ignoramus

Imagine now that Reagan, or his speech writer, would have used a single different word …

It isn’t that people are ignorant, it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.

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This post is a stump to be completed at a later time.

Golden_Rule_2

So, all major religions condition their members into obeying a version of the Golden Rule.
Then why are there so many differences in how people behave across the world?

Mainly because most observers concentrate their attention on the available differences, however minute?

The goal of this post is to explore the difference – I’m an observer too, between humans and their closest relatives. Apes, dolphins, … you name it.

‘We are conscious beings’!

Humberto Maturana teaches us that human consciousness – which he defines as “self-awareness“, is something which has co-evolved with our ability to speak and with our increased ‘brain-power’.
Makes a lot of sense, right?

Then what am I still looking for?
I fully agree with his ideas yet – my basic training being that of an engineer, I long for a specific trait which would explain our ‘strange’ behavior.

By ‘strange’ I mean the sometimes huge difference between our words and our actual deeds.

For instance, if enough of the self described ‘religious people’ around the Earth would obey the rule all (surviving) major religions have in common, we’d all be living in a completely different world!

Retracing Maturana’s line of thought, I reached the point where our ape ancestor was unable yet to speak so his self-awareness must not have been, according to Maturana, any different from that of his ‘peers’ – gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans…
I’m going to make an assumption of my own now.

Our ‘cousins’ have evolved a lot less than we did.

I’m not going to enter into details – this would broaden too much the scope of this post, but I have to mention here that evolution is not a linear process – as Darwin thought. It ‘works’ in fits and bounds, influenced mainly by dramatic changes in the environment.
In Ernst Mayr’s words, ‘evolution is not about “survival of the fittest” but about the demise of the unfit‘.
In the last 5.5 million years parts of the African environment had been stable enough to allow our cousins to survive more or less unchanged while our more direct ancestors evolved following the changes in the more ‘active’ parts of Africa.

Back to my original quest.
What was the special trait which allowed our direct ancestors to survive in such diverse conditions?
I must remind you that in those times – when proto-humans, a.k.a. hominins, coexisted with the (proto)chimpanzee, both had approximately the same ‘brain size‘. And probably neither could yet ‘speak’.
Then what was left? ‘Our’ ability to run? Which we’ve made good use of since some two million years ago?
Well, running certainly opened to our forefathers – and mothers, the opportunity to  ‘harvest’ a considerably wider selection of prey than that accessible to present day chimpanzees – and, probably, to their ancestors.
You didn’t know that chimpanzees hunt? In packs?
Well, in at least one place they over-hunted their favorite prey to the tune of having to target a different species…, just as we, their supposedly more reasonable relatives, have done in too many cases…

OK, so we’ve figured out one thing. Having feet at the end of our legs allowed us to hunt, and escape other hunters, in the savanna.
But could this small difference be large enough to explain the huge difference between us and some of our closest genetic relatives, the ‘robust’ chimpanzees?

Shouldn’t we rather focus on the ‘other’ difference?

The manner in which we, humans and bonobos – the ‘other’, less known, chimpanzee, use sex?

For the regular chimps, Pan Troglodytes, as well as for all the other primates except for humans and bonobos, sex is purely a reproductive thing. So much so that it is not unusual for the new ‘ruling male’ to kill some of the babies fathered by his predecessor so that their mothers ‘accept’ him earlier than if he would have waited for the nature to take its course.

 

 

 

The fact that our brains are some three times larger?

Remember what I said about ‘evolution’?
About the demise of the unfit?
Now try to figure out the survival chances of a species whose members have, at birth, such a relative large brain that the delivering mother is basically incapacitated for two or three days after labor. Whose babies need five to seven years to become self sufficient enough for the mother to give birth to another baby.
And which species does not enjoy the evolutionary advantage of being sheltered by a dense jungle!

But what about the other difference that separates us from most of the chimps?

Cambridge Dictionary lists ‘riddle’ as being “a type of question that describes something in a difficult and confusing way and has a clever or funny answer, often asked as a game

What if there’s way lot more than this, hidden ‘in plain sight’ under the ‘difficult and confusing’ cloak draped over each of them?

“Black sheep on a white field;
He who knows them, leads them.”

“My father, the son of a subsistence farmer and his barely literate wife, used riddles to try to foster critical thinking in his daughters.”

This particular one is a classic in Eastern Europe and I stumbled on this version while Googling for an English translation. The quote belongs to Daiva Markelis, a Lithuanian American Professor with a PhD in linguistics… go figure… I included the part about the father because it illustrates perfectly the point I’m trying to make with this post.

That words, and letters, mean nothing by themselves.
We are the ones who attach meaning to each of them.
We are the ones who ‘lead’ them… even if sometimes unknowingly…

And precisely this is what riddles are for!
To tell us that languages, and letters, can and have to be mastered.
That unless we get to really know them, we’ll never be able to lead them where we want them.

But there’s an even deeper reason for riddles enjoying so much popularity.
Knowingly or unknowingly we somehow ‘feel’ that being familiar with letters and able to speak is not enough. That no matter how well we ‘know’ a language we’ll never grasp the full intended meaning of what is being spoken around/to us.

Yes, when speaking we should be forthcoming… to the tune of not becoming self detrimental, of course… and when listening we must remember to look for the intended meaning, not jump to conclusions according to our own opinion on the matter…

From the airlift which kept the flame of liberty alight in West Berlin to “Trump’s decision (to stop supplying arms to Kurdish fighters in Syria) appeared to catch both the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department off guard. Officials at both agencies, who would normally be informed of changes in U.S. policy toward arming the Syrian Kurds, said they were unaware of any changes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity. It was unclear whether the Trump administration notified the Kurds of the move before telling the Turks. Nor was it how much significance the change would have on the ground, considering the fight against Islamic State is almost over.

Ich bin ein Berliner

What happened to “Ich bin ein Berliner”?!?

I’m afraid that  too many people continue to not understand what’s ‘the big issue between the free world’ and the authoritarianism which still encroaches it. They should indeed ‘go to Berlin’!

What would you prefer?

Long and thin or short and thick?

How about long AND thick?
How about REASONABLY long and thick?
Who cares about how long or thick it is IF it stays stiff for long enough?

From a friend’s FB wall:

“African proverb:
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

It doesn’t matter weather you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you better start running.”

(from The World Is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman)

It seems that the modern world is gradually becoming more and more ‘African’.
We’re so busy running ourselves out that we’re failing to remember the essential.

That we’re people.
Neither gazelle nor lion!
And that most of us have long ago left the jungle and now live in cities!

How about ‘taking five‘ from our incessant quest for trinkets and use the time to remember “togetherness”?
As in “communion”?

In the civilized world, ‘Dog eat dog’ was supposed to be an exception, not an everyday occurrence…

Ruthless acquisition or competition, as in With shrinking markets, it’s dog eat dog for every company in this field. This contradicts a Latin proverb which maintains that dog does not eat dog, first recorded in English in 1543. Nevertheless, by 1732 it was put as “Dogs are hard drove when they eat dogs” (Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia).”

PS.
After reading this, my son pointed out that lions are the only cats which hunt cooperatively on a constant basis.
Could this be the reason for which they are seen as the royals of the animal world?

Nu-i asa ca auziti foarte des expresia asta? ‘Oarecum’ peiorativa?

Fix acum 51 de ani, Peter L. Berger si Thomas Luckman publicau “Construirea Sociala a Realitatii“.

Simplificand la maxim, se poate spune ca cei doi ne explica cat de profund modificam noi realitatea care ne inconjoara – si in care traim, prin simplul fapt ca discutam intre noi despre aceasta realitate.

La o a doua lectura, vom intelege si cat de determinant este modul in care purtam aceasta discutie.

Pentru inceput, avem nevoie sa sesizam diferenta dintre limbajul diplomatic si cel uzual.

Cel uzual fiind cel pe care il utilizam in mod normal. Adica cel care nu are nevoie de ‘traducere’. Cel cu ajutorul caruia spunem ‘verde-n fata’ ce avem pe inima.

Spre deosebire de limbajul uzual – adica cel explicit prin excelenta, limbajul diplomatic are mai degraba menirea de a pastra deschis canalul de comunicatie. Și abia în secundar pe aceea de a preciza o anumita pozitie.

Cele doua limbaje sunt atat de diferite datorita circumstantelor in care au evoluat.

Cel uzual este folosit de catre interlocutori familiari unul cu celalalt. Atat de familiari incat dau exact aceiasi conotatie cuvintelor folosite, stiu foarte bine ce parere au unul despre celalalt si, cel mai important, stiu cu totii ca relatia dintre ei va continua aproape indiferent de rezultatul episodului de comunicare in timpul caruia este folosit respectivul tip de limbaj.

Ei bine, aproape toti dintre noi – indiferent de nivelul de educatie, stim – chiar inconstient, sa ‘schimbam foaia’ atunci cand macar una dintre conditiile de mai sus nu mai sunt indeplinite.
Indiferent de cat de familiari suntem cu interlocutorii nostri, incercam sa dregem busuiocul atunci cand sesizam ca celalalt chiar s-a bășicat. Iar primul lucru pe care îl facem în astfel de situații este să vorbim ‘frumos’.
Ca să nu mai spun despre cât de grijuliu vorbim cu o persoană ‘de rang superior’! Asta în special atunci când soarta noastră depinde de decizia ce urmează să fie luată de acea persoană în urma dialogului pe care îl purtăm. Și câtă grijă avem ca în timpul acestui dialog să transmitem informația pe care intenționăm să o aducem la cunoștința interlocutorului nostru…. dar mai ales câtă grijă avem ca dispoziția acestuia față de persoana noastră să devină cât mai favorabilă- sau măcar să rămână neutră,… fiind dispuși, la nevoie, să sacrificăm chiar și o parte din precizia comunicării…

Până la urmă, vorbim despre două tipuri complet diferite de comunicare.
După un episod în care a fost folosit limbajul uzual, amândoi interlocutorii rămân cu informațiile schimbate cu acel prilej precum și cu sentimentul că lucrurile vor continua mai mult sau mai puțin neschimbate. Doi ‘dușmani’ vor continua să se dușmănească după fiecare schimb de invective iar doi prieteni vor ști că se pot baza unul pe celălalt chiar și după un episod de comunicare în timpul căruia au făcut mișto unul de celălalt – bineînțeles cu condiția ca miștoul să fi rămas în parametrii obișnuiți.
Ei bine, la sfârșitul unui episod de comunicare ‘diplomatică’ interlocutorii rămân cu mai puține informații și cu mai multe întrebări decât dușmano-prietenii de mai sus. Franchețea limbajului uzual îi face pe aceștia din urmă să pună preț pe informațiile vehiculate – tocmai pentru că cei doi știu la ce să se aștepte unul de la celălalt, în timp ce chiar ‘onctuozitatea’ limbajului diplomatic menține trează vigilența celor care îl folosesc. ‘Oare ce a vrut să spună cu adevărat?’ ‘Câte dintre vorbele lui au fost sincere și câte au fost spuse doar pentru a-mi face mie plăcere?’

Bine, bine… foarte interesantă ‘pregătirea asta de artilerie’… dar ce-ar fi să revii la cestiune? Care-i legătura dintre barbologia asta savantă și ‘interesele politice’ pe care te-ai pornit să contruiești colțul ăsta de realitate virtuală?

Șmecheria este că barbologia asta are sens doar dacă ambii interlocutori sunt cu adevărat conștienți despre ceea ce se întâmplă în jurul lor. Dacă amândoi interpretează la fel cuvintele care zboară dintr-o parte în alta.
Dacă unul dintre ei este setat pe modul diplomatic iar celălalt crede că episodul de comunicare face parte din cotidian… s-ar putea ca realitatea nou creată să fie atât de depărtată de cea precedentă încât să nu existe prea multă congruență între cele două…

Revenind la interesul de moment – acela de a concluziona într-un fel barbologia de astăzi, să despuiem ‘interesele politice’ de vălurile diplomatice care funcționeză ca niște perdele de fum.
Vorbind pe șleau, ‘interese politice’ este un eufemism folosit de ziariști pentru a spune, în mod politicos, “interese de partid”. Și mai precis, “interese înguste de partid”.’Profesioniștii în comunicare’ folosesc această locuțiune din nevoia de a păstra o relație funcțională cu partidele, din servilism sau, poate, pentru că ‘sună mai bine’.

Indiferent de motiv, prejudiciul adus comunității – în întregul ei, este enorm.

Repetat ad nauseam, termenul induce în conștiința populară sentimentul că politica este ‘o curvă’.
Iar când spun ‘conștiință populară’ mă refer la toată populația. Y compris întreaga clasă politică – că doar de pe malurile Senei ne-am învățat să “umblăm cu cioara vopsită”.

cioara vopsita

Oamenii de ‘rând’ s-au lăsat convinși că politica este o chestie extrem de murdară – așă că se țin departe de ea, în timp ce politicienilor – adică cei cărora nu le e frică de mizerie, li se pare din ce în ce mai normal să continue așa cum sau obișnuit deja.

Vorbeam undeva mai sus despre o lipsă de congruență. O din ce în ce mai acută lipsă de congruență.
Clasa politică este detașată de restul oamenilor. Adică realitățile în care trăiesc fiecare dintre aceste două categorii au din ce în ce mai puține lucruri în comun.

Cu toate că distanța dintre cele două realități a apărut ca urmare a ‘eforturilor’ – sau a ‘neglijenței’?, ambelor categorii de oameni…

Astazi am fost in vizita la o multinationala.

Care s-a mutat de curand intr-un sediu nou. Si destul de elegant.
Nu atat de elegant incat clientii sa-si puna problema ca banii lor ar fi aruncati pe apa sambetei ci doar atat de elegant incat sa te simti bine atunci cand te duci sa-ti platesti factura.
Sau sa intrebi una si alta.

Am ajuns pe la vreo 8 si ceva. Office hours de la 7:30. Pentru cine nu vede bine, sapte impartit la treizeci. Ora Romaniei!
Bineinteles ca eram singurul client.
Atat de singur incat atunci cand am intrat pe usa, angajatele s-au raspandit precum potarnichile…

Ajung eu la casa, care e chiar langa usa, … ma holbez la un scaun gol… si incep sa sper ca macar una dintre ‘potarnichi’ va ajunge sa se aseze pe scaunul respectiv.
Dupa vreo 15-20 de secunde se aude o voce. Din spatele unei coloane. Care se afla dincolo de ‘tejgheaua’ dintre mine si scaunul cel gol. Vocea vorbea la telefon. Ceva banal, intr-o tonalitate foarte degajat-familiara.
Trag si un un ‘buna-ziua’. Destul de apasat, in speranta ca posesoarea vocii va afla de prezenta mea.
‘Ma scuzati’ spuse vocea si, imediat dupa aceea, posesoarea se retrage inapoi dupa coloana.
Conversatia mai dureaza vreo doua minute, fara sa fie atinse cine ce subiecte arzatoare. Vreo inundatie de la vecinul de sus, vre-un copil cu rosu-n gat… nimic de genul asta.

-Vreti sa platiti factura?
-Daca oi avea ceva de platit… nu am primit nici o factura de mai mult de o luna.
-Sa ma uit… nu aveti nimic de plata, nu a fost emisa nici o factura.
-Cum vine asta?
-Nu stiu, asta intrebati alaturi, la colega mea.
-Aveti un sediu ca la Paris.
-Se poate, eu n-am fost acolo.
-Mai ramane sa va invete sa va purtati ca la Paris.
-Pai mi-am cerut scuze, nu? Vorbeam cu sefa mea!
-Cu atat mai mult ar fi trebuit sa-i spuneti ca a intrat un client si ca veti reveni dupa ce pleaca. Orice sef ar aprecia chestia asta!

Mi-am dat seama ce prostie imensa am spus chiar inainte ca ecoul vorbelor mele sa se fi stins.
“Ma scuzati” fusese rostit tare si direct in microfon. Sefa respectiva nu avea cum sa nu fi auzit….
Sa ma fi mintit casiera? Vorbea cu altcineva?

Ma duc la colega de alaturi si o intreb care e situatia.
Ma gaseste, se uita si imi confirma:
-Nu a fost emisa factura.
-Asta stiu deja de la colega dumneavoastra. As vrea sa stiu si de ce.
-Nu stiu, ma duc sa intreb.
Inainte de a apuca sa plece, fizic!, am un moment de inspiratie.
-Dupa cate stiu, ultima factura a fost facuta pe baza unui consum estimat, nu pe baza unei citiri.
Se intoarce, se mai uita un pic si:
-Aveti dreptate, indexul citit acum 10 zile este inca mai mic decat cel pe care vi l-au trecut, dupa estimare, pe factura de acum o luna si jumatate.

-Multumesc. La revedere.
-La revedere.

Ce bine e sa lucrezi la o companie, cat se poate de ‘privata’ – asta este chiar unul dintre subdomeniile ei de activitate, care exploateaza un monopol natural…

 

Fake news

“Federal lawmakers on Wednesday released samples of 3,000 Facebook ads purchased by Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign. The ads conveyed the wide range of influence Russian-linked groups tried to enact on Americans…”

Let’s zoom out in order to gain some perspective over all this.

Fake news are defined by Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries as “false reports of events, written and read on websites“.

The way I see it, “fake news” have a lot in common with counterfeit currency.
In more ways than one!

First of all, most money in current use is ‘fiat money’.
We are dealing with either printed pieces of paper or otherwise useless pieces of metal.
We ‘trust’ them for trading purposes simply because we are convinced that the institution which stand behind them – Central Banks, free(ish) markets and law enforcement, will do what they are meant to do. We trust that the Central Banks will not print too many of those pieces of paper, that the free(ish) markets will set a reasonable price to everything and that the police will manage to weed out (most of) those who try to circulate fake money.
Not even a return to ‘real’ money – a.k.a. gold,  wouldn’t insulate us from crooks. Gold coins can be, and had been, tampered with in so many ways. Human greed is a very powerful motivator but not necessarily a good mentor.

Which brings us to the reason for why fake money came to be.
Simply because some ‘industrious’ people ‘make’ them and some other, equally greedy, people knowingly distribute them.

In conclusion, we wouldn’t have to deal with fake money if money wasn’t essential for an efficient free market and we would have a lot less of it if greed were not such a widespread attitude. And no, a cash-less economy would not solve the problem. A printing press is no longer essential for faking money. Hacking skills have become  a good enough substitute.

Let’s translate this rationale to (fake) news.

We need to know what’s going on around us so we’ve developed an equivalent to the financial system. The mass media.
Which has a more or less equivalent set of ‘guardians’.
The ‘printers’ are responsible for the equivalence between their ‘product’ and the reality it represents while the market (readers, that is) is responsible for ‘setting the price’.

Of course, there are also differences.
‘Law enforcement’ has indeed a role to play in the news industry but its scope is a lot narrower than in the first case. And rightfully so. The ‘information’ market needs to be a lot more ‘flexible’ than the one dealing in ‘economic goods’. There’s a lot to discuss on this subject, I’ll leave it here.
There’s also no Central Bank to ‘tug at the sleeves’ of those who ‘jump the shark’.

As a consequence of these two differences, the ‘counterfeiters’ have an easier life and the consumers/victims a far greater responsibility for what’s going on. Simply because the consumers/potential victims cannot rely on any third party to do their job. To sniff out the ‘bad thing’.

But what if ‘it’s the thief who plays the victim’?
That very much depends on who the ‘thief’ is!

Let’s go back in time for a short while.
First to the American Revolutionary War. During which the British attempted to crash the American economy by injecting in it enough counterfeit money to cause hyperinflation. “No economy, no more war.” The British did manage to produce and distribute a huge amount of fake money yet the outcome was not the intended one. “Even when at one point the amount of counterfeit currency in circulation may have exceed the amount of legitimate currency, the economy hung on by its eye teeth and never fully collapsed.”
One and a half centuries later, the British had found themselves at the receiving end of the same game. “…during World War II the Nazis almost destroyed the credibility of the British pound sterling by producing near-perfect forgeries, The Telegraph reports. By the end of the war the forgeries were so rife that Bank of England notes would not be accepted by any neutral country on the Continent “except at a very large discount…”.
Hitler was even less successful than the British had been but the inflicted injuries were huge nonetheless.
Now, would Hitler have attempted this on his own, without the British establishing a precedent?
We’ll never know… Sufficient to say that the US has also used fake money, obviously fake this time. For propaganda reasons and not as an attempt to ‘crash the economies’ of the countries they were fighting.

To close the circle, we must ask ourselves how successful would Putin’s trolls have been if Trump wouldn’t have beaten so hard the ‘birther’ drum…

Seriously now, propaganda is a very efficient weapon. Maybe more efficient than guns.
But, and in total contrast with a gun, propaganda is useless against really determined people.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me” is true. But only as long as those being called names are in the right state of mind. As soon as they start feeling hurt, all hell comes loose.

If you think of it, Trump’s birther campaign, fake as it was – he had admitted that much, eventually, was a very successful ‘fake news campaign’. It had established Donald Trump as  shrewd  media manipulator.
Unfortunately, it had an even worse outcome. It had very much helped those who wanted the American public split into warring parties.

And who are now pushing these parties further and further apart.

PS. While researching for this post, I found out that “fake news” has been declared ‘word of the year’ for 2017. A fitting development… last year’s ‘champion’ was “post truth”…
What next? Doublethink?

Yeah, right…

boogeyman

Like each time after you’ve just finished eating it, the Boogey Person will come out of nowhere and rip it out of your stomach!

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