Tuesday, November 17, 2015


There’s a funny little website that specializes in scary or complex or science-informed topics.  It’s cartoony, which makes it seem like a kid’s website, but the narrator has a formal English accent which we are conditioned to respect as educated and authoritative.  It’s called In a Nutshell – Kurzgesagt .  Kurzgesagt means the same thing as “in a nutshell” in the location language, German.  http://kurzgesagt.org/profile/

Here’s their “about” : Kurzgesagt (German for „in a nutshell“) is a Munich based youtube channel and design studio with a distinctive perspective on design and animation within the fields of education, science and commerce.

Founded in 2013 by Philipp Dettmer and Stephan Rether, the studio engages in information design projects of all kinds. We love science, minimalism, colors and music. But most of all combining them to tell stories.

I came to this nutshell through the website “Aeon” which is an online platform for writing that is serious and informed, sometimes on the line between science and religion.

Here’s their “about”.  It’s a little grandiose, but they’re Aussies, which means they are a little like Unitarian Universalists, whom Blackfeet would described as “proud of themselves.”  But, hey, this is a marketing world.

"Since September 2012, Aeon has been publishing some of the most profound and provocative thinking on the web. It asks the biggest questions and finds the freshest, most original answers, provided by world-leading authorities on science, philosophy and society.

Aeon has four channels, and all four are completely free to enjoy. Most weekdays, it publishes Essays – longform explorations of deep issues written by serious and creative thinkers.

From Monday to Friday, it also publishes Opinions – short provocations, maintaining Aeon’s high argumentative standards but in a more nimble and immediate form.

Aeon’s Video channel streams a mixture of curated short documentaries and original Aeon content, including a series of interviews with experts at the forefront of thought.

Finally, Aeon’s Conversations channel invites the reader in to put their own arguments and points of view, asking and answering questions. With Conversations, old-style web comments give way to a new form of collective inquiry.

Aeon was founded in London by Paul and Brigid Hains. It now has offices in London, Melbourne and New York. It is not affiliated with any other organisation or political group. Aeon is committed to big ideas, serious enquiry, a humane worldview and good writing. That’s it.

A few months ago I was participating in a prototype, but got exasperated because it was IMHO trivial and patronizing.  Since then, it has take a major jump in quality and relevance.  For instance, this re-post on Aeon led me to Kurzgesagt and this essay.  It is a good description of my world-view, though it is based on Western science which seems to be creating a new body of believers for whom this narrative has deep meaning.  Some call it "mystical science".

Previous meaning structures based on tribalism and one-celled cultures such as those derived from the Abrahamic Biblical kernel, will hate this and try to destroy it, partly because it is SO effective in providing a new meaningful life in a dynamic time.  Other indigenous belief systems may be quite compatible.

The crucial difference I see is that for the Abrahamic mind, virtue (as described in the Koran,Bible or Torah) will be repaid for the suffering and inequity in this world by eternal gratification in a next world which is somewhere else and can only be accessed by dying.  To the modern scientific mind it would seem simpler to move to California.  (Not that that’s fool-proof, taking into account plate tectonics and drought.  And there might be a bit of a shortage of virgins. -- it’s rather transparent that Abraham’s heaven is for men.)

Modern scientific understanding shifts the paradigm from conditional eternal bliss -- that is only idealized in earthly terms and never confirmed by anyone returning from Heaven -- to already present participation in existence (connection to all we can perceive), and we CAN perceive millions of connections while knowing there are still more without limit.  We CAN make decisions about small things that become large forces and our rewards come daily.

Now the swerve:  

Former acting CIA director John McLaughlin says: “You have to do three things to combat terrorism: 1) Destroy the leadership, 2) Deny terrorists safe haven and 3) Change the conditions that give rise to the phenomenon. At this point, we have to focus on the first two, because the third is too complicated and long-range.”  This is cynical and self-serving, aside from arguing from "is to ought," a common logical error.

If one has a “Christian” worldview (which is one-third of the Abrahamic worldview) then the first two items are obviously what to do about terrorism and what will also make a lot of money in the process.  Here’s another Aeon essay that’s relevant.  First the qualifications of the writer:  Bruce Hoffman  directs Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies and is a senior fellow at the US Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. His latest book is Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947 (Knopf, 2015).”  He offers a checklist of terrorist successes in spite of the first two “do-able” responses.  (I would argue that even with predator drones and Google Earth, denying safe havens is not possible when so many people are in sympathy with terrorists' goals.)

The third goal, “change the conditions that give rise to the phenomenon,” is self-addressing.  The surface of the planet and the human networks that inhabit it are always changing.  Ideas are changing as a result of that change -- which is now coming very quickly -- and then changing more as a secondary result/cause.  Most people like John McLaughlin have no idea about this and cannot predict or grasp the kind of forces that motivate sub-groups who feel the larger culture is possibly evil, and certainly oppressing them.  McLaughlin and his like are sealed off from reality.  If they cannot improve the conditions of poverty, inequity, and suffering, neither will those conditions persist unaddressed.

McLaughlin is an old man, standing with those other old authorities who are willing to sacrifice young people in order to keep the world the way they understand it, a way that gives him power.  Like the ATF and FBI controllers at Waco, they feel they must have powerl, obedience.  Because they have militarized government authorization, they can set up a situation that escalates to death and scandal.  They feel they “own” what is good, which empowers them and not the group they attack.  

Pat Burns  (I'm not sure of the name of the terrier.)

There is a set of statistics going around that may have high impact.   It is documented with a vid.  Both are made possible by computers and "smart phones". The earliest version I’ve found so far is a story by Nathan J. Robinson, a Ph.D. student in sociology and social policy at Harvard University.  The statement is that police can shoot your dog for no reason . . . and they do.   

The most coherent version of the story is at http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2015/11/in-police-state-where-they-kill-lot-of.html 

Patrick Burns, who writes the blog, is a demographer and terrier expert who lives near the Pentagon.  He takes terrorism rather personally.  "Last year, American police killed more unarmed American citizens than Isis and Al Qaeda combined."  I’m unclear about whether that includes civilian collateral damage from our military attacks in other countries.

The first thing the ATF officers did at the Branch Davidian Compound was to shoot all the dogs.  They were a mother and pups in a fenced enclosure.

It's one thing to kill people who are stigmatized even if they are the children of other people on our own streets.  It's an entirely different issue to kill people's dogs.  The people that civil authorities empower with military level actions, giving those officers the power to kill American family members (dogs count), is the kind of callous drift that causes empires to be overthrown.  It’s a step too far.  Wars have started over less.

Widely known, it could have a major impact on elections.  As much as Mitt Romney's dog terrified shitless in a kennel on top of the family car.

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