Sujet trébuchant #2 – Fragilize the absolute

Bits and Pieces from Adorno’s Minima Moralia. Reflections from Damaged Life (1951): “In psychoanalysis nothing is true, but its exaggerations” / “The whole is the untrue” / “In his ‘Antichrist’ Nietzsche has made his strongest argument not just against theology, but against metaphysics: that hope is mistaken for truth; that the impossibility to think, live happily or live at all without an absolute, doesn’t account for the legitimacy of the idea [of the absolute, I guess].” – (all my translations) Then, there comes what Adorno argues with or against Nietzsche, but I’m not ABSOLUTELY sure I understand it, so I’m cutting right across what seems to be his conclusion with/against Nietzsche: “In the end hope, as it wrestles itself from reality by negating it, is the only form in which truth appears.” So, here you go…

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SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

Is tautological.

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CONTEMPT FOR THE STUPID

Remember when we were undergraduates? Do you remember saying something that seemed perfectly reasonable, only to be met– usually by a TA or an older student– with a withering look of contempt and a dogmatic assertion.  Or perhaps we saw this happen to a classmate.

I think this is one of the most powerful methods by which ideological conformity is enforced.  After this encounter, we struggled to understand the dogma.  Even if we didn’t understand it we’d pretend we did.

Whether one is left-wing or right-wing, it works the same way; expressions of contempt for stupidity reinforce barriers between people and reify ideologies.

One of the problems with rigid ideological positions is that they blind people to reality.  For instance, in the United States, “conservatives” and “liberals” are both advancing the cause of a totalitarian regime, while each group thinks they’re doing their best to protect the nation from the evil designs of the other group.

Contempt for the stupid is a form of stupidity.  We are all stupid.  Stupid is a relative concept. Those who are the most contemptuous of the stupid are probably the most afraid of being shown up as being stupid themselves.

I was raised by a father who always said “the masses are asses.” The overwhelming majority of people consider themselves above average. The elite in the United States, and the aristocrats and elites of all nations, are vulnerable to a kind of thinking that says: you are privileged because you are superior.

In the United States a tremendous amount of effort has gone into miseducating the masses.  John Taylor Gatto explains it well: http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/  A short and deceptively glib narrative of this process might go as follows: in 1914, the Rockefellers massacred striking workers, women and children in Ludlow, Colorado.  This turned out to be bad public relations for the Rockefellers and hurt profits.  As a result, the Rockefellers set up non-profit think tanks to study ways to solve the problem.  The think tanks suggested that the work force be educated in such a way as to sap their will to fight the Rockefellers and their ilk.  Compulsory public schooling was instituted, and the bland fare taught there concealed an ideology hostile to the students, who then either identified with this concealed ideology and rose to the top of the “meritocracy” or rebelled against it and joined the ranks of the “stupid.”

It isn’t hard to see that a societal feedback loop was created, in which those who conformed to the covert ideologies were taught to consider themselves smart and superior and those who rejected it were denied opportunities, marginalized and misunderstood.

The “meritocrats,” the workers in offices, the owners, the clever people who write for newspapers and magazines, bankers, the managers, and their sympathizers, whether nominally liberal or conservative, are, ironically, more deeply damaged by this system than those who are excluded.  They are cut off from their own history. They lose their identities.  They are unspontaneous, affected, neurotic, stressed-out, and profoundly unhappy (unless they are sociopaths, in which case they find the whole arrangement comfortable.)

I was born in the meritocratic camp, but I moved over to the camp of the stupid. The stupid are not inherently better than the meritocrats, they’re often deeply flawed and damaged, but they are not actually stupid (just as the meritocrats do not actually posess merit.) On average they are more generous (although they have fewer resources.) They are typically better dancers. They tend to clam up around meritocrats, who are not equipped to understand their thinking, and who treat them with condesencion and contempt.

The stupid are a microcosm of the “other,” i.e., from the standpoint of Western Civilization, barbarians.  Barbarians have always been an intractable problem, requiring either conversion (enslavement) or extermination. Contempt for the stupid is just an attenuated version of the eugenic drive for genocide.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  We don’t have to assassinate our own better selves in order to escape the barbarian hordes.

Keep an eye out for the contempt for the stupid. Whenever I feel that twinge of contempt for the stupid, I know that, like a marionette puppet, my string is being pulled. I may think it’s my own thought, but it has been carefully placed there by skilled propagandists, who are trying to alienate me from my people.

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Sujet trébuchant #1

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 27. Juni 2013, S. 16, Sebastian Herrmann: Lümmeln und Lügen

Basically what it says is that people who slouch around and take a lot of space are more prone to lying and unsocial behaviour. Also the bigger the size of your carseat, the more likely you are gonna park it contrary to the rules. Also the size of your chair influences your behavior. The bigger your chair, the more power you feel and the more unsocial you get. So, what’s the conclusion? Keep it small? I’m ambivalent.

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TAXONOMY OF LIES

Truth is elusive.   But so, in its own way, is untruth.

St. Augustine of Hippo wrote two books on lies. A website about how to lie well summarizes his taxonomy of lies as follows, in order of decreasing sinfulness:

Lies in religious teaching.
Lies that harm others and help no one.
Lies that harm others and help someone.
Lies told for the pleasure of lying.
Lies told to “please others in smooth discourse.”
Lies that harm no one and that help someone.
Lies that harm no one and that save someone’s life.
Lies that harm no one and that save someone’s “purity.”

As you can see, this taxonomy is organized according to the degree of moral harm caused. This list also presumes access to Truth; Augustine assumes that there is some standard by which we can tell the difference between the truth and a lie.

There are lies in which someone utters a statement that they know to be counterfactual. What about lies in which someone is deluded and utters a factual statement which they believe to be untrue?

There are also lies in which a subject utters a statement that is consistent with fact, but which is framed in such a way as to conceal or draw attention away from some other fact or group of facts. It is in this sense that the New York Times can be said to be a collection of lies, not in the sense that what is reported is counterfactual (although it is, often enough) but in the sense that the newspaper’s claim to include “All the news that’s fit to print” renders every item within the paper dishonest. The claim, along with the claim of the New York Times to be the “paper of record,” organizes and presents only those facts which serve the ruling elite.

I would like to propose another taxonomy that recognizes the lack of unity of the self.  Not only do we lie to others, but we lie to ourselves as well.

GROUP 1. Lies that we believe and tell to ourselves and others.

This category of lies includes almost all culture.  I would argue that culture (lean in to the root “cult”) is a network of myths that are sustained by acts of faith.  This voluntary acceptance of something that is contrary to fact (believing on faith, trust in authority, conforming) almost requires the subject to turn around and repeat these lies to others for confirmation and support.  One really can’t put any sort of moral onus on this kind of lie; the people who incessantly go around yammering these lies have been lied to and they’re scared of all the work they’d have to do if the lies break down.

GROUP 2. Lies that we don’t believe but which we tell in hopes that others will believe them.

This group of lies include the majority of statements issued by governments and corporations.  This group of lies are classic lies, statements counter to fact which are uttered in order to manipulate others.  This group also includes lies to make oneself look better or more impressive in another’s eyes (although there is a large grey area in where this zone overlaps with Group 1), lies to escape punishment for one’s crimes.

GROUP 3. Lies that we don’t believe but which we tell in hopes that others will believe that we believe them.

Say you’re a Jew in Spain during the Spanish Inquisition and an Inquisitor asks you if you believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  In this case, you don’t believe, but you might lie and say you do, not because you want to convert the Inquisitor by your evident faith; no, you just want him to believe that you believe– whether or not he believes is not the point at all here.  Anyone living in a cult(ure) who doesn’t “drink the Kool-Aid” is going to find situations in which they are tempted to utter this kind of lie. In a fascist state, I believe there comes a critical point when everyone realizes that they’re all lying to each other. This is the birth of irony.

GROUP 4. Facts that are told in order to manipulate.

Facts can be lies too. If you can tell someone something with the intention of getting them to do something, there is a mismatch between the form of the communication (the fact) and the content (manipulation.)  Very clever people can come up with an array of selected facts that will lead to a false conclusion in someone else’s head.  This group of lies overlaps with all the previous groups. There is nothing especially truthful about facticity.  Husserl claims that imagination has a privileged truth-position over facticity.

When we reflect on the amazing strides made in “mass communication”– what used to be called propaganda– in the last century, we have to acknowledge that almost everything that is published serves a manipulative agenda and therefore can be categorized as a Group 4 lie.

Also, all marketing is untruth.

In the face of near-universal untruth, it is not surprising that some philosophers claim that truth is nonexistent or irrelevant.  Our culture is accelerating away from truth as quickly as it can. The kind of moral sophistry which frees thought from truth-claims renders invaluable service to fascism.

These philosophers may claim as well that all truth-claims are oppressive, because, well, the Catholic Church was wrong. But one has to ask such verbose and honest liars, what are they trying to manipulate us into?

Much better, to my tastes, is the position of extreme doubt established by Theodor Adorno.  Adorno debunks truth claims– but there is, in his work, a fundamental orientation toward truth that allows him to be honestly critical.  Negative Dialectics is the most truthful work of philosophy I have read– and it’s because Adorno’s motivation, which he admits is ultimately metaphysical, keeps him honest.  In other words, he cares.  Adorno’s metaphysics is evanescent, but I believe it is rooted in his musical practice.

Margaret Mead seems to care too– but in her prose and in her verbal communications there is a pedagogical distance that points to her sense of herself as an elite subject who considers it her role to shepherd the clueless masses into their enclosures where they will be safe until they are hygenically slaughtered.

Existentialists, realists, realpolitikians, and “tough-minded” people who really believe that bodies are just sacks of chemicals and that all life is a struggle for survival see “survival of the fittest” as the ultimate truth.  The will to power engages them completely and satisfies/exhausts them.  In their eyes, anyone who subscribes to any sort of metaphysics is on one level a patsy, a chump to be lied to and manipulated.  On another level, metaphysics is a huge threat, because were there to be a truth beyond “might makes right,” they would clearly be in the wrong.  Most egregiously. What they don’t seem to realize is that their belief in “survival of the fittest” and “evolution” is itself a metaphyics– with survival as an ultimate and futile telos.

Now it is time for a prophetic crescendo.  “Survival of the fittest” is vain and self-congratualtory; it lurks behind Western liberalism as much as the more openly fascist philosophies; and it is in every way a profoundly evil metaphysics. It is the prevailing doctrine of our ruling elites, and ultimately, the motivating dogma of our culture.

I don’t want to go too deeply into the idea of evil here; but to make a little sense of the last prophetic-crescendo paragraph for those who are lost– the perception of “competition for survival” is a profound misunderstanding of nature.  Nature tends to set up interconnected networks of organisms that support each other, not charred landscapes with a single victorious apex predator. Darwin’s dogma emerged at a time when it was needed to support imperialism against the growing awareness that there might be something wrong with genocide.  Existentialism serves as a philosophical support for Darwinism.

 

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Lao Tzu and Siddhartha Guatama- chatting!

Legend holds it that the great sage Lao-tzu decided to leave civilization and rode his blue ox into the west. An official at the Han Gu Pass, Officer Xi, stopped him.

As Zhang Tianyu writes in his Mystical History, “Officer Xi was a grandee of Zhou.  Adept at inner studies, he regularly consumed vital essences and practiced secret charity. None of the people of his time knew him.

“When Lao-tzu traveled west, Xi perceived the atmosphere in advance and knew a real human was going to pass through. Looking to stop him, he actually found Lao-tzu. Lao-tzu knew he was exceptional too, and wrote two works for him, on the Way and on virtue. Afterward he went into the Gobi Desert with Lao-tzu and ate black sesame seed. No one knows where he ended up.”

Most people in the west are aware of Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching, (Classic of Way-Virtue?), but what about the other book? Taoist tradition holds that the Hua Hu Ching, a dialogue between Lao-tzu and a young prince, is authentic, and has been transmitted since antiquity via oral tradition. They also say that during those years when religious Buddhism was politically ascendent in China, that this text was targeted for eradication by the authorities, because the young prince in the dialogue is said by some to be Siddhartha Guatama.  The Buddhists who disapprove of the text would say it was a fabrication intended to cast Lao-tzu in a role as the Buddha’s teacher, a subtle attack on the truth-claims of Buddhism.

Here’s a snippet from the Hua Hu Ching, the apocryphal dialogue between Lao-tzu and the future Buddha.  I have taken the liberty of labeling the speakers explicity as Lao-tzu and Siddhartha for maximum publicity value. The translation is by Hua-Ching Ni. (Now known as Om Ni.)

SIDDHARTHA
My venerable teacher, I now understand that all ideas, thoughts and knowledge, all emotional reactions, and all things are totally empty.  There is not one single thing in life that can be held as the final complete truth.  Therefore, one should not be bothered by the trivialities of life but should dedicate oneself to absolute, immutable Oneness.

LAO TZU
Kind prince, the Unnameable gives birth to One.
The One gives birth to Two.
The Two give birth to Three.
The Three give birth to Myriad Things.
All things are embodied by yin and embrace yang as their essential core.
The Five Subtle Phases are the parallel evolutionary movement of all phenomena.
Everything in the universe can be categorized according to the Eight Great Manifestations.

Kind prince, if anyone holds the One, he must neglect the Two;
if he holds the Two, he must neglect the Three;
if he holds the Three, he must neglect Myriad Things. Each stage of development is the reality of the universe. Yet one cannot hold one stage as the complete reality.

Kind prince, ignore the One, Two, Three and the Myriad.
Do not take a part as the whole because a part is not the whole.
Do not take the whole as the whole, because any part is the whole.

SIDDHARTHA
My venerable teacher, I understand that I should have no attachment to anything, either the absolute or the relative, the One or the Myriad.

LAO TZU
Kind prince, holding “no attachment” as truth is still against the Truth.

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Some Gems from the Word-Mine

(Notes for a speech delivered by Gary Heidt on the occasion of the publication of Infinity’s Kitchen #6.)

Thank you for coming out in this terrible weather.  This is truly a meeting of titans and I am honored to be among such enlightened people.

In the essay “The Wordsquare” which you will find in Infinity’s Kitchen #6, I talk about a form of poetry that I thought I invented but which turned out to have been a popular craze in post-Civil War America. Correspondence groups and newspaper puzzle pages helped enthusiasts share these gemlike poems, which they called “forms” with full knowledge of the Platonic overtones.  The most popular of these forms was what I called a wordsquare, a sort of grid of letters which could be read across or down.

Show Example 1. (Tea will be a theme tonight.)

T E A
E A T
A T E

In the essay I talk about the history of this form, the form.  Rather than move into the literary mainstream, it passed into the cryptanalitic subculture, and was of great interest to folks who pioneered computer science and cryptanalysis from institutions like Air Force Intelligence, Bell Labs and the NSA.

I note in passing that the interest in forms also led to a craze in the nineteen-teens that’s still with us: the crossword puzzle.

Tonight I thought that rather than read the essay, which you can read in print if you like, I thought I might show you some wordsquares from the word-mines.

I don’t think it’s proper to say that word-squares, or forms, are written; I think they are discovered, or mined.  They are linguistic objects that exist whether or not we find them; they are implicit in the written language.

One of my oldest friends, John Cerkan, mined the poems I will be reading tonight with the help of a computer; at first he wrote his own program but ended up stealing the code of Doug McIlvoy, who was the head of the team that developed Unix.  Anyone know what Unix is? Created by formists.

Anyhow, let’s look at some square forms, or wordsquares as Cerkan and I called them.  We’ll start with the smallest and go up to eight-letter squares.

All one letter words are automatically wordsquares.

Here’s a two-letter wordsquare:

Show Example 2.

T O
O N

Does anyone know Greek? This one is better in Greek.

I already showed you a three-letter wordsquare, so let’s skip to four-letter wordsquares.

All the squares we’ve looked at so far have been symmetrical.  They read the same across or down.  The formists called an asymmetrical square a “double,” because you could potentially have twice as many words with the same number of letters.  I like doubles a lot.  They are rarer, and they offer twice the poetry in the same space.

To read these doubles I would like to bring up the legendary but probably real word-wizard Kirk Bromley to the stage.  Give him a hand, ladies and gentlemen.

I’ll read across and he’ll read down.  We’ll do the first one twice.  I want to read the words simultaneously the first time and then stagger them the second time, and you can vote as to which way you like better and we’ll do it that way the rest of the time.

Example 3.

W O R D
I D E A
F O A M
E R R S

Which way did you like better?  (Take vote)

OK, here we’ll put two four-letter forms next to each other, so that it makes a poem of four two-word lines going across and eight one-word lines going down.

Show Example 4.
I D E A   I D E A
D E A L   N E A R
E A S E   T E S T
A R T S   O R E S

So you can take these and combine them into bigger patterns, which is fun too.

Now let’s move on to some five letter squares.

Show Example 5.

L U N A R
A N I S E
S I G H T
E T H E R
R E T R Y

This is a sweet five letter square.  It makes me think of some kind of follow-up to the Michelson Morley experiment which failed to find the lumiferous ether.

Show Example 6.

Now if you’re familiar with Genesis, it’s part of a popular religious anthology called The Bible, this next five-square sounds like the humorous aftermath of Genesis 6:4, “There were giants in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them.”

Molal, by the way, means having as a quantity one mole.

H U M A N
E L O P E
A T L A S
T R A C T
S A L E S

Show Example 7.

Now, extending the concept of arranging forms in groups, Kirk and I will do a little fantasia on the word “canon.” That’s canon with one “n,” meaning originally “law, rule or decree of the Church,” but which is also a musical form in which the different parts are in strict imitation of each other, but at a different time or pitch, and which finally most familiarly means a group of books that are accepted as the fundamental literature of a religion or a civilization.

I’ll arrange these four five-squares in a square. They can be arranged many different ways because each one can be flipped.

C A N O N   C A N A L
A B O V E   A L I C E
R O S E S   N I C H E
A V E R T   O C H R E
T E S T S   N E E D Y
C A B I N   C A N O N
A L O N E   O Z O N E
N I N E S   N U R S E
O V E R T   A R M E D
N E S T S   N E S T S

Thanks, Kirk, for helping out with that.

It is harder to find asymmetrical squares the larger you get, and we’re going to do a few big symmetrical ones now.  Thanks.  Everyone give a hand to the great Kirk Bromley. He is doing really important work in verse, you should all remember his name.

Here’s a six-square, I’ll just read across, you’ll see it reads the same down.

Show Example 8.

A B A C U S
B E G O N E
A G E N D A
C O N D O M
U N D O N E
S E A M E N

That one’s kind of racy.

The next one is even worse, I can imagine it being the headline for a story about a daughter who says her molester father is hung like a horse:

Example 9.

I N C E S T
N E L L I E
C L A I M S
E L I C I T
S I M I L E
T E S T E S

Okay, enough of those dirty sixes.  Let’s get on to some deep sevens.

To understand the next one, you have to know that an Arimasp is a kind of one-eyed Scythian.  The Scythians were nomads from the steppes of Eurasia who later settled down to become Goths. Their descendents are all over Europe and North America.  There were a lot of different kinds of Scythians.  The Arimaspeans were legendary in a different sense from the way I say that Kirk Bromley is legendary. Herodotus, a historian from the fifth century B.C. wasn’t sure they really existed. He wrote, “The story goes that the one-eyed Arimaspians steal the gold from the griffins who guard it; personally, however, I refuse to believe in one-eyed men who in other respects are like the rest of men.” He didn’t have a problem with the gold-hoarding griffins.

An “Isamine” is a blue pigment.  “Tisanes” are infusions, like teas.  “Yapness” means hunger.

Example 10.

R E A L I T Y
E U R A S I A
A R I M A S P
L A M P M A N
I S A M I N E
T I S A N E S
Y A P N E S S

For the next one, we continue the infusion theme, but here’s it’s the lack of tea that is at issue.  Also keep in mind that netsuke is a small decorative object that is also useful; and igneous is an adjective that means formed in fire. An infanta is the daughter of an Iberian king.

Example 11.

W R I T I N G
R E N E G E R
I N F A N T A
T E A L E S S
I G N E O U S
N E T S U K E
G R A S S E S

Now we’ll finish with two eight-squares.  You may notice that we’re getting some more obscure words thrown in here.  It seems like the science of chemistry has contributed a lot of long words to our language. Any chemists in the audience?  Ah, the great Joe Machado, who writes poems about chemistry.  Truly a meeting of titans tonight.

Joe already knows these words, but perhaps the rest of you will want to know that “avenalin” is a protein found in oats, “accretal” is a kind of buildup, and “katalyst” of course is a chemical which helps a reaction occur.  Not from chemistry, but from the French comes “etatisme,” a word for the control of the state over the citizen  I suspect this is a recipe for a tea that will set us free, as well as being a lovely poem.

Example 12.

T E A M A K E R
E X C A V A T E
A C C R E T A L
M A R I N A T E
A V E N A L I N
K A T A L Y S T
E T A T I S M E
R E L E N T E D

Finally, in honor of our current scandal, here’s one that starts with “wiretaps,” perhaps an archaic term but I feel it still resonates.

Some other words which may be unfamiliar to some of us: “aciliates” are beings without cilia– that is, little hairs– and a “timeling” is a time-server in computerese, but we can take it to mean a being who exists in time.  “Sledgers” are people who ride on sleds.

Finally, a really obscure one, but maybe it shouldn’t be. “Rolamite” is a frictionless ball-bearing patented by the Sandia National Laboratories.  Popular Science and Popular Mechanics were apparently reading the same press releases in 1966 when both called it the only basic machine invented in the 20th century.

For those of you who are not familiar with Sandia National Laboratories, it is an extremely interesting institution; its primary mission is to develop, engineer and test the non-nuclear parts of nuclear weapons systems. Anybody watch Breaking Bad?  Walter White was employed at Sandia when he met Skyler. I’m hoping there’s more about that in the final season. Anyhow, a lot of interesting top secret research goes on at Sandia. One might wonder how some of its major fields of research relate to its primary mission; they include computational biology, alternative energy, psychology, cognitive science, and micromechanical systems– that is, very tiny machines. Sandia also hosts some of the world’s most advanced supercomputers, like the Cray-built ASCI Red Storm, known as “Thor’s Hammer.”  In light of the sledgers in the final line, I want to mention that SLEDS is the acronym for Sandia Laboratories Engineering Drawing System.

W I R E T A P S
I R O N I C A L
R O L A M I T E
E N A M E L E D
T I M E L I N G
A C I L I A T E
P A T E N T O R
S L E D G E R S

Example 13.

In order to shed just a little more light on the meaning of this poem, (this should clear it right up) I want to quote from a scientific paper published in 1980, written by Henry Monteith PhD, a brilliant African-American physicist who was employed by Sandia at that time.  Monteith’s paper is titled “The Unified Field Theory and the UFO” and it discusses a six-dimensional hyperspace as conceptualized by physicist Burkhard Heim.  In a section summarizing some of the basic effects caused by gravitationally driven spacecraft, we find this interesting digression:

“A more practical method of communication, superior to gravitational waves, is communication through the X5 and X6 dimensions.  In other words, the space people use mind communication.  Such communication is not limited by space and time; consequently, such communication can be carried out over the farthest reaches of the cosmos.”

If a researcher at top secret Sandia Laboratories can casually say, “the space people use mind communication,” perhaps we can leave our mind open to the idea that humans are not the most intelligent beings that exist in the universe. Maybe we’re not even the most intelligent beings here on Earth. The idea that we are the smartest beings in the universe is seductive but can be stultifying.

But the idea that someone is watching us, maybe even wiretapping our brains, can be scary.  But it doesn’t have to be.  Maybe we’d be surprised how familiar we are with some superhuman intelligences already. Perhaps our language itself has an intelligence, and we access this intelligence and participate in it when we speak and write.

That is all.

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Moral geometry starts with the atom!

A NOTE FOR AND FROM THE MORAL GEOMETRY SOCIETY

Moral geometers everywhere should study the work (and life story) of Burkhard Heim. Heim’s six-dimensional spacetime has profound philosophical and moral implications.

http://heim-theory.com/

(Note to readers: until the Moral Geometry Society can afford its own website, we are allowing them to post here. The views and opinions expressed by the Moral Geometers are in no way endorsed by the Conscientious Mythmakers.)

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True or false? This is my first post. Ever.

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About TRUTH

Invest now! Soon there will be a shortage of truth!

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