On “Gaslighting” and the dynamics of inequality

I recently mused that work or trade potential exists where there is inequality.  If all the matter and energy in the universe was evenly distributed, there would never have been stars, planets or life.  On the level of trade, this is the basis of exchange.  Got into a discussion of socialism versus capitalism (of course) where my position is that extremes in either direction are equally toxic and destructive of a society.  I think most sane people agree with this, and the only question is: “how much equality of access shall be imposed or permitted?  How much inequality?”  Anyone who believes that either end holds the greater moral authority or intrinsic goodness has swallowed the Kool-ade.

Jeff Wilson said something very true: “people with identical resources can still gain by specialization.Today I’ll hunt while you gather, then we can trade meat and hide and sinew for berries and wood and feathers, so we both have a more varied diet and parts for bows and arrows. Tomorrow we can craft, one of us can chew leather while the other carves”

I replied:   those then would be people with identical POTENTIAL  resources, not actual. If a bunch of identical clones go out into the world to hunt, gather, learn and trade they will come back home with different resources. If I’ve brought back a boatload of tuna, and you’ve brought home a truckload of furs, we have unequal resources, and can trade. My point is that that is the basis of work on the level of physics, and the basis of commerce. Not at all an evil thing–it just “is.” On the other hand, clearly there is no real-world situation where a bunch of clones go out. Human beings aren’t equal in capacity–that is simple observation even if raised in near-identical environs. Nor in motivation. But you also have to add the fact that humans will leverage advantage whether fair or not: strength, numbers, flukes of chance, stumbling across a resource, living near a trade route, whatever. Then they will create beliefs that they are entitled and blessed, and simultaneously dominate and attempt to justify that domination and control. Lends itself to evil quite handily. So you have something that is natural, and both “good” and “bad” depending on perspective and inclinations. This most certainly is a fascinating world.”

Obviously, I believe that the observation that individuals are unequal gets totally twisted when it comes to groups.   People will not only leverage their advantage, but tell you that you DESERVE the oppression. That it is the basic nature of human beings.   I was raised by my mother and sister, and as a boy, was taken to many, many meetings where there were no men in the room, and was ignored as too young to matter. And trust me, those women were just as dismissive of men as I’ve ever heard men be of women.   Men were basically   children, easy to manipulate.  Wow.

You see this stuff  everywhere, whether we’re talking religion, sexual orientation, race, culture, nationality, school, team…anything.   So that reality, that inequality makes action possible, is both a truth and the doorway to hell.

How do we straddle that line?  Personally, I reject any standard created by group “A” that “proves” them better than group “B.”   I know that that is the natural tendency of consciousness, and that the more remarkable thing, by far, is to grant equality and full humanity. That is extraordinary, and so far as I can see, a relatively new thing in human history.  (“But Steve! How can someone as intelligent as you ignore the mathematics behind The Bell Curve?”  I’ve had this asked many many times.  Easy. Because those tests were not created, administered, evaluated or interpreted by frickin’ aliens. They were devised by human beings with conscious and unconscious agendas and perceptual filters.  We delete vast amounts of information, all the time, or we would literally go insane.  And the people who believe The Bell Curve, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, have told me that what I have observed concerning inequality in America is an illusion. If they had ever, even once, admitted that the inequality of opportunity or administration of justice was as unequal as I’ve observed, THEN also maintained their position concerning intelligence tests, I might have listened more closely. But I had a choice: either trust my own observations, or trust the integrity of people I do not know to create, administer, evaluate, compile, and disseminate data that “proves” their group is superior.  Well, it is possible of course. But frankly, I trust my own perceptions more than I trust anyone else’s.)

Yesterday, I posted a link to an article on “gaslighting.”  https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/10-things-i-wish-i-d-known-about-gaslighting-22234cb5e407#.mh54cupzq

This is defined as trying to convince someone that their perception of reality is untrue.   We all know this happens in relationships between individuals. But it is also brainwashing between an institution (or family unit) and an individual, or between groups.   I remember the horrific scene in “Saving Private Ryan” where the German soldier is knifing the American soldier, speaking soothingly to him, basically telling him that it is pointless to fight, it’s all right, just let it happen…

Jesus Christ that was horrifying.   Your life isn’t worth fighting for.  Go to sleep…go to sleep…

How many examples of this have I seen in my life?  Countless.  Personal experience and observation both.   Gay kids being told that the love they felt was evil.   Ambitious people told that their aspirations were unrealistic.    Women told that they are weak and inferior, men that they are evil and should be guilt-ridden. Whites that they should feel guilt for things their ancestors did, blacks that they have not experienced the oppression they have observed and experienced on a daily basis.  Atheists that they are wrong to structure the world according to their logic, Christians that they are wrong to embrace their faith.   Americans that they are better (or worse) than other people, other nations.

On and on and on.   Are there actually inequalities? Yes. But…I believe more damage is been done on the level of believing “we” are better than “them” in the modern world than the opposite.   It is quite possible that that binary evaluation was a survival imperative in an earlier world. And might still be important.  But Octavia Butler warned that the greatest danger to humanity was

  1. our hierarchical thinking and
  2. our tendency to place ourselves higher on the hierarchy than others.

It doesn’t take much observation to notice that most people who believe in the Bell Curve are white, most misogynists male, most homophobes straight, most male-haters women, most Islamophobes Christian or Jewish.   Most anti-Semites Christian or Muslim.  And yes, these “antis” and “phobias” denote not merely aversion, but perception of relative value.   One very rarely hears: “they’re as good as we are, but I hate them.”  That is a comment startling enough to be notable.

In other words, for some odd reason, usually only the people benefitted by the comparison tend to consider group X to be inferior.

Isn’t that an odd coincidence?  

So…I start by REJECTING all of that, but will slowly come to the conclusion that a group is warped, or damaged, or dangerous if offered sufficient evidence by a neutral authority, because I know that there are powerful conscious and unconscious forces that strive to twist our minds to believe We are the center of goodness and value.  

Every child has a touch of that Buddha baby nature about her–unless it gets beaten out: “Heaven above, Earth below, no one in the world like me!”  And believes their Mommy is the prettiest, their daddy the strongest, their family the best.  That’s where a healthy ego begins, and we evolve from that point.   Sometimes.  INDIVIDUALS grow beyond that point. But cultures, institutions, have enormous inertia, and abandon that position far more slowly.

You can take the blue pill, and stay in the Matrix.  Or you can take the red pill, and have a very different experience of life.   Ultimately, the choice is yours.

Namaste,

Steve

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3 comments

  1. From my perspective, the conflicts you talk about here originate from the desire to explain infinity in finite dimensions usually one, two, three, or maybe four. Mathematics comes from applying logic to observation and following where it leads. We observe one apple plus another apple equals two apples. We give words to the number of apples and the apple itself. If you have a set of N apples over here and another set of M apples over there, then either M N, or M = N. Trying to make human beings linear is like trying to count the number of angles that can fit on the head of a pin. I have found that most people are very attached to how they see the world. Infinity is hard to fathom. Most people can’t or don’t want to cope with uncertainty. They would rather construct a view of the world that makes sense to them and run with it, then consider that they might well never know what is True. I no longer worry about understanding everything. I have decided my task is to do the best I can with my life and send as much light out into the common space as possible. My physical energy is limited. Engaging in arguments which can never, in my opinion, be sorted uses up energy I think I should be spending in other ways.

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  2. Science is not consensus or popularity. The bell curve exists as a statistic fact, but as you said, skepticism in how it is applied and later interpreted is key. Further, if you cannot do the math (or other work) yourself, and are cuting it as factual in its face as opposed to “here is what one study study indicates”, you are demonstrating the opposite of skepticism…. faith. We all have to make assumptions and proceed on faith until better data or theories are available. Ine should be self aware enough to recognize where you are having faith. If you cant do the work yourself and checked it, it IS faith others are correct.

    Citing consensus or such invites errors. Disciplined thinking and lots of skepticism is required. This applies to military, policy making, and other fields as well.
    http://www.nature.com/news/how-scientists-fool-themselves-and-how-they-can-stop-1.18517

    Like

  3. Science is not consensus or popularity. The bell curve exists as a statistic fact, but as you said, skepticism in how it is applied and later interpreted is key. Further, if you cannot do the math (or other work) yourself, and are cuting it as factual in its face as opposed to “here is what one study study indicates”, you are demonstrating the opposite of skepticism…. faith. We all have to make assumptions and proceed on faith until better data or theories are available. One should be self aware enough to recognize where you are having faith. If you cant do the work yourself and checked it, it IS faith others are correct.

    Citing consensus or such invites errors. Disciplined thinking and lots of skepticism is required. This applies to military, policy making, and other fields as well.
    http://www.nature.com/news/how-scientists-fool-themselves-and-how-they-can-stop-1.18517

    Like

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