April, 2018

Apr 18

Nattering New-Age Nitwits

It annoys me no end when New Age nitwits coo glowingly of the spiritual deeps of pre-Columbian civilizations. The Maya, the Aztec, the Inca, had impressive civilizations, impressive cultures, with fine art, significant engineering skills–all that is true. But: “While incidents of human sacrifice among the Aztec, Maya and Inca have been recorded…the discovery of a large-scale child sacrifice event in the little-known pre-Columbian Chimu civilization is unprecedented in the Americas — if not in the entire world,” National Geographic said.

The Carthaginians (in what we now call Tunisia) also had an impressive civilization–and they tossed babies into furnaces. (See link in comments.) ANY people who let magical thinking and a penchant for ritualistic cruelty lead them into human sacrifice was as debased as the gabbling Christian priests who tortured and mass-murdered “heretics” for the Inquisition and the so-called Church. THEY ALL SUCK EQUALLY because they’re all human beings and human beings are prone to sleepwalking through their entire lifespans, while having complex waking dreams that they mistake for waking life. They can do fine things and debased, monstrous things in the same day without knowing the difference. Humanity cheerfully dives headlong into the basest most toxic ideas, so long as it’s in some way comforting; so long as it aids in keeping them in their cozy state of waking sleep…

Another popular form of New Age Nitwit nattering is found in that weird mix of scripted fixation and pseudo-documentary “What the Bleep do we Know?” which is actually a recruiting video for the Ramtha (JZ Knight) cult. It’s suffused with pseudo-science, cherrypicked quotes mixed with utterly made up bullshit, and other rubbish. Yet this fraud was and is a successful film. It’s been debunked many times but no one seems to care.

It’s odd–they don’t seem to get the irony in the title of their film.


Apr 18


[My foreword to my novel IN DARKNESS WAITING, for its new edition, seems relevant to our times. And to humanity's perennial dilemma, its persistent question: What is the Nature of Evil?]

Foreword to IN DARKNESS WAITING: The “Director’s Cut”

This edition of In Darkness Waiting has been re-edited. I updated it a little, cut some youthful excess, tinkered with a few sentences and trimmed some slow bits. But it’s essentially the same book, and it definitely has the same theme. It’s a hard-charging horror story—I suspect it would be difficult to find a horror novel with a scene more extreme than the climax of this book—but its subtext is what is most important to me.

Paradoxically, some books seem more relevant as time goes on. Or perhaps their relevance is simply brought into prominence by resonant times. In Darkness Waiting seems to me to be one of those books. Before there was any thought of reprinting IDW, I found myself referring to it, more than once, while writing some recent online opinion pieces. I was writing about the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, as well as the abuse of women and “unbelievers” by Fundamentalist Muslims. How can people stone a woman to death because someone raped her? They do. How can American soldiers gleefully torment and beat and humiliate their prisoners, most of whom had nothing to do with terrorism? They did. When an atrocity comes about, it starts inside the perpetrators. Something happens, in them—a process whereby they dehumanize their victims. Well before the act, the atrocity has begun psychologically—and neurologically.

People are not innately monstrous. Most people can be quite compassionate, sympathetic, in the right circumstances. Yet somehow they can also switch that compassion off—some unknown trigger comes along, and it’s switched off, within them, like switching off a light. As I mention in IDW, Nazis guarding concentration camps tossed bread to hungry, snow-bound birds, feeling genuinely sorry for them, while a few feet away children starved to death, watching enviously as the birds eat crumbs. How can they calmly accept taking part in starving those children, and then feed the birds? Many of these monsters had wives and children they loved. What is the mechanism of the repression of normal human empathy?

There are many examples of dehumanization from American history. In the book The Plutonium Files by Pulitzer Prize winner Eileen Welsome, we learn that in the 1940s thousands of powerless Americans–blacks, institutionalized children, the poor, prisoners, soldiers— were deliberately exposed to plutonium, often in injections, as part of experiments essentially designed to find ways to protect the experimenters from deadly radiation. The researchers worked for the government, on military grants (all done in secret), to try to find ways to protect the developers of nuclear weapons from radiation. So they injected radioactive particles into people; they gave hundreds of children radioactive iron particles, spoonfed to them in oat meal, and then, quite dispassionately, they monitored the health of experimental subjects–eventually, their deterioration–in this effort to protect their own kind. They dehumanized their subjects for the sake of their own survival; to find ways to protect them, the researchers, and people like them, from radiation, at the expense of powerless Americans–who were never told what was happening to them. President Clinton appointed a committee to look into these allegations, and the committee reported its shocking conclusions on the very day that the OJ Simpson trial concluded–perhaps so that the story would be buried in the press, as in fact it was.

In my online piece I wrote: I again call for scientific research into the psychological and neurological mechanism of dehumanization. We need to realize that it’s integral to human behavior–and only through understanding it can we find ways to overcome it.

It is perhaps significant that the original title of this novel was Insect Inside. If we are not careful to make conscious choices, we become insects, inside.

In Darkness Waiting is an entertainment. If you like horror, I think there’s a good chance you’ll find it damned entertaining. (Or should that be “entertainment for the damned”?) But it’s also about something that honestly troubles me. It’s also about real life. Yes: all-too-real life. I gave the phenomenon a name in the book. E.S.S.: Empathy Suppression Syndrome. That clinical label was a strategy to promote the notion that we need to engage in a whole new level of what Gurdjieff and the Buddhists call “self-observation.” We need to observe ourselves as a species, with new objectivity, or we’ll never understand the nature of evil.

And if we don’t understand it, we have no hope of standing against it.

Apr 18

Fire Isn’t Bad but Parental Addiction to Technology Hurts Children

The thing that bothers me most about “smart” phones isn’t the idiots walking down the street staring into the screens, or sitting with each other in restaurants both staring into their screens or texting…those things are repellent but what’s far worse is seeing smartphone parents in a park with their kids, and the small children want to show the parent how they can ride the merry go round, swing on the swing, throw a ball, and the parent ignores them and stares into their phone or their ipad.

The kid goes up to them, tugs on their sleeve. Parent ignores them, sends a text. The kid says things to get parent’s attention. Parent scrolls through social media on phone, mutters to the kid, scrolls some more, kid wanders off…

Or the kid tries to talk to them and the parent gives the kid a cell phone or the equivalent screen toy to look into…and now the parent and the kid are staring at phones next to each other.

Without real communication, damaging ordinary bonding and socialization, how does the kid turn out. “I don’t know what’s wrong with that kid…”

And if I ridicule overuse of smart phones and electronic media, no it doesn’t mean I’m being all “fire bad!” and against technology. That’s like saying if a man objects to a drunk driver getting behind the wheel in a car, the man must despise cars. I don’t hate cars because I despise people who drink heavily and drive. I’m against the mis-use of technology–and designing it to make misuse likely– not the technology itself.