Reality going full circle:
Yesterday, that was March 22, I had the inestimable pleasure of conversation with Robin Fox, of whom I cannot write too highly.  He asked me how I had got into all of this.  I explained that when I was young they taught that scientifically nothing existed until it was observed.  The old saw was the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?” 

My cousin’s husband George later recast that as, “If a man is in a forest and says something and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?”

But the principle of nothing existing until measured, called the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, is still well and strong.  Then at Harvard Medical School they taught us that a person’s beliefs, even the memories, can be replaced with proper indoctrination.  That amazed me, and I presented a paper to the Boylston Society on the topic.  The upshot is that it is quite true, in fact it doesn’t take so much effort under the proper conditions. 

Then there was a time when, for reasons I’ll not go into now, I made the habit of dong arbitrary calculations on numbers.  Every time I saw a number I would decide whether it was prime and if not extract the factors.  During that time the St. Petersburg Times did an article about veterans.  There was a graphic that showed silhouettes of soldiers in each of the wars the US had fought in the 20th century with captions giving the number who fought, the number who died, and the number of surviving veterans.  I crunched the numbers and found that of those who fought, some died in battle, twice as many died shortly after return and then the survival rate approximated an ordinary actuarial decline.

I was horrified.  Obviously training for war involves indoctrination, a concept I had formalized in my paper.  Similarly returning to civilian life involves undergoing all the same pressures.  And I knew that during indoctrination the subject undergoes a period of very high risk of suicide.  That means that the soldier faced that risk twice: once during training and another time after discharge.  Not all the excess deaths were due to suicide, although it was rampant among Vietnam veterans.  Much was due to something we might call poor choices. 

For instance I had a friend who after coming home was stopped by a police officer who pointed out that he had been speeding while very drunk and having a revoked license and this was not a good combination.  My friend, who doubtless spoke more roughly in the event said, “Officer, I have killed seventeen men in the past forty days.  An eighteenth wouldn’t bother me at all.”  You see what I mean?  Bad choice. 

The situation was clouded by questions about Agent Orange, a defoliant that the troops were exposed to, which might have had health effects.  But for me there was no doubt.  No one in any previous war had been exposed to Agent Orange, but all showed the same death rates simply from the experience of combat and subsequent civilian life.

I made it my business to try to contribute to the care of these, my friends and contemporaries.  I was surprised to find that there was no place looking for volunteers.  Then I began to learn that nobody knew what I knew.  Then I found that nobody believed me when I told them.  Then my friend died.  His mother asked me to look at his autopsy report.  They listed the diagnoses.

“Cirrhosis.”  He never had any clinical evidence of liver disease.
“Emphysema.” He never had any clinical lung disease.
“Amputation.”  He had a bone tumor, which necessitated the amputation of a leg.
“Pneumonia.” He never had a cough or fever.
What was missing was that the tumor had independently arisen in his arm, leading to a pathological fracture, which had never healed.

He never used crutches.  After losing the leg he simply hopped about.  After the arm fracture he had been bed ridden.  The day he died he was staying home.  His mother was leaving for work and asked if there was anything he wanted.  He just wanted her to leave a glass of water near his bed, which she did, returning to find her son dead.  It took her totally by surprise.

I told her that it baffled me, but I thought, “All right.  They got my friend.  He’s dead and in the files he’s listed as another veteran who died of things veterans die with.  No computer search will ever turn this up as an anomaly.  They got away clean.  All right.  I can live with that.  Just one thing.  No more mister nice guy.”

I commenced a campaign which consisted of a newsletter I published anonymously as Wild Surmise, so as to keep the authorities annoyed.  My big brother proposed the title and suggested whom to harass. 

For two years I got nowhere.  I cudgeled my brains.  I had done everything I could think of.  Then I remembered, “Oh, yes.  No more mister nice guy.”  I started publishing the letters I had got from the Veterans Administration in answer to my letters to them.  They were, of course, singularly unhelpful.

It was after I had published the last one I had when I got a call from somebody at the CDC in Atlanta.  He asked, “Are you Dr. Herbert and do you publish Wild Surmise under the pseudonym “Booty”?  There didn’t seem to be much point in denying it.  “What … do … you … want?”  I told him I wanted a study of the survival of veterans comparing combat veterans with a matched group that had not seen combat.  He said, “In addition to what we are doing?”  I asked what that could be, and he explained.  I said fine.  Let me know what you find.  The findings vindicated my opinion and the facts saw the light of day.  Measures have been taken.

Of course I abbreviated this for Professor Fox.

Then years later we fought Desert Storm.  I wondered, “War?  We’re fighting a war?  I thought I had put a stop to all that.  War is bad for people.” 

So I stretched out on the couch and racked my brains.  Wars are started by people that the mass of people put into power.  Hence wars are fought because people want them.  People must want them because people hate outsiders.  Why in the world should that be?  Maybe, just maybe, liking outsiders leads people to marry outsiders, and just maybe over time this leads to a fertility penalty.

I looked up the history of southern Mesopotamia and looked at how long civilizations lasted.  The results were stunning.  That ulimatley led to this web site, the conversation and this very article.  If you haven’t read the summary I mention so often, do so.

So for the past day I have been thinking, “And how does this all fit together?”

As a child I had thought that reality provided events which we observed and of which we formed opinion, which accumulated to form our understanding of the world:

But the accumulation of opinion does not lead to understanding.  It leads to inconsistencies, contradictions, conflicts and an incomprehensible morass of confusion.  It cannot be real.  I have friends who believe in “SCIENCE.”  Well science as a philosophy is great.  And science as an accumulation of propositions is even better.  But those propositions always change.  That’s why there is always work for scientists.  If you believe in SCIENCE you believe all those propositions.  Wait a few minutes.  You will soon be wrong about some of them. 

Religion also is an accumulation of opinion.  It has not led to a universal understanding of reality.  Religion requires faith.  Seize a religious position, say atheism, any you will disagree with almost everybody.

And those fields are the good news.  They have been highly developed over centuries with study, discipline, debate, consensus attempts, the recording of opinions and so forth.  For the bulk of life it’s far more of a chaotic nightmare, yet it is within this universe that we must live.

So now the story is:
But we alread

But we already know that observation determines reality, the good old Copenhagen interpretation:

And of course our opinions are determined by the mental universe we are trapped in, that’s straightforward indoctrination:

And what w

And what we can observe is dictated by what we think.  That’s also indoctrination:

So there you have it. That's why I had such trouble getting the problem of the veterans addressed.  People just couldn’t see it.  It wasn’t there for them.  And of course that’s my problem now. 

The letters-from-authorities gambit doesn’t work.  By and large they just don’t answer.  There will be more on this later.  If I don’t provide it within six months, call me out.    

Well something worked before.  Maybe something will work this time.

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