories?
Merlan’s answer echoes much of the consensus among psychologists: conspiracy is trauma’s traveling companion. People who have encountered situations in which real conspiracies have harmed them or the people they love find it easy to believe that other conspiracies are at the root of harms they are living through now.
Take the persistent belief that the flooding in New Orleans’s Black neighborhoods during Hurricane Katrina was caused by dynamiting the levees in order to spare white neighborhoods from flooding. This did not happen, but in 1927, the Black homes of Tupelo, Mississippi were wiped off the map when the authorities decided to blow the levees in order to spare the richer, whiter homes that were at risk from the floodwaters. Both floods followed a common pattern (right down to the mass expropriation of Black homes after the floodwaters receded).
The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s just a conspiracy. The fact that the white establishment was willing to conspire to drown and rob Black people in the region is what made the theory that perhaps it had happened again in New Orleans plausible.
Merlan has spent time embedded in conspiracy communities of all stripes, from daffy New Agers to vicious white nationalists, and her keen anthropological analysis of the dynamics of these communities and the personalities within them foregrounds the historical precedents that conspiracists rely upon in shoring up their own beliefs. Scratch a vaccine denier, find someone who’ll tell you about ghastly pharma coverups and experiments from Tuskegee to the opioid epidemic. Ufologists can go chapter-and-verse on real military/aerospace coverups and conspiracies (see also: Pizzagaters driven to frenzy by Jeffrey Epstein revelations).
From Watergate and Iran-Contra to MK ULTRA and Cointelpro, the US establishment has shown itself time and again willing to engage in coverups and palace intrigue. The “Deep State” isn’t what the far-right imagines it to be, but it does exist, in the form of career civil servants and prominent government contractors who can and do exert pressure to maintain the status quo for good and ill, from keeping Guantanamo Bay open to frustrating the most unhinged plans of Trump and his cabinet.
Inequality is a driver of conspiracy, because with unequal distributions of money come unequal distributions of power, and thus corruption, self-dealing, and, naturally enough, cover-ups to keep the boat from rocking too much.
Countering incorrect conspiratorial beliefs is important and urgent work, but it is purely reactive — ideological fire-fighting. The case that Merlan forcefully builds in her outsanding book is that we need fire-prevention, not just fire-fighting: we need to change the conditions that prime people to believe conspiracies, which is to say, we need to root out corruption and impunity and rebalance the inequality that gives rise to them, otherwise, the fires will become too numerous to extinguish.
With pharmaceutical and even robotic “cures” in the works for loneliness – a condition once considered part of the normal human emotional range but now framed as a health risk – we risk losing the ability to be alone at all.
The pathologization of emotion has been on the march for decades, especially in the US, where fully one sixth of the adult population takes an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug. Now the mental-health industry has a new target – loneliness.
Nearly half of Americans polled last year by health insurer Cigna said they lacked meaningful relationships or companionship. A solutions-based society might examine why so many people feel alienated from their peers despite the constant connectivity of smartphones and internet. A symptom-focused model, however, simply looks to stop them from feeling that way by any means necessary.
Loneliness is “worse than obesity,” according to a raft of studies that have emerged linking the emotion to increased risk of premature death, and even rivals smoking. And like obesity – big business for Big Pharma, gastric bypass surgeons and weight-loss gurus – it requires medical intervention.
THERE’S A PILL FOR THAT
The University of Chicago’s Brain Dynamics Laboratory recently began an eight-week trial of the hormone pregnenolone, rounding up volunteers with “off-the-chart” scores on a psychological loneliness scale. Based on animal studies suggesting the chemical can reduce the exaggerated threat reactions that researchers say characterize loneliness, they hope to normalize the lonely person’s self-centered hyper-vigilance that drives them to both desire human connection and deal poorly with it.
Researchers insist the intention is not to cure loneliness with a pill, but the trial sets a precedent for doing just that – with another psychiatric drug, if pregnenolone doesn’t work out. Antidepressants, for example, have for years been used (and abused) to treat conditions other than depression, with the largest pharmaceutical industry lawsuits targeting overprescribing and off-label prescribing.
And unlike most regular medical patients, individuals deemed mentally ill tend to remain on medication for years, if not for life.
Mental health professionals writing about the loneliness epidemic discuss behavioral interventions, community programs, and therapy, but the introduction of a pharmaceutical solution may prove too tempting for a profession that has learned to love the quick fix a pill provides. Like depression, loneliness has an infinite number of possible causes, some of which are natural and healthy reactions to major life changes. Other types of loneliness have clear behavioral causes that would (before the magic pill, at least) necessitate clear behavioral solutions. Would a psychiatrist reach to medicate the loneliness of a person who only socializes through Facebook with a pill rather than encourage them to talk to real people?
Studies have shown that just a week away from the platform can bring “significant” improvements in well-being, suggesting that in this case, at least, correlation may indeed equal causation. But why force the patient to change his life when a pill will do the trick?
In a quick-fix society that prefers to treat the symptoms while ignoring the disease, a pill for loneliness may be embraced with all the fervor with which antidepressants were greeted before people began to realize that they cause suicidal and homicidal behavior, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and a host of other problems – and that they don’t actually cure depression.
A loneliness pill will also not address Americans’ emotionally unhealthy digitally-addicted lifestyles. After all, human contact, including real-life socializing, has become a luxury – so says the New York Times, explaining that humans are expensive, screens and robots are cheap, and expecting the unwashed masses to be able to afford access to living, breathing humans like themselves is simply unrealistic.
BRIDGING THE UNCANNY VALLEY
Because if the “loneliness pill” doesn’t work out, AI is waiting in the wings. Already seen as the future of at-home healthcare for aging populations under the care of cash-strapped governments, friendly, helpful robots could find their way into the homes of the lonely. And while snooping AI “digital assistants” like Amazon’s Alexa tend to creep people out, this new wave of robo-buddies would be framed as medical help. As lonely humans become accustomed to conversing with their robot pals, their expectation for real human contact may diminish, and their sense of loneliness with it. After all, you can’t miss what you never had. Already, given the stunted level of discourse on social media, many of us have found ourselves tricked into talking to bots, sometimes exchanging several messages before realizing our interlocutor is not human.
As the bar for “meaningful relationships” is lowered to the point where chatting with an AI can qualify, the loneliness epidemic vanishes – on paper, at least, and in US public health policy, sometimes that’s all that matters.
LONELY OR JUST ALONE?
The pathologization of loneliness will inevitably elide the difference between being alone and being lonely, as the mental health industry runs out of lonely people to treat with whatever therapeutic weapon wins this particular arms race and is forced to seek more patients. “Loners” – those dangerous types who actually enjoy solitude – are stigmatized as unpredictable weirdos who need to be brought into the fold. The man who shot up a Walmart in El Paso earlier this month was an “extreme loner,” according to media reports. Would we be reading about it if he was an “extreme extrovert”? The myth of the “introvert killer” pops up every time, even though it has been thoroughly debunked.
With no anti-loneliness pill on the market – yet – it is impossible to predict what’s next for the creeping pathologization of the human emotional experience. But Amazon’s Alexa has moved one step closer to the companion-robot model, rolling out a medical feature earlier this year which could conceivably be deployed to “check on” individuals at risk for loneliness.
And with implantable devices like Elon Musk’s Neuralink on the horizon, bringing that AI directly in contact with your mind, you’ll never be able to feel lonely again. Solitude – like privacy and human contact before it – thus becomes the ultimate luxury good.
Helen Buyniski is an American journalist and political commentator, working at RT since 2018
THE STORY: Inanimate smart devices & AI machines are now being programmed to interact with you verbally. This leads to you feeling more connection & empathy towards them.
THE IMPLICATIONS: Will people start to treat their machines like people? Will they allow themselves to be emotionally exploited & psychologically persuaded with personalized information?
Psychotechnology reveals how AI is being designed to change humanity. AI devices & machines are programmed to persuade us with personalized information
is a word coined by William Ammerman, although the word may also have been coined by others and share multiple meanings. Ammerman defines the word as “technology that influences people psychologically by deploying artificial intelligence through digital media.” This neologism is a portmanteau, being made up (obviously) of psycho from psychological, plus technology. The concept behind the word psychotechnology is an extremely important (and dangerous) one: the idea that as technology becomes more advanced, more personable and more human-like, it will start persuading us more and more.
Psychotechnology and Voice AI
There are many dangers of AI or Artificial Intelligence. As I pointed out in my previous article Voice AI: Dawn of the Reduction of Human Thinking, the emergence of voice AI may herald a new era of intellectual passivity and laziness. People may start to depend so heavily on their voice AI oracle that they no longer bother to fact check, research the veracity if its answers or seek alternative viewpoints. This, in turn, will place a colossal limit on human perception, which will essentially be constrained by whatever limits and algorithms Big Tech constructs – working closely, of course, as it always has, with the MIC (Military Intelligence Complex) and other elements of the NWO (New World Order).
I regard psychotechnology as a key danger of AI. It represents a particularly insidious threat, since it ostensibly appears benign and helpful. Here is the point: as we talk to our smart devices and smart machines, we become more empathetically connected to them. Digital assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, the Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana use voice user interface (VUI) technology. There is something about the act of giving and receiving speech to an object that moves into a different ontological category. The makers of AI know this; indeed, Big Tech founders and executives have openly boasted about hacking human psychology and exploiting vulnerabilities in the human psyche (here is former Facebook executive Sean Parker, one example of many). As we engage more and more with our smart devices, we start to project our feelings onto them (despite the fact they are inanimate objects). We start to take hear their voice as the voice of some animate, autonomous being. We start to become persuaded by them.
Voice AI is an example of psychotechnology
AI Machines are Designed to Operate Upon you Psychologically
Psychotechnology is psychological technology. It is technology that operates upon us psychologically. We need to stop and reflect for a moment. We are having conversations with AI machines intentionally designed to learn how to persuade us with personalized information. These AI machines know how to trigger us emotionally, because they have been programmed that way. Ammerman explains that this is due to a convergence of 4 factors:
Personalization of information/ads
Increased science of persuasion
Natural language processing
We are at the point in our evolution where the science of persuasion has become quite advanced, as Ammerman explains:
“A social media “like” triggers a small release of dopamine which produces pleasure in our brains and keeps us addicted to our social media feeds. Video game developers use similar triggers to reward us and keep us addicted to our games. Researchers including Clifford Nass and BJ Fogg have transformed the study of persuasion into a science while simultaneously demonstrating that humans can develop an empathetic relationship with their computers. They have also demonstrated that the more humanlike computers seem, the more empathy humans display toward them. As computers gain more humanlike qualities, such as speech, they become more persuasive.”
Then, when you combine this with machine learning, you have a recipe for the dangerous potential of AI machines to transform from servant to master:
“Algorithms no longer simply predict. They prescribe and improve. Advances in artificial intelligence, including supervised learning, unsupervised learning, and reinforcement learning, ensure that marketers and advertisers are constantly improving the tactics they are using to deliver persuasive and personalized messaging. Quite literally, computers are learning to persuade us using personalized information.”
Are you becoming too psychologically dependent on machines?
Siri and Alexa, I Love You
Ammerman tells the story of how he interacted with a little boy (4 years old) who was commanding the Amazon Echo device to do certain things, e.g. play Star Wars music. Then, at a certain point, he declared to Alexa, “I love you!”His mother overheard this; Ammerman noticed a look of pain and/or jealousy on her face. Sadly, this story is not uncommon. There are numerous reports of people falling in love with their machines. Mechanophilia (being sexually turned on by machines) is a diagnosable psychological disorder. Have you heard about dating simulations where the aim of the video game is to fall in love with a computer character and live happily ever after?
None of this is really surprising when you consider that it’s the NWO agenda. We are being conditioned to do so. We are being encouraged to anthropomorphize our machines and relate to them as living beings when they are actually just inanimate objects. Why? The agenda behind it is transhumanism, the merging of man and machine. We are being trained to treat AI as animate, then to befriend it, then to worship it, so that finally we can be convinced to merge with it – and lose our humanity in the process.
Final Thoughts: We Must Be Aware of the Impacts of Psychotechnology
This is one area where being aware is the main part of the solution. If we want to retain our autonomy (and mental sanity), we must resist the urge to anthropomorphize our smart devices and computers. They are machines, not matter how ‘clever’ they become. There is no substitute for human relationships, human interaction and human intimacy. Stop referring to machines as ‘he’ or ‘she’ when they can never be more than inanimate objects that have been programmed to do something. Stop using them as a substitute for thinking, entertainment and – most importantly – for deeper fulfillment. We ignore the impacts of psychotechnology only at our own peril.
Although constructive anger can aid intimate relationships, work interactions and social expressions, it may be more harmful to an older person’s physical health than sadness, potentially increasing inflammation, which is associated with such chronic illnesses as heart disease, arthritis and cancer, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
“As most people age, they simply cannot do the activities they once did, or they may experience the loss of a spouse or a decline in their physical mobility and they can become angry,” said Meaghan A. Barlow, MA, of Concordia University, lead author of the study, which was published in Psychology and Aging. “Our study showed that anger can lead to the development of chronic illnesses, whereas sadness did not.”
Barlow and her co-authors examined whether anger and sadness contributed to inflammation, an immune response by the body to perceived threats, such as infection or tissue damage. While inflammation, in general, helps protect the body and assists in healing, long-lasting inflammation can lead to chronic illnesses in old age, according to the authors.
The researchers collected and analyzed data from 226 older adults ages 59 to 93 from Montreal. They grouped participants as being in early old age, 59 to 79 years old, or advanced old age, 80 years old and older.
Over one week, participants completed short questionnaires about how angry or sad they felt. The authors also measured inflammation from blood samples and asked participants if they had any age-related chronic illnesses.
“We found that experiencing anger daily was related to higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness for people 80 years old and older, but not for younger seniors,” said study co-author Carsten Wrosch, PhD, also of Concordia University. “Sadness, on the other hand, was not related to inflammation or chronic illness.”
Sadness may help older seniors adjust to challenges such as age-related physical and cognitive declines because it can help them disengage from goals that are no longer attainable, said Barlow.
This study showed that not all negative emotions are inherently bad and can be beneficial under certain circumstances, she explained.
“Anger is an energizing emotion that can help motivate people to pursue life goals,” said Barlow. “Younger seniors may be able to use that anger as fuel to overcome life’s challenges and emerging age-related losses and that can keep them healthier. Anger becomes problematic for adults once they reach 80 years old, however, because that is when many experience irreversible losses and some of life’s pleasures fall out of reach.”
The authors suggested that education and therapy may help older adults reduce anger by regulating their emotions or by offering better coping strategies to manage the inevitable changes that accompany aging.
“If we better understand which negative emotions are harmful, not harmful or even beneficial to older people, we can teach them how to cope with loss in a healthy way,” said Barlow. “This may help them let go of their anger.”
The American singer Billie Eilish recently spoke to her fans about having struggled with Tourette’s syndrome since she was a child. She’d previously avoided going public about her diagnosis as she said she didn’t want to be characterised by her condition.
The hallmark of Tourette’s is tics. These can be motor tics, such as blinking, or vocal tics, such as sniffing. And they tend to come and go over time. Despite what many people believe, Tourette’s rarely entails uncontrollable swearing. In fact, only a tiny proportion of people with Tourette’s experience this.
Although the condition is common – about one in 100 children is affected by it – there is still significant stigma associated with it, so much so that people try to hide their tics and avoid socialising.
In contrast to tics in other motor disorders, such as chorea (an involuntary movement disorder caused by neurological problems), the unique characteristic of Tourette’s is that people can suppress their tics for short periods. Although this often results in stronger outbursts when they allow themselves to tic freely.
Tics can diminish with age, and for some people they disappear by late adolescence or adulthood. Other people live with severe tics all their lives.
We recently conducted a study to find out what it is like to be diagnosed with Tourette’s and how it affects people’s lives. Sixteen adults from the UK agreed to be interviewed for our study. In our in-depth interviews, some adults with Tourette’s told us they live fulfilling lives, with satisfying jobs and happy family lives. They believe that Tourette’s does not define them. They even asserted that the condition had helped them grow emotionally and find greater meaning in their lives. As one participant put it:
It sounds really cheesy, but I think Tourette’s has made me a better person and it’s made me want to help other people.
But some participants reported feeling lonely as a result of their condition. Even those who had become more comfortable having Tourette’s felt a need to hide their tics in public. Similar to Eilish, they learned to suppress their tics and tried to conceal them by any means possible. Since that was not always feasible, some preferred to isolate themselves to avoid public ridicule and bullying.
The tics really made me less likely to reach out socially. Well, to socialise at all or to seek out friends, cause I was worried about being the joke.
They also wanted to disassociate themselves from other people with Tourette’s – a group they considered to be stigmatised by society.
Most adults reported being bullied – sometimes it was even ongoing. And some even experienced negative reactions to their condition from their parents. Some parents expressed frustration and disappointment, often because they misunderstood the condition. One participant said:
I was hidden in the cupboards and the rooms. I was never taken out into public. I was even kept away from my own family except from my grandparents.
Similar to other studies, our interviews showed that people with Tourette’s often have difficulty at work, with employers refusing to make reasonable adjustments for them and making it difficult for them to keep their jobs. Another participant said:
Imagine working in a bar and stressful nights and stuff like that and you start ticking and people start asking questions, poking fun at you drunk, so, you know … And you try and speak to your employer about it … ‘I need to stop right now, I need to pull myself away or go home or something because it’s gonna make me worse’. It’s just a big blow down, it really is. And they don’t understand that, and they don’t care either and they don’t believe they have to care.
The people in our survey said they wanted to be “normal” so they could achieve all their aspirations and goals. They felt that Tourette’s had held them back from being the person they want to be and doing the things they want to do.
Besides Billie Eilish and the American football player Tim Howard, few famous people have talked about Tourette’s outside the context of a joke. Having a pop star proudly admit that she has the condition and raising awareness about it may be a first step to fighting the stigma attached to Tourette’s syndrome. Indeed, identifying with a celebrity can make living with the condition more bearable and less lonely. It might even help people derive some pride from their diagnosis and show that there is hope for people with Tourette’s to fulfil their dreams, just like Billie Eilish.
Summary: A new study reports the rhythm of your breathing can influence neural activity that enhances memory recall and emotional judgement.
Source: Northwestern University.
Breathing is not just for oxygen; it’s now linked to brain function and behavior.
Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall.
These effects on behavior depend critically on whether you inhale or exhale and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth.
In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out. Individuals also were more likely to remember an object if they encountered it on the inhaled breath than the exhaled one. The effect disappeared if breathing was through the mouth.
“One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation,” said lead author Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.”
The study was published Dec. 6 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The senior author is Jay Gottfried, professor of neurology at Feinberg.
Northwestern scientists first discovered these differences in brain activity while studying seven patients with epilepsy who were scheduled for brain surgery. A week prior to surgery, a surgeon implanted electrodes into the patients’ brains in order to identify the origin of their seizures. This allowed scientists to acquire electro-physiological data directly from their brains. The recorded electrical signals showed brain activity fluctuated with breathing. The activity occurs in brain areas where emotions, memory and smells are processed.
This discovery led scientists to ask whether cognitive functions typically associated with these brain areas — in particular fear processing and memory — could also be affected by breathing.
The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular fear-related emotions. So scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing. Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing. NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only.
The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular, fear-related emotions. So scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing. Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing.
When faces were encountered during inhalation, subjects recognized them as fearful more quickly than when faces were encountered during exhalation. This was not true for faces expressing surprise. These effects diminished when subjects performed the same task while breathing through their mouths. Thus the effect was specific to fearful stimuli during nasal breathing only.
In an experiment aimed at assessing memory function — tied to the hippocampus — the same subjects were shown pictures of objects on a computer screen and told to remember them. Later, they were asked to recall those objects. Researchers found that recall was better if the images were encountered during inhalation.
The findings imply that rapid breathing may confer an advantage when someone is in a dangerous situation, Zelano said.
“If you are in a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster,” Zelano said. “As a result, you’ll spend proportionally more time inhaling than when in a calm state. Thus, our body’s innate response to fear with faster breathing could have a positive impact on brain function and result in faster response times to dangerous stimuli in the environment.”
Another potential insight of the research is on the basic mechanisms of meditation or focused breathing. “When you inhale, you are in a sense synchronizing brain oscillations across the limbic network,” Zelano noted.
After posting a video of a young recruit talking to the camera about how service allows him to better himself “as a man and a warrior”, the US Army tweeted, “How has serving impacted you?”
As of this writing, the post has over 5,300 responses. Most of them are heartbreaking.
“My daughter was raped while in the army,” said one responder. “They took her to the hospital where an all male staff tried to convince her to give the guy a break because it would ruin his life. She persisted. Wouldn’t back down. Did a tour in Iraq. Now suffers from PTSD.”
“I’ve had the same nightmare almost every night for the past 15 years,”said another.
Tweet after tweet after tweet, people used the opportunity that the Army had inadvertently given them to describe how they or their loved one had been chewed up and spit out by a war machine that never cared about them. This article exists solely to document a few of the things that have been posted in that space, partly to help spread public awareness and partly in case the thread gets deleted in the interests of “national security”. Here’s a sampling in no particular order:
“Someone I loved joined right out of high school even though I begged him not to. Few months after his deployment ended, we reconnected. One night, he told me he loved me and then shot himself in the head. If you’re gonna prey on kids for imperialism, at least treat their PTSD.”
“After I came back from overseas I couldn’t go into large crowds without a few beers in me. I have nerve damage in my right ear that since I didn’t want to look weak after I came back I lied to the VA rep. My dad was exposed to agent orange which destroyed his lungs, heart, liver and pancreas and eventually killing him five years ago. He was 49, exposed at a post not Vietnam, and will never meet my daughter my nephew. I still drink to much and I crowds are ok most days but I have to grocery shop at night and can’t work days because there is to many ppl.”
“The dad of my best friend when I was in high school had served in the army. He struggled with untreated PTSD & severe depression for 30 years, never told his family. Christmas eve of 2010, he went to their shed to grab the presents & shot himself in the head. That was the first funeral I attended where I was actually told the cause of death & the reasons surrounding it. I went home from the service, did some asking around, & found that most of the funerals I’ve attended before have been caused by untreated health issues from serving.”
“My dad was drafted into war and was exposed to agent orange. I was born w multiple physical/neurological disabilities that are linked back to that chemical. And my dad became an alcoholic with ptsd and a side of bipolar disorder.”
“i met this guy named christian who served in iraq. he was cool, had his own place with a pole in the living room. always had lit parties. my best friend at the time started dating him so we spent a weekend at his crib. after a party, 6am, he took out his laptop. he started showing us some pics of his time in the army. pics with a bunch of dudes. smiling, laughing. it was cool. i was drunk and didn’t care. he started showing us pics of some little kids. after a while, his eyes went completely fucking dark. i was like man, dude’s high af. he very calmly explained to us that all of those kids were dead ‘but that’s what war was. dead kids and nothing to show for it but a military discount’. christian killed himself 2 months later.”
“I didn’t serve but my dad did. In Vietnam. It eventually killed him, slowly, over a couple of decades. When the doctors were trying to put in a pacemaker to maybe extend his life a couple of years, his organs were so fucked from the Agent Orange, they disintegrated to the touch. He died when I was ten. He never saw me graduate high school. He never saw me get my first job or buy my first car. He wasn’t there. But hey! Y’all finally paid out 30k after another vet took the VA to the Supreme Court, so. You know. It was cool for him.”
“Chronic pain with a 0% disability rating (despite medical discharge) so no benefits, and anger issues that I cope with by picking fistfights with strangers.”
“My parents both served in the US Army and what they got was PTSD for both of them along with anxiety issues. Whenever we go out in public and sit down somewhere my dad has to have his back up against the wall just to feel a measure of comfort that no one is going to sneak up on him and kill him and and walking up behind either of them without announcing that you’re there is most likely going to either get you punch in the face or choked out.”
“Many of my friends served. All are on heavy antidepressant/anxiety meds, can’t make it through 4th of July or NYE, and have all dealt with heavy substance abuse problems before and after discharge. And that’s on top of one crippled left hand, crushed vertebra, and GSWs.”
“Left my talented and young brother a broken and disabled man who barely leaves the house. Left my mother hypervigilant & terrified due to the amount of sexual assault & rape covered up and looked over by COs. Friend joined right out if HS, bullet left him paralyzed neck down.”
“My cousin went to war twice and came back with a drug addiction that killed him. My other cousin could never get paid on time and when he left they tried to withhold his pay.”
“It’s given me a fractured spine, TBI, combat PTSD, burn pit exposure, and a broken body with no hope of getting better. Not even medically retired for a fractured spine. WTF.”
“Y’all killed my father by failing to provide proper treatments after multiple tours.”
“Everyone I know got free PTSD and chemical exposure and a long engagement in their efforts to have the US pay up for college tuition. Several lives ruined. No one came out better. Thank god my recruiter got a DUI on his way to get me or I would be dead or worse right now.”
“I have ptsd and still wake up crying at night. Also have a messed up leg that I probably will have to deal with the rest of my life. Depression. Anger issues.”
“My grandfather came back from Vietnam with severe PTSD, tried to drown it in alcohol, beat my father so badly and so often he still flinches when touched 50 years later. And I grew up with an emotionally scarred father with PTSD issues of his own because of it. Good times.”
“Hmmm. Let’s see. I lost friends, have 38 inches of scars, PTSD and a janky arm and hand that don’t work.”
“my grandpa served in vietnam from when he was 18–25. he’s 70 now and every night he still has nightmares where he stands up tugging at the curtains or banging on the walls screaming at the top of his lungs for someone to help him. he refuses to talk about his time and when you mention anything about the war to him his face goes white and he has a panic attack. he cries almost every day and night and had to spend 10 years in a psychiatric facility for suicidal ideations from what he saw there.”
“My best friend joined the Army straight out of high school because his family was poor & he wanted a college education. He served his time & then some. Just as he was ready to retire he was sent to Iraq. You guys sent him back in a box. It destroyed his children.”
“Well, my father got deployed to Iraq and came back a completely different person. Couldn’t even work the same job he had been working 20 years before that because of his anxiety and PTSD. He had nightmares, got easily violent and has terrible depression. But the army just handed him pills, now he is 100% disabled and is on a shit ton of medication. He has nightmares every night, paces the house barely sleeping, checking every room just to make sure everyone’s safe. He’s had multiple friends commit suicide.”
“Father’s a disabled Vietnam veteran who came home with severe PTSD and raging alcoholism. VA has continuously ignored him throughout the years and his medical needs and he receives very little compensation for all he’s gone through. Thanks so much!!”
“I was #USNavy, my husband was #USArmy, he served in Bosnia and Iraq and that nice, shy, funny guy was gone, replaced with a withdrawn, angry man…he committed suicide a few years later…when I’m thanked for my service, I just nod.”
“I’m permanently disabled because I trained through severe pain after being rejected from the clinic for ‘malingering.’ Turns out my pelvis was cracked and I ended up having to have hip surgery when I was 20 years old.”
“My brother went into the Army a fairly normal person, became a Ranger (Ft. Ord) & came out a sociopath. He spent the 1st 3 wks home in his room in the dark, only coming out at night when he thought we were asleep. He started doing crazy stuff. Haven’t seen him since 1993.”
“Recently attended the funeral for a west point grad with a 4yr old and a 7yr old daughter because he blew his face off to escape his ptsd but thats nothing new.”
“I don’t know anyone in my family who doesn’t suffer from ptsd due to serving. One is signed off sick due to it & thinks violence is ok. Another (navy) turned into a psycho & thought domestic violence was the answer to his wife disobeying his orders.”
“My dad served during vietnam, but after losing close friends and witnessing the killing of innocents by the U.S., he refused to redeploy. He has suffered from PTSD ever since. The bravest thing he did in the army was refuse to fight any longer, and I’m so proud of him for that.”
“My best friend from high school was denied his mental health treatment and forced to return to a third tour in Iraq, despite having such deep trauma that he could barely function. He took a handful of sleeping pills and shot himself in the head two weeks before deploying.”
“Bad back, hips, and knees. Lack of trust, especially when coming forward about sexual harassment. Detachment, out of fear of losing friends. Missed birthdays, weddings, graduations, and funerals. I get a special license plate tho.”
“My son died 10 months ago. He did 3 overseas tours. He came back with severe mental illness.”
“I’m still in and I’m in constant pain and they recommended a spinal fusion when I was 19. Y’all also won’t update my ERB so I can’t use the education benefits I messed myself up for.”
“My dad served two tours in middle east and his personality changes have affected my family forever. VA ‘counseling’ has a session limit and doesn’t send you to actual psychologists. Military service creates a mental health epidemic it is then woefully unequipped to deal with.”
“My best childhood friend lost his mind after his time in the marines and now he lives in a closet in his mons house and can barely hold a conversation with anyone. He only smokes weed and drinks cough syrup that he steals since he can’t hold a job.”
“After coming back from Afghanistan…..Matter fact I don’t even want to talk about it. Just knw that my PTSD, bad back, headaches, chronic pain, knee pain, and other things wishes I would have NEVER signed that contract. It was NOT worth the pain I’ll endure for the rest of life.”
“My cousin served and came back only to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and ptsd. There were nights that he would lock himself in the bathroom and stay in the corner because he saw bodies in the bathtub. While driving down the highway, he had another episode and drove himself into a cement barrier, engulfing his Jeep in flames and burning alive. My father served as well and would never once speak of what he witnessed and had to do. He said it’s not something that any one person should ever be proud of.”
“I was sexually assaulted by a service member at 17 when I visited my sister on her base, then again at 18. My friend got hooked on k2 and died after the va turned him away for mental health help. Another friend serving was exploited sexually by her co and she was blamed for it.”
“I spent ten years in the military. I worked 15 hour days to make sure my troops were taken care of. In return for my hard work I was rewarded with three military members raping me. I was never promoted to a rank that made a difference. And I have an attempt at suicide. Fuck you!”
“I actually didn’t get around to serving because I was sexually assaulted by three of my classmates during a military academy prep program. They went to the academies and are still active duty officers. I flamed out of the program and have PTSD.”
“My father’s successful military career taught him that he’s allowed to use violence to make people do what he wants because America gave him that power.”
“While I was busy framing ‘soliders and families first’ (lol) propaganda posters, my best friend went to ‘Iraqistan’ but he didn’t come back. He returned alive, to be sure, but he was no longer the fun, carefree, upbeat person he’d previously been.”
“My husband is a paraplegic and can’t control 3/4 of his body now. Me, I’ve got PTSD, an anxiety disorder, two messed up knees, depression, a bad back, tinnitus, and chronic insomnia. I wish both had never served.”
“This is one of the most heartbreaking threads I’ve ever read.”
“I am so sorry. The way we fail our service members hurts my heart. My grandfather served in the Korean War and had nightmares until his death at 91 years old. We must do better.”
“My Army story is that when I was in high school, recruiters were there ALL the time- at lunch, clubs, etc.- targeting the poor kids at school. I didn’t understand it until now. You chew people who have nothing at home up and spit them out.”
“I was thinking about enlisting until I saw this thread. Hard pass.”
“I hope to god that the Army has enough guts to read these and realize how badly our servicepeople are being treated. Thank you and god bless you to all of you in this thread, and your loved ones who are suffering too.”
This is a poem I wrote a while back called “Naughty Little Boys”:
That little boy’s mum is going to be so upset. He hasn’t combed his hair, and his clothes are filthy. And what’s he gone and done with his legs? Where are your legs, little boy? Better go and find them before your mum sees you. Those legs are very important to her.
They sent the little boys up into the sky and over the ocean to go play soldiers. They gave them toy guns full of toy bullets, and they screamed toy screams, and bled toy blood, and cried toy tears, and had toy nightmares, and called out for their mums in the desert.
The man on the TV keeps calling them heroes. Don’t call them that, TV man, you’ll only encourage them. These are little boys, and they’re being very naughty. They are worrying their mums sick and it’s time for them to go home.
Find your legs, little boy, and go be with your mum. Find your hands and your face too; she’ll miss those as well. Find your mind and bring it back from that dark, scary place. You’re not there anymore. You are home. Stop screaming toy screams and crying toy tears and go tell your mum that you’ve had a bad dream.
When you’re immersed in green, your troubles go away, says Ryerson University student Natalie Povlovich.(Craig Chivers/CBC)
The students of Gradale Academy in midtown Toronto are on their way to a place they call “Mud Mountain” for some outdoor time that may offer an antidote to everyday problems affecting their physical and mental health.
Situated near their school around the trails of the Don Valley, “Mud Mountain” is, yes, dirty and mucky. Armed with clipboards, the students, who range from kindergarten to Grade 6, examine the foliage and wildlife of an early spring day.
But researchers believe nature offers more than just its beauty; it offers serious academic and mental-health benefits.
A recent review of hundreds of studies has found mounting “evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship”: Experiences in nature led to improvements in attention span, self-discipline and physical fitness, all while reducing stress.
Researchers also found that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who take a 20-minute walk in a park can improve their symptoms as effectively as if they took a dose of prescription stimulant medication.
Dr. Melissa Lem is a family physician in Vancouver. She believes in the power of greenery.
“There are two different major theories as to why nature is good for your brain, and one of them is called Stress Reduction Theory. Essentially, it speaks to how humans evolved in nature,” she said.
Because we humans have been surrounded by forests, flowers, and fauna for most of our existence, scientists believe there may be an evolutionary reason that nature feels to us like a comfortable, familiar place.
There’s also what’s called the Attention Restoration Theory, first developed in the 1980s, which proposes that exposure to nature is not only enjoyable, but can also help us improve our focus and ability to concentrate. Nature, says Lem, is simpler and less taxing than the crowds, lights, traffic, and noise of city life.
Michelle Gradish, who runs Toronto’s Gradale Academy, believes even an hour a day spent outdoors can help children learn. (Craig Chivers/CBC)
“It doesn’t tire out your concentration. It just lets you kind of enjoy and restore your brain.”
Michelle Gradish, who’s been running the Gradale Academy for 18 years, is a firm believer in outdoor education. She says even an hour a day spent in nature can teach students how to cope with the unexpected.
“They don’t even realise that they’re learning at that point, as opposed to when they’re inside and at their desks and they’re almost told what to do and how to do it.”
Nature and mood
Meanwhile, a group of students at Toronto’s Ryerson University has found that nature breaks reduce their stress and make it easier for them to handle their workload.
Every week, they participate in Mood Routes, a program run in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association. They visit parks, greenhouses and nature trails all over Toronto, with the goal of boosting health and fitness, as well as improving their state of mind.
“[Nature’s] green. I guess I equate that with [feeling] happy and with healthy,” said Natalie Povlovich, a 26-year-old psychology student at Ryerson who has joined the Mood Routes.
“I think when you’re [immersed] in green, your troubles go away and you feel pure.”
A recent study backs that up. Researchers at the University of Michigan say that taking at least 20 minutes out of your day to take a walk somewhere close to nature can lower your stress hormone levels.
“For the greatest payoff, in … efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature,” said lead author MaryCarol Hunter in a news release.
Hunter is a landscape architect and ecologist with an interest in the effect that experiences in nature can have on mental well-being.
Deena Shaffer runs Mood Routes, a program at Ryerson University whereby students who are stressed and lonely take revitalizing walks in parks, greenhouses and nature trails around Toronto. (Craig Chivers/CBC)
Participants in the experiment were asked to spend 10 minutes or more in nature at least three times a week over eight months. Hunter’s team took saliva samples to measure cortisol levels before and after the leisurely walks, which were taken without conversation or smartphone interruptions.
Deena Shaffer, the coordinator of student transitions and retention at Ryerson, runs the weekly Mood Routes. She’s seen students who are stressed, lonely, and exhausted become revitalized after visiting a garden, forest, or park.
“They connect with a perspective of something larger than themselves, which can be really helpful if you’re studying, really fixed on one thing,” shesaid.
Back at Mud Mountain, Gradish’s students are noting the nests and plants that are part of the Don Valley ecosystem.
Gradish believes that learning in natural settings promotes warmer, more co-operative relationships, and teaches lessons that will last a lifetime.
“They have matured in ways with their leadership skills, with their teamwork, and with their confidence.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marcy Cuttler is an award-winning journalist and producer with 35 years of experience at CBC.
The Grayzone‘s Aaron Maté has done an interview with his father titled “America in denial: Gabor Maté on the psychology of Russiagate”, and it is the single best and most insightful political video I’ve ever seen. In 27 minutes it essentially describes the fundamental problems of our times, not just with Russiagate but with world politics as a whole, from the overarching behaviors of globe-dominating forces all the way down to the ways our own inner reluctance to face reality objectively helps to prop up those forces. So it deserves its own article.
Back when I learned that Gabor was Aaron’s father my first thought was, “That makes so much sense.” Aaron had exploded onto the Russiagate debate scene seemingly out of nowhere and quickly became the most thorough and lucid voice on the subject, holding to strict principles of valuing facts and evidence over the aggressive pressure to conform from his media peers and the authoritative assertions of government agencies. Gabor I’d known of for years because of how widely respected he is in other circles I’ve moved in for his penetrating insights into the human psyche. It makes perfect sense that someone with the moral fortitude to swim against the groupthink current and speak the truth no matter what would have someone like that as part of his personal formation.
The elder Maté talked about the public support for the Russiagate narrative, and the inevitable disappointment which followed after Robert Mueller failed to turn up any evidence of collusion between the Russian government and the 2016 Trump campaign, as the result of emotional investment.
“Now, disappointment means that you’re expecting something and you wanted something to happen, and it didn’t happen,” Maté said. “So that means that some people wanted Mueller to find evidence of collusion, which means that emotionally they were invested in it. It wasn’t just that they wanted to know the truth. They actually wanted the truth to look a certain way. And wherever we want the truth to look a certain way, there’s some reason that has to do with their own emotional needs and not just with the concern for reality.”
Gabor explained that the reason for this emotional investment ensued from the trauma of seeing Trump elected. They had the choice between consciously feeling through the pain and fear of that trauma and then doing some serious examinations of the factors that led to Trump’s election, or blaming the whole thing on a foreign boogeyman and avoiding that self-confrontation altogether.
“You can look at that,” Maté explained. “Or you can say there must be a devil somewhere behind all this, and that devil is a foreign power, and his name is Putin, and his country is Russia. Now you’ve got a simple explanation that doesn’t invite you or necessitate that you explore your own pain and your own fear and your own trauma.”
“So I really believe that really this Russiagate narrative was, on the part of a lot of people, a sign of genuine upset at something genuinely upsetting,” Maté continued. “But rather than dealing with the upset, it was an easier way to in a sense draw off the energy of it in to some kind of a believable and comforting narrative. It’s much more comforting to believe that some enemy is doing this to us than to look at what does it say about us as a society.”
Maté went on to discuss Trump himself as not just traumatizing, but traumatized. Someone acting out his own inner issues in the world in a deeply unconscious way:
Donald Trump is the clearest example of a traumatized politician one could ever see. He’s in denial of reality all the time. He is self aggrandizing. His fundamental self concept is that of a nobody. So he has to make himself huge and big all the time and keep proving to the world how powerful and smart, what kind of degrees he’s got and how smart he is. It’s a compensation for terrible self image. He can’t pay attention to anything, which means that his brain is too scattered because it was too painful for him to pay attention.
What does this all come down to? The childhood that we know that he had in the home of a dictatorial child disparaging father… who demeaned his children mercilessly. One of Trump’s brothers drank himself to death. And Trump compensates for all that by trying to make himself as big and powerful and successful as possible. And, of course, he makes up for his anger towards his mother for not protecting him by attacking women and exploiting women and boasting about it publicly. I mean, it’s a clear trauma example. I’m not saying this to invite sympathy for Trump’s politics. I’m just describing that that’s who the man is.
Maté tied his observations about the refusal of Russiagaters to confront their inner trauma and Trump’s refusal to confront his to the refusal of Americans as a whole to confront the horrors that their own country has inflicted upon the world which dwarf even the most severe things the Russian government has been accused of doing to America.
“No serious student of history can possibly deny how the United States has interfered in the internal politics of just about every nation on earth,” Maté said, adding that this interference often consists of mass murder. “For example, in Chile, there’s an elected government that America cheerfully overthrows, even boasts about it. Not to mention the current interference in Venezuela, the internal politics. Not to mention, how as you’ve pointed out, many others have pointed out, and [Time] boasts about it on its cover, about how United States helped Boris Yeltsin get elected… Even if the worst thing that’s alleged about the Russians is true, it’s not even on miniscule proportion of what America has publicly acknowledged it has done all around the world.”
Maté talked about how “it’s always easier to see ourselves as the victims than as the perpetrators,” adding that “whether it’s Great Britain, or whether it’s France with their vast colonial empires, they’re always the victims of everybody else. The United States is always the victim of everybody else. All these enemies that are threatening us. It’s the most powerful nation on earth, a nation that could single handedly destroy the earth a billion times over with the weapons that are at its disposal, and it’s always the victim.”
“So this victimhood, there is something comforting about it because, again, it allows us not to look at ourselves,” Maté said. “And I think there was this huge element of victimhood in this Russiagate process.”
Maté talked about how Mueller, despite his horrible track record of supporting the WMD lie in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, has been made into a hero, because Hollywood has trained the public psyche to seek out “good guys” and “bad guys” in every intense situation. This is what led Putin to be depicted as an omnipotent supervillain capable of infiltrating the highest levels of the US government, and Mueller as a knight in shining armor who was going to rescue us all.
“Rather than saying, okay, there’s a big problem here. We’ve elected a highly traumatized grandiose, intellectually unstable, emotionally unstable, misogynist, self aggrandizer to power. Something in our society made that happen. And let’s look at what that was. And let’s clear up those issues if we can. And let’s look at the people on the liberal side who, instead of challenging all those issues, put all their energies into this foreign conspiracy explanation. Because to have challenged those issues would have meant looking at their own policies, which tended in the same direction.
“Rather than looking at how under Clinton, they’ve jailed hundreds of thousands of people who should never have been in jail. Looking at how under the Bushes and under Obama, there was this massive transfer of wealth upwards. Instead of asking why Barack Obama gets $400,000 for an hour speech to Wall Street, which means that maybe our faith in how our system operates needs to be shaken a bit so we can actually look at what’s really going on, let’s just put our attention on some foreign devil again.”
Maté talked about how Obama, despite being a warmonger like the other US presidents, represented a nice ideal in people’s minds, so the contrast between that ideal and Trump’s election made it especially traumatic. This made people unwilling to look at the actual root causes of Hillary Clinton’s loss, which taken together are far more threatening to democracy than anything Russia is accused of doing, even if those accusations are all 100 percent true.
In conclusion the younger Maté asked his father for his advice on what people can do going forward to avoid the mistakes that led to Trump’s election, and to the years of Russia hysteria that followed, or at least to deal with similar challenges in a more mature way.
“Well, first of all, I advise people to do something that I find hard to do myself, but I think it’s essential,” replied the elder Maté. “Which is that when there’s hard emotions there, just own them. Just own that you’re hurt. Own that you’re confused. Just own it. Say I’m hurt, I’m confused, I’m terrified. And rather than try and find an explanation right away, just own the feeling. And then when you’re ready, then actually ask, what happened here? What actually happened here? What are the facts? What behaviors or beliefs on my part maybe contributed to the situation? So be curious. Be really curious.”
With regard to the press, Gabor advised to be objective and skeptical of the government agencies which have so consistently deceived America into wars:
“At least be objective. Don’t be so quick to jump on board. Don’t be so quick to assume that because almost the whole media is broadcasting, trumpeting a certain line, that that line represents reality. Learn from history. Learn from this one. Learn from this Russiagate thing that they were all saying for years that this is a given fact. All of a sudden it turns out not to be a given fact. Well, next time, don’t be so quick to believe them.”
Gabor pointed out that for all people’s efforts at avoiding the internal confrontations which necessarily come along with disillusionment, it is much better to be disillusioned than illusioned.
“Would you rather believe in something that’s false, which means to have an illusion? Or would you rather be disillusioned?” Maté asked. “In other words, to see the truth. And I’m saying that we should be glad to be disillusioned. So this Russiagate and this ignoble end to the Russiagate narrative, it’s a disillusionment for a lot of people, but that’s a good thing. If they say, okay, I had this illusion, this illusion I no longer have, which means I’ve been disillusioned, now I can actually look at the truth. So it’s good to be disillusioned.”
“So this could be a positive beginning for a lot of people if they take the right attitude,” Maté concluded.
The word “halitosis” is a household term which everyone knows means bad breath. But did you know that the word has been around for less than a hundred years, and was invented not by the medical field, but by advertisers?
Back in the 1920s, people didn’t worry about body odor as much as they do now. They didn’t bathe nearly as often, they didn’t wear deodorant, and some bodily smells weren’t necessarily considered socially catastrophic. A family antiseptic company called Listerine was able to increase its revenue from $115,000 to $8 million over the course of seven years by helping to change that.
Listerine had been around since the 1880s, marketed as a household cleaner, a medical antiseptic, and a treatment for gonorrhea, among many other uses. Forty years later, the company’s owner and his son came up with the brilliant idea to look up a fancy latin word for bad breath that sounds like a medical condition and then market it as though it’s an actual diagnosable disease that is crippling everyone’s social life. They ran advertisements telling wives that their halitosis was making them unappealing to their husbands, telling husbands that their halitosis was making their wives not want to kiss them, telling young women that they’d remain unmarried and unwanted forever if they didn’t cure their “unexcusable” condition with Listerine, even telling mothers that their breath may be grossing out their own children.
And it worked. People began throwing their money at this company, suddenly desperate to cure a horrible medical condition that they’d only just found out was a thing. By manufacturing demand for their product using artificially instilled shame and fear, Listerine made a fortune.
This type of advertisement is now commonplace, because it works. Mothers are told that they may be endangering their children by not using X cleaning product. Fathers are made to feel as though they’re not protecting their family because they don’t own home security system Y. Wives and girlfriends are made to feel self-conscious about how their lady parts might smell if they don’t use feminine hygiene product Z. Screens, billboards and magazine ads blare constantly, “Did you know that you are deeply flawed? You are! But don’t worry, Panaceavox can fix you!” In America they’re allowed to straight up say “Hey, have you ever felt kind of emotionally not okay? Well there’s a diagnosis for that. Ask your doctor if Thorazac is right for you.” People are manipulated into fretting about a problem they didn’t know they had til two seconds ago, then sold the solution.
What people think of as “sin” is a lot like Listerine’s halitosis marketing ploy, except unlike bad breath, sin doesn’t actually exist. And, for those who profit from religion, it’s also been exponentially more lucrative.
Sin is completely made up; we’re all a bunch of large-brained primates moving around in the world and experiencing the consequences of those movements, no more, no less. As a Catholic, I was told that all babies were born sinners, with tiny little blackened souls that would go straight to hell if the priest didn’t get to them first and dunk their deceptively pretty little demon heads in magic water tout suite. It didn’t stop there either. You had to celebrate an ancient Nazarene zombie who came back from the dead because somehow that made our sins go away for a little while, just as long as you turned up each week to drink zombie blood and eat zombie body in some kind of pretend cannibal ritual. The weirdest thing about it was that I thought it was perfectly normal. That’s how you avoided being a sinner.
When you unplug those stories from the power of belief, it’s a laughably transparent marketing scheme.
“Guess what? You know how you feel like you’re basically fine? Well you’re not! You’re infected with Sin, and only this One True Religion™ can rescue you from it! That’s right, it slices, it dices, it protects your soul from eternal hellfire, it’s the One True Religion™! Follow the One True Religion™ and you will be freed from the burden of Sin, and you’ll go the the best place you can possibly imagine (*cough* when you’re dead). Refuse to follow the One True Religion™, and all that sin will cause literally the worst thing you can possibly imagine to happen to you (after you’re dead, we can’t show it to you here). Act now, supplies are running out, here comes the tithe basket, buy your way into the One True Religion™ today!”
Ridiculous, manipulative hogwash.
Fear isn’t the only thing factoring into people’s belief in sin, of course. It can be egoically gratifying to believe that the real assholes in our world will spend eternity writhing in a state of eternal torture for their transgressions. Also, more significantly, it can feel very comforting to have a set of prescribed “do”s and “don’t”s in a world that is otherwise a completely boundless and open-ended improvisation exercise, with no ultimate rules or guidelines of any kind. It can feel very comforting to have a set of guidelines to live by for which you have no responsibility, which were handed to you from On High by a flawless omniscient and omnipotent deity underlying the fundamental ground of reality.
But that’s just it: you are responsible. It absolutely is your responsibility to figure out how best to move around in this wide open universe, and you don’t get to abdicate that responsibility to some douchebag in a funny hat or some imaginary zombie carpenter. Sin and sanctity are made-up bullshit concepts, which means that the only understanding of how to behave in this world that has any relevance to you at all is your own understanding.
This responsibility can be daunting, but taking it seriously is the first step to becoming the kind of human being that can overcome the huge challenges that our species is facing in the near future.
To act with responsibility in life, you don’t get to rely on anyone else’s rules. You’ve got to get really clear on what you value, what kind of world you want to live in, what kind of life you’re trying to craft for yourself, and begin taking actions toward making those assessments a reality. There is no ultimate right and wrong inscribed on the fabric of reality; you’ve got to make it up for yourself, based on your own clarity of vision and your own will for your surroundings.
People say, “Well if we didn’t believe in absolute right and wrong behavior, we’d all just be a bunch of hedonistic criminals!” Rubbish. If you had the ability to make a movie and have the movie contain anything you want to see, it wouldn’t be full of rape and murder and destruction; you’d try your best to create a thing of beauty. Our lives are the same way. We’re all trying on some level to craft beautiful lives and help create an enjoyable world, which never entails going around hurting people and destroying things. And the clearer our seeing becomes, the more skillful we become in doing so.
The only exception to this would perhaps be sociopaths and psychopaths and people with other severe personality disorders, but their type has never truly believed in sin anyway. Sin is a construct of social manipulation, and manipulators recognize manipulation. A sociopath only cares about the concept of sin to the extent that they can use it to get what they want. Only emotionally and empathetically normal people are impacted by the concept of sin.
The popular acceptance of the concept of sin is a consequence of the way we are psychologically hardwired and the way that that wiring has been manipulated, and you see that same wiring fiddled with in similar ways in many other areas. The way centrists browbeat leftists for not falling in line with Hillary Clinton in the lead-up to the 2016 US elections, for example, often looked barely distinguishable from a gaggle of church ladies abusing one of their sisters for wanting to leave the church or get a divorce. Instead of the promise of hell it was the promise of Donald Trump ending the world, and instead of sin being disobedience to God it was disobedience to the mainstream liberal orthodoxy. But the same kind of shaming, manipulation and groupthink herd bullying was present in both cases. The notion of personal sovereign responsibility was violently rejected as anathema by the Church of the Blue Donkey.
Sin is a tool of social manipulation just like advertising, and just like propaganda. Religion, advertising and propaganda all pull the same psychological strings. Since as far back as recorded history stretches, those with wealth and power have been using whatever tools they have at their disposal to control the ways people think and behave. When religion held more psychological weight, they used that to justify book burnings, heretic burnings, and the destruction of anything that challenged the ruling order. Now that humanity is vomiting up the plague of religion from its DNA, propaganda and advertising are taking its place.
But it’s the same kind of manipulation in each case, the same disease, and the cure for that disease is the same too. By insisting on your own sovereign perspective, all attempts to manipulate you out of that perspective begin to stand out like a black fly on a white page. By standing firmly in what you know to be true, what kind of life you know you’re trying to live, and what kind of world you know you’re trying to help create, you give yourself a clear picture of the path that you are on. With that clear picture, any attempts to manipulate you off of that path in any way are easily seen for the unwelcome intrusions that they are, whether they take the form of “You are sinful and you need Jesus,” “You are flawed and you need this product,” or “Trust Big Brother to do what’s right for you.” And you can shrug off the manipulators and stride toward the bright consequences you wish to generate with your actions.
It’s hard to nail down exactly what it means to “have your shit together,” but you always know when you meet someone who does.
These people are functional and competent, but never pretentious or elitist. They make their beds and do their jobs and always seem to be level-headed about all the nonsense the rest of us conflate into huge crises.
No matter what your personal goals are, at the root of them all, you just want to have your shit together too.
But, while this might be hard to believe, the truth is that nobody really has it all together—not entirely, not all the time. But aspiring to function well in your life, own personal responsibility, have real diplomacy and social grace, a healthy temperament, and other similar traits is definitely noble, if not crucial, to being well-received by the world.
Therefore, here is your official cheat sheet to getting your shit together… or at the very least, convincing everyone else you do.
1. Have a Uniform Style
Decide what you love and then wear it often. Either have a signature scent, accessory, or color scheme that sets you apart. When people see you, your appearance should align with who you say you are and what you say you care about. Your style should match your personality, and it should stay as consistent as possible. Think of CEOs who wear the same thing every day or cartoon characters who stay in the same clothes. People respond well to consistency.
2. Don’t Flaunt Weaknesses
If you don’t want people thinking your life is a hot mess, then stop talking about it being a hot mess on every platform every chance you can. There’s a huge, enormous, world-altering difference between being authentic and capitalizing on your struggles to earn sympathy or whatever else some dark corner of your mind thinks you’re achieving by complaining every hour of the day. You can keep it real without overemphasizing what you’re not that great at. What you share is what builds other people’s image of you.
3. Stop Oversharing
On the same note, realize that the 2012-2014 era of confessional essays is over. Not every single person online and in your personal life needs to know every single detail about your life. Not only that, but they don’t even want to know. If you feel truly moved to share your struggle in some part of your life hoping it will be therapeutic and help another person going through it—amazing, please do that. But if you are just constantly telling people way more information than is appropriate to share, it might seem as though you don’t understand healthy boundaries.
4. Keep Things Clean
This might seem really obvious, but it’s totally overlooked: People who have their shit together have one really simple thing in common—they are always clean. They clean themselves, their spaces, and their belongings. They take care of themselves, their spaces, and their belongings. This doesn’t require much money and really only minimal effort. Keeping your life a little more tidy and organized will go a really long way.
5. Assume What You Say in Private Is Actually Public
I’m not saying nobody is trustworthy, but we are all dealing with what I’m going to call the “one person” phenomenon. Every single time you tell a secret or important information to someone, if it’s interesting enough, they will tell their one person. Then that person will their one person. Ultimately, what you tell one person is what you tell everyone at the end of the day—so don’t say anything in private you do not want repeated in public.
6. Minimize Drama
Instead of being someone who creates drama and issues, be someone who problem solves and innovates with new ideas. Instead of creating more chaos around a disagreement or issue, create a solution.
7. Talk About Things, Not Other People
Other people and their lives are not topics of conversation. This is a lazy way to forge connection with others if you have nothing more important or interesting to discuss. Ultimately, being a gossip isn’t a good look. It makes you seem vindictive and judgmental. Find things to talk about that aren’t other people’s business. Your relationships will be better for it.
8. Be Clear About Who You Are
For people to respect you, they first have to understand you, and that really begins with your language and approach to explaining yourself, both online and in person. In general, you should have a single sentence explanation that adequately sums up what you do professionally and then another that sums up what you’re interested in personally. If you can’t sum it up easily, you’re assuming your life is too complex and nuanced—but you’re achieving the opposite effect than you desire because you’ll just seem sort of lost.
9. Don’t Act Like an Authority When You’re Not
We do one another a disservice by insisting on answering immediately and impulsively in conversations and arguments. This is not how brains work. This is also not how intelligent people behave. Instead of spewing out whatever first comes to mind when you’re questioned about something, pause, think about what you want to say, and calmly express that you haven’t done enough research or hold enough expertise to speak on it with authority, but you’d like to share your opinion or viewpoint. And what isn’t in your authority? Anything you’re not an actual expert in or don’t have personal, direct experience with. So most things you talk about—but that’s okay. The point is to try to share opinions with one another to generate more conversation, not to convince one other about what’s absolute fact.
10. Keep Your Composure
People who fly off the handle at every little thing do not seem strong and tough, they seem weak and weak-willed. Anger is like gasoline when there’s some kind of friction between people. It raises people’s defenses and pushes a resolution farther away. If nobody else can manage it, be the person in the room who can keep their composure and speak clearly and calmly.
11. Stop Complaining
Complaining isn’t venting. Venting is what you do when you need to get something off your chest. If you have to vent every single time you see one of your friends, there’s something wrong. Otherwise, you’re just in the habit of complaining, and you need to get out of it. It’s ungrateful and, a lot of the time, shortsighted. If you really think about it, you have a lot more to appreciate than you have to stress about, but emphasizing the latter will make your life seem worse than it is, and that’s not what you want.
12. Have Principles
Principles are the rules and guidelines you use to govern and manage your life. If you value relationships, prioritize them by principle. If you want to improve your self-care, do it regularly by principle. No, you will not always want to wash your face, put on moisturizer, or drink another glass of water when you need to. But if you succumb to your impulses all the time, you’ll end up a shell of the person you’re meant to be—all because you don’t have principles.
13. Receive Help When You Need Help
Behaving as though you can do absolutely everything yourself limits you. When you need help, you need help. Ask for it, receive it, and understand that it does not make you less dignified.
14. But Remember You’re Responsible for You
You are ultimately responsible for whatever experience of life you want to have. You are responsible for your electric bill, for how well you keep up with current events, for how you interact with others, for how well you do at work, and for how much you sleep. You have to take an active role in your life, not a passive one. Don’t think and act like life is just happening to you and you have to accept it. Start taking creative control.
15. Compliment Others
Your willingness to uplift others is a sign of real confidence. People who are not happy with themselves cannot be happy with others. And there’s even more benefit to you because the more you are willing to affirm and love others, the more you are going to see yourself with more love and appreciation. Remember, your relationships with others are reflections of your greatest relationship—which is the one you have with yourself.
16. Organize Your Paperwork, Clean Your Linens, and Know How to Cook At Least One Meal
Absolutely no adult is beyond this.
17. Be Aware of Your Finances
If you don’t want to be the person who questions whether their card will be declined somewhere, make sure you’re checking on your accounts before you actually go out and spend money. You should know your debts, your incomes, and your goals. You shouldn’t be in the dark about your financial health.
18. Know Your Limits
Feed yourself when you’re hungry; rest when you’re tired; know how to gracefully bow out of a social situation, relationship, house party or job when you need to. If you wait until you’ve passed your limits, you’re going to burn out and burn bridges at the same time.
19. Stop Thinking Everyone’s Thinking About You—They’re Not
In the age of social media, so it’s easy to become victim to the spotlight complex, which is the idea that everyone is thinking about you and evaluating your life decisions frequently. They aren’t. Everyone is thinking about themselves all the time, in the same way that you are thinking about yourself all the time. Those coincidences you’re so sure mean everyone deeply cares about the intricacies of your life? It’s probably confirmation bias, your brain’s way of filtering information to affirm what it already believes. The first step to being self-aware is recognizing that other people’s thoughts do not revolve around you.
20. Keep It Simple
People who are able to simplify their lives come across as sophisticated. People who complicate their lives do not. People who have their shit together are able to live simply, to enjoy simple things, to show up as they are, and to sort through issues with clarity.
Most importantly, remember that the point of getting your shit together is to make your life easier and more enjoyable—not to impress anyone else. But like most anything else, getting your shit together is a matter of faking it until you make it, and this is the best place to start.
I write about how to use your emotional intelligence. instagram.com/briannawiest
At the age of 10 I was sent as a scholarship student to a boarding school for the uber-rich in Massachusetts. I lived among the wealthiest Americans for the next eight years. I listened to their prejudices and saw their cloying sense of entitlement. They insisted they were privileged and wealthy because they were smarter and more talented. They had a sneering disdain for those ranked below them in material and social status, even the merely rich. Most of the uber-rich lacked the capacity for empathy and compassion. They formed elite cliques that hazed, bullied and taunted any nonconformist who defied or did not fit into their self-adulatory universe.
It was impossible to build a friendship with most of the sons of the uber-rich. Friendship for them was defined by “what’s in it for me?” They were surrounded from the moment they came out of the womb by people catering to their desires and needs. They were incapable of reaching out to others in distress—whatever petty whim or problem they had at the moment dominated their universe and took precedence over the suffering of others, even those within their own families. They knew only how to take. They could not give. They were deformed and deeply unhappy people in the grip of an unquenchable narcissism.
It is essential to understand the pathologies of the uber-rich. They have seized total political power. These pathologies inform Donald Trump, his children, the Brett Kavanaughs, and the billionaires who run his administration. The uber-rich cannot see the world from anyone’s perspective but their own. People around them, including the women whom entitled men prey upon, are objects designed to gratify momentary lusts or be manipulated. The uber-rich are almost always amoral. Right. Wrong. Truth. Lies. Justice. Injustice. These concepts are beyond them. Whatever benefits or pleases them is good. What does not must be destroyed.
The pathology of the uber-rich is what permits Trump and his callow son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to conspire with de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman, another product of unrestrained entitlement and nepotism, to cover up the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom I worked with in the Middle East. The uber-rich spend their lives protected by their inherited wealth, the power it wields and an army of enablers, including other members of the fraternity of the uber-rich, along with their lawyers and publicists. There are almost never any consequences for their failures, abuses, mistreatment of others and crimes. This is why the Saudi crown prince and Kushner have bonded. They are the homunculi the uber-rich routinely spawn.
The rule of the uber-rich, for this reason, is terrifying. They know no limits. They have never abided by the norms of society and never will. We pay taxes—they don’t. We work hard to get into an elite university or get a job—they don’t. We have to pay for our failures—they don’t. We are prosecuted for our crimes—they are not.
The uber-rich live in an artificial bubble, a land called Richistan, a place of Frankenmansions and private jets, cut off from our reality. Wealth, I saw, not only perpetuates itself but is used to monopolize the new opportunities for wealth creation. Social mobility for the poor and the working class is largely a myth. The uber-rich practice the ultimate form of affirmative action, catapulting white, male mediocrities like Trump, Kushner and George W. Bush into elite schools that groom the plutocracy for positions of power. The uber-rich are never forced to grow up. They are often infantilized for life, squalling for what they want and almost always getting it. And this makes them very, very dangerous.
Political theorists, from Aristotle and Karl Marx to Sheldon Wolin, have warned against the rule of the uber-rich. Once the uber-rich take over, Aristotle writes, the only options are tyranny and revolution. They do not know how to nurture or build. They know only how to feed their bottomless greed. It’s a funny thing about the uber-rich: No matter how many billions they possess, they never have enough. They are the Hungry Ghosts of Buddhism. They seek, through the accumulation of power, money and objects, an unachievable happiness. This life of endless desire often ends badly, with the uber-rich estranged from their spouses and children, bereft of genuine friends. And when they are gone, as Charles Dickens wrote in “A Christmas Carol,” most people are glad to be rid of them.
C. Wright Mills in “The Power Elite,” one of the finest studies of the pathologies of the uber-rich, wrote:
They exploited national resources, waged economic wars among themselves, entered into combinations, made private capital out of the public domain, and used any and every method to achieve their ends. They made agreements with railroads for rebates; they purchased newspapers and bought editors; they killed off competing and independent businesses and employed lawyers of skill and statesmen of repute to sustain their rights and secure their privileges. There is something demonic about these lords of creation; it is not merely rhetoric to call them robber barons.
Corporate capitalism, which has destroyed our democracy, has given unchecked power to the uber-rich. And once we understand the pathologies of these oligarchic elites, it is easy to chart our future. The state apparatus the uber-rich controls now exclusively serves their interests. They are deaf to the cries of the dispossessed. They empower those institutions that keep us oppressed—the security and surveillance systems of domestic control, militarized police, Homeland Security and the military—and gut or degrade those institutions or programs that blunt social, economic and political inequality, among them public education, health care, welfare, Social Security, an equitable tax system, food stamps, public transportation and infrastructure, and the courts. The uber-rich extract greater and greater sums of money from those they steadily impoverish. And when citizens object or resist, they crush or kill them.
The uber-rich care inordinately about their image. They are obsessed with looking at themselves. They are the center of their own universe. They go to great lengths and expense to create fictional personas replete with nonexistent virtues and attributes. This is why the uber-rich carry out acts of well-publicized philanthropy. Philanthropy allows the uber-rich to engage in moral fragmentation. They ignore the moral squalor of their lives, often defined by the kind of degeneracy and debauchery the uber-rich insist is the curse of the poor, to present themselves through small acts of charity as caring and beneficent. Those who puncture this image, as Khashoggi did with Salman, are especially despised. And this is why Trump, like all the uber-rich, sees a critical press as the enemy. It is why Trump’s and Kushner’s eagerness to conspire to help cover up Khashoggi’s murder is ominous. Trump’s incitements to his supporters, who see in him the omnipotence they lack and yearn to achieve, to carry out acts of violence against his critics are only a few steps removed from the crown prince’s thugs dismembering Khashoggi with a bone saw. And if you think Trump is joking when he suggests the press should be dealt with violently you understand nothing about the uber-rich. He will do what he can get away with, even murder. He, like most of the uber-rich, is devoid of a conscience.
The more enlightened uber-rich, the East Hamptons and Upper East Side uber-rich, a realm in which Ivanka and Jared once cavorted, look at the president as gauche and vulgar. But this distinction is one of style, not substance. Donald Trump may be an embarrassment to the well-heeled Harvard and Princeton graduates at Goldman Sachs, but he serves the uber-rich as assiduously as Barack Obama and the Democratic Party do. This is why the Obamas, like the Clintons, have been inducted into the pantheon of the uber-rich. It is why Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump were close friends. They come from the same caste.
There is no force within ruling institutions that will halt the pillage by the uber-rich of the nation and the ecosystem. The uber-rich have nothing to fear from the corporate-controlled media, the elected officials they bankroll or the judicial system they have seized. The universities are pathetic corporation appendages. They silence or banish intellectual critics who upset major donors by challenging the reigning ideology of neoliberalism, which was formulated by the uber-rich to restore class power. The uber-rich have destroyed popular movements, including labor unions, along with democratic mechanisms for reform that once allowed working people to pit power against power. The world is now their playground.
In “The Postmodern Condition” the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard painted a picture of the future neoliberal order as one in which “the temporary contract” supplants “permanent institutions in the professional, emotional, sexual, cultural, family and international domains, as well as in political affairs.” This temporal relationship to people, things, institutions and the natural world ensures collective self-annihilation. Nothing for the uber-rich has an intrinsic value. Human beings, social institutions and the natural world are commodities to exploit for personal gain until exhaustion or collapse. The common good, like the consent of the governed, is a dead concept. This temporal relationship embodies the fundamental pathology of the uber-rich.
The uber-rich, as Karl Polanyi wrote, celebrate the worst kind of freedom—the freedom “to exploit one’s fellows, or the freedom to make inordinate gains without commensurable service to the community, the freedom to keep technological inventions from being used for public benefit, or the freedom to profit from public calamities secretly engineered for private advantage.” At the same time, as Polanyi noted, the uber-rich make war on the “freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of meeting, freedom of association, freedom to choose one’s own job.”
The dark pathologies of the uber-rich, lionized by mass culture and mass media, have become our own. We have ingested their poison. We have been taught by the uber-rich to celebrate the bad freedoms and denigrate the good ones. Look at any Trump rally. Watch any reality television show. Examine the state of our planet. We will repudiate these pathologies and organize to force the uber-rich from power or they will transform us into what they already consider us to be—the help.
Chris Hedges is a Truthdig columnist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a New York Times best-selling author, a professor in the college degree program offered to New Jersey state prisoners by Rutgers University, and an ordained Presbyterian minister.
https://player.megaphone.fm/ATL5328381860Can artificial intelligence be smarter than a person? Answering that question often hinges on the definition of artificial intelligence. But it might make more sense, instead, to focus on defining what we mean by “smart.”In the 1950s, the psychologist J. P. Guilford divided creative thought into two categories: convergent thinking and divergent thinking. Convergent thinking, which Guilford defined as the ability to answer questions correctly, is predominantly a display of memory and logic. Divergent thinking, the ability to generate many potential answers from a single problem or question, shows a flair for curiosity, an ability to think “outside the box.” It’s the difference between remembering the capital of Austria and figuring how to start a thriving business in Vienna without knowing a lick of German.
When most people think of AI’s relative strengths over humans, they think of its convergent intelligence. With superior memory capacity and processing power, computers outperform people at rules-based games, complex calculations, and data storage: chess, advanced math, and Jeopardy. What computers lack, some might say, is any form of imagination, or rule-breaking curiosity—that is, divergence.
But what if that common view is wrong? What if AI’s real comparative advantage over humans is precisely its divergent intelligence—its creative potential? That’s the subject of the latest episode of the podcast Crazy/Genius, produced by Kasia Mychajlowycz and Patricia Yacob.
One of the more interesting applications of AI today is a field called generative design, where a machine is fed oodles of data and asked to come up with hundreds or thousands of designs that meet specific criteria. It is, essentially, an exercise in divergent potential.For example, when the architecture-software firm Autodesk wanted to design a new office, it asked its employees what they wanted from the ideal workplace: How much light? Or privacy? Or open space? Programmers entered these survey responses into the AI, and the generative-design technology produced more than 10,000 different blueprints. Then human architects took their favorite details from these computer-generated designs to build the world’s first large-scale office created using AI.“Generative design is like working with an all-powerful, really painfully stupid genie,” said Astro Teller, the head of X, the secret research lab at Google’s parent company Alphabet. That is, it can be both magical and mind-numbingly over-literal. So I asked Teller where companies could use this painfully dense genie. “Everywhere!” he said. Most importantly, generative design could help biologists simulate the effect of new drugs without putting sick humans at risk. By testing thousands of variations of a new medicine in a biological simulator, we could one day design drugs the way we design commercial airplanes—by exhaustively testing their specifications before we put them in the air with several hundred passengers.
AI’s divergent potential is one of the hottest subjects in the field. This spring, several dozen computer scientists published an unusual paper on the history of AI. This paper was not a work of research. It was a collection of stories—some ominous, some hilarious—that showed AI shocking its own designers with its ingenuity. Most of the stories involved a kind of AI called machine learning, where programmers give the computer data and a problem to solve without explicit instructions, in the hopes that the algorithm will figure out how to answer it.
First, an ominous example. One algorithm was supposed to figure out how to land a virtual airplane with minimal force. But the AI soon discovered that if it crashed the plane, the program would register a force so large that it would overwhelm its own memory and count it as a perfect score. So the AI crashed the plane, over and over again, presumably killing all the virtual people on board. This is the sort of nefarious rules-hacking that makes AI alarmists fear that a sentient AI could ultimately destroy mankind. (To be clear, there is a cavernous gap between a simulator snafu and SkyNet.)
If you are an alcoholic who consciously wants to stop drinking but can’t; a heavy drinker who never gives any thought to whether or not you are drinking too much, or a social drinker who believes that drinking is important, compelling you to continue with the addiction – these 8 reasons will convince you to …
If you are an alcoholic who consciously wants to stop drinking but can’t; a heavy drinker who never gives any thought to whether or not you are drinking too much, or a social drinker who believes that drinking is important, compelling you to continue with the addiction – these 8 reasons will convince you to quit drinking the poison right away, come what may.
Alcohol Causes Cancer
American Cancer Society says the amount of alcohol consumed over time, not the type of alcoholic beverage, is the most important factor in raising cancer risk. Alcohol is a known cause of cancers of the Mouth, Throat (pharynx), Voice box (larynx), Esophagus, Liver, Colon and Rectum, Breast, and Pancreas. For each of these cancers, the risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, alcoholism can lead to malnutrition [because alcohol suppresses the appetite], which leads to inadequate intake and absorption of food and nutrients. For this reason, even heavy drinkers who consume high levels of nutrient-rich food, fail to get the full benefit of those nutrients.
Alcohol Affects B-12 Absorption
Drinking alcohol, even in moderation, can have profound effects on the way your body absorbs vitamin B-12, the deficiency of which leads to heart attack and stroke, megaloblastic anemia, fatigue, shortness of breath, tingling and numbness in the extremities, headache, dementia, disorientation, loss of concentration and memory, and even death.
Alcohol Destroys Liver – Forever
Between 10 and 20% of heavy drinkers develop liver cirrhosis – severe scarring and disruption of the normal structure of the liver not reversible with abstinence. Alcohol abuse is one of the three most common causes of cirrhosis of the liver in the US; according to the National Institutes of Health, liver cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death by disease.
Alcohol Is A Depressant
Some people use alcohol to calm their nerves, to soothe their anxiety and to relieve stress. But alcohol is not a medication. Alcohol is a depressant, which actually worsens anxiety by changing the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain; that’s why some people feel more anxious after the alcohol wears off.
Alcohol can damage the inner lining of the stomach, the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder; alter the structure and function of the gastrointestinal tract; and lead to abdominal discomfort, stomachaches, heartburn, and acid reflux.
Alcohol Affects Sleep Quality
While many drinkers would argue that alcohol helps them fall asleep a little faster, researchers at the University of Melbourne have found that alcohol just before sleep can lead to poorer quality slumber. You’re more likely to wake up during the night, and may not feel as rested following your sleep.
“People tend to feel that alcohol helps them fall asleep a little quicker, and therefore people associated that with helping them sleep. But when you actually go and look at what is happening while they sleep, the quality of that sleep isn’t good.”
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. But with alcohol, the line between “moderate use” and “dangerous use” can be a thin one.
Summary: A new study reports people living in areas with more sun light have lower rates of OCD.
Source: Binghamton University.
Living at higher latitudes, where there is also less sunlight, could result in a higher prevalence rate of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.
“The results of this project are exciting because they provide additional evidence for a new way of thinking about OCD,” said Meredith Coles, professor of psychology at Binghamton University. “Specifically, they show that living in areas with more sunlight is related to lower rates of OCD.”
To compile their data, Coles and her research team read through many papers that addressed OCD prevalence rates in certain places and then recorded the latitudes of each location.
Individuals with OCD commonly report not being able to fall asleep until later than desired. Often times, they will then sleep in very late in order to compensate for that lost sleep, thus adopting a delayed sleep-wake pattern that may have adverse effects on their symptoms.
Individuals with OCD commonly report not being able to fall asleep until later than desired. Often times, they will then sleep in very late in order to compensate for that lost sleep, thus adopting a delayed sleep-wake pattern that may have adverse effects on their symptoms. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
“This delayed sleep-wake pattern may reduce exposure to morning light, thereby potentially contributing to a misalignment between our internal biology and the external light-dark cycle,” said Coles. “People who live in areas with less sunlight may have less opportunities to synchronize their circadian clock, leading to increased OCD symptoms.”
This misalignment is more prevalent at higher latitudes – areas where there is reduced exposure to sunlight – which places people living in these locations at an increased risk for the development and worsening of OCD symptoms. These areas subsequently exhibit higher lifetime prevalence rates of the disorder than areas at lower latitudes.
While it is too soon to implement any specific treatment plans based on this new information, future studies are in the works to test a variety of treatment methods that address sleep and circadian rhythm disruptions.
“First, we are looking at relations between sleep timing and OCD symptoms repeatedly over time in order to begin to think about causal relationships,” said Coles. “Second, we are measuring circadian rhythms directly by measuring levels of melatonin and having people wear watches that track their activity and rest periods. Finally, we are conducting research to better understand how sleep timing and OCD are related.”
Additionally, the team of researchers hopes that further study exploring exposure to morning light could help develop new treatment recommendations that would benefit individuals with OCD.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone