Posts Tagged ‘Homelessness’

No Understanding, No Empathy

February 8, 2014

Debating how to maximize empathy goes to the heart. There is no heart without soul, or soul without mind, and mind without knowledge.

I just argued in “Finance Worth: CERN, Not Plutothat the Will To Knowledge, in particular the Will To Science was the best way to undermine social injustice and inequity. It’s no coincidence that the English, American and French revolutions happened when the scientific revolution became obvious even to the plebs.

Paul Handover, a trusted and most faithful commenter on this site, author of the Learning From Dogs site, objected to my allegation that The Will To Know is a different dimension in psychological space from empathy (literally, “feeling the pain“).So I argued that funding physics was primary. Paul wrote:  Spending to alleviate, nay remove, homelessness should come way before physics despite the power of your argument. Just my two-cents worth.

I will show here that, although, in first order, physics and empathy are independent of each other, in second order, the latter depends upon the former, in our honorable genus. Actually the dependence of empathy upon cognition is central to the ferocious genius of the human genus.   

No Cognition No Communication No Civilization No Commiseration

No Cognition No Communication No Civilization No Commiseration 

The first time I met that idea, I was a child, watching a grainy TV screen. Neil Armstrong was landing on the Moon. Some French intellectuals who I saw only that day, smirked, and said it was a terrible thing. “With all the money they spent on that they could have fed the hungry instead!”

I was outraged. Being half Algerian, and having lived mostly in Black Africa, I had direct knowledge that people suffer, die and go hungry for reasons that have nothing to do with spending. Money can’t buy love, and it can’t buy hatred, either.

JFK and LBJ spent 100 billion dollars landing on the Moon. That was money splendidly and fruitfully spent. Stepping on the Moon was a better idea than a Third World War with the USSR. Arguably, if the USA and the USSR had not competed to get to the Moon first, they may have competed with direct war (instead of the indirect war in Vietnam). The race was pretty much settled when the giant Soviet N1 rocket exploded every single time a launch was attempted, producing a 7 kilotons TNT explosion (half of Hiroshima), and destroying its launch pad.

The technological fall-out of the landing on the Moon was enormous (never mind that the 100 top NASA Saturn V engineers were Nazis). The scientific fall-out is still ongoing. Some of the astronauts were geologists and brought back lots of rocks which were studied worldwide. The Moon’s geology is full of surprises: it’s a piece of Earth’s mantle!

Considering the discoveries made on the Moon, I have argued in “Life Giving EARTH NUCLEAR Reactor” that one ought to introduce a new term in the so called Drake equation: a huge fission reactor may be needed for life, and the Moon may have resulted from it. If true, this has all sorts of philosophical, not to say political, consequences.

A parallel, highly ambitious technological program was the much derided Franco-British supersonic, the Concorde (initially a French idea). Concorde was an enormous success too, and nobody knows. No, it’s not because Concorde still hold some speed records. Concorde contributed a lot to the advanced of civilization. And not just by having the French and British taking tea together.

How? When a plane flies supersonic, its center of lift goes way back. To compensate, the center of mass of the plane has to go way back too. That was done by transferring fuel. That was not done by hand. That was done, could only be done, by computers, and assorted electrical systems. With its Gothic delta wings very unstable at low speeds and its variable geometry air intakes, Concorde needed to have many other mechanisms under computer control.

One did not want the computer system to fail. An elaborated system was invented to make sure of that. Five computers, using different software systems built by different companies were put in command. One machine flew the plane while others watched and were ready to take over. Concorde was the first “fly by wire” plane (the next one, years later, was the USA Space Shuttle). Now such systems are ubiquitous, not just in aviation, but each time a driver applies the brakes, a train goes somewhere, etc.    

That empathy should be viewed as coming “way before” understanding is THE classical mistake. The Roman emperors, the top plutocrats per excellence, thus committed it again and again, for all to see and hear, until they drove Rome into the ground, below their boot.

Nothing comes before understanding. Understanding is what humans do. Many animals have empathy. Elephants certainly do. In humans, understanding has grown so much, that empathy has become a slave to understanding. (That’s the major problem with tribalism.)

After all many animals, or human populations, have empathy, but, lacking understanding, that empathy is of no effect whatsoever.

One can easily imagine that it is what befell the Mayan civilization in the super drought of the Seventh Century or all the Americas when the epidemiological and military apocalypse of the Fifteenth Century was upon them. The cataclysm was not understood, empathy had no effect.

All Aztecs had homes, but, to protect their homes, they would have needed enough knowledge of physics to make field guns to repulse the 2,000 invaders.  The Aztecs could not understand why Conquistadores climbed on Mexican volcanoes: they were fetching saltpeter to make more gun powder.

Meanwhile, paralyzed by their version of empathy, the Aztecs captured Spaniards alive to offer them, alive, to the Gods. So, when they had the struggling Cortez in their hands, literally, they tried to tie him up with ropes, and that gave enough time for his men to kill all the Aztecs swarming him, and rescue El Capitan.

Under what theory does providing a roof for everybody comes before understanding for everybody? After all, is a roof necessary for life? During most of human evolution, in most places, there were no roofs. It’s as if I said:”Oh we need to understand how to grow more food” and someone replied: ”Well build a home for the homeless, first”.

What if my neighbor does not want a home? After all, I have enjoyed bivouacs many times: I understand the charm of life in the grand outdoors, below the Milky Way.

Poverty is more than about roofs: I live in one of the world’s richest regions (the SF Bay Area) and I see people digging into garbage all the time. That did not use to be the case. It’s more so since Obama rules, with his fake empathy.

When I was a child, I saw only dogs and vultures dig into garbage. In Black Africa, a place with no intrinsic riches whatsoever. So poverty is a problem with the organization of society. Obama’s USA are the richest ever, but so is financial inequality. In other words, poverty in the USA is a question of understanding Obama and Pelosi did not understand, hopefully, that what they were doing was bound to increase inequality.

The Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest machine, is mostly under France, and its power mostly comes from nuclear power plants in socialist France. There is absolutely no contradiction between socialism and understanding, just the opposite. That’s why the LHC and ITER sit in France. Not because France loves homelessness and treating the poor like trash, but, precisely, because empathy without understanding is self-contradictory.

The understanding approach to things is first to ask why there is homelessness, and then to address the factor therein. Some people are homeless because they scrambled their brains on drugs: ponder the factors therein. Millions of people are homeless, or poorly lodged, because the jobs are not where the houses are: that’s endemic throughout the world. Fix that through construction programs, where needed, and so on.

An important advance in Physics has been Quantum Field Theory. The useful theories therein are RENORMALIZABLE. What does that mean? Because of vacuum energy fluctuations, any Field is subject to non linear self interactions. The Fields feed backs on the Field, non linearly. When physicists can handle this, by changing the mass and the charge, in a topological way, the theory is RENORMALIZABLE: one can compute with it.

It’s obvious to me that the mathematics and methods so developed are applicable to other fields (pun not intended). Actually they have been applied in statistics. It’s only a matter of time, and enough people knowing physics, before these methods are applied to the fight against plutocracy and homelessness.

Indeed, if some people in the USA live as some African dogs and vultures used to, it’s not because there is not enough spending, or it’s going in the wrong direction. The Black Africa I knew was 1,000 times poorer than the USA is today, per capita. However the psychological situation was different. It’s psychology that made the difference, not spending. And what psychology is used for.

Plutocrats know human psychology very well. Simply, in the mood they are, the hyper exploitative mood, psychology is in the service of the hormones, the neurohormones, and the glands, in or out of the brain, in the service of the Dark Side. 

The Will To Know can ram the Dark Side, and only the Will To Know can do so. There is no empathy without understanding, because empathy itself is a form of understanding.

The housing crisis, in the USA, and throughout the West, just like the employment crisis, is, first of all, a cognition problem. There is a Will Not To Build. That needs to be re-cognized.

All these considerations will fly beyond the understanding of the presidency in Washington. Obama organized a State Visit and assorted dinner for his romantically complicated partner, President François Hollande of France. That’s the first State Dinner in two years. Last year’s dinner was cancelled by the president of Brazil, when she learned Obama was spying on her as if she were Osama Bin Laden.

The thick ivory invitations with gold embossing and the words “The President and Mrs. Obama request the pleasure of” were printed for 300 celebrities and powers of the plutocratic order. They had to be destroyed and new ones printed without Ms. Trierweiler’s name. Trierweiler was a woman endowed with extraordinary powers because she was thought to be sleeping with the French president, until it was revealed that she was not. Then her powers magically vanished.

One may wonder by which other magical powers those 300 hundred worthies are invited at the seat of power. No doubt, if she were around, a few years ago, the Obamas would have invited, in the past, the corrupt daughter of the Spanish King.

In a real democracy, should that not be unsupervised by We the People? Can there be empathy without democracy? Hell no. Hell says no, and does care about that a lot.

When Pluto plays philanthropist in a forest, do moralists want to find out what’s going on?

Patrice Aymé