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Four Trends That Scare the Hell Out of Me

http://thmiii.com/viewpoints/15/ “Four Trends That Scare the Hell Out of Me”

http://schottremovals.co.uk/about-us/online-estimate   by Robert Anton Wilson

Published in Loompanics’ Greatest Hits, 1990

 To paraphrase H.G. Wells, modern history has become a race between education and miseducation. There are very few people around who really don’t know anything, but there are multitudes who know many things that don’t happen to be true.

The trends in the modern world that most terrify me all result from the general tendency, increasingly manifest since the 18th Century, whereby education has ceased to be a Church monopoly (outside Ireland and the Islamic nations) and has increasingly become a State monopoly. In a memorable phrase from Ezra Pound, we have been delivered from “one gang of damned scoundrels (tonsured)” to “another gang of damned scoundrels (untonsured).” The results have been pre­dictable.

In the days when the Church was All and the Individual was Nothing, schools were staffed by Church employees who taught that obedience to the Church was the supreme virtue. Today, when the State is All and the Individual is still Nothing, schools are staffed by State employees who, not surprisingly, teach that obedience to the State is the supreme virtue. This should be called progress?

In this context, the second trend in our world that seems ominous to me consists of a continuing increase in State power everywhere, even in the formerly “democratic” Western capitalist nations.Everybody seems aware of this in general, but I would like to cite some recent and horrific examples.

When I was a boy (even though Roosevelt II was already President and the New Deal had begun) you could walk into a bank anywhere in this country with five dollars in your pocket and start an account without showing I.D. or answering any questions you thought impertinent. (The banks seemed glad to get their hands on your cash in those days.) When I returned to the U.S. early this year, after six years in Europe, I couldn’t find a bank in Southern California that would take my money, even though I had over ten thousand dollars in travelers checks for my initial deposit and, knowing the drift toward totalitarianism, had I brought my passport and credit cards as I.D. The banks would not accept the credit cards (and matching signature) as I.D. and the passport alone was not enough, even though guaranteed by the U.S. State Department. They all insisted on a California driver’s license, which as a new arrival I did not have.

Of course, I have since learned that other States do not act as “strictly” yet as California, but I also have observed that everything that starts in California eventually spreads throughout the nation.

Similarly, in California now, if you are in a car that is stopped for a traffic violation, you must have I.D. or you will be taken into custody – even if you are not the driver. See how it goes? First drivers must have I.D. which seems reasonable to almost everybody but the most “extreme” or “eccentric” libertarians; now passengers must have I.D., too… and how far are we from the nightmare of the old anti-Nazi movies where the question “Do you haff your papers?” notified the audience that we were seeing a totalitarian State and that the hero was about to be caught in its coils.

In June this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the public has no “reasonable expectation” of privacy when they put their garbage out for the night, so the police may now rummage through anybody’s trashwithout even bothering to get a search warrant. If you don’t relish the thought of the gendarmerie peering through your old love letters, financial re­cords, discarded porn magazines, marijuana stems or other signs of your individual foibles or weirdities, you will just have to imitate Our Glorious Leaders in Washington and buy yourself a paper shredder. This is hardly what I thought they meant when they taught me to sing that song about “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

The third trend that disturbs my slumber is the steady increase of what looks like “deliberate stupidity” or “duckspeak” in political debate. I want to be very careful here. The term “deliberate stupidity” was coined by Arthur Koestler to describe certain contortions of Marxist (or actually, Stalinist) logic in the 1930s and 1940s, which Orwell later called “duckspeak” – the substitution of slogans for thought, and dogma for analysis; in short, a general rejection of common sense on the part of alleged intellectuals. I am less judgmental than Koestler or Orwell and not at all sure the stupidity is totally deliberate, but I do find it appalling.

The Nazi ideology was based on the proposition that some Jews are bankers and therefore all Jews “are” “evil;” cur­rently fashionable Radical Feminism offers the isomorphic proposition that some men are rapists and therefore all men “are” “evil.” In bon ton Liberal circles it seems strictly forbidden to notice, or comment upon, the ghastly similarities pf these two systems of organized bigotry. It is also forbidden to remark that overt male sexism, as an openly avowed Ideology of hate, has virtually disappeared (however much covert male sexism may remain…) while the Rad Fems stir up more and more overt female sexism, as an openly avowed Ideology of hate. But openly avowed Ideologies of hate, which ascribe alleged group qualities to individuals, can only be considered “true” or “sincere” stupidity in the very ignorant and uneducated; in the educated, they seem to deserve Koestler’s charge of deliberate stupidity.

Pop Ecologists and Ecomaniacs (as distinguished from scientific students of ecology) frequently represent extremes of duckspeak never equalled by either the, Nazis or the Stalinists, and in most “New Age” magazines the polemics against reason are totally redundant; one cannot read a paragraph of this stuff without realizing the authors seem to be either deliberately or ignorantly imitating the Dark Ages, apparently under the leadership of such glorifiers of medievalism as Fritjof Capra and Theodore Roszak.

Some New Agers seem to have made a whole career out of duckspeak, and I often wonder if any of them ever realize consciously that the last 300 years of history, which they totally condemn, were the only centuries in which any individual liberty has ever appeared on this backward planet, except as the prerogative of a repressive aristocracy. The modern epoch the Eco-cult despises appears to be the only historical period in which freedom of speech or of the press, or any libertarian tendency whatsogoddamever, has been allowed to the masses. Pop Ecologists generally choose Francis Bacon or Rene Descartes as the prime villains of history, and that obscures the palpable fact that most of the values they reject are more closely associated with Thomas Jefferson and our tattered but still weakly surviving Bill of Rights.

The fourth trend that appalls me is the “war” against crack. As far as I can obtain objective scientific data about this derivative of cocaine, I would say that crack should be considered the most dangerous drug ever introduced to this country. This gives me nightmares when I consider that the government’s way of trying to control the crack problem imitates the same techniques that have been so monumentally counter-productive in dealing with other drugs. Washington has taken the course that seems guaranteed to make crack even more popular and lucrative.

There were only a few thousand heroin addicts in the U.S. when the government declared “war” on that drug; now there are millions. There were less than 200,000 pot smokers, mostly in New Orleans and Texas, when the government declared “war” on that drug; now there appear to be somewhere between 40 million and 70 million regular users, depending on whose estimate you believe. LSD seems such a powerful psychological change-agent that I, personally, don’t believe it would have ever gotten out of the laboratories onto the streets, if the government hadn’t declared “war” on it. And so on. Nothing increases the sales and profits of a drug like making it illegal. The result is always the same: the young, the adventurous, the scientifically curious, the artistic and other adventure some types get very interested, a black market appears, the mob sees profits and takes over, and the prices go sky-high, with an ever-increasing rise in police cor­ruption and violent crime associated with the import and distribution of the for­bidden substance.

Now crack is about to go through this same process. There are two crack-related murders a week in South Central Los Angeles, and other cities are moving up to compete with that record. With a full-scale “war” against crack, based on the same technique as other anti-drug “crusades,” we can expect the corruption, the violence and the prices to rise steadily and dizzily.

I can only conclude that, unless the people come to their senses and demand that the government take a more intelligent and less military approach, the Mafia will graduate from a billionaire club to a trillionaire club and soon own all the banks, instead of just owning most of them.

(submitted to rawilsonfans by RMJon23)

Four Trends That Give Me Hope

“Four Trends That Give Me Hope”

 by Robert Anton Wilson

Published in Loompanics’ Greatest Hits, 1990

Despite superficial impressions caused by our brutally short lifespans (73 years average, at present), something that can be called “progress” clearly exists in history and can be demonstrated mathematically. Brooks Adams, Alfred Korzybski and Buckminster Fuller, among others, have given examples of this “progressive factor” in their books. A recent and more rigorous demonstration comes from the French economist-statistician, George Anderla, who used Information Theory to convert knowledge into binary units and calculated how fast these units increased since the birth of Christ.

Taking all knowledge at 1 AD as x, the rate of acceleration has been as follows: 1500 AD – 2x, 1750 AD – 4X, 1900 AD – 8x, 1950 AD – 16x, 1960 AD – 32X, 1967-64X, 1973 AD – 128x.

That this process is accelerating is immediately obvious; the acceleration of the acceleration is clearer if we express this in terms of the time interludes for each doubling of knowledge. Then we see that the first doubling took 1500 years, the second 250 years, the third 150 years, the fourth 50 years, the fifth 10 years, the sixth 7 years and the seventh 6 years.

All available indicators suggest that the doubling has accelerated further since Anderla completed his study in 1973. Patents granted per year, new books, new computer software, new scientific papers, etc., have all continued to “multiply like rabbits.”

Of course, the pessimist or cynic can say that “we” will just mis-use new knowledge as “we” have, allegedly, misused all previous knowledge. I have disputed this view (and given more details on the Anderla calculations) in my Prometheus Rising; in this brief space, I will say only that as knowledge increases, and as tech­nology increases, human options widen. At the very least, people today can choose from a larger variety of kinds of misery than our forebears in 1888 and much, much more than those in 1788.

I also object to the fictitious “we” that cynics invoke as the omnipresent fuck-up factor in history. I have never met “we” except in books of grammar or politics, or other works of fiction; in experience, I only encounter phalanxes of individuals. Some individuals mis-use knowledge and some use knowledge very intelligently. I assume that as knowledge increases, however much the stupid continue to mis-use it, the intelligent will find in­creased options give them greater free­dom in which to exercise their ingenuity.

A second evolutionary trend that I find hopeful consists in the accelerated speed of travel and communication in the mod­ern world. According to Professor Platt of Michigan State university, speed of travel has increased a thousandfold since 1900 2nd speed of communication a millionfold; and both are increasing faster ail the time. The “one town world” forecast by Bucky Fuller is appearing all around us. Look through the Restaurant section of any large city’s phone directory and you will find the cuisine of the whole planet available; walk through an art museum and you will see all the art of humanity; turn on the TV in a really big city and you will find Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Spanish, English, Jewish, French and vari­ous other imports available at the turn of a dial. Like all increases in options or pos­sible choices, this omni-cosmopolitanization seems to me a liberating and wonderful evolutionary transformation.

Concretely, my childhood reality-tunnel was bordered by one neighborhood in Brooklyn; my current reality-tunnel is bordered by Berlin and Maui, those being the furthest-apart points that I visited last year. They are 12 time-zones, or halfway around the planet, from each other, and I expect to see China next year. (I also expect to visit a space colony sometime in the next 20 years…) Similarly, in a recent computer conference, I spoke to people all over the US and Canada; that would have been science-fiction if I wrote it 30 years ago…

Having friends who are Punk Rockers in Berlin, computer executives in San Jose, actors in London and Dublin, psycholo­gists in Maui, etc., has not only re-edu­cated me but liberated me from mental limitations I didn’t know existed until I lost them. “What one fool can learn, another can,” as the ancient primate proverb says. More and more people are traveling all the time (one man flew the Atlantic in 1928 and 200,000,000 flew it in 1978), so I have high hopes that existen­tial re-education through experience will eventually liberate more and more minds.

As the potential knowledge and the potential human experience available to us both multiply faster, our lifespans are also increasing, a third trend that fills me with joy. In 1976, a survey found 500 people over 100 years old in England; in 1986, a similar study found over 3000. In America, lifespan has increased so fast since the 1970s that life Extension Re­searcher Durk Pearson admitted to being surprised by it (on a recent Donahue show). Ironically, due to AIDS, more money is being spent on immunological research than ever, and research on the immune system is the most likely path to super-longevity. We may all live hundreds of years, or longer.

With more space (due to faster travel), more time (due to longevity) and more knowledge (due to the accelerating In­formation Explosion), I see no reason to believe that any past limits on me or you or “humanity” in general need to be re­garded as permanent. I think we are mov­ing rapidly toward some evolutionary Quantum Jump of which the “Harmonic convergence” is only the Mickey Mouse cartoon version of simple minds.

The fourth trend that gives me hope consists of all the problems and symp­toms of breakdown on this planet which motivate most of the cynicism and panic around these days. Ecological mismanage­ment. The Permanent War Economy. The increase of State power to the point where government has become a pest in everyone’s life. The continuing risk of nuclear war. All these problems seem as real and dreadful to me as they do the cynics, but I see them in a different light. In a world of increasing information, in­creasing richness of experience and in­creasing lifespan, our problems may serve as the evolutionary challenges which will force more and more people to use our new options creatively.

After all, it seems quite likely that there would be no “progress” and no evolution at all, if serious problems did not compel living beings to innovation and experiment.

(submitted to RAWilsonFans.com by R. Michael Johnson)