CONCERT JOURNAL 2002-2014

 

 

This notebook contains entries previously scattered in the ordinary notebooks. They all relate to a particular theme – humans' being genetically fitted for a small-group nomadic life rather than for the one we now live. A similar theme is adopted by the adherents of what Wikipedia calls neotribalism. Spencer Wells' talk on Youtube provides much of the factual background. The entries below are exploratory (and a bit repetitive) as they feel their way into what looks like a big new territory – and one that could turn out to be important for our long-term survival.

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Christian talk about God is, like mind-talk, metaphorical talk about the social basics. In the case of God talk, the ulterior subject matter is – to synthesise suggestions by Feuerbach, Durkheim and Collingwood – concert: the holiness of acting in concert, its elusiveness; its role in creating the human world; the permanence of our sense of 'us' (though we each die); our being the creatures, the children of concert; our each having a personal relationship with it; its power over our actions; its relation to Love; Jesus dying to demonstrate its importance. And so on. Christianity is an attempt to preserve, in these new civilised circumstances, the impetus that sustained us for those thousands of millenia of small-group wandering. It is an attempt to keep our togetherness safe – feeding it, swaddling it in metaphors, minding it – because one day we might need it again.

God is the lost tribal allegiance. The Eden we were evicted from is the original small-group nomadic life in nature. Our choice to live in settlements, by agriculture, and to control nature, is the fall. Armageddon, albeit it is unfolding painfully slowly, is the environmental disaster this strategy is bringing about. Heaven is the state of nature that a chosen few survivors will inherit – a return to an eternity of the original life.

Durkheim says that the loyalty and obeisance we owe God originally belonged to the nomadic band – and perhaps to the larger, later tribes he talks about.

God is love, and love is concert. And Jesus on the cross is the tribal spirit tortured by the masters of our settled communities. Terry Eagleton says, “The Christian faith holds that those who are able to look on the crucifixion and live, to accept that the traumatic truth of human history is a tortured body, might just have a chance of a new life – but only by virtue of an unimaginable transformation in our currently dire condition. This is known as the resurrection.”

The hope of a tribal life rises again eternally in our hearts. If this theory of Christianity is correct, the subject matter of Christian belief is very real, and hugely important in our lives, and Christianity is fundamentally true – albeit its truths are, for whatever reason, expressed obliquely and metaphorically.

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A list of addictions: tobacco, liquor, food, drugs, sex, romantic love, pornography, money and possessions, power, technology and control, violence, philosophy and art, gambling (winning, boasting), pets, technology. We are prone to these addictions because the loss of a tribal existence has left us with a generalised insatiable craving. We seize on one or other of the above activities to vent the craving. Our original experience of these activities is generally an exciting and bond-forming adventure of our youth. We rehearse it endlessly, with others or alone, in an attempt to recreate the camaraderie we experienced then. But it is a travesty. At any rate, the underlying motivation, the guts of the addiction, is need for togetherness — translated by lived experience, like everything else (of course), into a pattern of chemistry and neurophysiology in our brains.

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The Christian idea of fallen angels, Lucifer cast down, and so on, resonates with Bob Nixon's idea of naturally parasitic and exploitative individuals — people born that way (homo exploitii, he calls them) — being of necessity cast out of the nomadic tribes, to their deaths. However, in a situation where we are obliged to stay put and all live in one place, and the populations get huge, these mutant exploitii can thrive. They can in fact take control. Rather, they can invent control. With the rest of us in a funk of unease and craving, they can move around us and among us, like hyenas snarling and sniggering — alternately constricting or freeing up the money supply.

The move to settled community would have enabled Bob's notional exploitii to increase in numbers. A settled community could presumably sustain a much larger proportion of the exploitii — which, at least on Axelrod's story in The Evolution of Cooperation (the prisoner's dilemma, defectors, parasitism, cheating and detection), could not have survived in the original small-group homo sapiens context.

Commenting on my preference for using the English 's' instead of the American 'z' for '-ise' words, Bob says that he always uses 'z' in civilization. He says that the z carries an appropriate sinister, threatening connotation the s doesn't.

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A passage from T-W-Fiennes (his actual surname):

Our ancestors of the late Palaeolithic era, only twenty thousand years ago, were nomadic creatures and we are still driven by nomadic urges. Our standard of physical health is better than ever before, we do not lack for food, we enjoy unprecedented luxury and ease of living, and yet we are probably more discontented than our forbears ever were. We continually seek new ways of 'escapism'; the 'whodunnit', the 'box', travel, excursions, the weekend cottage, the boat and the 'hippies'; perhaps even religious outlets are an expression of the nomadic urge. Frustration of this urge is surely responsible for many of our social difficulties. Satisfaction of it would surely lead to greater contentment and reduce other symptoms, such as industrial unrest, withdrawal types of mania, resort to alcohol and drugs, suicides, and the unnatural pursuit of wealth or power as an end in itself. In all these ways, modern man reveals his nonconformity with his new environment, but as he has created it he must come to terms with it.

(Richard N. T-W-Fiennes. 1978. The Environment of Man, London: Croom Helm, pp.21-22).

There's a bit wrong with the detail of the above but the gist is fine. He doesn't speculate, as I would, about the more dire consequences of frustration of the nomadic urge. I would place the origins of inter-human rage, bloodlust, slavery, torture, etc., there.

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To find out what our present situation is, and what we are feeling now, it should be clarified, so that everyone can appreciate, how our forebears lived and what has happened to make that life impossible. The rug has been pulled out from under our feet. Our predicament is both ludicrous and terrifying. It is like that of a group of people who have returned to their village after a period of war and found that it has been entirely destroyed, has effectively vanished. Or perhaps there is a huge modern building there in its place. The people are just standing there, unable to believe it, staying still, not talking, waiting for the mirage to disappear and their beloved village to come back. This is the psychological scenario underlying modern life. The background facts of our lives, which were once human, are that there are now no tribes for people to belong to, there is nowhere new (where no others have been), there is practically no natural environment any more, nothing not designed, owned, known about or mapped. The natural world has gone.

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The trick with other people is getting into a position — psychologically, in terms of stance and tone — where you are side-by-side with them. Potentially distracting personal characteristics are thus put out of view. Each can concentrate on being with the other.

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Do modern people retain any knowledge of their original nomadic life and, if so, does this shared awareness, or memory, affect the way we are with each other — our gestures, tones of voice, body language? Certainly, people from the same town or village speak to each other in a way that is different from the way in which they speak to outsiders.

Is it possible we could one day face up to the loss of tribe at a public, cultural level, and devise strategies to minimise the pain. We could deliberately foster art, sport and religion, and the restoration of nature. Or do we do this already?

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My mother June tells me that this is a slave society. The form is different from the old slave societies, but the slavery is just as crushing — perhaps more so now that the chains are mostly invisible.

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The great images of the 20th Century are of the people suffering (starving, tortured) in concentration camps and under 'the yoke of communism', bureaucracy confining and mystifying us, and angst, ennui, despair. These are all metaphors for, and in fact dramatic enactments of, the real underlying predicament — our divorce from the tribal life, the overpopulation, the domestication of both us and nature.

As for the 20th Century's repressive political movements, the cruel master is not only venting his own frustration at concert-deprivation but, in his killing and torturing of millions, is creating a work of conceptual art to show us, by metaphor, what a sorry pass the human has come to.

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The human has shown itself able to adapt to, and survive in numbers in, many extreme environments — cold and hot, barren, wet, oceanic, totally forested environments, etc. Each time some part or aspect of the anatomy is challenged. Each time the human responds with technological and anatomical adaptations (the latter by selective breeding) which make the human modus operandi possible there. Now, what is challenged is not the anatomy but the human modus itself — that reliance on concert and cooperation. The huge numbers of people everywhere and the covering of the landscape with purposeful fabrications has created an extreme environment, becoming more inimical to concert and cooperation by the year.

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Perhaps the dominant element in sexual desire is desire to achieve or exercise an intimacy that overrides everyday proprieties and loyalties. The sexual encounter says: 'We are capable of a togetherness far more intense than the boring and limited one we put up with every day'.

So, perhaps sex substitutes for love, as love in its turn substitutes for the kind of togetherness the nomadic band had.

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Recreational, educative and practical concerting comprises the matrix from which cultures emerge. That matrix of concerted activity evolved in the context of nomadic hunter-gathering and it has been with us (behind us) pretty much unchanged for perhaps a million years. It is what we all have in common. It is what has created 'us'. Children in any society are inducted into the matrix in its original pure form, as they have been for maybe a million years and subsequently, once the basics are mastered, educative concerting then establishes the specifics of a particular culture in the individual's repertoire.

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The central fact of the human condition, or predicament, is that our species evolved, over a period of several million years, to succeed at a life-style which is no longer possible. As a result of the great increase in our numbers, and things we have done, the life we are obliged to lead now is vastly different from the one we are made for. The new life requires us to go against our nature.

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Try this one on. The notion of economic progress — of us earthlings gradually achieving a better life for ourselves — is a myth. In fact, modern civilisation is the result of a disastrous mistake. Abandoning the nomadic life and allowing our population to increase to the extent it has has ensured our catastrophic demise, and quite soon. The coiled spring powering society is not an economic one at all. It is the endemic, chronic pain and frustration most people feel at the poverty of their social lives.

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The recent Lord of the Rings films have been lauded for the magnificence of the sets and costumes and special animation effects, for the amount of money invested in the production and for the amount of money the films have made. Generally, it is the perceived effectiveness of the treatment, which grips the imagination of the viewers, and the lavish scale, that draws the plaudits. However, the action content of the films is heavily biassed towards violence, fear, war, defence, revenge, fleeing, attacking, outwitting, defeating, etc. The skill and lavishness of the production is maybe not such a good idea. If you put your best talents and those huge monies into portraying interpersonal and internecine conflict, you are glorifying conflict — inappropriately, surely.

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In Georges Charbonnier's Cape Editions Conversations with Claude Levi-Strauss, Levi-Strauss says that earlier nomadic cultures were 'cool' — that is, egalitarian, cooperative and stable, with the focus always on preserving the status quo in terms of production and population. Later, post-agrarian societies are by contrast 'hot', with inbuilt anomalies of wealth and power producing stress on a permanent basis, and creating an engine (which L-S compares to a steam engine) for continual profligate increase in production (resource exploitation) and population. [To this great engine we owe the magnificent accomplishments: the moon landing, the computer, the World Trade Center, the modern airliner, etc.] The wealth imbalance creates poverties and envies which motivate the population (including the righteous wealthy, looking over their shoulders) to 'progress'. Any modern society, obviously including capitalist ones, relies on social inequalities in this way. I say, however, that the built-in inequity has another, more important function. Its main function is to distract everyone from the loss of the kind of intimate concert, our concert in and vis-à-vis nature, the preservation of which was the nomadic bands' primary function. We have sold Heaven for shekels, and we can't buy it back. It has gone. We would rather consider how unfair is the master's house, land and money, and his women, than consider that.

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(4.2.04) There are two conventional accounts of why people (especially teenagers) harm themselves: they do it to attract attention and sympathy, and they do it because the pain distracts them from the worse but vaguer pain of the relationship damage that is causing the self-harming. The authors of A General Theory of Love offer a third suggestion — that the immediate physical pain stimulates brain opioids which, incidentally, dull the relationship-damage pain as well. This might help explain the endemic chronic cruelty, competition, greed, engineered inequity, relationship damage, warring, thieving and raping, and so on, that we find in the world. We can see it as the members of a culture (or the human race) 'self-harming'. We cause the relationship pain, the lovelessness, unfairness, poverty, etc., for all three reasons: to attract sympathy (perhaps from God), to distract us from another, vaguer but more poignant, background pain, and to summon the opioids in our brains to dull this other pain. Causing the lovelessness, the job of cutting and burning the love we have for each other, is not just something everyone happens as an individual to do. It is a conspiracy, a cultural project too. Every political system, for example, ensures privation and humiliation for some. And what is the other pain that this mess of lesser pain is protecting us from? What could be worse than war and torture? It is the huge, all-encompassing, searing pain for us humans — as if we are in a fire — of no longer having a tribe. And it is the pain of knowing that, even if we had a tribe, there is no longer anywhere we could go together.

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(6.2.04) In a Listener obituary to Janet Frame, C.K. Stead writes that her sense of moral responsibility — for the underdog, deviant, mentally ill, etc. — could "...sometimes trap her into characterisations that equated misfortune with virtue and luck with vice. Her novels tended to be uncomprehending and unforgiving of those who were comfortable and at home in the world..." (Listener Vol 192, No.3326, p.19). And one thinks straight away of the case of the unhappy person, the loser, who is unattractive to others and emotionally unstable (perhaps as a result of being unloved early on) feeling envious and antagonistic towards others who are more fortunate (or perhaps morally better) — others who are settled and happy, unharried by loneliness or ambition, who are achieving or have achieved what they want out of life, who have partners whom they love (and have good sex with), who have loving children, plenty of good friends, interesting and well-paid jobs, wonderful holidays...

So, let's look at these fortunate people. And let us immediately concede for the sake of argument that no blame attaches to them on account of their good fortune, that, for example, the nice incomes are not theirs at the expense of anyone less fortunate. Let us assume that there is no built-in or 'structural' element of society that disproportionally rewards the already fortunate. (Of course, there may still be personal tendencies in people to reward the fortunate.) The question is, would mankind's problems all be solved if we could raise everyone (or nearly everyone) to the 'fortunate' level described in the previous paragraph? This achievement would require a miracle of politics, practical economics, demographics and environmental control, social engineering, and perhaps eugenics for intelligence, health and beauty — but let us suppose it is possible. The question is, are all our problems practical problems?

If the answer is Yes, the philosopher can shut up shop right away. I'd love to hear the whistle right now. Most people would assume the answer is Yes.

Well, I think, even if we were all in the fortunate category (and we didn't need an underclass to keep us feeling fortunate), there would still be problems to face — and in fact us all being fortunate would make these problems far more vivid, undesirably vivid. And these problems would be of the type of 'What is the purpose of it all?' and 'Where lies the land to which the ship would go?' But maybe these are not philosophical problems. Maybe there are no proprietary philosophical problems, only deep practical problems, deep because they have lain so long hidden behind metaphors in the 'too hard' basket at the back of our mind. But that's pretty much what philosophical problems are anyway.

So, if philosophical problems are a special kind of practical problem, the question changes. Given we are all fortunate in modern social and material terms, would any further disturbing issues arise? I say we need a high proportion of nature, of wilderness preserved as such, in order to be happy. But that can be arranged. Albeit at the expense of 'growth and progress' — but that might have gone by the board anyway, during the above exercise in practical economics. The only important need remaining, at least in my book, is a strong sense of togetherness, of community, tribe, band. And I think it is true to say that this is the most important need. If you have the togetherness, you don't so much need the trappings of good fortune — the nice wife, house, car, job and so on. You only need them when you haven't got the togetherness (and the nature). And, what is difficult, if you do have the trappings, then you can't have the togetherness. One reason is that, to get the trappings, you have to have a society with so many people in it and so little nature that togetherness is impossible. Another reason is that having the trappings, owning the trappings, insulates people from the togetherness. And maybe that is why people like Janet are suspicious of the trappings and the equanimity, the happiness even, that goes with them, or seems to. Maybe Janet had this belief I have, that only the togetherness — or our lack of it, or the little of it we do see — matters.

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We can see concerting as a biologically grounded urge on a par with sex, say — with the neonatal imitation ability as 'in-built physiological mechanism' and survival advantages accruing from culture (what concerting enables). The concerting drive would encompass desire for: communication in passive and active roles including teaching and the arts and other skill-based and factual knowledge, joint practical and recreational projects, ritual, religion, solicitude given and received. You might want to slip sexual activity in here also, because the attraction of this is considerably more than genital orgasm. And we can talk about everyday satisfaction of the concerting urge. Two people waving hello, having a conversation (in the course of business or whatever). And we can talk about the effects of frustrating this urge — the resulting angst, sense of meaninglessness, loneliness, depression, etc. This is the distinctive human urge, and a very basic one. As with the sexual urge, one relies on the cooperation of others in order to satisfy it. Because satisfying the urge is so important to our sanity and happiness, this means we are very dependent on others. Possibly, the extent of our need for concert, combined with the extent of our dependence on others for its satisfaction, makes recognition of this need as such painful, and something of a no-no in conversation.

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Philosophy is the study of the distinctively human intellectual abilities and cultural practices. Philosophers are both lovers of wisdom and students of human nature, or of these particular basic ingredients of human nature. Our knowledge of reality is investigated in the branches of philosophy called epistemology and philosophy of science, our thinking is dealt with in philosophy of mind, our communicating in philosophy of language, and our ability to act in a rational and self-aware manner in philosophy of action. Our moral and religious practices are the underlying subject matters, respectively, of ethics and the philosophy of religion. The above subject matters comprise 'the distinctive human abilities and cultural practices'.

But philosophy is more like a more or less disciplined anxiety about knowledge, mind, communication, moral action, etc. It can hardly be called a serious investigation of these things, when the relevant philosophical terminologies are still bogged down with colloquial metaphors and other figures of speech, when disagreements are never settled and no heuristic advances are ever made. There is a lot of frowning, however. My idea is, the anxiety is justified. All these 'distinctively human' abilities and practices are completely dependent on — are really just exercises or applications of — the concerting instinct. Now that we have abandoned the nomadic hunter-gatherer life and live on labour farms, there is no reason to suppose the concerting instinct will still function. Well, it doesn't function, except perfunctorily and fitfully. That it functions at all in modern 'social' conditions — that knowledge, mind, language, moral action and the love of God eke out any kind of existence at all — is pretty amazing. It is a credit to the education system and the news and fantasy media.

One day our cities will look even more like hives, and people will never leave them at all. We will live our lives like pupae in stacked hexagonal cylinders, each having attached to his or her cortex a fat wire feeding in a virtual life of sex and conversation. There will be a tube in the mouth to sustain the body and other tubes to drain wastes from other apertures. We will still have the concert, only the action will be gone. But maybe concerted inaction has enough going for it?

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An edited excerpt from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran was read this morning (and included on the memorial service sheet) at St Patrick's church for the funeral of CP's father.

Then a woman said, "Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow." And he answered: "Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Some of you say, 'Joy is greater than Sorrow', and others say, 'Nay, Sorrow is the greater!' But I say to you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed."

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The idea behind my (and Durkheim's) theory of religion is that concert is God. That is, God is a metaphor for concert.

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At the memorial service to Michael King at Te Papa one of the speakers commented that Michael "specialised in us" — us New Zealanders, that is.

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One can see in Maori ceremony not a desire to go back (is that what I am on about?) but a desire to at least preserve continuities with the tribal past, to at least continue to rehearse concerted action.

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What is a person? The individual person is a vestige, a relic, of the tribe. Unfortunately, however, you can't simply put individuals together and expect to create or recreate a tribe. The individual persons have each become so inured to functioning on their own — or, at least, at a certain distance from others — that it is very hard to get them to bond properly. They go their own ways, absorbed in their own purpose and fantasies, more or less oblivious of others. At very close quarters, they tend to repel each other. Yes, the individual is still an incipient tribe, a potentially bound radical in concerted activity. However, its exterior is calloused, darkened, by exposure to the void, that is, by solitude.

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Inadequate concert satisfaction may lead to a kind of intellectual disempowerment. In order to have a mental life, a person must retain a 'reference group' of familiars — in conversation with whom he can draw on a fund of shared experience and by whom he can rely on being understood. His thinking then consists of imaginative rehearsings for, and reprisings of, conversations with these people. For the thinking to be confident and robust, actual conversations must be readily convenable. However, people's geographical, social and intellectual mobility these days makes it difficult to acquire and retain interlocutors who can understand more than a fraction of one's experience. Finding the right people is hard enough, let alone hanging on to them. During our formative eons, one had a reference group of people who shared nearly all one's experiences and who were available for conversation day and night. One's private thinking was an easy extension of everyday intercourse. The dispersed and unreliable reference groups we put up with now make our thoughts — qua conversational rehearsals — less realistic, hence less confident.

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What is the usefulness of money? Perhaps money stands proxy for the goodwill and camaraderie, the 'concert satisfaction', that would have accrued if the group had been a tribe working together for members' mutual benefit. I suppose the conventional view is that money is proxy for property — goods, land, etc. I had always assumed it stood for people's labour, work. How could the 'proxy for goodwill' account be elaborated? After the transition from small-group nomadic hunter-gathering to settlement and agriculture several changes occur. (1) Because of increased populations, cessation of nomadism, and maybe other things, the amount of actual physical concerting is diminished and hence concert satisfaction and morale declines significantly. (2) Divisions of labour become more numerous, more specialised and more permanent and the logic of the everyday economy becomes more complex. (3) Because of the decline in natural, spontaneous success displays and concert satisfaction, people will tend to exaggerate their appreciations of one another's specialist efforts. That is, people will artificially bolster the amount of 'success signalling' in the air. Gifts and tokens become useful for this. Hence money. (4) Then money is more carefully and objectively quantified — big and small coins, numbers of coins, etc. — so there is no misunderstanding about the quantity of appreciation that is being communicated.

In this account, then, the source of money value is concert satisfaction: camaraderie, solicitude, goodwill. Community morale is rendered into little pieces. Concert satisfaction is what money is a token or proxy for. But tokens and proxies need strong communities to back them up, to ensure that full value is given or giveable for the tokens or proxies. The bank has to be strong if its credit, even its coins, are to be worth anything. And our Community Spirit Bank is failing. Money does not satisfy as it should — as the real thing, concert satisfaction, does. People starved of the real thing will go for more and more money. But if the bank is defunct, more money is not more value. You can own the whole world and all the people in it, and do what you like to it and them, and you will not be satisfied. You will not be happy. A single spontaneous smile of companionship from another person will be worth more to you than Ecuador, or even Canada.

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A friend asked where would I put the (he presumed biological) procreation drive on my competitive-cooperative scale? He talked about gorillas and their dominance hierarchies and competition for females. Survival of the fittest. And I replied that maybe, for the early humans committing to the cultural life, procreation became for the first time culturally determined. You only have babies when the time is right, giving due regard to the present size and needs of the group, the season, what food is available, what journey is coming up, etc. Who has the babies may also be decided by discussion. Recreational sexual activity is something else entirely. How they managed contraception I do not know, but presumably they did. Bonobo chimpanzees have sex as a cultural practice, a form of greeting, celebration, obeisance, etc. — generally, a bonding device and social-structure-confirmer. I mean, why shouldn't humans have it as a companionship-confirmer? Procreation is an altogether more serious business. Although, maybe, when the companionship being confirmed is a male-female one, then the strong bond between the two — as evidenced by repeated copulation — is accepted as one of the propitious conditions for new babies.

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Various things I am unclear about:

(a) Basic competition theories assume that cooperation and other forms of concerting are valuable because of the material benefits they bring to the individual or to the group. My line is that the main benefit is the successful cooperation itself. This is the reward and the delight. The material benefits are are valuable only secondarily and because they happen to be the fruits of that cooperation. Or they are valuable because they enable some further concerted action, such as communal eating. I am saying that our material survival is a mere by-product of culture, not its goal. (Which is not to deny that if culture had not ensured our survival it would never have 'evolved'.)

(b) In my story deliberate humiliation of others, other cruelties, rape, torture, murder and cannibalism are evidence for our great need for concert. They are evidence of our deep love for one another. I mean, they show just how pissed off (alarmed, stressed, etc.) we can get when things don't work out. I am saying that violence, even competition, is the result of stress of concert deprivation. Duels to the death on a point of principle. Slavery. Cupidity.

(c) What are the main big causes of concert deprivation? Too many people for all but a few to not be strangers. Too many different projects going on for individuals to be able to understand, let alone participate in, any but a small fraction. Degradation and humanisation of the environment so that there's nothing much left for us to plunder together and what there is is insufficiently natural (God-given, virginal) and impressive to generate any (referring-type) togetherness-by-contrast in us. The depersonalisation of the means of production — to the extent we can't take any (or much) concert satisfaction in it.

(d) Concerting is not merely a pleasure (hedone) for us, it is our virtue (arete) and/or function (ergon). What we are made for, what we are meant to do. Our end, goal, aim (telos), our good (agathos), happiness (eudaimonia), desire (orexis), character (ethos). It is love and companionship, friendship (philia). The term instinct hardly captures all this.

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In his TV program and book Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton defined 'ideology' in the Marxian sense as the dissemination of notions that are invented ad hoc — to rationalise and justify the interests and behaviour of the ruling class — as if they were long-established or self-evident truths of nature. So, ideology is propaganda. The dissemination may be subtle — in catch-phrases, preferred metaphors, other figures of speech. Question-begging (have you stopped beating your wife yet?) is a common device used for the dissemination of ideological notions. To ask whether latinos or blacks make better domestics is to presuppose that both are racially suitable for that kind of low-status role. The much bandied concept of meritocracy — which assumes that individuals have equal opportunities to succeed economically and will thus do so solely by virtue of their talent and effort — presupposes that individual economic success is the only important goal and that it should be addressed by individuals (not communities or governments). And it presupposes that success is not just a sufficiency but a large (and ostentatious) surplus of money. Another example: asking whether someone is a good fuck already falsely implies that love is not the most important component in sexual activity.

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Our continual empathising in everyday social encounters — and the occasional furtive foray into actual imitation — reflects an unextinguished yearning for concert, for being in train, with others. This near-enough perpetual dissatisfaction makes all of us vulnerable. We all feel we have been left behind by the group. A state of chronic concert deprivation and related vulnerability is what modern people are born to. There are those, turned by the extent of their own deprivation, who exploit and prey on this vulnerability in others.

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The famous (Karl) Marx quote about religion is:

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of suffering and a protest against suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. [From the Introduction to Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right.]

It seems as if one of the things Marx is implying is that, if you gave everyone decent wages and a nice house, and people stopped bossing other people around, then everything would be all right. The suffering would die down. But really, I don't think that would do the trick at all.

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What is the basic motive of power-seeking? Is it an attempt to repair concert-deprivation by technical means? Is it a futile effort on the part of individuals to take control of and repair the basis of our society? But the basis of our society is voluntary participation of individuals. In this mess of frustrations and reactions to frustration one glimpses the cripple attempting to cripple others, to provide himself with companions. Someone is reading my early story 'Across the Plain', too. Setting out in the morning, encumbered by all one's usual gears, to cross the plain; having to pass through a field of little mounds of dried shit; realizing with horror that there are people inside the mounds; after a while feeling (and smelling) pieces of shit landing on one; noticing that there were little hands and arms poking out of the mounds, with shit in them, flinging; getting a move on...

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Can we be any more specific about the content of the lesson the aggrieved person A wishes to teach culprit B? We are assuming that B's crime is some insult on A's rights and status as a viable participant in society and — by raising the possibility that A is a personal nullity — has caused A deep alarm. The rule which A is now going to demonstrate for B's benefit is perhaps the simple tit-for-tat rule. Tit for tat is 'reciprocity' and may be a direct corollary of the concerting instinct. At any rate it has some fundamental role in society's vitals. Punishment, revenge, etc., is done to re-educate, to get back to basics, to re-acquaint the culprit with the fundamental law of social behaviour: tit for tat. If the culprit qua pupil dies during the lesson, the lesson's role then becomes to encourage the others to obey the basic rule.

If everyone were an expert teacher — calm, measured, systematic, empathic — then everything would be all right. There would be no break in the chain of concert and cooperation; brief apparent lapses would be remedied right away. The trouble is, people often adopt the 'moral teaching' role when they are still suffering from the original insult to their social viability. Their demonstrations of 'what sort of thing could be expected to happen if you behave that way' are over-excited, extreme, grossly incompetent. Such abortive lessons signal the need for further lessons — lessons in lessons.

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The idea of progress is probably just a substitute for the habit of nomadism. Prior to our settling down in one place we had the regular 'moving off together into the unknown' to unite us. Now we make do with metaphors of technological 'advances'. Changes of practical circumstances (for most or many of us) stand for, and are imagined as, advances into new territory. Possibly the nomadism was crucially important — in establishing basic concert — for all the original human cultures. Maybe culture as such needs nomadism, or some other simple and constant joint enterprise, as an engine (or vehicle). Maybe we underestimate how difficult it is for us to face the fact that we ain't goin' nowhere. Our immobility has come about not just because we have decided to settle here in place X — and have now accumulated so much gear here that it wouldn't be worth moving even if we wanted to. No. In addition, and perhaps more final as a condition, is the fact there is now nowhere unexplored. There is nowhere uninhabited by other people. We can't go anywhere new because there is nowhere else left for us to go. So, thank God for progress. If Progress can change the scenery, and we squint, we do get the feeling we are going somewhere. The future is a place, isn't it?

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My (and Durkheim's) account of Christian theism as a metaphor for basic togetherness is obviously implausible as an account of what goes on in Christians' minds. Most Christians believe the God talk and the Jesus story are literally true. Possibly the Jewish authors of the Bible were aware they were writing in metaphor, in code. And possibly they felt that it was better — in order to preserve a desirable aura of mystery and the arcane, to preserve care and caution in this area — if the true contents of the beliefs and the story are concealed behind a literal interpretation.

Alternatively, the scenario is, for both authors and believers, as follows. The sad facts about concert and the lost tribe are known to, or intuited by, everyone. However, because of the pain associated with this knowledge it is repressed, in Freud's sense. We don't acknowledge this knowledge. We are unaware we know these things, yet we do. This knowledge affects our behaviour in subtle ('Freudian') ways. It will out. It affects the way we respond to other people. We learn to ignore certain hints of compassion in the glance or voice. More to the point, we could feel confident in assenting, consenting, to an obviously false story — that gave voice to, yet nevertheless securely hid, this terrible knowledge.

I am saying that it is now necessary for our social wellbeing to see this stuff out in the open. And the sooner the better. I'm getting the feeling our time is short.

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Poor people bear most of the pain that results from concert deprivation being rife in the community. Professional people, or those with good jobs, accept a conspicuously higher standard of living as a substitute for (and palliative of the need for) concert satisfaction — i.e., the companionship and gratitude that flows naturally from a job well done. That is, a significant component in the doctor's or dentist's bill is unrelated to the quantity or quality of the work he supplies. This additional amount is a premium, a cost — foisted on the client, of all people — due to the professional person's own psychological problems. It reflects (for example) the doctor's need for concert satisfaction or, in lieu of this, the appearance of significant superiority (in material/social status). The doctor cures the patient's personal problem and the patient pays — fine. But the patient also cures the doctor's personal problem, and, rather than being paid for this, the patient must pay the doctor over again.

The professional engages in a kind of psychological bullying to ensure that his concert frustration — or, his status anxiety — is ameliorated. In making a special charge for his 'expertise', 'the extent of his training', or whatever — all of which are in fact pleasures and privileges amply self-rewarding in terms of achievement and status — the professional is obliging the client to 'express gratitude' over and above that which is naturally due. It is a kind of forced gratitude, forced companionship, a kind of rape of gratitude, that is being demanded. Underneath the ostensible money-for-services-rendered transaction, every professional is, ulteriorly and tacitly, subjecting his clients to personal abuse.

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People, such as right-wingers and anarchists, who decry the institution of government (not just particular governments or particular policies) are decrying the only agreed representative we have of 'us' at the national level. In so far as we have a 'tribe' now, it is — or one its most important manifestations is — our nation. And, for better or worse, we elect governments to represent the nation. Liberal (as opposed to totalitarian) right-wingers put the interests of themselves, and the interests of their immediate family and/or friends, above those of any more general 'us'. They specifically deny any broader allegiance. Anarchists, similarly (but for different reasons), prioritise smaller groupings — employment guilds, village-sized communities, etc. Politics shows up a considerable variety of manifestations of the concerting instinct, a considerable variety of substitute 'tribes' for us to belong to.

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Philosophers use the metaphors, synecdoches and act-reifications in our colloquial descriptions of thinking, knowing, communicating, morality, etc., to conceal the true, concerting-based nature of these activities from us ordinary punters. Philosophers help the elite, by helping keep us in the dark about our tribal essence, our people power. They help keep us docile. They take these figures of speech literally, creating shibboleths that distract our gaze from the real thing. Perhaps the metaphor of 'God' distracts our attention from the important thing in the same way. The idea draws off — and makes manageable — the energy and loyalty that would otherwise go to autochthonous allegiances. As a synthetic chemical may usurp the somatic role of a chemical the body makes for itself, so these ideas make us dependent too. So God is a decoy?

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Modern society might become unmanageable, might dissolve into happy or unhappy anarchy — leaving no role for the bosses — if our concerting instincts were given free rein. The argument is analogous to Freud's about sex and violence. In Freud's picture, civilization requires that sex and violence be repressed, otherwise all hell will break loose. In my picture, sex is irrelevant (except as an important example of concert granted or denied) and violence (along with selfishness, competition, individualism, etc.) is merely the by-product of the necessary undermining and repressing of the concerting urge.

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If the possibility of regaining a fuller (or any) concerted, communal life is to be taken seriously, it has to be acknowledged first that the ‘motive power’ as it were of modern society is various compensatory reactions to frustration of our natural instinct to concert and community. And, second, it has to be acknowledged that these compensations are never going to be as satisfying as the real thing. A corollary of this second aperçu is that, no matter what superb new pleasures and achievements modern society has in store for us, they are never going to be as satisfying — as naturally and fully satisfying, given the way human beings are made — as those pleasures and achievements we gave up when we instituted modern society initially.

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I don't know, maybe there is already, in statu nascendi, in the zeitgeist, a feeling of our modern society as temporary, as never intended to last. The feeling is of modern society as a kind of refugee camp, a camp which may eventually, when the time comes, become a clearing house, dispersing us in dribs and drabs back to nature — as areas of nature become available, and are able to offer homes to small groups of us. The refugee camp is already a powerful 21st century image.

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In virtue of what is respect due — assuming it is due — to the very rich owner or chief executive of a soap-manufacturing business?

(a) Well, he makes soap, he provides this convenience — and for huge numbers of people. But you could also say that all the other employees in the soap business provide soap for us too, so equal respect is due on this account to them also. The boss plays one role among many in soap manufacture — albeit his role is a special one (see 'c' below).

(b) He is due especial respect because he is so rich, because he is so efficient at sequestering money for himself. Well, no. There is still a residual (and rational) intuition that money is a communal commodity, a conventional (and hence public) facilitator of exchange. There is a sense that it belongs to everyone. So, anybody taking more than their fair share of the money is — although perhaps blameless on this account — not therefore deserving of special praise.

(c) He is due the respect because of the leadership he gives, which equals the 'power' he has. He does have exceptional power over other people: his role is to control the actions of all the other employees, in so far as the soap-making project is concerned. Well, yes, he has powers of control greater than any other individual. But he only has his leadership powers relative to soap-making, and respect due on account of his leadership should not exceed the respect due under 'a' above. The power is only power to make soap, or to organise others to make soap.

So it looks at first glance as if the public gratitude, respect or 'social status' due to the soap manufacturer can never — or, at least, logically should never — exceed our gratitude or respect for soap.

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What the Maori came upon: a global heirloom — a hundred-million-year-old forest, complete with unique birdlife, a land never previously seen or even dreamt of by anyone.

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In being first to arrive at Aotearoa / New Zealand the Maori had the extraordinary privilege of completing human exploration of the earth and bringing the multi-million-year nomadic phase of our existence to a close. Settled communities were established long before the Maori discovered Aotearoa, and the first of them were established after all the continents, at least, had been visited. However, the discovery of smaller land areas by people persisting with a nomadic or occasionally nomadic way of life continued long after the first settlements. The Maori discovery of New Zealand was the last and most significant of these sub-continental arrivals, and it marked the end of the nomadic period. Once the Maori had exhausted the fauna capable of sustaining nomadism here and reverted to settlements, the ancestral human way had run its course.

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Some thesaurus-like synonyms for what Susan Hurley calls "a basic motivation in human beings to act synchronously or entrain with other people" and related concepts: concert, concerting, solidarity, sense of common purpose (belonging, oneness, community), team spirit, esprit de corps, morale, camaraderie, togetherness, companionship, fellow-feeling, solicitude, group feeling, grup cohesion, goodwill, fraternity, reference group, tribe, culture, cooperation, joint action, shared understanding.

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What is the relation between exclusive, romantic-type personal love between individuals and the degree of the feeling of togetherness in the wider community? Do powerful community bonds enhance personal love, or render it unnecessary, or what? Was there romantic love in the original nomadic tribes?

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Re. 44 above: I was planting native trees on our land yesterday when I came upon a native wood pigeon huddled on the ground. Along with several friends, I particularly admire these kereru, and regard our seeing them on our respective properties as a privilege, and a blessing, a sign that the land is becoming hospitable again to the native birds — a sign that perhaps, after all, our effect on the natural 'tangata whenua' of this place has not been too damaging. They are handsome creatures too, with a magnificent white breast and grey-green back tinged beautifully with reddish-brown. I had been struck again by this latter colour combination just the day before, during a bush walk with R. And here it was again, unaccountably crouched in a ball on the path beside my plant nursery. As I approached the pigeon struggled away from me across the rocky ground towards an overturned bath which is there. However, once it got to the bath, it began sipping water from the bath's upturned rim. It looked back and seemed to be no longer frightened of me, so, after it had finished drinking, I picked it up and turned it over to see what was wrong with it. All the feathers, skin and muscle over the front of its throat had been torn away, leaving two inches of oesophagus and surrounding ligaments exposed to the air. Also, most of the breast — not only the white feathers and skin but the flesh — was gone. I assumed it had been attacked and partly eaten by some European predator, cat or ferret, and had then escaped. I also noticed that these frightful, fatal, wounds had stopped bleeding some time ago. The remaining breast muscle and exposed bone, and the throat innards, were dry. Only around the cavernous wound's edges was the flesh moist, and here it seemed to be in an advanced state of rotting. The bird had apparently been flying around after the attack, perhaps for several days, attempting to resume its life.

I put some karaka fronds in a cardboard box and placed the kereru in the box on top of them. I took it up to the house and put it in our outside washhouse to prevent it being killed in the night by some other animal. I gave it water and then some bush honey, of which it consumed about a dessertspoonful. There was going to be a frost and, before going to bed, I thought of bringing it inside. But I didn't and it was dead in the morning.

49. _________________________________________________________________

Sex and concert (1). My father told me a story that had been doing the rounds in New York. To cut it short: a man gets to have sex with the most beautiful and famous woman in the world but finds he doesn't enjoy it all that much — because he can't stop imagining describing it to his friends, and imagining how envious they'll be. OK. Bear with me. If you are noticing things about the person you are presently copulating with then you are not fully absorbed in the copulating. Just as you would not be fully absorbed if you were muttering instructions to yourself in that act, or any other, and then acting on those instructions. This seems to mean that stuff like how beautiful or ugly the other is, how he or she smells, is irrelevant when it actually comes down to it. I am assuming that sex is, naturally, a species of concerted activity, and that if two people are properly side-by-side, neither is distracted by any quasi-objective scrutinising of the other. Of course, some infelicity might easily intrude which forces objective scrutiny. In this case the concert would cease, hopefully temporarily, while the relevant breakdown-repair ancillary activity is convened and expedited.

I'm not sure about the following. If one is totally absorbed in an activity one is not, as it were, aware what one is doing. There is no ancillary pedagogic activity being imaginatively convened in connection with what one is doing. If one is mentally instructing oneself whilst doing something, then this is a kind of incipient demonstrating of the action, and presupposes another's witnessing and empathising one's performance. A self-aware performance is 'transferable' in this sense. It is a commodity. But fully accomplished, absorbed activity is not a commodity in this way. In some good sense, it is not even experienced. Because there is no reporting, even imagined reporting, being undertaken, there is nothing to report. Nothing is happening in the public arena. Truly absorbed activity is invisible even to the participants.

I am less uncertain that, even if one's perceptual faculties are drugged into inaction, it is going to be more difficult to become fully absorbed, more difficult to avoid being distracted by objective qualities of the other person, if you are having sex with a stranger, or relative stranger. Surely you would interestedly notice new things about him or her, even whilst physically engaged. We can assume that recreational sex is compromised to some extent by the objectivity that gets invoked by one's noticings of personal characteristics, etc. I'm not saying it's not going to be worth persisting with on this account. I mean, the purple-streaked hair and the nipple ring, the fact that the person is relatively young or old, is married or engaged to someone else, has another skin colour, is the same gender, is a relative — all these and others might add to the piquancy, and perhaps further enrage the lust. But, I mean, is piquancy what it is meant to be about? Is lust?

My tendency here is to say that a long-established intimacy, where one knows almost everything about the other (and likes most or all of it) is going to provide the most propitious context for absorbed sexual concert. The ultimate aim of objective knowledge is to better enable one to engage in concerted and cooperative activity with others, and this applies even to objective knowledge of the very people you are going to be engaging in the activity with. One practices the relevant perceivings so that one becomes so facile in them as to be able to relegate them to autopilot, to unconsciousness. Having studied long and hard, one is free to act spontaneously and empathically. At any rate, if you know the other person very well, you are less likely to be noticing things about them during sex with them.

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Much of the everyday behaviour of modern human beings, and many of the basic concepts and values of Western culture, can be explained as reactions to the loss of the sense of togetherness and community that our ancestors had — as nomadic hunter-gatherers and, later, members of tribes. I claim that modern people still depend on togetherness for their mental well-being and that, in this so-called communication age, we don't get nearly enough of it.

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Some of the expressions we use to characterise aggression, violence, punishment: teach him a lesson, make an example of him, show him, to encourage the others, that'll learn ya!.

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When we characterise what was done to the Maori in colonial times in terms of their land being taken, appropriated, or even stolen, we are persuaded to imagine the land as a possession of the Maori which was taken over by the Pakeha, obliging the Maori (in large or small groups of individuals) to stand apart, away from the land, so to speak. The impression is given that what happened did not damage the people physically, but merely took away one of their possessions. However, apart from skin colour and other minor appearance differences, and an accident of geography, what distinguishes, what constitutes, the Maori is a culture. It is the culture that is Maori, not the people. Apart from the culture, the Maori are just people. What really happened in colonial times, and is still happening, is that the settlers took the land away from the Maori culture. However, the land is more than the wife or husband of the culture, it is its own body, rather. The land is a physical manifestation of a culture as much as the bodies of its human members are. Therefore, to take away the land from the people, is to destroy the culture. What the colonials did destroyed the Maori culture, it destroyed the Maori people as Maori.

The land — and what was on it, the forests and birds, not forgetting the fish in the sea — provided the economic base for the culture, the matrix of their arts, philosophy and religion. Their togetherness was based on their shared perceptions of, and their shared activity with respect to, the land. And togetherness is the engine of any culture. Alienating the land incapacitates the culture. It is hard for a Pakeha, who has over thousands of generations gradually become hardened to — and has in his culture developed fantasies to protect him from seeing the extent of — the lack of community in his life, to appreciate the harm done to a culture, and the people in it, by making the togetherness which powers it impossible to sustain. Perhaps the Pakeha can imagine some foreign visitor taking all his possessions, and his vocation, and his religion, and his language, and his pleasure in nature. To have his his wife and family 'disappeared' would hardly be as painful.

It is not as if, when you drive the Maori people off the land, they can take their culture with them and set it up again like a tent — in a rural town, on a poor farm, say, or in the city. The culture is gone with the land. The people can only become that abomination, that insult to us all, a cultureless people. They are mere live human bodies, people who are not a people. Then, with a genuine smile or with a smirk, the colonial offers to the Maori our European culture.

However, just as the influenza virus kills those whose ancestors have not been exposed to it, so the Maori cannot live with the levels of individual loneliness the Pakeha has become inured to. The new culture is not an option, is in fact morally repulsive, to those used to the luxury of a genuinely tribal life. It is hardly a 'culture' at all. To the Maori it might seem more like a form of collective insanity.

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My friend, the retired American psychiatrist Bob, is at 90 years of age maturing a new theory of mental illness. From what I have gleaned of it, I call it the protest theory. Bob cites a historical episode. There was a serious fire at a prestigious pre-Freudian mental institutions in Germany or Switzerland — under Breuer? Janet? — and the staff were amazed to see the patients from the maximum security 'hopeless psychotic' ward, after the fire (or some staff member) had freed them, cooperating energetically and efficiently to put out the fire — assisting one another and generally behaving not just like sane people, but like intelligent and cooperative people. Apparently, after the fire, they all went back to their quarters and, as if on a signal, resumed their usual cowed, whispering, whimpering mein.

From a number of similar experiences with patients, Bob concludes that, at least in a great many cases, the 'mental illness' is better interpreted as a kind of protest performance, a piece of theatre with political intent, like street theatre. The insane behaviour affected is a display of the individual's inability to adjust (morally or whatever) to what I would call 'the maiming of togetherness' in the individual's family or sub-culture. The display is exasperation at the widespread, near-universal, complicity in the maiming. And Bob is referring to such social phenomena as racism, class-consciousness, exploitation, sexism. He says that, when you compare the way children play together in their first years at school with how they play at sixteen — by which time their interactions are totally conformed to racism, etc. — you wonder why more of them don't go mad. Bob's metaphor is that of the person's brain desperately fighting off an infection by pathogenic invading organisms — and maybe succumbing in the struggle. But anyway, madness is moral outrage. He says that even what I call the real psychos, those who kill or harm for pleasure, may be protestors, demonstrating. Well, all this ties in with what I think about aggression.

My suspicion is that, given the huge numbers of people and the small amount of nature left for them, some maiming of our togetherness, some strategy of slowing it down, is necessary. There is simply nowhere for our adventurous, tribal spirit to carry us now. There is nothing suitably interesting left for us to do. And so, Maui and his brothers getting together to constrain the sun was a good, public-spirited, responsible effort. "You can go mad all you like; it's not going to change the fact there is no free land, no nature left."

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How is the lost tribal impulse, the sense of togetherness, related to our everyday lives? How might the possibility of a resumption of a full tribal life intersect with our lives? What metaphors are appropriate? Are there any images from popular culture that could be interpreted as referring (figuratively) to the lost tribe? My picture is of a spaceship hovering just beyond the clouds, out of view, although one sometimes catches a glimpse of it. And this is a popular myth-image — the visitation from outer space come either to invade our community or to take given individuals away. For some reason I imagine two spaceships, hovering together. Two zeppelins, two whales conversing in the sky. And mine are not from distant parts of outer space but from the distant past on earth. If the religious component of my lost tribe idea is valid, 'God' is a metaphor of the tribal impulse as father, guide, etc. However, there may be other elements in popular culture that are also oblique references to the lost tribe. Heaven, the happy place we go to after our disappointing lives in this world. The idea of ghosts, from the past, distraught ghosts, disembodied spirits. The popular idea of 'the mind' itself — a place of understanding, knowledge — hidden inside people. You glimpse it occasionally in their eyes. You catch a reflection in someone's eyes and quickly look up — in time to see this huge cigar shape slipping behind a cloud...

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The introduction of influenza and rats and mice must be regarded as misfortunes, not mistakes. It may be that the New Zealand colonists' deliberate actions that were mistakes — apart from the introduction of mustelids, cats, rabbits and hares, and possums — were mainly failures of moderation. One mistake was to take away too much land from the Maori, and thus permanently paralyse and derange Maori culture, effectively for all time ruining one cultural source, and eliminating the possibility of a cultural partnership that would have had potentially enormous economic benefits in ideas, style and national morale. A healthy and enthusiastic Maori culture in partnership with our European-derived culture could have guaranteed New Zealand's economic superiority. Leaving the Maori with as little as 10% of the good arable land might have allowed Maori culture to contribute effectively to the New Zealand economy.

Another mistake was to destroy just too much of New Zealand's native forest cover. The destruction of this resource was around 95% overall, and of forest on good flat land, over 99%. New Zealand now has a smaller proportion of virgin forest cover than any other country in the world. Considering the exceptionally high timber qualities of New Zealand native trees, and the biological uniqueness and interest of the New Zealand native forest ecosystems that were destroyed, the preservation of a small area of native forest, even if only on land unsuitable or marginal for farming, would have ensured permanent timber and tourism industries far bigger and more profitable than those New Zealand will ever develop now.

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The common, or ubiquitous, theme of romantic love, consumated or unconsumated, in popular literature may also be a disguised invocation of the lost tribe. The novelist too is mining the public's great reserves of longing for intimacy — of the tribal or whatever stamp. Old Aschenbach's lusting after Tadzio as his Parthian shot before his Death in Venice, Herman Hesse's various spiritual quests, Adolf's notion of the master race — these Germans pick at this scab too.

57. _________________________________________________________________

And what about the cultural obsession with sex — assiduously attributed by television programs and popular non-fiction books to body chemistry and body mechanisms installed in us by evolution acting as the agent of the irresistible need to procreate to survive? Sex is what most people think most about. Getting enough, or more, is the goal of most lives. So, what if this obsession — all the pornography, the erotic content of books, the recreational and even fugitive casual sex, the visualising and dreaming — were merely a sublimated version of, or a substitute for, or a protest at the impossibility of, the intimacy of a group life. I mean, maybe even orgies are this — more an expression of frustration than a way of achieving satisfaction?

That's the whole question, really. On what grounds do I distinguish activity which substitutes for satisfaction of an urge, or activity which expresses protest at the inability to satisfy the urge, from activity which actually satisfies the urge in question? As far as the concerting urge goes, what is the standing of, say, making lots of money, bullying someone, having sex with lots of other people, going to the pictures with a friend, smiling at a stranger, helping a child on with his shoes, driving a bus, making a movie? If these things all genuinely satisfy the concerting urge, albeit partially, then there is hope for us. If they do not, then we're stuffed. One important question is: 'Is this close enough to what I really want?' 'Does it really satisfy me?' If you've experienced little but frustration and compromise in the past, you might just not know whether a given activity is satisfying or not. In fact, the questions are, better: Is this close enough to what we really want? Does it satisfy us?

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The moral and political change that needs to be effected in our society is the establishment of concerting as a valuable commodity. To see concerting as the raw material for mind and consciousness (not to mention our greatest pleasures) is to greatly increase the value of something which, before, had very little recognised value. Concerting was previously indistinguishable from imitation. And imitation, although recognised as very important by a few (such as Aristotle), had in the popular mind some value for learning, merely, and a little for fun. I make concerting the be-all and end-all, the most valuable thing in our lives: the matrix of our lives. Well, this raises the possibility of a study of the economics of concerting — how concert is distributed, and the effects of uneven distribution, of shortages, on the morale and efficiency of a society.

59. _________________________________________________________________

In eroticism and pornography the scenarios described or pictured are seldom 'normal'. It would not often be standard missionary position proceedings between a typical married couple, say. The scenarios most compelling for the reader or viewer are those in which sexual intimacy is for some reason inappropriate or 'forbidden' — at least, in the culture in question. Thus, in sex videos or on the internet one might expect to see adultery, sex between parties of very different ages, different races, homosexuality, sex involving nuns or priests, even rape, incest, or sex with violence. Why is this? Why is sex that transgresses the social mores in question — and is thus judged morally wrong, perverse, sick, etc. — felt as more piquant, more 'erotic'?

Well, maybe the participants' (or the perpetrators', if the activity is not consensual) excitement — duly empathised by the viewer — is greater because they feel the thrill of guilt and fear of the transgression as well as the sexual pleasure. Or the moral conflict — the conflicting arousal and moral inhibition — results in greater physical agitation. [This explanation would be consistent with the theory that the Catholic church's negative attitude to (at least unmarried) sex is actually an aphrodisiac, assuring sex will be more attractive for Catholics and more Catholics will thus be conceived.]

On my preferred explanation of erotica and pornography, the viewer craves not the physical act being depicted but the psychological intimacy that is demonstrated in the physical act. The 'forbidden' scenarios are more exciting because they further glorify the depicted intimacy: they portray it as able to override such basic givens of society as the sanctity of marriage, same-gender friendships, respect for one's elders or solicitude for those much younger, not physically hurting others, and so on. The act, and hence the intimacy is imagined as having a primal, feral, asocial quality. The viewer can fantasise a return to a 'wild and free' kind of togetherness.

60. _________________________________________________________________

There is the possibility that part of the effect of an upbringing in a settled society is to remove the individual's ability to get satisfaction from group undertakings. This would prevent the formation of wildly enthusiastic small groups, engaged in God-knows-what. The totalitarian state deliberately eliminates sub-groups and allegiances to them. Maybe, any state does to some extent. And, if the individual is unable to take proper satisfaction from ordinary concertings, he or she is that much more dependent on substitute satisfactions such as merchants (and the state) can provide.

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Loss of tribal affiliation leads to a permanent siege mentality — the individualist, self-seeking mode. We are all porangi, or whatever it is social outcasts are called.

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Another good metaphor for concert, earlier than the Christian God, is the sun. It could be seen to power and provide everything, to be good. And you cannot gaze upon it. Maui and his brothers maimed the sun, maimed concert, so we can handle it, and reconcile it to these mundane lives of ours.

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I remember once broaching with DK the subject of post-coital dolour. She replied mock-glumly: "Dollar. God. I'm lucky if I get a cup of tea."

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One thinks to particular people, as one speaks or writes (in a letter) to particular people. Thinking is imagining being with the other, talking with him or her. The other is whanau, a friend, lover, colleague, past lover, someone now dead... Our thinking is a constant mute plea for tribe, a silent protest at the absence of the other, a demonstration. If the other were present, one would be talking with him or her. Above the vast cloud of telephone, internet and mail communication hovers the much larger, less dense, cloud of people's thoughts — unwritten letters, unsent email messages, phone conversations that never took place, unspoken words, invisible smiles of complicity.

The philosopher's idea of the intentionality of thoughts extends only to their 'reaching out to' objects in the world. However, thoughts just as surely 'reach out' to people out there — individuals, select groups, fellow tribespeople. What's with the old 'reference group' idea? Well, the interlocutor may not be clearly enough imagined to identify him or her — but this does not mean we are (in our minds) addressing a vague person or a vague group. We are cursorily (dimly) imagining talking with a real person. Only, a lot of the time, we do not know who it is. Is that all right?

In my story about things in the world being products or constructs from the various referrings, concerted perceivings, we undertake together, Bishop Berkeley's idea of things not existing unperceived or un-thought-of is fine. It gives perception and thought a kind of super-intentionality: they are not only inherently of objects, they bring those objects into being. Can we accord our thoughts and perceptions another, related, kind of super-intentionality — with respect to the people the thoughts are 'to' and the perceptions are (in fact or imagination) 'with'? Do thoughts and perceptions conjure people as they conjure things in the world? Do any of us exist if no-one is seeing us or thinking of us. One is reminded of Sartre's complaint in Nausea:

And if she is fainting and sinking into enjoyment, there is nothing more which attaches her to me. She takes her pleasure and I am no more to her than if I had never met her; she has suddenly emptied herself of me, and all other consciousness in the world has also emptied itself of me. It seems funny. Yet I know that I exist, that I am here. Now when I say "I", it seems hollow to me. [From the Lloyd Alexander translation of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, New Directions Paperbook, 1959, p.227.]

Maybe a little of this same anxiety is appropriate for all of us, whenever we are alone — and sometimes when we are not. Well, I intend to be anxious in this way. You suit yourself.

65. _________________________________________________________________

Maybe it was always philosophy's job, to set out the facts of our being deprived of a tribal life, to explain the necessity of it at the time, and to explain the consequences, and perhaps to help ameliorate those consequences. The various portals into this terrible topic are the things the philosopher discusses: mind, meaning and truth, our knowledge of the world, the nature of reality, ethics, God. Only, for the last twenty centuries the philosopher has not opened these doors but stood guard by them, deflecting by specious arguments those who would go in. He will go on interminably about the doors themselves — as if it is them we have come to see — but he will not let us open these doors to see what is behind them.

And perhaps it was philosophy's persistent failure in this regard that motivated the separatism which led to 'psychology', 'the study of the mind'. Well, if that is so, then psychology's resolve must have quickly melted too. All psychologists have done in the century or so they've had 'mind' is to smarten up the mind door with a veneer of science.

A thinker employed by a university is economically secure and has a vested interest in not countenancing, even in deliberately obfuscating, possibilities of thought or action that would disturb the cultural status quo. Anything to do with the basics of our culture, the main features of its architecture, should in particular be left undisturbed. A university teacher's job is to preserve things as they are, or to supplement or decorate the existing structure. One has to get someone who lives on the outside, someone unpaid and uncomfortable, if there is any really searching exposé of rotten wood or crumbling masonry to be done, any salutary demolition of big beams.

66. _________________________________________________________________

The idea of a tribe of people, including their ancestors right back, 'owning' the area of land they live on. To (living) members of the tribe, the land is inextricable from past and present activities of the tribe on it. A tribesperson's 'love of the land' would be inseparable from his or her love of the tribe, and his or her identification with the tribe. The individual tribesperson's relation to the land could only be a relation between 'us' and the land. The farmer who owns the land after the tribe has been moved off it cannot have the same degree of emotional attachment to the land. His feelings are in competition here with the concerted feelings of hundreds, possibly thousands, of tribespeople, back down the years.

67. _________________________________________________________________

I was setting out the cutlery and felt her eyes on me — her attention transforming my movements into a concert with her. [This is so modest a contribution, I will add my definition of campanology: ding dong doing.]

68. _________________________________________________________________

The most important benefit of an environmental cornucopia — such as the metre-high pile of 18cm-long toheroa three Maori women were packing into keti in an 1880s photo Juliet showed me — is not its food value nor economic value, but the contribution it makes to our morale, our team spirit. That is any society's most precious commodity, and that is what a natural environment feeds, sustains. Who needs food?

69. _________________________________________________________________

Suppose that a person is essentially a radical of a group. And suppose there is some urge to belong or 'concerting instinct' in-bred in us. This would not be surprising, since humans evolved out of millions of years of intensively concertive and cooperative nomadic hominid groups. Well, these days, there are no groups — at least, not of the kind we got used to on the savannah — and this urge, if we have it, is frustrated. Rather than face the difficulty in its simplest and most intractable form — 'there are no suitable groups' — we tend to agonise over related, easier (though still painful) problems. Am I attractive enough to be accepted into the group? Are these people members of the group and consequently people with whom I should ingratiate myself? Is what the group is doing worth my participating in anyway? Even to ask these questions is to kid oneself — that there is a suitable group, or that there is anything like it, or that there could be.

70. _________________________________________________________________

You don't get religion before the settlement — because religion is an attempt to remedy our not having tribal morale any more. You don't get philosophy before then either, since philosophy is an attempt to veil the extent of our dependence on concert — or, rather, to veil those human abilities and practices the understanding of which requires we see the extent of our dependence on concert. [The topics that form the subject matter of philosophy are just those abilities and practices that derive from the educative concerting matrix — solo action, consciousness and thinking, perception of the world, knowledge, referring, morality, religion, etc.] There is no need to veil our dependence on something we have in abundance. When there is a dearth though, it is sometimes best we don't know.

You do not get solo consciousness either — what we know as thinking, mind — before settlement. Well, we might get it a little bit, because hunter-gatherers would sometimes need to betoken or rehearse an activity covertly. Mostly, though, there would be others near, or already participating with one, and any tokening of actions would be overt. Why go to the trouble of thinking it (in the classic private sense) if there is an ear available to say it to? Only in post-settlement times are we so dispersed into solo itineraries that we each need to 'think' on a semi-permanent basis.

71. _________________________________________________________________

Freud's concept of sublimation is as follows. The full and direct satisfaction of a given basic instinct (Freud has sex as primary) is socially unacceptable, and the instinct is therefore repressed into unconsciousness, and stays frustrated in the person. The frustration produces energy (desires to act, to be out there and doing things) which can be channeled in socially acceptable, often achievement-oriented, activity. Freud believes that the energy resulting from the repression of the sexual instincts is what powers civilisation — not just the arts but the sciences and business too. The get-up-and-go which sends people out to work in the morning is sublimated sexual energy. The sublimate activity goes some way, though not very far, towards satisfying the underlying repressed basic instinct. It provides alternative, or substitute satisfaction. Or, perhaps, its main effect is as a distraction from the underlying instinct.

The idea of frustration of an instinct producing energy is suspect. Artistic activity such as writing poetry is a prime example of what Freud calls sublimate activity. However, I found when I was a lad, and I suspect most poets find, that they write best when they are getting a lot of sex. The poetry seems to flow from the mood of post-coital dolour, and one needs to generate a lot of it in order to get properly inspired. As well, frustration of sex or any other drive surely has more of a depressing effect on the repertoire.

My idea would be to put the concerting instinct into the role that Freud gives to the sex instinct. I would say that it is frustration — well, not frustration, exactly, but controlled titillation — of the concerting urge that provides society's engine. In my account concerting is the basic instinct and sex, like every other subsidiary instinct, is under its umbrella. I would say, that the natural (cultural) role of sex is not as a pleasurable end in itself, nor as a means of procreation, but as an especially powerful and effective means of expressing and gratifying the concerting instinct. It is empathy, intimacy, solidarity, concert, cooperation at their most active and intense. It could even be that Freud, by putting up sex as the basic instinct, is (subconsciously) laying a false trail to distract us (and himself) from the real, ulterior, less tractable and remediable frustration. After all, it's not so difficult to get a root.

72. _________________________________________________________________

(2005) Am I going to use Freud's concept of sublimation in my account of the effects of the loss of tribe? Sublimation involves unconscious drives (for Freud, usually sexual) and the full or partial satisfaction of those drives in conscious activity for which the rationale is off-limits (something one doesn't talk about) or fudged and/or lied about (i.e., a plausible but false rationale is simply invented). I think my substitution of Freud's 'illicit sex drives' with 'desire for concerted activity generally' is good. However, is the desire for concert something 'unmentionable', which is 'fudged' and 'lied about'? Well, it is certainly masked.

73. _________________________________________________________________

A person who has been hard done by and has accumulated a reservoir of resentment (that is now perhaps getting too big to control) and who consequently has an active short- and/or long-term disposition to violence against others, may seize on any real or apparent moral transgression by another as a just opportunity for expression of the disposition to violence. Can punishment be disinterested, impartial? Perhaps the penal system is more for the mob than for the criminal and his victim.

74. _________________________________________________________________

Ownership as loss: If one owns a piece of wilderness its wildness is lost. The purity of its objectivity is irremediably compromised by being subordinated to one's own sphere of influence. One is no longer able to properly share with others one's perceptions of the land. They cannot help but see it as stained with you. Having wilderness belong to the State or the People is not much better. Calling it God's, or God's creation, is perhaps acceptable. Perhaps this avoids harm. Better still, though, is refraining from applying the concept of ownership here at all.

75. _________________________________________________________________

I imagine the difficulties of being conventionally beautiful and hence socially conspicuous. It may help groups to flourish as such if individuals are deliberately inconspicuous.

76. _________________________________________________________________

If one had huge amounts of money, billions, one could buy a suitably sized and ecologically healthy area of wilderness and stock it, understock it, with people trained for and prepared to try the small-group, nomadic hunter-gatherer life. Much of the cost would be in keeping other people, including anthropologists, out. You might have to do it in secret. That really would be playing God.

77. _________________________________________________________________

I can't just tell people that they need more togetherness. I'm going to have to argue for that. First, show that a certain amount of togetherness is essential for the abilities to speak and think, and for psychological well-being. Then suggest that maybe, probably, we are not getting enough togetherness for these purposes.

Alternatively, we could put up togetherness as a candidate for a community goal, 'something for society to aim at'. I could suggest that maybe, if you thought about it — and in the light of my reflections about the intellectual and psychological roles togetherness plays — you might choose togetherness and togetherness-enhancing activities as goals in life. But maybe not.

What we voluntarily choose for ourselves, even after considerable thought, may not be good for us. It may indeed exterminate the human race.

I don't want to have to argue against the person who declares that, rather than choosing increased togetherness, he or she would always choose some other course — even if that other course were to be known to lead inevitably to human extinction. But, with these people, these believers in the ultimacy as a value of 'freedom of the individual', you can always threaten to take away even that degree of togetherness that they have. Well, if the individual cannot speak or think?

78. _________________________________________________________________

My argument has a moral and perhaps even political significance. It says that the be-all and end-all of human being — that is, not biological being as a primate but culture and personhood — is the urge to engage with others in concerted activity, and in caring and sharing pursuant to the concerting. I say that mind, consciousness, is a derivative of this sharing, concerting stuff, and without it you don't have mind. You don't have consciousness. And the more concerting and the better the concerting, the better is the thinking. To care for the human, you must foster the concept of people doing things together.

79. _________________________________________________________________

If you don't have a cooperative group to belong to, the next best thing is to be able to coerce others into doing what you want. And money will do this for you.

80. _________________________________________________________________

Being continually exposed to incoherent messages, or to a single incoherent message — especially when the broadcasting agent is one of the official public media — must eventually diminish one's ability to think straight. Perhaps the majority of movies and television dramas are purposely made with ludicrous, incoherent plots — so that we will eventually become stupid enough to be entertained by them.

81. _________________________________________________________________

When we say that the hominid evolved (from the chimp-like ancestor) over the period, say, 5 million years ago to 200,000 years ago (when it culminated in us), what we should be saying is that the hominid strategy — the group of between twenty and fifty of those creatures acting in concert — evolved over that period. The concertable group was the organism that had the survival advantages. Not just the individual organism had to evolve, but the group properties and dynamics, the concerting methods, the culture-maintenance methods, the whole strategy. In evolutionary terms, the human is as much a strategy (the 20-50-acting-in-concert strategy) as an organism.

The adoption of agriculture and settled living 10,000 years ago led to a population increase that is still continuing. Because it is impossible to manage concerting in large populations, the population growth has necessitated the concerting's giving way to a strategy of control and solo action. However, this latter may be more of a stress reaction than a survival strategy. At any rate, it is not the strategy we were evolved for. It is not the tried and true human strategy. Which is not to say that there is any chance of a resumption of the concerting strategy. The environmental requirements are now impossible to fulfil.

82. _________________________________________________________________

We interpret romantic love, love at first sight, and so on, in terms of the crude model of one person desiring another as an attractive package of some kind. Love is popularly a coup of cupidity. But perhaps the intense emotion is not at the prospect of owning and having sex with the other person but at the prospect of a tribe-like concert with him or her. It is the prospect of their creating new life, a new life form, a spontaneously arising project, between but apart from either of them, a natural 'us' they can jointly participate in and contribute to. I am talking about both 'starting a family' and about the emotion born years before, when one kid says to another "let's build a tree-fort"? Is romantic love our last chance at the tree-fort?

Why are we given the desire and possession metaphors instead of the truth? Well, the reality of our intense need for concert might be disturbing to contemplate, and the possession metaphor enables us to avoid contemplating this need directly. Besides, the notion of togetherness as possession, or even mutual allegiance, allows, fosters, the illusion that togetherness is compatible with the primacy of the individual. That the individual is primary is the calumny underpinning our culture.

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There are immodest pleasures, usually involving demonstrations of the pleasure-seeker's high social status, that are hard to obtain and exhausting once obtained. There are other, modest, pleasures which do not exhaust but sustain. The modest pleasures all presuppose that the person already has a stable and loving social environment that can be taken for granted. Then great pleasure may be had at a bee's alighting on a flower, or in the facial expression of a loved one.

84. _________________________________________________________________

The fifty-year-old sociological concept of a 'reference group' is still useful. The idea is that an individual's values and attitudes are a synthesis of the values and attitudes of the relatively small group of others with whom he spends, or used to spend, most of his time. Usually the reference group will include parents, other close relatives, friends, lovers or spouse, and teachers. Other admired figures may be influential too. The person mentally 'refers to' these people for advice, as it were, when making a decision on his own.

Maybe not only a person's opinions but his actions, even his status as an agent, are in some way derived from and remain dependent on the reference group. If the reference group is the modern person's wishful substitute for a tribe, a life-tribe, then perhaps the person's solo actions are in essence actions of the reference group — only, the other members of the group happen to be absent. The others or some sample of them are still implicitly or incipiently present, however. The person imagines them to be present, at least in a spectator capacity. The sheer mechanical motivation for acting derives from the group. The impulse to action when alone is an echo of the enthusiasm that the individual first experienced and still anon experiences in joint actions (primariy with the reference group). Without the thought of the others egging him on, so to speak, the person would do nothing. The rationality of solo action consists in the imagined discussion (with the reference group) that the individual undertakes before and during an action. And the method of acting, the physical performance, is one that has been learned by imitation or instruction during joint activity (with the reference group).

And if it is protested that portraying an individual as a mere radical of a group ignores his individuality, the uniqueness of his contribution, then one can reply that developing a distinctive style, 'being an individual', is one of the behaviours or meta-behaviours that the group encourages. Being an individual is also an accommodation to group activity. After all, for you to be 'an individual', there has to be someone to see what you are like, to notice you and notice the style you are working on.

All this is put in abeyance when an individual works for money. However well the company or workmates group has disguised itself as a reference group, or 'family', the paid worker is reduced from being a free agent to being a functionary, an instrument (of some other group). Nowadays, it is as if being an economic functionary is the real end in store for most young people and their spontaneous group life is limited to childhood and not much thereafter. They get the minimum group life necessary to train them to obey instructions, and the minimum necessary to instil in them an illusion of an abiding reference group (hopefully accompanied by such real vestiges of tribe as a nuclear family) sufficient to motivate obedience to instruction.

85. _________________________________________________________________

Maybe use of technology is not the means but the end in our society. Being in the car is the destination. The house is not a shelter in the home territory but the home territory itself. The television creates rather than just presents reality. One wages war in order to be able to wield military technology. The medium is the message. We are the natives who have given away our land and our natural life for beads. We give ourselves the beads.

86. _________________________________________________________________

Material possessions are to a large extent items of technology that assist us in our lives. Rather than other people assisting us, man-made objects do. To the extent we can get by with the help of machines, we are independent of the need for others to cooperate with us. So cooperation lapses. When we do need it we use money to get it.

87. _________________________________________________________________

It is accepted that the biological evolution of modern humans was complete between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago and that, for the vast majority of the time since then — up until the beginnings of agriculture around 10,000 years ago — we lived in small, nomadic, hunter-gatherer bands. It is reasonable to assume that within these groups concerted activity would be the rule. Almost everything would be done together. Activity undertaken by the group acting in concert would be the dominant form of behaviour. It is also reasonable to assume that the ability to both concert activity on an ad hoc basis and accumulate culture was the key factor distinguishing the three-or-four-million-year-old hominid line from its chimpanzee-like predecessors.

After the advent of agriculture, populations began to increase greatly and concerted activity became, presumably, increasingly difficult to organise and less commonly relied on. The transition to a quite different mode of activity, one that might be called 'controlled individualism', began. However, individualism is and can only ever be a kind of attenuated or make-do concerting. We cannot depart significantly from the original concerted model without abandoning what it was that made us human (and what it is that keeps us human). Intelligence, concert and solicitude go together. Acting in concert is natural for us and if we are deprived of it for too long we become deranged.

88. _________________________________________________________________

Living one's life in accordance with strict rules, as religious fundamentalists do, is opting for one kind of concerting. In so far as the other devotees observe the same rules you live your life in concert with them. The madder the rules, the stronger is your demonstration of participation and allegiance. But it is the allegiance , the togetherness, that's the point of it. The content of the rules is arbitrary. This said, it does seem, in the fundamentalist religious case at least, that devotion is increased if there's something vicious and vengeful about the actions the rules prescribe.

89. _________________________________________________________________

A television documentary reports that a huge volcanic eruption in Indonesia 74,000 years ago put enough chemical dust into the atmosphere to fade the sun and reduce temperatures by up to 10 degrees, worldwide, for two years or so. This 'volcanic winter' effect apparently reduced the total human population from millions to a few thousand.

90. _________________________________________________________________

A Taiwan aborigine (descendent of a tribe the Maori are also descendents of) said on television that the tradition of hunting in the Taiwan highlands is important to his tribe as a basis for their tribal life. A core concerted activity. Very similarly, in yet another TV documentary, a Maori explains that the traditional practice of capturing and preparing eels in a certain way is very important to the cohesion of his Kaipara hapu.

91. _________________________________________________________________

What is the role of alcohol vis-à-vis togetherness? Perhaps: concerted imbibing is a superficially satisfying joint activity in itself, but one which also makes any further, more subtle, togetherness impossible. It avoids potential disappointment in any attempt at subtle communication by ruling out that possibility entirely. But in doing that, there is some incidental gratification of the togetherness urge. There is subconscious complicity amongst the drinkers, in their prophylactic termination of potential social awkwardness and disappointment. This complicity adds to the initial superficial satisfaction. And solitary drinking is an attempt to recapture both?

92. _________________________________________________________________

Why do the philosophers so assiduously maintain the smokescreen of colloquial metaphors around mind, knowledge, language and communication, moral values, etc.? It is to protect the general populace from the realisation that these essential, defining human abilities and institutions are sustained only by our sense of togetherness, our team spirit. From this it is a short step to the realisation that the fleeting tribal sense still visiting us occasionally is just a ghost, and to the realisation that modern society has not worked and, for a variety of trinkets and short-term benefits, we have inadvertently sacrificed what is most precious in human life. One consequence is the impossibility now of the kind of political will that would be necessary to improve our situation. Philosophers have helped keep ‘people power’ unconscious all these years, while the mass economy has worked at paralysing it. But surely 'paralysed but conscious' is better. I mean, couldn't you could scrape together a bit of camaraderie — enough to do something — just from the collective dismay? Oh, maybe not.

93. _________________________________________________________________

Three modes of human existence — and the order in which I present them is not intended to reflect any sort of ontological priority:

The evolved biological organism: the live human physiology.

The person:

º  as socially, publicly defined, with a name, socially-given characteristics such as
    roles in institutions, personal history, a unique body

º  as psychologically defined, with a mind of a certain stamp, a unique combination
    of beliefs, ambitions, loyalties, feelings, preferences, etc.

º  as actionally defined in Melserian terms, as an effortfully imagined solo agent
    (requiring continual imaginative effort to sustain) distinct from every other
    solo agent and from the group body,

The concert radical: the holograph portion, the stream of plasma in the matrix, the person who has ceased being imagined (by himself and others) as a solo agent and who has disappeared into concerted activity, having been accepted or swallowed up into a tribe, sinking back into the matrix from whence one (by effortful imagining) periodically emerges, feeling one's veins fill with the tribal rush. La la.

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The teleological view of vocation: job satisfaction comes from the job's practical achievement. For a long time a toilet paper manufacturer was the richest man in New Zealand. But the teleological view is wrong. Job satisfaction comes from the people one works with — including the beautiful, mysterious people — and from the activity one shares with them day by day. What about the money? I hear you cry.

95. _________________________________________________________________

God is esprit de corps, for all of us who ever have been or will be, L'esprit de corps. What more could you want God to be?

96. _________________________________________________________________

Durkheim talks in Chapter VII of The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life about the economics of religious enthusiasm — how in nomadic (Australian aboriginal) societies religious enthusiasm happened in intense phases when the small nomadic bands congregated, as they did periodically for periods of a few days to two or three months. The exultation generated in these corroborees gradually subsides to a 'daily running' level once the corroboree disperses and the bands resumed their separate ways. The model is of batteries being charged and running down. And this is basically the model I use for explaining how the person can act as a solo agent. Periods of concert and other interaction charge the person, excite him with motivation, for the periods of acting on his own. Mind is a more specific example of just this. It is solo functioning of a certain kind of activity — namely, communicative, readying, activity-managing activity. Minds need to be periodically charged up in real conversations, lectures, book-readings. Depression is trying to run without being adequately charged, or it is not being able to hold a charge? The Christian goes to church every Sunday, and is part of the congregation, and this sustains him through the working week.

There are very interesting and important questions about the economics of maintaining an adequate — but not excessive (that can be a problem too) — moral charge in modern man generally, now that he isn't getting any of the really effective charge, the good stuff, from nomadism and from nature. And from pagan orgies (as detailed in Barbara Ehrenreich's excellent Dancing in the Streets. The economics of togetherness-rationing. Apparently Durkheim wrote Elementary Forms because he was worried what would happen to Western society now that Christianity has declined into ineffectiveness — how is morale to be maintained?

97. _________________________________________________________________

It often occurs to me that perhaps togetherness is not something one can talk about. To be aware of it, certainly to be anxious about it, is to destroy it. and, who knows, writing a book about it might have a negative effect on a large scale. But I don't really think it's like that. I think that being aware of togetherness brings you into its orbit and puts you under its spell. It un-mans you. Its not the togetherness that is destroyed but one's separate personhood. I need to think more about what a girlfriend and I used to call 'overriding' — the 'overriding' of one person by another, the imposition of a fancied communication (with somene else) at the expense of a real conversation with the person one is actually with. One party in a transaction unilaterally opting out, 'mentally'. Buber talks about it too. “How often, for the sake of some stale conceit, do we forfeit the great chance of a true happening between I and Thou?”, he asks, or something like that.

98. _________________________________________________________________

Sex is an essentially private transaction the joys of which are accessible only to the participants. However, when sex strays into the focus of one of the public media — film, novel, conversation, drawing, photography, psychological study — the assumption is created (simply by its being viewed from the context of the communication medium) that sex is a commodity and publicly accessible. So, pornography is an entirely factitious institution: it creates the psychological states and obsessions that it feeds on.

99. _________________________________________________________________

One of the functions of scientism, perhaps its most important socio-psychological function, is to deflect attention from the basic social reality — concerting and our dependence on it. Scientism says that all reality is of the scientifically observable and explainable kind. It implies that all reality is 'out there' and subject to objective scrutiny by us. In fact, though, one great category of reality, social or cultural reality, is not 'out there' at all, but behind us, or amongst us. It appears between us when we are side-by-side. And how do we get an objective squiz at that? We can know it only by self-awareness-in-action and by empathy. Neither of these heuristic methods is available to science.

100. ________________________________________________________________

If one wanted somewhere in my story where God could hang out, He could go as it were 'behind' concertings. He could be the ulterior agent, the leader, of the concertings in which we participate. We would not be able to see Him if He was there, though we could certainly sense His presence. If my and Uncle Emile's God story has anything going for it, He should be in the vicinity of concerting, esprit de corps, togetherness, culture, etc. — but nowhere visible or objectifiable. The latter requirement is neatly filled, since that which is derived from concerting, the cultural, is co-extensive with the realm of the empathiseable-but-not-objectively-observable. On the other hand, it is doubtful whether one can empathise the invisible.

101. ________________________________________________________________

According to Durkheim, the greater the extent and complexity of division of labour in a society, the greater the anomie rife amongst its members. I would speculate that this is so because, the more the division of labour, the higher is the proportion of solo to concerted activity, and the greater the amount of solo perceiving and uncommunicated thinking that would be taking place. And, maybe, the further away from prototype concerting a form of behaviour is, (the more difficult it is to learn and) the more psychologically demanding, stressful, it is to carry off.

So, if individual personhood is our natural state, our default state — as it is according to the received wisdom — then misery and anomie define our natural state too. But I think that our natural state is 'absorbed in concerted activity'.

102. ________________________________________________________________

Some quotes from Pope John Paul II's 1998 encyclical letter, Fides Et Ratio. Barry Barclay gave me a copy.

Were theologians to refuse the help of philosophy, they would run the risk of doing philosophy unwittingly and locking themselves within thought-structures poorly adapted to the understanding of faith. [p.38 of 60]

...nihilism is a denial of the humanity and of the very identity of the human being. It should never be forgotten that the neglect of being inevitably leads to losing touch with objective truth and therefore with the very ground of human dignity. This in turn makes it possible to erase from the countenance of man and woman the marks of their likeness to God, and thus to lead them little by little either to a destructive will to power or to a solitude without hope. [p.44]

A philosophy in which there shines even a glimmer of the truth of Christ, the one definitive answer to humanity's problems, will provide a potent underpinning for the true and planetary ethics which the world now needs. [p.49]

103. ________________________________________________________________

“Nothing is more difficult than facing concepts without prejudice. (And that is the principal difficulty of philosophy.)” [The Wittgenstein Reader, ed. A. Kenny, Blackwell 1994, p.177.] The difficult thing about philosophy is not just that its subject matter is prejudiced by metaphors and reifications that we have depended on since childhood and now cannot get out of the habit of, cannot hold at arms length in order to set aside. It is not, as LW seems to be assuming above, that philosophy’s only subject matter is certain everyday concepts and, if we could hold the colloquial figurative expressions in abeyance, we could see these concepts clearly. An equally interesting, and more difficult, topic is the prejudice itself. What is it that the metaphors do? Why do we need them? Why is it that these ‘everyday concepts’ require to be veiled — if that is what is going on? Some kind of unconscious veiling must be going on. There seems no other explanation for philosophers’ amazing obtuseness about figures of speech and their influence on our understanding of the philosophically interesting concepts. And I suspect that these concepts (language, mind, knowledge of the world, morality, God, law, etc.) need to be veiled because, in these concepts in particular, the concerting factor is obvious. This is presumably why the (anxious, socially deprived) philosopher is so interested in these topics in the first place. Equally obviously, ‘language’, ‘mind’, etc., relate to things that are profoundly important in our lives, things that define our humanity, even. This widens the philosopher’s eyes still further. In a society such as we live in, the fact of our continuing utter dependence on a concerted approach, and hence on togetherness and caring and sharing, is not something that would last long out in the open.

104. ________________________________________________________________

There are always clouds of idiom — generated by whom? — adjusting our minds to the contemporary ways of doing things and concealing, ever more securely as the millenia pass, our tribal origins. And there are always academics taking in these idioms, these figures of speech, and revealing their solid scientific basis for us. Now is the time for wealth creation, individual freedom and the conscious brain.

105. ________________________________________________________________

According to Bob Nixon’s theory, selfish, greedy, exploitative people were born that way — with moral (morale) apathy where empathy should be. In the nomadic days, Bob says, selfishness, greed and exploitation would have been too debilitating on tribal morale and efficiency and these ‘homo exploitii’, he calls them, would have been identified early and killed by being left behind. I’m just thinking how lucky we are they don’t do that in modern times. If they still did that nowadays, we wouldn’t have anyone to lead us. There might not be any movers and shakers at all. We might not even have economic growth.

106. ________________________________________________________________

Evolutionary psychology is a theory of culture designed specifically to obviate an account in which culture relies on concert and togetherness. It is designed to ward off the possibility of a togetherness account. The latter would be just too painful to contemplate.

107. ________________________________________________________________

Mobbing, where the members of a group join in tormenting one of their number, is both a satisfying ‘rational response’ to concert frustration — one is ‘teaching someone a lesson’, showing that one has power and deserves respect after all — and a satisfyingly concerted undertaking in itself. A nation at war also presumably experiences this happy combination of motivations.

108. ________________________________________________________________

(December 2005) Perhaps the truth about human beings is as simple as this: we need to be in a nomadic group just so as to keep from getting bored. The whole human strategy, and the proper functioning of the large brain that goes with it, depends on our (at least having the feeling of) going somewhere together, somewhere new. Without that — and in all sincerity we don’t have that, and maybe never will again — we are just going to flounder, and all eventually drown, in boredom.

109. ________________________________________________________________

Consider the idea I have of the individual having to be periodically ‘charged up’ by side-by-side experiences with others, and Durkheim’s related idea of individuals needing to receive periodic injections of morale from group religious activity, and even the idea of the Bowlby effect, the idea that infants need a lot of affection, physical contact and (after a while) concerted activity in order to prosper. These ideas, or rather the facts corresponding to them, are probably connected with the ‘plasticity’ of cerebral cortex, its inchoate state at birth, the easy degradability of synapses therein, the fact that firing programs might need periodic re-charging, etc.

110. ________________________________________________________________

One consequence of prolonged concert deprivation is envy (jealousy too) — the sick feeling of missing out, the feeling that others are getting better things and having a better time than one is oneself. Even if this feeling is unjustified, though, and in fact everyone is having a fairly rum time of it, the impression is still fostered, by advertisers if no-one else (but that’s still a huge cultural influence), that there are people — good-looking, perhaps or rich, fair-skinned, young, owning nice cars, on holiday, with hair, without hair, etc. — who are having a really wonderful time while we’re not.

111. ________________________________________________________________

It’s time for some Christmas cheer. It seems to me the main usefulness of alcohol is to disable our perceptual and interpretive abilities and to thus blot out reality. That is why it is so useful as a social lubricant. It’s not that the alcohol generates goodwill. The goodwill is already there aplenty, shy in the wings. It awaits only some pretext, some accepted cultural vehicle to transport it, for it to come out on stage. The alcohol makes us temporarily insensitive to the fact that our culture is so impoverished at the interpersonal level that there are no accepted, acceptable, appropriate vehicles for the togetherness we crave. When we’re drinking, we just ‘go for it’ anyway. We talk away, we do the drinking itself, together, and we sing and dance and the rest, oblivious of the niceties. It is as if we all drug-rape each other — insofar as this unpleasant metaphor can apply to conversing and dancing. We are biologically, physiologically, addicted to togetherness. We go mad, our brains decay, without it. So, if this drunken togetherness is all that is available, we go for that, we get addicted to that. Another, you say? By God, why not!

112. ________________________________________________________________

When there is widespread collapse of spontaneous cooperation — due primarily, I suppose, to sheer population increase — you might expect to see coercion stepping in. Well, there is coercion in modern society. But perhaps not as much as you’d expect. Naked coercion makes the general abandonment of concert and cooperation too blatant, too likely to provoke unrest among the natives. Refusing to allow an arrangement in which everyone’s survival needs are catered for — and by this refusal ensuring some are seriously deprived — is hardly ‘coercion’, but it works well. It makes everyone listen much more carefully to your suggestions. Or, you can undermine the native culture. You replace the natural environment with an artificial one, you commercialise the natives’ public institutions and their arts, and so on. This creates in the natives a state of chronic psychological indigence, an angst. Then you offer them beads with tiny happy faces printed on them. It’s amazing how effective the beads are, and how cheap to produce.

113. ________________________________________________________________

I wonder if there is in medicine the concept of a disease — infection by a parasite, say — which then protects the host organism from some worse disease.

114. ________________________________________________________________

If the small itinerant tribe was the original human unit, one can still understand the temporary singling out of individuals for practical purposes, division of labour and so on. Such ad hoc individuation would have, presumably, not in the slightest implied the permanent rejection of an individual from the group, or the permanent dissolution of the group itself (through everybody’s being individuated from time to time). These would have, in fact, been disasters. However, the modern philosophy of individualism, with its placing of the individual first, ontologically (culturally?) speaking, and any group affiliation second, does seem to imply at least the theoretical possibility of the individual’s existing apart from any group, and the possibility of there being no functioning groups. Modern individualism implies that grouplessness — which would still, surely, be a disaster — is either already a fact, or that it could and should be instituted.

115. ________________________________________________________________

The beachfront mansion is the owner’s plea to be accepted into ‘us in nature’. But, unfortunately, this particular club’s books are already closed, and have been for some considerable time.

116. ________________________________________________________________

It’s a fair bet that the biblical saying ‘It is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven’ does not mean, or was not originally intended by the person who thought it up to mean, that rich people find that, after they die, it is difficult for them to gain entry to a place called Heaven. Well, it possibly could mean this, I suppose. Especially, if people could still do things after they were dead, and if there really were a place called Heaven. But, more likely, I would say, what the saying really means is that rich people — with their persistent impression of their own good fortune and/or their moral and intellectual superiority, their assuming desert to match their wealth — find it more difficult than others to communicate with other people in a natural and friendly, side-by-side way: they find it more difficult than those who are not rich to participate wholeheartedly with others in any concerted activity. I mean, ‘Heaven’ might be a metaphor, don’t you think? A metaphor for that, say? Innocent, meek concert?

117. ________________________________________________________________

(February 2006) The infant’s critical need for physical affection and speech from others, especially the mother, becomes the adult’s still-critical need to engage in concerted and cooperative activity with others. People need to periodically recharge their psychological batteries from this power source — our togetherness, culture — if they are to function successfully as individuals. Our autonomy is only conditional and temporary.

This electrical analogy still has plenty of life left in it. Because of something inborn in them, or because of the quality of their early experiences, or because of the amount of love they have absorbed in their lives, some individuals seem in closer contact with, and to be better conduits of, the sense of ‘us’. They are better at inducing a charge of togetherness in others. This could be relevant to success in such professions as psychotherapy, teaching, the performing arts, politics, prostitution...

118. ________________________________________________________________

Members of any culture have a need, when confronted with obviously different but viable other cultures, to write the other culture off as inferior, more primitive, or just strange. To accept the ‘arbitrariness’ of one’s own cultural forms would go a long way toward defeating their purpose. I mean, many cultural forms are instituted specifically to keep the feeling of arbitrariness at bay. So, there is strong pressure for foreign cultural options to be discredited. There should no suggestion, for example, that lives lived in those very different (perhaps prehistoric, hunter-gatherer) cultures could be as interesting, happy, satisfying as our own, or more so. But then, how did homo sapiens evolve those huge brains, what did they need them for, those brains as big as (or bigger than) ours, two hundred thousand years ago?

119. ________________________________________________________________

(March) I was walking in the olive grove the other day and, hearing a harsh, cawing, kar, kar sound overhead, looked up expecting to see a rook. But I saw a falcon — Karearea, Falco novaeseelandiae. It was very high up, practising rushing and stooping. I’d never seen one before but obviously, by its falling, gyring, darting flight, with half-folded wings, it wasn’t a harrier hawk. Hawks, Kahu, soar and paddle. I might be getting a touch of the Hopkins. There is something mystical about the thing, though, a falcon in flight — what J.A. Baker was on about in The Peregrine. I remember seeing Rudolf Nuryev and Margot Fonteyn in London in 1971.

My friend Narena  ( http://www.nzbirds.com/bar/diva.html )  tells me that the falcons have been breeding well on Mt Holdsworth recently and that what I saw might have been a youngster venturing out to find itself a territory.

120. ________________________________________________________________

I remember the American fighter planes — from an aircraft carrier in Wellington harbour in the early days of the Vietnam war — cavorting high over our city, disporting themselves — and a friend literally weeping with dread at the sight.

It’s intriguing about the Vietnam war, now it is safely in the past. “War” is possibly a misnomer, when one side is the greatest ever military power with a population of hundreds of millions and the other a country of 38 million peasants. “Punitive expedition” perhaps? I mean, the Vietnamese were punished for ‘going communist’. I think that was it. We still hear about the Nazi holocaust, the great horror of the 20th century, the six million, but we don’t hear much about the figures for the Vietnam war. Having said that, though, the 58,000 American casualties figure is quite well known.

People sometimes ask why it is that, in the mid-seventies, all the radical fire went out of the universities — and the literary arts I would say, and philosophy — all the enthusiasm, the optimism, the feeling of Western culture ‘going somewhere’, of civilisation changing for the better. These were all replaced in the mid-seventies by a repressive, conservative, acquisitive attitude. A kind of systematic stupidity — exemplified in the new ‘cognitivism’ in philosophy of mind — pervaded the intellectual arena. Money men moved in to positions of authority in academia and government. The usual answer is that the 1973 oil shock forced everyone into a more realistic, financially responsible attitude towards government and the economy. But maybe there are other possible explanations, or other contributing factors.

On the Google question-and-answer site it says (or said, I can't find it now) that 4 million Vietnamese civilians were killed during the Vietnam war, and 1.1 million soldiers. According to the Google information, there were also around 3 million Laotians and Cambodians killed over the borders. That is around 8 million all up and quite a punishment, quite a disincentive to ‘going communist’, whatever that is or was. In fact, it is such a big number, when you think of it being achieved, in peacetime, by the leader of Western culture, our leader, the greatest political and military power in the world (by far), the thought has a kind of ‘freezing’ effect on the mind. One can imagine a young radical apprised of these numbers, or any young person, or just any person, really, you can imagine him or her not wanting to think much at all any more about how we can improve our society. One could imagine him or her not wanting to think too hard about anything moral or political, or about anything at all — except making money and having a good time.

It has to be conceded there is abiding controversy about the Vietnam war. You still hear people saying it was a mistake for America to do that, it was too costly in American lives, the war was not prosecuted effectively. But in terms of cultural chill achieved, so to speak, in terms of lessons imparted, hearts and minds conquered, in terms of status quo reasserted, there can be no argument. One can only say, ‘well done’, or ‘wow’. Even if nothing scary happens on the international scene for the next fifty years, there is no chance we will (us intellectual types) get back to the level of optimism and desire for change we reached in the sixties. I would say the Vietnam war was very well judged, very effective.

121. ________________________________________________________________

If God-talk is figurative then a literal, naïve-realist interpretation of it is bound to expose implausibilities, contradictions and anomalies. Even with appeals to ‘faith’, ‘special truth’, etc., these infelicities will then tend to discredit the whole God-talk genre. Thus, naïve realists (and atheists for that matter) could legitimately be frowned on as a spoilers and humiliators of the God message. If God-talk is figurative then its figurativeness should be an essential part of Christian teaching. No-one who did not understand this could honestly call himself a Christian. He just wouldn’t ‘get it’. He wouldn’t see the whole oblique, euphemistic slant of God-talk. Not realising that it is actually about something quite other than what it appears to be about, fixated on the metaphor qua fancy, he would miss the point entirely.

122. ________________________________________________________________

Perhaps God is unknowable in the sense that companionship, togetherness, ‘people power’ is unknowable. We are ‘in’ these and cannot hold them at arm’s length to scrutinise them.

123. ________________________________________________________________

Then again, after a while (decades) you begin to realise that it is not so amazing that the metaphors and analogies are so childish. You can begin to get a feeling for just why it is that thinking (among other what one might call ‘basic’, even ‘constitutive’ human abilities) is not allowed to appear in public unless decked out in some distracting metaphorical garb, some garish purdah. One begins to understand what the philosopher is doing. He is protecting us from something, some realisation.

124. ________________________________________________________________

Maybe there is something in evolutionary psychology, something deep, a truth significant for the humanities and for our lives. Maybe, somehow, at the back of the mind or in dreams, the modern human remembers its nomadic band life — this life to which it cleaved for hundreds of thousands of years and to which its ancestors cleaved for millions of years before that. Maybe it is as if the modus vivendi that the organism was originally designed for is still inherent in, still emanating from, the organism. And love, group feeling, morality, religion, duty, service, mind are all throw-backs to then. And we are uneasy because this modern adventure is unprecedented, not for everyone, perilous. And there is no way back.

125. ________________________________________________________________

Large buildings (especially huge cathedrals and skyscrapers, the pyramids) and other amazing technological feats — airliners, big ships, the moon landing — are celebrations of the togetherness, the efficacy, of a particular group and perhaps of humanity in general.

126. ________________________________________________________________

P’s mistakenly believing — and the stages by which false belief in these cases can grow from idle imaginings may be subtle — that a certain other, who perhaps hardly knows her, is in love with her and is waiting only for a suitable opportunity to declare this, this ‘erotomania’, is a nice example of a pathological reaction to social deprivation. The poor thing is ‘lonely’. Join the club, sweetheart.

127. ________________________________________________________________

The topics of philosophy, the subject matters that philosophy attempts general descriptions of, chiefly include: language and communication, our knowledge of reality, consciousness and thinking, ethics, and other cultural phenomena — science, history, religion, law, art, politics, mathematics, etc. These subject areas are all areas of everyday activity where our total dependence on concert, convention and cooperation becomes obvious — perhaps painfully obvious. They are all windows on togetherness, on people-power, and our need of it. The question arises whether it is philosophy’s job to clean these windows or to fit them with blinds.

128. ________________________________________________________________

If it’s true, as I suggest in TAOT, that ‘consciousness’ is simply the individual’s private rehearsing of the sharing of some act of perceiving, or the sharing of some other kind of action, then this raises the possibility that the search for a scientific theory of consciousness — the so-called last great frontier of science — is quite closely related to people’s longing to engage with others in concerted activity, and to their ‘nostalgia’ for a tribal life.

The assumption behind cognitive science’s historic search for ‘the neurophysiological basis’ of consciousness, is that, by studying brain activity in the laboratory, cognitive scientists will eventually identify a type of neurophysiological event that observably produces — or emanates, or whatever — people’s consciousness, thoughts, feelings... That is, solely by dint of careful laboratory work, the scientist will be able to discover the secrets of, and eventually be able to control and perhaps even create at will (in robots), this precious commodity. It’s like gold from base metal, only more ambitious.

If I’m right, what the scientist is really searching (and yearning) for is shared experience. I say: the precious ‘source of consciousness’ is people engaged together in concerted perceiving, or doing — in-concert of some other kind. This is what the ‘cognitive scientist’ so keenly wants reliable access to — and wants eventually to have on tap. His lack of it is not scientific ignorance but just loneliness. That’s why he goes back to the lab night after night (metaphorically speaking).

The reason cognitive science seems credible is that we all exist in a kind of trance of loneliness. We are obliged by our culture to maintain ourselves as individuals, independent of others, autonomous. Yet, because we happen to be human beings, all our strength, our mind, comes from being with others. Our commitment since infancy to individual identity (and to the individualist ideology rationalising it), that we cannot now abandon, makes us incapable of appreciating the extent of our dependence on togetherness. We are incapable of appreciating what ‘consciousness’, this thing that is our essence, really is. We sit slumped in the lecture theatre of life, with downcast eyes. And when the lecturer, at first hesitantly but then more and more confidently, explains that consciousness is really in the brain — that it is some wonderful, subtle, neurophysiological trick of the brain — we eventually look up.

129. ________________________________________________________________

The key ingredients in our lives, our cultural lives, are: communication by speech, our shared knowledge of the world, our consciousness whilst alone, and our care for others. [Then come the specific institutions — law, religion, art, science, education, trade, etc.] Philosophy is the attempt to explain these basic cultural enablers without acknowledging their source in our own concerted and cooperative activity. It must be felt that, for some reason, acknowledging this would be embarrassing, emotionally difficult, or whatever. Philosophy’s first gambit was to attribute them to ‘metaphysical entities’ — effectively, ‘supernatural powers in the sky’ — called meaning, truth, reality, mind, moral goodness, and so on. That worked all right for a couple of thousand years, until science took over the role of ‘authoritative source of knowledge’ from religion and philosophy. Now, the cultural basics — under the headings, ‘language’, ‘cognition’, ‘consciousness’, ‘social cognition’ — are attributed to mysterious but soon-to-be-discovered neurophysiological mechanisms in our brains, mechanisms installed there by evolutionary forces. The new ‘undiscovered mechanisms in the brain’ explanations are thought to be more plausible than the old ‘supernatural powers in the sky’ ones.

People claim that some of these mechanisms have actually been discovered — mirror neurons to explain empathy (in the ‘caring for others’ or ‘social cognition’ department), for example. But they stop at metaphors of mirror neurons as underlying empathy, responsible for empathy, the mechanism behind empathy, and similar. The fact of mirror neurons can’t and never will explain what empathy is, how we learn how to do it, what it’s useful for, how it guides our perception of others’ actions, its relation to communication by speech, and so on.

130. ________________________________________________________________

Why is it that if infants and children don’t get enough love and attention early on they may well later, as adults, go mad or be very unhappy? Well, the basic human survival strategy is, has always been and always will be, reliance on concerted activity, cooperation, communication, and caring and sharing — in a word, culture.

What happens in the normal, healthy case? The infant gains his first experiences of the above cultural basics in interactions with his earliest caregivers. Because these cultural basics are all forms of joint, concerted activity, the participation of others (specially the main caregiver) is an absolute necessity. Caring properly for an infant (and later a child) includes, or perhaps primarily consists of, giving the child ample and enthusiastic experience in concerting, cooperating, communicating, and general caring and sharing. Given this ample and enthusiastic experience, the infant/child will take to these interactions like a duck to water. He will master what I am calling ‘the basic human strategy’ (i.e., concerting, cooperating, etc.). He will establish a critical mass of confidence in this strategy, enabling him to speedily invoke it in coping with practical problems as they crop up. He will confidently appeal to others for help. Confidence in the strategy will also enable him to maintain morale when problems crop up while he is alone, and cannot appeal for help. The confidence enables him to still function properly when he is on his own. He can function as an individual person — a bona-fide agent or representative of the human strategy — by virtue of being able to imagine very vividly and plausibly (as a result of his extensive and enthusiastic past experience) participating and coping with other people in situations similar to this one he now finds himself alone in. That past exuberance is recollected and overflows into the present solo situation.

When the infant or child is deprived of happy formative experience in concerting, cooperating, communicating, etc., or this experience is obtained but is contradicted and disabled by abuse, the infant or child is effectively being denied access to the core human strategy. His situation, as he grows up, is then desperate. He is, or feels, an imposter in the culture game, not a bona-fide experienced ‘person’ but some kind of alien. He is unable to get his batteries charged (with morale-power) by experiencing togetherness with others. He never feels the togetherness because togtherness is a product of intimate and successful concerting (or cooperation, communicating, etc.), and he never achieves this. He never achieves this because he can never fully let himself go in interactions with others, never fully, confidently participate. He’s always bracing himself for the bash, or some other betrayal. Well, what happens when morale runs dangerously low? Danger is what happens. Ironic behaviour, a ‘private world’ (an oxymoron), depression, withdrawal, bottomless rage... It is very bloody simple.

131. ________________________________________________________________

Why is this togetherness business so seldom talked about? Perhaps just because it is so important, so much more important than the things we do talk about. It is not that we are in denial or anything. It’s just we don’t know where to start.

132. ________________________________________________________________

In earlier cultures there were institutions for securing the practical necessities and, presumably because these practical institutions were not sufficient on their own to ensure viable levels of morale (togetherness), there were institutions designed specifically to achieve and maintain high morale. These institutions included folk arts, religion and rituals, and involved a lot of physically obvious concerted activity — dancing, singing, parading, kapa haka, etc. In our modern culture things are more complicated. As well as institutions designed to foster morale (sport, religion, boutique ‘wars’), there are institutions (jails and looney bins) to cope with cases of extreme togetherness deprivation and there are also institutions (news and entertainment media, advertising) that are designed to keep morale at levels low enough — levels just above togetherness ‘starvation’, perhaps — to make flash new consumer goods attractive, and so keep the wheels of industry turning.

133. ________________________________________________________________

Barry Barclay thinks the really interesting contribution of TAOT is the idea that solo, individual agency is derivative of concerted, group agency — rather than group agency being some algorithm of the contributing solo agencies. The idea is that the individual is essentially just a solo purveyer of, or conduit for, the group’s activities (the culture). Even the idea of self, of individual personhood, is something bestowed by the collective. So a ‘person’ is something like ‘a bona fide participant in and representative of our activities, our culture’. The cross-cultural version would have the person as bona fide participant and representative of a culture. And it goes without saying that the individual has to be taught to behave in the appropriate ways, for him or her to earn this ‘person’ accolade.

In this perspective, the fundamental, abiding reality is the group, or the concerted activity practised by the group. The individual person, and his or her solo actions, are secondary, derivative, and also ad hoc and temporary realities. The individual ‘vanished’, absorbed in concerted activity, is the natural, default state. Concerted activity is the mother ship and matrix.

I say ‘ad hoc and temporary’, but of course you need individuals as specialists — authority figures to make decisions, medical practitioners, morale-boosters, inventors, etc. — on a more or less permanent basis. However, Durkheim is right that divisions of labour can easily be taken too seriously, and shouldn’t be.

The group is not the creation (an ad hoc association) of individuals. Rather, the individual is a creation (an ad hoc role-differentiation) of the group.

134. ________________________________________________________________

Looking at the pictures in my Taschen Hopper, I think it might be fair enough — the claim in 127 above that we live ‘in a kind of trance of loneliness’.

135. ________________________________________________________________

Two old philosophical articles — Strawson’s 1962 ‘Freedom and Resentment’ in Studies in the Philosophy of Thought and Action (OUP 1968) and Dennett’s ‘Mechanism and Responsibility’ in Essays on Freedom of Action (Routledge & Kegan Paul 1973) — are still the best groundbreakers in the field this entry traverses.

The ‘objectification’ of another person — refraining from empathising and instead viewing him or her as one would view a natural object, or perhaps a designed object — is both a precondition and a consequence of violence towards others. They go together. And they go with togetherness deprivation. If people are frustrated by not being able to recharge their moral batteries in productive interaction with others, if they are not getting enough of this precious unmentionable, togetherness, they often go into denial. As part of this denial, as a way of making the denial more plausible and easier, they attempt to destroy the (others’) togetherness — this togetherness that is so infuriatingly inaccessible. The frustrated person attempts to destroy what they desire and cannot have (hence perhaps their desire itself) by sowing alarm and despondency, and by coercion and violence. Complementing this terrorism is an objective attitude to the victim.

There are plenty of examples of this. At the horrible extremes are such as Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer, being fascinated with human body parts, and with murdering and cutting people up so he can plausibly see them as just body parts, objects. Somewhat similarly, pornographers help sexual frustrates reduce the lovers they can’t have to body parts — fixed in pictures and exposed to objective scrutiny. The paedophile, a failure in normal adult sexuality, in spite destroys his victim’s potential for that normal adult sexuality. That is not the byproduct of the paedophilia but the main aim. More common, the failed and jealous lover is concerned to eliminate the togetherness he or she is envious of — by terrorising or beating the participants out of it. And, for the purposes of the terrorising or the violence, the envied ones are seen as less than people: ‘slut’, ‘bastard’, etc. The Nazi’s attitude to the Jews is another example. The propaganda precedes the violence.

The idea that one objectifies others in order to gain power over them is also on the right track. Objectification obviates empathy, negotiation, cooperation, solicitude — the ‘normal reactive attitudes’ as Strawson calls them. It gives the power-seeker an apparent rational justification to simply coerce or exploit. [And the reason why he has resorted to coercion and exploitation in the first place is that he has not been able to succeed in the normal game — ‘straight up’ unselfish cooperation, concert, etc. That is, the power-seeker has already abandoned faith in any ‘us’, any sense of togetherness; he is already half mad.]

Thus the logic of defection from concerting and cooperation (see Robert Axelrod’s The Evolution of Cooperation) and the logic of objectification or depersonalisation of other people proceed side-by-side. And these two logics are interwoven in everyday life with the logic of our primary strategy — i.e., concerting and cooperating. In every sphere and at every level of subtlety, commitment and defection, empathy and objectivity, belie each other, jostle for superiority, achieve temporary balance.

We can look, in the light of the above reflections, at Western culture’s search for an overall scientific, hence objective, view of people and their behaviour, their actions. Cognitive science has marched right in and set up camp here. If we for present purposes personify ‘Western culture’, and cherchez la ‘togetherness deprivation’ in this putative person, we can find it. If we look for some power-seeking or exploitation motive, we can find that too — in the capitalist basis of our economies. To characterise people as ‘self-seeking organisms’, to cast mind as a ‘brain mechanism’, is to prepare the ground for coercion, exploitation, violence, etc.

Of course, it’s not always shameful or otherwise suspect to objectify others, or to view them in a reductive, scientific way, to withhold empathy. Medical practitioners do it all the time, and with our blessing. But we have a special pact with medical people. They may regard us as biological systems and operate on us with their bag of tricks only to the extent that we reap obvious benefits from this descriptive strategy and these associated practices. Jeffrey Dahmer doesn’t get our permission. But, then again, neither does the cognitive scientist. The cognitive scientist’s attempts to correlate peoples’ actions with structures and processes in their brains are basically idle — there is nothing useful about them. He does the objectifying, offensive as that is, but where’s the benefit? Who benefits?

136. ________________________________________________________________

(2007, Chateau Bosgouet) To Bazza: I concede that there is some ultimate reality for people and that it is (in consequence) essentially ineffable, I concede that there is a supernatural influence (a place beyond which our heuristic instruments fail) and a mystery there, I concede that science has no credibility in the togetherness area, that metaphor is the only effective speculative instrument here and the only viable language, that the priests are the experts... Just let go the bloody head-lock!

137. ________________________________________________________________

(2008) One sometimes hears a remark to the effect that some woman is ‘putting out’ — meaning ‘exhibiting (whether consciously or unconsciously) her sexuality’. Just as interesting and affecting is the innocent, inexhaustible everyday ‘putting out’ of our common humanity by each of us.

138. ________________________________________________________________

Indigenous culture has considerable importance as a togetherness-satisfier. If that is damped down then our spirits are damped down too.

139. ________________________________________________________________

“Being united with other people in some worthwhile mission is the most uplifting thing we know” — Barbara Ehrenreich on Youtube.

140. ________________________________________________________________

Most people have neither the sense of belonging to an effective group nor of participating in any compelling group project.

141. ________________________________________________________________

My long-term philosophical project is an exploration of the idea that human nature evolved (over four or five million years) to suit a small-group, nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle, leaving us with profound urges towards concerted activity and togetherness — urges that are impossible to satisfy in the mass settlements we now live in. Our ability to think, even, is dependent on levels of togetherness that are, these days, difficult to attain. And, of course, there is no way back, and no time for us to evolve another human nature. One interesting thing for me is the kind of stress responses this predicament elicits from people.

142. ________________________________________________________________

The problem, once you start refraining from empathising with people, and viewing. or attempting to view, them objectively, is where to stop. It's dangerous. If your objectivising runs away with you, you'll end up in a terrible predicament. Ask Roquentin. But any decision where to stop is arbitrary — and our brains don't much like 'arbitrary'.

143. ________________________________________________________________

For a male person whose anxiety and aggression is due to concert frustration in the area of sexual relations, there is a ready-made, well-demarcated group that he can start objectifying (and focussing his anxiety and aggression on) — and that is 'women'. It is the distinguishing features, the gender indices, the most prominent of which are bodily — breasts, vagina, body shape, clothing — that he gets all het up about. The female ones are important because they are the excuse he uses to objectify, to distance, this person. (The amount of anti-woman violence in pornography.)

144. ________________________________________________________________

The church is an ark for the nomadic band.

145. ________________________________________________________________

Our whole culture is, or should be, a church — and we should be mindful what it is appropropriate to do and not do in a church.

146. ________________________________________________________________

Captains of industry and other professionals take for themselves and are given, especially towards the ends of their careers, a lot of social status for the contribution they make and/or have made to the community. And these are generally rich people. It is as if, the more money they have earned, the more approbation is due to them as contributors. But, shouldn't it be that the money cancels the community's debt and removes the reason for the approbation? The financial reward makes what was a contribution into a fair exchange — which has no moral loose ends. The money should be instead of the approbation, not as well as. Aren't our captains double-dipping? Let's play fair and not baby them. Only if a person's contribution is voluntary, or if it requires more than the usual effort but receives less than the mean financial reward, should it deserve special respect. On this basis, if the financial reward for effort (including degree of discomfort, etc.) is excessive, then the person in question is eligible not for singling out for more praise but for arraignment for moral theft.

147. ________________________________________________________________

Money as a community resource. The more widespread and available it is, the more commerce and production is facilitated and generated. The less, the less. But then you get individuals who are good at sequestering money taking as much of this community resource as they can — they use money primarily to make (alienate) more money — thus taking away from others the opportunity (power) to use that money in their own way. Eventually, all the money ends up in a few hands and the common, community resource is gone.

There are interesting ramifications so far as rich people employing others is concerned. Perhaps the most important usefulness of money is its enabling the employing of others.

148. ________________________________________________________________

Both understanding the Christian message and explaining the Christian message are very difficult tasks — and very worthwhile tasks too.

149. ________________________________________________________________

The natural human state is absorption in activity with others. The fundamental human phenomenon is a group engaged in concerted activity. So, what is 'the self'? The terms self, person, individual all conjure the person alone, or the person considered, looked at, while at a loose end, in the somewhat awkward and vulnerable state of not being engaged in activity with others. In activity, the 'person' is absorbed and disappears. In so far as it exists, then, the person is by definition a human in hiatus, in limbo, waiting. Time spent alone is downtime, unreal time. The person alone must imagine others present, must imagine being in some activity with others. The 'self' is a pathetic relic of this situation. When I am alone, the self, myself, is the person I imagine others would see and interact with — if they were here. Essentially it is a fiction. When the others really are here, I am too busy interacting with them to think about my 'self'.

150. ________________________________________________________________

Money formalises all reciprocity obligations and stands in lieu of concert satisfaction. It functions as a psychological substitute for concert satisfaction. This is impressive in itself. Money can (to some extent at least) satisfy the basic human urge. It is not nearly as effective, but that it works at all is impressive. Financial transactions are examples of concert and/or cooperation in many cases. (In many other cases, financial transactions are basically coercive.) Money serves to provide for people's material survival — and this is what spontaneous concert used to do. However, money is also suitable for reducing people's sense of concert deprivation. The ability that one has, with money, to get people to do things for and with one (give you nice things, etc.) is an approximation of, and/or a good substitute for, the social effectance skills/gifts that the concert-deprived person lacks. Getting people to do things for and with you for money is nearly as good as having them do things for and with you just because you are an effective team and you love one another. Money gives power (over others) and power is nearly as good (maybe not 'nearly') as having natural carte blanche in a successful group. At any rate, this explains why people go on making and hoarding and flaunting money long after their most lavish material needs have been supplied. They are concert-deprived and having lots of money feels like a solution to this problem. With money, one can have as much synthetic concert (factitious, artificial concert) as one likes. So, it is like a drug — and after a while one has to increase the dose to get the same high.

151. ________________________________________________________________

It has taken a while for the penny to drop. You can't trust in God and keep your powder dry. It is either the many c's (collaboration, communication, consensus, cooperation, concert and caritas) or the one, control. But not both. Control is fatal for the others.

And the sad fact is that neither strategy, nor a judicious alternation of them, saves us from grief.

152. ________________________________________________________________

It is pretty much as Plato says. There are some people, philosophers, who have by talent and training become able to see the big picture as such. They are able to carry on a discussion over decades, learning all the time. They are in touch with the eternal human verities. On the other hand there are those, the many, with feckless, quicksilver, quicksand intellects — who are, as it were, peering at shadows on the cave wall.

153. ________________________________________________________________

Self-interest, even, is derivative of group behaviour, mutual solicitude. A person should look after himself in the same way that others would look after him. If you ask why, the answer has to be: 'because he is a valuable member of our group, because our group cannot thrive unless he is well and happy'. And this applies to everyone. Taking care of oneself is a job that one takes over from the wider group, as much as possible, as soon as one is able. As with learning any activity, one is first taught and helped by others and then one goes solo. One goes solo with respect to caring for oneself — and with respect to caring for everyone else. It is more difficult, of course, when there is no wider group to take over from. In that situation, one's self-care might get a bit hyper.

154. ________________________________________________________________

We all come to it sooner or later — usually as adolescents — the realisation our parents cannot protect us from: that our talents as human beings are vastly under-utilised in what there is available for us to do in this modern world. Even what are thought of as the most exciting and fulfilling of careers are indescribably paltry in comparison with what we used to do. Only loving puts us back in touch with that other world.

155. ________________________________________________________________

Here is the argument, then. Two hundred thousand or five million years of small-group nomadic hunting and gathering has committed our genetic make-up to a pattern of concerted and cooperative activity, mutual solicitude, togetherness and happy survival. This is what God or Evolution has made us for. Our pleasures great and small are pleasures in doing things with others.

The distinctive human abilities, verbal communication and consciousness ('mind'), are part of this pattern and are inexplicable except as ancillaries to concerted and cooperative activity. Verbal communication is in fact an example of both cooperative and concerted activity. Mind is simply the individual's extremely rapid and subtle (hence private) rehearsing of communicative activity.

If human beings are denied experience of acting in concert with others and the consequent sense of togetherness, they will respond with a short-term or long-term stress reaction — usually consisting of an attempt to control the social situation by various kinds of withdrawal, coercion, exploitation or aggression. This is the human reversion to flight or fight. Severe concert deprivation may result in pathological responses such as madness, substance addictions, pathological cupidity, addiction to cruelty, megalomania, etc. All responses to concert deprivation can be plausibly construed as attempts to control others' behaviour. Successful control (exploitation, cruelty, etc.) provides a satisfaction that substitutes to some extent for the unavailable pleasure of engaging in spontaneous concerted activity. Controlling others' behaviour in certain respects mimics, or parodies, genuine concert and cooperation — as rape mimics or parodies love-making. The brain is tricked into believing it is getting the real thing, some might say. But, like any other synthetic substitute, control subsequently requires increasing doses to give satisfaction, a satisfaction that is never as good as the real thing anyway. Like any addiction to a synthetic substitute, control makes it more difficult to enjoy the real thing (collaboration, consensus, concert, cooperation, caritas) when/if opportunity for that should ever arise.

Social and technological developments since settlement, largely due to increased populations, have necessitated increased coercion and other forms of control, that have in turn further diminished opportunities for concerted activity and hence exacerbated concert deprivation — chronic forms of which are now endemic in modern cultures.

The concert deprivation dynamic explains a lot of hitherto mysterious aspects of Christianity, politics and even the social sciences.

156. ________________________________________________________________

Communism was probably an attempt, necessarily doomed because self-contradictory, to combine all the good C's — concert, cooperation, caring, communication, community — with that other C, control. We get oxymoronically coerced 'cooperation'. You could argue that solidarity does need to be defended, and stoutly, once population numbers get up. Or it goes out the window. What I say is that, once the numbers get up, solidarity goes out the window one way or another, anyway. The coercion just makes this happen faster.

157. ________________________________________________________________

If in a society a very small group has a very large proportion of the money this makes life practically difficult for the majority. And for those in the small group this is a good thing. It increases the desirability of their money. Indeed, for many of the few, making life difficult for others is the whole point of having so much money. Cornering all the money is an excellent way of getting back at the world. So there.

158. ________________________________________________________________

Raising children happily and safely is by far the most important job in any community. I would guess that nowadays only about half the population is capable of doing a good job in this area. The other half is too damaged to be entrusted with something as difficult as child-rearing — too damaged by modern life, possibly including their own inadequate parenting. The main difficulty comes quite late in the piece, when you have to prepare young people for final domestication, for actually entering the corral.

159. ________________________________________________________________

How important is togetherness, community spirit, in our lives? Is it just a luxury, a decoration on an otherwise adequate and possibly enjoyable life? Nope. Communication, consciousness and the existence of each of us as independent agents all depend entirely on it. An extreme dearth of community spirit, such as we face now, leads to cupidity, power-seeking, and violence. More fundamentally, because of community spirit's relevance to communication and consciousness, the dearth is leading to endemic mental illness.

160. ________________________________________________________________

Our acting in concert and/or our inabilities to do so are in every social context the elephant in the room. This need and its gratification and/or frustration is the dynamic determining the form of all our interpersonals. It drastically limits our psychological movements yet is so determinedly invisible to, or unacknowledged by, everyone that it seems a heinous social gaffe, or at least unforgivably impolite, to mention it — certainly to prate on about it as I tend to. But then, that is what philosophers are for: to force us to confront deep cultural stuff we have taken for granted or have for Freudian-type reasons repressed. One shouldn't get too earnest though. Perhaps it would be diplomatic to make more use of humour, to affect 'the laughing pathologist'.

161. ________________________________________________________________

Regarding those who do not give up the faith:

It was a horrible aristocracy, apparently, for those who had no capacity for love (or rather for suffering in love) could not be said to be alive and certainly would not live again after their death. They were a kind of straw population, filling the world with their meaningless laughter and tears and chatter and disappearing still lovable and vain into thin air... He regarded love as a sort of cruel malady through which the elect are required to pass in their late youth and from which they emerge, pale and wrung, but ready for the business of living. There was (he believed) a great repertory of errors mercifully impossible to human beings who had recovered from this illness. Unfortunately there remained to them a host of failings, but at least (from among many illustrations) they never mistook a protracted amiability for the whole conduct of life, they never again regarded any human being, from a prince to a servant, as a mechanical object.

Thornton Wilder, 1927: The Bridge of San Luis Rey

162. ________________________________________________________________

Having posted this Concert Journal as a separate venue, rather than continuing to update it, maybe I will one day resume my old practice of including entries relevant to the lost tribe theme in with my philosophy of mind and psychology entries in the Notebooks. They have been creeping back in there anyway. After all, the two themes — 'the actional and social nature of mind' and 'the human need for concerted activity' — are inextricable.

163. ________________________________________________________________

There seems to always be some disaster looming, some dark cloud over the culture. In my lifetime it has been the threat of nuclear world war and, more recently, global warming and environmental degradation generally. Totalitarian rule by the corporations might be next. In past centuries, the threat was of invasion by some foreign power or religion, or of everyone going to Hell. But these all dwindle into insignificance compared to the über-disaster, the one which lies behind all the others — behind the addiction to technology, the international aggression, the rape of the environment, the corporate megalomania, religion gone bad. The ûber-disaster is civilization. It is settlement itself. Settlement speaks Armageddon louder and more clearly than all the other threats combined. Only, it is no longer a threat. It has already happened.

164. ________________________________________________________________

Christianity is more than a story, a metaphor and a language. It is a practice: a stylised re-enactment, a shared make-believe, of the intense group life and the profound togetherness that we had originally but then abandoned.

165. ________________________________________________________________

(September 2012) You might not believe in the collective project but your brain does. That is what it was designed for — and evolution spent over two million years designing it — and it does not know anything else. It assumes that 'small-group nomadic hunting and gathering' or at least 'us working together' is what is going on. Naturally, when a growing person equipped with one of these brains starts meshing with this world, in which there are many fewer opportunities for, and huge pressures humiliating and otherwise working against, the kinds of happy concert we were born for, there is huge disappointment — and worse. People realise, unconsciously, that something of this nature has happened, that we are in this awful predicament. They think about what we can do. Leaving aside religion and philosophy, there is politics. Some say that, well, if the collective project is unsustainable, we should abandon it and learn to look after ourselves. They extol aggressive competition instead of concert and cooperation. People should rely on individual initiative, to 'succeed'. However, this advice is laughable. Its advocates assume as much of the collective project as is going to supply them with the cultural basics — abilities to know reality, communicate verbally, be conscious and think, act rationally, have a moral code, trade using money — which is a huge ask. What they are actually advocating is that they be allowed to parasitise the existing collective project, unilaterally defect from it and use selfishness, lying, and bullying to eventually obtain for themselves a confused and excited illusion of 'success', a high that will distract them temporarily from their own state of solidarity deprivation. In fact, defection and withdrawal or aggression are not new motivation-engines for the human economy, but stress responses to the failure of the old one. Capitalism, say, is a way of taking over and selling off the old business (of trust, the collective project, working together). The result is an addictive fix for the defectors. The elite are also methos on the streets.

166. ________________________________________________________________

Watching someone do something is more like doing that action, and being aware of doing it, oneself than it is like observing a natural phenomenon. Our minds are organised on the principle of action in concert with others.

167. ________________________________________________________________

We have a basically social or 'normative' relationship with other people. We are irreducibly 'fellow-participants in cultural activities' and must ultimately respond to others as such. This relationship, in which our humanity consists, precludes any objective, controlling attitude to others, such as may come of fear and retreat into withdrawal or aggression, or desire to exploit, or any scientific or animal-management approach. Often, of course, we are forced to defect from our natural, normative role by neglect or abuse or rebuff or other failure or incapacity. Then some objective attitude will likely take over — defensive withdrawal, aggression and exploitation, scientific and coercive management. The other people are then deprived of their humanity, but so are we. To attempt control is already to lose control. We can move forward only in concert.

168. ________________________________________________________________

We can't see it, concert, because of where it is. It is behind us. We are coming out of it. It is the matrix we are emerging from. We are agents of it.

169. ________________________________________________________________

(August 2013) Extreme wealth is a form of insanity.

170. ________________________________________________________________

“The poet is not a man who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says ‘look at that’ and points; the more I follow the pointing of his finger the less I can possibly see of him”. C.S.Lewis, quoted at: link to website Augmented by A.L.Kennedy's comment on this point that: “You look through the eyes of the poet to see what the poet sees. That's the poem. The one thing you can't see is the poet. You're being the poet.” Hear on: Youtube

171. ________________________________________________________________

As well as having a desire for intimacy which he satisfies by hurting the other person, the aggressor also has a self-defence motive. He has been seriously hurt by other people (or possibly his present victim) in the past and although this hurt is not overtly visible (except in his face and demeanour perhaps) it is real. It is brain damage, for example, and social ineptitude. So the self-defence motive is in a way legitimate. He makes a pre-emptive strike to avoid being further damaged. There is probably also an aggrieved sense of entitlement. He has been robbed of intimacy in the past, by violence or neglect. The intimacy of which he has been denied his share is that to which every human being is entitled. So, one logic of the aggression is: he is owed intimacy — and if the other is not giving it, for whatever reason, he or she should be chastised on that account. And finally, there is the notion that concert is a dangerous fraud (it has bitten him severely in the past), which should be universally destroyed or crippled.

172. ________________________________________________________________

Fantasy and aggression often occur in combination. Aggression always relies, in fact, on a fantasy of the potential victim's being viewable as an animal, or as akin to an animal. Some individuals seem to view their work, and even their social lives, as exercises in animal management. Some political programs are like this too. Well, it is true that human beings are animals. But my view is that, given the extent of our intellectual, practical and psychological dependence on concert, the interpersonal attitude that concert prescribes – a side-by-side, empathic, egalitarian, fellow-participant attitude – is, in the end, more realistic. Or you could say that we are not 'human beings'. The objectively viewable animal is not us.

173. ________________________________________________________________

Possibly, the commitment to the concert-rules game is conditional on there being some current practical expression of it (such as the classic small-group nomadic hunting and gathering). If there is no current 'game on', and if there is prevailing concert deprivation — which is pretty much the default modern scenario – this opens up the possibility of a reversion to the pre-concert-rules primate scenario, with chimp-style displays by macho males of 'random violence' to terrorise others into submission a là Smail's suggestion.

Developing arguments originally made by Christopher Boehm, Smail proposes that with the Neolithic revolution, a ‘long-dormant’ neurophysiology was turned ‘back on’. Village, town and city living provided ecological situations in which individuals could once again maximise their own advantage by gaining dominance through random acts of violence. The control of agricultural surpluses or trade routes was not enough to maintain their power base: they also needed to control the brains and bodies of their subordinates by manipulating their neurochemistry. The political elites, Smail argues, were not aware that they were engaging in such biological interventions; they were simply repeating what had seemed to work in gaining them power. Random violence is a winner every time.

[Mithen, Steven. 2008. 'When we were nicer' in London Review of Books, Vol. 30, No.2 — reviewing: Smail, Daniel Lord. 2007. On Deep History and the Brain. Berkeley CA: University of California Press.]

Maybe, concert-rules has to continually demonstrate its viability in order to retain group members' allegiance – and maintain the relevant concert-rules programs and synapses in their brains. A lot of indignation, plus the Smail scenario, is the automatic default. As if people, especially macho males, play concert-rules under sufferance and are 'just waiting' to get back to the killing? OK. That might be true of some. Maybe one's who had a bad childhood. With others there is no impatience to get out of concert-rules. They like it there.

174. ________________________________________________________________

The trouble with social science is not just that the observer's having to empathise (in order to understand) gives him a biased, say, 'personal', view of the social phenomenon in question. Nor is the problem that empathy is impermissible as a component in scientific observation procedures, or that it raises 'reflexivity' issues to do with the observer's act of looking affecting what is seen. The necessity of empathy indicates something more fundamental – namely, that there is no 'phenomenon' being 'looked at' at all. What we imagine to be a 'social phenomenon' is, rather, a potential action of ours being held in abeyance while we think about it — that is, while we consider the implications of our, or other people's, doing that. There is no looking 'at' going on. The perceptions we are covertly rehearsing are perceptions that would be involved in our performance of the action in question. Our inveterate submission to the empathy/objectivity illusion prevents us from seeing this. There is no such thing as a normative reality or normative phenomena. When it is actions being talked about, there is nothing 'there' with respect to which we could adopt an objective attitude: it is all imagined doing.

175. ________________________________________________________________

Escapism and/or aggression, the main concert substitutes, are often indulged in concert with others. They are often indulged culture-wide. The combination of concert, real or putative, with either or both of the substitutes makes a very addictive, very more-ish, blend. Capitalism is one example of such a blend.

Amidst its political rhetoric ideology contains intimations, to be comprehended at a subconscious level, of opportunities for collective fantasy (chosen people, utopias) and aggression (purifying the culture, seizing our rights). That's partly why ideology has to be fuzzy. It is advocating the irrational. It is selling drugs.

176. ________________________________________________________________

Gleisner says it's the new communication technologies and the social media that are 'the opiate of the people' nowadays.

177. ________________________________________________________________

Language, speech, is a device for concerting our activity, including our perceptual activity and our incipient activity.

178. ________________________________________________________________

“Human beings will continue to deceive and overpower one another. Basically, everyone exists in a state of suffering, so to abuse or mistreat each other is futile. The foundation of all spiritual practice is love. That you practise this well is my only request.” The Dalai Lama, The Little Book of Buddhism, p.133.

And Derek's version is: “Human beings will continue to deceive and overpower one another. Basically, everyone exists in a state of suffering, so to abuse or mistreat each other is futile. The foundation of all human practice is love. That you love well is God's only request.” So, good work, Dally.

179. ________________________________________________________________

Christianity is an attempt to capture and preserve solidarity, to bottle it, and perhaps put it on display. But solidarity is a will o' the wisp.

180. ________________________________________________________________

Morality is actually a species of technology. It is repair and maintenance of the engine that powers society. The engine is morale, or 'solidarity' – our natural enthusiasm for acting in concert and the main constituent of human happiness. Morale is in turn generated by successful concert. Concert often fails and this begets a downward spiral of both morale and concert. So, morality is personnel maintenance. It is ensuring people are healthy and happy. And it is politics. It is restoring agreement, and the practical concert and cooperation that flow from agreement, and it is restoring our enthusiasm for these things. To those who say morality is imperatives from God, you can nod. God is a metaphor for solidarity. So, yes, what He requires of us is what solidarity requires. God made our world, made 'us', commands us. He powers society. So morality is an important kind of technology, a holy technology even. It is serving God. We have the idea that morality is a matter of being virtuous, being 'good', and that it is in this respect optional. But morality is optional only in the sense that not destroying our be-all and end-all is optional. Immorality is only an especially deplorable kind of technical incompetence.

181. ________________________________________________________________

Our abiding concert-readiness, or empathy, with others is the launchpad for our social, practical and intellectual abilities, including our knowledge of the world. This readiness is these abilities exercised in incipient form. It is both the launchpad for and the residue of (past overt exercises of) the abilities.

The abiding concert-readiness is our default attitude vis-à-vis others when we are with others; it is 'consciousness' when we are alone. It is made possible, it is physically enabled, by the brain, especially the cerebral cortex. The brain is the ongoing register of, and regular updater of, our repertoire of concert-based abilities.

What is the relation between people's behaviour – the repertoire of concerts and cooperations, norms, that keeps us alive and reproducing – and the human body? What is the relation between the abiding covert, incipient rehearsing of such concert-based behaviour (which rehearsing is otherwise known as consciousness or mind) and the brain? Well, on the one hand there is the behaviour – which, as people ourselves, we can only empathise – and on the other is this biological hardware that has evolved to better enable that behaviour. We have to say 'better' enabled because the relevant behaviour, or some approximation of it, must have already been being produced (by the pre-human or whatever) – however, inefficiently and unreliably – for its survival benefits to have become manifest and for evolution (to facilitate and improve that behaviour) to have been set in train. It's not that the behaviour is a function of the mechanisms. Rather, the mechanisms (that certainly facilitate the behaviour) are the result of the behaviour – or, at least, they are the result of the long-term success of the behaviour at ensuring the survival of the critter concerned.

182. ________________________________________________________________

Philosophy is an investigation into the foundations of the normative. There is nothing, no knowledge, beyond the normative. It used to be thought that philosophy was primarily an investigation into the foundations of empirical knowledge. But 'the physical world' is ultimately a normative concept. Philosophy of science is anyway a relatively small and technical branch of philosophy. The main effect of clarifying the basic normative realities is to illuminate politics. So philosophy is preparation not for science but for politics. And that's why you don't want billionaires funding it (in the universities). And it's why they do fund it.

183. ________________________________________________________________

Economics is a branch of psychology — or, it could be argued, of psychiatry.

 

DM

 

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