A few weeks ago a friend of mine who lives in the middle of Goddamn Nowhere California emailed me about a book he had picked up in a used bookstore. He liked it and suggested I get a copy of The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes.
I emailed back and told him I bought that book … 27 years ago. But before I read it I loaned it to a guy. At the time, we were getting ready to move to Hawaii to open a coffee shop and in the packing and moving hysteria I forgot all about it. The guy I lent it to never returned it and since he died a couple of years ago, I don’t think it’s coming back anytime soon. I didn’t want to prowl through used bookstores, didn’t want to give Jeff fucking Bezos another fucking dime, so I picked up the e-book from Barnes and Noble for $9.99.
To sum up the author’s premise, “… human consciousness did not begin far back in animal evolution but instead is a learned process that came about only three thousand years ago and is still developing.”
As my friend wrote, “The idea is still interesting and the book is ‘thought provoking,’ although its filled with lots of speculations and postulates that can never be verified.”
I’ve found the book wasn’t so much ‘thought provoking’ as it was ‘argument making.’
I think the author’s premise is generally true, but I’m not writing to argue in support of the book. If anybody wants to read it and then argue about it … go ahead. Just get your copy from a library, a used bookstore, or Barnes and Noble’s website. Whatever you do, Do Not give Jeff fucking Bezos another fucking dime. The author, Julian Jaynes, died in 1997 so he doesn’t care one way or another.
What interested me was the idea that human consciousness is a learned process that is still developing, still evolving. Which means there must be some sort of continuum or ‘bell curve’ of consciousness. On the skinny end on the left you’ll find dimbulbs and dumbasses who are barely aware of the room temperature, then in the big bulge in the middle you’ll find just about everybody, and on the skinny end on the right you’ll find the folks who possess the most evolved human consciousness—like Swami Banananonda, Soupy Sales and Pinky Lee. But here’s something no one can argue about. Consciousness is the prerequisite for thought. You have to be able to think in order to have a thought.
Captain Obvious strikes again.
When Hannah Arendt wrote Eichmann in Jerusalem, she described Adolf Eichmann as a thoughtless man. She didn’t mean he was rude. She meant he was devoid of thought.
“Arendt’s book introduced the expression and concept of the banality of evil. Her thesis is that Eichmann was actually not a fanatic or a sociopath, but instead an extremely average and mundane person who relied on cliché defenses rather than thinking for himself …”
Eichmann was a true dumbass. In his memoir written while awaiting trial, he would contradict himself within a paragraph. He couldn’t even get through four or five sentences without tripping over his own brain. On the consciousness bell curve he’d be waaaay over on the skinny end to the left.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to start making shit up.
I say … consciousness isn’t a steady state.
I think people can fall in and out of consciousness. And when enough people—say about a third of a country—fall out of consciousness and become thoughtless … whoopsie daisy … it’s Springtime For Hitler.
The Milgram experiments began in July 1961 three months after the start of the Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. They are great examples of people turning their consciousnesses “off” because an authority figure—a man in a white lab coat—told them to continue giving electric shocks to an unresponsive subject. In Milgram’s first set of experiments, 65 percent of the participants administered the final massive 450-volt shock. They were just following orders.
Hannah Arendt showed that Eichmann wasn’t a monster, he was just an example of the banality of evil. And Stanley Milgram proved that there were tens of millions of potential Eichmanns everywhere just waiting to be told what to do.
My friend said that Norman Mailer was quoted as asking, “Can an entire country go insane?” I’ve Googled all over The Internet and can’t find any instance of Mailer having ever said that. But still … it’s a very good question that isn’t very hard to answer. Of course a country can blow its wheels. And the leader of the pack right now in 2019 seems to be The United States of America under the Republican Party and their figurehead Fucko the Clown. If I were to write some weasel words, I’d type out something like: The US appears … looks like … or … seems to have gone … insane.
The US is insane.
I’m not saying the majority of the populace has gone bull-goose loony … but enough of ‘em have. About a third of the people have blown their wheels and driven the whole goddamn place over the crazy cliff. That’s one out of three, friends and neighbors … One Out of Three.
How’s this for crazy:
Telemachus Orfanos, a 27 year old military veteran, survived the mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017 but was killed in a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks California just over a year later. Another survivor of the Las Vegas massacre, Rodolfo Arco, moved to Texas just in time to be killed in the recent mass shooting in Odessa. Survivors of a mass shooting are killed in other mass shootings. How insanely fucked up is that? These stories are horrible, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg of symptoms of nation-wide insanity.
About seven years ago Adam Peter Lanza, wielding a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, murdered twenty 6 and 7 year old kids at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. And president Barack Obama, the House and Senate … the entire goddamned government of The United States … did abso-fucking-lutely NOTHING.
That nightmare is at the top of the list of US gun insanity.
Here’s a fun statistic. When we leave Vancouver BC and drive across the border into the US, our chances of being shot go up about 500%.
I don’t want to talk about guns anymore … or the kids held in concentration camps … or Fucko the Clown … or any of the other zany high jinks the US is up to.
If I still lived in the US I think I’d take a lawn chair over to the nearest ICE headquarters and sit in it holding up a sign that said, “FUCK THESE PEOPLE.” I would do that every day and maybe someday a million people with their own lawn chairs and signs would show up. As Mario Savio said 55 years ago,
“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels … upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
That’s what I would do. I don’t know what would happen … but I have no idea what it would be like to not do it.
But I don’t live in the US anymore.
My wife and I thought it would be a good idea if our son spent the rest of his childhood, and then grew up in, a country that hadn’t gone fucking nuts. We moved up here in August, 2011. There are many ways to immigrate to Canada. The easiest for us was to have my wife go back to university and get a graduate degree. Her student visa covered our whole family. The student visa turned into a work permit and eventually we became Permanent Residents in July, 2016.
On September 5th, 2019, we became Canadian citizens. It took 8 years, 14 days, and about 12 thousand dollars for the three of us to become Canadian citizens. The best money we have spent. Ever.
I’m still an American. Reading Current Events from the US still can make my brain bleed. But I can walk outside and find myself in Beautiful British Columbia. This October we will be able to vote in the Canadian federal elections. We won’t be bystanders anymore.
For everyone still abiding in the US …
If y’all don’t take down Fucko the Clown, Republicans, and the Donor Class next year … how many of you will have to flee from the insanity of the millions of the unconscious … who dream nightmares in red white, and blue?
Regards from Up Here,
P.S. – And so ends the ex-pat chapters of “moments with Bob.” Stay tuned for upcoming Canadian election news.
After taking the Oath of Citizenship we received a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship and this letter from the Prime Minister. It’s a list of virtues and ideals that we have witnessed in practice up here, but which one by one the US has turned its back on.
As Canada’s Prime Minister, let me welcome you, as a new Canadian, to the greatest country in the world.
Throughout our history, millions of immigrants have come to Canada in search of a new beginning—a new life. Our country was built by people from all corners of the world, people of many different faiths and cultures and who speak many different languages. Today, you follow in their foot steps.
Every day, we show the world that our diversity is our greatest strength. It is at the very heart of Canada; it is who we are and what we do. In this country, it is possible to express our differences without compromising our unity.
This is the genius of Canada. We expand cultural freedom by making sure that individual Canadians who come from diverse communities have the freedom to live, express themselves and grow within our culture. Regardless of race, gender or religion, our rights and freedoms make it possible for everyone to have the same opportunity to succeed.
As Canadians, we love our country. Canada is the way it is because Canadians built it this way. None of this happened by accident, and it will not continue without effort. When you take the Oath of Citizenship, you inherit our proud history and traditions. You are now an important part of this legacy, and you share in the responsibility to uphold the values that make our country so peaceful, caring and Compassionate.
Canada is a great country because of dedicated and hard-working people like you. I look forward to the contributions you will make to your family, your community and your country.
Thank you for choosing Canada. Welcome home!
The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada