Archives for category: democracy

People had walked the Earth ever since they had climbed down the tree. Or had been created, whatever scenario each of us prefers. And their walking had resulted in the existence of trails.
After a while, some of them had became more powerful than others. They called themselves ‘kings’, assumed the property of everything in their grasp and built roads. They actually needed them to administer their property… Their private property….
Hence all roads had started as being private. Since everything belonged to the king…
In time, kings learned it was far easier to hire somebody to do their work. To administer their property. From that moment on, the roads had no longer been built by the kings but by their governments. But continued to remain private!
Flash forward to modern times. People have realized – some of them, anyway, that democracies work far better than any authoritarian arrangement. Regardless of the state being organized as a republic or as a constitutional monarchy. But most roads were still being built by the government. ‘His majesty’s government’ – as they still call it in Great Britain or a government “of the people, by the people, for the people”.
In the last half century or so, private roads have made fresh inroads into our lives. Some people have started to build them and others to accept them as the new normal.
Are we headed back to the old normal? Where people had to defend themselves because there was no government to do it? Or didn’t care about the private citizens?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyfMYq8j6_s
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Like it or not, some people, a minority, have more clout than others. Than the demographic majority. That’s a fact.
Check Vilfredo Pareto’s principle, if you need more theoretical background.

Things tend to survive.
From the moving object which ‘wants’ to conserve its linear trajectory and speed – Newton’s first law, to the survival instinct which is manifest in all living organisms.

Those with more clout than the others, the elites, are included here. Among the things which want to survive.

As humans, the elites are endowed with consciousness. They are aware of their own status. And of their own fragility.

In time, they (should) have learned a few things.
– They are not infallible. Neither individually and nor as a class.
– When things get really bad – revolution grade bad, they have the most to loose. Regular Joe has nothing to loose but his shackles while the ‘landed gentry’ has everything to loose. Even if land itself has nowhere to go.
– The best way to preserve elite status is through the cunning use of the law.

The point being that these three ‘pearls of wisdom’ must be kept in balance. Whenever one of them is forgotten, things go south. Revolution grade south.

Let me deal with the last but not least one.

Any Law is nothing but the formal expression of an already existing reality.
It doesn’t matter whether that reality is ‘hard’ or ‘virtual’, all it has to do is to be ‘real’.
For example, Newton’s laws describe a portion of the physical reality which surrounds us. The penal codes, all over the world, are the formal expressions of the prevailing mores in each of the respective countries and territories. And both physical reality and prevailing mores are actual realities, even if the first is ‘hard’ while those belonging the second category are virtual. Both have consequences, hence both are real.

OK, very nice. Your theory covers the kind of laws which attempt to describe already existing realities.
But what about the laws which attempt to ‘regulate’ the future? For instance the laws which prevent us from smoking in public places or those which mandate us to pay a portion of our income at the end of the fiscal year? Where is the reality described by these laws?
In the head of those who had come up with them in the first place!
‘They’ had somehow managed to convince us to accept these laws. Which means that ‘their’ convictions had been strong enough to produce consequences. Hence their convictions had been ‘real’.

Among the laws which regulate the future are those which attempt to conserve the already present situation. Starting with the various Constitutions and all the way through to the anti rioting legislation.

If you look close enough, the special status of the elites has a special place – even if not always mentioned as such, in all these pieces of legislation.
Which is not necessarily bad. After all, we’ve already learned that elites do have a role to play in the well being of the social organism we all belong to.

The whole thing boils down to how protected those elites need to be?
In order for them to be able to properly play their role.

We are now faced with another question which needs to be answered.

‘Their role’?

To lead the masses? Where?!?

How about ‘to maximize the chances of survival’? For both the society as a whole and for them, the elite class, as a very important part of the whole?

Let me remind you of the ‘three pearls of wisdom’.

The elites are not infallible.
They are the ones with the most to loose. Hence they are the most interested in maintaining the status quo.
The most efficient way to insure stability is through the wise use of the law. Which must be written wisely and obeyed respectfully.

Hence it’s the elites which mostly need to act wisely.
They are the ones who need the most to constantly adjust their actions according to the consequences obtained.

‘OK, very nicely put.
But what has any of this to do with ‘laissez faire’?!?’

Laissez faire is, above all, an attitude.
A mental frame-work. A blue print, if you want.

An attitude which mandates each of us to do as we please, for as long as we don’t encounter adverse reactions.

For instance, this attitude would allow any of us to shoot ourselves in the foot, if we don’t mind the pain. Or shoot somebody else in the foot if he doesn’t protest.

And this is the real problem with laissez faire.

It cannot be written into law.

‘ ‘Shoot somebody else in the foot if he doesn’t protest’… What does that mean? There are laws against bodily harming others…’

Yes, true enough. But before any law is enforced, somebody has to notify those called to enforce that law…
If the hurt person is in no position to call the ‘cops’ or the ‘shooter’ is powerful/skillful enough to avoid the unpleasant consequences of his actions…

On the other hand, laissez faire is essential.

People do need to be free. It’s their nature to explore every available opportunity!
Specially so for the elites.
Remember their role? To maximize the chances of survival?
How would they be able to do that if nobody is allowed to do as they please? To explore, that is!

Hence the true role of the elites.
To constantly adjust the meaning of laissez faire to whatever happens around them.

Decision is the frontier between action and understanding.

All frontiers are, in fact, links.

Present decisions set the stage where future will be played, just as past decisions have built the theater.
While we, “the people”, are the building actors. The script writers. And the spectators who will eventually bear the brunt.

 

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.

 

Three things have grabbed my attention this week.

Carrie Lam, the Cambridge educated Hong Kong’s top civil servant, whose career spans more than 40 years, who happens to be a devout Catholic, had tried to fast track legislation allowing the Hong Kong authorities to extradite people to mainland China.

More than a million of the 7.4 million inhabitants of Hong Kong have taken to the streets, in protest.

Across the Pacific Ocean, in Venezuela, a pregnant mother accompanied by her two small children, had joined other 31 people who attempted to flee their impoverished country. They had climbed aboard Ana Maria, a fishing boat which was supposed to take them to Trinidad but never made it across the 20 km wide stretch of treacherous water.

Maroly Bastardo, the Venezuelan mother, was trying to survive. Since it is harder and harder to find food in Venezuela – for themselves and for their children, more and more people attempt to leave the country. Which, despite having an immense natural wealth, is being led to disaster by a group of ultimately incompetent people.

The one million people protesting in Hong Kong have adopted another strategy. They attempt not only to survive, physically, but also to preserve their way of life. Their cherished way of life.

These two are relatively easy to figure out. It’s easy to understand the need to survive. Equally easy to understand is the determination of those who want to continue a lifestyle they enjoy.

But what drives the Carrie Lam’s and the Nicholas Maduro’s of this world?
OK, I might accept the idea that, somehow, each of them might have ‘lost it’.
But what about those around them? How come so many people still consider they can, somehow, contradict the entire human history?
‘This time will be different!” ” ‘This Reich’ will rule for one thousand years!”

Yeah, right…

In many ways, technology has leaped ahead of leaders and organizations, and the human element needs to catch up.

Erica Volini et al, Introduction: Leading the social enterprise—Reinvent with a human focus

I’m afraid there is nothing new here.

‘Technology” has always been the elephant in the china shop.
Only it is very seldom that elephants enter by themselves. Anywhere, let alone in a china shop. And the mahouts who led them there were not always up to the task.

First things first.
“Technology has leaped ahead…” is an oxymoron.
Technology has always been one step behind the humans.
For no other reason than the fact that technology is a human invention. Each and every technological feat has been initiated and put in practice by a human being.

Hence ‘ ‘technology’, (wink) has leaped ahead of leaders and organizations, and the rest of the human element needs to catch up’!

Secondly, the ‘mahouts’ have a relatively easier job than those who drive the ‘rest of the human element’. Developing a technology is fairly easy but making sure that people do not hurt themselves while using it is fairly impossible.

The physical world is straightforward. It’s reaction is always the same. Once the experimenters learn what happens when they execute a certain action, the ‘response’ elicited from ‘that’ physical system by the experimenters’ consistent actions will never change.

On the other hand, people – conscious people, that is, are not that straightforward.
Being self aware, they constantly evaluate the consequences of their responses. They constantly evaluate what happens after they respond to whatever probes them from ‘outside’.
They constantly re-evaluate the consequences their actions produce upon themselves. They learn.
Only they don’t do it ‘mechanically’. Each of them has preferences and a certain freedom of will. Hence their inconsistency. Each of them learns slightly different things from the same situation. And each of them may choose to react in their own manner.
In spite of their assumptions, people are at best reasonable and never fully rational.

Bluntly put, it is fairly easy to evaluate the consequences of a gun being shot at a man but a lot harder to evaluate the consequences of a man shooting a gun.

“God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Hence all people, male and female, have been created equal. Simply because all of them have been cast in the same mould.
And all of them, male and female, harbor a spark of divinity. Simply because the mould into which all of them have been cast had been made “in the image of God”.

Simple logic would tell us that all people who believe mankind had been made in the image of God would behave in a certain manner.
Because of the reasons I mentioned above.
That kind of behavior had been called ‘ethical’ by well established thinkers. Plato, for instance.

“Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” “

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“This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground”

Same simple logic I’ve invoked earlier tells me that God had created ‘the heavens and earth’ in two different stages. More or less like we do things.
First we think about the things we are going to do – ‘design them’ would be a more modern term, and then we put our thoughts into practice. ‘Execute’ our designs, according to the practical aspects which always limit our actions.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

The Bible itself seems to agree with me. When God finally decided to put into practice his idea of a man, he started with something he already had at his disposal. Just like we have to do whenever we attempt to accomplish anything.
“Dust from the ground”.
Man, ‘made in the image of God’, was fashioned from already available material, not from ‘thin air’.

Could this be the origin of man’s limitations?
His ‘earthly’ nature, no matter his divine likeliness?
Could this be the reason for God going back on his words?

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” “

What made God change his mind?
In Genesis 1 – the R&D phase?, he had planned a world where man was allowed to feed on everything under the sun while in Genesis 2 he had established rules about what Adam was allowed to eat and what not.
Furthermore, why make a ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ in the first place? If you were going to forbid your favorite pet from eating its fruit, under the most drastic penalty…

No!
This is not yet another half backed attempt to deny the existence of God under the pretext that the only source describing its existence is full of inconsistencies.
Pretending that God does not exist simply because those who tried to describe him had not been able – or willing ?, to present a more coherent image of him is equivalent to pretending that God exists simply because we haven’t found, yet, an exhaustive explanation for everything.

You ‘see’, the Bible, no matter how holly we might consider it to be, is nothing but an image of God. A Man made image of God.
A Man written image of God, to be more precise.

The fact that the Bible is chock-full of wisdom can not be denied.
Which fact remains true regardless of whether it had been written ‘under guidance’ or ‘on their own’ by a group of ‘free agents’. Or, even, by a combination of both.
Unfortunately, there is another fact which seemingly contradicts the first. The Bible had been used as pretext for horrible crimes. Committed by ‘over-zealous’ believers, by ruthless ‘self serving’ operators or by a strange combination of both.

In order to encompass the simultaneous existence of both aforementioned facts each of us must take a step back-wards.
Extract ourselves from the fry.

Each of us must start thinking for ourselves.

How to do that – become ‘independent’, and yet preserve our chances to survive? As in remain connected with the day to day, hard-core reality?

Stay tuned. That will be my next subject.

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’?

Nowadays, too many individuals are afraid of freedom. Specially of other people’s freedom, since other people’s freedom might bring in ‘unwelcome’ change.
Other people’s freedom might challenge our established way of life.
And why risk it?

Still interested?
History strongly suggests that societies which had considered the stability of their ‘established way of life’ to be more important than the freedom of any individual member to respectfully question everything have eventually failed to preserve that over-cherished way of life. Simply because those societies had not allowed their individual members to adapt their mores to the changes which inevitably alter the ‘environment’.

Conclusion?
Liberty is of utmost importance.
For both individuals and societies, equally.
And, as a matter of historical fact, real – as in ‘truly functional’, freedom can be achieved only together. By the individual members of a society, acting in concert. Through a robust mechanism of checks and balances – a.k.a. real justice, based on mutual respect between the members of the society attempting to maintain this arrangement.

Warning!
Since we currently experience a growing distrust among the members of many societies – America and Western Europe included, no wonder that actual individual liberty is sliding down a dangerous slope.
Simply because nobody is going to defend the liberty of somebody they do not trust/respect.

https://i.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/001/178/733/780.jpg

Last time I checked, for a rebellion to make sense, it had to be against some precise thing. Otherwise…

On the other hand, there are only two kinds of freedom.
‘Against all others’ – which starts as anarchy and very soon becomes atrocious dictatorship. Where the dictator is free to rule and the oppressed are free do obey. Or to attempt to climb into the dictator’s shoes…
Or ‘with all others’. Also known as ‘democracy’. The real thing, of course, not the ‘mob rule’ variety which is currently creeping upon us.

Hence the only sensible rebellion would be the one against any form of dictatorship and ‘executed’ in concert with the rest of the oppressed.

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