I have to get away.  Just walk.  Anywhere.  Steps taken quicker.  Counting.  Counting staves off the collapse.  Everything falling inward.  Breaking.  Keep walking.  Faster.  Keep the walls up.  Keep them up long enough, and you might escape.  Each step.  Counted.

Don’t look up.  They’ll know.  Chaos.  Chaos inside.  And they’ll know.  Don’t look at her.  Just keep walking.  Approaching closer.  You have to smile.  Keep your eyes down and she’ll know.  She’ll feel it.  And you’ll break.  You have to look up.  Quickly.  Just quickly.  Then keep walking.

Eyes flick up.  They meet hers.  “Nice hair cut,” she says without breaking stride.  Nice hair cut was all she said.  Just those words.  Is she sure?  Is that all she sees?

My stride breaks, pace slows.  Steps are no longer counted, breath slows.  Suddenly I can’t remember why I was running.

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Eight Seconds

Eight seconds. That’s how long he could last before panic set in. Eight seconds of certainty. He wanted certainty, and in that certainty he found release. He’d close his eyes sometimes, and imagine he was falling. Death was certain in these falls. He’d count, just to see how long he could last, knowing his own demise was unavoidable. There was no lifeline, no cord that would snap taut at the last second. Just 8 seconds of freedom.

In those 8 seconds, everything else faded away, and his mind could find a brief glimpse of clarity. After that, it all came rushing back.

How high would he have to be? He wanted to fall for as long as possible, to experience those last seconds of certainty in fullness, but to achieve that certainty before the world came rushing in to his freedom, and his illusion came crashing down.  He’d thought about it long and hard, done the calculations…just over 1000 feet.  One thousand and thirty to be exact.

Eight seconds of space is hard to come by in this world.  Only 7 buildings in the US are tall enough.

He gave up the thought, the thought of actually jumping.  He’d have to get to the top somehow.  The walk would be excruciating, too full of choice, of uncertainty.  Would he do it at the top?  Would he actually choose solace?  Would he accept the certainty the height had gifted him?  It was too hard to know.

So instead he counts.  Every day he counts.  Eight seconds of space.  One thousand feet from everything.

Close your eyes and count. You’re falling now. The wind on your face, everything is out of your control.


How long can you last, breathing, feeling your inevitable doom, the impact at any moment.

How long can you last before your eyes blink open, and you reach for control again?

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Behavioral Axis

“There is, I suppose, a world of objects which have a certain form, like this coffee mug. I turn it, and it has no handle. I tilt it, and it has no cavity. But there is something real here which is always a mug with a handle. But politics, justice, patriotism — they aren’t like coffee mugs. There’s nothing real there separate from our perception of them. So if you try to change them as though there were something there to change, you’ll get frustrated, and frustration will finally make you violent. If you know this and proceed with humility, you may perhaps alter people’s perceptions so that they behave a little differently at that axis of behavior where we locate politics or justice; but if you don’t know this, then you’re acting on a mistake. Prejudice is the expression of this mistake.” –The Real Thing, Tom Stoppard

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Flow Chart of Resistance

In any civilian sponsored anti-governmental protest or act of civil disobedience, one is battling a large and systematic opponent with nearly limitless resources.  Unless you’ve really mastered your opponent, to some extent you’re always battling inside their preordained “free speech zone,” explicitly or unintentionally.

There’s a process for dealing with the non-compliant.  A method of segregating them from the population, slowing their progress.  Keeping them from resisting in any way that might actually be effective.  Here’s an example enacted out in an airport customs line:

“Lukacs claims they have no power over him.  But Lukacs doesn’t understand at all how power works; he is confusing law and power, and that confusion bought him an hour in the chairs.  “The Feds” have complete power over him.  The fact that he doesn’t understand how utterly manipulated he was demonstrates this….The moment they “led me into a waiting room with about thirty chairs” they already knew he wasn’t a threat….But it’s at the moment they decide that he isn’t a threat that the demonstration of their power begins, and he complies.  They tell him to sit, and he sits.  They tell him to follow, and he does.  They know they can’t legally do anything with him, so they play with him.  “Six other people were waiting.”  What did he think those six people were they doing there?  They were just like him.  They didn’t answer the questions. Lukacs writes, “This must not happen often, because several of the officers involved seemed thrown by my refusal to meekly bend to their whim.” Setting aside that asking the questions they are instructed to ask isn’t a whim, and that not everyone who doesn’t want to be inconvenienced because they value their time is “meek”, he is incorrect.   It happens often enough that they built a room for it, in every airport.  With lots of chairs.

Lukacs gets it wrong because he thinks he has disrupted the process by refusing to answer.  Wrongtanomo. That is the process.  Just a slightly less-used branch on the Process Flowchart.  The room and chairs are there because the government assumes that people will exercise their rights and not answer.  The room is exactly the same as the line he was in at first, except for a different group of people.  The room is there to remind you that it costs you something to enforce your rights (time and aggravation) and costs them nothing to impose that cost on you.”

Similarly, in getting arrested in order to tie up the court system, you’re doing more to tie yourself up than your opponent.  You’re playing into their hand.  Who pays for the court system?  You do.  Stolen money or not, so long as you’re paying into the system, any type of protest is just another branch of the process flow chart.   As Reagan’s Secretary of State reputedly notes, “Let them protest all they want, so long as they pay their taxes.”

Why are life sentences handed out for tax evasion?  It seems like murderers and rapists are often given lighter treatment.  Why is that?  Murder and rape are less damaging to the status quo.  Nothing else is more effective than simply refusing to fund aggression, and as a result, it is the one thing that a government must squelch at any opportunity, with lives taken by courts or at the end of a gun.

In any regime, there are always freedom fighters.  There is always an underground.  There has to be a weak straw man fighting the system, one that is never quite squelched.  There must always be an enemy of the state.  A group that the 5 O’Clock news can show to elicit a two minute hate from every good, law abiding citizen.  Something for the system to rally against, and a reason for conscientious mothers to lock their doors at night and protect their children.

By engaging in ineffective public protest, you’re feeding the system, not fighting it.  No sense in fighting you, they give you space and add you to the flow chart, rope off a free speech zone, add a few extra courts.  The worst ones, the tax evaders, they eliminate.  The rest, they leave to strengthen the breeding stock, keep the sheep from becoming too docile and ignorant to function even as automatons.  Heinlein expresses this sentiment nicely in Farnham’s Freehold:

“A good eating apple, firm and sweetly tart, is never a product of nature; it is the result of long development from something small and sour and hard and hardly fit for animal fodder.  Then it has to be scientifically propagated and protected.  On the other hand, too highly developed plants–or animals–can go bad, lose their firmness, their flavor, get mushy and soft and worthless.  It’s a two horned problem.  We have it constantly with servants.  You must weed out the troublemakers, not let them breed.  On the other hand these very troublemakers, the worst of them, are invaluable breeding stock that must not be lost.  So we do both.  The run-of-the-crop bad ones we temper and keep.  The very worst ones–such as you–we encourage to run …[and] at a later time add you in, judiciously, to a breeding line that has become so soft and docile and stupid that it is no longer worth its keep….I could not let you stay in contact with loyal servants…presently, you would have been put in touch with the underground….there is always an underground wherever there is a ruling class and a serving class.  Which is to say, ALWAYS.  If there were not one, it would be necessary to invent one.  However, since there is one, we keep track of it, subsidize it–and use it.”

This begs the question though, how does one opt out without becoming a target?

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Being Orthogonal

Orthogonal in a basic mathematical sense means “involving right angles.”  In our living language, however, the term has been extended to have other meanings in general use:

1. The characteristic of being independent (relative to something else).

2.  Non-redundant, non-overlapping, or irrelevant.

I.e. A thing is orthogonal  is orthogonal if it can be used without consideration as to how its use will affect something else.

How can a person be orthogonal?  The answer…be 90 degrees from everything else in the universe.  It is to take a question and realize the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer.  It is to watch an argument, pulling back completely to the abstract, without consideration as to how it will affect you or anything else, because it need not have any affect.

To expand on one example I’ve previously discussed here, I’ll borrow another bit from The Left Hand of Darkness:

“To oppose something is to maintain it…They say here ‘all roads lead to Mishnory.’  To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road.  To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar.  You mist go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road…To be an atheist is to maintain God.  His existence or his nonexistence, it amounts to much the same, on the plane of proof.  Thus proof is a word not often used among the Handdarata, who have chosen not to treat God as a fact, subject either to proof or to belief: and they have broken the circle, and go free.  To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them…”

Asking for proof as to the presence or absence of God is like asserting the existence of a pink unicorn on my shoulder, and then requiring I refute it.  I can refute the existence of the unicorn, but “to oppose something is to maintain it.”  I can be as an atheist is to God, and refute it…or I can take the agnostic approach.  Realize that there is a chance that there is a pink unicorn on my shoulder, regardless of how minuscule I think that possibility, but simultaneously realize that I am completely orthogonal to the existence of such an imperceptible pink unicorn.  Being as such, refutations or assertions of its existence are irrelevant to me.  I am not on that road.

Orthogonality applies beyond theology, to all that is unanswerable.  Lets try politics, with an example from The Eye in the Pyramid from the Illuminatus Trilogy:

“We’re anarchists and outlaws, goddamn it….We’ve got nothing to do with right-wing, left-wing or any other half-assed political category.  If you work within the system, you com eto one of the either/or choices that were implicit in the system from the beginning.  You’re talking like a medieval serf, asking the first agnostic whether he worships God or the Devil.  We’re outside the system’s categories.  You’ll never get the hang of our game if you keep thinking in flat-earth imagery of right and left, good and evil, up and down.  If you need a group label for us, we’re political non-Euclideans.”

Not on the road or not on the coordinate system refers to the same concept.  Irrelevance to the system’s categories.

How about sexuality and gender?

Asserting you’re a Tom Boy buys into the system definition of femininity.  By opposing that which the system defines as female, you maintain it.  Are you simply not a biological female, that behaves as you do?  In behaving, in being, are you not in your very essence redefining what it is to be female?  Why assert that you are not feminine?  Assert nothing, and the system definition becomes irrelevant with your existence as an example of its irrelevance.

Does orthogonality imply a passionless existence?  Not necessarily.  It means that one must work a little harder to find ones passions, rather than accepting a canned systematic position.  It’s easy to find meaning in a polar identity as either left or right, religious or atheist.  How does one find passion in a non-euclidean existence?  This is a question for which I have yet to find a fulfilling answer.

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Coercion, Or A Simple Request?

If you believe someone will comply with your request (reasonable or not) simply because you have asked, how can that be coercion?  In this culture, it is often assumed that if you are asking for something, you are doing so out of need, and if you are ordering someone, you are doing so because you have the authority to do so.  An excerpt from this article below gives a few fine examples of this phenomenon:

“He arranged for 22 nurses working in a large hospital to be rung, separately, by a man simply calling himself, “Dr Smith”. Dr Smith told each of the nurses that he wanted them to give 20mg of a drug called Astroten to a patient, who he named. Dr Smith also told the nurses that he was on his way to the hospital and would sign the necessary paperwork when he arrived.

The drug, an invention of the experimenters, had been placed in the drug cabinet several days before the telephone call with a prominent warning on its side that 10mg was the maximum safe dose. Despite this, and despite the fact that hospital protocol specifically stated that no drug should ever be administered based solely on a phone call, 21 out of the 22 nurses were preparing to give the 20mg dose when they were stopped. The nurses had bowed to the imagined authority of the ‘doctor’.”

An example of compliance due to a perceived need:

“Milgram went with his students on to the New York subway. Their task was to approach passengers on the train and say, pleasantly: “I’d like your seat, please”. As Milgram pointed out beforehand, “if you ask a New Yorker if he would give up his seat to a man who gives no reason for asking, he would say ‘never’. But what would he really do?” The answer was that in just over half of all cases people gave up their seats when asked.

Recently I decided to repeat this experiment in a busy London shopping centre, with similar results. I was surprised by how many people complied with my completely unreasonable request, but even more surprised by how uncomfortable I found asking them to do it, something Milgram also discovered.

“I was about to say the words ‘excuse me, sir, may I have your seat,’ but I found something very interesting, there was an enormous inhibition, the words wouldn’t come out, I simply couldn’t utter them, there was this terrible restraint against saying this phrase.”

Although it was unexpected, Milgram thought that this was a hugely significant finding. He had found through his own personal experience just how important feeling socially awkward is when it comes to modifying behavior. We don’t like breaking the social rules – whether it’s asking for somebody’s seat, or disobeying the instructions of somebody whose authority we have accepted.”

Not many of us like haggling either.  It’s when asking for a lower price, we are either implying a need, or implying the authority to do so.  If no need exists, it becomes even more difficult.  A need is tangible.  You want something but you cannot afford it, so if you want it bad enough you’ll be willing to make the leap to haggle/barter or resort to more unorthodox methods of acquisition.

The implication of authority is harder for most.  It can only be accomplished with a hefty dose of confidence and projection of imagined authority.

As a negotiator, I was asked to do just that.  Project authority.  The job entails requesting things you have no right or authority to request.  Knowing exactly how much you can ask for before the other party questions your motives.  Part of the training requires you to ask for at least 5 things from 5 different people over the course of the week.  A better grade in a class.  A discount on your car.  Literally, asking someone to give up a seat on a park bench.  For no other reason than to break down the social conditioning that makes each of us afraid to ask.

In some ways, it makes sense as a survival related social development, as in a sense it is crying wolf.  It is assumed that if you ask for the seat, you need it.  If everyone asked for it, no one would get it, even those that had a true need.

This, however, gives a leg up to those willing to use their the system for their own benefit without regard for others.  Those willing to project authority to coerce or manipulate others.

Where is the line?  Am I manipulating a car sales man knowing that he’ll bring the price down $1000, throw in a roof rack and a 5 year warranty?  In many ways, it’s no different than asking someone to administer an electric shock.  You’re asking for something, and simulating the authority to do so.

In this case, I believe the difference is the self interest of those accepting your authority.  So long as you have not asked for too much, it’s in the car salesman’s best interest to comply with your request.  He still makes the sale.  How does it benefit the manager in the example below to comply with the request to strip search his employees?

“There was a recent example of the continuing tendency towards blind obedience in the USA when a con man, dubbed ‘the modern Milgram’, made the staff of dozens of fast-food restaurants behave in an appalling fashion simply by ringing up and pretending to be a policeman.

He persuaded managers to strip-search their staff in search of stolen goods, to make them jog naked, even to strip off and appear naked in front of startled customers. One manager, who strip-searched an employee and was subsequently jailed, said, ‘I didn’t want to do it, but it was like he was making me’.”

If someone chooses to consent to something with is against their best interests, they have failed to think.  They have blindly accepted your authority.  Acted as sheep.

However, this is where my reasoning falls apart.  I do not wish to project authority to cause someone to do something against their best interests.  But why?  What makes this different?  I’d really welcome other thoughts and perspectives to help bring this idea into fullness.

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Permanent, Intolerable Uncertainty

“You don’t see yet, Genry, why we perfected and practice Foretelling?”


“To exhibit the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question.”

I pondered that a good while, as we walked side by side thought…

“The unknown,” said Faxe’s soft voice in the forest, “the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action. If it were proven that there is no God there would be no religion….But also if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion….Tell me, Genry, what is known? What is sure, predictable, inevitable–the one certain thing that you know concerning your future, and mine?”

“That we shall die.”

“Yes. There’s really only one question that can be answered, Genry, and we already know the answer….The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.”

–The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

Perhaps this is why I like maybe.

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Organization for a Free Society

I learned about a new organization today.  The “Organization for a Free Society.”  I found it through a link describing it as an “anarcho-left-libertarian” group attempting to “break down all systems of inequality and injustice and to create a participatory, democratic, and egalitarian society.”

I’m particularly interested in one article entitled “Critique of Pure Relationships: On Consent and Compulsory Monogamy.” I’ve placed a few choice excerpts below, but the basic argument is that individuals or couples should not just accept monogamy as the social default.  If they want to be monogamous, that’s great, but it should be something that’s actively accepted rather than passively condoned.  The article goes on to provide several justifications for non-monogamous relationships as a positive family model, but I think my interest lies in more the assertion of positive consent to interaction models.

Specifically in my social circle, non-monogamy is the social norm, almost to the point of being the default assumption.  I think the active consent applies in both directions, and that one should define their relationship model based on their needs and desires, regardless of what appears to be the default.

I try to live the “yes means yes” value system, making sure that those in my interactions are actively engaged in whatever we’re involved in, rather than just passively accepting.  I think that’s interesting when applied in the specific framework of relationships, which is a way I had not previously thought to apply this model.

Choice quotes from the article regarding non-coercive interaction:

“Within feminist circles, there has been a movement in recent years to reframe our notion of consent, moving away from a passive “no means no” model wherein consent is a lack of resistance, toward a “yes means yes” model of active, empowered consent. Proponents of this model of consent offer invaluable insights into how our personal relationships can be transformed, and in particular into the ways in which women can and must be sexually liberated and empowered. But they often fail to articulate a broader vision and strategy for deconstructing the coercive forces at work in our society. We propose that in order to realize a truly liberated sexuality, the model of active consent must be applied not only to our personal interactions, but to our interactions with society as well. A truly liberated sexuality is one in which all aspects of our sexual identities—from our gender expression to our specific nuanced fetishes and desires, from our sexual orientation to our choice of which (if any) sexual acts we wish to engage in—are a result of active consent, not a result of passive submission to the coercive structures of society.”

“We envision a society not in which monogamy is obsolete, but in which it is seen as only one possible relationship structure among many, and in which any relationship structure is entered into as the result of deliberate, active consent. We envision a society in which individuals form intimate relationships and shape their roles within those relationships out of authentic needs and desires rather than as a result of pressures to conform to a predetermined model, and where self-reflectivity with regard to the way we form relationships is encouraged rather than discouraged. In this society, people will be educated and empowered to make sexual decisions based on the safety, consent, and desire of all parties involved rather than based on an externally imposed morality. We envision a society where value is placed on the development of authentic sexualities.”

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Ritual, Placebo and Simulation

Doctors are realizing that they no longer need to lie to patients in order for the placebo effect to work.  When you can tell a patient that they’re receiving sugar pills, hand them a bottle labeled placebo, and still arrive at statistically significant results, you’ve exited the world of treatment, and crossed solidly over into the world of ritual.  That’s what’s happened here or here.  Blatant simulation of treatment, without the all to real side effects of modern medicine, resulting in real results.

Taking pills results in a cure.  It’s a ritualized concentration on improving wellness.  A while back I read a study claiming that that those that take vitamins are healthier, but not necessarily as a result of the vitamins themselves.  That second leap of faith remains inconclusive, in the gap between correlation and causation.  The assumption is that there is not necessarily any effect as the result of many vitamins, but that instead, those that take vitamins are more conscious of their health, and as a result healthier due to aspects outside the control of even the most judicious study.  The conclusion was, that in reality, you want to be the type of person who takes vitamins, but then save your money.  Remain conscious of the placebo, the ritual of health, and feel the effects without subsidizing GNC.

What else in life fits this mold?  What other rituals subsidize a machine greater than themselves?  Marriage perhaps?  This seems like a pretty significant jump, but is it really?  We ritualize commitment, but the ritual itself only serves to effect the economic bonds between the couple.  So why not sign the paperwork in a courthouse and be done with it if that’s the actual change you are looking to effect?

Does one need to ritualize their and commitment to another to really feel it in all fullness?  What changes in you after a ceremony?  In the past I believed that this ritual was extraneous, that it was something cultural codified as a status symbol.  A Hallmark holiday, resulting in spending and consumption of goods, and more than likely enough stress to make the happy couple question their commitment to one another.  Those are side effects of what our culture has done, turning marriage into a chemical of modern medicine.  One can have the ritual, the fullness, in a way that’s meaningful to them without swallowing a strong dose of modern medicine and cultural perversion.

Keep just the ritual, and take the placebo.  Make it special to you, a ritual to each other.  Something to remember, to hold on to as a reminder of a point in time where you both announced your commitment in a tangible form, even if nothing changed in how you feel about each other.  Know that this simulated closeness does nothing to bring you actually closer together, and has no practical effect on your level of commitment, yet revel in it anyway.  Grow closer.  Drink deep.

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The First and Oldest Use of Simulation

“Do we define our dreams, or do our dreams define us? I felt somehow changed by each of these dreams I’ve had, just as any experience changes us. Strange then to think that who we are is in part defined by an entire second life most of us rarely remember. There perhaps is the first and oldest use of simulation: an approximation of the real world created by our own minds in the night as we quietly sleep, a world where we can safely explore ideas, learn the consequences without suffering them, a place we can even die–and live to learn from it.” –After Life, Simon Funk

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