Some time ago my computer became infected with a virus. I learned that something was wrong when I was blocked from signing into one of my email accounts. Apparently the malware was of the kind that uses your account to send out its own emails.
I have two computer experts on my payroll. One told me to delete the Windows operating system that I was using and to upload another, better-protected operating system, Ubuntu. My other nerd did the messy work, a four hour process, with long periods of time where the computer did its thing, purring away, while we did ours.
(The operating system is what runs your programs: Word, Photoshop, iTunes, WhatsApp... It is the meta-program.)
Windows has a back door where Bill Gates can send updates to the operating system without your approval. Unfortunately enterprising hackers can also insert their viruses through this portal. Ubuntu has no such security fault. The process of downloading a new program to run on Ubuntu is always upfront, requiring consent and a password.
All change, even change for the best, is stressful. Ubuntu took some getting used to, but now I don't miss Windows, except that, now and then, I can't wake the laptop after it has gone to sleep. I looked up the problem and it tells me that the hardware of my computer "may not support Ubuntu's suspend [sleep] function."
Computers have hardware and software. They have circuitry and wiry innards on which run the programs and operating systems (the software) that we use. My laptop sometimes doesn't wake up, because that physical, electrical stuff inside does not allow Ubuntu to run perfectly.
Although it will probably come as no surprise to my regular readers, this hardware and software puts me in mind of Post Modernism, Woke Culture and the current civil unrest.
Woke Culture came out of the universities. (The first great episode of Cancel Culture was at Evergreen State College in 2017. Google Bret Weinstein.) Woke Culture entered the universities from French Post Modernist thought. Post Modernism, in one line, contends that humans are blank slates, that everything we are is entirely attributable to societal conditioning. The second line regarding Post Modernism is that human relations are also a blank slate until society imposes itself upon us. The kids on the street believe what their Neo-Marxist professors taught them, that our Enlightenment society (science and reason included) is just a power grab by white men, and needs to end. Following my computer analogy, Post Modernism contends that there is no hardware, no basic wiring neither to human beings nor to society.
Some people are too big to cancel. Psychologist Jordan Peterson, the author of the #1 bestseller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, has the most popular channel on Youtube, his videos get the most views of anyone's. Woke Culture hates Jordan Peterson because he eloquently defends science, pointing out that: hierarchies have existed in animals for hundreds of millions of years and that the neuro-chemistry that underlies the lobster's sense of hierarchies also underlies our own; feel-good hormones are released to reward us when we fit in with a group; male and female are not social constructs, but are real biological categories that do not fall on a spectrum; generally, men prefer things and women prefer people... This last distinction makes sense when you consider that women, as baby-makers, have the primary responsibility of caring for the young. (I say "generally" because it's a 60/40 distinction. Your average man is 60% more likely to care more about things than your average woman, and she is, 60/40, more likely than he to care about people. This distinction accounts for why there are more men engineers and more women nurses, at least, according to Jordan Peterson.)
As humans we are constrained by our physiological version of my laptop's wiry innards. These are our nervous system, hormones, metabolism... I don't know about you, but when my blood sugar goes down I tend to get irritable. When physically confronted or when I imagine that I have been confronted, I tend to feel aggressive. I am very often disquieted, looking for the next challenge, the next thing to do. I am bothered by extraneous noise. I could go on. All these manifestation of human hard-wiring are (generally) beneficial to surviving. That's why we have them as our hardware.
(See again the first paragraph of this article regarding the documentary about the sex change recipients. It really belongs here, but I put it up top to get your attention.)
Society, built upon the individuals within it, also has its predispositions, its hard-wiring. Fitting into groups and group hierarchies, when they function correctly, have survival value; there is safety in numbers and we want the most talented individuals to lead us.
My Uncle Joe, the youngest of four brothers, never really grew up. They used to call him "Tamavata," which I understand is Yiddish for "Cotton Head." He certainly was a little light-headed, possibly manic-depressive. Uncle Joe had a near death experience on the operating table. It was an ecstatic vision of reality that left him fearless of death.
Near death experiences, it seems, are consciousness experienced without the constraints of the body. Free of physiological hunger and hormonal coercion, unidentified with the selfish ego, liberated from the hard-wiring of our neural responses how must it all seem? Pretty amazing from what Uncle Joe reports.
I think the same can be said of experiences of spiritual enlightenment. Liberated from hungers and ego-centrism, it's all so beautiful. As Buddha uttered under the Bhodi tree that first morning of his enlightenment, "How wonderful. How wonderful."
I think the same can be said, also, on a smaller scale, for overcoming a prejudice and gaining a new perspective, even if we continue to fail in other regards. The fact that we are not perfect does not disqualify us, as long as we keep trying.
I agree with Dr. Peterson, we have aggression and distrust, tribalism and fear of the stranger built into us as part of our hard-wiring. Racism is human. Everyone has it: black, white, Arab, Jew, Chinese...
The kids in the street, who think they would have been perfect Social Justice Warriors had they been born in ancient Rome or the antebellum South, do not realize that they are standing on the shoulders of the generations who came before them.
History, both global and personal, at best is a process of deleting the bad programs (slavery, Jim Crow, red-lining...), canceling the bad software and learning how to manage the quirks in the hardware.
It's always a bit disturbing when I return to my laptop and it won't wake up. But what's the use of getting upset? I have no choice. I hold the on/off button down for five seconds until the machine turns off. Then, after another press of the button, it begins to purr. Hoping that I've remembered to save my work, I start again. What else can I do?
Dr David's roots go deep into the black community, as last week's article hints at and future article will make perfectly clear. So just chill out, honkeys... please.