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The Oil Spill is Only a Symptom


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#1 coberst

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Posted 16 June 2010 - 06:18 AM

The Oil Spill is Only a Symptom

The Gulf oil spill is a minor skin rash that is of great importance primarily because it signals us of the presence of a disease capable of destroying our civilization.

The herd is stampeding toward the cliffs and there is an unsophisticated horde of riders in the rear shooting and shouting in the attempt to drive the stampeding herd forward faster and faster. Only an intellectually sophisticated citizenry can comprehend and help cure the disease.

Caring is necessary for understanding; caring cannot begin until we first “feel” a necessity for caring. The skin rash of the oil spill can serve as that feeling.

I have for some time been interested in trying to understand what ‘understand’ means. I have reached the conclusion that ‘curiosity then caring’ is the first steps toward understanding. Without curiosity we care for nothing. Once curiosity is in place then caring becomes necessary for understanding. Understanding is a wok of art; it is a creation of meaning.

I suspect our first experience with ‘understanding’ may be our first friendship. I think that this first friendship may be an example of what Carl Sagan meant by “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy”.

I also suspect that the boy who falls in love with automobiles and learns everything he can about repairing the junk car he bought has discovered ‘understanding’.

I suspect many people go their complete life and never have an intellectual experience that culminates in the “ecstasy of understanding”. How can this be true? I think that our educational system is designed primarily for filling heads with knowledge and hasn’t time to waste on ‘understanding’.

Understanding an intellectual matter must come in the adult years if it is to ever come to many of us. I think that it is very important for an adult to find something intellectual that will excite his or her curiosity and concern sufficiently so as to motivate the effort necessary to understand.

Understanding does not come easily but it can be “a kind of ecstasy”.


I think of understanding as being a creation of meaning by the thinker. As one attempts to understand something that person will construct through imagination a model; like a papier-mâché of meaning.

Like an artist painting her understanding of something. As time goes by the model takes on what the person understands about that which is studied. The model is very subjective and you and I may study something for some time and we both have learned to understand it but if it were possible to project an image of our model they would be unidentifiable perhaps by the other. Knowledge has a universal quality but not always understanding.

Understanding is a tipping point, when water becomes ice, it is like a gestalt perception it may never happen no matter how hard we try. The unconscious is a major worker for understanding. Understanding is that rare occasion when there develops a conflation of emotion and intellection.

Often I find understanding waiting for me when I awaken one morning after months of searching and studying.

#2 Boerseun

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Posted 16 June 2010 - 07:58 AM

Er... so what's that got to do with the oil spill, then? :agree:

#3 coberst

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Posted 16 June 2010 - 12:36 PM

Er... so what's that got to do with the oil spill, then? :agree:


Er...to quite my post "Caring is necessary for understanding; caring cannot begin until we first “feel” a necessity for caring. The skin rash of the oil spill can serve as that feeling."

#4 CraigD

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Posted 16 June 2010 - 06:07 PM

The Gulf oil spill is a minor skin rash that is of great importance primarily because it signals us of the presence of a disease capable of destroying our civilization.

From this and Coberst’s later emphasis on the importance of “caring”, I believe he’s suggesting that apathy – the lack of caring – is a disease capable of destroying civilization.

Though a potentially powerful utterance of motivational hyperbole, history and psychology seem to me to belie this assertion. Most civilizations, ours included, appear to contain large majorities of people without caring for things that don’t clearly impact themselves or others for whom they feel an emotional bond. Were this not the case, one would react to reports of the constant low-intensity, undeclared, genocidal war occurring in places such as Africa with the same outrage and drive-to-do-something with which one reacts the murder of a close family member. This is not, and appears never to have been, the case, without causing the destruction of civilization.

At the risk of seeming pedantically materialistic, the only “diseases” that appear to me capable of destroying civilizations are actual biological diseases, and other civilizations, especially when combined, as they were with the European conquest of the Americas. The planet now being practically completely explored, the biological and cultural isolation that made possible that event is no longer possible on such a large scale.

The herd is stampeding toward the cliffs and there is an unsophisticated horde of riders in the rear shooting and shouting in the attempt to drive the stampeding herd forward faster and faster. Only an intellectually sophisticated citizenry can comprehend and help cure the disease.

Much as it’s rhetorically attractive to metaphorically describe people, such as Americans, as being driven like hunted buffalo toward a killing cliff by manipulative (I don’t believe it’s accurate to term them “unsophisticated”) people, such as oil and other commodity supplying company executives and planners, the relationship between a consumers and executives and functionaries of suppliers is, I think, much more complicated than that of prey and predator. Even rapacious, unethical companies are fundamentally in the business of and dependant on their ability to supply consumers with what they want – and not kill us, even protect us, until we have purchased and consumed a lifetime’s worth of it.

For all the outrage of Americans, especially gulf coast dwellers, for BP’s catastrophic, continuing, and (it’s increasingly apparent) negligence-caused oil spill, the great majority of will not respond by consuming less petroleum products, or support policies that decrease the likelihood of a repeat of this disaster if they result in greatly increased prices of these products. Many Americans, I think, will not even support policies that decrease the likelihood of a repeat spill it they substantially reduce the profits of oil companies and their employees and shareholders.

I don’t believe oil spills, even ones as devastating as the Deepwater Horizon disaster, or the feelings they provoke, will cause much change to American or worldwide attitudes toward consumption, sustainable energy, or the environment. IMHO, only worldwide shortages of oil and other resources, or effective and well-promoted alternatives to the will cause this. I fervently hope for, and work to promote, the latter rather than the former.

#5 Knothead

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Posted 16 June 2010 - 07:43 PM

Apathy is not, historically, a civilization-destroying disease


I usually feel too intimidated by you all to participate in these threads but since I was speaking to a buddy of mine last night about stuff like this, I am going to chime in anyway.

We, my buddy and I, were talking about conserving water. I was touting the use of composting toilets pointing out how nearly 30 percent of a households water usage is devoted to flush toilets.
I came to the conclusion that the reason that the flushing toilet was developed and grew in favor was not so much that it's more sanitary or because it was necessary but because people in general thought that water was unlimited. Perhaps apathy is not the right word, but it seems to me that when something is abundant, many people have no compunction about wasting it.
Now that there seems to be some awareness about how precious water really is, now that we get sink holes developing because the farmers pump out a bunch of water to protect their crops from a single freeze. I wondered aloud why they would persist in their water wasting habits.
What I decided by talking to my buddy was that people in general don't believe that their individual efforts or contributions matter in the big picture. They seem to think that unless everyone does it, it won't amount to much in the big scheme of things.

So I guess what I'm trying to say in my clumsy way is that while apathy perhaps hasn't led to the collapse of civilizations in the past, maybe it's a cumulative thing. Maybe it's just a matter of time.

Sorry if that was incoherent.
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#6 coberst

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Posted 17 June 2010 - 03:18 AM

Craig

What is this disease to which I allude?

There is a chain of cause and effect in many things and it is difficult to determine the sui generis of this chain of reaction. I shall just take the present obvious effect to define our (American) disease to be our uncritical faith in laissez-faire capitalism.

An oligarchy controls public policy in America. The oligarchy consists of those who manage the great wealth of American institutions. This oligarchy designs our educational system to graduate good producers and consumers and does not desire independent thinkers.

CA (Corporate America) has developed a well-honed expertise in motivating the population to behave in a desired manner. Citizens as consumers are ample manifestation of that expertise. CA has accomplished this ability by careful study and implementation of the knowledge of the ways of human behavior. I suspect this same structure applies to most Western democracies.

A democratic form of government is one wherein the citizens have some voice in some policy decisions. The greater the voice of the citizens the better the democracy. The greater the intellectual sophistication of those citizens the better the democracy.

In America we have policy makers, decision makers, and citizens. The decision makers are our elected representatives and are, thus, under some control by the voting citizen. The policy makers are the leaders of CA; less than ten thousand individuals, according to those who study such matters. Policy makers exercise significant control of decision makers by controlling the financing of elections.

Policy makers customize and maintain the dominant ideology in order to control the political behavior of the citizens. This dominant ideology exercises the political control of the citizens in the same fashion as the consuming citizen is controlled by the same dominant ideology.

An enlightened citizen is the only means to gain more voice in more policy decisions. An enlightened citizen is much more than an informed citizen. Critical thinking is the only practical means to develop a more enlightened citizen. If, however, we wait until our CT trained grade-schoolers become adults I suspect all will be lost. This is why I think a massive effort must be made to convince today’s adults that they must train themselves in CT.


“Thomas R. Dye, Professor of Political Science at Florida State University, has published a series of books examining who and what institutions actually control and run America. to understand who is making the decisions that affect our lives, we also have to understand how societies structure themselves in general. Why the few always tend to share more power than the many and what this means in terms of both a society's evolution and our daily lives. they examined the other 11 institutions that exert just as powerful a shaping influence, although somewhat more subtle: The Industrial, Corporations, Utilities and Communications, Banking, Insurance Investment, Mass Media, Law, Education Foundation, Civic and Cultural Organizations, Government, and the Military.”

#7 coberst

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Posted 17 June 2010 - 03:27 AM

So I guess what I'm trying to say in my clumsy way is that while apathy perhaps hasn't led to the collapse of civilizations in the past, maybe it's a cumulative thing. Maybe it's just a matter of time.

Sorry if that was incoherent.




I think that apathy is a greater danger today than it has ever been. The reason for this danger is that we humans have created a technology that places extraordinary power into the hands of unsophisticated apathetic ordinary people. We are like children sitting in a pool of gasoline playing with matches.

#8 CraigD

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Posted 17 June 2010 - 07:26 AM

I usually feel too intimidated by you all to participate in these threads but since I was speaking to a buddy of mine last night about stuff like this, I am going to chime in anyway.

Glad you chimed in, Knothead. :phones: The talking-to-a-buddy tone is what we really want here at hypography, and mean by the “science for everybody” moniker.

I came to the conclusion that the reason that the flushing toilet was developed and grew in favor was not so much that it's more sanitary or because it was necessary but because people in general thought that water was unlimited. Perhaps apathy is not the right word, but it seems to me that when something is abundant, many people have no compunction about wasting it.

You’re right, I think, about people assuming unlimited supplies of water in places with good water supplies – the site of old cities, vs, say, deserts. There’re other advantages to flush toilets vs. composting ones, though, the main one IMHO being that they can be installed nearly anywhere, packed as densely as needed (with ones that feed into big sewers, rather than septic tanks), and need practically zero maintenance. Composting toilets, even the newest and best designed ones I’ve seen, must at least be installed through an outside wall, and have the compost taken out periodically. This works fine if you’re living in a single level house on a nice plot of land, less fine if you’re on the 14th floor of a highrise apartment building in the middle of a city.

I’ve long dreamed of further “greening” my house with fancy composting toilets (the kind that sort of flush, emptying the bowl with the push of a button so your bathroom doesn’t smell like an outhouse, vs. the easier-to-make kind that usually are outhouses), but am thwarted by that on-an-outside wall requirement. Short of pretty much tearing out the walls and completely rearranging the rooms of my house, way more work than I can manage myself or afford to have done by pros, I’m stuck with a windowless main bathroom roughly in the middle of my house – though I’ve another one that could, with a bit of work, be remodeled around a composting toilet.

What I decided by talking to my buddy was that people in general don't believe that their individual efforts or contributions matter in the big picture. They seem to think that unless everyone does it, it won't amount to much in the big scheme of things.

I decide pretty much the same thing from conversations with my wife and other friends and acquaintances over my car-use-minimizing ways. Rather than drive, unless I have to haul more than I can carry, I get around my homeground in the Washington DC metro area by walking the half mile to the nearest of it’s excellent metrobus stops, then riding a combination of bus and train to within reasonable walking distance of wherever I need to go. I spend much more time on my regular Mon-Fri business commute than people who drive – 20 to 60 minutes to get a mere 6 miles – but it’s good-quality time, as I can lounge and read or write while someone else drives the bus or train, and it stretches my legs and gives me a bit of light exercise, which feels good.

My wife, however, would prefer I drive, as I get home sooner. Friends, coworkers, and fellow bus-riders are often surprised to learn I have a car and occasionally do drive, assuming that the only reason anyone would ride the bus is because he can’t drive, so has no other choice. Once over their surprise, folk tend to brand me a hippy eco nut, or at least “eccentric”.

I see little likelihood that the majority of people who don’t now accept the downsides of a lower-power life, as I do, will start, despite many of them understanding its positive impact on the environment, economy, their health, etc. We humans like mechanical power, speed, and convenience. I’m optimistic, though, that engineering will allow us to have that without the ecological and economic downside. In a word (or a few): zero-emission cars charged from solar power supplied electricity.

Even then, I expect I’ll stick with the bus – I like the stress-free reading time. When I replace my 10-year-old gas-powered car, though, likely this or next year, it’ll be with a plug-in hybrid.

A composting toilet in my bathroom with an outside is harder to sell to my wife and co-dweller, but who knows? It would be very cool (metaphorically speaking).

#9 paigetheoracle

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 03:53 AM

Sadly I agree with this. The rush is stampeding people so that they don't have time to think and challenge this fear driven race. This speed leads to accidents because less time is taken to observe and check things before they are put in operation (Why does the tortoise really win the race? Because he isn't constantly having to stop and put right his mistakes, unlike the hare brained schemers of this world). The instant we stop and examine what is happening in the world, the more likely we are to rebel against this insane 'ignorance' of everything else in existence and stop blaming the results on anything else but our own stupidity. Of course people are getting bored with the way things are and need more challenges but running away from reality and your own fears always leads to disaster. So America is not the superpower it once was - well neither is Britain (what goes round, goes round - the mighty fall, the weak pick themselves up - the sleeper awakes, the giant goes back to sleep; where is Rome, Greece, Egypt, the Mayan, Aztec and Inca empires now?). We resist change, whether as an individual or a civilization but we're all going to die - that is a fact of death (Life is a conveyor belt - Alice Through the Looking Glass and running to stay in the same spot).

#10 Tor Hershman

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 12:42 PM

Cobertst, if you google
peter paul mary when the ship comes in youtube
you'll find a live performance, from Australia, of that number.
The MOST amusing part, I conjecture the connections within randomness, is when the
'brought to by' video's outro plays.
It is a MOST fitting performance for those that are expecting "The Ship"
[a.k.a. Beefheart's "The Blimp"]
to bring us anything of advancement.
I 'twere, well I did it in me noggin, going to do a parody of the song called
"When The Slick Comes In."
SOGS,
:o Tor :o

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