November 5th, 2004

Yoga

Who am I?

Perhaps the self is not set, or static, but always engaged in a dance, in change with the variables of the surrounding environment.

This is not to prove or disprove that the self exists, but to inquire into its nature.

Is the self the driving force behind, at the helm of our existance, or is it a generated result of millions of chemical and electrical reactions happening simultaneously?

In our carbon based biological system, the mind, and life, are considered to be emergent properties, where the sum of the parts yeilds an extraordinary result. Although this has not been explained, and human life has not yet been created in a lab from scratch (which would be exteremely complex, and expensive), the mind, and the ideas that acompany it, are undeniably a function of the physically/objectively existant system that they stem from. If you destroy that system, you destroy what goes along with it.

Many people believe that the self is separate from the mind, and that it is the sole force at the cause of one's existance, experience, and actions.

How is possible to know?
The concept has been regected for centuries by buddhists, as only a perception, and not relaity. This gives one great freedom when dealing with the self, and all that acompanies it. Simply observing the a concept of self being agreed on, referred to or even put into practical use, does not make it independant of human thought.

It all comes back to inquiry into your self. How much time do we really put into this inquiry? Not much, for most; we simply accept the concept of self. If we didn't, we may not even operate and navigate as sentient beings. Consider animals who have no sense of self...
All in all, all evidence, research, and history point to the self as being a concept that arises out of the human reasoning, or one's perception. Without the mind, anything dependant on that mind, such as thought, belief, or concept, dies. It may be carried on similarly by others, however, the same is true for these individuals.

I would go so far as to assume that most people do not naturally desire to accept the unpleasant idea of their own (idea of) self dying when the brain ceases to function, so they invent unfounded or ineptly founded concepts which give them the hope of not having to cease to exist as who they know their self to be. When the self is considered as conceptual, and a product of perception, freedom in accepting death may come with it.
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Yoga

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The Mythology of Wealth by conceptualguerilla.com

Along with ideas about politics, economic theory, political strategy and other related stuff, you will find at this site a sprinkling of something few people associate with political organizing. I refer to a healthy dose of cultural anthropology. Indeed, one message of this site is that whatever you understand about taxes, trade policy, wages and general social conditions, you can’t win the political struggle without also understanding things like culture, symbolism and myth.

Many citizens of western industrial democracies like to believe that they have transcended their “superstitious” pre-scientific past. In fact, a central tenet of our industrial culture is faith in its “rationalism”. Much of the political debate centers around “rational” social and economic policy. In fact, progressives frequently fail to take into account “cultural” forces that frequently work against rational policies. Progressives regularly bemoan the “ignorance” that cheap-labor conservatives are so good at exploiting to prevent seemingly obvious improvements in society.

In fact, the cheap-labor conservatives have counter-attacked with their own “rational” theory to justify their hierarchical world-view. Some call it “Social Darwinism”, though more politically savvy cheap-labor conservatives avoid that term. The purpose of this “rational theory” is to establish that the existing social order is the “natural order”. Elites enjoy wealth, privilege and status because of their inherent superiority. The place where this natural hierarchy is established, is that mythical place known as the “market”.

Justifications for elites and social hierarchy goes all the way back to the pharaohs. For 6000 years, society has organized itself into social classes. The people who do the work are always in the lower classes. The harder and nastier the work, the lower down in the social order you sink. The people who don’t do this work must justify their position. They do it by establishing their “worthiness”, and a variety of cultural devices have been concocted over the millennia to accomplish this. The pharaohs, you may recall, weren’t people at all. They were gods. Roman emperors likewise had themselves deified, and before that Roman Senators justified their position as “patricians”. Basically, “my great great granddaddy was a big shot, therefore I should be too.”

The middle ages gave us the notion of the “great chain of being”. Outside the earthly realm – in the realm of myth , that is – there is Jesus and the “heavenly host”. Just below the angels and saints is the king, followed by his entourage of muscle men otherwise known as the “nobility”. Since kings were chosen “by the grace of God”, they didn’t answer to ordinary mortals. At least they didn’t before Runnymeade, when the English nobility straightened out King John about where his power really came from.

This is the historical background for those famous words of Thomas Jefferson. “Governments are instituted among men, and derive their just powers from the consent of the governed”. Everyone has heard those words. School children recite them. Few people appreciate that those words repudiated 6000 years of “mumbo jumbo” to justify the existence of social classes and fixed elites. Elites don’t get their power from the gods, or from Jesus or from any other mythological source. Elites get their power from the people they rule. Power flows from the bottom up, not from the top down.

Old habits die hard. In fact, we still have a “leisure class”. As capitalism has grown so has the wealth and privilege of our leisure class. The old mythologies – gods, the “great chain of being” etc. – are no longer available to justify the existence and perpetuation of our leisure class, something our elites are definitely interested in perpetuating. What was needed was a new “rational” worldview that justified the existence of privileged elites.

That rationalization came in the form of a brand new science known as economics, which included a brand new mythology.

According to the new mythology, human beings are economic competitors. The “marketplace” is the new “Valhalla”, where “economic man” frolics. The “market” we are told, contains its own “rationality”. It rewards the efficient. It rewards that list of virtues George Will cites, like “thrift”, “delayed gratification” and of course, “hard work”. Free competition in the market place “rationally” selects the more “worthy” competitor. Thus, the wealthy are the superior competitors who have “earned” their elite status. If you haven’t succeeded it can only be because of your “inferiority”.

Before debunking this whole ideology, a few observations are in order. First of all, notice that the hierarchical social order is back. It has a new veneer of “rationality”, but it is the same old ugly reality. Elites are “better” than you. The non-elites who do the work have “earned” their position, and are proper objects of scorn. Thus, we have a handful of haves, worthy of admiration and respect, and a large class of industrial serfs who own nothing but their bellies. The theory has changed, but the reality is just the same. Not surprisingly, cheap-labor believers in the “rational” hierarchy are hostile to democracy. In fact, they have decided that democratic government is an enemy to “market efficiency”. What Thomas Jefferson won through debunking the old forms of social hierarchy, today’s cheap-labor conservative is busy taking back through his new “rational” form of the same old shit.

And it is the same old shit. First of all, “hard work” is only a small piece of the equation. In reality, success in the market is about market position. It isn’t about what you do, but about what you control. The hardest work is actually done by people whose market position makes their daily wage minimal. The person who profits most from their labor is the person who owns the factory they work in. While there are certainly examples of factory owners who started with nothing and rose to be “captains of industry”, for the most part our captains of industry started out a lot further ahead of the game.


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