Just stumbled upon a text over the Internet and now I’m wondering: what’s the real meaning of this word, ‘witch’?

“Young King Arthur was ambushed and imprisoned by the monarch of a neighboring kingdom. The monarch could have killed him but was moved by Arthur’s youthful happiness. So he offered him freedom, as long as he could answer a very difficult question.  Arthur would have a year to figure out the answer. If, after a year, he still had no answer, he would be killed.

The question was: What do women really want?

Such a question would have perplexed even the most knowledgeable man, and, to young Arthur, it seemed an impossible query. Since it was better than death, however, he accepted the monarch’s proposition to have an answer by year’s end He returned to his kingdom and began to poll everybody; the princess, the prostitutes, priests, the wise men, and the court jester.
 In all, he spoke with everyone but no one could give him a satisfactory answer.
What most people did tell him was to consult the old witch, as only she would know the answer. The price would be high as the witch was famous for the exorbitant prices she charged.
The last day of the year arrived and Arthur had no alternative but to talk to the witch.
She agreed to answer his question, but he’d have to accept her price first; the old witch wanted to marry Gawain, the most noble of the Knights of the Round table and Arthur’s closest friend!
Young Arthur was horrified, she was hunchbacked and awfully hideous, had only one tooth, smelled like sewage water and often made obscene noises.
He had never run across such a repugnant creature.  He refused to force his friend to marry her and to have to endure such a burden.
Gawain, upon learning of the proposal, spoke with Arthur. He told him that nothing was too big a sacrifice compared to Arthur’s life and the preservation of the Round table.

Hence, their wedding was proclaimed, and the witch answered Arthur’s question;

What a woman really wants is to be able to be in charge of her own life.

Everyone instantly knew that the witch had uttered a great truth and that Arthur’s life would be spared. And so it went. The neighboring monarch spared Arthur’s life and granted him total freedom.

What a wedding Gawain and the witch had! Arthur was torn between relief and anguish.  Gawain was proper as always, gentle and courteous.
The old witch put her worst manners on display. She ate with her hands, belched and farted, and made everyone uncomfortable.
The wedding night approached: Gawain, steeling himself for a horrific night, entered the bedroom.
What a sight awaited!
The most beautiful woman he’d ever seen lay before him! Gawain was astounded and asked what had happened.
The beauty replied that since he had been so kind to her when she’d been a witch, half the time she would be her horrible, deformed self.
And the other half, she would be her beautiful maiden self.
Which would he want her to be during the day and which during the night?
What a cruel question! Gawain began to think of his predicament;
During the day a beautiful woman to show off to his friends, but at night, in the privacy of his home, an old spooky witch?
Or would he prefer having by day a hideous witch, but by night a beautiful woman to enjoy many intimate moments?
What would you do?
What Gawain chose follows below, but don’t read until you’ve made your own choice!
Noble Gawain replied that he would let her choose for herself.
Upon hearing this, she announced that she would be beautiful all the time, because he had respected her and had let her be in charge of her own life.

What is the moral of the story?
The moral is that it doesn’t matter if a woman is pretty or ugly, smart or dumb.
Underneath it all, she’s still a fucking witch!”

OK, VW couldn’t figure out how to balance the ever stricter polution norms with the public demand for simultaneously more powerfull  and cheaper diesel engines so they decided to fake it. And it seems they were not the only ones to do that.

This development poses some questions.

– What were they hoping for? Did they really think that something like this could have gone unnoticed for ever?
– What were the regulators thinking? That it’s posible to solve polution by simply changing some norms?
“Moore’s Law” (“overall processing power for computers will double every two years” has been valid, for a while, in a very young technological field.
Internal combustion engines have been around for more than a century, they are rather old. Everybody knows that it is hard to teach new tricks to an old horse yet we tried to clean exhaust gases well beyond the reasonable instead of radically changing the technology. Computers seemed to be able to help, but only for a while…

Could this be just another ‘aplication’ of the Peter Principle? “Managers rise to the level of their incompetence?” GM was, sometime ago, the No. 1 Automobile Company. It recently went through a painful bailout. Toyota, the next champion – its methods were studied at the most prestigious management schools – was hugely embarassed lately by a tehnological failure.
OK, you might argue that what went on at VW was an ‘upfront’ fraud, not at all an ‘honest’ mistake. Indeed but still a mistake, even if a potentially catastrophic one. Mainly for the shareholders, of course, but also for the rest of us.
A certain dose of distrust towards established authority is healthy for the society, as a whole, while too many proofs of the established figureheads behaving callously generate a diffused disrespect for the law which is really bad for everybody.

In fact what happened at VW is exactly what people tend to do when they do not see any way out of a certain situation.
When they don’t really think that anything bad can happen to them, regardless of whatever they do.
Or both.

So. Is there anything to be learned from here? Except for the oldest lesson history keeps teaching us: ‘reaching the top is easy, staying there is the really tough job’?
Toyota says that transparency, “both inside and outside the company“, is a good way towards avoiding this kind of mistakes. “You have to be able to listen to your customers, not just hear them.

Please notice the importance of teamwork!
No matter which of the two partners makes a false move because he/it doesn’t really trust the other, the rider ends, legs up, in the ditch.
It’s also true that from time to time it’s the horse that gets a broken leg but the ultimate looser is, again, the rider – he has to continue on foot!

Just another proof that so many of us, theists and atheists alike, make the same mistake, unknowingly.
Basically there is no way to determine whether the world has been made by a god or even if one exists at all yet both sides try to prove their point by invoking what each of them thinks he did or should have done:
“I know there is a god because he told me so – ‘we all have a close and personal relation with God’ “
“Why the almighty god would allow…”
What about trying another tack?
How about keeping our intimate convictions to ourselves?
Do you know what all religions have in common?
‘Love thy neighbors as if they were your brothers’!
At some point the atheist said that each of us interpret the notion of god according to the culture into which each of us has been raised.
How about each of us taking a step further – as in out off the bubble into which we isolate ourselves – and notice that we have a lot of things in common and very few differences?
So, in reality what’s keeping us from truly respecting our neighbors?
Our pride, maybe?
Did I tell you that this is the second thing that most religions have in common?
That pride is considered by most as the hardest obstacle on the road to redemption?

Cateva dintre volumele lui TristÂn Tzară.

Nu stiu cum a facut Tristan Tzara de s-a ales cu apelativul de ‘Omul Aproximativ’ insa omul acesta, Samuel Rosenstock pe numele sau ‘adevarat’, a aproximat perfect doua dintre trasaturile care caracterizeaza poporul la sanul caruia a crescut. Cel Român.

„Țara”, si ma refer acum la sensul pe care il avea acest cuvant inainte de a fi fost inghesuit intre granite si de a face obiectul a diverse confruntări armate, a insemnat, pur si simplu, locul unde traiau niste oameni. Echivalentul asiaticului ‘stan’. Hayastan (Armenia), Afganistan, Pakistan. Tara Armenilor, Tara Afganilor, Tara Pakistanezilor, Tara Romaneasca.
In sensul asta toate locurile unde traiesti sunt ‘tzari’.

Cat de nefericit poti fi, oare, daca esti trist in oricare dintre ele?
‘Acasa’ pentru ca acolo nu este atat de bine pe cat ar putea fi iar in ‘cealalta acasa’ din cauza dorului. De casa, de prietenii ramasi acolo, de viitorul care parca iti scapa tot timpul printre degete…

Destul cu tristetea.
‘Aproximativitatea’, cealalta caracterisca Romaneasca intruchipata de Samuel Rosenstock este, de fapt, marea noastra calitate.
Refuzul tiparelor si capacitatea de adaptare sunt cele doua atribute care au facut posibila supravietuirea noastra. A lui precum si a tuturor celorlalti Romani, indiferent daca si-au purtat tristetea peste hotare sau si-au dus crucea in interiorul granitelor tarii.

Tot ce mai avem de facut pentru a lasa tristetea in urma si a incepe sa traim din plin – sa folosim la adevarata valoare creativitatea pe care o avem din belsug – este sa punem in practica indemnurile pe care ni le-au transmis bunicii nostri. Adica si Samuel Rosenstock:
“Hai sa dam mâna cu mâna
Cei cu inima româna,
Sa-nvârtim hora fratiei
Pe pamântul României!

Iarba rea din holde piara!
Piara dusmania-n tara!
Între noi sa nu mai fie
Decât flori si omenie!

Mai muntene, mai vecine,
Vina sa te prinzi cu mine
Si la viata cu unire,
Si la moarte cu-nfratire!

Unde-i unul, nu-i putere
La nevoi si la durere.
Unde-s doi, puterea creste
Si dusmanul nu sporeste!

Amândoi suntem de-o mama,
De-o faptura si de-o seama,
Ca doi brazi într-o tulpina,
Ca doi ochi într-o lumina.

Amândoi avem un nume,
Amândoi o soarta-n lume.
Eu ti-s frate, tu mi-esti frate,
În noi doi un suflet bate!

Vin’ la Milcov cu grabire
Sa-1 secam dintr-o sorbire,
Ca sa treaca drumul mare
Peste-a noastre vechi hotare,

Si sa vada sfântul soare
Într-o zi de sarbatoare
Hora noastra cea frateasca
Pe câmpïa româneasca!

Versuri de la: http://www.versuri.ro/

So. A fourteen year old builds a clock from spare parts, takes it to school and ends up in jail. And, frankly, I have some doubts about his skin color, name or even religion playing a determinant role in what happened to him. They did set a certain framework for what it happened but I’m afraid that sooner or later this kind of harsh reaction to everything out of the bland ordinary might become a norm, involving people of all extractions, instead of an exception.
If you don’t believe me check here:

“Here’s how a Texas school explained arresting a 14-year-old Muslim boy for making a clock”

But what’s the link to the ‘butterfly effect’?!? “the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state”?!?

After all a society is indeed a nonlinear system but could we consider it as being deterministic?

For short periods of time and in certain conditions, yes!. I’ll come back to this shortly.

First I’d like to give you my interpretation of the butterfly effect. You see, for a system to be sensible to such a minute influence as a butterfly landing on it that system has to be in a very unstable configuration. Like a playing cards castle compared to the Golden Gate bridge.  While the second can withstand gale-force winds without even noticing them the first would indeed crumble if a butterfly landed on it.

So, what happened to the American society, as a whole, to bring it here? How come a teenager gets a suspension, instead of some small praise, for building a clock and bringing it to school?

Society, as a non deterministic system, was supposed to be able to overcome trauma – like the one inflicted by terrorist attacks.
Eventually it will.
Only this is not something that will happen on its own. Society is made up by individual people, it can do something only if those men and women decide to put that something in practice.
And there’s the catch.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, 2013, explains that our minds have two intertwined thinking systems. One that is more or less deterministic – we instinctively pull out our hand when we touch a hot stove and nobody thinks very much when riding a bike, after it got familiar with it – and a second one which embodies in earnest our humanity – our ability to think reasonably and to be creative.
The first system, the more or less instinctive one, has evolved to help us survive the intense moments of our lives, when we don’t have enough time to make elaborate decisions and the second one is for those times when the immediate danger has subsided, when we have the resources to evaluate what really happened and to prepare for what the future might have in store for us.
Using the information provided by Kahneman it is easy to understand that a society where a significant portion of its members use predominantly the first manner of reacting to the outside challenges is a deterministic, hence predictable, system, while a society where people take the time to think for themselves is a lot more flexible than that.

The difference between those two situations being not only the amount of fear that exists in that society but, maybe the more important aspect, the manner in which the significant agents in that society react to that fear. If they approach it with calm and evaluate it sensibly is one thing, if they try to use that widespread emotion for their own, narrow, purposes the result is completely different.
The whole system might become so unstable as to be unsettled by a landing butterfly.
Or by a teenager bringing a makeshift clock to class.

‘Europe has never seen such a number of immigrants since the fall of the Roman empire’ and ‘no European country can cope with so many in such a short time’!

I believe you’re already familiar with such headlines, right?

The Greek exodus from Smyrna in Turkey is the seminal event in Tsalikoglou’s haunting novel. Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Greek tragedies: The Secret Sister is a novel about the impossibility of escaping the past.

Let me remind you of some facts.
“Settlement in Greece was not a uniform experience for the approximately one million Ottoman Greeks who fled Turkey in the aftermath of the Greco-Turkish war of 1920-1922. Contemporary primary sources ranging from government reports to eyewitness accounts and memoirs of relief workers point to a mixed reality: while some Ottoman Greek refugees enjoyed hospitality and warm support upon arrival in Greece, many others found settlement in the new country a painful experience of material hardship, segregation, and status deprivation. The precarious circumstances of the massive exodus created the refugee drama. The inability of the Greek state to handle a crisis of such magnitude, along with the serious incidents of refugee discrimination and exploitation by Greek officials ans civilians, exacerbated the refugee’s plight.”

Similarly “During the First World War and the subsequent Greco-Turkish War (1920–1922) about 1.2 million Muslims migrated to Turkey, among them the 400,000 persons who were forcibly exchanged as a result of the Treaty of Lausanne.”

So two war torn countries, Greece and Turkey, were able to absorb, without really major problems, about a million refugees each – 17% and 7.5% of the respective populations. Maybe this will give us some perspective. One million refugees represents less than 0.2% of the current population of the EU and less than 1.2% of the population of Germany.

OK, now you’ll tell me that those headed to Greece and Turkey  were going home while these coming to Europe will suffer a cultural shock.
There might be some truth in both assertions, of course. Yet I beg you to read again the quote about the fate of the Greek refugees who ‘came home from Turkey’. In the end they somehow managed to fold in. Same thing happened with the “the (mostly Greek-speaking) Muslim population” that was “compulsory” transferred to Turkey.

So how about we quit whining and start helping these poor people in earnest?

It’s not our responsibility, you say?

Maybe not but how about taking a second glance at history?

The tragedy experienced by the 2 million people exchanged between Turkey and Greece was due, at least in part, to the Treaty of Sevres which was imposed by the Allies to the Ottoman empire and which inspired Kemal Ataturk to raise arms and forge the present day Turkey. Just as the fate experienced now by the Syrian people is influenced not only by Sykes-Picot but also by us dragging our feet while the Assads, both father and son, were massacring their ‘subjects’.

But how about the fate of the Roman Empire that had fallen under the burden of the immigrants?
First of all I must remember you that the Roman Empire had a mixed population to begin with and that the Romans themselves had invited more than one migratory tribe to come in and contribute to the well fare of the empire. For instance the German and Iazyges soldiers that were settled by the Romans in Britain.
Then I must remind you that the western part of the Roman Empire started to crumble only after it had become an extremely authoritarian state, where the rulers were concerned more about fulfilling their obscene pleasures and less with the management of the current problems of the empire. Panem et circenses was their preferred method of governing, if that rings any bells.

The point is that exactly as the protagonists of The Secret Sister cannot escape their history neither of us will be able to escape the consequences of our actions. Or inaction.

And another lesson from the Ancient Times: no wall was ever tall enough to keep out those who really wanted to get in. Neither Hadrian’s nor the Chinese Walls had been able to protect those inside from their own ineptitude.


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