Sunday, August 2, 2015

Considering "Free Will" (and bacon): Towards a Moral Meaning in a Physical Context

Freedom of will is the lack of any restraints upon a human being's highest potential to understand and operate upon himself, his body, and his environment, including other people, as long as this exercise of his will does not inhibit anyone else's whose exercise does not inhibit his, and who are of the same moral essence.

I think I've removed all obstacles to understanding except for the last part of this working definition of "free will".  It is clear that in a social context we must understand our freedom of will as being jointly operative with the freedom of the wills of others who are, presumably, human beings like ourselves.  We also do not assume, out of hand, that any person we see is evil without proper evidence, just as we do not assume that others are criminals, or even outright foes of ourselves.

We don't assume, therefore, that other humans in society are: 

not human

not good

not civil

not friendly

We assume, at the very least, that they may be:





That's easy enough to understand.  We don't assume they are incapable of being enemies, of being criminals, of being evil, or even of being something that only appears human but in fact is not.  We don't, if we are honest and logical, assume anything other than that they may be either one, but as long as there is not evidence to the contrary, we'll give others the benefit of the doubt.

We do that because according to appearances they don't seem to be otherwise than the positive terms listed. At least as far as appearance are supposed  to be (barring accidents of appearance and failure to maintain proper appearances) and as far as our faculties are supposed to be when at their optimal potential (barring autonomous failures to keep these up, and barring interference or sabotage by others). In this ideal case we would be, in most lights, considered "sane" in our attribution of beneficence, or at least of benign neutrality, toward others.

And let's be frank for a second here: there isn't enough benign neutrality in the world, is there? But let me not get off on a rant...

If people turn out to appear in a bad light, we can better inspect, without any undue suspicion, and without any impropriety in our doing so, in most cases. If it turns out that often such things are cleared up as "pure accidents", that there is some "error" in their conduct, in our perception (or other mental process), or in the "chance" combination of these factors, then we have just reinforced our trust, and verified empirically the value of our society and our good faith in one another, in not only this case, but in a way that may be generalized.

This may go on and on, in an upward spiral, according to the mathematical laws of human interactions in time and space.  This would, over time, generate a set of customs and mores, cultural artifacts, which would interact with the members of society who are their living avatars. That's sociology and anthropology 101. Institutions are simply the organized, official embodiments of these social values, so as to better ensure and manifest their continued existence and refinement.

None of that is controversial in the bare bones, abstract survey undertaken here.  So when things only appear to go wrong, in essence, they go wrong only in appearance.  We would like that not to happen, but it may be that we lose more than we gain in trying to make such things impossible. After all, they are opportunities to be reassured and strengthened in our social values, not things to feared. They would even be the stuff of joy and humor.  Then, in the world where good faith is rewarded, they'd be a resource.  Society at its very worst would then be a source of joy and humor for its members, and stock in Mentos would go through the roof.  And Mentos would be healthy for you, as well.  They'd be multivitamins which fortified the body and amplified the highest faculties of the human mind like some sort of super-nootropics.

A society like that barely exists in commercials and artistic fancies, and we can plainly see the irony in that fact, since such presentations paint a picture of how our society is not (and how people are not) in the course of supposedly doing us a favor by offering us something we should like to include in our lives, whether as a good, a service, or an idea or aesthetic experience.

There are in fact many pointers of irony, which all show that there is a great gulf between the substance of things as they are, and they way in which they are presented.  Whether presented directly or by way of reference, things are made to appear a lot more like many would say they "should" be, and real life experiences give us ample evidence of every kind that they are, in substance, not nearly that at all. Worse, empirical evidence suggests that there is a very sinister reason for this, and for the fact that this has been sustained so very long. 

Imagine any horror movie involving a family, just take The Adam's Family and remove all the humor and make all the violence and cruelty unflinchingly real.  Then paint over this the imagery of Leave It to Beaver.  Make the technique and style of painting clumsy and tacky. That is the sort of gulf which I say exists between what society now is, and how it goes on pretending it is.  What is almost inexplicable, almost, is how this charade continues without anyone just standing up and calling it what it is!

But that is evidence in and of itself of what all this is.  A charade so compelling, played upon an audience of participants who are so debilitated and/or motivated in their involvement, that it will continue generation after generation until "something breaks".  And when it breaks there will be disasters, and these will be swiftly found to advantage by the system of delusion which has already shaped society and the consciousness of those within it so that they will adapt to these disasters, as will the institutions which are carefully warped so as to support this process.

So, looking at this picture, we are far from a "freedom of will" for most people, unless we redefine most people as being moral troglodytes with low cognitive ability! Perhaps I should leave room here for ironic reflection...

But if most people were stupid and wretched knaves who carried on with indifference to their own stupidity, wretchedness and knavery, that would sort of understandable, given the circumstances.  If they were this by nature, then yes, platitudes and ideals could be plastered over everything, they could be told and showed anything, and no matter what the contradictions and implications, they'd be happy being wage slaves in a world of absolutely wicked exploitation and relentless domination.  As I said before, it's not a delimitation of their faculties, and hence not a limitation coerced upon their freedom of will, if their faculties are already low in nature and not being exercised regardless!

And in some sense, the theory of the "consent of the enslaved and exploited" rings true here.  These are "pigs that want to be eaten"! I wouldn't want to be a PETA commando trying rescue or even document the abuses in a bacon factory if the pigs themselves demanded the right to be processed into bacon there, and if they'd attack me at the behest of the staff of that facility.  And as to the strange peasants of this world in which I exist rather unmetaphorically (unfortunately), I am not doing that here, either. Hal Herzog was making a point about the duplicity of human attitudes about suffering (or their indifference about it), in the context of how we treat animals. I'm making a point about humans as being in some form these very animals, and the irony of the fact that they can also treat other animals they way they treat each other (and are systematically treated by institutions and covert agents and groups), and yet not get this point at all.

But nevertheless, it is a VERY STRANGE PICTURE, indeed.  Humans that want to be enslaved?! Who yet also want to blather on out of their mouths meaningless prattle about "being free"? They want everyone to "be good" and "do right", but haven't the first clue what real Goodness is, or how to verify that something is Right, is as it should be. These aren't arbitrary claims, these are the summary indications of a massive array of brute facts!  People want to act friendly, but the totality of their mindsets and actions, to include impactful inactions and unminding, makes one understand that "with friends like these, who needs enemies?"

Well, if in fact their nature is just this way, then that makes for an even stranger situation.  They really are the proverbial pigs, and they not only want to be eaten, but they yell "eat me", both as an insult and as a joke on top of that! Whew!! It is beyond surreal. But if that really is their nature... then at least it explains their behavior and the system of brutality which has been very pragmatically foisted over them.

What of the "pigs" that don't want to be eaten?  They'd be the exception to the rule, the anomaly. There's no "proper name" for them, for they only appear to be "normal pigs" (who want to be eaten) but they are actually different entities that have only a pseudo-pig status.  They don't have the properly pig nature... They'd be accused of being oddities, perhaps even deformed, given to some dysfunctionality to be classified as a "disorder" or "disease".  They've got don't-want-to-be-eaten disease!  It is a genetically caused proclivity to be unreceptive to normal pig conditions of existence, and to suddenly see being eaten as bad.  Perhaps it is something which is triggered by some traumatic experience which activates the DNA improperly, DNA which would normally elicit any range of positive, or at least neutral responses to the prospect of becoming bacon or pork chops.  But perhaps it is because they are mutants.

Either way, there is no denying that these creatures look stranger than their fellows for looking strange at all, because if one looks at the overlying array of cultural artifacts in the culture of the so-called "normal" pigs, you'd think they all didn't want to be eaten at all!  The point of all their laws, all their art, all their inventions, all their endeavors and hobbies, suggest that being eaten wasn't at all what they had in mind or wanted.  But then when it comes time to get butchered, it is like a spell comes over them and they are just fine with it.  Or perhaps they aren't, but they're just fine with going along with, even helping with the creation of the conveyor belts, the hooks, the saws, the packaging equipment, etc.  They get along fine with the staff, or even ignore them entirely.  They may even worship them or at least show them varying degrees of deference.  They happily take "jobs" cleaning up their own filth and blood, and are proud to keep their bodies as healthy and strong as possible. Then when it all comes together into the result which was intended by all these preparations (by their butchers), they may react as if they had a problem with this.  But then it is far too late and it doesn't really matter.  After all, they can be shown contracts and documents with their little pig foot stamps of approval basically declaring themselves duty-bound to reach this result. They praised this as their highest goal by accepting all manner of programming through culture which basically said as much, on the pretext that its was "only entertainment".

“Good evening,” it lowed and sat back heavily on its Sausage Suicide Foodhaunches, “I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in parts of my body?” (Quote from From Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
Why at the last minute are they not entertained?  "Just a normal response at this point," they'd venture.  But it's not as if the pigs offered any structured or meaningful resistance up to that point! They basically paved the way to it! Now if anything else in the universe were busy digging its own grave, later to willingly lay in it, and then find nothing wrong with heaps of dirt being thrown upon it until it started to run out of air, we'd have to suspect that it was an accidental feature of its behavior, one which was overruled by the processes which overwhelmingly brought it this point, which were the processes that its preponderant and hence "normal" behavior all supported.

But pigs are one thing.  We are supposed to be able to understand what we are doing and understand the implications even when, especially when higher cognitive functions are employed in systematic and goal-directed accomplishments, and pigs are not supposed to be able to actively and thoughtfully collude in their own slaughter.  Neither type of entity is supposed to be indifferent to its being slaughtered, or of its fellow beings being slaughtered, nor toward those who slaughter them.  But humans are supposed to be able to see what their actions, and inactions, are creating for themselves. They are at least supposed to be able to understand such things when they are laid out for them clearly. They generally do not.  And even when they do, they are, mostly, unconcerned.  And even when concerned, they don't want to get too much, if anything, done about it. But I would argue that if the slaughterers would claim it is "normal" for a pig in their facility to struggle at the last minute, even though they laid the groundwork for that situation with all their effort before, then it is different for human beings.  But human beings make this argument difficult for me by their own example!

If a human being can talk and think all day long about "free will", but not see that they have been involved in an undertaking that results in their exploitation, then they must either admit that they can't see such things, or that they don't care.  If they don't care, then they are truly humans that want to be exploited, and they freely choose this upon being properly informed.  But if this is the case, then it is not important to hide such facts or other evidence from them which would let them know this.  We live in a society where such facts are, in key ways, hidden from the populace.

It is clear that humans do talk about matters that, if made cogent and then focused properly, delineate the fact that they are being crudely exploited, but it is clear that they either cannot make these matters cogent and properly focused (alone or with help), or that in fact they don't care to do so and de facto "cannot". Given what they are usually up to instead, it is also clear that they probably will not, barring having no other of their current options which they prefer already (or similar alternatives to them). Out of stubborn habit, out of learned inability and demotivation, or out of simple incapacity, they do not and will not consider the implications of any facts and truths which indicate that they are being exploited in many ways.  Unless you are starving them (and they can feel it), or hurting them directly (and it has pain directly associated with it), they can't seem to see past their noses, neither cognitively nor ethically.

That's a grim enough situation right there.  Pull out the classics in every field of knowledge, prepare a course based upon them which teaches students that they are being exploited and in what ways. Show modern evidence from all sources (including their own experience), and even if you managed to drag 2% through the whole course, maybe 2% of those will take something meaningful away from their education and use it properly in their lives and the world.  But is it all merely owing "to their inherent nature"?  The facts in the course would literally tell them that the conditions of exploitation include a process which ensures that their primary nature would be suppressed even if their primary nature would not allow this exploitation willingly.  They'd be shown that this would be instituted and reinforced by their own participation by gross force at first, but with covert elements concerning the larger agenda and especially as to the science of nullifying their primary nature.  Over time and intergenerationally, it would be made more and more perfect and by some point in time these people would become thoroughly ingrained with a secondary nature which is such a total perversion of the primary nature that they'd not be able to function otherwise. 

So, per individual, it might even be said, by that point, that no direct and explicit action had been taken against their individual nature, especially not by any agent who acted without their informed consent. At least this would be arguable to them in court, and they'd not have a proper defense. It could be argued to them by anyone and they'd be unable to defend themselves rationally and with proper conviction. How can they accuse anyone of exploiting them?  But what if they stuck to the class and learned that under misleading terms they have been genetically modified over several generations for changing some proclivities, for warping them. And many generations for other proclivities.  That their cultures and even their languages had been similarly and conjointly altered, in tandem with the genetic modifications.  And that institutionalized trauma and miseducation, as well as outright poisoning and chemical conditioning occurred throughout their lives to assist in the process of their being subdued and controlled according to the exploitative agenda about which they are not directly informed, but concerning which they'd heeded no evidence nor properly voiced any objection, even if they bothered to suspect?

Did they not have the opportunity to "attend class"?  Did they heed the "information presented"? Did they put their knowledge "into practice"? If not, then by all indications, they "want" to be eaten, or at least exploited in a way that basically eats their life force and personhood away!

I'm not going to argue the specifics of this case here, as that would make this essay overlong. But there are many implications to make explicit, and which need to be drawn out in more detail. That will be done in the essays to follow.

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