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Antitheistic. Long. Perplexing. Offensive. Whatever.

Warning: This blog does not cater to your whims. If you are offended, then I am not obliged to care. It ain't personal until otherwise stated.

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Illusion of Freewill – A Reality Check for Apologists of Monopolised Marketing


As of late, the fringe-movement on the internet is getting overwhelmed by 'individualist' and 'self-responsibility' hysteria, touted by self-important, elitist pin-heads who are riding high on their own hubris. These self-appointed wise folk, in the throes of their own arrogance, seem to think that all the modern-day afflictions suffered by the masses due to bad decision making are by and large a fault of their own greedy, malfunctioning freewill as opposed to that special field of consumer behaviourism that is dedicated to conceiving ideas that have a subconscious bearing on human behaviour, also known as marketing.

In these individuals' simplistic reality, psychologists and social-engineers have no real place or right of existence. No one can really be manipulated, and we're all subject to the perils of our own free thinking. Free thinking has become one hilarious oxymoron. There is no room for arguing against the possibility of true freewill, despite the fact that each and every so-called individual is subject to a substantial level of conditioning from day one under a certain cultural, societal, and personal set of parameters – it's an inescapable reality (Lafave, 2006). I used to bitch about religion in a similar manner, but having gone through literature and debate after debate with people who are a bit more informed on the subject than some fringe-bloggers with an overinflated sense of authority, I found my position to be child-like and naïve. Everything is a stimulus and can thus, be used to manipulate and condition an individual to behave a certain way if any party knows how to exploit this interaction between organism and environment to their benefit (McSweeney & Bierley, 1984, p. 619).

This doesn't mean that I have abandoned my atheism, or my critical view of dogma. I still maintain that certain types of religion, and certain degrees of practically any religion, are the most heinous form of conditioning, as the ability to adapt or change due to new exposure becomes overwhelmingly limited (Saeed & Saeed, 2004, p. 02). I do deal with shades of grey and distinguish between various levels of certain evils before denouncing something outright. However, this philosophical principle doesn't change the fact that we are indeed manipulated, directly and indirectly, which can have far-reaching impact on our behaviour and decision making. This is only a natural product of being human while under the crushing force of information overload. Problem arises when individuals, organisations, groups, congregations, cults etcetera, decide to use such factors as a means to control people through calculating methods that distort their perceptions, and incite a certain kind of behaviour that will serve to benefit said group's agenda. It's a very interesting subject, and one that merits great lengths of discussion, not pathetic trivialisation attempts followed by repetitive apologies for the commercial culture that is chewing up the insides of our craniums faster than a bad case of gangrene.

Unfortunately, I find that before even daring to engage many of these amateur philosophers on such a sensitive subject – who really do express their elitist indignation with much aggression – perhaps I should beat them over the head with a copy of Skinner's 'Beyond Freedom and Dignity'. I'd ask 'em to read, but what I've found with this here lovely internet is that people are very busy talking past one another rather than devoting some quality time to first, shutting the fuck up, and second, taking in information, and analysing the contents internally. You see, I just find it incredibly alarming and troublesome when supposedly well-read individuals actually have the audacity to downplay and understate the impact of marketing and mass-media techniques, and their role as crucial elements in the habit-formation of individuals. It is atrocious thinking that absolutely spits in the face of so many maladies we face in the modern world (Harris, Bronwell, Bargh, 2010).

Yeah, sure. . . My doctorate friend – who only follows classical Enlgish literature as his cultural outlet – manages to produce a daughter who naturally gravitates to Miley Cyrus. It had nothing to do with the massive hours she spent watching Hannah Montana and associated Disney commercialism that drove her to chose such mind-numbing shit as her recreational stimuli, despite the fact that she started off as a Hannah Montana fan while watching that vomit-fest, and then progressed to the status of a Miley Cyrus fan. Hell, I was into Superman as a toddler because that shit was being forced on all of us; it was only my rather unconventional childhood cognitive dissonance because of which I found myself exploring darker themes and anti-heroes as opposed to one-dimensional clichés. So don't give me this bullshit that because I was fully aware of my choice on a very superficial level as an individual that it should be taken to mean that I had some metaphysical element that gravitated to Superman. It was a fucking marketed concept, and like the majority, I bought into the concept since it was designed and marketed with a certain appeal technique in mind! It worked! It was successful! Now imagine if these techniques are cross-transferred to other fields to achieve similar commercial ends, but at the cost of serious health risks. Oh, it can happen! And it does happen, otherwise the marketing world would evaporate overnight. Why the fuck don't people understand this shit?!” – Anecdotal Anomaly


An achievement in absolute ignorance has been met when we have people downplaying the notion that children are indeed very avid learners through repetition, and that an industry is built on this idea, including a splinter industry that seeks to exploit this idea; why else are members of the APA so caught up on the moral overtones of the subject matter (Clay, 2000, p. 52)? My lovely wife and I have no issues getting our kids to live a certain way and eat a certain way, and we're one of those very young parents who're typically underestimated on grounds of the age and experience factor, yet we've managed fine so far into the game. You see, our children get the illusion of freewill by being presented with a choice of picking between healthy choice A, or healthy choice B – thinking inside our own little makeshift Skinner Box where we don't even need to censor marketing. This is possible due to proactive strategies invoked from early days; anything on the idiot box is downplayed, so the children have a habitual tendency not to take much of it seriously to the point of influence. Of course, they're still young, so we do have an advantage at play, but I've seen my share of individuals on an equal footing who've done a splendid job at spoiling and screwing up the perception of their children.

Yes, they're free to chose, in theory, but between what? Under a preconditioned bias that we've instilled; they're left with two fucking arbitrary choices that we've picked for them, while limiting any other options. We've confined them to our preferred options from the very nature of the fixture, and added safeguards to negate the effect of certain types of external stimuli. This is an accurate and microcosmic representation of the greater picture because our information and options are indeed contingent upon a very concentrated and cross-linked media and commercial sector that don't even hide their – on the surface – symbiotic relationship (Wikipedia, 2012). People's perceptions can be distorted with clever marketing techniques, and their primary and accessible alternative is still limited to other branches of the same mainstream media, which treads very softly around these issues, and sometimes shares mutual goals with the marketing party, thus leaving the end-user – the individual – the consumer, more confused and prone to accepting the 'tacky' salesmanship of the bad marketed idea in the first place.

Critical thinking has indeed taken a back seat these days, and it's even more uncritical when I see some elitist dunces insist that the burden of being critical hangs squarely on the individuals who fall prey to clever marketing, or the people responsible for said individual. This is just naïve, ignorant, and asinine as quite a bit of any individual's present perception and social attitudes of others is highly contingent on a variety of social, climatic, and cultural factors that are deeply entwined with the market forces at play – this is the fuckin' 21st century, last time I checked. So the most reasonable – the most pragmatic – avenue is to assist in the empowerment of the individual, while also making certain that marketing tactics don't completely go rogue in this free market utopia that never really came to pass when we consider the fallout of labelled idiots falling prey to bad agendas, and apologists defending the agendas as benign elements while shifting the full blame on to the ignorance of the victim, also known as, 'the labelled idiot'.

It's even more disturbing how some of these free market zealots seem to shape their entire argument around an outdated constitution and ideals of freedom. I find it utterly nonsensicle when I hear someone declare that these elements can never be wrong and hold no such potential, and so the fault is in the execution. One could apply such a vague rationale to practically any ideology. Even Islamists and Jihadists believe the same to be true of Islamic legislation. So whenever I hear this tripe about freedom and constitution, I see a disturbing pathology at play, one that benefits no one other than these holier than thou anarchists in denial who really wouldn't be able to handle real freedom should all sense of order finally break down.

So I leave us with a classic video below, and an added note that it isn't always a matter of government versus business, as most simpletons like to present it in the argumentative picture. It's also not a case of how government is somehow the core evil that corrupts business. Look at the present model: they're both very equal partners – if not business having the upper hand – in a very dubious relationship. Both institutions of power and authority gaining increasing hold, while the apathetic masses – who should be keeping both in check – are at each others throats over a century long debate about quite possibly the most stupefying false dichotomy that has ever existed. Power is power, be it private or public – keep it in check, shit heads! A lot of present government, its goals, and its agendas, are grossly sponsored by corporate entities. It's wise to distinguish where required, but it's also wise to sometimes see the sheer overlaps that exist between both domains. Of course, we can also pretend that lobbying doesn't exist, just to continue living by our own constricted ignorance, because after all, the present market demand of idiocy is real high.


I end this post with the following clip from a video by the late and great, Bill Hicks. . .



And a quote of mine. . . Just because!



Freedom is only an abstract illusion, and to truly honour this illusion and achieve any remote sense of freedom, we must first start by honestly acknowledging that our actions, motives, and goals are heavily directed by a long concatenation of circumstances and events from the past. Then, and only then, can we move towards actually doing something about altering the environment or circumstances to bring about productive change for ourselves. Freedom comes foremost from the humility of acknowledging just how limited we are in the grand fixture at the initial stages.” - Closing Thoughts



References


Lafave - West Valley College, S. (2006, November 8). Free Will and Determinism. Free Will and Determinism. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/FREE.HTM

McSweeney, F. K., & Bierley, C. (1984). Recent Developments in Classical Conditioning. Journal of Consumer Research, 11(2), 619.

Saeed, A., & Saeed, H. (2004). Introduction. Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam. (p. 2). Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.

Harris, J. L., Bronwell, K. D., & Bargh, J. A. (2010, February 23). The Food Marketing Defense Model: Integrating Psychological Research to Protect Youth and Inform Public Policy. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2826802/

Clay, R. A. (2000, September). Advertising to children: Is it ethical?. American Psychological Association. 31(8), 52. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep00/advertising.aspx

Wikipedia (2012, June 9). Concentration of Media. Wikipedia. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentration_of_media_ownership

Monday, June 18, 2012

Another Lesson in Middle Eastern Demo(Hypo)crisy

This will be a quick but early entry, which really does break the general procrastination ethic that I slacked so torpidly to establish over the course of the last seven years.

In the last entry, I spent good time discussing – with brutal honesty – some of the underlying issues that accompany the idea of Middle Eastern democracies, and Libya was the central subject of the post. Today, we hail the latest update from the Middle Eastern disaster zone by addressing the election update in Egypt. Perhaps I should focus on something a bit more relevant and of immediate concern, such as the Greek elections and how the whole situation has such a powerful bearing on the Eurozone crisis, but I think there's a worthwhile lesson – through repetition – to be learnt from what happened in Egypt as it aptly demonstrates what happens in nations that have a tumultuous history with that ideological disease known as Islam-o-fascism – the hypocrisy of Islamic democracy.



A quote from The Guardian to start things off.

“Preliminary results have placed the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi on the verge of the Egyptian presidency, but a standoff between the expected election winners and the country's military authority appears inevitable.” (Abdel-Rahman Hussein, Mohammed Morsi claims victory for Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian election, 2012) 


This seems to be a common trend in most of the Middle East and other Islamic countries in Asia that I won't bother to name. A false dilemma that breathes new life into the classic saying, “between the devil and the deep sea.” It's a dire state of events that often tend to unfold in such manner when countries with even a moderately substantial Islamist population and political movement are democratised all over again. It's like a chaotic race to a finish line with these revolutions, because any psychotic, extremist regime can join in and lay claim to power under the righteous guise of a revolution looking to breathe 'new life' into the land. Unfortunately, yet another cliché can be invoked in this case; goes something like, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Another interesting twist that can take place, sometimes, is military intervention. We have another Islamic country with an infamously totalitarian military that has plenty of blood-shed and regional instability pegged to its reputation. This country also happens to struggle with consistent bouts of religious fundamentalism ever since one of its military dictators decided to 'protect its ideological borders' by transforming it into an Islamic state. To this day, the unnamed state continues to stagnate at the mercy of a power struggle between the military, corrupt political parties, and religious fundamentalism. Perhaps we can look upon all these countries that seem to have both elements of dictatorial malice – military dictators and religious zealots – and accept an underlying and often inconvenient reality that some nations might not be ready to fully handle the tools of democracy. . . at least not without a very thorough international intervention to make sure the process goes through smoothly, and that the initial establishment of order isn't seized by the officious whims of backward barbarians or thugs in uniform.


Here's another excerpt from a Voice of America article.

“He (Mohammed Morsi) did not speak out against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces latest moves. But his supporters, along with liberals, activists and some more conservative Islamists decried the SCAF's actions as a "coup."" (Elizabeth Arrott, Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi Claims Win in Egyptian Election, 2012) 


As we can see, politics in this sphere is one muddy mess since progressives, and socially liberal folk can be found protesting alongside the very fanatics they want to overcome. How they ever manage to identify with fundamentalists is a mystery altogether that begs further investigation into such pathology, but I digress. Iran's already taught us a valuable lesson decades earlier about what happens when socialists and liberals decide to march forward alongside religious theocrats in support of a revolution: while they end up achieving the revolution, it is the theocrats who seize control and use their new found power to establish an Islamic state while purging it of all liberal thinking by either silencing their former allies, or outright eliminating their key players.

Perhaps this little stand-off in Egypt isn't such a bad thing; this indirect military coup might prevent religious zealots from making a bigger mess of a country that is in dire need of moving forward with a diverse public who would probably be incorrectly represented by a bunch of backward thinkers. Or maybe it'll all go to hell?! Unfortunately, this immediate issue is not crossing the mindset of the masses at the moment since the bulk of the local ire and indignation is being channelled at the SCAF and their control of the Egyptian constitution; even the liberals are marching alongside the zealots -- never mind the idea that without the SCAF débâcle, the country could  potentially transform into an even scarier Draconian state overnight.


“When will the social liberals of the Middle East ever learn? The self-righteous Islamists are not their natural allies!” – A Reoccurring Thought


Although at the end of the day, we're still left with what is a futile exercise in democracy, taking place in a region that has shown a repeated historical tendency towards democratic failure with regard to social progress and basic secular reform. These are the kind of essential elements that would allow a suppressed nation's starved public to finally breathe the wonders of basic, civic, and decent human freedoms of choice and speech that are simply unheard of in the stifling Islamic world. Without these elements being realised, democracy is nothing more than a battered road to hell.

While I agree with the belief that democracy is indeed a slow and delicate process, I also believe that it requires a certain level of social initiative and situational awareness in order to be put into action and remain protected from hostile elements.

The following from the Voice of America article, repeated again.

“But his (Mohammed Morsi) supporters, along with liberals, activists. . .”

The quote above demonstrates an acute absence of the kind of situational awareness that is key to realising a healthy and humane democracy. Instead of calling this an exercise in futility, I should, instead, call it a fucking demonstration of repeated failure on the part of some individuals whose egos and influence far exceed their depth in important matters.


All the best to Egypt in the future; it's certainly got its own share of mounting struggles given the nature of the present stand-off. Perhaps the actual people -- not just those representing the voting turn out -- should step out of their cowering zones and consider genuine alternatives to the same old redundancy of being caught between theocratic barbarians and autocratic dictatorial elements – each one, representing a slightly distinct form of social repression and political condemnation with deep repercussions.




References


Hussein, A. (2012, June 18). Mohamed Morsi claims victory for Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt election. The Guardian. Retrieved June 18, 2012, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/18/mohamed-morsi-muslim-brotherhood-egypt

Arrott, E. (2012, June 18). Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi Claims Win in Egyptian Election.Voice of America. Retrieved June 18, 2012, from http://www.voanews.com/content/muslim-brotherhood-claims-win-in-egypt/1212261.html


Friday, June 15, 2012

Looking Back at Libya – Which Country do We Fuck-Up This Year?


It's been about a year since Libya was 'liberated', and I use the word liberated very loosely in this statement as it was anything but a genuine liberation of the people, who are in dire need of refuge from their own dogmatic thinking before they can even begin to comprehend the concept of freedom of conscience that we all take for granted. In my view, any country that takes steps – even through manipulated will – backwards towards theocratic reform and outdated religious legislation as the fundamental law of the land, is not liberated – it is condemned to generations of misery and social regression.

In the case of Libya, I was one of those utterly disinterested cynics, but I was constantly reminded of the underlying error of such thinking by an old friend of mine who often says, “democracy is a delicate process that runs on slow wheels.” Regardless of my legitimate issues with what's gone down in Libya, I should make my position clear; my friend, who goes by the online alias, 'Fate', is very correct about the essential and steady nature of democracy – it's a process that requires time and effort. Unfortunately, I think that Libya's not on this course and headed in quite the opposite direction.


Note: I would like to say that ideally, it would've been nice had Libya taken on a true democratic course, because I admire my friend's view of democracy, even if I'm a bit cynical about the whole process these days; that is my own burden to bear and not a rational or practical outlook. Please, feel free to explore Fate's blog; he's got expert knowledge on a wide range of subjects, and is now developing stock investment strategies as a part-time hobby. What a ninja bad-ass, right?


The problem with the Libyan revolution, as with most Middle Eastern revolutions, is two fold. Firstly, these revolutions are usually spearheaded by the muscle and aggression of religious fundamentalists. Secondly, usually, it is these very people that end up securing majority power and establishing Draconian state laws that purge any chance for the society to achieve genuine process of democracy. Under such regimes that almost permanently transform the constitution landscape of a nation, with time, future generations are raised under the myopic ignorance of theocratic Islam and this kind of conditioning is a life-long curse for many who become doomed to pass it on to following generations.

Social engineers and psychologists already understand this phenomenon of fundamental conditioning through isolation and stern indoctrination at an early age, as it is seen quite effectively in the dynamics within extreme cults that perpetrate their agendas through multiple generations. This isn't an exaggeration, and I don't believe it needs citation; Islamic countries have a very narrow educational curriculum to compliment their narrow world view that is designed to protect the image and vestige of Islam and its embarrassment of a prophet with some of the most outrageous and biased philosophies, along with selective and skewed historical literature. This carefully slanted indoctrination is ingrained into children from a very early age through rule of law and the supposed 'education systems'. This is also a common sense strategy that has always been employed by Islamic states throughout history because it's effective at controlling people long term as it is awfully hard to escape fundamental conditioning (Levine, 1979).


In the case if Libya, there's nothing more defeating to the people than to have them herald a backward terrorist as their military commander and saviour upon being liberated (BBC, 2012). Abdel Hakim Belhadj is the fucking proverbial oxymoron for the word 'freedom', until and unless the world's become one confusing poetic metaphor, and freedom is taken to mean, 'free to be condemned'. At the whimsy of this man, and others like him, who continue to perpetuate the dazzling oxymoron of freedom through Islamic dominance, we now have a Libya that has taken even further leaps back in time into the dark dingy embrace of Islamic legislation (Spencer, 2011).

It's quite ironic how alternative music, rap, hip-hop, and youth culture helped drive dissent against an opportunistic scum bag like Gaddafi, only to hand over even greater power and naïve public confidence into the hands of genuine mad men who think they're furthering the agenda of one of the most pissed off tooth fairies with extreme holy righteousness. It'll be both sad, yet interesting to watch the eventual curbing of underground music and peaceful, passive, and artistic forms of dissent against the state because new wave and post-modern music is considered 'unislamic' and will therefore, be banished by some supreme clerics exercising the will of a silent, impotent God.

If only democracy was as simple as freeing the people and then allowing them to pick the humane and rational choice for all; not just their majority dogma/consensus, but also the minority who might not necessarily observe the same values. By allowing Islam, an archaic ideology, to take the place of what should be the will of the modern people, Libya is now going to pay a heavy sociological price down the road, but the far reaching consequences won't end with Libya.

I've already discussed this with another colleague who I used to work with from time to time, and she expressed this rather typically conservative desire that we as British, should just openly confess our intentions and exploit such conflicts to our advantage without making any apologies. Problem here is that we have yet to achieve any real benefit from Libya; hell, we already have one of their fanatical authority figures ready to sue us (Greenhill, 2011), and worse yet, once this state develops that confused and culturally backward conditioned identity, we'll also have another terrorist export site to worry about next to the other wonderful intervention disasters that we've created over the course of the last fifty or so years.


“Since we're always so eager spend even more money, time, resources, and blood, towards fixing shit that we've either started at some point in history, or shit that actually doesn't even need to be fixed, we usually end up having more shit on our hands and suffer the eventual fallout. Perhaps it's more appropriate that we revise the use of terminology and update it to a more honest, 'how to fuck shit up.' So, what country do we fuck up this year?” - Closer


I close this on a much sarcastic toast to a reality check and to realising that we are royally fucked, when in 2007, Donald Trump managed to grasp certain simple concepts of regional politics and stability that even our present political leaders remain ignorant of in pursuit of their ulterior motives, backed by emotional appeals and logical fallacies that they serve, ad nauseum, to a rather disenfranchised and distrustful public. So much for the sanctity and preservation of our own democratic culture when political leaders are full of shit and the trust between public and the government they create to serve their interests has all but completely gone to hell; irony is indeed an elusive and sometimes bitter form of humour that becomes hard to swallow when the joke comes at terrible expense. . . or reality checks.



References


Levine (1979). Role of Psychiatry in the Phenomenon of Cults. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 24(7).

BBC (2012, April 18). Profile: Libyan rebel commander Abdel Hakim Belhadj. BBC News. Retrieved June 15, 2012, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14786753

Spencer, R. (2011, October 23). Libya's liberation: interim ruler unveils more radical than expected plans for Islamic law. The Telegraph. Retrieved June 15, 2012, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8844819/Libyas-liberation-interim-ruler-unveils-more-radical-than-expected-plans-for-Islamic-law.html


Greenhill, S. (2011, September 6). Torture victim to sue Britain: Libyan rebel leader could be in line for £1million payout. The Daily Mail. Retrieved June 15, 2012, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2034114/Libyan-rebel-leader-Abdel-Hakim-Belhadj-line-1m-payout.html