Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War

Somebody (possibly Henson himself) posted Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War over at Kuro5hin in 2006. I had no idea Kuro5hin still existed, and Henson’s paper could use some consideration of group selection, but anyway it’s a worthwhile and controversial read.

It seems to me that if Henson’s basic thesis is right, our current global political situation is not just eerily similar to that of the mid-1930s, it’s actually the same phenomenon – so we better get it under control.

Officer Involved

Radio station KPCC has put together an impressive expose of the Los Angeles Police Department. Apparently, if you want to kill unarmed, non-violent people without fear of prosecution, the LAPD has a career option for you!

Maybe that’s why police officers are far more likely to abuse their children and partners than the rest of us – because we’re attracting and selecting the worst possible people to serve as peacekeepers? Or is it even worse than that; does police culture actually create monsters from people who honestly wanted to do good?

“The infliction of physical punishment is not every man’s job, and naturally we were only too glad to recruit men who were prepared to show no squeamishness at their task. Unfortunately, we knew nothing about the Freudian side of the business, and it was only after a number of instances of unnecessary flogging and meaningless cruelty that I tumbled to the fact that my organization had been attracting all the sadists in Germany and Austria without my knowledge for some time past. It had also been attracting unconscious sadists, i.e. men who did not know themselves that they had sadist leanings until they took part in a flogging. And finally it had actually been creating sadists. For it seems that corporal chastisement ultimately arouses sadistic leanings in apparently normal men and women. Freud might explain it.” — Rudolf Diels, as quoted in Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts”.

The problem with privilege metaphors

It seems to me that we are all the recipients of unearned privilege. You were formed in the womb of your birth mother, to her great discomfort and inconvenience; and obviously nothing you did yourself made you worthy of this privilege – it was a gift, literally the gift of life itself, that you received for free. You had already been a freeloading moocher for nine months before you were even born!

But not every birth is equal. Recent research claims that poverty diminishes mental capacities from birth. It’s fairly clear that the richer your parents and community are, the more unearned privileges you will eventually enjoy – for example, the children of Barack Obama enjoy vastly more privilege than the children of impoverished Arkansas sharecroppers, or the children of impoverished Native Americans on the Res.

Right Wing radio pundits like to split common people along color lines by screaming of “black criminality” and “black on black violence”, but criminality and violence correlate far more with poverty and lack of opportunity than with any skin color. Left Wing bloggers like to split common people on color lines by screeching “white privilege” – as though privilege did not correlate with wealth, and as if there were no privileged people of color.

These talking heads, Right and Left, are of their own free will servile to the ruling class. The .001% of humanity whose titanic wealth makes them immune to law would prefer that the rest of us split on color lines, gender lines, religion, anything that will keep us from uniting. If we could put aside our differences, it might interfere with the continuing concentration of the Earth’s vast resources into fewer and fewer hands – or even reverse that trend.

know the dream

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offered this country a different kind of vision.

The Deacons for Defense and Justice offered a righteous resistance to oppression, by any means necessary, including lethal violence. The Weather Underground declared bloody war on the US Government and capitalism. The Panthers fought for a vision of equality that endorsed a racially separated nation.

But Dr. King marched with whites, and Jews, and with people so mixed that there was no place for them in a world of stark color-lines. He gave us a vision of a country where people’s opportunities were governed by the content of their character, and not by the color of their skin.

Sadly, Dr. King’s heirs aren’t as admirable. Their insistence on standing as gatekeepers of his legacy means that I can’t make a copy of the “I have a dream” video and host it on my site here. But I can link to a transcript, and to a Youtube video that probably will get taken down.

Every American should listen to this speech today. I’ve heard it dozens of times, and that’s not enough.

It looks more like sexism if anything

There’s people claiming that the high tech industry is essentially racist, because it’s got a lot of white people in it, especially in high positions. The way the census works makes it hard to compare, but this is what I fudged together for the entire USA’s racial and gender demographics from the 2010 census figures. It’s probably pretty close to correct.

• The USA: 64% white, 16% Hispanic, 12% black, 5% Asian, 3% two or more races, <1% other, slightly less than 51% female, slightly more than 49% male. Here's the numbers delivered by the high tech companies (as quoted in this interesting essay):

• Apple: 55% white, 15% Asian, 11% Hispanic, 7% black, 2% two or more, 1% other, 9% undeclared, 30% female, 70% male.

• Facebook: 57% white, 34% Asian, 4% Hispanic, 3% two or more races, 2% black, <1% other, 31% female, 69% male. • Google: 61% white, 30% Asian, 4% two or more races, 3% Hispanic, 2% black, <1% other, 30% female, 70% male. • Twitter: 59% white, 29% Asian, 3% Hispanic or Latino, 3% two or more races, 2% black, 2% other, 1% American Indian or Alaskan native, 1% native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, 30% female, 70% male. • Yahoo: 50% white, 39% Asian, 4% Hispanic, 2% black, 2% two or more races, 2% other/not disclosed, 37% female, 62% male, 1% other/not disclosed. Obviously the raw numbers don't tell a complete story, but they are interesting. Oh, and for those who haven't thought about it, the subcontinent of India is in Asia. AND for the record I have met very few people in my life who could be accurately described as "white" or "black" - most people I know are various shades of pink or brown, sometimes with a yellowish or bluish undertone in certain lighting, and quite often with contrasting spots.

Go go go NAACP of Delaware!

Yesterday the Delaware NAACP’s Jea Street wrote an excellent, fire-breathing letter to Governor Jack Markell and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, defending the Reach Academy and blasting the ongoing re-segregation of Delaware’s schools.

Delaware’s system is currently set up to provide blatantly unequal public education, segregated purely by wealth. And it’s not the good kind of unequal, which would consist of putting more resources where they can accomplish more, but instead Delaware’s Choice, Charter and Neighborhood Schools laws intentionally exaggerate pre-existing inequalities. The state is not using our tax dollars to break the cycle of poverty, but rather to provide marginally better facilities and instruction to the children of people who are relatively well off (and who in many cases quite frankly could afford private schools). Delaware’s infamous “zero tolerance in schools” policies also preferentially victimize the children of the poor.

Street and the NAACP have become involved because the majority of the poor in Delaware are people of color, and thus statistically speaking the system is rigged primarily against them, and because the Reach Academy primarily serves African-American children. Go get ’em Councilman Street!

time to play whack-a-mole

Bev Harris of Black Box Voting has obtained and published source code to the Accenture voting software used in US elections!

Excerpt from Bev’s post:

Note that one of the service items reveals that it was tripling votes for “random” voters in the 2004 primary. Files I have obtained show that it doubled or tripled votes in the 2008 primary, and also in the May 2010 and Aug 2010 primaries in Tennessee. However: It is not random. It only appears to be random when voters are sorted by fields other than precinct/voter ID. In fact, it is doubling and tripling recorded votes in white Republican suburbs.

Everyone with any computer chops who has actually been studying this issue knows that vote-rigging has been on the rise in the US for quite some time. It’s always seemed pretty clear to me that vote fraud is not nationally co-ordinated – it’s happening all over the place, in individual districts, and both parties are involved. Basically, an eminently hackable voting machine with no audit trail is an attractive nuisance.

BBV is (so far) holding up under the load, and (so far) hasn’t been shut down by the authorities. I’m hoping for a repeat of the DeCSS whack-a-mole comedy. Download it and pass it on!