spoken by a prison guard in Marianna, Florida:    XXXX
"He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.” 
"It’s Just Too Much’: "A Florida Town Grapples With
                                   a Shutdown After a Hurricane," New York Times, 1-7-19

Donald Trump
and the
Sapient Paradox
Map from Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival
Regional Cultures of North America (Penguin, 2011)

a catastrophic decline in cognitive performativity
preceded and made possible the fascist victory of November 2018 . . .

 . . . but nevertheless, "Trump" is the mere icing on the cake.

This process of decognification is new.  Maryanne Wolf (excerpt at the right) provides us with our first warning of what is happening based on current neuroscience.*

The cultural-historical as well as political significance of Figure 1 should already be evident not only in the election of Donald Trump, but also in the subsequent developments of this American form of a patrimonial regime characterized by fascist performativities. (
material-discursive practices).  A form of barbarism emerges.  This barbarism can be conceptualized (at least provisionally) along three axes:

An earlier text built around Figure 1 can be found here (PISAEvPsych).

first, the disintegration of cognitive performativities (decognification, disinidividualizaton), revealed not only in Figure 1, but also in the decay of the structures of language, as these are performed by the various newscasters and invited guests appearing on major media outlets.  Donald Trump (Donald Trump Speaks Like a 4th Grader) may only be the extreme case of a more general tendency.  or, —a worst case scenario—he may represent a quantum leap of de-complexification, wherein the mediation of institutions, constitutions, professionalism are swept aside: donald trump not only performs the iner soul of “the base”, he is that soul, he is its lowest common denominator,

Second, the explosion of fascist performativities within the orbit of the GOP (Robert O. Paxton: "The legitimation of violence against a demonized internal enemy brings us close to the heart of fascism.").  It seems better to observe actual activities—performativities—than to take at face-value the rhetorical postures of the two-party system in its multplicity of guises—always multiple, always one (so sayeth G.W. F. H.).

  Third, the assault on rational-bureaucratic institutions--i.e., an assault on the very idea of science-based professionalism and public service.  This assault is is being carried out through the appointment process.  Media discourse sees isolated moments of this process in its reporting on this or that scandal within the Trump Administration, but media discourse does not see the process itself.  Media discourse (MSNBC) is crippled by its Cartesian presuppositonal matrix.  Media discourse is a-contextual and a-historical.  In terms of Piagetian analysis, media discourse is pre-operational as a cognitive modality.  It is not only Donald Trump who speaks like a child.

Figure 1 suggests that a catastrophic decline in cognitive performativity preceded and made possible the fascist victory of November 2018.

The election of Donald Trump reflects and also will accelerate this degradation of cognitive performativity in American society.  The brutishness in language and behavior that are the chief characteristics of Trump's mass-oriented performances must be understood as manifestations of something of great ontological significance. 

This brutishness (vs. civilized) prevails in the American polity in part because its operating system of white suspremacy and racism is accomodated by and incorporated into the discursive practices and field of presuppositions of the "mainstream."

Modernity suffers from itself (the desiring consumer is not much of a player in the scales of history), and so cannot compete with the fascist performativities of today's GOP.  (Liberalism and Progressivism are opposites, not twins)

               Figure 1.  PISA Math Scores, 2003 to 2015:
               21 Developed
Nations & East Asian Cities and City-States

NCES, Highlights PISA 2003,  p. 14       NCES, Highlights PISA 2009,  p. 18
NCES, Highlights PISA 2006,  p. 12       NCES, PISA 2012, Math       
NCES, PISA 2015, Math

Korea and Japan are in light blue; Asia: Asian cities and city-states (C & C-S) are in light orange (see below for a breakout of the components of this category); Scandinavian nations + Switzerland are in dark blue; Anglo-Saxon nations in orange; France, Germany, Belgium and Poland in green; Italy, Portugal and Spain in red; the United States in yellow.

Of the European nations omitted from this graph, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus scored below the United States in math.  Ahead of the United States but not shown are Estonia, Slovenia, Ireland, Austria, Russian Federation, Czech Republic, Iceland, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Lithuania, Hungary, and the Slovak Republic.

The United States does better on reading and science, but math is taken by many as the more important indicator.(

Why Math?

    As the old America dies a sociocultural death . . .
The emergence of the intellectual cadre essential to our present civilization is neither normative nor inevitable.  Logical-scientific thinking (formal operational competence) on a mass scale is very recent (Flynn effect), and unevenly distributed (Engeström, Dupre).

The sharp decline in the scores of Korea, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States suggests that the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries are where two lines of development—sociotechnical advance and cognitive regression—clash.  Capitalism—at least advanced capitalism—requires advanced minds. Narcissistic regression—the culture of consumption (see Hall et. al., Criminal Identities and Consumer Culture)—undermines the very possibility of advanced cognitive development.

 In addition, in the United States the war on science is much more than ideology and politics.  It penetrates and degrades the zones of proximal development that are the sites of intellectual growth.  Figure 1 in part shows the result of this war.  This is discussed in The PISA Results: Evolutionary, Historical, Developmental, and Psychological Perspectives. 

It is already clear that in the U.S. large numbers of unchurched as well as fundamentalist whites and blacks (and many working class Catholics) have been disgorged from the project of modernity, and now constitute, by twenty-first century standards, a barely literate mass, concentrated in central cities, inner suburbs, small towns, and rural areas, and removed from the possibilities of cognitive development implied by the term "education."  This is what we see at Trump rallies.  As the old America dies a sociocultural death, it is being replaced by newer populations capable, for now, of cognitive development.  The "White" portion of old America is Trump territory.

This process of decognification is new.  Maryanne Wolf (excerpt at the right) provides us with our first warning of what is happening based on current neuroscience.

The election of Donald Trump is one of the consequences of this process of decognification.

Human beings were never born to read.

from Maryanne Wolf, Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World (HarperCollins, 2018), pp. 151-2

Human beings were never born to read.  The acqusition of literacy is one of the most important epigenetic achievements of Homo sapiens.  . . .  The act of learnng to read added an entirely new circuit to our hominid brain's repertoire.  The long developmental process of learning to read deeply and well changed the very structure of that circuit's connections, which rewired the brain, which transformed the nature of human thought.

Every national and international index of how well US children are doing in reading indicates that, despite all the nation’s wealth, they are failing in droves and performing considerably behind children in both Western and Eastern countries.  We cannot ignore what this portends for our children or for our country.

only one-third of twenty-first century American children now read with sufficient understanding and speed at the exact age when their future learning depends on it.  The fourth grade represents a Maginot line between learning to read and learning to use reading to think and learn.

More disturbing  altogether, close to half of our children who are African-American or Latino do not read in grade four at even a “basic” reading level, much less a proficient one.  This means that they do not decode well enough to understand what they are reading, which will impact almost everything they are supposed to learn fro then on, includiing math and other subjects.  I refer to this period as the “vanishing hole in American education” because if children do not learn to read fluently before this time is over, for all educational purposes, they disappear.


the ‘speciation phase’ of human evolution

1)  What we may term the ‘speciation phase’ of human evolution (Renfrew 2006, p. 224, 2007a, p. 94), the period when biological and cultural coevolution worked together to develop the human genome and the human species, as we know it, was fulfilled already 60 000 years ago. This implies that the basic hardware—the human brain at the time of birth—has not changed radically since that time.

That brings us to the sapient paradox.

2)  There seems to have been a long—in fact, inordinately long—delay between the emergence of anatomically modern humans and our later cultural flowering. Both genetic and archaeological evidence converge on the conclusion that the ‘speciation’ phase of sapient humans occurred in Africa at least 70 000–100 000 years BP, and possibly earlier, and all modern humans are descended from those original populations.

the ‘tectonic’ phase

2)  Renfrew labels a later period, extending from 10 000 years ago to the present, as the ‘tectonic’ phase. This has been a period of greatly accelerated change, stepping relatively quickly through several different levels of social and material culture, including the domestication of plants and animals, sedentary societies, cities and advanced metallurgy. It has culminated in many recent changes, giving us dramatic innovations, such as skyscrapers, atomic energy and the internet. The paradox is that there was a gap of well over 50 000 years between the speciation and tectonic phases. The acceleration of recent cultural change is especially puzzling when viewed in the light of the hundreds of thousands of years it took our ancestors to master fire, stone tool making and coordinated seasonal hunting.

1.  Colin Renfrew, "Neuroscience, evolution and the sapient paradox: the factuality of value and of the sacred," Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2008 Jun 12; 363(1499): 2041–2047.); Colin Renfrew, The Sapient Paradox: Social Interaction as a Foundation of Mind (Video. 2016 Duke U. seminar)
2. Merlin Donald, "The sapient paradox: can cognitive neuroscience solve it?," in Brain.  A Journal of Neurology.  First published online: 2 December 2008

It cannot simply be assumed that “anatomically modern human intelligence” refers to a fixed and stable speciation event.
from Lambros Malafouris and Colin Renfrew, How Things Shape the Mind : A Theory of Material Engagement (The MIT Press, 2013)

If the intrinsically plastic human brain undergoes constant change subject to various developmental, environmental, and cultural factors, it cannot simply be assumed that “anatomically modern human intelligence” refers to a fixed and stable speciation event. As we saw in chapter 3, for Material Engagement Theory the hallmark of human cognitive evolution is metaplasticity—that is, ever-increasing extra-neural projective flexibility that allows for environmentally and culturally derived changes in the structure and functional architecture of our brain.

Beyond the Sapient Paradox: Donald Trump and
the post-tectonic phase’ of human evolution

Sadism is the Genetic Ontology of Trump's Theatrics
Lee Atwater has shown how the discursive and symbolic elements of the Southern Strategy were generated through the construction of a theatrical arena in which hatred is expressed and sadism performed.  The sadism should be obvious—the prison guard from Marianna, Florida expressed this sadistic core of the GOP appeal in a strikingly unmediated way. This sadistic performativity is the essence of the GOP's mass appeal.  Well before Trump the evocation of evil and the channelling of rage against a scapegoat was the stock-in-trade of Republican politicians, who tapped into and gave expression to " . . . a whole tremulous realm of subterranean revenge, inexhaustible and  insatiable . . . " (Nietzsche, Geneology of Morals, III. 14)

The rhetorical violence of Trump rallies, not ideology and policies, is what is fundamental. The Trump performances--the audience, the cultural-historical context, and Trump himself as a therapeutic object with which the audience member can identify--become intelligible when viewed through the prism of certain key concepts:

• Nietzsche's concept of ressentiment;
• psychoanalysis's concept of the mechanisms of defense;
• Wilbur Cash's concept of the proto-Dorian convention;
• the Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain;
• and Robert Paxton's concept of  redemptive violence.

On the right there are not issues, but postures, gestures, various encodings of the same sado-sexual reflex (the inner logic of racism).  Rage enacted in a political-media theater of violence, sadism, and revenge.  The cruelty of it all is the most important thing.  The vicarious thrill, the “enthusiasm for inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation”(OED): this is what is seen at Trump rallies.  The GOP's performative cadre are specialists in herding hominids of a particular cultural-historical configuration. 

“I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” an employee of the Federal prison in the Florida Panhandle said. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.” ("It’s Just Too Much’: "A Florida Town Grapples With a Shutdown After a Hurricane", New York Times, 1-7-19.)

Figure 2.  the Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain:

 You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger."

from Wikipedia: (Lee Atwater's Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy)

As a member of the Reagan administration in 1981, Atwater gave an anonymous interview to political scientist Alexander P. Lamis. Part of the interview was printed in Lamis's book The Two-Party South, then reprinted in Southern Politics in the 1990s with Atwater's name revealed. . . . Atwater talked about the Republican Southern Strategy and Ronald Reagan's version of it:

Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now you don't have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he's campaigned on since 1964 and that's fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.

Questioner: But the fact is, isn't it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger"—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a by-product of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

a key reveal of the limits of liberalism

from Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella, Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Estabisment (Oxford Univeristy Press, 2008), p.p. 188-89. (Emphasis added.)

Limbaugh's attempts at gender-based "humor" are of the locker room variety.  As the California gubernatorial recall was heating up, Limbaugh informed his folowers that Leutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante--"whose name loosely translates into Spanish for 'large breasts'--leads the Terminator by a few pionts" (August 18, 2003).  A photomontage on the Limbaugh website shows a photograph of Schwartzenegger's head and shoulders from his Pumping Iron days as a body builder.  A naked woman has been transposed onto his shoulders.  Over her breasts is a sign reading BUSTAMONTE.  When Madonna endorsed General Wesley Clark, Limbaugh reported that she had "opened herself" to him.  Why the vulgarity in this message does not alienate the churchgoing conservatives in his audiences a question for which we have no ready answer.

The Crudeness and vulgarity that perplex Jamieson and Cappella are the aesthetic principles of the right's appeal.

"Truth" is what feels good, and what feels good is whatever facilitates the psychological release that Ressentiment is about. 


Why math?

from "Teaching Math to the Talented" (Education Next, WINTER 2011 / VOL. 11, NO. 1 (http://educationnext.org/teaching-math-to-the-talented/)

We give special attention to math performance because math appears to be the subject in which accomplishment in secondary school is particularly significant for both an individual’s and a country’s economic well-being. Existing research, though not conclusive, indicates that math skills better predict future earnings and other economic outcomes than other skills learned in high school. The American Diploma Project estimates that “in 62 percent of American jobs over the next 10 years, entry-level workers will need to be proficient in algebra, geometry, data interpretation, probability and statistics.”

from "United States Lags in Top Math Students"

Only 6 percent of U.S. students scored at the advanced level on the PISA 2006 math exam, compared to 28 percent of Taiwanese students and at least 20 percent of students in Hong Kong, Korea, and Finland. Race and poverty don't explain it: Eight percent of white students in the United States and 10.3 of those with a college-graduate parent achieve at the advanced level.
from the Oxford English Dictionary:
Aggression, Violence, Cruelty
, Bestiality, Envy, Rage, Hate, Anger

from Friedrich Nietzsche, The Geneology of Morals, II, 16:

Let us add at once that . . . the existence on earth of an animal soul turned against itself, taking sides against itself, was something so new, profound, unheard of, enigmatic, contradictory, and pregnant with a future that the aspect of the earth was essentially altered. 

from Mika Haritos-Fatouros, “Cruelty: A dispositional or a situational behavior in man?” Behavioral and Brain Sciences (2006) 29, p.230

The basic question remains, however: How far are aggression, violence, and cruelty in humans today the result of predisposition factors, or biological or archetypal processes, and how far are they the result of cognitive/emotional processes evoked by situational factors? p. 230

from Timothy R. Pauketat, An Archaeology of the Cosmos: Rethinking Agency and Religion in Ancient America (Routledge, 2012), p. 30

Indeed, this is the very basis of the Western world, with religions that profess beliefs while simultaneously disciplining bodies and purging them of their desires.

Richard Wrangham, The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution (Pantheon, 2019)

End Part One
the Sapient Paradox . . .
. . . and the Second New Deal

Figure 3.  Keynesian Elite in New Deal State, 1910-1939

from Friedrich Nietzsche, The Geneology of Morals, II, 14

Here the works of vengefulness and rancor swarm; here the air stinks of secrets and concealment;  . . . and what mendaciousness is employed to disguise that this hatred is hatred!  What a display of grand words and postures, what an art of "honest" calumny!

Michael W. Miles, The Odyssey of the American Right (Oxford, 1980)
Anatol Lieven, America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism (Oxford, 2012)
Joseph E. Lowndes, From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism (Yale, 2008)

Detroit: Eastside Industrial Areas, 1941: Key Plants and Players in the Rise of the UAW (inter-subjectivities and shared intentionalities)


Reconn of Marx

fr rev

Leon Pody*
Murray Body
UAW Local 2
Frank Fagan
Murray Body UAW Local 2
Frank Fagan*
Murray BodyUAW Local 2
Lloyd Jones*
Murray Body UAW Local 2

Dick Frankensteen Dodge Main
UAW Local 3
Dick Frankensteen*Dodge Main
UAW Local 3
Charles Watson Dodge Main UAW Local 3
Harry Ross*
Dodge MainUAW Local 3
Richard Harris*
Dodge Main UAW Local 3
Joe Adams Dodge Main UAW Local 3
Joe Ptazynski
Dodge Main UAW Local 3
Earl Reynolds Dodge Main UAW Local 3
John Zaremba*
Dodge Main UAW Local 3

Sam Sweet
UAW Local 51

John McDaniel Packard
UAW Local 190
John McDaniel*Packard
UAW Local 190
Harry Kujawski Packard UAW Local 190
Eddie Dvornik Packard UAW Local 190
Adam Poplewski*
Packard UAW Local 190
James Lindahl***
UAW Local 190

Leonard Klue MICHIGAN STEEL TUBE UAW Local 238

Paul Silver/Ross/Adams
Detroit Steel Products
UAW Local 351

N = 35 interviewees
UAW Local 410
John Anderson
CP, Midland Steel

Bill Jenkins Chrysler Highland Park
UAW Local 490

Tony Podorsek
body-in-white supervisor Dodge, Cadillac

Detroit East Side: Midland Steel, UAW Local 410: interviews
Bob Brenner Tool and Die
Barney Kluk Tool and Die
Ed Tyll Tool and Die
Jim Peters
Chrysler line
Oscar Oden
Chrysler line
Ben WainwrightChrysler line
John PerryChrysler line
William HintzChrysler line
Joe BlockChrysler line
TiedermannChrysler line
George Bidinger
Large presses
George Borovich Large presses
Chester Podgorski Large presses
Louis VolettiLarge presses
Lawrence VolettiLarge presses
Herman BurtPaint Machine
Levi NelsonShipping & Recieving
Agnes Baransky
Small presses
Lotte Klas
Small presses
John Anderson
Organizer, Local 155