The Burning Blade
Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 12.4
June 5, 2009
"The foundation of all Mental Illness is the unwillingness
to experience legitimate suffering."
"What to do to escape all the pain?
Let the madness dream salvation."
- Carl Jung
- Fireaxe "River of Madness"
Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 12.4
June 5, 2009
"The foundation of all Mental Illness is the unwillingness
to experience legitimate suffering."
"What to do to escape all the pain?
Let the madness dream salvation."
June 5, 2009
"The foundation of all Mental Illness is the unwillingness
to experience legitimate suffering."
"What to do to escape all the pain?
Let the madness dream salvation."
"What to do to escape all the pain?
Let the madness dream salvation."
The sickness is everywhere.
Accounting laws were changed and now the banks can report huge profits instead of massive losses, California legislators and voters alike are unable to either raise taxes or cut spending, the U.S. government is borrowing and spending like there is no tomorrow, and my nation's newly elected president is backpedaling on his campaign promises so fast that it's starting to look as if his opponent had really won the last election, or that there was no election at all...that it was all merely smoke and mirrors with a new spokesman appointed to serve up the same old policies, or at least the same old policies with a few minor variations added to them in order to keep up the appearance of change.
This is more than people taking the path of least resistance: delaying the onset of our legitimate suffering in the vain hopes that it will all go away or that it can be foisted off on to someone else by when the day of reckoning arrives. No, this is ideology at work. And while I wouldn't go so far as to use Jung's quote to equate ideology with mental illness, although some ideologies certainly make their followers think and act as if they were crazy, I will say that one of the things that ideology excels at is redefining what "legitimate suffering" is. Through faith an ideology allows their believers to act in stupid, cruel, oblivious, hypocritical, and self- righteous ways while all the while believing that they are doing what is right and fair and just.
It is faith in Monetarist economics that enable bankers, the Fed chief, and the Secretary of the Treasury to believe that the banks' toxic assets are worth far more than market value and thus do not need to be marked down. It is faith that tax cuts always help the economy and that tax hikes always hurt it which sends the Republicans to the polls. It is faith that entrusting the government to take care of those in need is the best way to form a social safety net that drives Democrats to vote for their candidates and initiatives. It is faith that what worked for FDR in the thirties will work again under very different circumstances today that has led to what could well be a suicidally large stimulus package. And it seems to be the case that my president's faith in reciprocity has him making concession after concession in every which direction in the hopes that those who he has done favors for will return them when it comes time for him to roll out his big legislation. Everyone seems to be talking about making tough decisions, but nobody seems to be actually making them.
With ideology on call to twist the facts and force them to fit a predefined conclusion one never has to break down and accept legitimate suffering. One can always blame someone else for causing a problem and insist that they suffer instead, or cling to the belief that imminent suffering can be put off until it disappears, or try one's best to make oneself and everyone else happy in the hopes that one isn't setting oneself, and everyone else, up for a bigger fall in the future. Even Christians, whose ideology is built upon the ideal of embracing suffering, legitimate or not, all too often find ways to avoid feeling humility, enduring pain, and admitting that they were wrong about something. If there was truly proof that there are no gods it is that the arrogant believers of the world have not been struck dead where they stand.
Legitimate suffering today would seem to entail that everyone set aside their ideologies, admitting that at least for now that they may not offer the best solutions, and come together to work on our numerous and extremely serious global problems, but for people with power, money, and influence on the line, and especially for those who have already suffered and feel that they have endured their share of the pain if not more, making further concessions is unacceptable. So instead we are running away from legitimate suffering and towards a more fervent, even fanatical, embrace of our ideologies. We crave ideological validation to compensate for our losses as reality gives us less and less to satisfy our needs. We search for new dreams to replace the wreckage of our old ones and give us hope again. And as we all pull away from each other and retreat into our own ideologically constructed fantasy worlds, open-mindedness, rational discussions, genuine compromises, and painful concessions become unpalatable and our needs and desires turn towards imposing our will on the irrational and uncooperative others. Extremism on one side invites extremism on the other and the middle ground rapidly disappears. The roots of fascism, totalitarianism, and dictatorship are becoming all too clear, and their reemergence seems inevitable.
In the U.S. we have two political parties who are each becoming more and more fascist by the moment. This didn't happen overnight, it has been brewing for decades. The Democrats are the party of government fascism: of more and more regulations over everyone and everything, of frequent government intervention into the economy, of the government taking care of the impoverished, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, and anyone else struggling to be economically viable, and of the government imposing progressive social reforms on the entire country. Of course, they do not admit to being fascists and instead frame their reforms as being necessary to guarantee the promise of equality, to restrain the ruthlessness of the powerful, and to prevent the uncaring nature of the free market from causing more damage to the nation than it benefits it. There should be no argument that they have a point, that "corporate fascism" needs to be opposed lest it turn us into a nation of wage slaves and beggars, but in their efforts they built an equivalently dangerous monster in the form of an all-powerful state.
The Republicans are the party of corporate fascism: of less and less government regulation and intrusion into business matters (though intrusion into social and personal matters is acceptable to them in order to placate their religious base), of freeing people from forcibly taking care of their less fortunate neighbors (a number of whom have brought their misfortune upon themselves), and of giving individuals more rights to do as they will with their own property (which gives those with more property far greater "rights" than the rest of us). Of course, they cloak their fascism in the language of liberty, that they are liberating the people to do as they please and freeing them from an oppressive tax burden, but their libertarian efforts mostly end up freeing big business to exploit their workers, fleece their customers, and abuse the legal system to meet their own ends. The Republicans also have a point, that government fascism needs to be opposed lest it turn us into something out of a George Orwell novel, but in their efforts they've unlock the ghosts of robber barons and monopolies past which are making a mockery of the free market system that they so adamantly defend.
And so we have balance, right? As long as both parties are fighting against each other, neither one can impose their brand of fascism upon the country, correct? Regrettably that is not the case as both parties agree on one thing and that is that "We The People" need to surrender more of our power, our wealth, and our rights to either the state or to big business. They are the elites and they will run the country for us while we reward them for their splendid governance by voting them into office year in and year out. We are just pawns in their great chess match, beasts of burden to be used and discarded, political footballs whose tales of suffering and woe are condensed into sound bytes and used as artillery against the other side. Our roles are to empower them to achieve the victories that they crave so very badly and in return, or so they promise, we can share in the bright shining dream that they have woven for us. They explain the world to us using their ideologically tainted media outlets as if we were children who could not figure things out on our own if we were given the facts, all the facts, and without spin. Unfortunately not enough of us seek out the drier, spin-free sources of information and many of us demand that the media do nothing more than reinforce our ideological beliefs on a regular basis. In this way watching the news has become like attending church, it is a ritual which satisfies the believers and prompts them to assist and spread their ideology. But of course it is in our rulers' best interests that we do not figure things out on our own, not that we would all arrive at the truth, there is too much diversity of opinion and ideological contamination for that to occur, but that we might realize that we don't need our leaders as much as we believe that we do and that we would demand, or simply take, the power that we have surrendered to them back into our own hands. This is the nightmare that haunts the power elite and it has echoes throughout history: the Jews refused to subordinate their god to the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Romans; the Protestants found their own path to their god that did not go through the Catholic church; and the Americans, French, and Russians all discovered that they did not need a King, a Pope, or a Czar to rule over them. Perhaps the next revolution will be the popular acceptance that things which are "too big to fail" are "too big to exist" be they banks, corporations, or governments. Spare none the axe for if left too strong they would surely become a tyrant.
But a revolution, that sounds like too much work, and throwing one's self against the corporate and government fascists with all of their amassed power and wealth seems like asking for a great deal of suffering, so I would think that our particular form of mental illness will persist, that we will side with one group and rail against the other and believe that everything will get better once our people are in control…and in complete control if necessary.
Speaking of getting better, I've slowly worked my way back to feeling pretty good after the dehydration episode that sent me to the emergency room two months ago. That can happen when you get too aggressive when it comes to slaughtering your intestinal parasites and you're not drinking enough water to flush out your system. And yeah, "flush" is a perfect word for it. My bathroom has been getting a serious workout as of late. But anyway, I've learned my lesson and I am back on track. Some day soon I will start training my voice with the intention of finally re-recording the vocal tracks for "Food for the Gods" and getting the whole Fireaxe thing back in gear. I thank you all for your patience and your good wishes. Here's to good health! May I get mine back and may you never lose yours.
A big ‘Hello’ to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time. This is the Fireaxe newsletter.
If there is one good thing about living through such tumultuous times, and I believe that the bulk of the tumult is yet to come, it is that I can observe what is happening in the world at first hand, which gives me a better opportunity to understand how ideologies are born, how they grow, how they mutate, and how they become corrupted. As things have progressed since that world-changing event on September eleventh I've immersed myself in studying how both individuals and ideologies react to such paradigm shifting events. Now with the credit crunch continuing to grind away at the heart of the ruling Capitalist ideology I have the rare opportunity to put the Fireaxe theory to the test as well as fill in the details about how and why ideologies eventually die.
In this essay I will describe what I believe to be the life cycle of the ideology, the steps along which they progress from birth to death, and try to account for the variations that we see in the different belief systems. Much of this I've discussed previously in other newsletters, in Fireaxe music, and in the outline below, but here is my first cut at tying it all together and condensing it down to a more easy to understand framework.
Yes, even condensed it is a long essay, and it seems to only scratch the surface in a lot of places, but I think that it ties a lot of loose ends together and presents a large part of the Fireaxe theory in a concise and organized way.
What is an ideology?
In the Fireaxe theory, an ideology is a set of rules generally formulated about an abstract central concept, such as a god or a notion like "freedom", and which governs the behavior of its members. The rules comprise of laws, morals, ethics, and social norms which allow the members of the ideology to form systems of complex relationships between each other for the betterment of all. Ideologies form a symbiotic relationship with their members in which the members serve their ideology, making it stronger by contributing to it and helping it spread, and in exchange they receive material, psychological, and "spiritual" rewards. Successful ideologies are the ones which empower and motivate their believers to win more converts and deliver more wealth and power to the ideology. The strategies employed by different ideologies to gain power and influence vary widely but the end goal is the same for all: to survive and thrive.
Ideologies are thus a collection of individuals all acting in coordinated ways which further the interests of the whole and thus they can be compared to organic life forms which are collections of cells which act in concert to the benefit of creature. Extending this analogy allows the likening of competition between ideologies to the Darwinian struggle between organisms in nature and indeed the survival strategies for ideologies and organisms fall along similar lines: they both stake out territory, gather and consume vital resources, fight with each other, grow in number or size, and seek to spread to neighboring areas.
The analogy is not perfect since humans are able to switch ideologies or follow a blending of two or more ideologies while organisms remain much the same from birth to death. Also, ideologies can mutate much faster than life forms can evolve, which makes the ideological world a much more dynamic and potentially unstable place. Nonetheless, the analogy is strong enough to use in understanding and analyzing ideologies and their effects on human behavior as well as regarding them as entities which act in their own self interest. In this regard it is possible to describe the life cycle of ideologies, from birth to growth to mutation and death, as if they were living entities.
Ideologies are born when a member of an ideology become dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction starts when the symbiotic relationship between the believer and the ideology breaks down, which generally occurs when the ideology is not delivering enough rewards to the believer. These rewards can be of any type: material rewards such as wealth and power, psychological rewards such as recognition, appreciation, and indications that ones goals and dreams are slowly coming true, and "spiritual" rewards such as the promise of eternal life or the satisfaction that one has resisted temptation. Material rewards are the strongest form of reward and a shortage of them can quickly lead to anger and despair, such as when basics like food, shelter, or medical care cannot be easily obtained. Such shortages can be compensated for with psychological and "spiritual" rewards and it is common for people living in poverty or suffering from hardship to dream of winning the lottery, to proclaim their moral superiority over the "spoiled", the "greedy", and those who take life for granted, and to celebrate their certitude that their suffering in this life will guarantee deliverance to a glorious existence in the next, but such rewards do not always make up for material shortages, especially for those who are used to having more. And even with adequate material rewards, a shortage of psychological and "spiritual" rewards can drive a person to become dissatisfied with their ideology, and the promises and propaganda of rival ideologies can sow the seeds of doubt and discontentment as well, and if that dissatisfaction lasts long enough it can sever the bond between ideology and believer, often permanently.
Ideological dissatisfaction, which can also be called a "crisis of faith", creates an immediate problem for the individual since they can no longer receive many of their ideological rewards, especially those of a psychological and spiritual nature. Things such as praying, paying taxes, and giving to charities no longer give the individual the same feeling of satisfaction since the framework which made these acts of selflessness and humility meaningful has been brought into question. What use is it to pray to a god who doesn't seem to listen, or to send money to a government which will only spend it on wasteful projects? As doubts grow, the ideological conditioning in the mind becomes undone, usually over time, but sometimes it happens all at once, and the rewards which once satisfied the individual now leave him or her wanting.
This presents a serious problem since, according to the Fireaxe theory, ideologies imbue their believers with a permanent sense of inadequacy which can only be relieved when enough ideological rewards are received. When the ideological bond breaks down the deficit does not go away, and this tends to leave the individual feeling worthless, isolated, depressed, and in need of something to fill the void. It is not unusual to find people who have lost their faith in what they believed in indulging themselves in a number of material excesses, such as sex, drugs, alcohol, and other thing which make one feel better or at least less inadequate, but it is unusual to find people who can completely compensate for a loss of ideological rewards without embracing another ideology. Most people will fall into a state of confusion or depression and seek out something to replace what was lost, trying out this belief system or that belief system or even trying to work out a new path on their own. It is those who try to find a new way to offset their permanent sense of inadequacy who sometimes give birth to a completely new ideology.
The litmus test for any ideology is whether or not it satisfies the needs of the individual. It does not need to be based on truth to any degree, it merely needs to be plausible enough to make the feelings of inadequacy go away. For instance, if a Christian had a crisis of faith and stopped believing in a god, she would not be able to embrace the idea of a glorious afterlife in heaven to alleviate her fear of death. However, if she were to adopt a belief in technologically advanced aliens who communicated with her telepathically and told her that at the end of her life they would come and take her with them to their home planet where they would make her young again, that belief would fill the void left behind when she stopped believing in heaven. Also, this example shows how atheists can come to believe in a version of eternal life that doesn't involve a divine being or the need to worship one. Technology can substitute for divine fiat on a conceptual level, such as how some atheists embrace Cryogenics as a way to extend their life, or believe that some day robotics will be developed to a point where their consciousness can be transferred into a machine, and thus they too can alleviate their fear of death through the denial of their own mortality.
But a new ideology doesn't have to be simply a refurbished version of their old one with aliens standing in for angels, it can be very different indeed as long as it satisfies two requirements: one, that it must alleviate the believer's sense of inadequacy through some kind of reward system; and two, that it must solve the problems of the believer's former ideology which caused her to stop believing in it in the first place. Meeting these two requirements is not a simple task and can require a long period of trial and error before an adequate replacement ideology is found. Also, the second requirement implies that the new ideology will be in conflict with the old since it inherently suggests that the old ideology is false. Being in conflict with another ideology will make more demands of the believer and thus the believer will need more rewards to compensate, which can often be gained through winning arguments, achieving victories in political and social policy matters, or showing in some other way the superiority of the new ideology. But even if the believer stays in the closet to avoid conflict with members of the old ideology, the new ideology will still be more of a burden than the old since it is necessarily more complex. It must do everything that the old ideology did, plus it must solve the problems that the old ideology did not.
The basic principle is that ideologies necessarily get more complicated as time goes forward and as new ideologies replace the old ones. Ideologies are not simple things, they generally comprise a large number of ideas, rules, and explanations that can fill the pages of a thousand books or more. Primitive ideologies could contain all of their rules on stone tablets or in a single tome, but modern ideologies require volume after volume of laws and regulations which seemingly address every facet of human interaction. So how does a single person create a whole new ideology all by themselves? In short, they don't. Rewriting an entire ideology is more work than anyone can do and so in general a new ideology borrows a lot from the old out of convenience, but there will always be at least one central difference which separates it from the former ideology, something that will often be mostly conceptual in nature but around which the rest of the ideology can be formed. For instance, the notion that "all men are created equal", or that "self interest rightly understood" will naturally lead to a more perfect social order if it is left unregulated, can be used as a guide to remake the old ideology into the image of the new. Once the central concept has taken root, the rest of the ideology can be formulated around it, uprooting and replacing the borrowed parts of the old as necessary.
Armed with a new concept which forms the basis of a new ideology, the believer will change their way of thinking and acting in accordance with the new ideology and note any changes in their life, especially whether they are receiving, or seem more likely to receive, the rewards that they need. If the results are positive they will reinforce the belief in the new ideology, if not, the new ideology is likely to be discarded and another one tried out. Once they find a new approach that "works" for them, the individual will often seek to spread their discovery to others. At this point the new ideology has been born.
An ideology grows by spreading to other people which means that a successful ideology must do two things: one is that it must inspire its members to spread their beliefs to others; and two is that it must appeal to and work for a large variation of individuals. It is the second requirement which is the most difficult to achieve since people vary greatly in their life experiences, views, and needs. For instance, while alien and high technology based ideologies may have a strong appeal to sci-fi buffs, they are relatively inaccessible to those who have had little exposure to "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" style fiction or who find those subjects fanciful or too far fetched to be real. But a determined believer, one who is driven to find converts because his new ideology rewards him for doing so, can always find ways to repackage or alter his ideology to broaden its appeal. For instance, if someone was trying to spread a "Star Wars" type ideology and he found that having the movies set in a time long ago and in a galaxy far away made them seem too irrelevant and inconsequential to most people, especially compared to religions whose sacred ground you can visit without having to leave the earth, the believer might change the ideology to say that the story happened in our galaxy, and in the present, and that one day soon we will be swept up into the battle between the empire and the rebellion. All of the sudden the idea of investing time and energy into becoming a Jedi Knight, or at least the idea of developing any fledgling Jedi skills that you might have to the point that when a Jedi Master comes down to visit Earth that he will take you on as an apprentice, takes on a sense of both relevance and urgency. Yes, it doesn't square with what George Lucas wrote, but it's far more exciting, and who is to say that the movies are perfectly accurate? Maybe Lucas didn't have a high enough mida-chlorian count to channel the scripts for his movies accurately. Yes, an ideology can explain away anything and still be believed as long as it still "works" for believers, and if changes need to be made to win more converts that isn't a problem provided that the changes don't cause the ideology to lose more converts than it gains. Most ideologies go through many changes as they grow in order to gain a broader appeal, and although changes to the central ideals are more difficult to make, changes of any kind don't necessarily invalidate the ideology. If people still believe in it, then it is the "truth".
Thus, the way that an ideology spreads is very similar to the way that anything spreads through our culture and successful ideologies will usually take on characteristics that increase their ability to spread. This can result in the ideology being "dumbed down" for the masses, or injected with current cultural trends and notions, or merged with competing but similar ideologies. In this way the growth and mutation of an ideology is not unlike how a movie idea is developed in Hollywood or how a large project is undertaken in a corporation. To win the support of each new person the ideology usually has to be changed in some way to impress them, accommodate them, and meet their own particular needs (as well as stroke their egos). Each new convert makes their mark on the ideology and those changes get carried forward to the next person. But as the ideology grows it becomes more difficult to change things since those changes will invariably start to conflict with what others hold as core beliefs. If the ideology changes too much it may stop working for the original believers who may demand that no more changes be made to it and attempt to exert an autocratic control over the ideology, dictating what is part of it and what is not. This can work, but it can also arrest the growth of the ideology or splinter it into several factions. However, once an ideology gets beyond a certain size it will be beyond anyone's ability to control. This may seem bizarre or ironic, but it is not unheard of for the person who invented an ideology to disown the beliefs of those who changed it and popularized it. Even ideologies which hold up one person or a group of people as their supreme leaders are not completely beholden to their decisions, for leaders are only leaders if their followers follow. Simply put, once an ideology reaches a critical mass of believers, it takes on a life all its own.
As an ideology grows and slowly starts to replace the old ideology it must do more than merely provide psychological comfort for individuals, it needs to form complex systems of human interaction that empower it to an equal or greater degree than the old ideology. If it cannot achieve this, it will not be able to make much headway in changing the old ideology or winning converts and will probably end up as little more than a cult or an eccentric social movement, but if it does prove to make its members superior to the ruling ideology it may one day challenge that ideology for supremacy. For instance, if we take our "Star Wars" type ideology and assume that those who follow it become committed to some kind of "code of the Jedi" which stresses physical conditioning, mental discipline, and a strong sense of honor, followers who once spent their free hours playing video games and surfing the net would now be busy transforming themselves into more attractive, capable, and admirable people. Such changes would help them in achieving their life goals whether Darth Vader was real or not. Their ideology would then begin to attract followers based on the results it was achieving for its adherents rather than any connection to a popular series of movies, and casual supporters would start making adjustments to their behavior to accommodate the young movement. The ideology would be growing, gaining power and support, and changing things. But to really grow beyond the nerdish subculture the ideology would need to be expanded to be about more than just the possibility that one could become a real Jedi Knight and provide meaning, guidance, and ideological rewards for those from other walks of life so that they are motivated to contribute as well. If the ideology can accomplish that it doesn't matter how contrived or silly it is, the fact is that it works and that its influence on the world is both real and formidable. It would be a force to be reckoned with.
As an aside, one might point to the Fireaxe theory and state that it is my personal ideology: that it is my substitute for my former religious beliefs and that I'm trying to spread it to others. To that I would answer that the Fireaxe theory is a poor substitute for any religion or ideology since it runs directly counter to any and all notions of creating a utopia in this life or finding salvation in the next. Personally, I find my rewards in my incessant attempts to show that I'm an exceptional person, of which trying to formulate a theory which explains how the world works is one such attempt. It's something more to place into my little box of sunshine. And as far as spreading it to others is concerned, if that was my intention I would sex the theory up with some outrageous and controversial views, obscure many of the precepts with difficult and impenetrable language, give it lots of "feel good" hooks to allow believers embrace it and want to spread it around, and most importantly I would add a utopian vision of the world and the way that it would be if everyone were to understand my theories and put them into practice. Doing such things would prove my theories correct while simultaneously negating the premise on which they were founded, and while that would be an entertaining thing to witness I would find it repulsive to purposefully disillusion people. So for now I will stick with being boring, pessimistic, and essentially irrelevant.
Unless the process of mutation an ideology undergoes as it is growing reduces its ability to motivate its members, it will inevitably come into conflict with the ruling ideology and with other competing ideologies. Each ideology is trying to make the population follow its own set of ideals and the rules they set out for their believers generally conflict in many areas and on many levels. Recall that implicit in the new ideology is the idea that the old ideology fails in some way and is therefore flawed. The new ideology was born to replace the old and succeed where it failed. But those in power, who are following the old ideology, will usually not see the flaws in their beliefs. After all, the system works for them: they receive their rewards in return for their service; but even if they do suspect that it isn't working as well as it should they have vested interests in keeping the old ideology going and will tend to defend the status quo. Powerful ideologies can usually crush weaker ones, usually by imposing hardships on the members of the new ideology so that their suffering outweighs any rewards they get from it, but the battle between ideologies all comes down to the level of dissatisfaction in the general population towards the ruling ideology for that is where the competing ideology gains its strength. If too many members of the old ideology are not satisfied with it and the new ideology appears able to correct the problems with the old, the conflict between the two will generally not be settled quickly or easily.
Ideological warfare is fought first and foremost on the battlefield of the mind. The goal of this warfare is for each ideology to convert the members of other ideologies into believers or to at least make them obey its rules. The fighting can take place on multiple levels and can involve anything from physical violence, propaganda, the threat of violence, imprisonment, and persecution, to less aggressive tactics such as political infighting, subtle persuasion, material rewards, and virtually any other method that can influence people towards an ideology and shift the balance of power. The intensity of the conflict is generally proportional to the level of disagreement between the ideals of the competing ideologies. All ideologies do not necessarily differ on a fundamental level, which would make them incompatible, and sometimes the differences between them may only be slight. If there are few and relatively minor differences between the ideologies the conflict may end up being resolved without too much fighting. And resolution does not necessarily mean the eradication of one ideology or the other. One side may simply concede in the areas where the two conflict or both may strike some compromise which preserves the character of both ideologies while allowing them to get along. The conflict and the resulting resolution may also end up changing either or both ideologies, essentially mutating them in minor or major ways, but even if an ideology makes concessions it doesn't necessarily force it to change any of its ideals or beliefs. Instead an ideology can always frame its concessions as being merely temporary setbacks on the road to reaching their ultimate goal and they can promise their believers that if they keep fighting and supporting the ideology that one day they will achieve the victory that has been denied them.
Intense ideological conflict occurs when two or more ideologies have fundamental differences which cannot be resolved in a more diplomatic way and force must be used to one degree or another. Conflicts of this magnitude are quite common between ideologies and all ideologies which aspire to rule must be prepared to fight for their survival, using violence if necessary. If an ideology cannot defend itself through force of arms, it will eventually fall to an aggressor which can. This is not to say that non-violent struggle cannot succeed against a violent foe. Martyrdom, for example, is often a powerful psychologically influential force and in the end the battlefield on which ideological conflicts are fought is in the mind. Martyrdom, and here I refer to non-retributive self-sacrifice rather than the suicide bomber variety, makes an appeal to the basic humanity of the martyr's foes, challenging them to kill an unarmed innocent, which usually violates many of the ideals of his foe's ideology. Many members of ideologies will see the contradiction and hypocrisy in defending their ideology by breaking its rules and thus refuse to do so. However, during such intense ideological conflicts, ideals are often set aside and a pragmatic view of the conflict takes hold. When an ideology is fighting for its survival, or at least when its members believe that they are being threatened with extinction, standing by one's ideals can be rationalized away and brutalizing the enemy can be seen as being necessary to serve the greater good. From this point of view a small part of the ideology is temporarily violated in order to preserve the whole. Thus, appeals to a foe's better nature, such as through martyrdom, are not necessarily effective. On the other hand, committed believers will often stand loyally by their ideological ideals out of principle, believing that the greater good is undone by the corruption of their beliefs and respect the martyrdom of a weaker foe, even when faced with annihilation. This may seem illogical on the surface, but if, for instance, an ideology has a belief in an afterlife and judgment, its members will often devoutly follow their ideology, even unto the death of both, since they believe that they and their ideology transcend reality and thus they will not desire for either to become corrupted.
Such commitment on the part of its believers is vital to the survival of the ideology. During ideological warfare, rewards may be few and far between as resources get consumed during the fighting and so believers must satisfy themselves with dreams of eventual victory and the promise of great rewards for themselves, their families, and their loved ones in the future or in another world. The stronger that an ideology has been conditioned into the thoughts and behaviors of the believer the more easily he can envision future glories and receive psychological and "spiritual" rewards and thus the more hardships he can endure for his ideology. Things which weaken this conditioning, such as witnessing the corruption of the ideology, need to be avoided since they can demotivate the believer and cause them to contribute less to the ideology or to forsake it completely. Also, ideologies which survive intense conflicts are the ones which are very good at conditioning their believers to resist the pressure of rival ideologies in whatever form it comes in: physical, intellectual, "spiritual", and anything else. War in any form is a brutal and frightening experience that most people want to avoid, but being able to endure more suffering than your foe helps you to win a conflict and thus ideologies benefit when they provide ample comfort to those who are making extreme sacrifices in its name. But to be effective, this conditioning can't occur only during wartime, and thus even when at peace a successful ideology will make sure that its members are immersed in propaganda, rituals, and simulated fighting in order to toughen them up for potential conflicts with rivals. Additionally, it helps an ideology to be in constant conflict in order to build up such preparedness in its believers, and being at war also provides an ideology with a justification for why its believers must make do with fewer rewards. After all, you can always blame the enemy for any and all shortages and promise that your followers will get plenty of rewards if they work hard to win the war. But such an approach doesn't work forever, and even the most hardened warrior will grow weary of sacrifice eventually.
There are ways other than total victory in which violent ideological conflicts can be resolved. One way is for one ideology to absorb the other, mutating in the process, or for both ideologies to be forced into an alliance against a third ideology. Alliances can eventually lead to a unification of principles between the two ideologies as they adopt what is best of the other and discard what is not. Another possible resolution of a serious conflict is for the rivals to continue to fight but with less aggression, essentially providing each other with a "boogeyman" rival to use to build up preparedness in its members and blame hardships upon. In this way low grade warfare becomes mutually beneficial to both ideologies and such a relationship can continue on for centuries. Rivals can unite when faced with a common foe and then go back to infighting once the threat has been rebuked. Thus, even though conflict consumes resources and often destroys the lives of its members, it can be more beneficial to an ideology than it is detrimental. Aggression is often a survival advantage for an ideology.
Ideologies will inherently become corrupted due to the unrealistic promises that they must make to their believers in order to win their support. The fact that an ideology must make such promises is due to a number of reasons. First, the growth of an ideology is dependent on it being able to appeal to people who are already under the sway of a different ideology and to do so it must promise more than what the other ideologies promises to deliver. Second, modest goals will render an ideology impotent if and when it meets those goals since the believers will become satisfied with what they have achieved and will no longer be motivated to help the ideology to grow further. And lastly, unrealistic promises, if believed, will motivate believers far more than modest, realistic goals, and having highly motivated believers adds to the power of the ideology and gives it a survival advantage over others.
Of course, no ideology can deliver unrealistic promises, but they can all claim that they can at some point in the future, and as long as they deliver sufficient rewards in the meantime to keep the dream alive in the minds of their followers they can sustain their believers' commitment and support. This seems to ensure that eventually the unrealistic nature of the promises will become clear to all and the ideology will collapse, but this point can be delayed by bringing more converts into the ideology which adds to its wealth and power base and provides enough rewards to satisfy the members of it who have been working for it longer. This is essentially how a classic Pyramid Scheme works but with ideologies the rewards can be anything of ideological value instead of just wealth. Of course, the end result is the same no matter what is coveted, but until the inevitable collapse occurs the ideology will have a growing number of highly motivated and aggressive believers supporting it and thus will make it a formidable force in any ideological conflict. And though an ideology's long term survival may be doomed due to its need to attain the unattainable, its short term survival is made much more likely, and it will often be able to conquer and absorb many other ideologies before it meets its end, especially those which put long term survival ahead of short term gains. This dynamic forces similar behavior from other ideologies because when one ideology sacrifices the long term for the short term and becomes aggressive, other ideologies must follow suit in order to compete, while makes the future uncertain and the present unstable. A study of the behavior of ideologies in both recent and ancient history suggests that short term survival, that being measured in terms of decades rather than in centuries, at the expense of long term survival is more the norm than the exception.
Thus, ideologies have a need for constant growth in order to compete with other ideologies. This growth can be in any realm: the Capitalist pursues greater profits, the churches send missionaries to gather converts, the militarist seeks to conquer nations, the Socialist gathers more workers to unite against the elites, etc. The form of growth which satisfies the believers is dependent on the ideals of the ideology. The ideology also convinces its believers that by achieving their own personal rewards, the rest of the world will benefit as well, and successful ideologies present their members with a utopian view of the world that would be brought about if everyone were to follow its edicts. For example, the belief that Capitalism will pull the world out of poverty and make the most efficient use of all resources possible is one such promise, and the belief that if the world is converted to one religion that its messiah will return is another popular one. The trouble is that there are physical limits on the growth of an ideology, imposed either by other ideologies competing for the same resources or by the lack of infinite resources in the world, and so at some point the supply of rewards for the believers will begin to run dry.
Corruption begins when there are not enough rewards to go around for all of the believers who need them. At this point dissatisfaction will set in among those believers who go without, but ideologies will often resort to spreading false hopes, half-truths, and using outright lies to keep their members believing that a great reward is not far off in the future and that they need to keep working hard in order to obtain it. In Christianity this can be done by proclaiming that every natural disaster, war, famine, or other major catastrophe is a sign that the end times are near and that Jesus will be coming soon, probably within the lifetime of the believer. In Capitalism this can be done by either increasing the money supply so that everyone can have more paper money (even though doing so makes each dollar worth less) or by convincing everyone that their long term investments will be worth even more than they expected when it comes time to cash out. With any ideology it works the same: the thing that the ideology holds most sacred, and which in the minds of its believers has been established as being a source of undeniable value and reliability after years if not decades of reinforcement, becomes bastardized and corrupted in order to make it seem as though the ideology is still growing. And while this corruption might appear to be a conspiracy led by a number of scheming individuals, it is more likely the case that those responsible are blinded by their own ideology or swept up in their own hubris and are either unaware that they are undermining their own faith or convinced that their actions are temporary measures which are necessary to support the ideology until better times arrive. In a world of ideological competition and conflict, the illusion is necessary for survival since appearing weak can demotivate the struggling ideology's believers as well as invite rival ideologies to attack. For a while these illusionary rewards work as well as the real ones and the ideology remains strong, but in time they too will fail to satisfy, and eventually the members of the ideology will become tired of all the sacrifice and begin demanding the real rewards that they feel that they have earned.
At this point force is often needed to keep the dissatisfied in line. Those with the most power and influence will use their power to continue to get their share of the rewards, or more than their share, in whatever way is necessary, and as long as they are receiving adequate rewards they will hold true to the belief that their ideology is working. It works for them after all. This reinforcement will skew their perception of the world and they will often see those who complain about their lack of rewards as suffering from some moral failing rather than seeing the ideology as being impotent. They will hold that the dissatisfied people simply need to be more devout and follow the rules of the ideology with more fervor, and that if they do so that they will be able to get their rewards too. Such rationalizations permit the powerful to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the less powerful, and to justify using force against them if necessary. It's for their own good after all. Such neglect and poor treatment of the dissatisfied serves to incubate new ideologies which will oppose the ruling ideology. In turn the emergence of conflicting ideologies will justify the use of more force by the ruling ideology. This can become a vicious circle and end up spreading deprivation and dissatisfaction to all members of the ideology. When the corruption gets past a certain point the game is over. The ideology cannot provide sufficient rewards and it can no longer stand as it was.
Ideologies that collapse due to either losing an ideological conflict or falling victim to corruption, or which stagnate and lose ground to rival ideologies, often go through a period of inner conflict and turmoil before emerging in a mutated form. Mutation follows the principles outlined in the previous sections: that dissatisfaction gives birth to new ideologies which are similar to the original but with the problems which caused it to collapse possibly corrected, that these new ideologies will themselves mutate and grow within the collapsed ideology if they appeal to a broad range of supporters, that conflicts will develop between the inner divisions of the old ideology, and that those conflicts and their resolutions can follow one of many possible courses. There also exists the possibility that the mutating ideology adopts ideas from rival and other ideologies, especially successful ones, to replace the failed ideas within. However, during mutation, the ideology seldom changes its central ideals and tends to remain true to all or most of what gives the ideology its particular character. If collapse ends up changing the ideology's central ideals, it is probably more accurate to state that the old ideology has died and that a new one has taken its place.
Ideological mutation differs from biological mutation due to the flexibility of the human mind and its ability to switch ideas rapidly. Whereas biological mutation requires many generations of small changes to create a creature distinctly different from the original, ideologies can be formed within the time span of a single generation. If you think about an ideology, with its ideas and rules of behavior, as a strand of DNA, each part of the strand is a separate idea which is integrated into the larger whole. Making changes to an ideology is as simple and fluid as individual humans adopting new ideas and rules of behavior and discarding the old ones. As these ideas propagate through the believers of that ideology, which can happen quickly, the whole ideology mutates into a new form.
Just as with evolution the process isn't without occasional missteps, and natural selection is very much a powerful force in determining which ideas remain in the ideology and which ones do not. Sometimes seemingly good ideas, when put into practice, produce poor results and must be discarded, but because of the flexibility of the human mind, ideologies can rapidly converge upon workable collections of ideas and rules. But while the human mind is very flexible, ideologies may be less so, and some ideologies are more flexible than others when it comes to tolerating new ideas. Both flexibility and rigidity have their strengths and weaknesses since new ideas can be either good or bad for an ideology. Rigidity has the advantage of staying with something that is tried and true, but in a world of ever-changing rival ideologies, what is tried and true today may not be as effective tomorrow. Too much rigidity will inevitably lead to an ideology becoming inferior. Flexibility has the advantage of allowing an ideology to find better solutions to problems which help it to grow and compete, but all change is not necessarily good, even if it appears to be so at first since the full impact of an ideological change may not register for years or decades. Too much flexibility will inevitably result in an ideology making too great of a commitment towards a strategy that will fail, possibly catastrophically, in the future.
The principle of natural selection, applied to ideologies, is the driving force in determining which mutations "work" and which ones do not. Contrary to the opinions of believers, an ideology does not "work" because it is the truth, it works because the behaviors that it enforces upon its believers place the ideology at a survival advantage against other ideologies. While the truth, defined as being something that can be empirically demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt, can be an effective weapon in ideological conflict since ideologies which can embrace a truth which reveals a rival as being flawed are at a distinct advantage in a propaganda war, all ideologies must hold as a central ideal a set of unreasonable promises that they can use to motivate their believers to a greater degree than their foes. These unreasonable promises run counter to the truth, and thus all ideologies are flawed at their core, but these flaws are a necessary requirement for the survival of an ideology. These flaws allow the ideology to "work", at least in the short term, by promising its believers spectacular rewards which motivate them to work as hard or harder than their rivals. And thus a critical requirement for an ideology is that it must be able to convince its believers that its promises are not unreasonable and that they will come true.
The death of an ideology occurs when either everyone who believes in it is dead or when it mutates to such a degree that it no longer follows its central ideals. In the latter case, the ideology may still bear the original name and carry with it many of the same ideas and rules as its predecessor, but if the central ideals have changed it is probably easier to conceptualize what has occurred by stating that the original ideology is dead and by giving the new one a different name.
An ideology will fall out of favor when it no longer "works", causing believers to try to alter it or abandon it altogether. This can be due to the ideology becoming too corrupt, by it losing a conflict with a rival, or by it remaining stagnant for too long and thus ending up inferior to other ideologies. All three cases will generate dissatisfaction among its believers and result in mutation, but to change the central ideals of an ideology the amount of dissatisfaction must be very great. Such deep changes don't come easily and inner conflict is usually the result with those who benefited the most from the original ideals and rules lining up behind the ideology and those who benefited the least demanding major changes. This inner conflict is generally fought between groups which can be called the Orthodoxy and the Reformers. The Orthodoxy are those who cling to the original ideals of the ideology and the Reformers are the ones who want change. In the beginning the Orthodoxy is in charge, but as the conflict rages the group which is more or less in control can change back and forth many times before victory for one side results. If the Reformers are victorious, or threaten to tear the entire ideology apart, the changes that result can be deep enough to essentially kill the old ideology, or move it far enough away from its original central beliefs that it is something completely new. If the changes are not so deep the ideology can stay reasonably true to its original nature, but if a number of such changes are forced upon an ideology over time then it is inevitable that it will move beyond its original central ideals. At such a point its distant predecessor can be declared dead even though some of its ideals are still in practice. An example of this is the polytheistic religion of ancient Greece. Although the Greek gods are no longer worshipped and their rituals are no longer performed, the impact of Greek philosophers on virtually every ideology today is significant and often profound. Their gods may be dead, but their influence is alive and well.
Ideologies can die a more violent death as the result of war where one ideology conquers the other, but it is not necessary to exterminate the remaining population to kill the ideology though, usually a catastrophic defeat is enough to convince its believers that their ideology is flawed and they will be open to accepting a new one or at least to accepting major changes to the old. In such a case the conquering ideology needs to swiftly replace the system of rewards which the former ideology bestowed on its followers with an equivalently satisfying system of its own. A conquered people are a very dissatisfied people, having lost their former rewards systems, and a conqueror risks giving birth to new ideologies which are opposed to it if it does not address the needs of the conquered. Such new ideologies can be very difficult to eradicate since their followers will see themselves as having nothing to lose and everything to gain by fighting and will be highly motivated to restore what had been taken from them. But if the conqueror is successful at getting its ideology working among the conquered people, is generous in handing out rewards, and is careful about abusing its new members and thus giving motivation to the resistance, the conquered people will work hard in support of the conquering ideology. If all goes well the conquered people will follow an ideology similar to the conqueror, but with elements very similar to how it was before mixed in, like a hybrid ideology, and the conqueror will be itself rewarded with a loyal and prosperous ally. The death of one ideology is often followed by the birth of another. And so the cycle continues.
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
- 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 survival in the short term outweighs survival in the long term prompting ideologies to pursue shortsighted and sometimes suicidal strategies
- 4. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive, thus creating a vicious circle
- 5. That aggressive ideologies must continue to grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members will feed on each other to satisfy their needs
- 6. 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 technological progress has made the destruction of the world through ideological warfare possible and will continue to make it easier to effect
- 4. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of a suicidal ideology which will destroy the human race in the attempt to save it
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.
Or if you want to do PayPal, just send me the answers to 1 and 2 above in an e-mail and I'll tell you where to send the money.
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.
Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess: $6 / $9
Food for the Gods: $12 / $14 (SOLD OUT)
Victory or Death: $5 / $7
Lovecraftian Nightmares: $5 / $7 (SOLD OUT)
A Dream of Death: $3 / $5 (SOLD OUT)
Send everything to:
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.
In 2009, Fireaxe will take a step back and work on a couple of projects from the past. First of all, "Food for the Gods" has sold out and will be re-mastered before a second printing run is made. Also, it may also be re-mixed for even better sound quality depending on time constraints. Secondly, the first Fireaxe CD, "A Dream of Death" will be getting a complete overhaul before it is re-released. Everything will be re-recorded using much more modern equipment and with everything that I've learned over the last ten years going into it to make it better than ever. Also, since it was recorded at a time when CDs had a 74 minute limit instead of the current eighty, I will add six more minutes of music to the work in which I will explore a number of musical themes and make the CD that much better. So it looks like a year of sequels for Fireaxe. I'll probably leave the names the same but I've been kicking around a few new ideas for the CDs, such as "Food for the Gods - Regurgitated", "Desert for the Gods", and "A Dream of Undeath", "The Morning After Death", or "I'm Dreaming of a White Strait-Jacket - a Fireaxe Christmas in Hell".
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.
Currently Fireaxe is not for profit. I sell the single CDs for $5 or $6, $12 for "Food for the Gods" since it is three CDs, which covers the production and mailing costs. For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge an extra $2 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:Brian Voth - Creator of Fireaxe
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.
- 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. Do not fall in love with the Dark Goddess. I mean, seriously. She's the goddess of death after all. It's not a good idea. Furthermore, do not have sexual fantasies involving the Dark Goddess. She does not have a womb and thus lacks the entrance to that particular organ. Also, attempting to use other entrances will likely result in castration. Again, it's not a good idea.
- 6. You are vehemently discouraged from doing anything depicted in the CD "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" such as: torturing someone, lying for corporate profit, rationalizing greed, beating, raping, and murdering your girlfriend, destroying the lives of those who've wronged you and their families, corrupting the government, trying to kill yourself with pleasure, kidnapping and ransoming people, committing atrocities, cutting someone's face to pieces, destroying half the world as revenge, and especially stating that any of these things are okay because "God is on your side." Please, think before you act.
- 7. You are food for the gods.
- 8. 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?
- 9. 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.
- 10. 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.
- 11. 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.
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