This Experiment We're In

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In any experiment, the most difficult part of the exercise is getting the timing right. And the more complicated the recipe and the more explosive the reactants, the more important the timing. Burn me once, shame on you, burn me twice, shame on me, doesn't apply. In this experiment if you get it wrong the first time you die. This is the global warming argument. There is no control. We only get one shot.

 

And this is Israel's dilemma, the dilemma of all western nations. Gaza is a test case for how we will coexist with masses of people we deem to be incorrigible. The Israeli's saw how effective a self-run prison city could be in the Kurt Russell film, Escape from New York, and adapted a real-world, uncivilized approximation.

 

But what is civilized? I say we really don't know. We imagine we do, but until circumstances present us with the unique challenges of an age, we are only as civilized as we perceive the justness of our cause, since civilization and justice go hand-in-hand. And if we cannot convince people to accept justice, the justice we as the powerful offer, how can we get them to accept the fruits of our civilization? We can't.

 

So the experiment, the great purpose of the great experiment is to figure out how to get people who have lived so long without justice to want justice, and not just for their cause, but a greater sense of justice, the ideal of western, liberal democracy, where people share rights based on law, on the concept of the fair exchange, and the transparency of opportunity, not the limitations of tradition and superstition. And after defining what this justice will entail, its obligations and limitations in the peculiar realities of the societies to which it is adapted, allowing the most basic will of the people to be satisfied, the basic foundation for the development of a civilized society will be established.

 

Practice is a necessary evil. By failing we come to terms with the limits of the experiment. By altering the proportions, working in new ingredients, we discover new possibilities. But in playing with the recipe we risk leaving a worst taste.

 

This is the quandary of the experiment we're in. We know we need to practice to be better at this, but the petri dish available for our existential manipulation is a complicated and dangerous collection of volatile ingredients and remixing haphazardly has the very real potential to explode again in our collective faces. Look at the Arab Spring and how that turned fungal. Look at the liberated East, it's a jungle.

 

We see men, women, children, boatloads of them streaming out across treacherous waters seeking escape from the grip of destruction and deprivation, as terrorists make headway into our western strongholds, using planes, trains, and automobiles (trucks), rocks, sand, and spit, admit, they scream, admit what you have done and let us punish you. An eye for an eye. Aye, aye, I say. Right, like that will ever happen. You could never be so calloused.

 

The truth is that in this experiment we're in we deserve punishment. I have been part of the life style made possible by Middle Eastern oil. I have some hand in the way those people were treated, defeated, and cheated. It's a small hand, a teeny-tiny hand, a hand I am easily able to ignore. It might have been better if we'd done nothing, just sit on our hands and wait, but we didn't and in this experiment that's all that matters.

 

What can I do now, right now to help the world? I know that all change starts with personal responsibility. I know that justice starts with a voice raised in protest of abuse. I know that a better world starts with better people. I know that better people acknowledge where they've failed, even though they're not exactly sure why they failed to get the results anticipated. It's just one of the mysteries of life, the best made plans of mice and men, as we correct our experimental apparatus and begin another run.     

Comments

mark henry smith Added Aug 4, 2017 - 12:38pm
To my way of thinking, it's the experimental quality of existence that keeps it interesting, and I don't think most people are experimental enough.
George N Romey Added Aug 4, 2017 - 12:53pm
The Middle East has become the hotbed for exploitation.  Poorly educated people, massive income disparity, repressive regimes, centuries old skirmishes, etc.  There doesn't seem to be much of an end in sight.  I get the feeling the US will be bogged down in this part of the world for years to come.  Also, unfortunately the more advanced societies in that region just want to ignore the trouble and chaos around them.
 
JJ Montagnier Added Aug 4, 2017 - 1:06pm
Mark, I agree that the concept of justice is different from civilisation to civilisation. What you perceive as civilised behaviour I may perceive as barbarism - or vice versa. I think this is pretty much what happened when the early explorers or colonialists arrived on other continents and then applied their sense of justice (according to their sense of justice) to the peoples over there. 
 
In terms of: the ideal of western, liberal democracy, where people share rights based on law, on the concept of the fair exchange, and the transparency of opportunity, not the limitations of tradition and superstition...
 
I think people in the West often make the mistake to assume this is what other people want in practice. I know this is a very uncomfortable topic for many people, also on this site, but in practice people may ask for democracy when they are being oppressed, but then revert to the same behaviour after a while. 
(Current case in point: South Africa 23 years after democracy arrived). 
 
One could even go as far as saying (VERY controversially) that what is the point of giving people their freedom, if they are not able to refrain from turning into their oppressors? (This is a philosophical question, not my personal point of view, just to be clear - I believe all oppressed peoples SHOULD be freed from oppression, regardless). BUT: 
 
That's why we need a strong United Nations that would monitor new democracies for compliance with democratic and human rights standards. Unfortunately the UN has grown so weak, that it's presence is hardly evident anymore. 
 
The reason why people in power hold on to power for as long as possible: they are scared of retribution. South Africa had the opportunity to show to the world that after a Truth and Reconciliation Process, people can manage to work together on a common future, but they have more recently gone into an altogether different direction. There is silence amongst the nations about this, which makes me think that civilisation at large is failing. We have no universal values any more. 
 
At the end of the day we all just need to be more honest. The more honest we are the less hypocritical we would be, the fewer double-standards we would have, the less we would look away when atrocities happen, regardless of the community, faith, religion.
 
At the same time we should absolutely reject false victimhood and cultivate a sense of responsibility.
 
More than anything we need to cultivate introspection as a practice amongst the population/s at large to reduce denial and projection onto others to avoid responsibility. Perhaps then we would be able to return to civilisation. At the moment we are very close to barbarism. 
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Aug 4, 2017 - 1:16pm
Mark
 
We are what we are. That's all. And evolution won't make us a better species in the time we would need to survive as a species. I try my best, but I know that I'm the grain of sand I so often quote.
 
Homo Sapiens will be another footnote in the history of that planet.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Aug 4, 2017 - 1:16pm
BTW Marko: Good one :-)
Dino Manalis Added Aug 4, 2017 - 1:50pm
Peace and environmental protection aren't experiments, but common sense.  All people need peace; stability; and good economic conditions in their lives and we should strive for it at home and abroad.
John G Added Aug 4, 2017 - 8:30pm
If Gaza is the model then we are in a whole load of trouble. It is the signal fire of the inhumanity of the western ruling class and western hypocrisy and injustice. 
The UN has been neutered by the USA. It is weak because it has been weakened. The US and UK began the process of subverting it almost as soon as it was born.
Saint George Added Aug 5, 2017 - 12:42am
Your ignorance of the history of the middle east is as impressive as your ignorance of economic theory and monetary history. 
John G Added Aug 5, 2017 - 1:23am
Katharine Otto Added Aug 5, 2017 - 10:42am
Mark Henry,
Cooperation is an experiment that has not been tried.  I believe people know when they are being treated unfairly, but they may be afraid to speak up.  Instead, they repress their anger, turn passive-aggressive, or passive-resistant, and look to "leaders" who promise to right the wrongs.  
 
History is full of examples of "revolutions" that merely exchanged one repressive group of overlords for another.  As long as people buy into the social hierarchy notion, we are doomed to having injustice and competition for dominance.  I agree with JJ on many things, such as the importance of personal responsibility.  What we call "freedom" is too often "license," but "freedom," in my mind necessitates responsibility to self and others.  
 
I also agree about education, including the natural education that comes with experience.  Our view of "education," is too often more like "indoctrination" into a belief system that is limited, if not repressive.
 
"Leaders" need "followers," and this tends to create a situation of mob rule, with the leader merely a spokesperson for the group angst, acting on delegated power.  
 
Rights are not given but claimed.  That includes the right to say "no" to injustice.  You said somewhere that you have dropped out, but you still pay taxes. You probably know that with your taxes you are supporting the injustices you claim to abhor.  In the US it's impossible to avoid taxes, when you consider the various forms, but the less you own, work and spend, the less you pay in taxes.  That, according to me, is one method of fighting injustice.
 
Barath Nagarajan Added Aug 5, 2017 - 2:27pm
Katharine:
    See Ecclesiastes:
          For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God.
Barath Nagarajan Added Aug 5, 2017 - 2:37pm
I tell you an anecdote from my experience.
   My niece and nephew are 7 1/2. They visited over July 4 weekend. It's summer.Their mother made them do math homework on a Sunday night, July 2. I said to my niece "It's Jay, you don't have to work, it's Sunday night". She did one question, then raised her hands and said " Hooray ". 
    The Lord is merciful, why torture people with notions of competition and Superiority. The Lord supports those who are upright and good in his sight.
   Why you think I did something wrong by telling her she didn't have to work?
   I don't believe in struggle, Mark does.
mark henry smith Added Aug 5, 2017 - 2:37pm
Thanks all for the comments.
 
St. George, are you really Charles Krathammer?
 
Whatever you are, you are the worst kind of arguer, a claimer, who doesn't really argue, but makes claims and then belittles anybody who doesn't agree with your claims. You once said that I didn't know the difference between economics and finance and I asked you to explain the difference, but you never did. I know the difference, semantics. And Jews are the worst people to argue The Middle East with, because they are the most ignorant. They are willfully ignorant because it serves their purpose. And in the US the Israelis have found the perfect partner for ignorant arguments.  
 
Katherine, I think cooperation is overrated. We see it in recycling. We see it in politics. The real interaction that runs this mess is the exchange. We exchange things we have for things we want and that powers the engine that makes the human world run. Give me something tangible to work with and I'll honor our deal. Give me a promise, and I'll wait and see.
 
We tout democracy like it's the only thing that can work, but it's a lousy system because it can never deliver what it promises, government by the people, for the people. That's just a slogan. The question always remains, what people? Government is in the triage business. It can't serve everybody, but it has to make that claim, then it does what all economic actors do, make exchanges.
 
In a world of bounty, the form of government that works could be picking straws. As long as people are having their basic needs filled, the rest of the agenda doesn't make much difference. It's just talk.
 
One of the things we have is good intentions. I read so much about good intentions, but as far as being a harbinger of future behavior, good intentions are way down on the list of motivations. But, on the other hand, there's one thing that makes good intentions look really good, bad intentions, and if the path to hell is paved with good intentions, where do bad intentions lead?
 
I say no to injustice, but who do I punish? Who do I punish when the stream is polluted? Who do I punish when the rights of people in distant places are violated? How do I really know how my tax dollars are being spent? I don't and I can't. I am limited by reality. This idea that we can know who deserves retribution   
Barath Nagarajan Added Aug 5, 2017 - 2:49pm
So Mark liberal Mark wants to punish people, he thinks he knows who deserves punishment? Who  does, Mark?You do.
mark henry smith Added Aug 5, 2017 - 2:49pm
is a fallacy.
 
Dino, that's right. The realities of our situation, that we are entering a period of mind-boggling environmental change in the next decade, will dwarf the political and social problems we focus on right now. What do women's rights matter in a world with a billion refugees? What are we going to do with all of these people?
 
There are no options except scary and unpleasant ones, but if we started today in figuring out new modes of living, we might limit the amount of damage and carnage.
 
John G, Gaza is a model for how to place a population in an urban prison and then see if you can make them disappear, slowly.
 
George, Stone, all, we face something that we've never faced in this world before. A global catastrophe that will require global action.
 
I just wish that the US hadn't spent so much of its diplomatic currency on Israel. But we have to remember the exchange that is made between US politicians and wealthy Jewish interests every day.  
Barath Nagarajan Added Aug 5, 2017 - 2:53pm
That's a very self conscious picture Mark. I'm sure you must be very proud of it and of yourself.
Barath Nagarajan Added Aug 5, 2017 - 3:02pm
See The Legend of Bagger Vance(Robert Redford, director)
Book by Steven Pressfield:
A man's grip in golf, tennis, sports is like his grip on the World. Grip the club too tightly and the swing doesn't work 
      ...like every real expert, that a true player can be recognized by his grip alone. The way a man sets his hands on a club will inform you infallibly as to how deeply he’s thought about the game, how profoundly he’s entered into its mysteries. The grip, a remarkable fellow named Bagger Vance once told me, when I was about the same age you were then, is man’s connection to the world outside himself.
Barath Nagarajan Added Aug 5, 2017 - 3:27pm
The point I was making is that I believe in working and following rules, but under the circumstances imposing the rules in such a way is just to be cruel, the Lord is Merciful and Just.
mark henry smith Added Aug 5, 2017 - 3:32pm
Barath, of course I want to punish people, it would be a lie for anyone to say they don't want to punish the guilty, for if there is no punishment for the guilt what's the point of the innocent behaving? But you missed the point, of course. It's not that I want to punish, it's that I don't know who to punish. Who's responsible for the state of the world, for the state of my country, for the state of my life? I don't know and if I wasn't so damn conscientious I wouldn't care for what does it matter if an innocent man gets beheaded? It's not as if heads will roll
 
And your remarks make no sense to me so I'll ignore them.
 
And I've seen Bagger Vance, love those stories of heroic unknowns who rise to the top for a brief claim to fame. I use the interlock grip and some say that creates too much tension in the hands, but I like it and have been having some wonderful results. That along with my one-handed putting stroke.
Barath Nagarajan Added Aug 5, 2017 - 8:01pm
Mark:
      I actually got the point though what I what I want to argue is that people think their problems are not solve-able. My experience is that you would be surprised at the amazing goodness of the Lord's Mercy, or benevolence. After all if he isn't benevolent, or good then their is no point to religion. 
If every path is blocked for you by some wrongdoer, the Lord will give you a side road, he can just reveal the solution to your problems to you, he has innumerable ways and saving people.
   One only believes there is no answer because what we take as reality is only the material portion. People follow a rule, they think the rule is all there is, but that same rule is shown to be injustice when higher reality is revealed to people.
mark henry smith Added Aug 7, 2017 - 6:34pm
Thank you Barath,
 
I am so thankful for God's benevolent mercy. I do not think I'd be here today without it and it is my hope that with every breath I share it, and yet I fail miserably. And it makes me doubly thankful that the standard I'm being held to does not appear to be as strict as Ryan's.