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Good storytelling, lasting values and Disney's demise — this is not the way

The Mandalorian
We live in an age of maximum arrogance. When you watch companies with some of the most marketable brands in the world torch them on an altar of political correctness, it's easy to just think them stupid or going with the flow of history.

But they aren't.

Because not only do we live in an age of maximal arrogance, we also live in the biggest self-created false realities in human history.

It is the height of irony that the biggest brand in storytelling, Disney, has succumbed to its own arrogance and self-delusion, becoming trapped in a false reality that Disney should dictate the direction humanity should accept.

That's what lies at the heart of Disney's troubles today. It arrogantly believed it has an obligation to decide what is and is not culturally acceptable to a majority of its customers. It completely misread the room in thinking a large percentage of its business comes from the insufferably woke suburban moms who are just as fucked up as the kids they've raised.

The good news is Disney got the message loud and clear that they are not the arbiters of when it's appropriate to groom children for adulthood. The bad news is they may not have heard it.


Time might not exist, according to physicists and philosophers - but that's okay

time and outer space
Does time exist? The answer to this question may seem obvious: of course it does! Just look at a calendar or a clock.

But developments in physics suggest the non-existence of time is an open possibility, and one that we should take seriously.

How can that be, and what would it mean? It'll take a little while to explain, but don't worry: even if time doesn't exist, our lives will go on as usual.

A crisis in physics

Physics is in crisis. For the past century or so, we have explained the universe with two wildly successful physical theories: general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Quantum mechanics describes how things work in the incredibly tiny world of particles and particle interactions. General relativity describes the big picture of gravity and how objects move.

SOTT Logo Radio

MindMatters: Political Psychopathy Goes Mainstream, Linked to Crimes Against Humanity

Not since Nuremberg have political leaders and functionaries accused or guilty of crimes against humanity been accessible to psychologists for close study, specifically with regard to the presence of personality disorders like psychopathy. A new paper by Robert Hare and colleagues is the first of its kind to examine men convicted of crimes against humanity and test for psychopathy using the PCL-R, specifically, members of Pinochet's armed forces convicted of crimes like torture and murder. Today on MindMatters, Harrison reads portions of the paper and discusses its main conclusions and implications. (See his substack post on the subject too.)


Running Time: 01:08:55

Download: MP3 — 94.7 MB

Snakes in Suits

The First Criterion of Ponerogenesis

Cluster B Blindness always leads to disaster

I figured for the inaugural installment of this new Substack I might as well choose a subject that is juicy and probably controversial. But we'll get to that. First, a short introduction. Political ponerology is the scientific study of political evil. It is inspired by the trail blazed by Dr. Andrew Lobaczewski in his underground classic, Political Ponerology, written in 1984 but more relevant than ever. I recently edited a new edition of the book to bring it into the present time. If I do my job right here, you'll still get something by reading just these posts, but I recommend reading the book for the essential background it provides. So with that said, let's get right into it.
new edition political ponerology
Ponerogenesis is simply the origins of evil: the essential ingredients and steps that go into baking a cake of human suffering. The main ingredients: specific personality disorders, especially those labeled "Cluster B" (antisocial, narcissistic, borderline, histrionic), and the "Dark Triad" or "Dark Tetrad" personality traits (psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism, and sadism). These "ponerogenic factors" combine and interact with the processes of everyday human life to give rise to evil. Philip Zimbardo's definition will suit my purposes:
Evil consists in intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, demean, dehumanize, or destroy innocent others — or using one's authority and systemic power to encourage and permit others to do so on your behalf. (The Lucifer Effect, p. 5)


The Master Betrayed #1

woman wheels
© Natural Therapy Pages
Left Brain Functions
In the conclusion of Iain McGilchrist's book The Master and His Emissary, the question is asked:
"What would the left hemisphere's world look like if the left hemisphere of the brain became so far dominant that, at the phenomenological level, it managed more or less to suppress the right hemisphere's world altogether?"
In this series of posts I'd like to break down his conclusion and discuss just how closely our world is conforming to the left hemisphere's perspective.
We could expect, for a start, that there would be a loss of the broader picture, and a substitution of a more narrowly focussed, restricted, but detailed, view of the world, making it perhaps difficult to maintain a coherent overview. The broader picture would in any case be disregarded, because it would lack the appearance of clarity and certainty which the left hemisphere craves. In general, the 'bits' of anything, the parts into which it could be disassembled, would come to seem more important, more likely to lead to knowledge and understanding, than the whole, which would come to be seen as no more than the sum of the parts.

Ever more narrowly focussed attention would lead to an increasing specialisation and technicalising of knowledge. This in turn would promote the substitution of information, and information gathering, for knowledge, which comes through experience. Knowledge, in its turn would seem more 'real' than what one might call wisdom, which would seem too nebulous, something never to be grasped.

One would expect the left hemisphere to keep doing refining experiments on detail, at which it is exceedingly proficient, but to be correspondingly blind to what is not clear or certain, or cannot be brought into focus right in the middle of the visual field. In fact one would expect a sort of dismissive attitude to anything outside of its limited focus, because the right hemisphere's take on the whole picture would simply not be available to it.
- Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary


Stephen Meyer on totalitarian dystopias and the God Hypothesis

Stephen Meyer god hypothesis intelligent design
© stephencmeyer.org
Stephen C. Meyer
Stephen Meyer, writing at The American Mind, highlights an important lesson about the consequences of dismissing what he calls, in the title of his recent book, The God Hypothesis. He's responding to an essay by Andrew Klavan that notes the connection between tyranny and atheism. The most tyrannical societies have also been the most atheistic, and the most likely to point to "science" as a justification on both counts.

Humans as "Purely Material Entities"

From, "God's Footprints":
Klavan's insight about the relationship between dystopias and atheism (or scientific materialism) is also perceptive. The fictional dystopias of Brave New World, The Giver, The Matrix — and I would add, C. S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength — invariably depict future states where men and women are treated as purely material entities devoid of moral impulse and spiritual longing. In such dystopian societies, a reductionist and materialistic concept of human beings ensures that something important — love, freedom, human rights, justice, dignity, faith — is always horrifically omitted or suppressed by those in control.

The totalitarian dystopias of the 20th century replicated this pattern, but in real life. National Socialism and Soviet Marxism both cited science as a justification for their materialistic ideologies and utopian visions but succeeded only in creating hell on Earth — and, indeed, in perpetrating genocide. All of this supports Klavan's other key contention: "We need not abandon the scientific knowledge of modernity, but we must subjugate it to the needs of our humanity rather than allow its fleshless, sexless, motherless materialism to turn us into itself."

Snakes in Suits

Canada to offer medically-assisted suicide to the mentally ill


In March 2023, Canada will become one of the few nations in the world allowing medical aid in dying, or MAID, for people whose sole underlying condition is depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, schizophrenia, PTSD or any other mental affliction.
With terminal cancer, "there is something inside the body that can be seen," says Dutch psychiatrist Dr. Sisco van Veen, tumours and tissues that can be measured or scanned or punctured, to identify the cells inside and help guide prognosis.

You can't see depression on a scan. With the exception of dementia, where imaging can show structural brain changes, "in psychiatry, really all you have is the patient's story, and what you see with your eyes and what you hear and what the family tells you," van Veen says. Most mental disorders lack "prognostic predictability," which makes determining when psychiatric suffering has become "irremediable," essentially incurable, particularly challenging. Some say practically impossible. Which is why van Veen says difficult conversations are ahead as Canada moves closer to legalizing doctor-assisted deaths for people with mental illness whose psychological pain has become unbearable to them.

Comment: There are definitely times in people's lives where life seems hopeless and death is seen as a relief, and that really is an individual's choice what to do in those situations, but Western culture has played a huge role and isn't something to be envied or emulated because it's narcissistic and devoid of true values and principles that can help people lead better and more meaningful lives and help get through the hard and difficult times people experience. See also:

Snakes in Suits

Are people with dark personality traits more likely to succeed?

james cagney as rocky
© Warners/Getty
James Cagney as Rocky prepares for the end in the 1938 movie Angels with Dirty Faces.
'Dark' personalities come in various shades, but at the core of all of them is a tendency to callously use others for personal gain. What is it that these types of people are really gaining, though? Might a benevolent approach to life and others be even more advantageous?

For 15 years, research into dark personality traits (including narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism) has been rapidly expanding. We now know that these traits are far more evident, on average, in men than women. We know that approximately 1-2 per cent of individuals in the general population display extremely dark personality features - enough to meet the clinical threshold for a personality disorder - and about 10-20 per cent of individuals have moderately elevated levels. We know that even people with moderate levels of dark traits can wreak havoc: they are more likely to lie and cheat, show racist attitudes, and be violent towards others.

As researchers, we have studied these traits ourselves. But in a bid to balance out the extensive literature on dark traits, we have recently started to focus on the light side of human personality instead - the 'everyday saints' among us. These people are genuinely interested in others and treat them well without question, not as a means to an end. They applaud the success of others, believe in the fundamental goodness of humans, and respect the dignity of everyone. Our recent study of more than 36,000 adults suggests that these traits are common: around 30-50 per cent of people show prominent light personality trait profiles, depending on world region, and these traits are particularly common in women.

Comment: See also:

Life Preserver

Deep breathing strengthens your brain and boosts attention span

Deep Breathing

It turns out the yoga masters were right — breathing properly really can improve your attention span and help you focus better. A new study has found a direct neurophysiological link between the breath and the brain.
Researchers at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and the Global Brain Health Institute found that focused breathing affects levels of noradrenaline, a natural brain chemical messenger. Noradrenaline gets released into the bloodstream when you are curious, focused, or emotionally aroused. It enhances your attention to detail and improves overall brain health by promoting the growth of new neural connections.

When you're stressed, you produce too much noradrenaline, making it difficult to focus. When you're feeling lethargic, you produce too little of it, which also makes it hard to focus.

The researchers measured the study participants' breathing patterns, their attention span, and activity in an area of the brainstem called the locus coeruleus — where noradrenaline is made. They found that those who focused well on a demanding task had better synchronization between their breathing patterns and attention, as opposed to those who had poor focus and inconsistent breathing patterns.

Comment: And of course, here at SOTT, we also recommend practicing Eiriu-Eolas, which is a multi-layered approach that shows one how to breathe deeply and effectively. When practiced regularly and consistently, it can have positive, long-lasting effects, similar to the techniques listed in the article above. See also:


The day Dostoyevsky discovered the meaning of life in a dream

© Getty Images
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
"And it is so simple... You will instantly find how to live."

One November night in the 1870s, legendary Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky (November 11, 1821-February 9, 1881) discovered the meaning of life in a dream — or, at least, the protagonist in his final short story did. The piece, which first appeared in the altogether revelatory A Writer's Diary (public library) under the title "The Dream of a Queer Fellow" and was later published separately as The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, explores themes similar to those in Dostoyevsky's 1864 novel Notes from the Underground, considered the first true existential novel. True to Stephen King's assertion that "good fiction is the truth inside the lie," the story sheds light on Dostoyevsky's personal spiritual and philosophical bents with extraordinary clarityperhaps more so than any of his other published works. The contemplation at its heart falls somewhere between Tolstoy's tussle with the meaning of life and Philip K. Dick's hallucinatory exegesis.

The story begins with the narrator wandering the streets of St. Petersburg on "a gloomy night, the gloomiest night you can conceive," dwelling on how others have ridiculed him all his life and slipping into nihilism with the "terrible anguish" of believing that nothing matters. He peers into the glum sky, gazes at a lone little star, and contemplates suicide; two months earlier, despite his destitution, he had bought an "excellent revolver" with the same intention, but the gun had remained in his drawer since. Suddenly, as he is staring at the star, a little girl of about eight, wearing ragged clothes and clearly in distress, grabs him by the arm and inarticulately begs his help. But the protagonist, disenchanted with life, shoos her away and returns to the squalid room he shares with a drunken old captain, furnished with "a sofa covered in American cloth, a table with some books, two chairs and an easy-chair, old, incredibly old, but still an easy-chair."

As he sinks into the easy-chair to think about ending his life, he finds himself haunted by the image of the little girl, leading him to question his nihilistic disposition.