Everyone loves shopping. It helps to have money when shopping, the more the better. Thrift Stores give poorer citizens a chance to shop for almost anything. Compared to ‘regular stores’, thrift shops are poorly lit, and without fancy presentations of items. The ‘sex appeal’ of shopping is much minimized. Unless, of course, one considers ‘thrift’ sexy, which I think it is somewhat. It’s a matter of appreciating economy, parsimoniousness. What I like most about thrift shops is leaving them, and then appreciating how, for so little money, one can get so much good stuff.
It finally happened. The wonderful Dr. Seuss books have been cited for racism. One of his cartoons showed a Chinaman eating rice with chopsticks. As a Jew, I would not be offended by a cartoon of a Jew eating matzoh. This is what we do. It is an accurate stereotype. Though not all Jews eat matzoh nor do all Chinese use chopsticks, many or most do. Microaggression is when another assumes something about someone else (e.g., he likes matzoh or uses chopsticks) that the other does not agree with (e.g., I don’t like matzoh). Maybe people should not be “cancelled” due to having committed microaggressions. The ‘micro’ is the issue. Give the guy a break.
The other day I wrote a blog about old sci-fi movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. Since then I have been blasted with ads for videos, toys, recordings, etc. related to the movie. Certainly, marketers are watching me and everyone else. It causes us to think about things longer than we wished to. Others with their own motives want us to keep thinking of a past thing so that they can predict and control our buying habits in the immediate future. I wonder how this affects the creativity of the society. It reminds me of the fact that machines beat humans every time now at chess. The competition is between the programmers of the game software. So, can you make your own decisions or are they being gamed by professionals who rarely lose? The only way to know is to cut off from internet influence. (You may need to drink more than usual).
My sister just went to get hearing aids. She could get two of the best ones that the technician said, “filter out noise better”. The next level of quality was “it works okay”. She could have good enough ($1400), or First Class ($2100) hearing with two new hearing aids.
The inclusion of services that make something first rather than second or third class allows the higher class person to feel good about him or herself. They are ‘above the fray’. Life can be a quality experience if one can pay. At least I can strive to get into first class. Get education, a better job, and so on. If there is some class mobility things are sort of okay. Without it, however, frustrations with class limitations grow. We will see what happens over the next years perhaps in America and the rest of the world.
In the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, remade 2008), visiting spaceman Klaatu and Gort, his robot, had made the earth stand still by turning off all electricity for 30 minutes, to warn mankind that if it did not submit to atomic disarmament, Gort would destroy the earth. But Klaatu thought it best to give earth some time before he destroyed it.
After Klaatu had been shot and injured he had his girlfriend, Patricia Neal, say to Gort “Klaatu Barada Nicktu”. Presumably this was an instruction to the robot to come and help Klaatu. In any case, Gort did not destroy the earth. He and Klaatu would give its inhabitants some time to get things together after having stopped everything for a few minutes. Is this where we are with Covid, global warming, polarized politics, and extreme lunatics like QAnon? Everything had seemed to stop when the capital was breached on Jan 6. It had all been so eerie quiet with covid lock downs. But now the Trump lunatic fringe had played their last card (for a while at least). Energy use including electricity declined. Hey! The Earth Stood, more or less, Still.
Trumpf built his entire administration upon demanding unctuous loyalty from his allies and now finds himself wounded by what he sees as their shabby betrayal of him. He is entirely without integrity, using one standard for assessing the self and another for judging others depending on egoistic motives. This sort of switch can occur more or less consciously. When mental habits are very strong little conscious effort is needed to have them be executed. Hence, they playout more or less automatically.
Should the duplicity become apparent to the self one can use rationalization to feel better (i.e. cognitive dissonance reduction operations). These include: Coming to believe more strongly than ever that one’s positions are right, and denigrating the others as themselves being without integrity. When the treasonous person really starts to lose it they can have psychotic delusions of grandeur that go beyond the distortions of dissonance reduction. Psychosis is the Big Leagues of psychological defense. (By the way when Trump was thought to say ‘Bigly’ he was saying ‘Big League’ in New Yawkese. Few if any seem to have noted this).
In any case, leaders set examples of ‘how to think’ for followers. Currently a bit less than half your neighbors think like Trumpf. The horror of this is illustrated by seeing the ten commandments through the eyes of Trump-like thinking:
The Ten Commandments as seen by a Trump personality
- I am the Lord your God (“I am a stable genius.” )
- You shall have no other gods before me (“I will be very angry at Mike Pence if he doesn’t listen to me.”)
- You shall not take my name in vain (Say whatever comes to mind. Be wild and impulsive.)
- Observe the Sabbath (“Kosher, Shmosher. Let’s play golf!”)
- Honor your father and mother (If they have given you millions of dollars.)
- You shall not kill (Have your followers do it for you.)
- You shall not steal (Stealing assures always winning)
- You shall not commit adultery (Why not?)
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (“To hell with fake news. They always lie about me. It’s a witch hunt”.)
- You shall not be envious of what your neighbor has (“Envy and greed are good…the Dow has hit records during my reign!!”)
The January 6th invasion of the congress is being described in grave tones as: ‘The most dastardly day in US history’;’ Our country’s worst hour’; ‘The greatest threat to democracy’, and so on. The deaths and the scenes of yahoos defiling the nation’s sacred space were nauseating. But at some level it was just another day in Reality TV America.
January 6th wasn’t the French, Russian, nor American Revolution. In those real government overthrow attempts, the actors actually had some values they were interested in risking their lives for. Did Trumpf put his life at risk? No he didn’t. He ‘fought’ like a TV wrestler fights. Trumpf wasn’t even there in the front lines with his admirers but back in the White House watching things on TV. The Congress Riot Actors wore wild costumes like the TV wrestlers do. The whole thing was another meaningless act in the last 40 years of The American Howdy Doody Show . It will likely inspire hope that things will change. But will they?
Ventriloquist’s dummies’ appear to have meaningful conversations if the audience imagines the dummy is real. Anyone who has taken Trumpf seriously, who thinks him real, is the dummy. Do you take him seriously? Seriously? Yes? YOUR’E FIRED!!! I think a Trumpf mob member’s greatest wish is to not be fired. To not lose their seat in The Ivanka Peanut Gallery (recently remodeled for 7 Billion Fake Trumpf Peanut Dollars ). They would be so alone then. So sad. Not merely not great again but having never been great even once.
The only beliefs or values at issue in the Trumpf Show have to do with stage craft. The art of making others ‘suspend disbelief’ and getting good ratings. Trumpf’s stage craft is limited to getting unsophisticated fans of TV wrestling and 80% of the people living in Red States to believe patently false absurdities. It has been TV wrestling and The Three Stooges since day one with Trumpf. Reverse Birther Theory even proves that Trumpf is the formerly unknown Fifth Stooge—Donald Fine Trumpf.
Self Help books
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was published in 1936. It is still one of the better-selling books in the world. Carnegie was somewhat sophisticated about human psychology. He had read the work of Sigmund Freud, who died in 1939. Freud’s ideas about how the mind operates consciously and unconsciously are called psychoanalysis or depth psychology.
I read Carnegie’s book long ago, but I am pretty sure it suggests that influence over others can be promoted by using their names a lot, being friendly, and dressing nicely. Wearing a hat may have also been suggested. These recommendations were not psychoanalytic depth psychology. But they were plausible enough and people bought the book.
Since How to Win Friends, thousands or millions of books have been written that help readers become more popular, happy, rich, thin, spiritual, and so on. These are called self-help books. Self Help books are ‘how to’ books or instruction manuals. They promise to increase readers’ success in achieving social goals like popularity and wealth. This is somewhat different than manuals that help you fix a car, for example. In self-help instruction manuals, you are the car.
This book may be of some practical help to readers. It is based very loosely on a formal neuroscience theory (Bernstein 2011, 2014, 2015). The theory, experiences I’ve had doing biology and psychology, plus some limited knowledge of Yiddish have contributed to what I say here.
The book describes four states of mind that we all experience. When a state of mind becomes very habitual or chronic, it defines who you are. It is your personality. I call these mind states or personalities: shmo, schmuck, schadenfreudist, and sophisticate.
A personality is made up of all of one’s strong habits of thinking and acting. We have thousands or tens of thousands of habits that are in mutually controlling relationships. If some of your habits persist long after childhood, such as being afraid of strangers, you probably have what is called a personality disorder.
In any case, our personal mental habits influence the nature of the decisions we make. The primary function of the mind, which sits in the brain, is to make decisions. Most generally we can only make three kinds of decisions in response to objects in the world and in our minds: avoid, approach, or freeze.
You can move your legs and approach another person on the street. Or, you can run the other way when you see them. And freezing or ‘playing dead’, has some advantages. Physical approach involves moving your muscles. Mental approach involves moving your mind’s eye to attend to or avoid specific contents of mind (e.g. thoughts, feelings, intentions). Moving the mind’s eye is neurologically very much like moving the muscles that control the eyeballs next to you nose.
Decisions controlling your organs are made mostly automatically, unconsciously in the brainstem. The neocortex, which sits on the top of brain, is where conscious awareness works to form intentions and control overt behavior and private thoughts.
Unlike other organs that have very few conscious inputs, the lungs are controlled 50% by nerves emanating from the neocortex. Breath control is so important in yoga inasmuch as the lungs represent equally unconsous and conscious processes—the borderline between psyche and soma.
Deciding explicitly or unconsciously to avoid thinking about an upcoming colonoscopy is somewhat like avoiding looking at parts of the body associated with the feared procedure. That is, the derriere. Conflicting thought and conflicting real things can cause confusion and nervousness. Being nervous can degrade a person’s ability to think and make good decisions.
I am assuming here that a person in a mental state of sophistication can make better decisions than others. If sophisticates make better decisions than do shmos, schmucks, and schadenfreudists, they should be more successful at work and love than others. This book offers some suggestions about to become more sophisticated. These might lead somehow to you becoming more successful in life. Or not.
Many pundits have warned that the polarization of America that began with Reagan and spun out of control with Trump will continue and worsen. I don’t think so. Without an immature leader at the helm, polarization should at least stop accelerating. The importance of a leader has never been more apparent than over the last four years. Up until 2016, all presidents, competent and incompetent, were “presidential”. They continued a tradition of behaving overtly with civility and humility. How unseemly it is when the powerful boast of their power. Trump constantly behaved from a more or less unconscious assumption that he lacked power. He had to fire everyone who disagreed with him. Some democracy.
Lyndon Johnson made awful decisions on Viet Nam. But he was otherwise a great president. He kept his less than civil habits behind closed doors. And, he had a sense of humor. Trump on the other hand is completely without a sense of humor. Have you seen him at one of those dinners where the powerful gather to poke fun at each other? He is entirely tone deaf. And frankly, so have been the late night talk show hosts who assumed that they had hit the jackpot with a dope like Trump as president. The problem is that Trump is inherently a sad bully. Making fun of a bully who is constantly trying to overcompensate from a, more or less, unconscious assumption that he is essentially without competence and power is very hard to do. It is like ridiculing a disabled person. Nothing sticks to Trump because he has the emotional intelligence of a child. His defenses are too impermeable.
He should have been ignored not ridiculed each and every night for four years on talk shows!! You can’t get to an 8 year old who says when insulted, “I know you are but what am I?” Partisanship will persist. But it will lessen without a humorless, insecure, child in the White House who has made everyone, left and right, miserable. Trump’s biggest effect on the country was to leave all his critics unable to effectively criticize him. He was not funny and none of the critics were funny. He should have been entirely ignored. Why listen every day to a liar? You can say what he lied about with ‘fact checking’. But what a waste of time.
I was interested in phoney wrestling matches shown on TV. When I was ten, I had my father take me to Sunnyside’s Gardens in Queens New York to see the “championship fight” between Haystack Calhun and Bruno San Martino. My favorite, the chronic loser Arnold Scoland, did not get to the championship because his role in TV wrestling was as a sympathetic, hometown loser. On TV, Sunnyside Gardens seemed to be filled with screaming fans. In reality, only about 40 dopes were arranged on ring side. These were captured by the TV cameras which did not pan to the rest of the empty arena.
At that age, ten, boys of my generation liked TV wrestling and The Three Stooges. The wrestling and the Stooges appealed to a similar mentality. Ten year old boys sense of reality has not been fully formed. They can easily ‘suspend disbelief’ and enjoy moronic wrestling and slapstick comedy.
You know that Donald Trump has been involved with the current version of TV Wrestling shown on what i think is called WWF. I am not sure what WWF stands for but it is an extensively produced form of fake madness. It can be taken as real by today’s ten year olds and many older, immature men, the kind of people who like Trump. It is as if the Three Stooges and Carl Von Hess, a wrestler who dressed in a Nazi uniform, were running the country. Actually they are. Oh man!!