Wednesday, July 21 2021

Quote of the Day

It was then that I realized:

Everything comes back to the nervous system.

It all comes down to stress.

What I’m doing with this horse is trauma healing.

The most profound thing I learned in this process is that trauma healing does not start with our minds.

Shelby didn’t have negative thoughts, in the way I understood them anyway.

I couldn’t have a rational conversation with him.

I couldn’t tell him he was safe because that convo didn’t exist in words.

But when we were both present in our biology we were able to communicate on an embodied level.

When it comes to YOUR inner horse (yes, you have one — we all do), you have to speak its language.

Shelby wasn’t able to tell me his story – his life before we met.

I didn’t have a story to work with, to help him process, but I had evidence of trauma that I could help him release on an embodied level.

Sukie Baxter, Put down the checklist and pick up your wand, e-mail newsletter

A little bit of everything all of the time

I cleaned out my e-mail! Not only do I feel great about that, but now I have a slew of links from newletters I was hanging on to because they could have something interesting in them. Here we go….


The Pygmalion Effect: Proving Them Right

Instead, Clever Hans had learned to detect subtle yet consistent nonverbal cues. When someone asked a question, Clever Hans responded to their body language with a degree of accuracy many poker players would envy. For example, when someone asked Clever Hans to make a calculation, he would begin tapping his hoof. Once he reached the correct answer, the questioner would show involuntary signs. Pfungst found that many people tilted their head at this point. Clever Hans would recognize this behavior and stop.

When blinkered or when the questioner did not know the answer, the horse didn’t have a clue. When he couldn’t see the cues, he had no answer. People believed the horse understood them, so they effectively made it possible. Subtle cues in our behavior influence what other people are capable of. The horse was obviously unusually smart, but no one would have known if he hadn’t been given the opportunity to display it. Which raises the question: what unimagined things could we all be capable of if someone simply expected them?

The Pygmalion effect suggests our reality is negotiable and can be manipulated by others—on purpose or by accident. What we achieve, how we think, how we act, and how we perceive our capabilities can be influenced by the expectations of those around us.

Interesting. Is this the part of systemic racism we don’t tend to see and have the worst time quantifying and changing? If you believe someone is capable, wouldn’t you give them every opportunity you could to live up to that potential? But if you don’t believe they are capable, then why expend the resources? Man, people are the worst.


I’m Not Scared to Reenter Society. I’m Just Not Sure I Want To.

I was kind of interested in this article because I have for years been having trouble establishing routines, and I just about got the trick of it during the end of the pandemic. But now with appointments and relationships to tend and nurture, I seem to be losing the thread a bit. But then I started reading the actual article and it seems to just be a reinforcement of that fiction vs YA meme.


How equality slipped away: For 97 per cent of human history, all people had about the same power and access to goods. How did inequality ratchet up?

Since the elites are massively outnumbered, the origins and stability of unequal divisions of the cake are puzzling, especially once we realise that this is a very recent aspect of our social existence. Our particular species of humans has been around for about 300,000 years and, best as we can tell, for about 290,000 of those years we lived materially poorer but much more equal lives. For most of our life as a species, most communities lived as mobile foragers, shifting camps when local resources became scarce, but probably sticking to a regular pattern over a defined territory.

Farming and storage make inequality possible, perhaps even likely, because they tend to undermine sharing norms, establish property rights and the coercion of labour, amplify intercommunal violence, and lead to increases in social scale.

First, let’s consider storage, sharing and property. For mobile foragers, sharing is insurance. Hunting especially is very chancy, requiring both luck and skill, so it’s adaptive to share if you succeed today, on condition that others share with you when you fail. Targeting plants and small animals is more of a sure bet, though in some forager communities even these are shared, as the social rewards of generosity are important, and the social costs of refusing are high since the intimacy of forager camps makes success hard to conceal.

Storage, however, tends to erode sharing. Storing, like sharing, is a way of managing risk, and farmers are more likely to store than to share. Variation in supply within the community is likely to flow from variation in commitment and effort, not differences in luck. Local bad luck – unfavourable weather, a plague of pests – will probably affect everyone in a community, which makes sharing a poor form of insurance. It’s to my advantage to share with you, if my good years are your bad ones, and vice versa (so long, of course, as you return the favour). Not so if we’re both having it tough at the same time, as we have no surplus to share; and not so if we both have good years together, as then we don’t need one another.

Crop farming is also arduous and time-consuming. The returns are low, per hour worked, and no one has ever thought subsistence farmers made affluent societies. Land must be cleared, weeded, protected, improved, sometimes watered. These efforts must be maintained for years, not just months. It would simply be a bad idea for people to commit to these efforts without something like property rights. …

Storage opens the door to coerced labour. Sedentary collectors sometimes keep slaves, but mobile foragers don’t. Foraging, even when it’s not large-game hunting, depends on high levels of autonomy and skill. Foragers spend their time alone, or in groups of three or four, half a day’s walk from camp. Autonomous, small-party searching is essential to the efficient use of territory. As a consequence, the economic challenge of coercive supervision of mobile foraging is insurmountable since you’d need as many guards as slaves.

A farmer’s food supply isn’t as balanced and healthy as forager foods. But there’s certainly more food. An increase in community size matters, for many of the social mechanisms that keep alphas in check in forager communities are scale-dependent. They depend on intimacy and trust.

Bottom line: egalitarian, cooperative human communities are possible. Widespread sharing and consensus decision-making aren’t contrary to ‘human nature’ (whatever that is). Indeed, for most of human history we lived in such societies. But such societies are not inherently stable. These social practices depend on active defence. That active defence failed, given the social technologies available, as societies increased in scale and economic complexity. 

Kim Sterelny

I don’t know if I like this emerging pattern of information about predator and prey that seems to be dropping into my life, but here we are. I have been thinking about what an egalitarian society would actually really look like, so maybe that can’t be considered without solving the predator / prey problem.


Heat Waves and Drought in the Western U.S.

A list of media covering the climate change weather in the West, collated by Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.


Social Media Is Killing Discourse Because It’s Too Much Like TV

This is an older article, and we now know that social media is even more insidious than just the normal not exploitative reasons. But this quote struck me:

Neil Postman provided some clues about this in his illuminating 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show BusinessThe media scholar at New York University saw then how television transformed public discourse into an exchange of volatile emotions that are usually mistaken by pollsters as opinion. One of the scariest outcomes of this transition, Postman wrote, is that television essentially turns all news into disinformation. “Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information—misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information—information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing … The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.” (Emphasis added.) And, Postman argued, when news is constructed as a form of entertainment, it inevitably loses its function for a healthy democracy. “I am saying something far more serious than that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?”


The clever folds that kept letters secret

I feel like this article might be useful someday. Or it won’t.


Sixty years of climate change warnings: the signs that were missed (and ignored)

This is long and I’ll want to read it some day that is not today.