Colloquialisms, paradoxes, and concepts for the end of times
I solicited my friends’ vax lot numbers to check them for frequency of side effects in this database a few weeks ago. This is a snippet of our convo (made public with permission):
Schrödinger’s Lot was a catchy little short cut that we all understood because the paradoxical concept felt familiar. But if you read as many Substacks as I do, and you come across as many thinkers of our times who neatly arrange such theories and notions in eloquent literary bouquets, you’re bound to come across some you have never heard of, some that you have heard of but haven’t realized their importance in the current state of affairs, and some that are firmly made up on the spot. The last set, me thinks, will become a part of our definitive age.
I will now attempt to highlight a few of these concepts, paradoxes, and new ideas in this post as a way to shorthand your exploration in the current social and political climate, if for nothing else, but to illuminate the smarts of some fellow humans.
Dunbar Number or the Bandwidth for Authentic Relationships
British anthropologist Robin Dunbar studied various groups from intentional communities, to military organizations, to factories and discovered that the magic number for interpersonal relationships is 150. There are subgroups within that number such as family and close friends, but ultimately, the human brain can hold emotional energy for no more than 150 people.
There are some who contest this number and claim that we can hold in the upwards of 290 relationships, but often this range skews towards the more wealthy and affluent members of society who can hire a staff and/or outsource some of their relationship obligations.
What determines these layers in real life, in the face-to-face world… is the frequency at which you see people. You’re having to make a decision every day about how you invest what time you have available for social interaction, and that’s limited.
I purposefully chose to touch on the Dunbar number first because in the before times (2020 B.C. or Before Covid), I was at what felt like capacity for social interaction. Being in the entertainment business and running a DIY venue expanded my community circle by quite a bit (more on this later, perhaps in 2023 A.D or After Disillusionment?). I was struggling to keep up with relationship in a meaningful way, especially when it came to balancing my attention with new potential bonds while avoiding shorting those close to me. I still had an inner circle of friends with whom I even conspired to create an intentional community with the desire to minimize social interactions to those I had already invested in. Even though we met in various backyards through the start of the pandemic, ultimately after a year or so of research, we lost steam. When the world shut down, initially, I texted everyone in that group almost daily to check in and keep looped in. One of my friend’s called the group The Bug-out Fam: it was the in-case-of-an-apocalypse-break-glass-for-insta-community. I sometimes wonder, if we were already living on a property together, if I would have been voted off the farm for not taking the covid shot.
This thought of creating intentional communities isn’t new or unique, but there has been an uptick in interest in alternative paradigms and parallel structures while the world sorts itself out, but also, maybe even beyond the turmoil. Will we come to a point where society consists of millions of small Dunbar communities all living in harmony? Are we mature enough for collaborative anarchy?
The world is now exponentially shifting and although different fractions of people will be affected at different times, eventually everyone will wake up to the reality that the old way of life is gone. Soon, most jobs will become automated and the planet will be populated by millions of non-producing consumers. Soon, there won’t be a single square inch on Earth that cannot be under surveillance from above. Soon, we’ll be lulled by the siren song of the metaverse where we can trade reality for fantasy. Soon, we will be able to edit genes and hack into humans. I say soon, but the process has already begun so it might be better to say that soon, that will all be just normal. And our relationships will (if they haven’t already) change profoundly.
The Precautionary Principal or Think Before You Do
The precautionary principle (or precautionary approach) is a broad epistemological, philosophical and legal approach to innovations with potential for causing harm when extensive scientific knowledge on the matter is lacking. It emphasizes caution, pausing and review before leaping into new innovations that may prove disastrous. Critics argue that it is vague, self-cancelling, unscientific and an obstacle to progress.
from Wikipedia (italics mine)
I tend to steer away from Wikipedia because a.) I once got scolded for quoting it in a theatre review and b.) I’ve witnessed the dishonest scrubbing, altering, and falsifying of wiki pages for the benefit of a main stay narrative. But, this quote offers both a simple summation of the term and an explanation (in italics) why it was ubiquitously dismissed during the rollout of the innovative mRNA technology in which millions of people were injected with an experimental gene altering drug without ever holding proper long term trials in humans.
Gell-Mann Amnesia or Skepticism Is Necessary
The physicist Murray Gell-Mann coined the term referring to the way we tend to surrender our trust about a subject we don’t know too much about to a higher authority. His friend, novelist and director Michael Crichton wrote this about the effect:
Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
So, as you soak up the news about the current geopolitical conflict in Eastern Europe, remind yourselves that the same media blamed the unprecedented increase in heart attacks and blood clots in 2021 on winter vagina, post pandemic stress disorder, and weed, and that’s just for starters.
The Bradford Hill Criteria or Criteria for Causation
Known as the standard method of determining causation, there are nine criteria applied in epidemiological research that have also been applied to social and behavioral sciences.
In 1965, the English statistician Sir Austin Bradford Hill proposed a set of nine criteria to provide epidemiologic [sic] evidence of a causal relationship between a presumed cause and an observed effect. (For example, he demonstrated the connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.) The list of the criteria is as follows:
Strength (effect size): A small association does not mean that there is not a causal effect, though the larger the association, the more likely that it is causal.
Consistency (reproducibility): Consistent findings observed by different persons in different places with different samples strengthens the likelihood of an effect.
Specificity: Causation is likely if there is a very specific population at a specific site and disease with no other likely explanation. The more specific an association between a factor and an effect is, the bigger the probability of a causal relationship.
Temporality: The effect has to occur after the cause (and if there is an expected delay between the cause and expected effect, then the effect must occur after that delay).
Biological gradient (dose-response relationship): Greater exposure should generally lead to greater incidence of the effect. However, in some cases, the mere presence of the factor can trigger the effect. In other cases, an inverse proportion is observed: greater exposure leads to lower incidence.
Plausibility: A plausible mechanism between cause and effect is helpful (but Hill noted that knowledge of the mechanism is limited by current knowledge).
Coherence: Coherence between epidemiological and laboratory findings increases the likelihood of an effect. However, Hill noted that "... lack of such [laboratory] evidence cannot nullify the epidemiological effect on associations".
Experiment: "Occasionally it is possible to appeal to experimental evidence".
Analogy: The use of analogies or similarities between the observed association and any other associations.
Some authors[which?] consider, also, Reversibility: If the cause is deleted then the effect should disappear as well.
from Wikipedia (yes, again)
Interestingly enough, if you want to see WHO’s thoughts about Bradford Hill Criteria, you’d be left a bit unsatisfied since the information is no longer available on their site and using the aforementioned criteria, I’m going to deduce that it was no accident. But to see every criterion proven time and time again in a more satisfying manner, you are best to read through Steve Kirsch’s Vaccine Safety Evidence monster document. Brace yourself.
Simpson Paradox or Illusory Data
I’ve been slowly educating myself how to read data coming across the term Simpson Paradox a few times and I think it’s worth noting that it has nothing to do with The Simpsons no matter how many times they uncannily predict the future. Edward H. Simpson first mentioned it in a technical paper in the 50s, but the phenomenon has been observed since late 19th century: sometimes, when you aggregate data, trends disappear and analysis may show reversed effects.
Simpson’s Paradox is a statistical phenomenon where an association between two variables in a population emerges, disappears or reverses when the population is divided into subpopulations. For instance, two variables may be positively associated in a population, but be independent or even negatively associated in all subpopulations. Cases exhibiting the paradox are unproblematic from the perspective of mathematics and probability theory, but nevertheless strike many people as surprising.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Throughout the last two years, authorities were unmoved to present raw data and to open up their methods of data collection to independent statisticians. Thus, these clandestine methods allowed for teasing and cherry picking without the opportunity for outside criticism and it resulted in disastrous public health policies. Now, I can offer an example, crudely, as I am no statistician, but I would much rather defer to those who know what they are talking about and you can read this in-depth Stack by Mathew Crawford explaining how authorities rig the numbers to present you with a one-sided story.
Nudge Theory or How To Persuade a People
In 2009, a report detailed how to use “behavioral theory” to get masses to do what is desired of them.
Influencing behaviour is central to public policy. Recently, there have been major advances in understanding the influences on our behaviours, and government needs to take notice of them. This report aims to make that happen. For policy-makers facing policy challenges such as crime, obesity, or environmental sustainability, behavioural approaches offer a potentially powerful new set of tools. Applying these tools can lead to low cost, low pain ways of “nudging” citizens - or ourselves - into new ways of acting by going with the grain of how we think and act. This is an important idea at any time, but is especially relevant in a period of fiscal constraint.
from Mindspace: influencing behaviour through public policy
Some have begun the conversation how this process has undermined democracy and less we forget, ‘democracy’ literally means ‘the rule of the people’. I know no one who would willfully be allowed to be nudged in real life. The last two years saw several “nudges” that were constantly used as tools to shape behavior.
Fear: messaging on the news producing daily Covid death numbers out of context; omitting other death statistics or Covid recovered statistics; footage of intubated patients; daily special task force updates, etc.
Shame: evoking virtue if you follow the rules and consequently, shame if you brake them; if you aren’t wearing a mask, you are causing others distress; if you aren’t vaccinating, you are a vector for disease, etc.
Peer Pressure: social media profile frames; sharing photos of bandaids/vax cards; virtue signaling; excluding unvaxxed from gatherings, etc.
This isn’t new, we humans apply all sorts of tactics to manipulate one another as every mother who has asked her kid if they wanna shower before or after dinner will tell you either way, showering is a-happening. And some nudges can be friendly, no doubt about it. And they don’t always work. I painted my kitchen a healthy green, yet somehow, there’s still a whole lotta desert baking. It’s just that some of the entities doing the nudging are synonymous with criminal conduct.
Asch Conformity Experiment or the Discomfort of Going Against the Grain
I’ve shared this video before, but it’s worth rewatching. We are social creatures and do not enjoy feeling excluded from the pack.
The mask mandate in Chicago was lifted more than four weeks ago. We’ve had to endure the absurdity of the mask farce and the inconsistency of public health messaging for close to two years, not to mention the mask hall monitors who wish they can write you some demerits for having some naked face laughs with your kid on the swings at the local playground.
Side note, in theatre, mask work often depicts and emphasizes the trait of the character and there’s an implied quality of hiding our real true self.
Two weeks ago, I attended my kids’ choir showcase. It was indoors, in the auditorium of a church where a series of worn out 8x10 printouts gently reminded folks to mask up. They looked like posters from a bygone era to me, like 90’s clip art. The greeter at the door was masked, as were all of the doting parents I saw. I smiled broadly as I held the door for the only couple that had entered with their naked faces, only to catch the lady grab a complimentary mask from the greeter’s station. Her companion inquired why she did that to which the lady curtly nodded towards the greeter’s masked face and said that it looks like everyone was wearing them. I wasn’t. She so easily fell back into a desire to be a part of the crowd and adorning the official in-crowd uniform. Her companion didn’t end up conforming. We were the only two audience members whose faces could be seen in their entirety. This was not a sanctuary full of immunocompromised people whom, I’m sure, have enough sense to make sensible decisions about their own exposure. I made sure I sat close enough to the front so my kids can read my lips when I silently mouthed how proud I am of them.
The Overton Window or What Can We Talk About?
The concept was introduced by Joseph P. Overton in the 90’s, although, these days, it sometimes gets weaponized by introducing more extreme ideas into mainstream with the intention of shifting the field of possibilities.
Mr. Overton just wanted to explain to potential donors what the point of a think tank was, so he created a brochure with a cardboard slider. The brochure listed the range of possible policies on a single issue, from least to most government intervention. On education — an example the Mackinac Center uses — it might run from zero public investment in education to compulsory indoctrination in government schools. But neither of those extremes is going to happen. Only part of the range is achievable, and when Mr. Overton moved his slider, different policies fell into what he called the window of political possibility.
Maggie Astor, New York Times
For example, ten years ago, there was no one who talked about medicare for all. Well, Bernie was, but no one was paying attention. Not until 2016 when he got a few senators and congress folks to sponsor the bill. By the time the 2020 presidential elections rolled around, most democrats had jumped on Sanders’ bandwagon, a few championing it so hard, you’d think they were trying to co-opt it. I don’t want to get into the weeds whether or not medicare for all is achievable or if it shouldn’t be an inalienable right. Suffice to say that I was blindsided by the danger of government overreach and meddling in medical decisions. It’s embarrassing to admit that I failed to see the lurking alarm signal as someone who grew up in a communist country. Yeah, it was free to go to the hospital if you were sick, but no one thought it was weird that they just lined us up kids in the middle of the school year and walked us down to the nurse’s office where one by one we got our childhood jabs without a parent in sight.
Agitariat of What Do You Stand Against?
The bad cat is a master of crafting concepts and elaborating socio-political landscapes without capitalizing a single word ever. Recently, the writer came up with a new term for those who are stuck in a never ending search for an adversary to fill their hallowed essence. I strongly recommend reading the entire article.
many have marveled at the speed at which the covidian clamorers have pivoted to war frenzy. it was near instant, like some sort of phase change, a sublimation straight from solid to gas.
but this is no marvel nor is it, in fact, even a state change. it’s just a property of the new class of society that spends its lives in and derives its identity from its constant state of aversive arousal and agitation. this tribe is always and everywhere at war because its identify is rooted not in self but in “against.”
this is the agitariat.
el gato malo
Now, even though this writer is referring to the finger waggers of one specific group, I have to add that anyone can become an agitariat, no matter which way your politics and biases lean. In the cyber swamps of social media, for example, you can always spot those who go as far as to even wish death upon others whose beliefs don’t match their own. The fact that we are looking for an enemy is the trap of the agitariat. They’re fueled by the illusion of control and the insatiable desire to fill a hole inside their hearts.
The Stanford Experiment or Under the Right Circumstances, Are We All Psychotic?
You have most likely heard about Dr. Zimbardo’s Principles.
Zimbardo and his colleagues (1973) were interested in finding out whether the brutality reported among guards in American prisons was due to the sadistic personalities of the guards (i.e., dispositional) or had more to do with the prison environment (i.e., situational).
Dr. Saul McLoed from SimplyPsychology
Young male Americans were hired to play either a guard or a prisoner and a prison was set up complete with cells and solitary confinement. You can read the details in the article to refresh your memory. The experiment had to be cut short. It proved that under the right circumstances, our psychology will betray us and we are likely to behave in a manner that we wouldn’t attribute to ourselves.
The few takeaway similarities between what happened in that Stanford basement and what has been happening for the last two years:
By locking down, self-isolating and being cut off from a sense of time and purpose, our lizard brains take over and focus on survival; our mammalian brain which is responsible for emotion and memory takes a back seat.
The young men who were chosen to play prisoners were stripped by their individuality by way of being deloused, disrobed, and given a number which led to further dehumanization and humiliation as they became nameless look-a-likes. Similarly, although not as dramatically, masks which hid half of our faces became both what made us all look uniform and what took away the social cues reliant on facial expressions.
In interviews post experiment, both the “guards” and the “prisoners” claimed that they couldn’t believe how they behaved, that it was out of character. From good Germans, to apparatchiks, to the Covidians, society is rife with obedient hall monitors who, at best, averted their eyes from injustices and at worst, justified their own participation by claiming they were simply following orders.
The Milgram Shock Experiment or Yes, Under the Right Circumstances, Most of Us Are, Indeed, Psychotic
Milgram (1963) was interested in researching how far people would go in obeying an instruction if it involved harming another person.
Stanley Milgram was interested in how easily ordinary people could be influenced into committing atrocities, for example, Germans in WWII.
The procedure was that the participant was paired with another person and they drew lots to find out who would be the ‘learner’ and who would be the ‘teacher.’ The draw was fixed so that the participant was always the teacher, and the learner was one of Milgram’s confederates (pretending to be a real participant).
The teacher is told to administer an electric shock every time the learner makes a mistake, increasing the level of shock each time. There were 30 switches on the shock generator marked from 15 volts (slight shock) to 450 (danger – severe shock).
65% (two-thirds) of participants (i.e., teachers) continued to the highest level of 450 volts. All the participants continued to 300 volts.
Milgram did more than one experiment – he carried out 18 variations of his study. All he did was alter the situation (IV) to see how this affected obedience (DV).
Saul McLeod, from Simply Psychology
What struck me about the Milgram’s experiment was that in one of his variations, he had the experimenter (who was wearing a lab coat and possessed a clipboard) step out of the room and his replacement (dressed casually) instructed the ‘teacher’ to administer the electric shocks to the ‘learner’. The obedience level decreased and there was a lot less willingness to go on with the experiment. It reminded me how only the ‘experts’ and ‘authority figures’ got to voice opinions and how umbrellaed under the power of such authority common folks took it upon themselves to police their neighbors.
Stockholm Syndrome or Loving Your Abusers
I’m sure this one needs no introduction as you’ve heard this thrown around, but the origin of the term might be a fun read. I can see parallels between the Government’s carrot and stick pandemic response and how that has created a bond between those who comply and those who insist on compliance (although, I don’t particularly think that authority figures give a damn about the citizenry, the citizens have come to idolize their potentates), but it’s a data point made in the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy that brings it home for me:
There are social and cognitive influences that can play a role in the development of Stockholm Syndrome. A social influence that can be a key player in this syndrome is an “us versus them”, or in-group and out-group mentality. That mentality paired with a distorted cognitive schema can influence the emergence of Stockholm Syndrome.
It was one large medicated ‘vax and mask or else’ club and I wasn’t in it. The mere mention that the club had some bizarre initiation rituals, let alone cultish tendencies, sent some compliers over the edge and next thing you know your family and friends would rather have Fauci over for Thanksgiving.
Mass Formation or the Madness of Crowds
Man, he stresses, requires to be constantly on the look-out for verification of his impressions and perceptions of the world, lest he develop delusion, and most of the causes of delusions are not purely organic: The same effect could be produced by hypnosis and mass hypnosis, which, by dislocating the person from the higher forms of alert consciousness, reduce him to the primitive stage of collective participation, creating an experience of oneness with the crowd.
Totalitarianism is the sum of the personalities of its subjects’ minds, broken down and subjugated. It is the tapping into the childlike fears and dependencies of the individual, which make him crave protection and security over freedom. The leaders of Totalitaria employ catchwords instead of philosophies. Words like ‘communism’ and ‘democracy’ are merely instruments in the hands of the would-be tyrants, what [Joost] Meerloo calls the ‘labelomania’ of ‘verbocracy.’
‘We can say that verbocracy turns [citizens] into what psychology calls symbol agnostics, people capable only of imitation, incapable of inquisitive sense of objectivity and perspective that leads to questioning and understanding and to the formation of individual ideas and ideals. In other words, the individual citizen becomes a parrot, repeating ready-made slogans and propaganda catchwords without understanding what they really mean, or what forces stand behind them.’ Thus, ‘a common delusion is created: people are incited to think what other people think, and thus public opinion may mushroom out into a mass prejudice.’
In such a culture, rhetoric increases in inverse proportion to sense. ‘Many speakers use verbal showing off to cover an emptiness of thought, to stir up emotions and to create admiration and adoration of what is essentially empty and valueless. Loud-mouthed phoniness threatens to become the ideal of our time.’
Although the phenomenon of mass formation psychosis has been observed in several totalitarian regimes and its properties defined by Hannah Arendt’s ‘Banality of Evil’, or Gustave le Bon’s ‘Crowd’, or Jacques Ellul’s ‘Propaganda”, I was not prepared to see it. I mean that literally. I hadn’t read or even heard of the people I just mentioned above. There is nothing extra smart about me that made me question the narrative so I can elucidate my decisions for myself, heck I didn’t even know what ‘elucidate’ meant two years ago, I had to look it up again to make sure it meant what I think it meant. Logic wasn’t what spared me from falling under the spell. It was a primordial instinct that kicked in to override my learnedness. I have my gut to thank. And my mother. My beautiful batty tinfoil hatty mother.
My mother has some old Bulgarian magic instinct and can sense when things are off. Her natural skepticism compliments her courage to up and leave and start somewhere from scratch. It’s the willingness to feel uncomfortable and alone. It makes for a good dissenter. Those willing to go along to get along can fall prey to an ideology that trades freedom for safety and hard reality for easy illusion. But once inside this fold, any deviation of ideology or lack of sacrifice can jeopardize your belonging. So when you wonder how can a transplant recipient be denied an organ due to their vax status or how could ordinary German citizens let their neighbors be loaded up on the trains or how can the Incas offer up their babes at the bloody feet of their gods, even though I ain’t got the extra smarts, I can finally see how.
Occam’s Razor or the Law of Parsimony
As a novice conspiracy theorist, I’m trying to remain true to William of Ockham’s principle all the while honoring my sixth sense: intuition. And even if the principle is a good practice, it’s important to remember that science, too, has to somewhat except that a super natural event was a priori for our existence. Ironically, it is the simplest solution.
The Laws of Plurality and Parsimony, otherwise known as Occam’s Razor, state that:
No more things should be presumed to exist than are absolutely necessary, i. e., the fewer assumptions an explanation of a phenomenon depends on, the better the explanation.
William of Occam (or Ockham)
I believe the principal holds as long as it actually explains the phenomenon. But these last two years, whenever I heard the expression ‘the science changed’ and we were trying to discern incompetence from corruption, that razor kept slicing at the incompetence bit. How did the science change exactly? The bat caves just happened to be close to the biolabs doing gain of function research? Natural immunity is pretty selective all of a sudden? Have masks ever stopped respiratory viruses prior to 2020? How can anyone miss all those warning alarms in the VAERS system? Go ahead, try on the tinfoil hat, just for size.
Occam's razor is based on the notion that simplicity equals perfection. It fits perfectly with the scientific method -- the series of steps scientists take to prove or disprove something. Indeed, you could make the case that the scientific method was built upon Occam's razor.
But be careful when approaching the razor -- for such a brief statement, it has an uncanny ability to be stretched or bent to fit all sorts of ideas. It's important to remember that Occam's razor proves nothing. It serves instead as a heuristic device -- a guide or a suggestion -- that states that when given two explanations or competing theories that make the same predictions for the same thing, the simpler one is usually the correct one. It aids scientists who are developing theoretical models.
What's implied in this principle is that simple explanations come from evidence we already know to be true, like empirical evidence -- information gathered through the five senses. We know that crickets chirp because we can hear them. We know that pickles are sour because we can taste them. In this manner, things that can easily be explained using empirical evidence tend to trump explanations that are based on evidence we can't sense. It encourages us to use fewer assumptions and favor the simplest hypothesis.
Shannon Cicero from howstuffworks
The simplest hypothesis after the absolute fuckery that we witnessed these last two years is that we have been had. We were peddled fear while our empathic nature was weaponized for a promise of a safety that never materialized. We can theorize as to ‘why’ without agreeing, but Occam’s Razor is pointing to the ‘what’ all the same: corruption and rot in our systems and institutions.
Nelsonian Knowledge or Willful Ignorance
The phrase, first referenced as ‘blind-eye knowledge’, is attributable to Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté (better known simply as Lord Nelson) holding a telescope to his blind eye and claiming to see no ships.
Riaan De Lange
Among all the brilliant articles that The Ethical Skeptic has scribed is an in depth look at Nelsonian Knowledge. It makes for a great read to explain why is it that Walensky, for example, has no idea how many of the CDC’s personnel has been injected, or how come Fauci didn’t study the difference of re-infection among the jabbed vs. the unjabbed, or why on Earth aren’t autopsies done for every single recorded post-vax death in VAERS?
It behooves the holder of Nelsonian knowledge to know more about this embargoed knowledge than would be reasonably expected inside standard ignorance. The irony with Nelsonian knowledge is that it demands of its ‘ignorant party’ a detailed awareness of schema, its depth and a flawless monitoring, which is unparalleled in official knowledge.
The Ethical Skeptic
I sometimes see some crypto influencers on Twitter practice Nelsonian Knowledge to try and tip the scales in the way they wish and if you’re one of them reading this, please remember why Satoshi created Bitcoin in the first place. Maybe reread the White Paper.
Hanlon’s Razor or Ignorance>Malice
This one is for the conspiracy theorists out there who want to connect all the dots neatly and plausibly and therefore invent narratives to suit those connections. As much as Occam’s Razor has proven malice and corruption on the highest level, there’s still plenty of stupid to go around in the crevices of our bureaucracies. The ability of highly educated folks to follow orders without asking questions is more probable than convincing the skeptics that all the doctors, nurses, and public health officials are ‘in on it’. To capture an institution, there are only a few people at the top needed. Once there is a policy in place, the doctors can practice care in a paint-by-numbers fashion, researchers can receive funding only for that which props up a narrative, and regular citizens everywhere can unite to form a giant club of useful idiots.
Conspiracy Theory or Critical Thinking
I do not find any offense in being called a conspiracy theorist anymore than being called a critical thinker. To me, both terms are one and the same. We can abbreviate it to CT and start putting it behind people’s names like medical credentials to help qualify those who put their brains to the test sleuthing and dot connecting. Really, it should be a certifiable degree. If I can contribute anything in this space, as late as I have arrived to it, it is to normalize the action of questioning narratives and truth seeking. Make ‘conspiracy theorist’ a desired moniker. Among the many Substackers I read, there is a fellow on the other side of the world from me that has the skills of a solid theorist and I rather enjoy his essays. You can go Down the Wombat Hole and subscribe or start with his Wholesome Conspiracy 101 article for a taste.
…I think that is a reasonable way to make the case for conspiracy. But these things are not just about reason. These are emotional issues, and ultimately there is a need to appeal to peoples hearts if they are to not just comprehend this reality, but to then process and act upon it from a place of love and compassion.
And I think we can find a way to do that too.
While there are some fruitcakes in the conspiracy world — often the most well known — they are ultimately outnumbered by diligent and hard working individuals, driven by truth and justice and acting out of a place of love for humanity.
In fact, while it may seem counterintuitive to many people, adopting a conspiratorial worldview can actually foster a greater degree of compassion and understanding for our fellow humans whose personal views we might be inclined to disagree with.
Isaac Middle, CT (my own attribution in bold)
The Stockdale Paradox
Perhaps it was The Matrix that popularized the red pill-blue pill metaphor, but you only have to sacrifice a few minutes of your time before you run into someone wielding the pills on Twitter.
You are said to have taken the red pill to wake up to the reality that the world and paradigms within which you find yourself are NOT what you thought, on a foundational level, similarly to Neo waking up in his pod where his life force was used up as a copper top battery. But lately I’ve come across folks who have thrown the black pill-white pill comparisons out there and I find myself often oscillating between those two, but it wasn’t until I read about the Stockdale Paradox that I really grasped the unique state of the flux.
The thing is, you can only have been black pilled or white pilled if you’ve already been red pilled. To unpack that for those who, like me, had taken their reality for granted until recently, you are here: you’ve peeled back a layer that revealed a seemingly endless level of layers. Now what? You can view the entire experience through an annihilistic lens and keep convincing yourself that you are too small to make a difference on a macro level (black pill). Or you can get a surge of fearlessness that convinces you that if you only do what is yours to do, and you do it unwaveringly and unrelentingly, be it on a micro level, you can move Davos (white pill). Or you fluctuate between that monochrome and try to survive the bumpy ride like Admiral Stockdale who was captured during The Vietnam War.
The Stockdale Paradox is a concept, along with its companion concept Confront the Brutal Facts, developed in the book Good to Great. Productive change begins when you confront the brutal facts. Every good-to-great company embraced what we came to call the "Stockdale Paradox": you must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
“Here I am sitting in my warm and comfortable office, looking out over the beautiful Stanford campus on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I’m getting depressed reading this, and I know the end of the story! I know that he gets out, reunites with his family, becomes a national hero, and gets to spend the later years of his life studying philosophy on this same beautiful campus. If it feels depressing for me, how on earth did he deal with it when he was actually there and did not know the end of the story?”
“I never lost faith in the end of the story,” he said, when I asked him. “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
I didn’t say anything for many minutes, and we continued the slow walk toward the faculty club, Stockdale limping and arc-swinging his stiff leg that had never fully recovered from repeated torture. Finally, after about a hundred meters of silence, I asked, “Who didn’t make it out?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “The optimists.”
“The optimists? I don’t understand,” I said, now completely confused, given what he’d said a hundred meters earlier.
“The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
It is unfortunate but we have to face the fact that this is most likely the end of our civilization as we know it. It’s coming to heads, my friends. Some will stay blue pilled as long as possible, but sooner or later, they too will have to make a choice to rip the layer and peek from which red-pillers know there is no turning back. And as bleak as it may seem, facing our reality is as exciting as it is inevitable. The knowing that you are alive here and now, during this evolutionary leap is the nectar of our essence. You can say, you were born for this. We can only survive if we face the music. There are no glitzy saviors coming — the aliens are gonna have to sit it out because if we don’t pass this litmus test, we aren’t worth saving in the first place. Can you blame them? Who wants to rescue a self-destructing civilization anyhow? God only helps those who help themselves, right? So, unless there is a reference to this particular concept somewhere that I haven’t seen, I’m going to hubristically name it after myself:
The Tonika Paradox or Rescuing Requires Responsibility
Prove that you’re worth saving or be denied saving.
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