Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / Epistemology / Reality /
@ K. 1998 05 04

No nation is more than three meals away from a revolution.

Talking about Ilya Prigogine occasions this one. (See Prigogine is Right! (Math footnote)

The denotation (“literal” meaning) of revolution involves basic change. It’s connotations (associated meanings and emotions) are deeply forked. Many, I presume the majority, see images of wholesale destruction. They recoil. Others see hope, progress … a quantum gain in efficiency or some other quality. Their skin shines at the thought.

Communication across the two fork tines is difficult to impossible. Though no one spends all their emotional and intellectual time on only one tine. The same person who one moment dreads the word may on another occasion speak glowingly of the American Revolution. Or the Industrial Revolution.

“What gives you any right to change the way the world works?”
“Because we are scientists.”
Bruce Sterling

Of course many revolutions were won so thoroughly so long ago that we no longer see them as revolutions at all. I’ll cite here a revolution that’s been going on for millennia, some of the battles of which are long over without the essential conflict being yet decided. One I’ve already touched on in my History of Magic, the simultaneous histories of Church and State.

If you believe that your relationship to your surroundings and to the star that energizes you (“you” being that ecology) is accidental or capricious and unreliable; but then come to believe that your magic can control that capriciousness: that’s a revolution.

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thanx juliasmath

The pre-revolutionary you had a mental model of the sun rising or not independent of your control; the post-revolutionary you has a mental model of your making the sun rise.

Our next battle within the revolution occurred over the millennia in which we (not all simultaneously) became disenchanted with our own magic and transferred our beliefs to some specialist magician.

(If you think I’m imagining this or making it up, read the source for my knowledge: Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough. It may take you decades. So what? Our mutual future depends on it. If you do read it and think that Sir James was imagining it or making it up, than you are immune to rational inference based on sampling the most and best evidence available and are an enemy not only of me and my hoped for descendants but of yourself and your grandchildren.) (I’m not fussy whether “my descendants” carry Knatz genes. I have only one son (a bachelor till 2002). Like a priest, I see my future in “our” descendants.) [Then Benjamin got born and I do have a direct stake in the future.]

If you’ve read either Frazer or my fast (but not loose) précis, then you should be able to fill in the next steps in our history easily. Over the millennia the specialist magician’s specialties divided, making him the ancestor both of our priests and of our governors. Another battle transferred our belief in the priests’ and governors’ magic to a new level of abstraction: to some god or gods, the priest or governor acting as intermediary between us and one or another part of this new Olympus.

Very handy. We depend on sun light. We can’t make the sun rise. It’s the priest, then the god, who makes the sun rise. We are powerless; the god is powerful. But by controlling the priest, we control the god.

But that doesn’t end the revolution. That’s just where the overwhelming majority of us are after the last battle. The current battle could be the final one (in this particular revolution). The current battle is between our emotions and our intellect. Does the sun rise? By now the majority of our intellects know it doesn’t. The planet rotates while revolving around the star. Our language in contrast expresses our primitive emotional habits of thinking and feeling.

“What gives you any right to change the way people think?”
“Because we are artists.”
Bruce Sterling

Some of the skirmishes within this current battle are clearly visible within this, now ending, millennium. This site celebrates the heroes on the side of revising emotions to fit the empirically revised facts: Abelard, Occam … Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler … Newton, Einstein, Hawking … Freud, Bateson, Prigogine …

Just getting started.

Revolution Scrapbook

The above, first titled On the Ambiguity of Revolution, was K.’s original module on the subject. Anyone who’s glanced at more than a couple of K. modules knows that nearly ALL of is about revolution: and evolution. On how evolution can’t work without a revolution here and there, now and then. Naturally, any polity wants to preserve itself, believes it already has all necessary mechanisms in place for change, for adaptation, for improvement, for flexibility. And of course every polity is always deceiving itself, will always start to subvert its mechanisms. In time, we’re always back to revolution: if we want chop dead wood and grow anew.

Sometimes some individuals and even some groups, sometimes more than a couple of institutions, will survive a revolution. But don’t count on it. Some revolutions have to jettison not just this practice, not just that institutions, but perhaps a whole species: maybe a whole ecology … maybe a whole planetary system … (How would Noah prepare himself for that?)

My beloved George Bernard Shaw was a witty esthete, then music critic, then drama critic … then Marxist, then playwright, writing more than sixty hilarious plays, reams of expository prefaces, and a whole bunch of letters … With his stupid Marxism, the wit became didactic. He thought he had THE correct revolution. He even blinked a little bit, failing to see what Stalin was really up to, even as the evidence mounted: ever more evidence of how hope can govern judgment. That fool, however sharp his wit, however passionate his desire for a better society, actually seemed to believe that some committee could correct us. But more and more, as he aged, Shaw showed that he no longer really believed it: and he started obsessing about evolution. He even said it:

Evolution, not revolution

I loved Shaw so much, I tried to believe in his socialist revolution. It didn’t take. I was a dyed in the wool anarchist since childhood: no committees. (Oh, of course we have committees. We have them up the ass. Just as we have churches up the ass. And universities. But is there any of god’s way in any church? Is there any wisdom in any university: not overbalanced by counter-intelligent hebetude?)

It’s time I made a place to scribble freehand about revolution, and here it is. Some of the original file probably belongs here. Maybe I’ll delete some there and paste it here. But new scratchings will go here.

Bucky Fuller said that if you really want a revolution, skip politics and design something radically new that people will use: that will change everything. And how right he is, as the container, control of fire, road building, the wheel … gunpowder, interchangeable parts … cybernetics … multiply prove. (That’s why I grabbed hold of Illich’s Illich’s Learning Opportunity Networks design, founded FLEX. My cheap internet was supposed to change everything.) (It didn’t.)

2015 03 05 I visit today, fixing a couple of things while here, to grieve aloud that the tine that carries the message that revolution means a a power coup, one kleptocracy replacing the administration of another seems to be currently victorious. My meaning has regularly followed the other tine: fundamental change: the possibility of improvement (like a pig flying?)


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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