The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 10.3

April 2, 2007

“To prevent incompetent or corrupt individuals from
running amok, a system of checks and balances has been
put in place to prevent the abuse of power from extending
too far once it begins. In essence this codifies into law the
idea that no one can or should be trusted, especially with
dictatorial-type powers.”
- The Burning Blade 10.2

"Consider a narrow deep river valley below a high dam,
such that if the dam burst, the resulting flood of water
would drown people for a long distance downstream.
When attitude pollsters ask people downstream of the
dam how concerned they are about the dam's bursting,
it's not surprising that fear of a dam burst is lowest far
downstream, and increases among residents increasingly
close to the dam.
Surprisingly, though, when one gets within a
few miles of the dam, where fear of the dam's breaking is
highest, as you then get closer to the dam the concern falls
off to zero! That is, the people living immediately under
the dam who are certain to be drowned in a dam burst
profess unconcern. That is because of psychological denial:
the only way of preserving one's sanity while living
immediately under the high dam is to deny the finite
possibility that it could burst."
- UCLA professor Jared Diamond in a talk entitled
"Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous Decisions?"

Watchdogs can be put to sleep, or given a share of the cut to look the other way, or become enamored by the cause of those whom the watchdogs are supposed to be watching, or even lapse into denial that those that they should be watching would ever abuse their power. Evidence of this was on full display this month in the U.S. as scandal after scandal poured out into the media channels. First the FBI was caught abusing what were already excessively intrusive powers of information gathering, then the Bush administration was caught having federal prosecutors fired for strictly political reasons, clearly intending to retain only those "loyal" attorneys who have focused the vast majority of investigations of political corruption on the opposition party rather than their own. What more goes on behind the increasingly opaque façade of democracy in the United States we can only guess, but it is doubtful that the majority of us will ever know and even more doubtful that we'll see drastic changes any time soon. The lackluster way that the Democrats instituted measures to clean up congress when they gained control should remove all doubts that politics these days is all about getting into power and retaining that power once it is gained. Exposing scandals appears not to be done out of any sense of respect for the rule of law, but merely to tarnish and eliminate ones' opponents. Furthermore, too many of the ultimate watchdogs in a democracy, "We the people", appear to be living too close to the dam, and are preventing the rest from forcing necessary changes.

Opacity reigns supreme in the economic sphere as well, only far more so than in any government. At least when you are dealing with a power-hoarding clique, you know that at least a few members of that clique have a good idea about what is going on within, but when it comes to the world of banking, investing, and finance, no one can see the big picture, and the analyses made by leading economists who study the array of statistics which are visible to them display a degree of accuracy close to that of ancient priests who used to read the future from goat intestines and chicken bones. The markets are not behaving as they should and no one knows why. One thing is for sure though, the system of checks and balances in the financial system has been dismantled over the years, enabling the abuse of power by too many and letting the unquenchable greed of the masses run amok. History tells us that loose credit and market manias all end badly and another episode of "stupid human tricks" appears to be waiting in the wings. So are the all too common optimists running around professing the strength and resiliency of the global economy simply "living too close to the dam"? After all, their livelihood will be wiped out in a global market crash. But one can always imagine that all is well behind the shroud and that prices will keep going up somehow or that the powers that be will engineer a miraculous soft landing. They'll believe whatever it takes to support an increasingly tenuous position.

This month has been a bad time for financial markets and it seems that the Ponzi scheme of ever increasing debt may be about to collapse. As I related in my personal chicken bone reading of the global economy, with unbridled leveraging, access to seemingly limitless credit, and hoards of people far too willing to invest in both markets and houses in the hopes of getting rich, we've built an economic house of cards a mile high. With the growing insolvency of sub-prime home buyers the foundation of the Ponzi scheme appears to be cracking and the markets are beginning to tremble like heroin addicts looking for another fix. But again, no one is completely sure what's going on. Highly unethical practices abound, that much is known, but the exact degree to which they are common is uncertain. We simply don't know how bad it is, which is potentially fatal when you consider how important the global economy is to everyone on the planet. Should we have done something to stop it? Is it already too late? There is too much opacity to know when we should rise up, that is, until it is too late. But as is the case in politics, those in power are only too concerned with their own goals, and if keeping a doomed system of Ponzi finance makes their bank accounts fatter, it makes little sense for them to exercise personal restraint. When you live too close to the dam, it's too uncomfortable to think about the long term, so focus on short term goals and hope that it all works out in the end. Hmm, maybe instead of "dam" that should read, "levee".

Speaking of chaos, doom, and an unhappy ending, "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" is over halfway to being ready for the mixing and mastering process. At this point I can make a solid estimate as to when it will be ready and unfortunately it looks like I won't have a final product until at least mid-year. I'm working very hard, day after day, but still it is taking longer than I expected. I'm as frustrated as you are. So, as promised, I'll post another rough cut to quench your desire for new Fireaxe .

It's short so as not to spoil the twists and turns of the story line, but I find it wonderfully topical.

A big ‘Hello’ to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time. This is the Fireaxe newsletter.

The Fireaxe Theory: Some Questions and Answers:

Questions are often raised about the Fireaxe theory either during discussions with others or when I'm re-reading or writing essays for the newsletter. Since many of the questions do not require long answers I'll handle some of them here and in future editions of The Burning Blade. Feel free to send in your questions.

Regarding the nature of ideologies:

Q. Is it a contradiction that ideologies follow natural selection but are self-destructive?

A. In reading about how the Fireaxe theory posits that ideologies must continue to grow, even beyond their ability to sustain themselves or face ideological mutation, one might think that ideologies do not follow the laws of natural selection. Simply put, they are doomed from the start. And since they are fated to not last forever, but could last forever since they are not made of flesh and blood, it seems that stating that they are competing in a game of survival is a fallacy. In the end, or at least after a reasonably long period of time, all the current ones will be gone, replaced by others which may be very different.

A good counter-argument is that if you look at natural selection in the evolution of life over a long period of time, such as tens of millions of years, you will see plenty of significant mutations as well as extinctions occurring and that the species which were alive in one era are often vastly different than those of a previous era. Yet, natural selection did indeed guide that process even though there are no "winners", that is, there are no species that have survived through all those eras.

That argument does fall a bit flat since self-destructive ideologies are more analogous to a single, suicidal life form rather than a particular species. If natural selection truly was at work, why would ideologies evolve that are self-destructive?

The simple answer is that the forces which result in the self-destruction of an ideology are the same ones that enable it to arise and gain power in the first place. These forces are an integral part of the survival of the ideology and they simply cannot be "turned off". Instead, things such as enhanced motivation and increased aggression are both what allow an ideology to exist in a world populated by rival ideologies, and which lead to overreach and collapse when rival ideologies can no longer hold them in check. The more detailed answer involves gaining a deeper understanding of what ideologies are and do.

The Fireaxe theory contends that all ideologies are both oppositional in nature and that they are based on falsehoods. These two traits are both a survival advantage for the ideology and a source of its eventual self-destruction. The oppositional nature of an ideology pits it against one or more rival ideologies which are seen as having a number of flaws and inadequacies. Those flaws and inadequacies are often portrayed as being repugnant, "evil", and unnatural, and the members of an ideology are implored to fight against its rival ideology and oppose its unenlightened ways. This opposition can take many forms depending on the relative strengths of the ideologies in question. Weak ideologies will simply fight for survival against a more powerful foe. Ideologies of equal strength will compete against each other in many ways over disputed resources, and include fighting in the economic, military, and diplomatic realms as well as the realm of ideas. Powerful ideologies will seek to subordinate or eradicate rival ideologies, but the important point is that no matter how powerful an ideology gets, it will always have a rival, finding a new one if the old ones are defeated, as well as a reason to make war on it. The oppositional nature of an ideology is something that will not go away.

Falsehoods are promises that the ideology makes to its members which serve to motivate them. But these promises are false because they cannot be delivered, at least in the collective and continuous sense. Although great rewards can be promised and delivered to individuals, and minor rewards delivered to all the members of an ideology, every promise made to every member simply cannot all be met. However, this is not necessarily a problem, especially in the short term, and in fact it is a necessity for ideologies to make such grandiose promises to its members.

The greater the promise, the more motivated the individual, and ideologies thrive when their members are at their most empowered. Ideologies are able to sell these false dreams by using conditioning to instill in their members a deep sense of inadequacy, which, in the Fireaxe theory, I call the "permanent psychological deficit". This sense of inadequacy can be temporarily relieved by chasing, and by making at least some progress towards, the false dreams of the ideology. For instance, when a Christian is conditioned to believe in the doctrine of original sin, he knows that he is destined to a life of eternal torment unless he follows the rules of his ideology. By following those rules and resisting temptation, the Christian feels rewarded, and believes that he has taken another step towards heaven. Similarly, when a member of a merit based ideology is conditioned to believe that success and victory are the measures of his self-worth and income, he knows that he'd better work hard every day or else he will end up poor, miserable, and unloved. But by working hard and receiving a paycheck or realizing some amount of self improvement, he can extrapolate a trend which will eventually place him at his goal.

In a world of competing dreams and promises, the ones which are the most compelling push aside those which have less to offer, and thus the dreams that an ideology must embrace and sell must be more magnificent than all the others. From this perspective it is not difficult to see why unrealistic and unattainable dreams arise to capture the imaginations of the masses. But promises are cheap, and the rewards don't have to be delivered until after the work has already been done, so ideological promises will naturally tend towards the fantastic, such as an eternity of bliss in heaven, reincarnation into a better life, or the chance of becoming a champion, or famous, or wealthy, or powerful in your natural lifetime. Otherworldly goals are non-falsifiable and so glorious dreams can be sold by religions, con men, and deluded believers without them ever requiring an ounce of solid proof that they will one day be delivered. However, the religion itself must offer some real-world form of confirmation that it is the true way and thus all promises, real or fantastic, must be supported by the acquisition of more resources by one's ideology. Small rewards can be used to leverage larger promises and thus stimulate one's thirst for more.

Tournaments are a perfect example of how a false dream enables maximum motivation. All competitors can become the champion of a tournament but only one will, however, everyone can use the same dream to motivate them to push beyond their limits. Compare that situation to one where everyone was rewarded more or less equally and far less than the victor in a winner-take all format. The competitors wouldn't be nearly as motivated and the competition wouldn't be nearly as exciting. Tournaments let us experience the dream vicariously, and the dream of having our favorite win it all motivates us to encourage the competition and nurture the power of the false promise. Also, the example of the tournament shows how the falsehood of everyone being able to become a champion is rationalized by competitors and fans alike. They accept the system, that everyone has a chance of winning and that the winner should receive a far greater reward than everyone else, but in reality making sacrifices while trying to attain a grand prize is very much like having a gambling addiction. Amidst the broken bodies and shattered dreams we can all rejoice as we satisfy our fix.

Of course, if all false promises were revealed as such in a short period of time, an ideology would quickly run out of members, so the majority of the faithful must be able to make some amount of progress towards goals which support the ideology in order to keep the cycle going. This is why ideologies must grow and why ideologies will come into conflict with each other, they inevitably end up fighting over the resources required to reward the hard work and devotion of their members. Now, one might ask, wouldn't the fruits of their labors be enough to satisfy the hopes and dreams of the members of an ideology? After all, war is costly, and if you do not win, the cost is not repaid. But in the world of competing dreams, victory tastes much sweeter than a diplomatic compromise. And although both sides cannot win, both sides can dream of winning, and both can imagine the rewards which will supposedly come when they vanquish their enemy. That is enough motivation to gamble one's fate on the outcome of violent conflict.

When it comes to motivation, both the carrot and the stick are powerful tools, and while the promises of dreams and rewards provide plenty of motivational carrots, to fully motivate its members, an ideology must provide a source of fear. It is here where the oppositional nature of ideologies comes into play. Successful ideologies are ones which demonize the opposition, turning them into entities to be shunned, resisted, defeated, or destroyed. Images of powerlessness, despair, suffering, and death if a rival ideology is allowed to gain more power allow an ideology to turn fear into a motivational source which can be directed towards fighting against rival ideologies. Thus, the two ideological traits of having an oppositional nature and of selling false dreams provide direct and powerful psychological motivation to the members of the ideology, and highly motivated people are generally those who emerge victorious.

And so, survival in a world of rival ideologies requires that an ideology produce highly motivated individuals, which is done by using exaggerated rewards and fears. This can be a very successful strategy in the short term, taking an ideology from a modest start with few members to one of global significance with millions of followers. But at a certain point, generally when it becomes more powerful than its rivals and its survival is assured, one might expect, or hope, that the desires of the members of an ideology will be quenched and that the ideology will become much less aggressive. Certainly, individuals within an ideology have been known to become sated by success, allowing themselves to sit back and enjoy the fruits of victory and often becoming overindulgent in the process, but the basic equation, that highly motivated people will generally win in competitions with others and thus reap greater rewards, still rings true. Thus, highly motivate people, even within a sated ideology, will work towards seizing more power for themselves. Once acquired, it is usually the case that they will use that power against their ideological foes both within and without. If there is little left to be gained outside of the ideology, individual rewards must come by taking from others, and thus civil war and ideological purges inevitably divide the strongest empires. Note that this infighting also occurs when ideologies are prevented from growing by external forces. The key is that when individuals cannot collectively advance towards their rewards, which requires growth, they will turn on each other, exacerbating an existing division or creating a schism if one did not exist already.

In conclusion, the forces that guarantee short term survival for an ideology are the same ones that guarantee that the ideology will self-destruct in the long term, but while a lack of those forces would give an ideology longevity, it would not be able to survive in the short term. Ideologies cannot survive in both the short term and long term. Thus, in a world of ideological natural selection, one would expect to observe a succession of self-destructive ideologies where survival in the short term necessarily comes at the expense of survival in the long term. Today becomes the critical imperative and tomorrow must be left to take care of itself.

The Fireaxe theory - Outline

I. Basics - well established theories

  • 1. Emergent systems - that complex systems can arise from the interactions of simple things
  • 2. Natural selection - that organisms mutate, proliferate, and compete, with the "losers" becoming extinct
  • 3. Behavioral science - that neurological systems, at their core, function according to the rules of conditioning
  • 4. Entropy - that within a closed system, entropy always increases, which limits the amount of transformation that can occur

II. Extensions

  • 1. That consciousness is an emergent system: a complex system arising in the human mind from the interaction of simple neurons.
  • 2. That civilizations are emergent systems arising from the physical interactions of humans whether conscious or not.
  • 3. That ideologies are emergent systems arising from the psychological interactions of conscious humans
  • 4. That emergent systems follow the laws of natural selection in much the same way that organisms do
  • 5. That the universe is, by definition, a closed system

III. Contentions regarding consciousness

  • 1. That consciousness is a survival advantage
  • 2. That being a member of an ideology is a survival advantage
  • 3. That making its members conscious is a necessary part of an ideology's survival
  • 4. That consciousness is created by instilling within a person a permanent sense of inadequacy - in essence a state of constant fear
  • 5. That the deeper the sense of inadequacy, the stronger the person is motivated - generally to serve their ideology

IV. Contentions regarding ideological struggle

  • 1. That ideologies fight for survival using many methods including, but not limited to, war and enslavement
  • 2. That aggression is a survival advantage
  • 3. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive, thus creating a vicious circle
  • 4. That aggressive ideologies must continue to grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members will feed on each other to satisfy their needs
  • 5. That internal struggle results in ideological mutation

V. Contentions regarding the future

  • 1. That internal strife is inevitable since the laws of entropy imply that continuous growth is not sustainable
  • 2. That the abstract bases for ideologies transcend mortality and thus suicidal aggression is not restrained by fear of death
  • 3. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of a suicidal ideology which will attempt to save the human race by destroying it

How to order Fireaxe CDs

Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which contains the following:

  • 1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
  • 2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
  • 3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

Here is a price list. The first number is the cost for U.S. based customers, the second is for outside the U.S. The prices include shipping and handling.

Food for the Gods: $12 / $14
Victory or Death: $5 / $7
Lovecraftian Nightmares: $5 / $7 (SOLD OUT)
A Dream of Death: $3 / $5 (booklet out of print)

Send everything to:

Brian Voth
1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
Chula Vista, CA, 91911 USA

If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in exchange for the review. In this case all I need is a request by e-mail. Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is done. If you want to exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.

The CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a letter about the project, and some information about the CD which can also be found on the Fireaxe site.

Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project. The tiff disk is free so just say the word.

The Future

For the rest of this year and part of the next I will be recording the next Fireaxe CD entitled "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess". I'd like to have it complete by the middle of 2007. The new CD will dig deep into the dark crevices of our society and our minds, pull forth the myths that we cling to and hold dear, and expose them all for what they are. While “A Dream of Death” explored the madness of dreams, and “Food for the Gods” described the chaos wrought upon the earth by ideologies, “Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess” will depict the psychological enslavement of the individual in modern times. It will be the darkest Fireaxe work ever.

My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary. Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel. Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace. This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place. I write music because it is a way to express my emotions. What I both think and feel goes into the songs. That is the power, Fireaxe is the channel, and any diversion diminishes the emotive effect. Thus I try to avoid such diversions. That is how art should be.

Rights to duplicate Fireaxe materials

Currently Fireaxe is not for profit. I sell the CDs for $5 each which covers the production and mailing costs. For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge $7 per disk to cover the additional mailing cost. If you write reviews or put samples on your website I'll give you a CD for free. Since I am not making any money with the current recordings, you are free to make duplicates of them to distribute as long as you obey the following guidelines:

  • 1. You can only sell the duplications for the price of the medium or less, plus any delivery cost. You are not allowed to make any profit with the music.
  • 2. You should tell me how many copies you gave out and who got them so I can keep track. Also, if they have an e-mail address I'd like that as well so I can add them to the mailing list.
  • 3. You are likewise free to adorn any webpages or duplications with the gifs and jpgs on my website as long as you include an obvious link back to my website. This includes putting Fireaxe song samples on your site as well.
  • 4. You are free to play any Fireaxe songs (in unaltered form) provided you are an unsigned band without a marketting tie-in. You are not allowed to record those songs onto anything that you will sell.
  • 5. You are food for the gods.
  • 6. You are required to crank the song "Hounds of Tindalos" as loud as you can as often as you can. It's your only defense against THEM. Be warned, they come through angles. Note that the CD is round. Are your speaker cabinets square?
  • 7. Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hastur the Unspeakable, and all other mythos creatures are purely the inventions of Lovecraft and other fiction authors. None of it is real, at least that's what I'm going to say in court if you try to sue me for destruction of your property, house, city, or soul as a result of listening to the "Lovecraftian Nightmares" CD too much.
  • 8. You are free to play "The Rack" in school or church or any other institution bent on crushing your will and turning you into a mindless zombie slave of the corporate dominated world. Try not to develop a bad attitude about it.
  • 9. You are not free to commit suicide while listening to any Fireaxe song. I'm sorry, I'll have to prosecute. On a serious note, if you are thinking about doing it, please e-mail or call me if you have no one else to talk to. When I was in my teens the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd used to really get to me. Just hearing songs like "Comfortably Numb", and "Hey You" would get me pretty depressed and mildly suicidal. I'm just trying to say that I've been there. If my music is having that effect on you, please get in touch. You aren't alone.

The gist of it is that you can do just about anything with the music as long as you don't profit from it and that I get some sort of credit for having written it. I'm open to any methods of distributing my music, such as compilation tapes or CDs, radio play, or recording label distribution. However, you will need my direct permission to do so or some kind of legal agreement.
Brian Voth - Creator of Fireaxe

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