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Is you is or is you aint.The Definition of Cryptocurrencies.

“I got a gal who’s always late
Any time we have a date
But I love her
Yes I love her

I’m gonna walk right up to her gate
And see if I can get it straight
‘Cause I want her
I’m gonna ask her

Is you is or is you ain’t my baby”

— B.B. King

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

— Bill Clinton

Coincentral has a recent article by Aaron Mangal that’s worth reading:

We have been following with interest the ongoing emergence of cryptocurrencies with particular emphasis on how people arrive at a sense of trust.  As in: Is x a currency or is y not a currency? What is money? Who decides? One aspect of that is to be found in definitions.

Cryptocurrency users were relieved if not overjoyed to hear one of the cardinals of the Securities and Exchange Commission issue a financial ruling that Bitcoin and Ethereum shall not be defined as “securities.”

The definition of this allows them to avoid the heavy(ier)hand of federal oversight and in theory should boost mining, usage and value as well as the far more mercurial concept of faith.

As Mangal puts it:

“The news is sure to bring investors and crypto-anarchists a-like a sight of great relief. Ultimately, this policy resonates with statements from Jay Clayton that Bitcoin is not a security and that the SEC would not change longstanding definition to accommodate it as such.”

But, he then adds:

“Although these statements provide relief and clarity to investors, developers, and crypto-enthusiasts, now the real work in case law begins. While Bitcoin and Ethereum are off the hook, many other ICOs and tokens might not be so lucky.”

Not so lucky indeed and while Bitcoin and Ethereum are defined one way today, who can say what the story will be later. After all consider the escape clause, Director of Corporate Finance, William Hinman embedded in his speech.

“Based on my understanding of the present state of ether, the Ethereum network, and its decentralized structure, current offers and sales of ether are not securities transactions,” Hinman said at Yahoo’s All Market Summit: Crypto in San Francisco.”

Based on my understanding of the present state…

There’s a whole universe contained in those words. We view them as an indication that the current SEC defines the mantra of no-regulation as gospel…for now or at least until the fed decides it needs more tax revenue.

As Bill Clinton put it years ago: “It depends on what the meaning of the word is – is.”

In other words, if Hinman’s understanding were to change, then the definition of Bitcoin and Ehtereum would change.

The SEC giveth and the SEC reserves the right to taketh.


18 comments on “Is you is or is you aint.The Definition of Cryptocurrencies.

  1. I’ve always seen currencies as a form of religion, in that they are faith-based. No currency exists as meaningful money without faith in the currency. But not all faiths are equally powerful and compelling because it depends on who holds authority and can command force. Even all the debt in the world is imaginary, a shared delusion or shared agreement, depending on your perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      Agreed. There’s a good book (as I recall – it’s been a while) called, Money. It’s by Jacob Needleman. Worth a read. Money is a manifestation of “faith.” Or as you say: “No currency exists as meaningful money without faith in the currency.”

      All faith is tautological.

      I find the cryptocurrency movement interesting in that regard. It’s being driven by the collapse of faith in the current dominant faith and a belief in the solidity of the new faith.

      The language used both by adherents and those describing it are full of magical thinking. Thus the SEC uses lawyerly bureaucratic language that means x until they decide it means y.

      All of that underscores the faith based nature of currency generally and capitalism specifically.


  2. About currency, this is a good passage:

    Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition
    by Charles Eisenstein

    “It is no accident that ancient Greece, the place where symbolic money originated, also gave birth to the modern conception of the individual, to the notions of logic and reason, and to the philosophical underpinnings of the modern mind. In his scholarly masterpiece Money and the Ancient Greek Mind, classics professor Richard Seaford explores the impact of money on Greek society and thought, illuminating the characteristics that make money unique. Among them are that it is both concrete and abstract, that it is homogeneous, impersonal, a universal aim, and a universal means, and that it is unlimited. The entrance of this new, unique power into the world had profound consequences, many of which are now so deeply woven into our beliefs and culture, psyche and society, that we can barely perceive them, let alone question them.

    “Money is homogeneous in that regardless of any physical differences among coins, coins qua money are identical (if they are of the same denomination). New or old, worn or smooth, all one drachma coins are equal. This was something new in the sixth century BCE. Whereas in archaic times, Seaford observes, power was conferred by unique talismanic objects (e.g., a scepter said to be handed down from Zeus), money is the opposite: its power is conferred by a standard sign that wipes out variations in purity and weight. Quality is not important, only quantity. Because money is convertible into all other things, it infects them with the same feature, turning them into commodities— objects that, as long as they meet certain criteria, are seen as identical. All that matters is how many or how much. Money, says Seaford, “promotes a sense of homogeneity among things in general.” All things are equal, because they can be sold for money, which can in turn be used to buy any other thing.

    “In the commodity world, things are equal to the money that can replace them. Their primary attribute is their “value”—an abstraction. I feel a distancing, a letdown, in the phrase, “You can always buy another one.” Can you see how this promotes an anti-materialism, a detachment from the physical world in which each person, place, and thing is special, unique? No wonder Greek philosophers of this era began elevating the abstract over the real, culminating in Plato’s invention of a world of perfect forms more real than the world of the senses. No wonder to this day we treat the physical world so cavalierly. No wonder, after two thousand years’ immersion in the mentality of money, we have become so used to the replaceability of all things that we behave as if we could, if we wrecked the planet, simply buy a new one.

    “I named this chapter “Money and the Mind.” Very much like the fiduciary value of money, mind is an abstraction riding a physical vehicle. Like monetary fiduciarity, the idea of mind as a separate, non-material essence of being developed over thousands of years, leading to the modern concept of an immaterial consciousness, a disembodied spirit. Tellingly, in both secular and religious thought, this abstraction has become more important than the physical vehicle, just as the “value” of a thing is more important than its physical attributes.

    “One manifestation of this spirit-matter split that gives primacy to the former is the idea, “Sure, economic reform is a worthy cause, but what is much more important is a transformation of human consciousness.” I think this view is mistaken, for it is based on a false dichotomy of consciousness and action, and ultimately of spirit and matter. On a deep level, money and consciousness are intertwined. Each is bound up in the other.

    “The development of monetary abstraction fits into a vast meta-historical context. Money could not have developed without a foundation of abstraction in the form of words and numbers. Already, number and label distance us from the real world and prime our minds to think abstractly. To use a noun already implies an identity among the many things so named; to say there are five of a thing makes each a unit. We begin to think of objects as representatives of a category, and not unique beings in themselves. So, while standard, generic categories didn’t begin with money, money vastly accelerated their conceptual dominance. Moreover, the homogeneity of money accompanied the rapid development of standardized commodity goods for trade. Such standardization was crude in pre-industrial times, but today manufactured objects are so nearly identical as to make the lie of money into the truth.

    “Money as a universal aim is embedded in our language. We speak of “capitalizing” on our ideas and use “gratuitous,” which literally means received with thanks (and not payment), as a synonym for unnecessary. It is embedded in economics to be sure, in the assumption that human beings seek to maximize a self-interest that is equivalent to money. It is even embedded in science, where it is a cipher for reproductive self-interest. Here, too, the notion of a universal aim has taken hold.

    “That there is even such a thing as a universal aim to life (be it money or something else) is not at all obvious. This idea apparently arose at about the same time money did; perhaps it was money that suggested it to philosophers. Socrates used a money metaphor explicitly in proposing intelligence as universal aim: “There is only one right currency for which we ought to exchange all these other things [pleasures and pains]—intelligence.” In religion this corresponds to the pursuit of an ultimate aim, such as salvation or enlightenment, from which all other good things flow. How like the unlimited aim of money! I wonder what the effect would be on our spirituality if we gave up on the pursuit of a unitary, abstract goal that we believe to be the key to everything else. How would it feel to release the endless campaign to improve ourselves, to make progress toward a goal? What would it be like just to play instead, just to be? Like wealth, enlightenment is a goal that knows no limit, and in both cases the pursuit of it can enslave. In both cases, I think that the object of the pursuit is a spurious substitute for a diversity of things that people really want.

    “In a fully monetized society, in which nearly everything is a good or a service, money converts the multiplicity of the world into a unity, a “single thing that is the measure of, and exchangeable with, almost anything else.” The apeiron, the logos, and similar conceptions were all versions of an underlying unity that gives birth to all things. It is that from which all things arise and to which all things return. As such it is nearly identical with the ancient Chinese conception of the Tao, which gives birth to yin and yang, and then to the ten thousand things. Interestingly, the semi-legendary preceptor of Taoism, Lao Tzu, lived at approximately the same time as the pre-Socratic philosophers —which is also more or less the time of the first Chinese coinage. In any event, today it is still money that gives birth to the ten thousand things. Whatever you want to build in this world, you start with an investment, with money. And then, when you have finished your project, it is time to sell it. All things come from money; all things return to money.

    “Unlike physical goods, the abstraction of money allows us, in principle, to possess unlimited quantities of it. Thus it is easy for economists to believe in the possibility of endless exponential growth, where a mere number represents the size of the economy. The sum total of all goods and services is a number, and what limit is there on the growth of a number? Lost in abstraction, we ignore the limits of nature and culture to accommodate our growth. Following Plato, we make the abstraction more real than the reality, fixing Wall Street while the real economy languishes. The monetary essence of things is called “value,” which, as an abstracted, uniform essence, reduces the plurality of the world. All things are reduced to what they are worth. This gives the illusion that the world is as limitless as numbers are. For a price, you can buy anything.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      Fascinating! Socrates used a money metaphor explicitly in proposing intelligence as universal aim: “There is only one right currency for which we ought to exchange all these other things [pleasures and pains]—intelligence.”
      I’ll have to think about this and respond appropriately.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. rauldukeblog says:

      This is fascinating! “Socrates used a money metaphor explicitly in proposing intelligence as universal aim: “There is only one right currency for which we ought to exchange all these other things [pleasures and pains]—intelligence.”

      “Money as a universal aim is embedded in our language. We speak of “capitalizing” on our ideas”

      I’ll have to dig into this and respond in more depth.


    3. A highly abstract economic system might more fundamentally be built on the cultural underpinnings of language. Early Greek language had some unique features. And more broadly, Greek shares much with other Indo-European languages.

      The Patterning Instinct
      by Jeremy Lent

      “Classical Greek is notable for its clarity and controlled structure. In addition to its use of the definite article, allowing for greater abstraction, it contains various linguistic signposts whose sole function is to clarify the structure of a sentence. This permits long, complex sentences, with a prearranged, hierarchical organization. Like other Indo-European languages, it has the classic subject-verb-object structure, along with forms and endings that show where a word fits within a sentence. For example, the difference between “I see him” and “he sees me” arises from both the word order and the declensions of each of the three words, a system unique to Indo-European languages.

      “Chinese lacks these classical Greek elements. Without a subject-verb-object structure, a Chinese sentence can include or omit whatever the speaker chooses. A simple verb standing alone may serve quite adequately as a sentence. In response to an invitation, a Chinese person may answer with the one word “Know,” meaning she is aware of the event and may or may not come. Philosopher Denis Noble has pointed out that Descartes’s foundational statement of Western philosophy—“I think, therefore I am”—would naturally have been expressed as “thinking, therefore being” in Chinese, leading potentially to a different conception of the self as a process, a verb, rather than a fixed object.

      “Chinese also lacks the definite article, which was invented by the Greeks and gave the linguistic framework for Plato to derive his theory of Forms. Instead of seeking an abstract idea such as “the Truth,” the Chinese language encouraged a more tangible search for “things that are true.” Ultimately, perhaps, the greatest contrast between the two cultures is where they looked for the true nature of reality. For the Greeks, following Plato, it was in the abstract dimension of Forms; for the Chinese, it was the Tao as expressed in the material world. The two languages seem to have encouraged these divergent worldviews, with Greek pushing its speakers toward abstraction and Chinese reinforcing a material view of the nature of reality.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. rauldukeblog says:

        This is really fascinating. One gets down to a kind of cultural sub-atomic level for why things work the way they do.

        Why though did the Greek and Chinese ways diverge?

        We can see that they did and see the ways in which they are different but what was/were the mechanisms for the divergence?

        Auerbach’s Mimesis is an excellent survey of linguistic traditions in the “West” but he either did not examine or did not know enough to examine “Eastern” narratives.

        Makes me very curious.


      2. Here is more from Jeremy Lent’s The Patterning Instinct:

        pp. 22-23

        “As various populations developed different forms of agriculture, the requirements of their work influenced the cultural patterning of each society. Social psychologists have discovered, for example, that people who herd animals for a living tend to lead more independent and mobile lives, resulting in more individualistic values. Farmers, on the other hand, who lead more settled lives and rely on each other to help with planting and harvesting, develop more collectivist cultures. Even within farming, important cultural variations have been shown to arise from the kind of crops that are cultivated. A recent study, for example, has found that Chinese provinces that rely on rice, which requires a great deal of mutual cooperation within the community, have a more holistic outlook than those provinces that rely on wheat, where farmers can manage more easily by themselves.

        “How do these cultural differences get passed on from one generation to the next? There are some who speculate it’s through genetic changes, even in the more recent past.15 However, a more convincing explanation—and one that forms a foundation of this book—is that each society shapes the cognitive structure of individuals growing up in its culture through imprinting its own pattern of meaning on each infant’s developing mind.

        “The most important way in which a growing infant’s mind is molded by her culture is through language. Anthropologists in the early twentieth century became so entranced by the power of language to shape cognitive structures that they sometimes overstated the case, asserting that our native language forces us to think in certain ways and prevents us thinking in other ways. This theory, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, was witheringly attacked in the later twentieth century as researchers showed how people from a particular culture were able to adapt their cognition to culturally different ways of thinking even as adults. More recently, however, a plethora of new evidence has convincingly demonstrated a more refined version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: that the language we speak from birth—although it doesn’t prevent us thinking in different ways—establishes structures of cognition that influence us to perceive, understand, and think about the world according to certain patterns. Or, in its simplest terms: language has a patterning effect on cognition.

        “And in yet another feedback loop, the patterning each person uses to impose meaning on the world ultimately affects the actions and choices they make in the world. When aggregated to an entire civilization, these patterns of meaning shape history and fundamentally alter the world around us. In the words of cognitive linguist George Lakoff, “metaphorical concepts…. structure our present reality. New metaphors have the power to create a new reality.” When, for example, European thinkers began to conceive of the natural world as a complex machine, this inspired them to discover how the machine worked in order to manipulate it more effectively for their benefit, leading ultimately to our present era of genetic engineering and synthetic biology.”

        pp. 207-209

        “Some researchers consider geography to be the ultimate source of differentiation between how these two cultures evolved. Greek terrain, with mountains sloping down to the sea and multiple small islands, lent itself to more individualistic or family-oriented occupations such as fishing, hunting, or gardening rather than large-scale irrigation-based agriculture, which needed to be maintained through large, complex, hierarchical societies. Over generations, this way of life may have caused the Greeks to be less concerned than the Chinese about their place within a larger social structure.37

        “Greek society underwent a period of political upheaval during the seventh and sixth centuries BCE, and their response to this turmoil was highly unusual. We see during this time the foundation of city-states, along with a more highly developed political awareness among citizens and a proliferation of different constitutional forms, including democracy. There was free debate among citizens on which style of government was best for them, which probably led to a more critical spirit in approaching other topics.38

        “The Greek emphasis on debate likely contributed to the kind of thinking that led to the “Greek miracle.” Greek society, with its relative lack of hierarchy, didn’t offer much in the way of political patronage, so intellectuals with ideas to communicate had to be entrepreneurial and find pupils ready to pay them for instruction. This led to a competitive intellectual climate, with each luminary trying to persuade others that he was the one worth following. In these debates, nothing was immune to scrutiny. If you wanted to avoid being publicly humiliated by your opponent, you needed to inspect your own arguments with intellectual rigor for possible inconsistencies. If you had a winning argument, you might try to make the most of it by turning it into an axiom that could be applied to other topics. It wasn’t enough to offer something that was true; far better to show that you were in touch with the Truth.39

        “The Chinese philosophers of the time, by contrast, were mostly advisers or ministers in the courts of feudal princes. Rather than appeal to logical argumentation, they could make a greater impression through citing historical examples. They became experts at refining existing concepts that had been around from time immemorial, such as qi, Tao, or yin-yang, into sophisticated interpretations of the universe, synthesizing ancient ideas into comprehensive systems of thought.

        “Both the ancient Greeks and Chinese made impressive advances in scientific understanding—the difference lay in how they approached their science. Both cultures, for example, saw mathematics as providing a key to understanding the natural world. The Greeks were particularly concerned with finding underlying truths, or axioms, that could be used to derive universal laws, such as the famous Pythagorean theorem, which holds true anywhere in the known universe. The Chinese, on the other hand, looked for guiding principles that unified the different aspects of mathematics. The great mathematician Liu Hui explained that what he was concerned about was unity—understanding what linked different mathematical procedures to each other to give his subject cohesion.

        “With their focus on associations between things, the Chinese had an aversion to the formal use of logic, which works by stripping away the meaning of a statement until only its formal structure remains. The great philosopher Mencius shows the classic Chinese viewpoint when he says, “Why I dislike holding to one point is that it injures the Tao. It takes up one point and disregards a hundred others.” In place of logic, the Chinese used dialectical thought to understand the universe, gaining insights through studying how everything related to everything else. This led them to develop certain core principles about the universe: reality is never fixed but constantly shifting, opposites complete each other to coexist in harmony, and nothing exists in isolation but rather is integrated within a complex web of interrelationships.

        “As a result of these principles, Chinese science achieved different insights than the Greeks, who focused more on objects isolated from their context. When Aristotle tried to explain why a stone would fall, he speculated that it had a property of “gravity.” The Chinese, by contrast, viewed everything as existing in a field of forces and achieved a deeper understanding of topics such as magnetism, acoustics, and gravity—recognizing, for example, that tides were caused by the influence of the moon, something that even Galileo could not explain.”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. rauldukeblog says:

        Mind blowing!

        Among the dozen thoughts provoked was one about various contemporary Greek writers – Kazantzakis and Ritsos among others. Their work explodes with the fact of the sea, the sky and the mountains being so close as to be both individual but also part of the personality. Everything is both close and far away.

        Before your most recent post I had been thinking about that and the different sense of scale in China. Haiku seems to make perfect sense there where as the Greek “style” makes sense in Greece if you’ll forgive the tautology.

        Next up is the issue of the symbiosis between consciousness and praxis and plants and so we come full circle back to Jaynes and McKenna, et al.

        “Why I dislike holding to one point is that it injures the Tao. It takes up one point and disregards a hundred others.”

        This is a central problem. The issue being x says y is true which is not wrong but it leaves out everything else that is also true. Holism is frowned upon if not degraded as somehow being “radical.”

        Liked by 1 person

      4. There is another book that is also great. The author discusses one of the studies in more detail.

        The Invisible History of the Human Race:
        How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures
        by Christine Kenneally
        Kindle Locations 2445-2489

        “Catastrophic events like the plague or slavery are not the only ones that echo down the generations . Widespread and deeply held beliefs can be traced to apparently benign events too, like the invention of technology. In the 1970s the Danish economist Ester Boserup argued that the invention of the plow transformed the way men and women viewed themselves. Boserup’s idea was that because the device changed how farming communities labored, it also changed how people thought about labor itself and about who should be responsible for it.

        “The main farming technology that existed when the plow was introduced was shifting cultivation. Using a plow takes a lot of upper-body strength and manual power, whereas shifting cultivation relies on handheld tools like hoes and does not require as much strength. As communities took up the plow, it was most effectively used by stronger individuals , and these were most often men. In societies that used shifting cultivation, both men and women used the technology . Of course, the plow was invented not to exclude women but to make cultivation faster and easier in areas where crops like wheat, barley, and teff were grown over large, flat tracts of land in deep soil. Communities living where sorghum and millet grew best— typically in rocky soil— continued to use the hoe. Boserup believed that after the plow forced specialization of labor, with men in the field and women remaining in the home, people formed the belief— after the fact— that this arrangement was how it should be and that women were best suited to home life.

        “Boserup made a solid historical argument, but no one had tried to measure whether beliefs about innate differences between men and women across the world could really be mapped according to whether their ancestors had used the plow. Nathan Nunn read Boserup’s ideas in graduate school, and ten years later he and some colleagues decided to test them.

        “Once again Nunn searched for ways to measure the Old World against the new. He and his colleagues divided societies up according to whether they used the plow or shifting cultivation . They gathered current data about male and female lives, including how much women in different societies worked in public versus how much they worked in the home, how often they owned companies, and the degree to which they participated in politics. They also measured public attitudes by comparing responses to statements in the World Value Survey like “When jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than a woman.”

        “Nunn found that if you asked an individual whose ancestors grew wheat about his beliefs regarding women’s place, it was much more likely that his notion of gender equality would be weaker than that of someone whose ancestors had grown sorghum or millet. Where the plow was used there was greater gender inequality and women were less common in the workforce. This was true even in contemporary societies in which most of the subjects would never even have seen a plow, much less used one, and in societies where plows today are fully mechanized to the point that a child of either gender would be capable of operating one.

        “Similar research in the cultural inheritance of psychology has explored the difference between cultures in the West and the East. Many studies have found evidence for more individualistic, analytic ways of thought in the West and more interdependent and holistic conceptions of the self and cooperation in the East. But in 2014 a team of psychologists investigated these differences in populations within China based on whether the culture in question traditionally grew wheat or rice. Comparing cultures within China rather than between the East and West enabled the researchers to remove many confounding factors, like religion and language.

        “Participants underwent a series of tests in which they paired two of three pictures. In previous studies the way a dog, a rabbit, and a carrot were paired differed according to whether the subject was from the West or the East . The Eastern subjects tended to pair the rabbit with a carrot, which was thought to be the more holistic, relational solution. The Western subjects paired the dog and the rabbit, which is more analytic because the animals belong in the same category. In another test subjects drew pictures of themselves and their friends. Previous studies had shown that westerners drew themselves larger than their friends . Another test surveyed how likely people were to privilege friends over strangers; typically Eastern cultures score higher on this measure.

        “In all the tests the researchers found that, independent of a community’s wealth or its exposure to pathogens or to other cultures, the people whose ancestors grew rice were much more relational in their thinking than the people whose ancestors were wheat growers. Other measures pointed at differences between the two groups. For example , people from a wheat-growing culture divorced significantly more often than people from a rice-growing culture, a pattern that echoes the difference in divorce rates between the West and the East. The findings were true for people who live in rice and wheat communities today regardless of their occupation; even when subjects had nothing to do with the production of crops, they still inherited the cultural predispositions of their farming forebears.

        “The differences between the cultures are attributed to the different demands of the two kinds of agriculture. Rice farming depends on complicated irrigation and the cooperation of farmers around the use of water. It also requires twice the amount of labor that is necessary for wheat, so rice-growing communities often stagger the planting of crops in order that all their members can help with the harvest. Wheat farming, by contrast, doesn’t need complicated irrigation or systems of cooperation among growers.

        “The implication of these studies is that the way we see the world and act in it—whether the end result is gender inequality or trusting strangers— is significantly shaped by internal beliefs and norms that have been passed down in families and small communities . It seems that these norms are even taken with an individual when he moves to another country. But how might history have such a powerful impact on families, even when they have moved away from the place where that history, whatever it was, took place?”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Related to economics, there is right-wing thought. It pushes Western patterns of thought to their WEIRDest extent. I’m thinking about the right-wing love of axiomatic thinking, something taken in isolation is what is it is. It is extremely Platonic in style, to such an extent that there is a mistrust of ‘facts’ because they aren’t absolute enough and so can change with new info. Truth and reality must be declared.

    “This touches upon Rothbard’s own axiom of “Humans act”. This variety of conservative is obsessed with action, with doing and achieving. In Rand’s view, mind and reality are separate to some extent which seems to relate to a more general focus on what separates, what makes “A is A” and what makes “B is B”. It’s why this type is so centrally focused on ownership. You can only own that which is somehow outside of the one who owns. Many of these people even speak of individuality in terms of self-ownership which is a truly bizarre concept. The self, like anything else, is just an object to be owned and to do with as one wishes (manipulated, used, destroyed, sold, etc). The self has no intrinsic value and so it’s only value is what it’s worth on the market.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      I was just sitting here thinking essentially the same thing. The cult of ownership and the abuse of systems of logic. There is an insistence on facts but at the same time the “facts” are bent to serve a non-factual narrative.

      The triumph of the lawyers and the scientists which is a subcategory of the cult of capital-ism.

      I think it’s no accident that the era of soaring or poignant rhetoric has been replaced by shallow imitations of that style (betrayed by the blunt realities of trickle down and neoliberalism) and “wonkery.”

      Lincoln-FDR-JFK/RFK/King all possessed a love of language in part derived from a system that gave weight to ideas and idealism as a virtue.

      The counter coup that murdered the last three (kitsch but accurate – American Pie: “the father, son and the Holy Ghost, they caught the last train for the coast) was clearly part of a concerted effort to replace idealism with business as the religion of the nation.

      The majestic end to Gatsby, or the better romantic passages of On the Road, the end of The Graduate (if not the entire film – i.e., & e.g., “one word; plastics”) Springsteen and so on all speak to a sense that the machine has triumphed. The result is a politics devoid of idealism but full of either hate or the cool hand of the liberal wonk. Thus, either Pelosi, leadership as polite banker, or Trump, leadership as barbarian.

      I try to imagine RFK on the scene today speaking about love and I imagine like Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, explaining the need to crucify Christ again, he’d end up on the floor of the kitchen all over again.

      “The self like anything else, is just an object to be owned.”

      See the following:


      1. To say you own yourself is essentially self-slavery. One part demands and commands submission from another part with the implication, as with slavery, of violent force if obedience doesn’t follow. It’s a bizarre dissociation, a split within the mind. As an amusing side note, it reminds me of the William S. Burroughs story about “The Man Who Taught His Asshole to Talk”:

        “That’s one thing the asshole couldn’t do was see. It needed the eyes. But nerve connections were blocked and infiltrated and atrophied so the brain couldn’t give orders any more. It was trapped in the skull, sealed off. For a while you could see the silent, helpless suffering of the brain behind the eyes, then finally the brain must have died, because the eyes went out, and there was no more feeling in them than a crab’s eyes on the end of a stalk.”

        Self-owernship/enslavement is a profoundly fraught ideological worldview. But there is also a directness and honesty about it. This belief speaks to the predicament of modernity and capitalism and to WEIRD societies most of all. Really, it goes way back to the foundation of Axial Age civilization in the post-bicameral transition. Not just the growing abstract thought and its application to the self but the distinction between the ‘I’ and the ‘me’.

        Right-wingers, of course, don’t understand any of this. They are children playing with a loaded gun. It’s a powerful ideology and growing ever more powerful in late stage capitalism. The inspiring idealism and pretty language is gone, as you say, and this blunt object is all that is left. Laid bare in all its brutal ugliness.


      2. rauldukeblog says:

        Great quote from Burroughs! His “Interzone” is a good metaphor for all of this: it’s about capitalism and colonization but also about how one’s identity becomes flexible.

        That connects us to as you say issues of “I” and “me.”

        “Right-wingers, of course, don’t understand any of this. They are children playing with a loaded gun. It’s a powerful ideology and growing ever more powerful in late stage capitalism. ”

        A loaded gun indeed. And the “brutal ugliness.”

        Watching coverage of the hostage crisis at the border and wondering how this plays out – a tipping point perhaps but if a tipping point I expect Trump in desperation and fear to use the “loaded gun” – a Reichstag fire of some kind. a false flag or international provocation.

        Late stage or end phase capitalism seems like a kind of national nervous breakdown. In the middle of that breakdown I look for something awful to be thrown into the fire.


      3. Yeah, it feels like we are at terminal stage of our malignant condition.

        The brain is dead in the body politic, as the political will became atrophied. The leadership of society, such as it is, has become those cold crab eyes looking out and seeing nothing. And the reactionary movement is all that is left to make noise and mimic life, the asshole that learned to talk.

        It’s too late to wonder what is this thing that has taken control. There is now nothing else left. Yet I have little doubt we can’t go on like this for a while, unless the petulant man-child at the helm decides to jerk the wheel right in order to take us off the cliff. What else is an asshole to do when there is nowhere else to go but down?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. We have this society obsessed with control. But no one seems to be in control. It’s all a mockery. And since we are on the topic of WSB, he points out that control is controlled by its need to control, like an addict. I might add Johann Hari’s view that the addict is the ultimate individual.


    1. There is something about capitalism as a social order, its historical precursors, and what it is all becoming when pushed to its furthest extent. This nexus of factors: Jaynesian consciousness, individualism, and addiction; abstraction, disconnection, and isolation; self-control, social control, and control of world; possession, ownership, and slavery, et cetera.

      And all of this has to do with the dynamic between liberalism and the reactionary, revolution and counter-revolution, freedom and liberty, democracy and republicanism.. Maybe also the dynamic between depression and anxiety, between curiosity and boredom. I’m thinking of how the reactionary mind is prone to anxiety and boredom, as Corey Robin argues.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. rauldukeblog says:

        Gestalt vs the aforementioned habits of singular cause and effect.

        The extent to which the Interzone/Brave New World machine (“The Ticket that Exploded”) is ignored is a sure sign of its power and ubiquity.

        I could not agree more about the anxiety of boredom in the formation of the fascist/reactionary mind.

        And again, that clearly capitalism is having some sort of nervous breakdown. Which, as you say, brings us into discussions of…everything.

        A hall of funhouse mirrors that reflect everything and distort everything. As a result everything becomes significant and is a sign that points away from itself and then returns the gaze back to itself which then creates a kind of dissonance and recognition. Thus both Howl and Trump are reflections of the same thing. Which of course at first glance seems wrong but remains accurate.

        Liked by 1 person

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