Archives for category: altruism

Laurie Santos – psychology and cognitive sciences professor at Yale, believes that ‘we really need to do something about it’.

And I saw just students who were, you know, so depressed it was hard for them to get up in morning. I saw cases of students who were so anxious about their summer internships that they could barely function. And I thought, this is — first of all, this is what — not what I expected of college student life. You know, I remember college back when I was there in the ’90s as being relatively happy. And so, it was kind of striking. And the class came out of a goal that I had, which is that we need to do something about this as educators. We’re kind of like — we’re not in the position to really be teaching students if they’re in the midst of this mental health crisis. I think as professors we sometimes think we can teach students, you know, Chaucer and economics and things. But if the stats are right and 40 percent of them are too depressed to function and other two-thirds are so anxious that they can — you know, that they’re having panic attacks, you know, we really needed to do something about it.

And why shouldn’t they be? Depressed and panicked, that is?

Not so long ago, universities were perceived as fountains of knowledge and dispensers of philosopher’s stones. Having a degree was one of the most coveted things in the world. And one of the most useful.

Nowadays?
Universities are described as the origin of evil.
Just as Saudi-funded Salafist religious schools have radicalized large swaths of the Islamic world, American universities are radicalizing an increasingly large share of America.  This is aided by the fact that nearly 70% of kids now go to college, where most of them are taught not to think.

That would explain the depression. But ‘panic attacks’?
Experienced by the young generation of the most civilized and affluent people in the whole world?
Well, just remember the financial burden students and their families have to shoulder…

So. Students are depressed and prone to panic attacks…
Which only proves that the die-hard ‘conservatives’ are right. Millennials and Generation Z are nothing but a bunch of sissies.

Yeah, right.
Only these two generations have grown under our watch.
They are our children. We raised them. We have built the world they have to cope with.

In fact, we are the ones who need to be depressed. And panicked.
Very soon we’ll need to retire. For no other reason than becoming too old to fend for ourselves.
We’ll actually need our arses to be wiped clean and our world to be managed by somebody else but us.

Who will step in our shoes?

Furthermore, what example are we offering the next generation?

Why would they care about us if we don’t care about them? Offering them an extremely expensive education isn’t a proper expression of our love…
Why would they care about us when we don’t care about our fellow human beings? Extremely expensive health care and unaffordable housing isn’t a proper expression of ‘love thy neighbor as you love yourself’.
Why would they care about us, their parents – after we will no longer be of any real use, when we don’t really care about our employees. About those who actually make things happen?
Amazon goes further than gig economy companies such as Uber, which insist its drivers are independent contractors with no rights as employees. By contracting instead with third-party companies, which in turn employ drivers, Amazon divorces itself from the people delivering its packages. That means when things go wrong, as they often do under the intense pressure created by Amazon’s punishing targets — when workers are abused or underpaid, when overstretched delivery companies fall into bankruptcy, or when innocent people are killed or maimed by errant drivers — the system allows Amazon to wash its hands of any responsibility.
You see, Jeff Bezos did a very good thing when maintaining that “Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity.”
Only words without deeds… might mean that we, the eventually needy parents, might end up uncared for. Sweet-talked to the end but…

On the other hand, depression might be good. Evolutionary speaking, of course.
The depressed have less energy. Hence are unable to put in practice major mistakes. Except killing themselves, of course.
The depressed have a lot of time on their hands. Huge opportunity to think things over. To notice and understand the mistakes that led them here.

Those who will resist the urge to give up – either by actually killing themselves or by falling back into the old morass, will shape ‘tomorrow’.

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Din când în când, realitatea de zi cu zi are prostul obicei să ne dea cu firma-n cap.

Atunci chiar și cei mai individualiști dintre noi realizează că nici măcar ‘jmecherii’ nu se pot apăra singuri în toate situațiile.

În momentele astea în ne aducem aminte, ‘jmecheri’ și oameni de rând, de ‘protecția statului’.

Astea sunt momentele in care începem să reproșăm.
Polițistului de la 112 că nu a fost profesionist. Și nici măcar empatic.
Celor de la putere faptul că un astfel de incapabil a fost angajat pe un post de o asemenea importanță.
Și tuturor celorlalți ‘intermediari’ că nu și-au făcut ‘datoria’.

Tot astea sunt și momentele în care realizăm că, totuși, în administrația de stat sigur mai sunt măcar câțiva care știu ce fac. Pentru că altfel ar fi chiar și mai rău!

Mai realizăm ceva. Măcar unii dintre noi. Că „Statul Român trebuie resetat!

Perfect de acord.
Numai că, înainte de a ne apuca de treabă, avem nevoie să înțelegem cum am ajuns aici.
Ca nu cumva să ne întoarcem înapoi…

Nu e vorba doar de vinovății individuale. Și nici măcar de grup.
Iliescu, Constantinescu, Băsescu, Iohannis… partide… toți aștia sunt, într-adevăr, parte din problemă. Fiecare dintre ei au făcut câte ceva… mai bine, mai rău… Fiecare dintre ei au fost, la rândul lor, factori de decizie. Au avut ocazia să facă. Să-și pună pecetea pe mersul lucrurilor. Să ‘facă diferența’

Acum am ajuns la concluzia că nici unul dintre ei nu a făcut destul.
Situația actuală sugerează, cu putere, același lucru.

Dar noi, aștialalți, ce-am făcut?

Când aud că ‘statul nu-și face datoria’ mi se aprind beculețele de alarmă.
Și încep să urlu… în sinea mea!

Da’ cine populează statul ăsta?!?

Niște omuleți verzi, veniți de pe Marte?

Când te duci la primărie, mai ales într-o localitate mai mică, nu constați, cu ‘stupoare’, că-l cunoști pe cel de la ‘ghișeu’? Că d-aia ți-e ușor să-i dai ‘atenția’….?
Știm, cu toții, care sunt mecanismele prin care ‘slugile numite politic’ ajung să ocupe prea multe dintre pozițiile de la stat.
Avem, cu toții, rude și prieteni printre profesioniștii care rezistă încă în structurile de stat. Care ne tot povestesc ce se întâmplă pe-acolo.

Și cu toate că știm atâtea, dormim în cizme.
Până când nepoatele noastre sunt omorâte.

Abia atunci întelegem, încă odată, că suntem la voia întâmplării.

O furtună din senin. I se pune vre-unui nebun pata noi. Vine molima. Sau războiul.

Ce bine-ar fi dacă statul ar funcționa cum trebuie… Dacă toate cunoștințele – și poate chiar rudele, noastre ar face ce trebuie și atunci când sunt angajate la stat. Așa cum ne place să credem că facem noi, aștia din ‘privat’.

Dacă n-am fi dormit… dacă n-am fi lăsat pe toți neisprăviții aștia să ni se urce-n cârcă… dacă am fi ascultat poveștile profesioniștilor…

… dacă n-am fi dat șpaga aia atunci …

Reading this excellent article by James Poulter, BBC Three, I was reminded of Marx. Karl, not Groucho.

“The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance, they are revolutionary, they are only so in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat; they thus defend not their present, but their future interests, they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.”

 Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.

The XX-th century had been torn apart by two totalitarian lines of thought. Communism and fascism/nazism.
The communists had backed their claims on Marx’s class struggle while the fascists/nazists had used a plethora of other authors as pretexts. Despite the differences, the results had been the same. Callous spin doctors had used popular discontent to get uncontested possession of the political levers. And kept playing with them until entire countries crumbled under their own weight.

But what was it that made some nations destroy themselves on the left side of the authoritarian spectrum while others have done the same thing but on the right side?

The nature of the popular discontent!

At any given point, the majority of the people living in a country might see itself as being in one of the following three situations:
– Leading a relatively comfortable life and having a decent perspective to improve its lot or at least to maintain its present status.
– Having always led a bad life and finding absolutely no perspective of improvement.
– Having led a relatively good life for a while, lost that status and finding no way to resume it.

According to Marx, the first situation would have necessarily led to the third and, eventually, to communism.
According to history, people living in the second situation had always been manipulated into communism while people struggling in the third have been led into fascism/nazism.

Meanwhile, people living in the first situation have remained there for as long as they maintained their social cohesion. But that will be the subject of another post.

 

Tin inca minte discursul cu care Basescu incerca sa ne convinga, prin ’98, ca nu aveam nevoie de autostrazi. Si asta pentru ca, atunci, l-am crezut!
Eram atat de pornit impotriva celor care il urmau pe Iliescu incat eram dispus sa cred pe oricine care li se opunea cu un cat de cat succes…
Atat de pornit incat n-am inteles, atunci, cat de mica era diferenta dintre Basescu, Iliescu, Nastase…

Pana la urma, singurul lucru care conteaza este respectul pe care il avem fata de cei din jurul nostru. In ce masura ii consideram oameni asemenea noua. Indiferent de ocupatie, culoarea pielii, limba vorbita…

Uite de-asta am fost nevoit aseara sa trec cu masina prin vad. Iarasi!
Era “standstill” intre Sebes si Alba Iulia asa ca Waze mi-a spus sa o iau la dreapta. Apoi la stanga si… pentru ca Waze-ul meu e setat sa ma duca pe orice fel de drum, am ajuns sa traversez un rau. Pe un pod improvizat din tuburi de beton.

De fapt, era un drum tehnologic. Aferent santierului viitoarei autostrazi dintre Sebes si Turda. “Viitoarei”…


Degeaba dam vina pentru necazurile de ‘acum’ pe ‘actuala’ guvernare.
Indiferent care o fi aceea.
Nimic nu se va schimba cu adevarat pana cand nu ne va veni NOUA mintea la cap.

Noi suntem cei care trebuie sa invatam.
Noi suntem cei care trebuie sa nu ne mai lasam invrajbiti.
Noi suntem cei care trebuie sa ne asumam greselile. Si prostiile pe care le-am facut. Noi, cu mainile si cu capetele noastre!

Doar asa vom putea merge mai departe.
Altfel, orice ‘miscare’ pe care o vom face va fi ‘la remorca’ cuiva.
Indiferent cui, in indiferent ce directie.

Pentru a ne putea hotari singuri destinul, pentru a ne putea deplasa, firesc – ‘inainte’, trebuie sa re-invatam ce inseamna cooperarea. Adica sa tragem cu totii la aceiasi caruta.

Altfel… vom da iarasi cu oistea-n gard.
Si iarasi…

Ce m-a apucat?!?
Ca doar n-o fi prima oara cand m-a scos Waze din tot felul de ‘incalceli’ din astea….
Ei bine, imediat dupa ce-am tras pe dreapta sa fac pozele alea, a oprit si o Dacie Dokker. Din care a coborat un OM.
“Veniti dupa noi. Sunteti pe drumul cel bun. Mai avem un pic si iesim in DeNeu”
“Multumesc foarte mult. Nu m-am speriat, doar m-am oprit sa fac niste fotografii!”
“A, OK… V-am vazut cu numar de Bucuresti. Doar localnicii stiu scurtatura asta si am crezut ca aveati ceva ‘indoieli'”.
“Va multumesc inca odata. Nu sunt foarte multi care sa faca asemenea gesturi.”

Adica se poate. Putem sa ne ajutam intre noi.
Nu ne costa nimic.
Iar impreuna putem muta muntii!

Sau traversa rauri.

Some people consider individual liberty to be supreme.
Nothing else comes even near, except for private property. Which is seen as the practical embodiment of freedom.

‘Me and my property, free from any outside intervention’.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

I agree.

Some others consider ‘community’ to be the most important thing.
Or various alternatives. ‘Traditions”, “elders” and so on.

I also agree!

And here comes the tricky part.
While ‘traditionalists’ have dominated for most of human history the ‘individualists’ have gradually gotten the upper hand during the last 2 to 3 centuries.
For example, Confucianist China – traditionalist by definition, had been the first civilized nation. It had a very productive economy when Europe’s was primitive and a sophisticated culture when Europe was yet learning to read and write. Yet it had been the Europeans who had invented ‘science’ and who eventually dominated China. For a while, at least…

So. In the end, it seems that individualism trumps traditionalism… or that it had been able to do it at least once…

But there’s a catch.
Ever since individualism got the upper hand, humankind had experienced her worst crises. Not only more intense but also more often ones. And almost always starting in the Euro-Atlantic area. WWars, most economic crises, ‘erosion of values’…
Only this hasn’t always been the case. Historically, China also had her share of wars – both ‘civil’ and with her neighbors, the Spaniards had been able to conquer Central and South America simply because those living there had been at each-others throat when the Spaniards had landed… and so on.
Not to forget the huge number of wars fought inside Europe, between European ‘factions’.
Then what if European individualism wasn’t the whole explanation for what had happened? What if Europe had been able to basically impose her Weltanschauung over the rest of the world simply because she had kept, at least for a while, her trade-mark individualism under control? At least when ‘domestic’ matters where at stake…

When Europeans dealt with other Europeans…
Remember the rules governing King Arthur’s Round Table. What chivalry used to mean. The Geneva Convention, so often invoked and less and less observed as conflict took place further and further away from Geneva.

My point being that freedom – and private property, don’t make much sense unless accompanied by at least some mutual respect. While mutual respect won’t take you very far unless exercised amongst free agents.

Freedom understood as ‘ending where my nose starts’ is nothing but a continuous bout of fisticuffing.
Preserving your ‘private property’ against all others is hopeless while preserving it in a collaborative way – as we currently do, is a breeze. As long as enough of us consider theft to be unacceptable, of course.

I was speaking a little earlier about ‘mutual respect among free agents’.
In a sense, the phrase is an overkill. Respect cannot be mutual unless it is extended among free agents. And if those who show respect are not free, that respect is neither genuine nor mutual.
This being the reason for which whenever respect ceases to be expressed among free agents it becomes nothing more than ‘window dressing’.

Hence useless when push comes to shove. When people need to gather together. To cooperate towards their common good.
Towards their common survival.

There’s a seemingly unending debate about what “my liberty ends where yours begins” really means.

The initial saying was a little longer, Your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”, and had been coined during the disputes between those who tried to impose the Prohibition and those who opposed it.

In that context, it made sense.
‘How close to my house – a teetotaler, should you be allowed to open a bar and why should I be able to tell you what to drink/serve in your house.’

In a wider setting – individual rights, for instance … not so much!

‘Your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins’ only if at least one of the following is true:
– My arms are as long as yours AND I’m willing/able to defend my nose.
– You are a civilized person.
– We, the entire community, have reached the conclusion that we are better off, together, if we observe – and enforce, this rule.

The first proposition describes a situation of generalized conflict. Not necessarily ‘hot’ but, nevertheless, always waiting to happen.
The second depends, decisively, on the ‘other side’ behaving ‘properly’. Nice and commendable but what happens when someone goes berserk?
The third describes the de facto functioning of any civilized nation. Only a nation, any nation, is composed of individual people. ‘Endowed’ with ‘free will’ and not always ‘well behaved’.

Hence the danger of defining freedom as a collection of individual spaces where each of us might do as they please – as long as the consequences of their actions remain inside that space.
Which spaces would have to be constantly defended.
Or could be extended, whenever any of the neighbors wasn’t on the lookout.

How about ‘our mutually respected individual liberty is the well deserved consequence of our collective effort to enlarge OUR freedom’?

Regina Maria,
Ana Pauker,
Elena Ceaușescu,
Viorica Dancilă.

In felul lor, fiecare dintre acestea au reprezentat câte o premieră în viața socio-politica a României.
Fiecare dintre ele au exemplificat câte un fel de culme.

Concluzia?

Sunt mai multe.
Aș menționa doar două.

Mamele românce au ezitat pentru prea multă vreme în a-și încuraja fetele să ‘spargă’ barierele și băieții în, la început, a accepta iar, mai apoi, a încuraja ei înșisi acest lucru.
Soții, tații și colegii, români nu au fost în stare să înțeleagă, autonom, că nu pot gestiona toate lucrurile de unii singuri.

Așa că singurele femei care au ‘reușit’ să ‘penetreze’ au fost ‘excepțiile’.

Socrul meu a trecut ‘în rândul drepților’
Soția mea era deja acolo așa că am făcut de unul singur cei 550 de kilometri care ne despărțeau.
La volan. Pe ninsoare. Noaptea, în cea mai mare parte.

Fiind singur, am avut timp să gândesc.

Cei mai mulți dintre cei din jurul meu erau șoferi de TIR.
99.5% dintre ei conduc aproape perfect. Chiar dacă, de multe ori, condițiile sunt improprii. .
Accidentele produse de tiriști sunt rare. La fel de rare, din punct de vedere statistic, sunt și cele produse de restul șoferilor profesioniști.

Care șoferi profesioniști cară economia în cârcă.
De la pâinea proaspătă pe care o savurăm în fiecare dimineață până la betonul de la fundația caselor noastre.

Și atunci?
De ce avem o părere atât de proastă despre acești oameni?
De ce îi alintăm ‘neamul lui Manivelă’?
Doar pentru ca 0.5% dintre ei produc niște accidente suficient de dramatice încât să ajungă ‘subiect de presă’?
Doar pentru că patronii lor le pun la dispoziție niște camioane care nu merg chiar atât de repede pe cât am vrea noi să mergem?
Sunt ei de vină pentru faptul că noi, toți, n-am fost în stare să construim suficient de multe autostrăzi?
Sunt ei de vină că ….?
0.5% dintre ei sunt. De vină. Pentru multe lucruri.

Iar noi, restul, suntem de vină pentru faptul că nu suntem în stare să facem deosebirea dintre adevărații vinovați și cei care ne pun în față ‘pâinea noastră cea de toate zilele’ în fiecare dimineață.
Pe ploaie, pe ninsoare…

The worst thing about your parents passing away is the fact that from that moment on, every time you’ll turn to anybody for help that somebody will first pass judgement on you.

Really?

Am I the first to understand that once you’ve eaten it, nobody will ever again be able to part YOUR cake from you?

It stops being a cake as you chew on it?

Well… yeah. Actually it does. But… it remains a cake in your memory! That’s what you’ll remember having eaten: A cake!

And now, that we’ve settled the ‘eaten cake’ problem, let me ask you another question.

How strange is it that so many conservatives consider taxes as an infringement upon their right to freely dispose of their property yet they have no qualms to impose their beliefs upon other people – women, to be more precise, denying them the right to freely  dispose of their own bodies?

Because all life is sacred!

Hence, in their view, all abortion is murder. Regardless of the age of the fetus. Regardless of the consequences of having an unwanted child. Too early, too many, not enough money, health problems, sexual assault… nothing counts except for the right of the fetus to be born.

Some go even further. They consider that contraception is murder too. Because it denies the right of the egg-cell to become an embryo…

As I said before.
It is not only possible but very normal to have your cake and eat it too.
Same goes for convictions.
Once embedded in our heads they become ours and nobody can part them from us, no matter what logical arguments might be involved. Invoked?

Except for us. We are the ones who can leave behind some of our old convictions and reach new ones.
Conversion is the name of the game.

A game we’ve been playing since the dawn of time.

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