TED: Ethan Nadelmann

‘Nuff said, actually.

Capn Drift's Blog

Yesterday was the 100 year anniversary of the Harrison Tax Act of 1914. I was doing a bit of research on the subject (surfing) when I came across this TED talk.

Now, I’m sure Ethan’s a bit of a controversial character, most any “activist” is. I don’t care much to get into the cat’s views, opinions or methods. This ‘talk’ however I found very compelling.

The guy is voicing my thought on the War on Drugs to a tee. The talk is 17 1/2 minutes long and in my opinion well worth the time. Check it out

TED: Nadelmann

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The Secret (aka the “law of attraction”)

I was cajoled into watching The Secret. Here’s a little back story so you understand why I watched it. Identities have been changed to protect the innocent. 8^)

I mentioned, rather casually, that I’m likely to be dead in 4 years because that’s the statistical median amount of time between diagnosis of my type of cancer and death. Don’t take that the wrong way, though. I have a very benign type of cancer: indolent follicular lymphoma. It kills people. But since it’s indolent, there’s plenty of “survivors” among us. I only use the statistics when the conversation might be more useful with a little reminder to be mindful and live in the present.

But my friend immediately responded by mentioning “the power of the mind”, in particular the importance of a good attitude to survival. I agreed, somewhat, and tried to be clearer, talking about how important it is to be present in whatever situation you happen to find yourself rather than pining for counterfactuals. He then clarified his point and insisted that the mind has more power to heal the body than we think and explicitly cited The Law of Attraction, which I’ll abbreviate to LoA. I was a bit shocked because he had just finished expressing his disdain for organized religion and all their made up beliefs. To me, a metaphysical claim like the LoA is not merely religious but one of the more insidious forms of it.

In any case, I tried to compromise and admitted that people who tend to think positively will tend to dwell on the good things that happen to them and spend less time worrying about the bad things, which can facilitate the achievement of one’s objectives. By contrast, those who dwell on the bad things that happen to them risk a downward spiral (as well as being unpleasant to be around).

In the end, my friend (and his SO) insisted that I watch “The Secret”, which they claim was very convincing to them. I don’t put a premium on my time. So, I agreed. I watched it the other evening. Here are my notes:

  • Thoughts have a (unique) frequency
    • Here they show an EEG
  • When you think that thought you emit that freq
  • law of attraction doesn’t hear that you don’t want some thing… it only hears the thing
  • Focusing on what you dislike yields more of what you dislike and the opposite as well… but they specify no mechanism
  • John Hagelin – quantum physicist
  • Fred Alan Wolf – quantum physicist
  • “No one knows what electricity is.” – Bob Proctor philosopher
  • Its been proven scientifically that a positive thought is 100 times more powerful than a negative thought. – Michael Beckwith – visionary
  • Your thoughts cause your feelings. – bob proctor
  • Every tradition has told us that theres something bigger than us. – James Arthur Ray philosopher
  • The universe will start to rearrange itself to give you what you want.
  • they seem to imply that you don’t have to plan for stepping stones along the way… only envision the possibly distant end goal.
  • Telling quote “what can you do rightnoe to turn your life around?”-Joe Vitale – metaphysician
    • Indicates that they’re targeting the vulnerable.
  • “Turn it over to the universe…”
  • Cathy Goodman claims to have healed her cancer in 3 months without radiation or chemo !!!
  • Disease cannot live in a body thats in a healthy emotional state. Bob Proctor
  • The anti war movement has created more war. The anti drug movement creates more drugs.
  • Often elections are tipped in the direction of the person people arebreally against because hes getting all the attention and all the focus. – Hale Dwoskin author
  • The “limited resources” lie.
    • Indicates they’re relying on some form of the abundance argument.

As usual, I quit taking notes after awhile. So, what you see above is mostly from the first half or so of the show. Now, there are lots of things I could say about this thing. But I want to sum up the positive take away first. Basically,

  • you are responsible for your current state
  • focusing on a situation will make it more achievable and more recognizable
  • you, if anyone, are the only one who can control how you react to some situation

I personally believe that if we could get everyone to act according to those 3 tenets, the world would be a better place. So, to that extent, this … video … is a good thing. But the problem comes in two forms: 1) the mechanism they sorta kinda propose — thoughts emanating from you into the universe and the universe being your slave-like djinn and 2) the risk for catastrophic error about how the universe actually works. (1) is only relevant for people who care about reality and how it actually works. I’d say roughly half the people I know care about that. The other half just want it to work according to some fictional mythos they understand. That includes many scientists, by the way, who think they understand how science works and think talking about how it works is a philosophical waste of time. They just don’t care. For that half that doesn’t care about ontological truth, a recipe for how to think and behave like the LoA may be just fine. In many ways, it’s much better than the horrifying 10 Commandments, for example.

However, (2) is much more important. And the most important error involved, I think, is the risk of victim blaming. It’s a matter of fact that some people, regardless of their attitude or ability to project their will onto the universe, are unlucky. They die in an earthquake or are horribly damaged (brain, spine, etc.) by acts of the gods or nefarious actors like Islamic State militants. The Secret tells us that these victims brought their fate upon themselves because they just didn’t think hard enough, long enough, or in the right way about the outcomes they wanted. Or, a more personal example, when I die of lymphoma, it’ll be because I didn’t take this … video … seriously enough. 8^)

The more immediate problem in category (2), however, is the trap my friend (and his SO) have been caught in. No matter what happens to them, they will never have the ability to falsify the LoA. When good things happen to them, they will claim it’s their doing. When bad things happen to them, they will blame themselves. The only way out of this trap (for them) is to disbelieve the LoA. And, to be honest, that scares me a little bit and makes me want to punish the predators who advocate it.

As a side note, watching the video was important. You don’t get the “pyramid scheme” feeling when you simply read about the LoA on wikipedia or somesuch. But when you see the video, it looks and feels EXACTLY like all the self-help, get rich quick, pitches that parade by on infomercials, at “seminars”, at big box bookstores, etc. These people are selling a product. And the product they’re selling is more evil than any pharmaceutical, any multi-level marketing scheme, or any religion. They’re selling justificationism – the idea that the truth of something depends on how you rationalize believing in that truth.

The universe is not your enslaved djinn. I wish you all the best of luck. But if you turn around and claim your luck is an effect caused by your “right actions” or positive attitude, then I really have nothing of substance to say to you. I just have to stop with “Good luck with that!”