Thursday, January 30, 2020

No.3 The Divided Brain: The young, the restless, and credit card debt

Before I get into how I think young people are being forced to make decisions they are not ready for I want to continue with Dr. Iain McGilchrist and the structure of the human brain.  I left off last time by pointing out that our brains are divided, that they are asymmetrical, structured to specialize in different functions yet cooperate in all decision making (and all matters of thinking) by constant communication with each other.  But what is the mechanism that both hemispheres of the brain use for this communication? The corpus callosum. This is a weird bundle of 300-800 million neuron fibres that connect between two brain hemispheres and enable chatter back and forth.  But the most peculiar thing about these millions of fibers is that only two percent of them are specifically connecting the two halves of the brain. And even these ones are puzzling to neuroscientists.   


McGilchrist asserts that “the main purpose of a large number of these connections is to inhibit, in other words, to stop the other hemisphere from interfering”. How strange.  Why would one side of the brain want to interfere with the other side? McGilchrist gives the example that of a bird sitting on a tree branch and has spotted a grain of some sort in the rocky terrain below. The bird has used his left brain (other animals have divided brains too) to zero in on the bit of grain. The left brain is structured to be useful in the process of isolating whatever is useful to the beholder. But the left brain doesn’t act on its own.  The left brain is not the boss. The bird’s left brain sends a message to the right brain that food is right there, almost beneath its feet. The right brain demands that the left brain look at the whole picture. So the right brain signals back a caution signal…are there other birds about, friend or foe, both could mean competition for the grain, and even put the bird’s life in danger. The right brain is responsible for being able to present to the left brain the connections between a desired outcome of an action and the possible consequences. After careful surveillance, and reporting the results to the right hemisphere, the bird’s right brain signals back permission to act and the bird gets the grain without difficulty. The right brain is the boss. Or used to be.


Since the scientific revolution the left hemisphere has become very adept at ignoring the caution signals given out by the right side of the human brain.  Increasingly, as science has sought to understand nature, the necessity has arisen that even microbiota cells, in order to be studied must be isolated from their environments. Everything begins to seem to the left brain to stand alone, all by itself. No connections. No back ground checks necessary. 


Advertising and PR agencies that work for industry (including the war industries), along with government and banking have diligently studied how most human brains work and how to exploit that.  Especially anything connected with the banking and financial system. Especially credit card companies. 


Many credit card holders have recently been given a gift from their companies. A poisonous gift. Proactive credit line increases (PCLIS) happens when your credit card company increases your credit card limit without you asking for it.  They just do it automatically. And guess what?  Credit card loans are now more profitable than any other type of loan for the banks. The US banks made $179 billion on credit card fees in 2019.  Much of this was made off the backs of  young people and people already overburdened by debt and will likely miss payments which lead to high penalties (sometimes as high as 20 per cent). 


The bankers who perpetuate this scheme have no shame and have shrivelled their right brains to tiny grains of sand. They don’t give a tinker’s damn about what financial and banking practices are doing to people, or the environment or even their own future security, only their immediate self-gratification. But how does anyone, including bankers, so discard the right brain that they become impervious to anything except their own short-term gain?  


Next time.


Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Divided Brain - Part II

Okay, so the US Democrats are hell bent on impeaching President Trump.  Australia is burning while Prime Minister Scott Morrison does a good imitation of Nero fiddling around while Rome burned. This is happening while the US and Australian stock markets are going up, up, up which makes one wonder if there is any correlation at all between what is happening in the real world and that of any stock market anywhere is reporting.  And to step up the chaos, President Trump has just recently signed a bill guaranteeing the rights of American students to pray in public schools during school hours whenever the students feel the need.  


This will consolidate already existing religious tensions. I’ve been against the impeachment of Trump on two grounds, one, in my opinion there are no clear charges of a crime worthy of impeachment and secondly, if Trump is removed from office Mike Pence would immediately become president. Pence is a true believer in the second coming (of Christ returning to earth) and a staunch warmonger. Margaret Atwood in her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, may have dreamed up (or forecast) a political scenario more possible than she realized.


In my opinion Donald Trump could be described as a religion pimp in that he trades on the communal bodies of religious people for political gain. I don’t think he cares about religion himself, only how to use it, how to weaponize it in order to manipulate religious people of all faiths. Trump sends death and devastation to those Muslims he doesn’t like, such as the long suffering Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank while extending loving arms to the princes in the land  of the Wahhabis in  Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is the most extreme form of Islam, the form that stones adulterous women to death, cuts off hands for stealing, beheads and even crucifies people for a multitude of acts deemed to insult the prophet, and of course kills people and chops them up for acts considered to be treasonous. So I’ve changed my mind, I think Trump should be impeached and not for the unprovable misdemeanors he has been accused of, but for a real crime…that of deliberately creating disorder and possible rioting in the American public school systems.  


I think our world leaders, but especially the ones I know, or know of, are mostly thinking with only one side of their brains.  Which brings me again to Dr. Ian McGilchrist, the author of The Master and His Emissary. McGilchrist is a world authority in neuroscience. His book begins with elementary stuff that you probably studied in school and have long forgotten. But you probably do remember that the brain is divided into two parts, a right side and a left side, and that the sides are asymmetrical. Gilchrist instructs us that the two sides work together even though each side is  constructed to better handle certain functions than the other, that is, one side is best handling word problems for instance, or language, the other images, but the two divided sides also stand in opposition to each other.  And it is in this tension between the two different sides of the brain that our decisions are made and of course this is also where our creativity is fostered. Where humans make and remake ourselves, and in so doing, also make our collective decisions that in turn makes and remakes civilizations. But what does this tension actually consist of?  And how do the two different sides talk to each other? Next time.


January 23rd, 2020

Art by Sandusky

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Mutants


I know that you, like me, have wondered when you have time, why the world is becoming such a stinking mess.  It’s not just climate change that threatens all of human and animal habitat although this concern gets more serious every day. It isn’t even the increasing financial ruination being brought to us by corporate rule that now seems to have more power than the governments who protect them instead of us.  


 With every passing month we have less of what we need to live as a civil society.  Workers need higher wages, we all need more public and affordable housing, affordable child care, the cessation of criminal interest rates on credit cards, forgiveness for student debt, and less propaganda about inflation.  Every person entrusted with grocery buying knows that groceries seem to rise in a disgustingly regular fashion, if not daily, at least weekly.  Epidemics of dementia of all kinds stalk the elderly, cancer has become so common that some health scientists predict that one person in two in the western world will contact cancer before they die.  And this is occurring at the same time that only a handful of people, relatively speaking; own most of the wealth of the Western World. 


The elites (corporations, bankers, billionaires, media heads, military industrial complex, lobbyists for eternal wars) tell us one way or another that this is how the world works.  It’s just the way humans develop in a free economy.  You know, it is freedom that does this.  It’s Democracy. Shut up and count your blessings. The economic winners get to write the rules.   


I have been reading a book that explains, at least to my satisfaction, some of the reasons why we, the people, have allowed the social psychopaths of the elites to rise to the top of an increasingly economically miserable heap which the elites themselves have created.  The name of the book I am finding that points to the wealth and power inequality on earth that is killing us is: The Master and His Emissary:The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. The subject is about the human brain and how it works written by Dr. Iain McGilchrist.  McGilchrist has trained both as a literary scholar and as a medical doctor (psychiatry and neuroimaging researcher). 


In order to wrap our heads around the really insane proposition that the sneakiest, craftiest and cruelest people among us must be our leaders, we need to know how this happened in the first place. McGilchrist tells us that it is because the human animal has a divided brain.  However, while divided, both sides of the human brain talk to each other regularly. Except in psychopaths.  I think that our elites – our socially acceptable psychopaths - use only one side of their brain. One side of their brain has mutated and has reduced communication with the other side.  In my opinion they are, in effect, mutants. More next time.