Deformed Under Pressure

Posted: February 2, 2022 in Culture, Fascism, Free Speech, Mental Health, Politics
Tags: , , , , ,

To set up this blog post, let me venture recklessly into a less-familiar (for me at least) area of science, namely, physics. Intersections with particle physics and cosmology might be possible, but my concern is within the everyday world of objects that don’t require an electron microscope or telescope to be seen by humans. Most of us know in a routine sense that liquids, solids, and gases come under a variety of influences, e.g., radiation (including light), heat (and its inverse cold), and pressure (and its absence vacuum or its inverse suction). Could be other causes of deformation; it’s not my area of expertise but rather that of materials engineers who determine how much stress various kinds of a particular material can withstand before becoming useless. Pressure in combination with heat governs when an object, tool, or part is likely to fail over its projected useful life, which can be the root of either planned obsolescence or permanence for particularly hardy man-made (?) objects such as Neolithic ruins. For solid objects in particular, the amount of deformation that can be absorbed relates to its function. Rubber bands, springs, and paper clips serve their purpose by tolerating deformation, whereas bridge framing has far less flexion. When objects become truly massive, such as planets and stars (suns), gravitational forces in their interiors where the highest pressure/heat is found produce effects that are understood imperfectly. As I understand it, the (inferred?) molten iron core of Earth is responsible for its magnetic field, which has been determined to reorient repeatedly over planetary history. The sun is massive enough to produce nuclear fusion and energy roughly equivalent to the explosion of 91.92 billion megatons of TNT per second.

/rant on

Importing deformation under pressure into human character and society, opposite ends of the socioeconomic scale arguably produce the most distortion. Although many welcome the prospect of a big lottery win, anecdotal evidence suggests that most winners simply can’t take the sudden release of normal financial responsibility (pressure). Similarly, those who rise from austere beginnings to become hundy billionaires (names withheld) reliably become maniacs, diverting their wealth into undeserved influence, boondoggles, and self-serving bids for immortality. Born into obscene wealth? Arguably never even had a chance at normalcy. And because fame, influence, and indulgence go with extraordinary fortunes, idle whims are given serious consideration because, after all, why the hell not? Nothing holding back someone who can essentially purchase anything.

Penury also deforms people. The unhoused are the obvious category, who strain sometimes to be recognizably human as they spiral down into drug addition, severe deprivation, wrecked health, and often madness. The poor (penniless immigrants count here, too) are commonly shunned, displaced, and discarded until they become someone else’s problem. Over time, homelessness — even in the so-called affluent West — has grown so rampant that no one can even imagine a solution. As a result, the homeless themselves become untouchables (yet not quite invisible if only due to their burgeoning numbers). Hard to say how many people resort to crime to avoid poverty, but that familiar detour drags on civil society as the cost of doing business increases. Same can be said of lobbying (a/k/a influence peddling) in politics, which is a necessary line item on most corporate budgets even if it’s, say, merely an “expediter” to get through municipal red tape.

People at the top end of the inequality scale face unusual pressures quite alien to regular folks. For instance, every utterance of a high-profile individual comes under heavy scrutiny by those determined out of spite and/or jealousy to tear down their “betters” or merely siphon off even a small bit of heedless excess wealth. And because the ultrarich are constantly surrounded by servants and sycophants, they may be among the loneliest people on Earth, unable to regard most others as peers and sinking into paranoia over suspected hidden motivations. Accordingly, romantic candidates must themselves be independently wealthy to remove most doubt, which is essentially reflecting one funhouse mirror into another.

The big picture needs some consideration, too. In an era where technological advances have delivered into everyone’s hands devices of immense connective and processing power (compared to anything pre-1980), a world of possibilities has opened up — some salutary, others quite destructive. Hard to overstate the disorientation and degradation of the public sphere from inviting everyone into your ears and sight-line to compete for attention at the same time that there’s virtually no refuge because unknown eyes are constantly on you, surveilling. (OK, we probably know who they are: everyone.) And with gotcha capitalism, you’re always someone else’s mark.

As goes society, so goes government, which reflects society’s values on some level — or at least what society is willing to tolerate. Far from being immune to public pressure, liberal democracies have suffered a massive loss of trust in their own citizens and have transformed themselves rather unsuccessfully into fascist autocratic people herders. Exhibit 1 is the permanent campaign (always be on war footing) to shape the bogus narrative that government is somehow, somewhere, doing something for the benefit of the population rather than for itself. Ironically, the implied pressure to convince the public of government imperatives and retain power/control is not balanced by restraints on what can be tried to achieve the appearance of consensus. So governments stretch and strain with increasingly brazen lies, bad faith, gaslighting, and malfeasance, hideously deformed under pressure. Mounting dissent, however, demonstrates that popular compliance — like paper that can be folded or crumpled only to be flattened into roughly its original form (scored and scarred) but cannot be torn asunder and repaired — has just about reached its breaking point.

/rant off

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