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Philosophies such as liberalism and Marxism think of humankind as a species whose destiny is to transcend natural limits and conquer the Earth.

John Gray argues that this belief in human difference is a dangerous illusion and explores how the world and human life look once humanism has been finally abandoned. The result is an exhilarating, sometimes disturbing book that leads the reader to question our deepest-held beliefs. I thought it that good. We cannot return to a purely spontaneous existence. If humans differ from other animals, it is partly in the conflicts of their instincts.

ISBN 13: 9781862075962

They crave security, but they are easily bored; they are peace-loving animals, but they have an itch for violence; they are drawn to thinking, but at the same time they hate and fear the unsettlement thinking brings. There is no way of life in which all these needs can be satisfied. Luckily, as the history of philosophy testifies, humans have a gift for self-deception, and thrive in ignorance of their natures see below for the why and how.

In the above essay Gray points out an important difference between western Christian thought and eastern philosophies like Taoism. In western Christian thought the best achievable condition is one of high virtue where a "good" way of life has successfully been strived after and achieved.

Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals

In Taoist thinking on the other hand, the best achievable condition is one of effortlessness, of being able to flow with the current. As explained elsewhere on this Wiki , if one has knowledge of the basic mechanisms of human emotions and motivations and if one is aware of the function of "telic" and "paratelic" states of motivation, it has become clear that western thought does not escape from thinking in telic dominant terms, not understanding the function and usefulness of paratelic states. Taoist thinking on the other hand does manage to incorporate paratelic states in its considerations, be it in different terms and words, and it points out that an achieved and enlightened person generally manages to dwell sufficiently often in playfull effortlessness and goal-lessness which is the meaning of the Greek word "paratelic".

In this way the information on this Wiki can bring deeper insight into the phenomena that Gray brings to our attention and also about the technical details of the underlying mechanisms. Gray furthermore points out that humans have an uncanny tendency for self-deception and a peculiar ignorance about their own functioning.

This also makes it possible that the above mentioned awareness of what we call the paratelic states and the desirability of being able to effortlessly flow with the Tao, is virtually absent in our culture. This makes it possible that such basic and elementary characteristics of our own personal behavioural system, behavioural elements that are essentially very simple and easy to understand for anybody who's mind is not blocked, have nevertheless stayed completely out of view in our culture s.

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With the information as presented on this Wiki we not only can understand how this peculiar blindness for the own behaviour operates in us humans, but also can understand how this peculiar blindness came about. It is explained here that any evolutionary emergence of a higher intelligence by necessity has to go through an evolutionary phase of blindness, and that otherwise intelligence cannot grow above a certain level. It is furthermore argued on this Wiki that such a state of personal and collective blindness, in which we are still stuck till over our necks, is also a transitory state and that a different type of functioning is laying in wait for us on the other side of the blindness barrier.

By laying bare the technical behavioural details of our intelligent, and not so intelligent, functioning and the motivational mechanisms involved, it is shown that our present state of blindness and thorough confusion already is the dominant state of affairs for over 10, years, but that it is basically unstable and is likely to collapse all of a sudden some time in the future see also here. Quote from chapter 4, essay 12 from John Gray's "Straw Dogs" on the role of drugs in present day society. Consciousness and the attempt to escape it go together.

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Drug use is a primordial animal activity. Among humans, it is immemorial and nearly universal. What then accounts for the 'war on drugs'? Prohibiting drugs makes the trade in them fabulously profitable. It breeds crime and greatly enlarges the prison population. Despite this, there is a worldwide drugs pandemic. Prohibiting drugs has failed.

Why then will no contemporary government legalise them? Some say organised crime and the law are linked in a symbiosis that blocks radical reform. There may be some truth in this, but the real explanation lies elsewhere. The most pitiless warriors against drugs have always been militant progressives. In China, the most savage attack on drug use occurred when the country was convulsed by a modern western doctrine of universal emancipation - Maoism. It is no accident that the crusade against drugs is led today by a country wedded to the pursuit of happiness - the United States.

For the corollary of that improbable quest is a puritan war on pleasure. Drug use is a tacit admission of a forbidden truth. For most people happiness is beyond reach. Fulfillment is found not in daily life but in escaping from it. Since happiness is unavailable, the mass of mankind seeks pleasure. Religious cultures could admit that earthly life was hard, for they promised another in which all tears would be wiped away. Their humanist successors affirm something still more incredible - that in future, even the near future, everyone can be happy. Societies founded on a faith in progress cannot admit the normal unhappiness of human life.

As a result, they are bound to wage war on those who seek an artificial happiness in drugs.

the guy hugs the stray dogs

This Wiki shows that the present state of mankind is governed by power structures on the "meme level". That implies that malleability and obedience of us humans in respect to the power structures in place, is far more important than is personal happiness. Rather, a mild but stable level of unhappiness and neuroticism is the best a power structure can opt for. Therefore, in case a power structure allows for drug use to be incorporated in a local social structure and political organization, then these drugs are likely to help maintain neurotic states rather than help to overcome them.

For a power structure, awareness boosters, like e. Awareness expanding drugs tend to break the rather unstable prison bars of fear and neurosis and tend to trigger awareness of what is really going on, of what individuals really would wish and would need. They bring awareness of what other levels of well being are possible and how to get there and, what is even more crucial, how one could escape from the fetters of customary unhappy slavery.

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And that is lethal for the power structures in charge, for thus they would lose their power over their carriers, us humans. Drugs like coffee, cocaine, nicotine and alcohol on the other hand, can easier be incorporated in a thriving power structure, because they diminish awareness rather than boost it or they produce short energy boosts at the expense of later autonomous energy levels.

And the latter is conducive to power structures, because that sort of "borrowing" of energy in turn reduces the likelihood of autonomous paratelic states see here and thus stabilizes neurotic states for the long term. And it is precisely a stabilized general neuroticism that power structures and their governments really want, be it unconsciously. Any government not playing along with these rules is likely to undermine its own stability.

General well being and stability of power structures do not go hand in hand. Moreover, power structures thrive best if they keep their masses unawares of these mechanisms. By maintaining blindness for the general unhappiness and stressfulness of oneself and everybody around, the power structures prevent their carriers to use their intelligence for questioning their situation. The best slave is a slave who is not aware of his slavery. Drugs use is just one of the examples where this general tendency can be observed.

In our societies the information about drugs is therefore in general incomplete, wrong, absent or upside down. The more confusion on these matters, the better. Quote from chapter 5, essay 13 from John Gray's "Straw Dogs" on the inescapable influence of predatory states power structures. John Gray's answers will shock most of us deeply.

I read it once, I read it twice and took notes. I arranged to meet its author so I could publicise the book - I thought it that good Gray is one of the most consistently interesting and unpredictable thinkers in Britain.


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Thought provoking and compelling. A masterpiece. John Gray is a legend and it would be an honour to meet him. Straw dogs is not a light read. John Gray, quite the unconventional thinker, isn't so much interested in the everyday philosophical questions of Man and how he should live, as in the Earth as an ecosystem and our Please sign in to write a review. If you have changed your email address then contact us and we will update your details.

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View other formats and editions. Ballard 'My book of the year was Straw Dogs. Added to basket. The School of Life. Enlightenment Now. Steven Pinker.