load her with bar and grape, mr. sneed, might soon be heard again on merchant ships, after a relatively short hiatus. in humanity’s long history on the water, the disappearance of armed merchantmen is a relatively short blip. it seems amazing that with today’s technology that piracy can reach the level that it has. the rise of human living standards across the world is probably part of the reason for the decline of piracy, and the recent explosion off africa is due to the collapse of normal society. there is a lot of piracy off the philippines and bangladesh but of course that doesn’t get the headlines as the west has much less interest in that part of the world, so part of this is simply that we are now paying attention to a problem that was already endemic to these areas.
it seems that while the piracy was once simply very poor people trying to survive after the collapse of the local fishery, warlords and almost certainly organised crime have become involved as the money is huge. operations are becoming ever more sophisticated and the range of the pirates is expanding. forget the bedraggled appearance of the pirates themselves; there’s a lot of money behind these operations.
i’m of mixed opinion about this; if ships escalate lives will be lost, and yet what do you do to stop this?
There is an article here on the recent foiling of a pirate attack by an armed ship, the Maersk Alabama.
The Loser’s Guide; How to Redefine Winning and Reclaim Your Life, Part Nine
The Loser is aware of overwhelming and pervasive indoctrination and goes back to find themselves, and asks that little person inside, what do you want to do now?
I wish that it ended there, but unfortunately it is possible to slip back into the fold. Human beings have a wonderful capacity for self-deception and rationalisation. It is possible to deny what you really know in exchange for the rewards of the market, which can be quite substantial. I suspect it happens all the time. In the end it’s up to the individual how much truth and authenticity they want in their lives, and no one else can judge it, even though denying one’s authentic self is a sure path to unhappiness.
One of the joys of Losing as a lifestyle is that you learn that you are right. When we are taught things, or rather, required to memorise other’s realities, there will always be at some level a doubt. We have to take such truth on faith and it is weak. Many follow such truths, often for their entire lives, and there will always be a gnawing of insecurity that must be repressed by anger and rigidity, especially when such truths are challenged. religious truths (which are so difficult to experience) are often like this. But when we learn the way human beings are supposed to learn we know with the very fibre of our beings. Our actual, physical brain changes as a result of this learning. And joy of joys, the questioning stops. We no longer have doubts because we know. We lose our fear. We can no longer be afraid of the rightness of our paths than we can on our ability to walk. This is so very different from the rigid example given above, which is based in fear and often shame. While those who experiment with life trust their learning, they are always open to learning more. While it may seem rigid when they cannot be swayed from their path, this is only because their knowledge is authentic. If you can show them a way to test what you are asserting, they are all game. But don’t expect them to take your word for it, regardless of the authority you claim to represent.
Nathaniel, I have been reading your blog with interest after being referred to the blog by other CS owners. Like you I love our CS 36 and am interested to read about your sailing adventures. I have found lately however that I think about your blog and read your entries feeling like I am reading about a slow motion train wreck or in your case a slow motion boat wreck, both literally & figuratively. Tracey got a cold from working too hard and you feel sorry for yourself because you have a cold. You think about going off shore and being independent. How do you define independent when your long suffering wife continues to work and pay for your adventures ? You won’t give her your soul although you would give her everything else ? What is that everything else ? Respectfully and with genuine curiousity.
i decided to post this comment because i think the issues raised are important and very pertinent to this blog. i imagine the author did not expect this, and i don’t want her to think that i am picking on her, so i won’t publish her name.
I’m puzzled about the boat wreck analogy. my wife and i have been married almost thirty years, with a brief hiatus several years ago. anyone who knows us is inspired by our obvious love and attachment to one another. although it has been a very long time (tracy was only 16 when we met), i cannot look at tracy without my heart leaping into my mouth, without my blurting out “you are so beautiful.” I tell her several times a day how much i love her, how much i adore her. not because i have to, or it’s a nice thing to do, but because i cannot stop myself. it is how i feel. i wish i didn’t cause i think i spoil her a bit, but it’s how i feel and can’t stop myself!
anything can happen in any relationship but one thing is absolutely certain: i will never stop loving her.
but within this love we have learned to give each other the space we need to grow as individuals. while this has not always been the case, we have learned that she and i are totally independent and separate people who are responsible for our own paths in life. I see us as walking hand in hand, but following our own destinies.
tracy lives her life as she needs to, and so do i. because she is a very different person than myself, her goals and needs differ. I support her in living her life as she needs to and she supports me living mine. There are times that i shake my head at her choices when i see them taking a toll on her, but they are her choices; it’s not up to me to save her from them or to try and change her. i do share my concerns but that has little effect of course, as she makes her own decisions and follows her own path.
i find it rather disrespectful (although i believe that is not the intent) to label tracy as a “long suffering wife”. Tracy is an extremely competent, smart, able and aware professional woman. she knows what she is doing and is living a life that she has chosen; she is not a victim. whatever suffering she has in her life, it is part of being human and part of the choices she makes. if aspects of her life do not work for her, i fully support her in making whatever changes she needs. but again, it’s up to her.
she feels the same for me. I’ve spent my entire life wandering, searching and experimenting. i’ve had several careers and earned many academic distinctions and certifications. i believe i’ve learned what is real and what is false and certainly what works for me. tracy has been with me through a great deal of this and obviously knows this is who i am; she not only accepts it but rejoices in it.
the consequences for both of us are many, and so are the gifts. i won’t go into detail just what those gifts are, but the fact that we have almost 30 years of marriage behind us and are deliriously happy with each other says something about what we have achieved. we are a couple not because it’s easier or because we are afraid of being alone; we are a couple because we are so happy in each other’s company. it is such an blessed gift.
in any long term relationship such as ours there is a balance. your comments seems to suggest an imbalance, but that is not possible in a marriage of this length. my gifts are different than tracy’s; i get some things from her and she gets some from me, and together we have worked out a stable interchange of give and take. your comment also seems to presuppose the supremacy of money; an assertion i do not agree with. money is a cheap and easy way to measure give and take i suppose, but i believe there are far more important exchanges in a relationship. i have a very dear friend who has little money and so i tend to be the one who provides it when we share experiences that requires spending money (not that i am rich either, but it’s relative). the gifts he gives me however, make this a non-issue; who and what he is more than compensates for the fact that i pay more often.
Sometimes this is the case for tracy and myself but not often. i do not “live” off tracy. i am a very creative individual and i do bring in money; i just do not live a 40 hour paid workweek. my lifestyle is very cheap while tracy’s is much more expensive. she brings in more money because she feels she needs to. i earn less because i have other priorities and can live very cheaply. just a few days ago i purchased some socks, underwear, and a pair of jeans, and it was the first clothing i have bought myself in over 14 months.
this doesn’t mean i work less but my work often focuses on other things besides simply making a buck. To be sure i couldn’t have what i have now without tracys’ contribution, but then, neither would she without mine. we have a wonderful life. and if i didn’t have tracy contributing, all that that would mean is that my adventuring would look different. my boat would be a hell of a lot smaller and simpler, which is something i wouldn’t mind at all, but tracy has minimums that are different than mine, so we compromise. again, tracy has made her choices freely and so have I. and what we have works for both of us.
there may indeed be change coming in our relationship. tracy is much more a homebody than i am. my need to wander and explore has been with me all my life and i must continue with that. if tracy cannot, she does not expect me to change who i am any more than i expect it of her. we support each other in whatever we need to do. read that again. whatever we need to do. I would love for her to quit her job and we’ll go wandering for a while. leave the stress of her work and just play for a year. chances are she won’t, not because we can’t, but because that’s not her.
so that may mean that we will spend some time apart. she may move ashore while i sail to mexico. maybe not. or i sail there and she joins me later; there are a million possibilities. and rather than it being a train wreck, i see a new beginning to our relationship, after those twenty years of raising kids (the requisite stability having nearly killed me). i suspect both of us will be moving out into the world more and that’s wonderful. it just might look different for her than for me. i feel some sadness in that i so dearly wish she could come with me, but if she cannot, i can’t stay behind. again, we each have our own path and while we make walk hand in hand most of the time, there may be times when our paths diverge.
the only limits in our lives are the one’s found in our innermost beliefs, which always dictate our experiences.
The Loser’s Guide; How to Redefine Winning and Reclaim Your Life Part Eight
How We got here
The Loser has experimented with her life and their mind has grown beyond the simple confines of mainstream society; the prediction – failure dyad of brain growth cannot easily be unwired. When the Loser knows something, they really know it; they have learned it in the most powerful way possible, like a child taking his first step. This is the problem with dogma: deep down, most people doubt. And the stronger the doubt, the stronger the need to repress the doubt, less the individual become overwhelmed with anxiety. The more fragile this structure, the more rigid and vehement the holder. This is why such atrocities can be perpetuated by those who will often profess a belief that runs counter to their actions; some religious fundamentalist are capable of staggering violence when they feel their views and values are being challenged. This is not be wondered at, while the person challenging them might be approaching the issue from a rational viewpoint, their adversary is defending their very identity –their emotional survival. This often explains while people stick so rigidly to dysfunctional beliefs and behaviours: rather than explore reality for themselves through experiment, they have been taught in a way that lead to extreme consequences for getting it wrong. So rather than develop ideas and in fact an identity of their own, they cling to the simple one they have been given. Development has been arrested.
This is why the Loser never “grows up”. One of the dominant cultural hallmarks of adulthood is the expectations of others. People expect things of us. Do this do that. Get a job. Spend more time with the kids. Work longer hours for less pay. Get better marks. Do your homework. Take out the trash. Call home every Sunday. Why don’t you buy me flowers more often? And that’s just from those who claim to love us. When you talk about the larger society, it gets even stranger. Take a walk through any urban centre and see how many signs declare that you shall not do this or that between such and such hours; that this is forbidden, that this carries a fine of so many dollars. Throughout it all we have the police and other various municipal authorities waiting to enforce these myriad regulations. Of course most of these are design to ensure the smooth flow of city life – from a very narrow perspective. Try doing something unique and wonderful in the city and see how long before someone comes along a
nd tells you that you can’t do that, or asks to see your permit. Many bylaws are in place for safety and to regulate obnoxious behavior but frankly, I don’t need a city bureaucrat to tell me when I’m doing something stupid and dangerous, or if I’m upsetting people around me. But as in so many other aspects of communal living, it is the lowest common denominator that sets the bar: the most foolish, the dullest, the most insensitive and most aggressive are who the laws are designed to curb and yet impact all of us.
All aspects of adult life are squeezed and squeezed hard by others, people who we love and people who in some cases have been mouldering in their graves for decades. All of these have an agenda, and very, very rarely is that agenda to see you be the most human you can be. Everyone has beliefs, needs and desires. Even the busy little boys and girls in city halls furiously scribbling on their duotang notepads ideas for new laws designed to curb the latest terror threatening the metropolis. Unfortunately there is also bigotry, selfishness, hate, fear, and jealousy, all of which affect how others see you and ultimately how you live your life. Worst is the conservatism that thinks what we have done with our lives, what we accept as normal, is the correct and proper way. There is no need to go any further and to do so is likely some kind of vague threat. This is probably the most common kind of limitation that the Loser struggles against. I don’t believe that childhood is some kind of Eden from where innocent individuals are cast out with the coming of adult knowledge. Children can be horrible little beasts, capable of terrible cruelty and insensitivity. They lack a great many of the intellectual powers we take for granted in adulthood, which is why they are so dependent on us. But what we can learn from children, and our childhoods, is that our basic, essential natures were fully developed by about three years of age. We have a very long way to go to become fully developed persons, but the essence was laid down in the beginning. From that primordial start we add various layers. As we grow, our physical skills develop and we are capable of so much with these wonderful bodies of ours. And if the difference in physical powers between the child and adult are vast, the intellectual ones are staggering.
Our entire perception of reality transforms as new neural pathways are laid down through experience, gained mostly by trial and error. Compared to childhood, our powers are vast. And yet for all this, that core essence remains unaltered. We are the same people as we were when we were three, just far, far wiser. Unfortunately, along with that greater wisdom and power we tend to forget where we came from, what our core reality is. This isn’t essential, this isn’t a required part of growth: this stuff comes from outside. There are exceptions, but from what I’ve seen most parent’s ideas of growing up their kids is impatience. The idea that these little people are insufficient, and the job of parents is to mould them into something better, something more suitable for society, and for themselves. I believe that after toddlerhood, children are complete human beings and they need nothing further from me, not in terms of making them into something. My 4-year-old is the same person he will be when he is 40; the rest is skill development and the growth of wisdom. And it is the very nature of all young that they learn themselves what they need to learn, and all they need is opportunity. We are programmed in our very DNA to watch, mimic and learn from everything we see around us. And given the great capacity as human beings that we are born with, we should anyone think that we need direction, or be pushed or shamed into doing the tasks required to be fully-functioning human beings?
Because of this distorting and often damaging notion, most of us forget our own selves, forget our own direction. We are inundated from about age 5 onwards with external ideas of who and what we should be, to the extent that by the time we are adults, we have lost ourselves and are ready to take on the roles that we have been programmed for. Of course it’s not like the entire self is gone. Our personalities and essentials elves still remain, guiding us as best they can from deep under the dross of decades of indoctrination. So we become an anthropologist rather than a tax lawyer, sadly thinking that “becoming” a job title is who we are.
The Loser will have none of it. To become a Loser is to struggle to find one’s way back to that essential self and live according to its direction. While you will have been raised with an idea of how to make yourself useful to society – according to very narrow ideas of what is valuable in a system that needs drones to produce wealth for others – the Loser attempts to throw off those ideas and return to her basic nature.
still, it is impossible to undo all of the learning of the two decades it takes to become adult. Despite our knowledge of the damage caused by the existing system of growing up adults, despite our simple desire to live more authentically, we will still feel guilt, shame, fear, and reluctance when all we want is to be honest with ourselves. You cannot just cast off all those years of programming for Success. From those tender years onwards the same ideas, the same themes have been repeated over and over again. The particulars vary somewhat but the teaching never varied. What you have almost certainly been taught is:
Numbness and disassociation
It’s not hard to see just how useful these lessons are for creating citizens who make little trouble for established society. It’s important to realise that these will be fully brought into the personality and are unconscious and invisible, even to the self. Even the most confident and self assured persons are guided by these principles and this can be seen by the fact that strong, self confident individuals are very likely to be Successes.
I just watched a 6-hour history of the second world war entitled Apocalypse. A lot of it was familiar because I’ve read Churchill’s History of the Second World War, although it gave me a picture that was less West-focused. It gave me a much greater understanding of the agonies of Asia, which tends to get lost in most Western accounts. I knew about the sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad, but was not so well informed about the progress of the wehrmacht across Russia and the Ukraine, and the details of the turnabout that the soviets achieved.
I also was unaware of the level of the atrocity committed by the Japanese in China: I knew it was bad but was not aware that the level of destruction was on par with that afflicted by the nazis on Russia (up to 20 million deaths). I suppose racism and because the slaughter happened before Japan declared war on the US, so it didn’t count as part of “our war”. How can you conceive of twenty four million dead? I cannot. And the 3.3 million Russians killed in WWI. I’m focusing on the Russians because of the anniversary of the end of the cold war (the collapse of the Berlin Wall) that’s in the news, an unnecessary conflict in my mind.
Although i don’t agree with totalitarianism in any form, I can at least understand the Soviet need to create a bulwark against the West after two world wars, and almost 30 million deaths (not to mention coming within a whisker of being conquered by the nazis). If Canada had experienced the same thing coming from Mexico (and the US was a weak power), we would do everything we could to occupy and fortify the US against any future invasion. It is almost like the West forgot this, and in fact became what terrified Moscow the most: a massive, hostile force along their western border within a few short years after the nazis were defeated. I think if the West had given them space and security to rebuild they would have been far less hostile and belligerent and the cold war may never have been.
And is it any wonder that China crossed its borders when a hostile West approached through Korea and Vietnam after the annihilation of WWII?
One can make many arguments how and why these things come about, but over and again we see the West taking a western, simplistic, ahistorical approach to other cultures and civilisations, ending up in a continuous series of unnecessary conflicts. I think there is enough space on this planet for opposing ideologies without resorting to a militarised world.
The Apocalypse series showed some interesting footage of goebbels exhorting on a crowd of tens of thousands of hitler worshippers chanting Germans above all others. It was interesting because of the frenzy and the obvious utter and total belief that these people had in the supremacy and their right to overlordship of the world. I’ve thought a lot about what the means: the hysteria, the absolute faith, the giving oneself totally over to another in an almost religious sense, regardless of the consequence.
That’s the part that’s so frightening because it is human nature; there are accidents of history and hate, economics and culture, but another nazi germany is totally possible anywhere in the world because people carve to surrender their will to another, to cling to absolute beliefs, and surround themselves in situations that reinforce their ignorance. There is in my mind very little difference between the religious right and nazism; the only reason it hasn’t engulfed the world is that the context isn’t dire enough for it to rise to absolute power; It is doubtful that Hitler could have risen to power without the depression.
But the massive support of reagan and the bush cadre was very frightening, especially with the last bush who was so patently dangerous and yet managed to get two terms. The jingoism and nationalism, especially after the 9-11 attacks, were as singularly minded as any of those nazi speeches. There weren’t any overt “pograms” against Muslims, but again, the context was very different than Europe of the 30’s. The energy was the same. Human evil. We all carry it, we are all capable of atrocity given the right context, the right training. We do not act on our dark impulses because of social context – we are socialised to suppress violent and aggressive feelings. But if that socialisation changes to one of acceptance of violence and encouragement of hatred what you get is a holocaust. You get Rwanda, you get Cambodia, you get Somalia and yes, you get the Jewish Holocaust.
You cannot do anything much about human nature. In some ways you can’t always do much about the economy. But you can always stand up to hatred and ignorance, you can always oppose those who try to dismantle values of compassion and tolerance and love. When the right claims ownership of truth, offer a different truth. When they cry for intolerance, reach out with acceptance. When they try to segregate an “other” they want to demonise, befriend them. While a lot of Germans adopted the hate of the reich, I suspect that majority simply ignored it, or felt uneasy but did nothing. Like what most of us do when we are confronted by ugliness that seems too powerful to oppose.
The Loser’s Guide; How to Redefine Winning and Reclaim Your Life Part Seven
We know that the brain grows as a result of learning. Mind grows with it. Funny that the major systems of learning in mainstream society (I’m so tempted to call it the Matrix, referring to that wonderful movie by theWachowskibrothers) do not reflect how the brain learns. The mind is most active and reaches its greatest potential while improvising. What this means is that the greatest growth occurs when the mind predicts, and is proved wrong. The mind makes an informed guess based on the information it already has, and if the results of the assumption prove incorrect, The brain takes immediate note of the fact and moves along to it’s next prediction based on that new data. New information is created and so are new synaptic junctions. The brain increases in complexity.
When the brain guesses correctly the results are noted as well, but in a way the information was already there, just unproven (hence the correct prediction). The results are less significant. The difference is subtle but important; when a mistake is made it might mean that cer
tain previous assumptions are faulty and it’s important that the brain process the results and learn as survival could be at stake. The brain is always on the lookout for mistakes, because that’s how knowledge grows.
Consider then how we are taught from the earliest age. This is what’s real, this is what’s important, and your job is simple, rote memorisation. So much for experiment, which is to develop a hypothesis and test it, the way of the human brain. Children learning best by trying and doing; we have all seen this process at work and yet once they reach about age five we circumvent the child’s natural inclination to learn by doing and start them on the process of acquiring the results of someone else learning, someone else’s experiments.
After twelve years of this process, university professors lament how much their first year students have to be “spoon fed”. I have heard many profs complain about this in my years working in university. The education system is determined to suppress our innate capacity for exploration and learning without anyone figuring it out for us. So when we shuffle the young to university, the educators are aghast at the passivity of the minds before them (I’ve often found this argument a bit specious however, as much university education, especially in the sciences, requires the same passive acceptance, the same rote memorisation).
We are also taught that it is important to get it right the first time,“right” meaning the memorised answer that someone else has decided is the correct one.
Getting it wrong means what is says, a mistake. There is a shame associated with getting it wrong, even though we know that mistakes are how the brain best learns. Red ink equals failure and lack of advancement. All kinds of perks are afford to those who get it right and condemnation and censure for those who get it wrong.
The problem is that mistakes are how the brain best learns when finding out things for itself. Mistakes have no utility for a learning that is not in fact learning at all but memorization, which is very different.
What this means is that having learned to feel shame at mistakes,people become afraid of trying, inventing, risking.Improvising. And so growth stops. We become very good at memorisation but lousy at learning. This is fundamentally why we all look much the same, act the same, buy at the same shopping malls and live in the same homogenous suburbs. When one considers all the infinite variety of ways of being and living, of working and sheltering ourselves, the fact that this homogeneity exists shows that something else is at work.
Of course all societies are essentially conservative; the old teach the young how to behave and that includes supporting and reinforcing the material culture. All houses in a village look the same because of group knowledge and group expectations. Often this comes with a wise exploitation of available resources. But again, we in the West have far more choices available to us and so why should we all cluster together as if only a few were legitimate?
What’s interesting to note is that when a so-called subculture emerges,the market is very quick to appropriate it and market it, even if it’s original intent was to subvert mainstream culture and the market itself. Che Guevara would be spinning in his grave if he knew how many banal products now boast his iconic image, how he has become a brand.
It is almost impossible to thwart this; if enough people follow a certain path, the market will try and seduce you with products directed specifically at your perceived needs. Ironically, even those who follow an antimaterialist and anticonsumption path will find products devised just for them. You cannot avoid it.
Another thing at work here is that this overall cultural homogeneity allows maximum profits for those invested in a market-determined world. Much blame must go to the public school system for this, since their primary social role is to deliver infantile, developmentally – frozen consumers to the marketplace.
A Winner is someone who doesn’t improvise. A Winner is someone who uses already-developed skills to advance themselves in a competitive world. They“get it right” because they already know how to do it. But that means that the Winner doesn’t grow. The Winner is the one-trick pony that has developed their limited skills to the highest level, and has proven themselves a great benefit to those above him or her.
The Winner is a specialist. Today’s job market is highly specialised, with precisely defined roles for the majority. The very top of this market is occupied with the ultimate specialists – people who have dedicated their entire lives perfecting a very narrow function. The entire chain of education and employment reflect this. But another way of looking at specialisation is profound limitation.
A friend of mine once wanted to take a graduate degree in counselling psyche but was dismayed at the entrance requirements. With over 200 applicants and space for 20 in the department, 90% of applicants had to be rejected by some means. The manner chosen who was most suitable to provide future psychological counselling was grades: an average of 95% in the four years of your undergraduate program got you in.
I spent ten years in university and I know what that kind of GPA takes.Even an IQ of 160 still has to take time to memorise all those textbooks, never mind us less lofty individuals. Of all the people I knew who excelled at that level, none showed incredible brilliance or photographic memories; in fact most were rather unhappy people. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, workaholism, and having one’s worth determined by one’s achievements is generally required to achieve at that level. Very few well-rounded individuals – those who balance the emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of being – will achieve those kinds of grades.
In short, emotionally and spiritually mature people would be excluded from a program that purports to train spiritual and emotional healers . Only Winners would be allowed into the program.
In contrast, the Loser is the generalist. She is the improviser. Not content to rest on her laurels, the Loser is always pushing, trying, falling down, screwing up and accidentally blowing up basements with her home chemistry set. They go here and there, trying stuff out. The Loser is never bored because he knows that the world is a miracle and there is no limit to what he can discover. The Loser knows that experimenting with life is the highest expression of that
life. Who cares how much money it makes? Who cares if you fit within a system of commodity production?
The Loser goes here and there because the Loser is multifaceted and multidimensional. We are all multifaceted and multidimensional, but most of us have been taught otherwise, our multiplicity has been repressed by a system that requires you to fit into a predesigned mould.
That’s not to say that the Loser doesn’t achieve or has goals; the Loser can be a very driven individual. But like I mentioned above, the drive is internal rather than external, and is based on creativity, curiosity, love, caring, and joy rather than fear and self-hatred.And the drive is tempered with a realisation that quiet is crucial, and that friends and family are paramount. Community must be helped along. We know that we are all part of the same big family and humanity needs our help as well.
To mainstream society, the Loser is dangerous because she doesn’t listen to authority or the market but her own inner impulses. The Loser is not occupied by television or sedated by the banality of celebrities. Because the Loser has natural human curiosity the Loser wastes a lot of time learning, truly learning in the way that unfettered human beings learn. The Loser sees things that others miss because the Loser goes slow. And mostly, the Loser is motivated by love and compassion rather than selfish desire.
Of course the Loser is human and feels greed like other people, desires trinkets, and will at times wish for more than her wandering, seeking existence can supply. The market is a powerful, compelling force. But because the Loser is an experimenter they have learned things they cannot forget, because learning is not the same thing as memorising.