Archives for category: Frames of mind

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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Because of their very nature, centralized systems open up vast areas of opportunity.
For those who bother to identify them, of course.

The internet.
Huge amounts of information only a few clicks away.
Students find it easier to compile their term papers. Or to just click and paste them.
Powerful individuals/organizations have found yet another way to further their interests:

A long-running Papuan separatist movement has flared in recent months, sparking fresh calls for self-rule.
But with access to the region heavily restricted, social media has become a key source for the foreign press.
One expert told the BBC the apparently co-ordinated campaigns were seeking to skew international views of Papua.


The government.
A mechanism put in place by nations to manage the day to day survival of the social mechanism.
The more centralized, the more efficient. At least apparently…
Centralized China is decades away from the more ‘lax’ India. According to certain benchmarks, of course…

Corporations.
Individuals, no matter how smart and or powerful, can achieve only so much when acting alone. That being the reason for people coalescing in nations.
Also for economic ventures. People working in concert are more efficient than individuals toiling on their own. When led by a somebody who is simultaneously smart, charismatic and ‘organizationally skilled’ the results can be utterly fantastic.
A corporation might even become powerful enough to resist government.

The FBI Wanted a Backdoor to the iPhone. Tim Cook Said No.

Only some governments are more determined than others.

Apple drops Hong Kong police-tracking app used by protesters.

How else to explain what’s going on but by remembering that all centralized systems are simultaneously manned and surrounded/watched/accessed by individual people?
Who identify the various opportunities presented by the increasingly centralized structures which bloom around us.
Who use them to further their goals, whichever those might be. Who choose which goals are worth pursuing and which are better abandoned.
Who determine, individually, what decision must be made in each situation.
Who use whatever the power they have at their disposal in such or such manner.
Who allow others to use them in a centralized manner. Or not….

Explainer: How Trump used the U.S. government to chase conspiracy theories

NB. The last example I used can be substituted by countless others. Trump just happens to be ‘on top’ the still most powerful, and looked up to, government on Earth. Furthermore, he had been democratically elected into that position. Hence his actions – and his government’s reactions, illustrate perfectly the situation we find ourselves in.

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.

When was it the last time that a craftsman has ever told you “This is not the proper way to do this!”?

OK, no matter what we ask them to do, most artisans won’t, yet, do obviously idiotic things. Like outright and evidently dangerous.
But most of them are increasingly willing to cut corners in order to please us, their customers.

What’s going on here?

The customer is king?!?
Even the drug addict?

And how about the ‘boss rules’?
1. The boss is always right.
2. Whenever the boss is not exactly right, refer to rule #1.

Now please take into consideration the fact that decisions are taken according to ‘the chain of command’. Which tends to be unidirectional. From top to bottom.
While information circulates on other grapevines. Usually only ‘on demand’. Whenever the boss asks, he gets whatever information those bellow him dare to share…
Of course, there are also the ’emergency cases’. When the hard reality slaps us in the face. Bosses and foot soldiers alike. But only too late…

No wonder then that too many of those who actually do something give up to the whims of the paying customers/’narrow minded’ bosses.

Or give up altogether.
And demote themselves to the rank of the unthinking robots.

Do/shoot first and damage control/ask questions later….

https://www.improgrammer.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/BOSS-is-always-RIGHT.jpg

And you’re still wondering ‘were did all these rules and regulations came from?’ Why is ‘the government’ so adamant that we need ‘guidance’?

Because we no longer pay any attention?
Hence nobody speaks up anymore….
Neither bothers to learn in earnest!

Theory has it that visiting foreign people might make us wiser.
By seeing how each of them cope in their own environment we might learn the beauty of each culture.
By taking in all the differences between us we might learn how ultimately alike we all are.

Or not.
The key word here being ‘might’.
Whenever subjected to a learning experience we only might become wiser.
Being confronted by new information is only an opportunity. Not a all a fatality.
Integrating that new information into our personal library of ideas has to be preceded by a ‘digestion process’. We need to understand and accept each of them first.
Depending on various factors, some of us might remain indifferent to at least a part of what is going on around us.
Depending on various factors, some of us might reach a different conclusion starting from the same set of raw data.

The fact that each of us has a determinant contribution to the learning process explains the differences between our perceptions.

Whenever visiting a foreign country, each of us comes home with a different opinion about those places.
The fact that none of us remains indifferent represents our shared humanity while the differences illustrate the individual nature of the human species.

What better way to treat depression than visiting some of the great achievements of humankind?

Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids, Machu Pichu, a selection of Europe’s Medieval Castles and Cathedrals, the Taj Mahal, Beijing’s Forbidden City, the Golden Gate, Burj al Khalifa …

I should take my wife along, right?

1324 AED roughly translates into 325 Euros. Not exactly cheap but… one also needs to get there.

Good thing I haven’t bought the tickets for the Lounge yet… I must reschedule…

On the other hand, does any of this make any sense for any of you?

Five hours of traveling over the clouds at almost 1000 kms per hour costs the same as spending an hour and half in a bar half a mile up in the sky? OK, Wizz Air is a low cost company, you have to pay extra if you fancy any refreshments… but still….

I’m not at all sure this trip would do anything good to my depression.

Let me put my feet back on the ground first!

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’.

Ever-since Descartes –  dubito ergo cogito, cogito ergo sum, the western culture had considered that a person becomes truly human only after they actively start looking for answers. Start thinking about their own persona, in a conscious manner.
Otherwise put, we start existing only after we notice our existence.

The corollary of this concept had been ‘rational thinking’. The belief that it is possible to consider something – to emit a judgement about a subject, only after dispassionately examining all available facts – and only the facts, pertinent to the matter.

While the ‘thinkers’ were coining the concept of rationality, the more practical minded had come up with the scientific approach. Gather as much information as possible about the subject you’re interested in, interpret it and come up with a conclusion. But keep an open mind about any new information which might come up and be prepared for your conclusion to be invalidated – or, at least, ‘nuanced’, at any moment.

At first sight, there isn’t much difference between these two approaches. Only at first sight, of course…
Those who consider themselves to be ‘rational’ have a hard time accepting other people’s conclusions while the bona fide ‘scientists’ are actually happy when they are contradicted. ‘My work has been considered important enough for somebody to check it. I’ll just have to make amends and all will  be fine’.

Now, I’m convinced that you’ve all figured out that I’m joking.
There’s no such thing as a fully rational person who denies the facts which happen to contradict their conclusions just as there’s no such thing as a scientist pure enough to actually enjoy being proven wrong.

But I’m not joking when I observe that there are so many people who consider themselves to be rational and who refuse to accept as fact anything which contradicts their beliefs. Who have a ‘scientific’ approach. Who cherry-pick only the facts which confirm their theory and dismiss – as ‘fake-news’, all the rest. Just as many as the scientists who do the same thing.

I wonder who supervises their thinking processes.
Are they truly aware about what’s going on inside their heads?
Or about the consequences?

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.

 

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