Another section of the Rock Commentaries: Louie Louie, Love, and Dylan

Part One, Chapter One of the Rock Commentaries has just been published. After the intro on Music history and American Pie, this one, about Louie, Love and Dylan, has been published at the Music page of the website mmcdonald77.wordpress.com. Click on the subsection under Music, one of the seven pools on the Menu at the top of the screen. I am very proud of this today! We want Bob to like it, even though most of Hard Rain, we still don’t know what it means! But see if this is not the best Rock commentary on Lyrics you have ever read! Writers always think that on publishing day, cause if we could think of anything better, we would write it!

Peace/Love, MM

P. S. Now, and next chapter, we start to Rock.

Prescription Drug Abuse

I went to the doctor today, and Blue cross gave me a questionnaire about smoking. If we are going to do national health care, the government has an obvious interest in our quitting smoking. I was supposed to confess in detail about my succumbing to this, the one sin left in our society, and sign up for their literature and programs. And if you, dear reader, are getting to know me yet at all, you will know that down the side, in place of my expected confessions, I wrote things like “Why is U. S. tobacco more carcinogenic than foreign tobacco” and why do we not study the difference between organic tobacco and the fertilizer/pesticide/additive tobacco, so that we might know what is causing the cancer related to smoking.” And when I was done, I wrote across the top:

We can help you stop prescription drug abuse

I have a chip on my shoulder about prescription drugs, especially the psychological drugs, and of these, especially the anti-depressants. Our ignorance regarding psychology allows an opening for the prescription drug companies to market their remedies on the authority of medical science, when in truth, the understanding of the soul is not nearly as accessible to our science as the knowledge of the body seems to be. This was my conclusion from the smorgasbord of psychology schools that at best make up the curriculum of the modern psychology B. A. I wrote about this in three endnotes on psychology in my 1997 dissertation on King Lear (pp.280-283, notes 28-30 to Chapter Five.

But the chip becomes rage when I consider what was done to my mother. They had her on about 6 different drugs, including Adderall and blood pressure medicine, from so many different doctors that they could not keep track of the interactions. She became so mean and angry that no one could get near her in a decline over four or five years. I was the last of her four offspring to be able to take her for groceries, for example, and still she would get mad at me for example for a month at a time when I said “Your lucky to have this house,” like, count your blessings. “Lucky!” she shouted, “I worked for every….” So for long periods, no one but the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Civic Concern could help her. Finally, after new blood pressure medicine was dropped on the floor and killed one dog, the other died of sorrow, and she suffered organ failure. She spent a month and a half in U of M hospital critical unit, where they spent about 5 million dollars to save her. She had Medicare, but their only interest other than compassion was probably to study the case: They never did figure out the cause.

This is of course my own version of these things- let others write theirs. We would read to her full page printouts of the “side effects” of Adderall off the internet. From the days of “Mother’s Little Helper” in the sixties, when the doctors fed uppers and downers (the addictive Velum) to almost all the housewives to cure the tensions and emptiness of daily life, the doctors, a bit like auto mechanics, always have a diagnosis that ends in “you need me.”

 I have heard on the radio, defenses of the use of anti-psychotic drugs. These may indeed be useful when a person is submerged in a dream world while they are awake, and would die or not be able to go outside if left on their own. Again, these things are a last resort, but not a first resort, to be used with great caution, not the utter abandon which the industry would have us, and even the doctors believe is according to medical science. I am quite ill of seeing people messed up on an experimental antipsychotic, since medical science has determined that they should try various things until they find something that seems to work. Again, they literally do not know what they are doing, because our psychology is not knowledge, and is not based on science. The side effects od anti-depressants fit with the hypothesis that these toxic drugs are at the root of our public mass shootings, and their use in our society coincides with the rise ion these incidents. But like the harmfulness of the additives in tobacco, no one will even consider, in a disciplined study, if this might be true, and there is surely no money yet for such a study.

My doctor thinks my high blood pressure (some 140/7?) calls for a prescription of blood pressure medicine, which I refused. While he was listening to my breathing, he asked, and I confessed to smoking weed, “but we can’t afford it.” He did not suggest, and I did not ask for a medicinal card. Medicinal weed is often too phosphorescent, and the dope you kind makes us tired, so it is not much good anyway. Plus there is the list. I could get such a card, though, and, interestingly, the way our law is worded makes me legal, at least by state law. But the truth is in my Marijuana blog, and the prohibition is unconstitutional in about three different ways, if one could gain access to the courts with the argument. But that “umpirage of an impartial third” is denied the poor, who have no access to the courts.

My doctor also said the twitch in my face, which makes it hard to work or read, and may land me on disability, is due to caffeine. I often say that I drink so much coffee that if anything kills me, it has to be that. Something will get us sooner or later. He thought cheese was the cause of my high blood pressure, and the advice is to cut it out. It is often my only protein, eggs and cheese, and I don’t much like eggs without cheese.

Later I remembered what I know, that plaque from my bad teeth has stuffed my arteries. Despite brushing and flossing quite well, I got the gum disease from small problems that could not be addressed when there was no health care, and we were stuck teaching as career adjunct faculty despite a PhD. Next I will go with my new Obamacare card to the dentist. With a wound, it is important to keep it as clean as possible, and I credit Listerine with my survival to date. Any infection or toothache must be cleaned out, and is usually caused by food stuck in the gums.

That we end prescription drug abuse will not be popular with the huge, multibillion dollar short term interests of the prescription drug companies, but it is crucial to our efforts at national health care. Again, like the trouble with the courts, no one is going to fix it, because their making too much money at it. But the problem has begun to be recognized. That is why I do not side with either party on the health care issue. As with welfare, something has to be done, but the solution is elsewhere, in integrity. Something must be done- praise for the president. It is also unconstitutional to make people buy something and especially to present them an IRS bill they cannot afford. Since something had to be done, Obama went ahead and did it. When we realize later that it is unconstitutional, we will find another way to pay for it. Congress has the power to tax us for the general welfare. But congress does not have the power to get blood from a rock, nor to make us wards of the IRS when no blood comes. Part of the problem is that so many expensive things are now possible for our medicine. But the part we can do something about is to end the corrupt payoffs from drug companies to doctors, inspiring the doctors to tweak that diagnosis and collect from the taxpayers.

We, the valetudinarian Americans, spend so much time caring for our bodies, and so little caring for our souls. Then we do address our souls, our science admits only rat training techniques long known in circuses and neurology, based on the new discovery that parts of our brains indeed light up when were thinking or suffering or loving or learning or meditating or listening to music or remembering. Then without ever wondering what these things are, we take the normal for a standard and apply drugs to restore something that looks right to common sense and fashionable opinion. Just don’t smoke, and the taxpayers will pay, for this and the cleanup from the side effects. But hey, that is what we have learned through the Ritalin method of education.

Liking Things

WordPress will not allow me to like the website of the Alchemist because I am not on Facebook.

Repeatedly, we wonder what on earth these web engine and website people think they are doing, since these things are neither in their interest nor in ours. There could be class action lawsuits where ever content and association, communication and enterprise are inhibited in the shortsighted concern with micro-marketing. Again, I live in a shed, and I know these things?

We suggest that there be designed, and the Federal government protect, an honorable social media provider, and that the Christians, without taking this over, support it financially. The alternative is not some impractical pay up front system, the alternative is moderate advertising that does not prostitute us, but that we can trust enough to do business, and perhaps keep on when children are in the room. Do you trust that your screen is not literally watching you? And what of the ways you have not even thought of yet? We do not exchange our liberty for the privilege of providing content for advertisers. The purpose of government is to secure natural rights.

Facebook is orchestrating traffic to websites. Why do we not promote a social media website that does not have the flaws that now are becoming obvious? National security, which may well be at stake, will surely be enhanced, if only by the surge of liberty to the GNP. Why do we not prohibit and criminalize spying and controlling traffic, and information brokering, whenever these billion dollar but shortsighted interests walk right over the liberties our forefathers gave their lives to secure?

Our nation is in decline, it is said, and expected to fall from its position of world prominence. We can bash our heads against the causes, but we do it alone. No one cares. That is what decline is. Call Congress? The people have elected a Congress afraid to oppose the big powers and interests, and it was theirs to do so. Sue them? Like payola in the recording industry, even if one should avoid every impertinent technicality and win a single case by devoting ones life and sanity to the cause, nothing will change. That is what decline is. We do not wake up until it is too late. That is what is in the cards. Facebook has x billion dollars, and so their lobbyists will prevail. They have painted a picture in which information brokering and spying on people is called free enterprise, and any attempt to abolish our self destruction is “regulation,” which we know we do not want, and of which our government usually proves incapable. Does Mr. Zuckerberg not see that his little empire depends the liberty provided by America, and that the first tyrant who takes us over will also have him? And does everyone not see that it will not be pretty, but sudden and unopposable once it occurs? Where are the rich men who can see? One said to the poor man, “If your so smart, why are you not rich?” The poor man answered, “if your so rich, why are you not smart?” It is a matter of luck, or accident, if one with wealth or influence is not also motivated by the same narrow, shortsighted aims by which the majority are moved. Do they all think they will themselves be the tyrant, so they have nothing to fear? Where is the Billionaire who can both see and care? Why do we not make something of our lives, and put an end to these things? We do not have enough money yet? Are the rich not tired of funding cockroach studies?

I want to know who taught Mr. Zuckerberg American Government at Harvard. Perhaps he left his dorm room for his entrepeneureal career before he had to take this class. He is trumpeting entrepreneurism and technology at a Hackers convention this week. Again, jobs and technology are the only goals of education that are admissible publicly. Again, ask our president or our governor. The middle class is disappearing, meanwhile, and class tension reappearing. Perhaps this is because the rich, and the new internet billionaires, are orchestrating the conditions, leaving the poor to play a rigged game, as will soon become apparent. I heard a man with a new book, The Age of Acquiescence, Steve Frasier, talking about the old days when people would “take to the streets,” as in the union violence and the race violence of the past of America. Not once did he suggest that we vote for representatives that are resolved to do something about these things, inform them of our concerns, or run for these offices ourselves.

The Bill of Rights must take over the internet, or be applied to it, in order to secure the same prosperity which this secured in the visible world. The alternative, again, is not pretty. The alternative may be world wide tyranny. That is why we must seek the cure of free government in more free government.

You might like this blog, but it is most likely that Facebook will not allow this. WordPress will want some information from you that they can use, and they think this information brokering is to their big advantage. So, because no one trusts the internet with information, communication is inhibited, and what might have been a bright new day as a result of this technology will be ruined. The tragedy is typically human. Facebook will have to live in the world that remains.

I have published an entire book, and nearly starved to death when I needed to sell about twenty copies to survive the winter. I am only gradually discovering the extent to which the monopolies on publication and social interaction are at fault in particular and in detail. But I have not paid them yet! Do they not own me? Turn to government and political process? Do they not also own them?

Again, the people are like Dorothy: We would only have to click our heels. Congress would do our bidding, but we will not. The powers know that the people can be orchestrated. Go, your probably missing American Idol. And who want to listen to anything negative?

Conversations With Famous Persons III: Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell is of course one of the most prominent students of the great Carl Jung. He wrote a book on the archetype of the hero, a book that did quite well. Once, my philosophy teacher asked me, “what is a hero?” I am still working on that question to this day, so I will soon be spending more time with Mr. Campbell.

One night, Mr. Campbell gave a wonder-filled lecture at the Fountain Street Church in downtown Grand Rapids, near to my home there on Oak street, nestled between the bells of three churches. I had been reading quite a bit of Jung, even while discovering Socrates and philosophy. We had taken up the question of natural right, or what is just by nature, as distinct from what is legal. There are of course, unjust laws, and the just by nature is our way of saying what it is that guides the legislators when they are making laws, trying to avoid making unjust laws, or laws with implications that result in injustice. The question is of course very difficult. But it is simply self contradictory to say that right and wrong are only matters of opinion with no truth behind. Everyone believes that some are unjust, so that to be human is to have opinions about justice and injustice that one believes are true. Again, at its root, all modern thought is self contradictory. It is especially so when these imply that it is unjust to believe in justice.

Back to Joseph Campbell. After the lecture, when all the questions were asked, and everyone had gone home, I was honored to be taken by Mr. Campbell into the room behind the altar, as he packed up his papers, preparing to leave. I had of course been wondering how my new discovery of natural right would interface with the thought of Jung.

There are in Jung two different thoughts on the fundamental philosophic things, and I wonder if he ever thought it out. On one hand, his thought and all of analytic psychology are based on the assumption that wholeness is good. To integrate the archetypes is good for us, or healthy for the soul, while if we ignore these things and the things of self knowledge, ignore the unconscious, never throw a penny in the fountain, this is not healthy for the soul. First, to integrate the shadow, we cease faction with the shadows outside and admit to ourselves the parts of our nature and character that we do not admire. In Christianity, this is penance, and is guided by the law. It is the seeing of the splinter in one’s own eye.

The integration of the shadow opens the way to romantic love, and the drama of the hero begins. Jung calls this enterprise the integration of the anima or soul, as in “Your my soul, and my inspiration,” from the popular song. The anima turns out to be a mediator toward the archetypes and the highest enterprise of their integration, the things concerning what Jung calls the archetype of the “self,” meaning our true selves. This is the child and the wise old man.

In the room behind the altar, Mr. Campbell, after quite some argument, finally assented to the idea that if wholeness is the human good or the good for man, there must be an objective basis to ethics. Jung calls himself a “subjectivist,” following Kant, as though the archetypes are categories that account for the similarity and meaning of the many myths. I suppose I had confused the ego as subject with the self as subject, in trying to understand German subjectivism.

Another part of the thought of Jung is that wholeness, and even God, is a coincidence of opposites, both good and evil, so that again, natural right will slip away. The just and unjust, the argument suggests, will be united in a whole that is “beyond good and evil.” This is not to be taken lightly, even by us ethical objectivists. An impenetrable mystery of the Bible will always be that God made that rebellious angel, allows all this unbelievable stuff to occur, and even “gave into the hearts” of those ten kings, “to do his mind and to do one mind and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the sayings of God are made complete” (Revelation 17:17).

The hero participates in all things human, and in order to overcome the villain, must conquer this within himself. It may be a lesser achievement if he conquers this outside himself, and like Arthur, is extinguished with his opposite Mordred.

In our psychology, the new Socratic psychology, we hold that justice and virtue are the health of the soul, while injustice and faction are the illness and disease of the soul, at least at this level. The Socratic discussion of faction in the first book of Plato’s Republic comes to mind.

In addition, there is a hierarchy of the parts of the soul and the priorities, a hierarchy that is by nature or natural. When we subject what is higher, like wisdom, to what is lower, like bodily pleasure or money, we disrupt the parts of our own soul, leaving a discord rather than a harmony. Injustice, like stealing, is usually a result of inflamed desire, so that the desire for money is held by us in action to be more important than our concern for others, or to love God and our neighbor. To steal from me is then basically to say that your having that 20$ for dope is more important to you than my friendship, or my right to property, etc. There are not, in this philosophy, universal laws that are always literally true: One might steal medicine from a stingy doctor to save a dying child. It is not that the Mosaic prohibition is wrong, but it is a matter of priorities. All ethics, in choice, is a matter of priorities, and these priorities have a basis in an objective natural hierarchy. One should, if there is time, find another way, but if it comes down to it, one must choose the life of the child over the universal law, and hope he grows up to become a good kid who helps others, rather than a bad kid who hurts others.

The ends of wealth, honor and wisdom correspond to the three parts of the soul, and these to the three parts of the polity: the money-makers, the noble, and the wise. The benefit of Socratic psychology is that the archetype at the root of politics is the nature of the soul. It is in order to see justice in the soul that Socrates, in Plato’s Republic, undertakes the attempt to found a city in speech.

Aristotle describes three right regimes and three perversions of these. In the right regimes, the part that is the ruling element aims at the common good, while in the bad forms, the ruling element aims at its own apparent self interest, at the expense of the other classes, and of the whole city. So tyranny is the worst, while genuine Kingship, which is very rare, and genuine aristocracy, which is also rare though not unknown in history (as in the Knights of the Round table) are the best forms of constitution. It is not impossible, too, for the few rich to rule, as they are the able administrators, especially if these are educated by the wise and honor those truly noble. We have what Aristotle, in his politics, calls polity or politea, a constitution which, devised wisely, throws the few rich and the many poor who vote into a legislature, where powers are balanced, to hash out the common good in each instance, so that neither class is fleeced.

To conclude, then, when Joseph Campbell admitted that the thought of Jung- and indeed the entire aim of psychology at the knowledge and cultivation of the health of the soul- implies an objective ethics and natural right, modern psychology finally escaped the subjectivism of German philosophy and the ethical relativism that once seemed to be the only conclusion to be drawn from the many cultures and the undesirableness of the absolutist claims of opinions that had pretended to be objective knowledge. Rather than imply that there is no truth, the falsity of the absolutism of medieval tradition requires that there be a truth, and that opinion can be improved by the pursuit of knowledge. The possibility of mistakes implies that there is truth. The unhealthiness of faction and the possibility of the health of the soul implies that there is ethical truth, and these are the philosophical bases of psychology.

Conversations with Famous Persons: Rich DeVos Sr.

When in school in Grand Rapids, I was reading in a used book store, a book by Richard DeVos, the founder of Amway. Basically, the book said that wealth is a sign of divine favor, very near to saying that if God likes you, you will be rich. After all, is it not written, “…all these things will be yours as well?”

We were hippies back at Grand Valley, and all the radical types were our social group, the SDS guys and such. At Grand Valley, there were then three colleges, one for the hippies, called Thomas Jefferson college, one for the middle guys, called William James, and the usual sort of small college, called the College of Arts and Sciences. Because my major was Psychology, I was in the C.A.S., though as said, my friends and cohorts were of the more colorful sort. These were very much opposed to Mr. DeVos and the Amway view of life, and American “capitalism.” These had adopted and set the new opinions of the activist left, and called Amway “Scamway.” Now, even though I was a hippie, sporting long blond hair(people said I looked like  Greg Allman, though I see myself looking more like Edgar Winter. The truth is probably that I looked a lot like Shawn Phillips, and women who would seek him if they could would sometimes settle for me, so I was introduced to his fine work, and once took a girl to meet him.)

I was always a fan of good soap, and never quite into the things the T. J. C. people were in to: I was not an artist, but rather more of a scientist. But we loved things like romping in the woods and ravines around the college, smoking pot and watching sunsets. But I was too busy pursuing the mysteries of love, Psychology and Biology to join in much political activity. I was also beginning to discover philosophy, and had taken summer Independent Studies to read the scriptures.

We had heard that Mr. DeVos had taken control of the school board, and would soon eliminate some of the programs of which we were fond. One day I was working with a friend in the theater shop, for badly needed pay, just helping with some carpentry and manual labor, so I had on my holiest old jeans, even from high school, and probably a rough T-shirt. Mr. Devos had flown his personal Helicopter to attend a board meeting, and it was there parked outside the Campus Center building.

I had begun to read the introductory Platonic dialogues, and as is well known, one of the first effects of Socrates on the young pups is that they tend to go about questioning famous people, as Socrates did, to try to show that they do not know what people think they must know if they hold such positions. So, being a courageous type, I went and sat, cross-legged, right on the side of the sidewalk where Mr. DeVos would have to pass on his way to his helicopter, and waited. Soon he came along, attended by two burly bodyguards, who did seem a bit agitated to find me there. When He approached, I asked him,

Mr DeVos, how can a camel fit through the eye of a needle?

He answered, again, a bit agitated, “That’s not what that passage means…” He went on to explain. Later in the discussion, he would say, “You don’t have to dress like a bum.” But soon I was questioning him about the programs we feared he would destroy. He said that the marketplace must decide which programs would be kept, the ones that turned the biggest profit. I asked him if this principle was not the same as that of Thomas Jefferson College, and had the same problem with it: prior to education, the students do not know what is best to choose. The purpose of education is to uncover the true hierarchy of the priorities, but prior to education, we will not have this very clearly as a basis on which to consider each choice life sets before us, to know when we are sacrificing the higher to the lower things, ruining our lives and our society as well. At T. J. C., there were silly things like college credit for basket weaving, but also some avaunt-guard though very serious things, like the mime class of Tom Lubhart, a student of the teacher of the famous Marcel Marceau, who had continued a tradition of corporeal mime, less flashy but more artistic than pantomime. After demonstrating that the market idea of education curriculum and the Hippies idea of doing whatever one feels are not much different, we shook hands, and he flew off, again after telling me I did not have to dress like such a bum.

Years later, I had a conversation at the counter of a coffee shop with an Amway salesman, who was using the opportunity of our chance encounter to market his product, in the compulsive attempt to move on up the pyramid. Amway salesman have a bit of the evangelical method of sales that has become a part of American ministry and culture. This of course annoys everyone who is not a brick moving up in the pyramid, though we are not quite sure why we are annoyed. I pointed out to this man that in order to sell soap, he had subjected all his filial relations, to friends and brothers in law and even people he chanced to meet, to his own personal enterprise and hopes regarding this pyramid. It is in a similar way that education in America has been subjected.

We believed, and still do, that our wise professor knew what programs should be offered in a college, and in general would be the best at the superintendence of education. He had Allan Bloom out there once to consider having a St. John’s college in the Midwest. We always marveled that he did not go get a prestigious job at Princeton or Harvard. But he barely made it through his career without being cancelled on the priorities set by the marketplace.

Prison Injustice II

Prisons are the universities of the underworld.

There the leading sects recruit and teach the future criminals of America. The sects are the gangs, which break down mostly, though not exclusively, by race. There are the Nazi types, all the different white supremacist sects, Aryan nations, KKK, Skin Heads, the Satanists, MS13 and other Mexican gangs, and now there is one called Knights Templar, and the black gangs like reds and blues in L. A., and the old fashion Italian, Russian, and maybe even Jewish gangs. There are gangs for every nationality, because the body is more prominent for these, and everyone in prison requires protection and wants or needs many things. This protection is similar to the reason that being in or related to a gang is almost a necessity in most large American cities. I used to watch Gangland on the History Chanel a few years ago, when I had a T. V.

So, should we really be sending people to jail for probation violations and unpaid court fees? The system- the judges, courts, lawyers, and prosecutors, they will not put a stop to this. They are making too much money doing it, fleecing the poorest. We, the people, must put a stop to this, their admissions to the new community colleges, our social program of enrollment in the colleges of crime. We can best do this, maybe, by remembering what a crime is: not when one cannot show up for probation, make some AA meeting, or go to anger management class, not when one cannot afford a lawyer, not when one smokes pot or talks to much. A crime is when one harms another, or violates the rights of a citizen to life, liberty, property and the like. Not when one is homeless, mad, drunk or unlucky enough to fail to escape the clutches of the dog catcher. He may have a quota, or be paid per dog. Drug use must be more sharply distinguished from dealing, which harms a fellow citizen to line ones own pocket. Though it may be some infraction of some sort, a crime is, basically, when one harms another. If these have not harmed their fellow citizens, perhaps they soon will learn to do so, in these, the only liberal arts colleges it seems we do fund.

The liberal arts, again, is one of the very few things we can do about drugs, not the stick applied to the bottom ten percent in the justice scale, but to the top half. These then might pull the others along, reorienting them, opening other possibilities, giving kids things to do that keep them so enraptured they cannot bear to miss, for example, this game, movie, play practice, music practice, dance practice, or anything else the liberally educated might think to put them up to, animal rescue, helping old people, or making money cutting lawns and building things, farming vacant lots, playing the other neighborhoods in baseball games, etc. How do we pull on this, as well as push?

Second, within these hell holes, how do we address the paradox that they must be kept together and have a society of some sort, without allowing and promoting the gangs? I am so pissed about this paradox, I am ready to keep them each in their own stall like horses, so that they cannot harm one another, and allow economic interaction only with non prisoners, until I can think of a better solution. Even this would be less expensive than allowing the mob fiefdoms now operating.

Third, I am even pissed that gangs on the outside take and mark territory, setting up their own “law” and “tax” systems. These are usurpations. If I were governor, I would treat them as though a foreign government had just claimed Michigan territory- which is perhaps why I am not governor. Tell a U. S. citizen from one neighborhood he cannot walk in another, and must wear certain clothing or risk being shot- rubbish. I’d tell them to boof it! But again, this is perhaps why I am not governor.

And what ever happened to the guardian angels? Why are there not gangs of virtue? The Masons are not even mad that they used their name, the Knights. Where are the Baptist martial arts groups in the big cities? Do they not join together like the neighborhood watch groups to protect kids and vulnerable old people? To push back when kids are pressured to join gangs, or dress up like old people and walk when there are muggings? Why are the associations in our cities all based on the fuel of drug dealing money, and the victims all isolated individuals? Oh, except for the cops, who are busy doing property seizures, or the FBI, busy spying on everyone. One must, after all, have priorities.

Conversations with Famous Persons: B. F. Skinner

 

A long time ago, when I was an undergraduate at Grand Valley State here in Michigan, we had a few great professors, among whom were James Blight and Carl Bajema. In a class called “Mental Hygiene,” we were studying different things like Karl Popper, evolution, and evolutionary epistemology, and also considering the philosophic basis of modern psychology, including that of B. F. Skinner.

As when one reads Hobbes, one wonders with these modern thinkers how it is not apparent that the basis of their theory is self contradictory. With B. F. Skinner, we wondered how he could not see that his system makes an instrument that is useful to certain ends, but the ends themselves must come from outside the science. Skinner might be consistent philosophically, we thought, if only ideas could be considered causal stimuli.

Then we went with Mr. Bajema to visit Mr. Blight, after the scientific psychologists had finally chased him out of Grand Valley, and he had to go get a job teaching at Harvard. We happened to go on a day when the Skinnerians were debating the Kibbutz guys over who had the better utopia. We heard a raucous lecture and debate, and then had a chance to ask this icon a question. Gathered around his desk were many butt kissers asking questions about how best to train their pet rats. When I got my chance, I asked Him, “Mr. Skinner, can ideas be considered stimuli?

He did look up, and was gracious enough to reach for a stock and practiced answer: In our science, we consider only external stimuli to be causes, because these are assessable scientifically, or can be subject to being measurable, and the hypotheses testable and the experiments repeatable.

The questioners went around his table again, with all sorts of technical questions about positive reinforcement and Skinner box design, with hardly even a question about the relative merits of the Kibbutz to that society described in that book of his, what is its title…I forget.

I got another chance, and asked again, explaining how it is obvious to us that we sometimes think of a thing then do it, and isn’t it rather a contortion to trace these to the matter of which they are assumed to be epiphenomena, just to avoid the messy truth that the human being is not accessible to science if science will consider only material and efficient causes- or something like that, I did not know those words then.

He answered again that in Behaviorist psychology, they consider only external behavior, because this is accessible to observation, measurement and experimentation.

The questioning went around a third time. Finally, unbelievably, I got a third chance to question the icon. I asked him directly: “Mr. Skinner, when you wrote your last book, did your thought not effect your behavior? He looked me in the face and, a bit annoyed, but stern in the defense of his baby, answered, “No. when I wrote my last book, my thought did not causally effect my behavior”

What is one to do when given a wide open net and the puck, a gift as if from on high?

To the delight of my philosophic friends, I answered, “Mr. Skinner, next time you write a book, see to it that it does.”

Prisons and Injustice

Thanks to NPR for their beginning to focus on injustice in the prison system. This has to be the next topic of injustice to be corrected in our society. While we pat ourselves on the back for how p. c. we are on all the liberal platforms of race and gender, we have sat idly for these now fifty-five years since Dr. King while homosexual rape and beatings have been tolerated in hell holes called correction facilities, and wardens daily allow and promote injustice perpetrated on the unjust and unlucky alike who are thrown into our prisons. Assault, rape and murder are the crimes they are regardless of who they are perpetrated against. Torture is wrong whether the one it is done to has tortured or not, though it of course true that we mind it a lot less, when one who has done harm himself gets a chance to see what his victims might have felt. But things like the torture of “solitary confinement” are routine in our prisons, along with all the other violations of the Ten Commandments that are also political laws: Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not steal.

It is not by inflicting injustice that genuine criminals might be reformed, but by seeing justice. When the criminals see that “every cop is a criminal,” they learn that they were right all along to think that it was all about the bigger fish eats the smaller. They learn that justice is a joke compared to self interest, and self interest can be understood in animal terms. They learn that the law is, like everything else, an instrument to be used as a means to feathering ones own bed.

Terry Gross had a man on the radio yesterday- Daniel Genis, the author of 1046, the number of books he read in prison. He served ten years in our Gulag, the splinter in our own eye that prevents us from seeing and helping to remove the log in our Russian brother’s eye. Our own injustice is right at hand, something we can do something about, whereas the injustice of others requires education, example and persuasion. My thanks again, and my hope that this become a topic of the new p. c., the one that considers issues of liberty on a par with issues of equality, rather than destroying liberty to institute the tyranny of popular opinion regarding equality.

Prison is indeed a punishment, and being thrown into the penal colony with others who have and will harm their fellow man is punishment enough. Society secures for us our liberty, and this is all we have a right to take away. That prison is not going to be a picnic will be unavoidable. We need do nothing in addition to assure it be regretted. But we do need to assure that those drawing these salaries at taxpayer expense are given only the power to do justice, and that the criminals among them be, well, thrown in prison.

Our prisons have become a strange world of the cultivation of racial gangs, which operate with impunity due to the cooperation of the criminal police, who are for all practical purposes unaccountable, uninvestigated, and very well paid. The only blessing is that faction prevents these interest from uniting. If the electricity were to go out, and we lose the ability to keep these drones in the hive, our sissy politicians would find themselves their slaves overnight.

I myself would have gone long ago to teach liberal arts in prisons, and for about twenty thousand dollars a year, if necessary, except that the system would want access to the inside of my body, if not also my mind and soul whenever possible.

New Book on Music: Rock Commentaries, Chapter One

Please visit mmcdonald77.wordpress.com/Music to view Chapter one of my new book on music. The folks at NPR should like it! My other e-book is still available through the buy now button on the Revelation page. I have posted the Preface and contents today as well. This blog, though, bumps the one on property seizures into the archives. My representative, Tim Walberg, has impressed me with his work on IRS seizures. I bet he is a stronger candidate than most. Mr. Romney is said to have beat up a hippie back at Cranbrook in his school days, and we should ask him if he’s still proud of it. Do we trust him with the now unlimited powers of the executive? Maybe I wish Obama could run for another term. We call ourselves “Obama Republicans,” or perhaps just Independents. Visit the secret politics blog at mmcdonald777.wordpress.com. Sorry to digress, here, but some things, like politics, are more important than one’s own new book.

OOh, now I found the David Halberstam and the Bob Dearborn interpretations of American Pie on the internet. Who says there is not much good stuff on there? I will be re-writing a bit: Halberstam includes that crucial clue from the Hop Along Cassidy song on the Album sleeve: Bye bye, Miss American Pie then means that these girls, and these things of America at its peak, are no more. The line, then, is a bit like “School’s out,” too, meaning that the innocence is over. I did not even know about the Bob Dearborn, though much of this has become a part of our culture. It is amazing the things I could have access to, if only I could make a living. I do not even own my own machine!

Thomas Jefferson: Sayings

…the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest and our people united…the people…will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights.

Notes on Virginia, Query XVII

 

Our legislators are not sufficiently appraised of the rightful limits of their power: that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the natural rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought restrain him…The trial of every law by one of these texts would lessen much the labors of our legislators and lighten equally our municipal codes

To Francis W. Gilmer, Monticello, February 6, 1795

 

The tyranny of the legislatures is most formidable dread at present and will be for many years. That of the executive will come in its turn, but it will be at a remote period.

To James Madison, Paris, March 15, 1789