Recommencing Blogging: New Directions

Greetings, all.

While I’ve been almost completely inactive with respect to blogging for the last 4-5 months, I’ve been surprised to see that the blog continues to get 200-400 hits a day despite a complete lack of new content. Anyhow, I’m in the process of recommencing blogging. However, I’ll be taking a different approach and will be addressing different subject matters.

Before, I wrote primarily about issues pertaining to atheism, religious ridiculousness, the Cult of Scientology, and so forth. Going forward, I will be addressing another collection of issues which I have come to view as being among the most important issues in need of thorough addressing. There is overlap between this set of content and that which I addressed before, but the new content is broader and deeper. The primary inspirations for the new direction are Daniel Quinn and Noam Chomsky.

Quinn has struck me more potently than I’ve ever been struck before. For those of you whom are not familiar with Daniel Quinn, he is a brilliant author. His most celebrated book is Ishmael – a fictional novel which takes the form of a mental discourse between a very worldly gorilla and a man who, ever since being a teenager, sensed that there were very deep problems with civilization – though he didn’t know what they were – and wished there was some way he could do something about them. Using this discourse structure, Quinn draws a very compelling and worldview-challenging sketch of the history and mythologies of human civilization – dating back from the Middle East 10,000 years ago to essentially every culture in existence today. He shines the spotlight on many of the most fundamental notions we – “we” being about 99.9% of the human population today – carry at the bedrock of our understanding of humanity, the world, our relation to the world, and our relations to each other. These notions are so fundamental to our worldviews that most of us – when we do actually think about them – often think of them as matters of basic human nature. Quinn shows that they are not. They are memes that have only existed in the minds of a minority of the beings whom have ever lived. And they are killing us.

What are some of these memes? Briefly, a few of them include such notions as human exceptionalism(i.e., that humans are somehow distinct from nature); that we are inherently civilization builders; that civilization is nobel, superior, and dynamic while living in a manner more similar to animals – e.g., living off the land, living in small tribal bands, etc. – is brutish, static, savage, primative, and all-in-all, flat out inferior, regressive, beneath us, and not something that any reasonable nonmasochistic person would want any part of; and that the world is ours – ours to conquer and dominate. In case it hasn’t become clear yet given the nature of the memes and the time and place of their origins, these memes are at the very foundation of the three great – great as in big – monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), as well as the other major religions that permeate the globe, which had overlapping cultural heritages. I personally found that among the most awe-striking ideas put forth by Quinn were in his reinterpretations of certain core Biblical passages – particularly the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall.

Quinn demonstrates how these memes undergird much of our thinking and our values – as individuals and as society. He also gives a narrative account of their development, along with consideration of many of the problems that they have created and how humans have been unable to address these problems because they’ve been unwilling to address the root causes – those being the fundamental values and behaviours that naturally follow from them.

I hope that I have peaked some people’s curiosity regarding Quinn enough to consider checking out some of his writing. Part of the reason that I hope this is that given the breadth and depth of the ideas he offers, in addition to my other priorities, I won’t be able to do much original writing on his ideas for a while. I don’t think I’ll even begin to feel comfortable doing so until I’ve read 4 of his core books twice each.

If interested in reading Quinn yourself, I recommend reading the following books in the following order:

Ishmael.

The Story of B. This book follows a Catholic Priest who loses his faith while on a mission from his branch of the Church to obtain information on B – as in scarlett letter B, for Blasphemy – an itinerant speaker in Europe who has been spreading some ideas that are of great concern to the Church. The dangerous ideas are the very ideas expressed in Ishmael, though there is some further development in The Story of B.

My Ishmael. In this book, the gorilla – Ishmael – has a new student: an adolescent girl. In his discussions with her, he unpacks the core ideas in a new way and takes them into new directions, showing another collection of cultural consequences of our memes.

Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure. In Beyond Civilization, Quinn attempts to address the question Now What? What does one do once one has been inspired by the first three books? Quinn didn’t initially expect that a book like this would at all be needed, thinking that the Now What? in terms of particular directions to take and intellectual means of pathfinding would be relatively straight-forward once one saw the memes and some of their core consequences in a more full view. He was wrong.

For more information on Quinn, his books, and the communities of people who’ve been inspired by him, check out his website at www.ishmael.com.

The other inspiration for the shift in direction on this blog and my efforts at activism in general was Noam Chomsky’s writing on the political economy of the mass media. Daniel Quinn brought to my attention a collection of deeply entrenched and interconnected myths that lie at the foundation of minds and cultures across the globe. These myths, while definitely inspiring a fair share of good, have had a host of overwhelmingly negative consequences including the enabling of severe oppression of humans, greatly constraining life paths that individuals and groups have access to, and putting us in the carpool lane on the highway to extinction.

As I was learning about these sorts of fatal memes in my reading of Quinn, I was also studying Edward S. Herman and Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, which demonstrated how mass media, corporate and government elite can and do work together to propagate and maintain memes which serve the interests of this small privileged section of society, often at the expense of everyone else, while also elbowing out dissenting voices.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be doing some posts on the cores of Herman and Chomsky’s Propaganda Model, which illustrates how the political economy of the mass media is structured in such a way that the private interests (e.g., profit, ideology, etc.) can readily put the muzzle on the sort of journalism that is critical to the upholding of a genuine democracy, while feeding the public with one propaganda campaign after another in order to support their own agendas.

After this introduction, I will begin posting on current threats to Net Neutrality. At present, we have an essentially neutral net in that John Smith’s blog will load about as fast as FoxNews or CNN’s website. This is good for democracy, as it allows for more people to share and organize around more ideas. There is a push by some to trade away this neutrality in the interest of free market economics. Their hope is to allow for the commodification of website loading speed on the part of Internet Service Providers. They claim that a number of economic and technological benefits can be obtained from deregulating the Internet – getting rid of protections of Net Neutrality. I’m sure there are. But the same was true of the newspaper, the television and probably/possibly every other major medium. In a democracy, certain things are more important than money and technological advances. One of them is communication.

I also plan on doing posts on some relevant lobby groups – for and against net neutrality – and some independent media providers.

At the cores, the sorts of motivations that drive me into these new directions are pretty similar to those that motivate me with regard to my secularist activism. I value reason and compassion-based ethics. I value freedom, wellness and growth for myself and others. Just as religion is sometimes at odds with these things – in some cases, it is always at odds with them – I have found that there are broader societal forces of ignorance, dogmatism, denialism and silencing that are affecting more of us and the effects are only becoming more profound.

In addition to posting my posts here, I will also be posting them at The Edger – an online collective of bloggers dedicated to promoting and defending reason, secularism, nontheism, and human rights, by providing relevant news and commentary, multimedia, and by engaging in and encouraging real world activism.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Recommencing Blogging: New Directions”
  1. Matt says:

    welcome back!

  2. ozatheist says:

    Good to see you back.

    recently had a hard drive crash and lost my bookmarks and RSS feeds. Was just trying to get back all my old feeds and noticed you were back.

    I will look forward to the change of direction.

    Regarding net neutrality, will you also be looking into net censorship, we are having a hell of a time here with Conroy’s proposed ISP Filtering plan. Which I and many others have been blogging about lately.

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