Monday, June 19, 2017

The Shapeshifters of Bullshitistan - 7

D-Con Gollum
Three Rings for the Elven-kings
under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords
in halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men,
doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord
on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor 
where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, 
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all 
and in the darkness bind them.
In the Land of Mordor 
where the Shadows lie.” - J.R.R. Tolkien

Today's episode is about D-Con Gollum, a baptist deacon who seeks to religiously destroy the life on a planet he has yet to discover (You Are Here).

But way, way, way more than that, it is about the etiology of social dementias (Etiology of Social Dementia, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16) that have destroyed every civilization plagued by mental illness posing as wisdom in high places:
"In other words, a society does not ever die 'from natural causes', but always dies from suicide or murder --- and nearly always from the former, as this chapter has shown." - A Study of History, by Arnold J. Toynbee

To wit:
"Charismatic leaders and deities are common soteriological transference objects, but so are movie stars, political leaders, lovers, and teachers. The exact nature of transference varies, but what is critical is that transference objects appear larger than life and more enduring than the mortal self.
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Becker connected the denial of death to a broad suite of behaviors enacted in defense of a cultural world view, placing his ideas within the context of Western society’s increasingly distant relationship to nature and rejection of death as an integral part of life (Becker 1975, Lifton 1979).
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His goal was to revitalize the enlightenment tradition (Anchor 1979) and develop a “science of man” that would discover the psychological reasons why people gravitate toward finding meaning within some context of cosmic significance, why group ideologies so often involve literal or symbolic immortality, why cultural ideologies are so often the grounds upon which battle lines are drawn, and why so much of human motivation is subconscious and thus outside awareness.
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Given the paradox that most modern immortality-striving hero systems hinder our chances of survival, what might we learn by investigating the psychological mechanisms governing our choices? Understanding proximate behavioral mechanisms, particularly unconscious motivations that govern decision making, may reveal methods for generating a sustained response to global climate change in the short term and provide insights that individuals and institutions can use to foster rational responses to escalating environmental crises over the long term.
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Terror management theory (TMT) is the formalization of Becker’s ideas within the field of social psychology. Although not universally accepted (Navarrete and Fessler 2005), TMT is supported by evidence from more than 300 empirical studies testing a wide range of predictions with Western and indigenous societies in various parts of the globe (Pyszczynski et al. 2006). For this reason alone, it is worth taking seriously and integrating with environmental thinking, particularly with regard to human responses to climate change.
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Proximal defenses use rational thinking and deploy immediately after conscious thoughts of death are triggered; they involve both active suppression and cognitive distortions that relegate the problem of death to the distant future (Pyszczynski et al. 1999).
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Where global climate change is concerned, proximal defenses to thinking about mortality are likely to manifest in three ways: (1) denial of climate change, i.e., climate skeptics; (2) denial that humans are the cause of climate change; and (3) a tendency to minimize or project the impacts of climate change far into the future, where they no longer represent a personal danger (Table 1).
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Distal defenses are symbolic and occur in the absence of negative affect, physiological arousal, or distress; they are deployed in response to verbal or written death primes and subliminal death stimuli, which strongly supports the idea that they are unconsciously motivated. Experiments indicate that bolstering self-esteem helps to keep death thoughts at bay (Greenberg et al. 1992b). Consequently, threats to self-esteem can elicit terror management defenses, whereas factors such as a history of secure attachment or thinking about one’s own secure relationship have buffering effects (Florian and Mikulincer 1998, Mikulincer and Florian 2000, Mikulincer et al. 2003). Experiments designed to explore distal defenses are intriguing because they tap into unconscious motivation in compelling ways, asking whether interventions (primes) that increase mortality salience also increase the individual’s striving for self-esteem, defense of his or her own world view, antagonism toward outgroups, and idealization of ... leaders.
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Proximal defenses cause people to minimize the severity of mortal problems. If thinking about climate change triggers proximal defenses, people who say that they believe climate change is occurring will still tend to underestimate the need for an immediate response. As conditions worsen and it becomes increasingly difficult to deny the effects of global climate change, more people will probably switch over to distal defenses.
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For example, people who find self-esteem via materialism and an ideology of entitlement will probably buy more SUVs and become more antagonistic toward environmental causes and points of view, favoring suppression of the environmental movement and harsher penalties for the more radical protestors. In contrast, people who find self-esteem through humanist ideologies or environmentalism should become increasingly militant and vocal about their causes. This clash between two major Western ideologies is likely to produce even deeper ideological rifts within and outside the United States than we currently see. [this paper was written in 2009, and now we see Gollum as head of the EPA, so the hypothesis made a prediction that panned out]

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If the perception of risk, including the risks associated with climate change, increases death thought accessibility, and this becomes increasingly likely as the impacts of climate change reveal themselves, then efforts to move people toward environmentally responsible behaviors may have the opposite effect, causing them to purchase large gas-guzzling vehicles, listen to Rush Limbaugh, join fundamentalist cults, or, in the case of university faculty, hunker down and write more scientific papers.
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We currently lack the basic understanding required to design educational structures to support leadership, resilience, and courageous responses to the problem of global climate change.
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Because there are few cultures remaining that have not been superseded by larger entities, with tribes becoming townships, cities, states, and nations, we no longer have an “integrated world conception into which we fit ourselves with pure belief and trust” (Becker 1975). Although this might open up the possibility of a utopian, egalitarian, and secular society in which the combined gifts of individuals prevail, what we have in the West is a secular inequality devoid of a shared sense of the sacred and a heroism that triumphs over nature, perpetuating itself through new immortality ideologies that value material acquisitions and money. Lacking in heroism, these immortality ideologies come up empty or even inspire guilt. The irony of Western materialism is that wealth beyond the point of basic material comfort does not make people happy (Gilbert 2005).
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Technocracy itself is an immortality ideology that, although it is coupled with materialism, has as part of its makeup an element of the magical and a belief that new tools and innovations provide solutions to both the small day-to-day problems of life and the larger problems of human happiness and mortality. Technology is entrancing, and, functionally, technologists become creators of magic and the wizards of today, claiming the same authority over technology that doctors claim over human health or shamans over the cursed. This has always been so, going back to ancestral peoples who learned to use fire, tools, wind, and wheels. Even in subsistence societies, technology has a greater impact on a variety of sociological variables than do supernatural or religious beliefs (Nolan and Lenski 1996).
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Even in subsistence societies, technology has a greater impact on a variety of sociological variables than do supernatural or religious beliefs (Nolan and Lenski 1996).
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Traditionally, technology consolidates power within a society and exacerbates inequity. What is interesting about the new information technologies is that they do both: They consolidate power with patents, exclusive intellectual capital, and expensive tools, and they distribute power through open source technologies and open communication networks. As such, they promote material segregation while at the same time providing a relatively open network within which ideological communities can function. Photo galleries, forums, listserves, Google groups, and new social networking tools like MySpace, Facebook, and Second Life present mechanisms for growing online communities. In this new virtual world, frequent interaction is easy to achieve, and the topics around which free choice interaction occurs can be very focused and specific, suggesting that large social networks function like smaller ideological communities once did in the real world.
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Nontheistic conservation communities often arise around ideological symbols or charismatic archtypes. The practice of bird watching in the United States has grown dramatically, increasing by 155% in the years from 1982 to 1995 (Fitzpatrick and Gill 2002). This rapid exponential growth, similar to the growth that sometimes accompanies new religious movements, suggests that bird conservation communities function as ideological entities.
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Currently, more than half the world’s population lives in cities, and this constitutes a large segment of humanity that is disconnected from the natural world (Louv 2005).
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Academic science is both a world view and a context for self-esteem according to Becker (1975). This can lead scientists to imbue the scientific process with a power that it does not actually possess.
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Although research may provide major insights that help to mitigate change that is inevitable, terror management theory predicts that we will focus our attention and resources on discovery and mitigation for global climate change at the expense of actions that will stop the process from occurring in the first place. The frequency with which scientists currently discuss “adaptation to” and “mitigation for” climate change is disturbing, and may speak of a reluctance to confront the problem with a realistic attitude (Dyson 2006). Awareness of this possibility can help redirect scientists to circumvent distal defenses in this somewhat ironic context."
(The People Paradox: Self-Esteem Striving, Immortality Ideologies, and Human Response to Climate Change; emphasis added; link to PDF version).

Just sayin' ...

The previous post in this series is here.



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