The Strawberry That Broke the Camels Back

Here’s a story that might not have made it across the oceans and interrupted your usual feed of anti-Trump, pro-globalism propaganda. In September of 2018 tiny needles were discovered in strawberries around Australia and a massive recall was instigated. Now a suspect has been arrested and it looks to be the doing of one 50-year-old Viet woman.

Before we discovered the culprit this was all us Australians could talk about. It was the word on everyone’s lips in every office in Australia. Why would someone do this? Who would do this? As the contamination spread we asked if it was a conspiracy, an army of agile-handed needle implanters working diligently to give Australians appendicitis. Thankfully only one man went to hospital, but the fear that our beloved fruit, our staple pavlova topping, could contain sharp objects put the fear in us all. Like with all conspiracies the truth is more mundane than we could imagine.

Take stock of this. One old woman with a little bit of spite managed to throw a big old spanner into the works and caused a national news cycle that lasted longer than your typical terrorist attack. The escapade prompted our Prime Minister to announce that, ‘If you do that sort of thing in this country we will come after you,’ and come after them we did, with a very large police operation set-up to sniff out the criminal. What can we learn from this?

That it doesn’t take much to upset the apple cart. Accelerationists, anarchists and other protestors talk about disruption, but how often do they upend an entire industry? As ISIL and the Strawberry Needler have proven the future of terrorism is isolated lone wolf attacks. Like blockchain attacks could be carried out on lines of trust, each cell separated from the larger body but able to put fuel on the fire wherever needed. This example was a haphazard revenge attack by a disgruntled worker; imagine a coordinated effort with the sole purpose of hijacking the news cycle. It is completely surprising that groups haven’t made an effort to impact the system in any meaningful way. Instead we get Occupy Wall Street.

Is it because the average protestor doesn’t want to risk hurting their fellow citizen? Surely our Strawberry Needler only went ahead with the plan because she reasoned the chances of actually hurting someone were slim. It now seems so easy that with such a complex system such as the one we have courtesy of global neoliberalism an individual effort can have much larger consequences. Ted K might have thought he was doing something by targeting and killing certain people, but it appears to me that he would have been better off actually disrupting the faceless, inhumane system (the fact that he didn’t perhaps points to his egoism). What other ways can the pine trees break down technological society? It must be non-harmful methods. Perhaps people could burn down post boxes. Breed cats and just let them go wild until there is an utter infestation of ferals in your neighbourhood. Or as I saw on Twitter, plant bamboo shoots in random places. And never forget Sky King who proved just how much one man can do. Things that are achievable alone but will definitely but stressors on various systems.

This is all purely hypothetical and theoretical, an interesting study of the ‘lone wolf’. I would be very interested in the psychology behind such cases. Mass shootings, terrorist attacks and needless in berries: what is the connection? Resentment? Is it that simple? That must be the only common thread between all three. You can blame Islam, and access to guns, but how do you blame an old woman? It’s almost as if you have to sympathize with her, just a little. We all know how much work sucks.

The future seems to belong to the lone wolf, the individual who has just had enough.

Against Anti-Natalism

Back in about 2014 I went through a bit of a nihilist stage. This included taking seriously ideas about being ‘pro’ suicide and anti-natalism. Now, I’ve moved well beyond this, but I can see how the ideas crop up. They are obviously heavily grounded in materialism, though you are not necessarily led to them if you are a materialist. Anti-natalism, which shares some ideas with veganism as we’ll see later, is particularly prone to materialist bias, and if based on purely material experiences ends up being completely imbalanced.

The first thing to note is that the apparently absurd idea of anti-natalism has been around for a long time. Take this part from Oeipus at Colonus:

Chorus:

It is obvious to me that those who shun moderation and want a longer life are fools.

The days of an overly long life are filled with pain.

Happiness eludes those who want to hang on to life longer than what the fates have allotted for them and in the end…

…the same attendant awaits him: Hades! Hades waits upon us all!

No ceremony, no wedding songs, no dances and no songs…

Just death! The end of us all is death.

The best would be not to be born at all.

But then, if he is born, the next best thing for him would be to try and return to where he came from…

…in the quickest possible time!

While youth and its careless mind lasts, no thought is given to what pain, what misery will, most certainly, follow.

Murder, mayhem, quarrels, wars will come before the inescapable end…

The hateful old age, frailty, loneliness, desolation and…

…your own misery’s neighbour, is even more misery.

And so, Oedipus like us, is old. Unhappy Oedipus! Bashed about like a reef facing north…

Bashed about on all sides by tempests of all sorts.

Never ending rain and wind crash over his head…

…fierce waves crash over him.

Now from West…

Now from the East…

Some during the midday’s light…

Some from the mountainous North…

…which the deep night darkens.

In modern times though the notion of anti-natalism has gained a sort of academic backing, one that dovetails neatly with so many other academic pursuits, namely colonial guilt and oppression. Now women are pushed towards careers, and anti-natalism takes on the nature of a choice, a right, a lifestyle decision. No longer merely a way to remove suffering from the world, but a way in which to increase your own pleasure.

David Benatar is a Professor of Philosophy at University of Cape Town. Now, leaving aside the fact that I find most South Africans less than savoury, his argument in favour of anti-natalism leaves a lot wanting. He was recently on Sam Harris’s podcast discussing these ideas, and one of his main arguments is that there is a greater gain from removing war and suffering than there is in producing love and joy. Harris makes the obvious point that this ‘benefit’ affects absolutely no one if there is no one to experience it. At this point going down this line of thought, you would — or should — immediately throw out the whole idea of anti-natalism.

This is particularly interesting because in a few podcasts before Harris had Max Tegmark on, who is a bit of an expert on Artificial Intelligence. His take away was that intelligence and consciousness is designed to spread, designed to become more complex, and so the best good we can do is to help it flourish. This is something Jordan Peterson echoes, especially in his Biblical stories series, specifically that ‘Whatever’s going on on this planet has to do with conscious reality, and the transformations of consciousness, for all we know, might be the most important things that happen everywhere.’ The anti-natalist position is completely at odds with these notions. It is a fault of the wrong type of materialism. If materialism takes as a presupposition that there is no inherent meaning to be found in the universe, then you can posit all sorts of other meaning values. That can be whatever David Chapman is trying to create, or it can be the complete reduction of suffering in the world, no matter the cost.

Interestingly, this appears to work as some sort of paperclip maximiser, without the runaway AI. It just requires unlimited empathy. Nothing else matters but the *ahem* humanitarian goal. This is where anti-natalism crosses with veganism. Both advocate not for the outright removal of their victim group, but for the slow disintegration of it, so that slowly suffering is removed. But what is the point of removing the beings that suffer if they are not there to experience this good?

The entire premise rests on suffering. Naturally I find Professor Benatar’s notion of suffering somewhat insufferable, even petty. In Fourth Way work there is focus on suffering, and how we use intentional suffering to further our own work on ourselves. Rather than try to solve or change suffering, modern and secular people — sometimes with a slightly too high IQ — would prefer to run away. They want big system solutions to the pain and suffering in the world, and none more all-encompassing than the idea of anti-natalism. It is quite plainly a cop out and an absurd solution.

But why is it that we are continuously faced with more and more absurd propositions? Why, for example, is the acceptance of abortion no longer absurd? Or any other progressive talking point from the last fifty years? Scott has a recent post where he goes into this idea of holding the line against absurdity, where we have to really question whether loosening or tightening the status quo is quite as strange as we fear it might be. How long until the idea of anti-natalism as a selfless mission falls into the Overton Window and is discussed openly, even lauded? Laws are in place because of custom or revealed truth, not the other way around. We did not create laws to enforce culture, but created laws to implement culture. We have forgotten why we made such laws to begin with. Reaction is the opposite of complacency, of letting go. Even if the world around us is speeding by, we have to be ready to plant our feet firmly in the ground and have reason ready to combat the waves of absurdity.

And these waves grow in strength, enabled by the new wonders of civilisation. Anti-natalism is plainly an absurd idea, but I can see it encroaching on good people. So its arguments must be laid to bare as what they are: ridiculous. They are premised on flimsy materialism and asymmetrical point scoring. We must remain against it.

Propaganda in the Service of Mammon

Everybody is quite aware of the propaganda prevalent in the world today. Lies by omission and commission are used in conjunction with imagery to push certain lines and agendas. What perhaps isn’t so fully realised is how propaganda works and feeds. And to get a fully understanding one should read Propaganda by Edward Bernays.

In it Bernays explains where propaganda came from, what its uses are and how to employ it effectively. He gives us some remarkable insights. For example, he provides a prescient  summary of how the modern Cathedral works when he says, ‘Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.’ When he talks about how effective propaganda can be, he ominously uses the women’s suffrage movement as an example, saying, ‘If the suffrage campaign did nothing more, it showed the possibilities of propaganda to achieve certain ends.’ And those ‘certain ends’ continue today. But he reveals his true motivation later in the book with the following statement: ‘Social progress is simply the progressive education and enlightenment of the public mind in regard to its immediate and distant social problems.’ Propaganda is a psychological tool that could have been used for the better; unfortunately it has easily been utilised as a weapon.

One of the more interesting aspects of the book is how propaganda has been fully realised within the business setting, even though it was originally used by governments during war time. To effectively persuade consumers, businesses must understand the common sentiments (or what are felt to be common sentiments) of society in terms of likes and dislikes. So a general swell of support is amplified by businesses in their advertising which then affects consumers. See my post in how it relates to movies and advertising. Bernays was extremely influential and his teachings have only become accelerated as politics and business use propaganda in ever more audacious ways. The fact that people in power switch between business and politics clearly shows how the two intertwine. But more than the world of 1984 where governments rule over us, we have to be more wary of the ways in which business influences are decisions, choices and beliefs.

I work for a media company, and recently we were sent around a info deck from J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, a group that follows consumer trends. So if you ever wondered why it seems like advertising companies all seem to push similar vibes, agendas and politics at roughly the same time, this is one of the reasons. I’ve pulled some screenshots from the deck for some brief discussions.

 

intro

Obviously you can see from the intro that there is will be one of the most pozzed documents your eyes will ever see.

 

04.JPG

This is definitely a trend I noticed. Accelerationism is in full force. Women don’t want feminist stories any more. They want the next thing! It’s not all about women, it’s about breaking down gender barriers completely and exploring every aspect of sexuality and identification. Interesting that there are so, so many slides directly related to feminism, and the only ones related to masculinity are how to dim it down. For example…

 

makeup.JPG

I honestly don’t know about ‘legions’ of men wearing makeup, but that certainly sounds like propaganda to me. Notice how beauty products are ‘transformative’? Everything has to be changed, but only via buying stuff. Apparently makeup has always been to conceal ‘perceived flaws’, but if you are using your face as a canvas, then you are still hiding yourself!

 

dna.JPG

The only time where race is real is when you can make people pay for it, or when it isn’t white people being interested in it. Make no mistake, they will draw every last cent out of your genes and DNA.

artificialnature.JPG

Do I really need to discuss much about the idea behind ‘artificial nature’? Bread and circuses, my friends. In fact, as Bernays notes:

It was the amusement business—first the circus and the medicine show, then the theater—which taught the rudiments of advertising to industry and commerce.

 

mentalhealth.JPG

No one seems to question why there is such a rise in mental health like anxiety and depression. Just saying, it might have something to do with materialism? A complete lack of meaning that can only me temporarily filled by consumerism? The two-faced nature of selling psychological health is sickening.

 

plussize.JPG

lmao.JPG

As if you didn’t already know, plus-size is so hot right now. This is so audacious I can’t even tell if that is a deliberate pun in the last paragraph…. Either way accepting who you are is the talk of the weak, and chasing an ideal has been the driving force behind our culture. Sure, the ‘ideal’ pushed by consumerism is false, but combating consumption with more consumption feels self-defeating. A pity the notion of finding yourself has been perverted for propaganda purposes. To blithely state the the average size has increased and not even blink is worrisome. No, we don’t need to accommodate all shapes and forms, we need to try and reduce our clothing size.

ohvey.JPG

Wow, two awful demographics in one, who would have thought we could sink so low?

 

politicalconsuemrs.JPG

And here we have the full force of propaganda in a nutshell. Let’s take a recent Australian example: gay marriage. A huge array of Australian companies have come out in support of gay marriage, urging the government to ‘make the right choice’. This is of course a branding exercise, and if you are seen to oppose such an obviously progressive stance – like Coopers Brewery apparently were – then consumers will ‘vote with their wallet’. You have to be making a political statement in the Current Year if you want to have any chance of gathering an audience.

The fundamentals of propaganda are deeply rooted in psychology — Bernays was a distant cousin of Freud. He notes that:

These special types of appeal can be popularized by the manipulation of the principles familiar to the propagandist—the principles of gregariousness, obedience to authority, emulation, and the like.

Manipulation is the key word. The propagandist can manipulate via emulation in that we humans have a tendency to copy what others are doing. I mean in this in the most basic sense in that we tend to even copy the gestures and body language of those we talk to. We also have a tendency to appeal to authority. Even if we profess to not believe in religion, there is always a Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs. And of course, we want to be seen to be happy and agreeable, so it is best to go along with whatever seems to be positive. Using these basics of the human psyche businesses can use imagery, words and a whole range of weapons to shift opinions and sway the masses.

singleladies.JPG

Again, this is nothing we didn’t know already, but it just shows the pathology of having no standards. Atomised consumerism is death by a thousand cuts, or in this case, by a thousand subscription services. By the way, there was no slide on single men.

 

techtrolls.JPG

‘Consumers are looking for comfort and reassurance in divided times…’ So let’s continue enforcing that bubble! We’ve all noticed the crackdown against the ‘AltRight’ (I use that term to cover everything not progressive) whether it is actual Twitter bannings or endless opinion pieces giving normie readers the juicy gossip about what goes on in the Dark Web. Expect brands to continue to make themselves sterile.

 

pornhub.JPG

What can I say, it’s a disgusting mindset. Blasphemies against the Church, insinuated underage vibes… This is degeneracy with full advertiser backing.

 

witches.JPG

witches2.JPG

Aside from the heresy invoked here, I find it quite an interesting and provocative statement. Is Christianity and the West providing enough female autonomy? Or have we just failed to express to women the power that they do have? I wouldn’t say that last paragraph is wrong, but all that means is that we should have done something to fix the situation a long time ago to avoid women falling into covens.

That’s just a snapshot of what brands will be looking doing in the near future (if they aren’t doing it already). Politics feeds business which then feeds the public. It is a feedback system that is near impossible to break apart. Most people can’t see it and to them propaganda is just a thing for war time and politics. You, however, can see it all around you, and there is nothing you can do. The only option is to retreat, to block it out and work on more important things, to banish materialism from you life. You must go beyond what is presented to you. As Bernard says:

Truth is mighty and must prevail, and if any body of men believe that they have discovered a valuable truth, it is not merely their privilege but their duty to disseminate that truth.

If only lies were not propagated as truths.