2015.101: The Thanksgiving Truce

It all went wrong at the second word:

We don’t have a whole lot in common. We never have, not even back in the days when we were dumping tea into harbors and sneak attacking Hessians on Christmas Eve. America has always been less melting pot than Mulligan stew, an improvised conglomeration of ingredients, a loose affiliation of flavors, barely held together by the thin gravy of shared love of underdogs and the fervent hope that J.J. Abrams can get the Star Wars franchise back on track. We’re divided by race and religion and politics and culture and smart phone preference and a legion of lesser differences, separated into little tribes of shared interests, each of us closed off behind the walls of our individual circumstances, our personal preferences.

In truth, we have a lot in common; what we have in common is almost everything. We certainly have all of the important things in common. We all want the same things: survival, sex, affection, a better life for our children, entertainment, education.

In contrast to the things that we share, the differences between us—”race and religion and politics and culture and smart phone preferences and a legion of lesser differences”—are superficial, artificial, and trivial. We were born not knowing these differences, and when the alien invasion fleet arrives in orbit we will promptly forget them again. They are differences that were fabricated and magnified by those who would use dissension to their disadvantage: governments, churches, and corporations.

Including the Houston Chronicle.

The Chronicle’s Thanksgiving piece (subtitled “It’s the day when our differences don’t matter”) is wrong and divisive, and the Houston Chronicle is apparently bent on running it every year.

Why?

I do not tend to believe in explicit conspiracies. It’s generally unlikely, in my view, that a bad things happening in the world—a market crash, for example, or a plague—was deliberately caused by a human intelligence.

But agents—by which I mean “things that act,” and in which I include corporations, governments, and churches as well as individuals and animals—tend to act in accordance with their interests despite the intentions of their constituents.

For example:

  • A corporation seeks profit and growth; if an employee’s actions do not serve to maintain profit and growth the corporation will eventually heal itself by removing or neutralizing that employee, or the corporation will die (fail or be eaten by another corporation).
  • A government seeks control by monopolizing the use of force; if bureaucrats’ actions do not serve to maintain that control the government will eventually heal itself by removing or neutralizing that bureaucrat.
  • A church seeks intellectual monopoly; if priests’ actions do not serve to maintain intellectual monopoly, they will eventually be removed or shunted off to harmless parishes, or the church will die.

Agents’ tendency to act in accordance with their interests despite the best intentions of their constituents may be indistinguishable from the product of active intelligence; that is, it may look like a grand scheme, rather than the inexorable press of the corporate imperative.

When agents seeking different sorts of power—financial, violent, or intellectual—unite, so that the interests of a corporation are the same as those of a government, or the interests of a government and church are integrated, it might appear that there is an explicit conspiracy, leaders of church and government plotting in secret to subjugate the people. I doubt it, and both Occam’s and Hanlon’s Razors suggest that mere coincidence is a better explanation than conspiracy.1

The Chronicle’s Thanksgiving Truce piece at first blush appears positive, but it depends on a narrative—that we are in constant conflict with each other. That is the received narrative of the media and the government, and it is false: We have always been at war with Eastasia. The media prefer this narrative because conflict sells newspapers, and governments prefer it because if we are fighting over superficial, artificial, and trivial differences we are asleep to government’s depredations on our wealth and our freedom.

News is news because it is noteworthy. Conflict sells newspapers, and harmony does not, because conflict is noteworthy and harmony is not. Ask Lisa Gray which is more likely to be published in the Houston Chronicle: a feel-good article about humans getting along like they usually do, or a dark article about humans in conflict. Readers are more likely to buy (or click on) the conflict narrative, so editors are more likely to publish the conflict narrative, so writers are more likely to write the conflict narrative.

You know that “reality TV” does not reflect reality, right? Instead, it is relentlessly produced to fabricate and magnify conflict because people like to watch conflict. Do we like to watch conflict because that is our everyday life? Do we buy newspapers with stories of the harm that people do to each other because that is our everyday experience? Or do we ingest media that depict things that are not commonplace in our lives? The latter. The slurry of purported fact and opinion fed to us by the media is as overproduced as any reality TV show, and for the same reason: because, like lab apes with human porn, we like to watch conflict.

I am not a guy who’s bothered by conflict. Conflict is my profession and my sometimes-hobby. You are probably not bothered by conflict either. You are the descendant of many generations of murderous primates that won the fights that mattered. Conflict is in your genes.

@BrowningMachine @MarkWBennett I pity the first alien species to meet us. We are ferocious murder monkeys.

— Brian Knight (@BrianRKnight) November 26, 2015

When we realize that there is a threat to our existence, we meet it.2 When we see no threat to our existence, though, we fight amongst ourselves for sport, or to stay in shape.

The government and the corporations that shape the narrative through the media would not want us turning our murder-monkey attention toward them. The integrated interests of media and government produce a result—a media diet of fear and lies—that could be the brainchild of a malevolent intelligence, but is not. Cort McMurray didn’t have to know that he was writing lies to write them; Lisa Gray didn’t have to know that she was publishing lies to publish them.

But here, in advance of next November 24th, is my Thanksgiving Message:

You  have been ruthlessly stage-managed to care whether other people are brown or white, Republican or Democrat, Christian or Muslim, Mac or PC. None of that matters.

You are human, thinking meat with a beating heart. You can love, and fear, and feel joy. You have more in common with any other human than you have with the United States Government, the Democratic Party, the Southern Baptist Church, or the Houston Chronicle. Those artificial creatures have no hearts; they feel nothing. They cannot love.

Other humans have all been ruthless stage-managed, as you have, to care about trivial, superficial, and artificial differences, and to have different priorities than you, and different ways of achieving the same goals.

But with a few pathological exceptions, none of them are your enemies. A few of them have taken their instructions to heart, so that they may some day become an imminent threat to the survival of those for whom you are responsible; if they do, destroy them, literally. Otherwise—if physical violence is not called for—it truly does not matter what they believe. So take any argument with a grain of salt. If it doesn’t help educate you, entertain you, find you affection, or get you laid, you need not engage.

On Thanksgiving day you will, if you are lucky, break bread with other human beings, and set aside your petty differences for the day. Maybe you’ll cook for them, or flirt with them, or share a drink, a laugh, or a game. Remember, the other 365 days of the year, that this, and not those differences, is what is real.

Love,
MB


  1. Does it matter whether what we see happening is mere coincidence or the product of conspiracy? 

  2. There is such a threat: some eventual extinction event; as more people realize it, we will turn more of our attention toward it, and if it is not by then too late we will avoid it. The spread of a medieval theocracy in the Middle East will have to be stopped first. 

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