Monday, October 27, 2014

Self-Image-Incongruence Theory of Individual Health

By Denis G. Rancourt

Here, I propose a unifying model of individual health [1]. My other exploratory reports about the causes of ill-health include: [2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9].

This article was first published on October 26, 2014, at Dissident Voice [LINK].

Introductory background: Dominance-aggression-stress model of individual health

One of the most satisfying and penetrating models of individual health in animal communities is the model that can be said to have been clearly described in Sapolsky's 2005 review [10]. In this model -- supported by behavioral observations, bio-chemical measurements, physiological evaluations, and correlational studies --  dominance-hierarchy stress on a low-stratum individual directly affects the immune system, which makes the individual more susceptible to ill-health from infections, cancer, and hearth and other diseases.

A compelling body of work in this area has shown a direct link between being subjected to acts of dominance aggression and a negative impact on the individual's immune system, as measured by blood bio-chemical markers. Thus, in human populations, socioeconomic status is found to be the dominant predictor of individual health, far outranking differences of access to resources or differences in lifestyle. (This is contrary to the mainstream policy mantras about healthy lifestyles and healthy consumer choices. These public policy proscriptions do not survive scientific scrutiny.)

There is also a wide spectrum of individual-to-individual immune-system responses (or negative health consequences) for the same degree of dominance aggression. This large variability is inferred from the data to occur from "psychosocial factors" related to the individual's own perception or feeling of self-worth ("feeling poor"); and, again, is shown to not be due to differences of access to resources or to differences in lifestyle [10].

For example, low-strata individuals in more stratified societies (with larger income inequalities) are less healthy than low-strata individuals in less stratified societies, for the same access to resources and services.

Overall, these findings led researchers to propose that the individual's status in the dominance hierarchy of the society is the dominant health determinant -- via the metabolic immune-system's response to stressors -- but that the impact on the particular individual's health is also heavily modulated by that individual's "perception" of his/her/its social status or feeling of self-worth.

In summary, the above-described "dominance-aggression-stress model of individual health" proposes that individual health is predicted by a kind of "product" (O*P) of the objective social status (O) of the individual and the subjective (or perceived) social status (P) of the individual, in the dominance hierarchy [11].

Weakness of the dominance-aggression-stress model of individual health

Despite its basis in observations and its unifying capacity, the dominance-aggression-stress model suffers from conceptual difficulties, from a deficit of theoretical elegance.

If "O" alone is not determinant of individual health, then why should we believe that it is the actual physical and circumstantial events of dominance aggression against the individual that directly cause the stress and immune-system consequences? After all, "stress" is an internal metabolic reaction that does not follow a simple causal law, as does a reflex.

Likewise, if perceived status (P) is an important -- sometimes dominant -- modulating factor, then is that not simply too much of an arbitrary "fudge factor", in that "perception" itself is a complex phenomenon modulated by the individual's entire history and current physiological state, and by situational illusions?

Furthermore, "P" cannot be measured because it is subjective and not separately quantifiable, thus making the model untestable, a most undesirable feature of any model.

Proposed self-image-incongruence model of individual health

Here is an alternative model, which is also consistent with all the data. This model is based on a more holistic psychological model of the individual, and avoids the requirement for a product of factors in defining the final (dominant) determinant of individual health.

For the sake of clear exposition, I start by postulating without proof that an individual animal in a dominance hierarchy is constantly preoccupied with self-evaluation of its status within the dominance hierarchy; that is, preoccupied with its self-image that is predominantly about how it is recognized by others and its place "in the world".

I postulate that this is a continuous and consuming activity, and that the individual animal is predominantly concerned with evaluating and securing its status in the society, a status which is necessarily changing -- as individuals age, as power alliances evolve, as mating targets change, as the habitat changes, and so on.

The individual's self-image must largely concur with the evolving reality, as a question of survival. "Consciousness" itself is largely a project of maintaining awareness of status. The "Ego" requires constant attention, and consumes a large fraction of the individual's metabolic energy. (In humans, the brain consumes approximately 20% of metabolic energy, although it comprises only some 2% of body mass.)

As long, as the individual's self-image is consistent with the reality of the individual's place within the society's dominance hierarchy, and as long as the self-image adapts to the changing circumstances, things are fine. The individual has assigned-and-acknowledged purpose and meaning.

The problem (leading to deleterious health consequences) occurs when there is an identity incongruence that cannot easily be internally or externally resolved. Something changes: a "life-changing" event occurs that throws the individual into a "self-image crisis".

Such events are frequent and varied in intensity. There is a full spectrum of possible events that range from requiring only minor adjustments in self-image, or that cause minor identity incongruences that can be overlooked, to events that throw the individual into a debilitating self-image or identity crisis.

Examples of events on the spectrum of "life-changing" events include:
  • having one's expressed position or belief challenged, when that is usually infrequent
  • being made fun of at work, when that is not the norm
  • being reprimanded by a supervisor, when that is usually infrequent
  • being socially mobbed as undesirable, as a new development
  • being disproportionately targeted by authorities (such as a well-meaning and unintentional whistleblower) 
  • being "unfairly" treated by an institution, when one expects fair treatment
  • loosing one's family status (due to a birth, or divorce, and so on)
  • losing one's middle-class status
  • losing one's working-class status
  • losing one's citizen status
  • being shunned and expelled from one's religious community
  • being criminalized, when that possibility was not likely
When such events occur that cause incongruence between self-image and reality, there is a primal psycho-metabolic reaction, there is "stress", and the individual's primary task becomes to resolve the (micro or macro) identity crisis.

The resolution can be external. That is, the resolution can be achieved through the individual's actions to change the external circumstances, to change the world.

To the degree that action is possible, undertaken, and successful, the deleterious effects on health are minimized. The individual will typically seek to reestablish his/her status, without overhauling his/her self-image, for which there would be a tremendous cost.

Regarding the said cost, "depression" and "burnout" may, in many cases, be the required meltdowns that accompany overhauling one's self-image, in the face of impossibility to achieve successful action to change the world. As such, a given depression can be successful or it can be a failure. It is successful if a satisfactory new self-image is achieved that is consistent with the individual's new reality. (In this model, clearly, medicating-away the symptoms of depression -- by self-medicating or via medical-establishment prescriptions -- is the worst possible avenue for the individual.)

The actions used by the individual to attempt to reestablish identity congruence can include:
  • arguing with one's critic, or attempting to intimidate critics
  • avoiding critics, and avoiding groups that include critics
  • taking recourse against abusers, or against unfair supervisors
  • changing one's behaviours in attempts to secure acceptance
  • attacking the ring-leaders of mobbing groups
  • seeking support from new circles, and outside associations
  • going to the next level in the hierarchy to seek redress
  • seeking the help of a different institution, such as an ombudsman or an elected official
  • creating a new family
  • seeking re-employment
  • joining a new religion, or community, or sect, or gang
  • voluntary isolation and evasion or avoidance, including using psycho-active substances and repulsive behaviours
  • suicide
During the entire identity or self-image incongruence crisis, the individual is suffering the most impact to its immune system and is most vulnerable to negative health consequences, including coronary heart disease and cancer, the two predominant causes of death in First World nations. Coronary heart disease, infectious diseases and pulmonary infections are the dominant causes of death in Third World countries. For all the dominant causes of death, immune system response is the main protection.

During the entire self-image incongruence crisis, the individual's metabolic thrust and energy is dedicated to resolving the crisis. There is an existential imbalance of the highest order. The resulting "stress" can be fruitfully turned to action, or the action can be thwarted or ineffective. In the case of prevented or failed actions, the "stress" from the self-image incongruence does not dissipate, and suppression of the immune system lingers until the identity crisis is resolved, one way or another.

These are the circumstances -- prolonged and unresolved self-image incongruence -- that create the most devastating consequences on individual health, not to mention individual spirit and morale.

Thus, I propose that the stress of self-image incongruence affects the immune system directly and is the principle cause of ill-health of the individual. In particular, a self-image-incongruence crisis -- brought on by a dramatic change in the individual's social status and that is not successfully being resolved by action -- is all-consuming and throws the individual into a state of high vulnerability to infections, disease, and self-destruction.

Evasive tactics of escapism maintain the crisis, and ill-health itself provides a further barrier to attempting corrective actions. There is a steady-state of precariousness, or a downward spiral towards hospitalization and death, if the crisis is not resolved. Resolution can involve the demanding process of overhauling self-image, possibly aided by a depression "of passage". 

I my model, therefore, it is not the dominance aggressions in themselves that cause immune system weakening, but rather dominance aggressions representing or accompanying a loss of social status of the aggressed individual, relative to its self-image of its social status, that cannot easily be resolved. Thus, the observed correlations in animal studies between biochemically measured stress levels and social rank arises because lower-rank animals are more subjected to challenges to their rank and privileges, and less able to resolve these challenges. Lower-rank animals are more often reminded by dominance aggression that they do not have the priviledges that they see themselves having, and are less equipped to do something about it.

Indeed, for example, my proposal naturally explains why high-rank individuals often also suffer from high stress levels objectively measured by biochemical and physiological indicators [10]:

"In some cases, it is dominant individuals who show this profile. This includes species where dominant individuals have to repeatedly and physically reassert their rank (e.g., feral populations of dwarf mongooses, African wild dogs, female ring-tailed lemurs, and male chimpanzees) (12, 13, 39); those that are cooperative breeders (feral wolves and captive marmosets and tamarins) (16, 21); and those with transient periods of major rank instability (feral baboons and captive populations of talapoin, squirrel, and rhesus monkeys) (22)."

In other words, having to "repeatedly assert rank" is stressful whether the individual is in a high rank or a low rank. In both cases, the dominance-hierarchy aggression challenges the congruence between self-image about social status and actual social status. Of course, a high-rank individual will have more possible avenues of effective action to resolve the said incongruence, thus contributing to preserving the correlation between rank and health.

From the perspective of species survival, the individual suffering from a debilitating identity crisis may as well die. One could argue that from an evolutionary standpoint the downward spiral that can lead to the individual's death is a mechanism to rid the community of a burden. It is also possible that depression and temporary illnesses are tools developed through evolution to help repair massive identity crises, to bring the individual back into the fold.

As an aside, in human societies, my model implies that mass media and institutional indoctrination which set high societal status expectations can induce increased self-image incongruence, thereby reducing public health. If "comparison with the Jones" is amplified by mass media, including advertizing and the entertainment industry, then self-image incongruence can be created en masse and the health consequences can take on epidemic proportions.


If we accept that conscious living beings rely on self-image about social status and place in the world for decision making in view of survival and reproduction, then this self-image must be maintained in order to be dynamically congruent with the changing world, and with any changes in social status of the individual.

Furthermore, self-image must be strongly imbedded onto the individual because it is necessary for decision making and because identity must be quasi-permanent to ensure continuity of the communal structure. Perpetuated or stable self-image of the individual is necessary for any stable social structure.

Likewise, normal development must include development of a strong self-image congruent with reality, or the individual will suffer a constant background identity crisis that will impede its health and its integration in the dominance hierarchy, until development is achieved.

Thus, a crisis of self-image congruency (induced by a major change in social environment) is a major episode affecting the individual at a deep and all-consuming psycho-metabolic level. Such a crisis must be resolved. Otherwise, the individual is effectively paralyzed by having lost its internal decisional reference.

I have proposed that individual health is determined by self-image congruency, rather than the life aggressions themselves in a dominance hierarchy, and that intensity and duration of self-image incongruency -- intensity of the identity crisis -- is the overriding risk factor for succumbing to ill-health and death.
My model places personal psychology as the dominant ingredient of the health sphere, and is anchored on known impacts of experienced stress on the immune system.


[1] I have greatly benefited from interactions with graduate research students working in the area of public health theory. With one student, I had the benefit of discussions about her data from voluntary research participants, and its interpretation.

[2] Rancourt, Denis G., Two Authors that Medical Schools Avoid, Activist Teacher, September 22, 2013.

[3] Rancourt, Denis G., Do medical doctors improve health?, Activist Teacher, September 9, 2013.

[4] Rancourt, Denis G., On the individual psychology of food: Against calorie management, Activist Teacher, August 30, 2012.

[5] Rancourt, Denis G., A Theory of Chronic Pain -- A social and evolutionary theory of human disease and chronic pain, Dissident Voice, December 26, 2011.

[6] Rancourt, Denis G., Why should I trust a doctor with my body?, Activist Teacher, November 24, 2011.

[7] Rancourt, Denis G., Is establishment medicine an injurious scam?, Activist Teacher, November 21, 2011.

[8] Rancourt, Denis G., On the sociology of medical meta-science: Exposing the Truth supports the Lie, Activist Teacher, November 16, 2011.

[9] Rancourt, Denis G.,  Anti-smoking culture is harmful to health - On the truth problem of public health management, Activist Teacher, April 5, 2011.

[10] Sapolsky, Robert M., The Influence of Social Hierarchy on Primate Health, Science 29 April 2005: Vol. 308 no. 5722 pp. 648-652, DOI: 10.1126/science.1106477

[11] Mathematically, one can visualize this as the function of dominance-aggression intensity versus time "convoluted" with the function of perception response to the dominance-aggression events versus time, with the convolution function integrated over the life-time of the individual to produce the final individual health determinant factor, or individual's "health state" at present (at time to which the integration is performed).

Dr. Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications of physics education research (TVO Interview). He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israel lobby on that institution, which fired him for a false pretext in 2009: LINK

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Canada's CBC is adamant on being worthless -- Canada's war against the Syrian people

Canada is engaged in a new war in Syria and Iraq, in addition to its war in Afghanistan, and the CBC simply will not provide the Canadian public with any balanced reporting about facts on the ground, or any actual reporting. Just look at the retarded headlines being featured in this time of war: CBC-link.

The whole World can see what is immediately obvious to any objective reader of the verifiable evidence:

Yet, the CBC insists on being irrelevant and refuses to cover the most glaring facts on the ground.

At the very least, some anchor could say "Press TV reports that", and then spend some resources looking into it. Here is today's glaring example:

Good job CBC. All who work at the state corporation can be proud.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Response to Tim Moen's response on the nature of politics

By Denis G. Rancourt, PhD

This blogpost is a response to Libertarian Party of Canada leader Tim Moen's October 8, 2014 blogpost entitled "Response to Activist Teacher", which was a response to my blogpost of October 7, 2014, entitled "On what libertarian leader Tim Moen has learned", which was a critique of Tim Mohen's August 26, 2014 blogpost "10 Lessons I Learned Running for Parliament".

The exchange of criticisms and challenges has been cordial and authentic, so I now take the liberty of using a first-names basis.

Tim's closing sentence is 
"I look forward to a continued dialogue with Professor Rancourt in a respectful dialogue that is concerned more with arriving at truth than about propagating a particular world view or conclusion."

Each of my statements, no matter how emphatically expressed, is advanced as a challenge to best test my own developing ideas, or to cause cognitive dissonance in order to enrich the exchange. I admit that in order to achieve these aims of communication, I often use simplifications, generalizations, and exaggerations, but where my goal is always to capture the essence and to dig deeper.

If you can't engage with a libertarian in this way, then who can you have such a conversation with now that Socrates is dead?

In this response, I want to concentrate on the main aspects of Tim's beliefs about the nature of politics, with which I disagree. We cannot both be right, and we may both be wrong.

Some complaints

But before I do that, I want to complain about a few attributions that Tim suggested could reasonably be made about me, as follows.

1. Tim compared my analysis to Chomsky's.

I agree that some of Chomsky's analyses of geopolitics and Chomsky's analysis of the media are brilliant, but I do NOT agree with being compared to Chomsky.

I have written an article entitled "Against Chomsky" explaining why I think Chomsky does more harm than good. In that 2008 article, I propose that Chomsky is what I have called a "service intellectual" and I explain how his view of political activism helps to support the status quo.

In fact, Chomsky's belief about how social change occurs, which I criticize, is closely related to Tim's expressed belief about the mechanism of social change in politics (see below).

2. Tim states: "Rancourt would likely posit that there exists power structures that inform behaviour and control people. He would probably suggest that wealth distribution and corporate power are the root cause of our ills."

Well, I certainly do believe that there are power structures and that these structures "inform behaviour" and exercise control on people. Guilty as charged. However, I do NOT suggest or believe that "wealth distribution and corporate power are the root cause of our ills".

3. Tim states: "What do neo-cons and climate activists have in common? They all have the belief that there is a deficiency of violence being used against individuals that they have strong opinions about, and that if the right amount of violence was used against the right people we would have peace and flourishing. I am not sure if Professor Rancourt subscribes to this theory of peace and flourishing but I am skeptical of it."

I agree with Tim's characterization of neo-cons and climate lobbyists.

My position on climate lobbyists is best expressed in this media interview I gave in 2007, entitled "Questioning Climate Politics - Denis Rancourt says the “global warming myth” is part of the problem". I have gone on to repeatedly bash global warming alarmism in the media as a vehicle to legitimize installing a carbon economy by force, at the service of -- you guessed it -- a certain "power structure". My articles and media interviews on this are listed HERE.

Of course I do NOT "subscribes to this theory of peace and flourishing".

Indeed, I expressed what I believe, and Tim ignored it in his response. Maybe that is the part that Tim finds "an inflammation of abstractions (abstractitis) prevalent here that prevents clear thinking"? Here is what I said (referencing my book):

"Systems spontaneously and mechanically evolve towards heightened hierarchical control, which is delayed and set back when the subjects find strong individual and collective impulses to partially break free. This is a constant historical battle in all human societies. Revolutionary gains towards more freedom and personal agency can be achieved either violently or non-violently, depending on the societal circumstances. The only nexus of resistance and push-back against increasing undemocratic dominance is the individual rebellion of liberation. There is a constant battle between the human impulse to be free and influential on the one hand, and the societal forces to heighten the dominance hierarchy on the other hand."

What Tim believes that I think is incorrect

Beliefs define individual behaviour and government

I think Tim's view that has emerged is as follows:

  • Individuals, whether wage labourers or CEOs of corporation have beliefs. These beliefs determine their actions. These beliefs can be irrational and lead to initializing violence against others or they can be rational libertarian beliefs that lead to respecting the freedoms of others without ever initializing violence.

  • The liberty politician or freedom activist can succeed in helping individuals to acquire rational libertarian beliefs, via inspiration, example, political success, and discourse. If 10% of the population acquires an unshakable belief in liberty concepts then there will be a chain reaction to a majority public opinion in favour of the liberty ideals.

  • Governments, by virtue of politicians needing to be elected, and by virtue of politicians themselves being individuals with beliefs, will follow this new paradigm and society will evolve towards libertarian ideals. Government will shrink of its own making and corporations will voluntarily lose their unfair advantages compared to true free enterprise.

Therefore, Tim argues, it's all about changing wrong beliefs of the individuals into liberty beliefs of the individuals and societal change will follow from that.

The problem with this theory of social change is that it is almost certainly a fantasy. Humans have had approximately one million years of the free market of ideas and there has never been a 10% flipping point of opinion that, on its own, caused an unjust system (yes, a "power structure") to dissolve itself towards human liberty.

This fantasy has many forms, so Tim is not alone.

In one form it is stated as "the pen is mightier than the sword". In this form, the model is that a really good idea about human liberty cannot not propagate, and will ultimately, on its own, overthrow brutal rule by force. Here again, the written word has been around for a very long time, and many great ideas have been penned, but this has not provided humans with liberty.

Another form of this fantasy is the form preferred by the Left and advanced by Chomsky. It goes like this: "We have great ideas and theories that would make the world more just. Therefore, we must "educate" the public about our ideas. The answer is education. We must "organize" to "educate" more and more. Teach-ins, sit-ins, documentary films, speakers, university courses, etc. A thus informed public will vote wisely and will expect accountability from politicians."

Another variant of the fantasy on the Left is known as pacifism or "non-violent resistance". Here the great idea is that we will defend our freedom by lying down in front of the bulldozers. Some have proposed that this approach, on its own, had success in India under the leadership of Gandhi. However, that interpretation of India's history has been debunked by Professor Ward Churchill in his book "Pacifism as Pathology".

Now I know that libertarians would not lie down in front of bulldozers, but that is not the point. Also, it is interesting to note that Gandhi himself supported open carry, of a sort. In the fight against the British invader, Ghandi himself wrote: "we are soldiers of nonviolence, who, if the occasion demands, will lay down their lives for it. Our nonviolence is not a mere policy of the coward. […] It is a thousand times better that we die trying to acquire the strength of arm[s]. Using physical force with courage is far superior to cowardice. At least we would have attempted to act like men."

The point is that social change has never occurred anywhere from the mere fact alone of changing individual beliefs about freedom. All the known episodes of social change towards increased freedom have involved real circumstances of revolt, whether students on campuses, workers on factory floors or in mines, soldiers in mutiny or defecting, and so on. Political parties capitalized on and managed the change but did not create the change by creating beliefs.

The Libertarian Party of Canada will have growth because people are truly fed up but people are not fed up because they developed a new belief about freedom. Ron Paul is alive first-and-foremost because freedom and democracy have died, not because there has been an awakening of beliefs.

Beliefs are parasites to the reality of the circumstances. Beliefs are malleable and adjust to provide justification for an individual's solution, and a solution must be adopted in action and behaviour to the extent that there is a problem. Face-saving and self-image are necessary but they are secondary to interest and to power relations. Beliefs are not the tail that wags the dog, when it come to the actions of people. Real and perceived necessity and social relations of support and of power are the determinants.

The battle is about real power struggles. People need work, mobility, meaningful influence, freedom, social ties, and so on. We adopt any mental framework to justify either our inability to obtain what we need or our actions in obtaining what we want. Beliefs are subservient to our actual actions in the physical and social circumstances of our lives. That is why virtually everybody's beliefs are incoherent and full of contradictions. Just look at a string of comments on Facebook or YouTube.

CEOs are people too

Tim states: "There seems to be an argument propagated that people are helpless and devoid of agency in the face of manufactured consent and I think this isn't helpful and in a lot of ways its insulting because it imagines that poor and middle-class people are less capable of revising their own beliefs than those considered to be the elite. Imagining that politicians or CEO's are someone outside the paradigm and recognize it and manipulate it while others are helplessly immersed and blind to it seems unlikely. I think its more likely that the individuals that comprise the so-called ruling class are as immersed in the system of delusion as everyone else and unconsciously appeal to authority to maximize their own benefit just like everyone else."

The simplest level of analysis is to posit that others think and are motivated just like us. That is valid at the level of basic needs and desires, but it is not valid in comparing the political sophistication or knowledge of people in different social dominance classes. It is undeniable that there are social dominance classes and that the class structure is much more stratified than simply "ruling class" and the rest of us.

A major stock holder that owns controlling interests in a global corporate empire that wields more resources than most national states on the planet does not move in the same circles as the average billionaire. The chairs of boards that control the global financial institutions and the Federal Reserve don't move in the same spheres as lowly Congressmen and Congresswomen. And so on. At every level, in each stratum of the hierarchy, each person knows his/her place.

Contrary to Tim's proposal, of course a CEO has a very different view of the world than a member of the middle class. This is a direct consequence of the fact that the CEO has a much better view of the actual workings of the system. To the CEO, the items we are debating are not even a subject of debate, because he/she exercises a much higher level of power than any of us, on a daily basis.

It's the difference between calling the publisher of the New York Times to get coverage you need versus wondering the extent to which the media is simply following free market news-worthiness principles... It's the difference between knowing on a daily basis how the media gets directed versus Chomsky having to painstakingly prove from end-result observations that the media is directed. And so on.

If libertarians are going to seek political leverage yet will insist on being blind to social dominance class structure, then their political instrument will not be an instrument of better information and of projected influence. It will turn into an instrument of management of the "libertarian problem". It's the Conservatives that have a "libertarian problem". At the same time, the Conservatives is where the "libertarian problem" has the most leverage.

Even if it's not true, it's practical

Tim states: "There is no denying that it is highly profitable to have people subscribe to irrational beliefs and so people in a position to profit from irrational beliefs (ie politicians, corporate owners, tenured professors) tend to become self-interested apologists for these beliefs. But it is short-sighted to suggest that the root cause of the problem is that people who profit from irrational beliefs reinforce them, and I don’t think it gets us anywhere."

Well, first, I don't believe that "the root cause of the problem is that people who profit from irrational beliefs reinforce them" since I don't believe that beliefs are the tail that wag the person-dog (as explained above). Never mind. So, Tim insists on beliefs as a "root cause", agrees that these beliefs may adjust to suit class advantages, but decides that it is pragmatic to retain his theory of social change nonetheless -- that beliefs determine personal actions and government when those beliefs pass a tipping point (the Left calls it "critical mass"); otherwise "I don't think it gets us anywhere", as he states.

On the face of it, it seems clear that Tim has a strong belief (hopefully not "unshakable") in his theory of social change, and that he insists on using this model to guide his political strategy.

It also appears to me that Tim is not keen on any political confrontations that will produce backlash: "Yikes! I hope nobody nails me to a cross. I hope my wife doesn’t read this or she may make me quit." I believe that real backlash is the only reliable measure that one has shown potential to leverage some change from the power structure. There is no such thing as a confrontationless battle to significantly change society. The task cannot be achieved by a clever take-over using beliefs as a Trojan horse. Instead it is partially achieved by every actual battle. Tim knows this but he is hoping that the battles need not be more than scoring soft public opinion points in a gentleman's game.

Government fetish

Tim states: "[...] The state is a corporation from whence all other corporations are birthed. It is the pen-ultimate umbrella corporation and its only product is initiatory force. [...] The minute you have any group organize around the use of initiatory force you immediately set up the conditions and the incentives for everybody to struggle for control of that force. The wealthy stand a much better chance of buying this power, that is true, but I think it is a mistake to say that this makes them inherently more culpable than anyone else. They are only able to buy that power because we want a corporation that monopolizes violence called the state."

First, I would never say that the "wealthy" are "inherently more culpable than anyone else", because such a statement again abstracts-away the all-important societal-dominance hierarchy. It's like we are all equal individuals in terms of access to structural power but some are wealthier... Never mind. The problem I see here is that Tim seems to believe that if the state were to disappear then the negative aspects of corporations would whither away. Tim would say that the causal poison is the state.

Now the state is indeed as bad as Tim says, I agree! But my criticism is that predatory and rapacious mega-corporations and finance empires would not stop to exist simply because the governments that they predominantly control are removed from them. They would simply increase their funding to their private militias, and continue controlling the territories and populations that they already control. Simply put, where there is no state, there are war lords and mafia families, and confederations of war lords and mafia families. I'm not saying that the mafia is worst than government. At least the mafia has strict rules about not killing the women and children of competitors. I'm just saying that the state is not the cause of the nasty characteristics of dominance hierarchies.

There is no utopian chaos of freely associating libertarians or anarchists "producing value for each other". The self-organized firefighters that are more efficient than the firefighters ruled by an authoritarian director of operations, in Tim's masters degree university thesis, are real but represent an isolated pocket of practice within a broader structure, and cannot be generalized to all of society. Not because it would be physically impossible, but because it would be humanly impossible. There is always a dominance hierarchy, and there is a perpetual struggle for individual freedom. It is in our animal nature, our human nature, both to spontaneously make and reenforce dominance hierarchies that we inhabit, and, as individuals, to seek freedom and personal agency, influence and meaning.

The Libertarian model that, left to themselves, corporations evolve towards the benefits of optimizing profits in a free market has been disproved by the late and eminent historian of science and technology David F. Noble. In his books "America By Design; Science, Technology, and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism" and "Forces of Production; A Social History of Industrial Automation", Noble has shown that modern corporations, when forced to choose, virtually always sacrifice profits for absolute control over their workforce. In this way, corporations are regularly willing to sacrifice significant profits, increases in efficiency, and technological progress, in order to assert their authoritarianism. The name of the game is dominance, over markets and over both employees and clients or consumers. The "ruling class" knows this well, and it is high time that libertarians learn it.

The real question is who controls the corporations, including the state corporation, and is democracy possible and what does it look like. Tim and I agree on the essential point. Regarding the macro-structures of corporations and government, Tim complains that there is a "deficiency of reality congruence". I enthusiastically agree! Tim means reality congruence of free individuals. On the Left the said deficiency would be called "a deficiency of participatory democracy", and that has real libertarian meaning on the Left, among the few Left thinkers that have survived or avoided state indoctrination.


I want to conclude optimistically, exactly the same way I did in my October 7th blogpost about Tim's ideas:

Therefore, one can predict that Moen will continue to search for his own mode of unconventional participation in party politics, designed to cause voter cognitive dissonance, and to maximize occasions for life-changing political discourse.

I hope that he will also be an aggressive agent of criticism, denunciation, and reform of the dysfunctional system itself. How can one create cognitive dissonance while ignoring the elephant in the room?

We will know that Moen has been effective and has touched a nerve when the entire establishment visciously attacks him, or at least is unhinged by him, or at least significant adjusts its discourse to make him irrelevant... Any such sign will be a gauge that freedom is making headway.

Dr. Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications of physics education research (TVO Interview). He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israel lobby on that institution, which fired him for a false pretext in 2009: LINK

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On what libertarian leader Tim Moen has learned

By Denis G. Rancourt, PhD

Tim Moen is a unique political party leader. He actually blogs about his thought process, and expressly considers saying what he actually thinks.

Moen is also somewhat unique in that he convincingly appears to be honest, both in the things he says and in his body language.

Elizabeth May also has that rare quality but audio evidence has shown that she, like the three main-party leaders, is far from a principled individual who does not bow to influential lobbies (LINK).

The leaders of the big parties (Harper, Trudeau, Mulcair) are so empty and machine-like that their words do not lend themselves to meaningful analysis. What they don't do speaks louder than anything that emanates from their mouths.

Since Moen has shared his thoughts about the nature of politics, it is worth examining those thoughts. I will analyze his blogpost "10 Lessons I Learned Running for Parliament", which is the August 26, 2014 entry on his Fort Mac Philosopher blog.

Moen makes ten points, restated here in my own words:

1. Voters, right and left, are afraid, and vote to avoid what they are most afraid of.

Agreed, but Moen avoids the fact that the fears themselves are manipulated and manufactured by governments, and by corporate entities that also fund political parties.

2. Politicians therefore practice fear-and-comforting-opportunism as the main electoral strategy.

OK but another dominant strategy is to offer fixing or cleaning-up the system that is newly discovered to now be hopelessly broken or corrupt. This is most effective because ordinary citizens know that the system does not work for them.

3. Politicians stick to meaningless platitudes to avoid displeasing their base and arming their opponents.

Agreed, but Moen leaves out that meaningless platitudes also serve to (1) reassure party funders that their man will not go off track, and (2) avoid the risk of awakening voter expectations for real action.

4. Politicians avoid stating their true opinions in order to concentrate on satisfying their base and those likely to vote for them. 

True, but Moen omits that politicians also avoid stating their true (conscious or unconscious) designs and the actual policy consequences that follow from their alleged policy intentions. This is the difference between the lip service paid by legislators and jurists about a statute (or law) and the real effects of the statute in terms of removing freedom and maintaining undemocratic control. As such, Moen refuses to acknowledge that the big-party politicians work for the man, virtually without deviation, whether they are conscious of it or simply allowing themselves to be manipulated and hijacked by the process.

5. Voters insist on playing the role of powerless children that depend on politicians to either solve their problems or destroy their lives -- voters transfer all responsibility for both change and stability on politicians.

Well, that may be true of voters but most of us don't vote and don't believe that politicians are meaningful agents of anything. We rightly believe that the politicians with power will do what they do irrespective of whether we vote for them or not.

Refreshingly, Moen recognizes that voter apathy is a consequence of realism regarding the futility of voting (next point).

6. There is voter apathy and dis-involvement with politics.

Here Moen's analysis is confined to the tunnel vision of the individual voter's choice to vote or to not vote. His analysis is blind to the dysfunctional non-democracy that is Canada's Parliament; where big-party leaders veto, fire, and impose riding candidates, force strict party discipline, and determine the issues that are allowed to be addressed, the details of positions on every thus-allowed issue, and all the media talking points of any who are allowed to speak on the allowed issues. That's a big blind spot.

Any honest politician must confront the sham that is the Canadian Parliament, and only politicians who do can be considered honest, unless they are so naive that they should be avoided on that basis alone, in my humble opinion.

Manning understood this. The Manning Reform Party revolution was based on that sort of brilliance, the brilliance of bringing elements of the obvious into mainstream politics. It worked until it was bought out and dissolved.

7. Voter psychology amounts to either seeking a mother (Left) or a father (Right), and this is primarily determined by one's family background.

This is an interesting proposal that merits sociological research. It is truly refreshing to witness a political party leader thinking aloud in this fashion. One can see that Moen is seeking models to understand individual and group psychology as it might apply to political work. This particular model reconciles the right and the left, and legitimizes both as natural consequences of healthy human tendencies.

Moen appears as a conciliator and prefers unifying politics rather than superficial partisan ideology politics. His main challenge is that his party's unifying principle is individual freedom, so he has the job of making individual freedom a dominant societal demand. It has been done on several occasions in history, and the time for another kick at the can may be ripening in Canada?

Systems spontaneously and mechanically evolve towards heightened hierarchical control, which is delayed and set back when the subjects find strong individual and collective impulses to partially break free. This is a constant historical battle in all human societies. Revolutionary gains towards more freedom and personal agency can be achieved either violently or non-violently, depending on the societal circumstances. The only nexus of resistance and push-back against increasing undemocratic dominance is the individual rebellion of liberation. There is a constant battle between the human impulse to be free and influential on the one hand, and the societal forces to heighten the dominance hierarchy on the other hand [1].

8. Change comes from pushing outside of the allowed sterile political discourse.


9. There is hope, as evidenced by individual efforts to "make monolithic institutions irrelevant".

Here Moen makes a high five to all the enterprising individuals who seek to liberate themselves from the system's (monetary, legal, resources, etc.) grip by developing alternatives.

While I agree that these efforts are a testament to the human impulse for liberation, the whole idea of mainstream political involvement is to prevent the dominant system from being too insane, and ideally to reform it towards freedom and actual democracy. In my book (literally), the whole idea is to push back against increasing totalitarianism -- what many and myself have called corporate fascism.

There is no doubt in my mind that alternative consumer and lifestyle strategies will be forcefully destroyed to the degree that they threaten the dominant machine. The idea that modern internet technology or independent food and energy production can offer absolute protection to creative alternists is a total fantasy.

10. "Collecting votes" is no way to change the world.

Agreed, but here Moen makes two theoretical proposals that I believe are invalid, as follows.

First, Moen states that "government is an emergent property of the beliefs and actions of individuals in society". Well, if that were true, then there would be no problem, and there would be no need for Moen's political party. That belief is comforting but it is irresponsibly naive, and incorrect.

Government is the embodiment of undemocratic concentrated power. Nothing could be clearer. One proof, if proof were needed, is the tremendous amount of resources and efforts that go into convincing the public of the legitimacy of the political system and its supporting institutions.

I predict that if Moen continues down that fanciful fairy tale, then he will lose many libertarian supporters and many realistic potential voters. It is a road that leads straight into conformism with the status quo.

Second, Moen advances the proposal that an irreversible tipping point of public opinion occurs whenever "10% of people adopt an unshakable belief". Moen was inspired by an article in ScienceDaily [2], which describes theoretical research published in a high-profile peer-reviewed physics journal [3]. (I will leave the criticism of that published work for another day.)

Moen combines these two proposals (government as emerging from people fantasy and 10% tipping point) to tentatively conclude "Once my party and I win 10% of hearts and minds it really doesn't matter to me which politicians get in front of the new parade."

There is some crumb of truth to this proposal, and it suggests that Moen is realistically concerned with advancing the vision of liberty as his main contribution, rather than forming government. More importantly, however, his model is incongruent with conventional participation in party politics because one does not develop an "unshakable belief" in something of consequence by liking a political figure.

Therefore, one can predict that Moen will continue to search for his own mode of unconventional participation in party politics, designed to cause voter cognitive dissonance, and to maximize occasions for life-changing political discourse.

I hope that he will also be an aggressive agent of criticism, denunciation, and reform of the dysfunctional system itself. How can one create cognitive dissonance while ignoring the elephant in the room?

We will know that Moen has been effective and has touched a nerve when the entire establishment visciously attacks him, or at least is unhinged by him, or at least significant adjusts its discourse to make him irrelevant... Any such sign will be a gauge that freedom is making headway.


[1] My book is predominantly about this societal struggle, and theorizes about its scientific basis: "Hierarchy and free expression in the fight against racism" by Denis G. Pancourt, Stairway Press, 2013.

[2] "Minority rules: Scientists discover tipping point for the spread of ideas", ScienceDaily, July 26, 2011.

[3] "Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities" by J. Xie, et al., Physical Review E, 2011; 84 (1) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.84.011130

Dr. Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications of physics education research (TVO Interview). He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israel lobby on that institution, which fired him for a false pretext in 2009: LINK