The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.
Source: SoundCloud / wrm
For anarchists who do know something about anthropology, the arguments are all too familiar. A typical exchange goes something like this:
Skeptic: Well, I might take this whole anarchism idea more seriously if you could give me some reason to think it would work. Can you name me a single viable example of a society which has existed without a government?
Anarchist: Sure. There have been thousands. I could name a dozen just off the top of my head: the Bororo, the Baining, the Onondaga, the Wintu, the Ema, the Tallensi, the Vezo… All without violence or hierarchy.
Skeptic: But those are all a bunch of primitives! I’m talking about anarchism in a modern, technological society.
Anarchist: Okay, then. There have been all sorts of successful experiments: experiments with worker’s self-management, like Mondragon; economic projects based on the idea of the gift economy, like Linux; all sorts of political organizations based on consensus and direct democracy…
Skeptic: Sure, sure, but these are small, isolated examples. I’m talking about whole societies.
Anarchist: Well, it’s not like people haven’t tried. Look at the Paris Commune, the free states in Ukraine and Shimin, the 1936 revolution in Spain…
Skeptic: Yeah, and look what happened to those guys! They all got killed!
The dice are loaded. You can’t win. Because when the skeptic says “society,” what he really means is “state,” even “nation-state.” Since no one is going to produce an example of an anarchist state—that would be a contradiction in terms—what we’re really being asked for is an example of a modern nation-state with the government somehow plucked away: a situation in which the government of Canada, to take a random example, has been overthrown, or for some reason abolished itself, and no new one has taken its place but instead all former Canadian citizens begin to organize themselves into libertarian collectives. Obviously this would never be allowed to happen. In the past, whenever it even looked like it might—here, the Paris commune and Spanish civil war are excellent examples—the politicians running pretty much every state in the vicinity have been willing to put their differences on hold until those trying to bring such a situation about had been rounded up and shot.
There is a way out, which is to accept that anarchist forms of organization would not look anything like a state. That they would involve an endless variety of communities, associations, networks, projects, on every conceivable scale, overlapping and intersecting in any way we could imagine, and possibly many that we can’t. Some would be quite local, others global. Perhaps all they would have in common is that none would involve anyone showing up with weapons and telling everyone else to shut up and do what they were told. And that, since anarchists are not actually trying to seize power within any national territory, the process of one system replacing the other will not take the form of some sudden revolutionary cataclysm—the storming of a Bastille, the seizing of a Winter Palace—but will necessarily be gradual, the creation of alternative forms of organization on a world scale, new forms of communication, new, less alienated ways of organizing life, which will, eventually, make currently existing forms of power seem stupid and beside the point. That in turn would mean that there are endless examples of viable anarchism: pretty much any form of organization would count as one, so long as it was not imposed by some higher authority, from a klezmer band to the international postal service.
– David Graeber, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology
Source: SoundCloud / dvemp
Sweatshop labor might indeed be a worker’s best option given that the state has worked to forcibly suppress labor unions, has engaged in the massive and illegitimate seizure of land, and has closed off innumerable employment options through protectionist policies. But the fact that sweatshop labor is mutually beneficial in that sense is compatible with the claim, made from a broader structural perspective, that the worker is being harmed. In a corporatist world, relationships between capital and labor may often be exploitive, even if it is not so clear that it is the individual capitalist who bears the primary guilt of exploitation.
After WW2 one of the major things that happened was the suburbanisation of the US. A vast investment in housing: the rate of housing construction doubled compared to the 1930s and 1920. A vast amount of capital and employment was absorbed in this process. The actual worth-evaluation of real estate takes some time, however. Thus it’s always speculative - it tends to result in a Ponzi scheme that eventually bursts.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (US mortgage institutions) played a crucial role in developing the recent real-estate bubble in the 1990s onwards. This bubble we’ve just seen burst really took off in the Clinton years with Fannie Mae beginning to lend money to people who weren’t good credit risks in order to boost demand.
Excess capital tends to get invested in real estate speculation/development which is always a long-term process. It may take up to 10-15 years to know if you really made money out of it. Until that time a lot of money is being used up: you are buying resources and employing labour. This leads to the economy booming along. Then the question of demand comes up. Since consumers may need a mortgage, the financial-structure was remade throughout history: in the 1930s it was extremely difficult to get a mortgage for longer than about 3 years, so the mortgage institutions were reformed in the 1930s to allow for a 30-year mortgage. Then after WW2 (through the G.I. Bill amongst other things) the whole structure began to be favored and highly subsidised with the goal of inflating the number of people getting mortgages. So banks started giving money for the supply- and money for the demand-side. In the 1990s the “home-owners dream” got pushed. One of the goals: making mortgage-acquisition easier for immigrants or African-Americans. This is when the sub-prime idea was born. By the end of the 1990s its shortcomings (and future failure) becomes ever more clear. Still, even though the market briefly dips between 1998-2000, the whole thing really takes off after 2001. Back then, various financial organisations started lending out trillions of dollars, passing it over to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or packaging it into CDOs and selling them off to interested parties. These investments were expected to be as safe as houses. The market, though, didn’t really exist in the first place. Thus the crash.
The rate of house building right now is back to what it was before 1940. In 1940 the rate of homeownership in the US was about 4% of the population. In comparison: By 1960 it was up to 60%. In 2004 it was close to 70%.
The urbanisation all around the world tries to meet a fictitious market.
There was a savings and loan-crisis in the late 1980s/early 1990s. About 1.300 institutions went under. It cost approximately 200 billion to bail out the sector.
The same thing happened back in 1973. If you look globally, the end of the Japanese boom in 1990 came with a crash of land prices. Similarly, the Swedes had to nationalise their banks in 1990 because of a housing crisis.
Right now, urbanisation in China right is rescuing global capitalism. Almost 50% of the worlds output in steel is going there. China is growing slightly less then 10% per year - much of it thanks to government-stimulated real estate projects/development. If this project crashes then all of the countries supplying raw materials will be affected negatively.
The brain is made up of 100 billion neurons which are the structural and functional units of the nervous-system.
Each neuron (or nerve-cell) can be either on or off and makes synapses or points of contact with 1000-10.000 other neurons. Each point of contact - or synapse - can be either on or off. It can be inhibitory, it can be excitatory and the number of possible brain states, of permutations and combinations of brain activity, exceeds the number of elementary particles in the known universe.
Ways to explore the brain:
1. Brain imaging
Asking the subject to perform a certain action while observing whatever parts of the brain are lighting up.
2. Put electrodes in the brain and record the activity of single neurons and nerve-cells
3. Behavioural neurology or cognitive neuroscience
You look at patients with very specific kinds of brain-damage. Often they loose a particular ability with other functions remaining intact. Thus there is some certainty that the damaged brain area has something to do with the lost ability. I.e. specific brain damage results in selective/specific function-loss and not in a holistic failure.
Example: A patient with brain damage in the neuron region MT can no longer see moving objects but remains functionally intact otherwise. Similarly there’s a region V4 for colour. This is the localizationist approach to brain function.
Neurological anomalies, as they were called by Thomas Kuhn (“The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”), were ignored by the mainstream-neurological-establishment in the past because they couldn’t make any sense of them. What cognitive neuroscience has done is rescuing these phenomena from oblivion by bringing the patient from the clinic into the laboratory. This helps us to understand not only his symptoms but also how a normal human brain works.
On the side of the brain you’ve got the temporal lobes and tucked away in the inner surface of the temporal lobes is a structure called the fusiform gyrus - about the size of a little finger - which main function is processing and recognising faces. Damage results in face blindness. -> Impostor-delusion of the capgras syndrome. = The connection between vision and emotion is gone. (A mother is no longer recognised but seen as an impostor, for example.)
If you look at visual signals in the normal brain, messages go to the back of the brain to the visual areas. Visual signals are processed, then they go to the fusiform gyrus, where the visual signals are further analysed and recognised and then after the image is recognised it gets relayed to the emotional centers of the brain where there is a structure called the amygdala that performs an emotional surveillance of what you are looking at. (Danger or safety in a given situation is evaluated.)
If the situation is judged as being dangerous, your heart will start to beat faster, your blood-pressure goes up, readying you for immediate action - most likely flight or fight. You’ll start to sweat (caused by rising blood-pressure) because the body is anticipating muscular exertion. You can measure the sweating by putting two electrodes in the palm, measuring the change in skin-resistance - the galvanic skin response. This gives you a measure of the persons spontaneous emotional arousal when he/she looks at something in the external world. Interestingly, while all people start to sweat when looking at their own mothers, people with capgras syndrome don’t. (Disconnection between emotion and visual information)
Audio-data is still connected with the emotional centers of the brain. I.e. the mother, for example, can be recognised on the telephone. There’s a separate wire (to put it crudely) going from the auditory centers of the brain (auditory cortex) to the emotional centers (amygdala).
Person with a desire (starting early in childhood) to have its own arm/leg amputated. Half the cases get their amputation, resulting in loss of depression etc.
It turns out that there is a complete map of the body-surface on the side of the brain in a vertical strip called the postcentral gyrus. So every point on the body is represented on a point on the brain. (That is a sensory map - Penfield map of the skin-surface of the brain). Slightly behind it there is a map of joint- and muscle sensation. If you move a muscle the information goes to the secondary somatosensory cortex (S2). Further behind in the parietal lobe there’s an area called the superior parietal lobule in the right hemisphere where you construct a more abstract representation of all your body parts (i.e. your body-image). The scaffolding of your body-image is innately specified at birth.
To sum it up:
The sensory data comes to the sensory area of the brain (postcentral gyrus) then they go to the superior parietal lobule and we construct a more abstract body-image using all the senses. With regards to apotemnophilia this body-image might be intact but the arm/leg-region is missing congenitally because of a circuit-malfunction. The sensory map is completely normal. The sensory region is getting the signals normally but since there is an empty region in the superior parietal lobule it can’t process them there.
In the right frontal lobe - in the prefrontal area of the frontal cortex - there are neurons which send commands through the brain stem to the arm. These commands orchestra a series of muscle-twitches necessary to execute an action. These are called motor command neurons. Monkeys have them, people have them. They are in the premotor- and in the the motor cortex. These neurons will fire when I execute an action but also when I watch others do so. In a way this is a virtual-reality simulation of the other person’s mind. This also works for sensitive experiences like touch. If somebody touches me, my left postcentral gyrus starts to fire and areas behind it also start firing. (Most of these neurons are called sensory tactile neurons.)
About 10% of these neurons will fire when I watch someone else being touched.
The brain knows the difference between being touched and watching someone getting touched through this process: the input from the skin-receptors goes back to the brain and partly vetoes the output of the mirror-neurons.
Mirror neurons -> empathy -> imitation (sophisticated integration/connection with other brain regions necessary) -> dawn of culture
(Also, Mu wave activity might be a correlate of mirror-neuron activity.)
Actively associating (i.e. actually experiencing) numbers or tones with colours. To simply explain synesthesia as metaphors (synesthetic metaphors) doesn’t answer anything. (How are metaphors represented in the brain?) The color-area of the brain which is processed in the fusiform gyrus - just like faces - is right next to the number-area of the brain where the visual information of numbers is being processed. They are almost touching each other. The most common form of synesthesia is number-color-synesthesia - a link is likely. Maybe there is some accidental cross-wiring in some people with cross-activation. Why does this happen though? In the fetal brain (early infancy) all the brain-regions are connected to each other (overstatement but roughly correct). There is a gross excess of connections - a redundancy of connections - connecting far-flung regions of the brain. Then there are pruning genes that prune away the excess connections to create the modularity that characterises the adult brain - the specialised regions. If there’s a mutation in this pruning gene you might get an excess connection between, for example, the number-area and the color-area of the brain - so long as the gene is expressed selectively (because of transcription-factors) only in the fusiform gyrus. If the gene is expressed throughout the brain you get excess connections throughout the brain. Synesthesia is 8 times more common among artists, poets and novelists (they are good at metaphor, linking seemingly unrelated things). If you assume that concepts and ideas are also in different brain regions then, if you have a synesthesia-gene expressing itself throughout the brain producing excess connections between different brain-regions, you have got to confer (to this brain) a propensity towards linking seemingly unrelated concepts and ideas and hence a propensity towards creativity and metaphorical thinking. 1 out of 50 people is a synesthete. If the gene would be useless it would have been weeded out by now. (Selective gene-expression as a ESS towards securing a stable amount of diffuse expression in a given population.)
Other interesting facts:
Some patients who developed temporal seizures suddenly began writing poetry. Also, zapping frontal regions of the brain with TMS, temporary silencing a part of the brain caused test subjects to suddenly draw beautifully or do numerical calculation much more effectively than they could before the stimulation. This was an experiment by Alan Snyder. Studies on a systematic basis are lacking though.
Amidst the attention given to the science and how they can lead to the cure of all diseases and daily problems of mankind, I believe that the biggest breakthrough will be the realization that the arts, which are conventionally considered "useless", will be recognized as the whole reason why we ever tried to live longer or live more prosperously.
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.