Thrift Shops

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.

Dr. Seuss Cancelled

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.

First Class Citizen, Second Class Citizen

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.

Stopping to Start Over

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.

Betrayal

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

  1. I am the Lord your God (“I am a stable genius.” )
  2. You shall have no other gods before me (“I will be very angry at Mike Pence if he doesn’t listen to me.”)
  3. You shall not take my name in vain (Say whatever comes to mind. Be wild and impulsive.)
  4. Observe the Sabbath (“Kosher, Shmosher. Let’s play golf!”)
  5. Honor your father and mother (If they have given you millions of dollars.)
  6. You shall not kill (Have your followers do it for you.)
  7. You shall not steal (Stealing assures always winning)
  8. You shall not commit adultery (Why not?)
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (“To hell with fake news. They always lie about me. It’s a witch hunt”.)
  10. You shall not be envious of what your neighbor has (“Envy and greed are good…the Dow has hit records during my reign!!”)

Denial, Lies, Cyberwar, Conscious and Unconscious

For forty years Republicans have claimed to be fiscal conservatives. But obviously they have not been. No one in recent memory besides Clinton has balanced the budget. Gullible people near poverty vote for conservatives! Besides the seeming match in social values, conservatives are no friends of the needy and, their claims of being helpful to those in need are so hollow.

Why then do those they don’t support, support them? I think it is a form of denial. Being poor in America is a sin. Those who are barely making it fantasize they are part of the middle class. As the middle class disappears, those without think they are not without, and use credit cards to support the denial (until bankrupt). Such individuals are easy prey to politicians who fed them blatantly untrue claims encouraging them to be proud middle class citizens. It is the big lie. The most powerful, stupid lies go over best: War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery and so on.

The manipulation of meaning has become easier with the rise of information technology. Warfare, including cyberwar, has always included the notion that killing leaders is the surest way to win battle. That is, cutting off the enemies’ head leads to victory. The “head” is a shorthand for “thinking”. Bodies are destroyed to kill the brain and mind. Body damage is collateral damage.

It is now apparent that Russia has hacked the hell out of the US computer infrastructure. They have co-opted the nervous system of America. Specifically, they have hacked the automatic information processes that run the country. This is analogous to having taken control of the Autonomic Nervous System, the part of the nervous system that runs the organs of the body, out of awareness mostly. The Central Nervous System which includes the brain, is the target for influencing beliefs, for propaganda. The brain is the seat of conscious thinking. Attempts to alter conscious thoughts must be much more sophisticated than usurping automatic processes. Changing beliefs from the bottom up avoids barriers such as morality, feeling, and logical thought as means to fool people with big and little lies.

The current method of warlike influence seeks to avoid the resistances to belief change within the self. It subverts the self from the unconsous at a point where meaning is not questioned. “Is that information from my body (my computer infrastructure) true? If it isn’t, who can be trusted to provide valid data?” In the very near future, we will be wishing that the worst dangerous liar we had was Trump. Instead, we will have to question whether the information coming to us from our bodies, computers, and the social world have anything to do with the truth.

From the book “Sophistication”

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.

Post-Election America

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.

Observations on an Experiment with the Body-Mind Device

The other day, I made a demonstration video on the effect of depressive and activating stimuli on the output of the Body-Mind Reader. Making that video was a pain. I’m new to Youtube production, but I rather imagine those of you who do this sort of thing, have had days like this, where nothing goes right. Take 1: Barrage of text messages. New Tik Tok video for you! Call the bank! Take 2: Cat walks on keyboard. Take 3: Internet goes on the fritz. You get the picture.

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