Archives for category: Mindset

Recent developments have resurrected a Soviet era concept.

Whataboutism.

 “Whataboutism refers to the practice of deflecting criticism by pointing to the misdeeds of others. Oxford Dictionaries defines it as “the technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counter-accusation or raising a different issue.”
Essentially, it’s an appeal to hypocrisy ― a logical fallacy also known as “tu quoque.” Instead of proving that your opponent’s claim is wrong on its face, whataboutism argues that it’s hypocritical of the opponent to make that claim at all.”

The current bout of whataboutism came about when Trump and his supporters tried to deflect the public condemnation of neo-nazi activism after a young woman had been killed by a white supremacist.

So, which is worse?
Communism or nazism?

I’ll make a small detour here and ask myself ‘what’s wrong with the spell checker? Why insist that nazism should be written with a capital N? Is it a nation? It’s OK for communism to start with a lower case letter, same thing for all other political denominations… what’s so special about nazism?!?’

Back to business.

One way to answer the question would be to asses the damages incurred as a consequence of each of them being put in practice.

Easier said than done. There are a lot of similarities between these two but also a huge difference. Precisely that which makes it very hard to compare the consequences of each of them having been experimented.
Nazism and communism have evolved in totally different social environments and have been fueled by closely related yet different public feelings.

This is why I’m going to change tack.
Why attempt to establish a relative hierarchy on the axis of evil when they can be studied together?
As the left and right wings of the same carrion eating bird which feeds itself on the countless societies ruined by authoritarianism?

After all, any attempt to determine which is worse does nothing but normalizes ‘whataboutism’ itself, doesn’t it?
Regardless of which wing flaps first….

DSC_0138net

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I’ve recently spent a few days in the Danube Delta.DSC_1146egreta mareWhen traveling on water, I was issued a ‘life-jacket’ – no picture, you all know what one looks like.

At one point, I was joking with the guide.

‘Harnessed like this, no one can do anything but wait to be rescued. It’s impossible to swim wearing such a thing.’
‘Ha!.
You thought this was meant to save your life, didn’t you?
Well, in reality its role is to keep your corpse afloat so that those looking for you wouldn’t have to dredge the river.’

I remembered the joke while reading this article.

“Apple doesn’t purposely make its terms and conditions long and boring and difficult to read. In theory it could shorten them, or summarise them, or pull out a few bullet points at the beginning to let you know if something has changed since you were last confronted with them. But if it was to do so someone could argue in court that insufficient emphasis was placed on something buried further down in the document. And Apple doesn’t want that to happen.”

“Talking about morality in a class about nationalism is sort of like talking about modesty in a swingers club or moderation in a crack house.”

John Faithful Hammer

Absolutely brilliant observation!

I haven’t tried swinging but I imagine that each of the participants does exert a certain form of ‘modestly’, otherwise they would be rapidly kicked out by the rest.
Similarly, no crack addict would survive even his first ‘session’ without being actually ‘moderate’.

As for ‘nationalism’… well, there is nothing wrong when people stick together in an attempt to lead a decent life, in close cooperation with the other nations.
Nationalism becomes dangerous, a.k.a. immoral, only when the people promoting it attempt to lead a (more) than decent life at the expense of all those who happen to live around them. The ‘funny’ part being, of course, the fact that this kind of nationalism invariably leads to tragedy. Mostly for those foolish enough to ‘swallow’ it, but not exclusively.

(D)evil is ‘the difference’ we cannot accept.

For some, the fact that anything so ‘distant’ from what they find acceptable can survive for any length of time is a slap in their faces.

Which prevents them from learning anything in that situation.

history-written-by-the-victors

Quite a lot of people, most of them after misreading Machiavelli, have convinced themselves that ‘history is written by the victors’.

Even Winston Churchill, once a victor himself, had fallen into this trap.

Lately, more and more have started to doubt this assertion.

History is written by the writers.
Steve Theodore, professional game developer, amateur know-it-all

Ouch!

OK, let me dig deeper.

In reality, being able to write is not enough.

In order to be able to write about something, you have to survive it first.

And something else. Merely writing it would not necessarily preserve that information for further referral. For us to be able to read it. And be influenced by it.

So, the history that we are aware of today has been written by those who have survived the events, were smart enough to write and to understand the real importance of what they have just done. And to preserve the results of their effort.

But there’s more to it.
Basically there are at least two manners in which someone can describe something.
As close to what they honestly remember or in such a way as to bring as many benefits to the writer as possible.

I’m sure that you’ve already figured out what I’m hinting at.
Yes, the first manner of writing produces ‘true’ history while the second yields mere ‘propaganda’.

Which can be, indeed, useful.

On the shortest of times and only as long as the writer itself does not start to believe in his own writings!

Otherwise they’ll join the fate of the likes of Goebbels and …

goebbels-children

You know, Hitler’s very efficient ‘spin doctor‘ (“Think of the press as a great keyboard
on which the government can play.”) who, at the end of WWII and with the help of his wife Magda, had “murdered their six children and killed themselves as Soviet forces closed in on the bunker.” Would you call that a ‘victory’?
But we have to give him what was really his. He was a ‘man of his word’.
If the day should ever come when we must go, if some day we are compelled to leave the scene of history, we will slam the door so hard that the universe will shake and mankind will stand back in stupefaction..

So.
For some people to write history and for that history to remain as they have written it, the writers had to survive ‘it’, learn from what had happened to them that they were the in possession of very important information and decide to pass on that information, as truthfully as possible, to the next generations.
To help them survive if/when confronted with a similar ordeal.
And this very fact, that the history they had written taught someone how to survive, transforms the writer into the real winner.

In fact ‘history’ will be passed from one generation to another only as long as the next generation replaces peacefully the older one. Only as long as the older one helps the new generation to ascend into the future.

Otherwise, if the ‘children’ have to fight their ‘parents’ – as in ‘contradict what they had been taught by their teachers’ – in order to remain alive, they will also re-write the ‘history’ they had to fight against while struggling to survive.

Until not so long ago it was possible to buy unlimited coverage against the risks that scared you.
After things became too complicated and fraud a too widespread occurrence even the Lloyd’s gave up and started to introduce caps on insurance policies.
In fact Lloyd’s of London was the only place – that I knew of – where risk was understood, at least in part, in a ‘functionalist’ manner.
Risk is something that can be seen in two ways.
As yet another opportunity for making profit or something that has to be mitigated for the profit of the entire community.
Let me deal with the latter ‘option’ first.
Somehow I don’t buy it that Bismarck was primarily motivated by the well-being of the workers.
But what the German industrial barons of the day needed in order to catch up with the British ones – the Albion was the industrial power house of that time, o tempora…- was more and more people willing to leave the relative safety of the country-side and come to the city to work in the newly built factories.
In order to appreciate the huge difference between these two situations we must remember that in those times families were a lot larger than they are now and that their members used to help each other in times of need. But this could happen only if the members of the same family remained in close vicinity and worked on very flexible schedules – agriculture or family owned shops. You cannot go help your ailing mother if you work in shifts and live two hundred miles away from her.
So, in order to ‘lure’ more and more people out of the fields, and in a very short time, Bismarck had to offer them a ‘safety net’.
OK, let’s accept the idea that, maybe, there are some risks that the society, as a whole, should concern itself with.
But how to fulfill this ‘social need’?
How to identify which risks should be dealt with in a collective manner and which should be left alone. Then how to manage the whole process?
‘State-wide’ or through privately owned/operated initiatives?
Does it really matter?
I don’t think there is a universally valid recipe here.
The Bismarck’s social insurance system worked in Germany.
Lloyd’s has functioned almost seamlessly for 3 centuries. In England.
Both systems, one centered mostly on profit and the other on the safety of those who took part in it, worked because they spread out both the risks and the profits.
Current systems, where only the risks are being mutualized while the benefits tend to become more and more centralized – by ‘design‘, by corruption or both – are no longer functioning properly.
Take ‘Obama Care’, for instance. Most people, including Donald Trump, agree that something has to be done about ‘public health’ but the whole thing isn’t yet working properly.
Instead of fighting among ourselves on whether the state/government should have anything to do with risk management how about considering for a moment where our current infatuation with ‘profit‘ has brought us?

Tallow = “the white nearly tasteless solid rendered fat of cattle and sheep used chiefly in soap, candles, and lubricants“.

bite-the-bullet

The mutiny (India, 1857) broke out in the Bengal army because it was only in the military sphere that Indians were organized. The pretext for revolt was the introduction of the new Enfield rifle. To load it, the sepoys had to bite off the ends of lubricated cartridges. A rumour spread among the sepoys that the grease used to lubricate the cartridges was a mixture of pigs’ and cows’ lard; thus, to have oral contact with it was an insult to both Muslims and Hindus. There is no conclusive evidence that either of these materials was actually used on any of the cartridges in question. However, the perception that the cartridges were tainted added to the larger suspicion that the British were trying to undermine Indian traditional society. For their part, the British did not pay enough attention to the growing level of sepoy discontent.

tallowed-five-pounder

The new £5 notes contain tallow, a substance made from animal fat Credit: AP

“…a trace of tallow in the polymer pellets used in the base substrate of the polymer…”
“As the tweet was shared, social media users expressed their disgust at the news.
“New £5 note isn’t vegan. Was everyone’s 2016 New Year’s resolution to do ridiculously insane stuff like adding meat to money?” “

What are we to learn from these two (separate ?!?) incidents?

That we have not yet learned how, or when, to use tallow?

Or that we have reached, again, such a level of generalized discontent that people might use whatever plausible pretext in order to vent their accumulated grievances?

The essence of spin doctoring is to present a sequence of true facts in such a manner that will compel the audience to reach the conclusion desired by the ‘good-doctor’. The really skilled ones don’t even need to lie in order to achieve their goals. At most they ‘shave’ some of the rough edges so that the truths they choose to mention fit smoother into their narrative
In fact it doesn’t matter much whether the conclusion they mesmerize their audience into is ‘true’ or not – truth is relative, anyway. The only thing that’s important here is that ‘the’ conclusion fits the intentions of the spin doctor.
Also, it even doesn’t matter what those intentions are. Good, bad… the end is always the same.

Because of the manner in which all this works.

The principle involved here is the same as that used by the magicians who entertain the crowds of circus goers.
They first concentrate the attention of their audience to a single point and then direct it in such a way that the people are no longer able to see anything but what they are allowed to by the magician.
Or by the spin-doctor.

Unfortunately the similarities between magicians and spin-doctors end here.
While most of the circus goers have a nice experience, albeit a relatively short one, most victims of the spin-doctors have to endure long lasting trauma and/or substantial material loss.

Again, irrespective of the spin doctors’ intentions. It doesn’t matter whether the method is used by a (well wishing socialist) utopian or by a callous Nazi.  In my previous post I mentioned how ‘political hyenas’ spring up and monopolize all the situations in which their ‘dark talents’ cannot be kept in check by the rest of the society.
Here we have the explanation for why the otherwise reasonable members of the society are unable to perceive the mortal danger they find themselves in.

Because the spin doctor had skilfully overloaded their attention.
Because after living for so long ‘under the spell’, too many people have become accustomed to let others think for them and in their name.

Was that clear enough?
The spin doctor doesn’t have to be malefic in order for the tragedy to take place. It is enough that they have occupied the attention of the people and have exhausted the ability of too many of the individuals involved to think with their own heads.
In these conditions the ‘political hyenas’ will undoubtedly make their appearance and attempt to gain control over the society.

And, undoubtedly again, those attempts will be extremely detrimental for the entire society.

ballancing-act

As long as we haven’t yet managed to find alternative energy sources to cover all our needs we still need to transport oil and natural gas from one place to another.
How we do this is the result of the continuous struggle between the ‘tree huggers’ and the ‘global warming deniers’.
north-dakota-protest1
Without the tree huggers our planet would be a lot dirtier that it already is
shutterstock-133485692jpg-0443e596dea017ff
while without the ‘deniers’ it would offer us a life a lot less comfortable than the one with which we have already been accustomed.
uncomfortable
It’s our job – yes, ‘ours’, the ones whose asses are still comfortably glued to the proverbial fence – to maintain a reasonable equilibrium.
vaideeni_interior

A sizeable number of Americans, Republicans even, have understood that Bush 43 wasn’t such a great President. When leaving office he had the lowest approval rate “of any president in modern times”.

Yet he is a man who knows to atone for his mistakes.
He knew how to apologize after blurting, ‘under influence’, “how is sex after 50?” to his female neighbor when seated at his parents dinner table in Maine and he effectively extracted himself from politics at the end of his not so glorious mandate, even though he had started it “believing he was God’s agent here on Earth to rid the world of evil.”
By the end of it, Bush “had become much more aware of the limitations of the office and his own shortcomings” and had started to take actions “contrary to his deepest beliefs“.

Actually Bush’s excesses constitute, in part, the explanation for the huge number of people who showed up to ‘landslide’ Obama into the Oval Office.

Then why are so many Americans still endorsing Trump?
After failing to offer a plausible apology for the ‘locker room banter’ that had surfaced recently.
For implying that a woman was  ‘not attractive enough’ for him to ‘grab her by the pussy‘.
After accusing the press for “rigging the system” against him when all they did was to publish his own words…

The media could indeed do a better job at covering the entire spectrum – a lot of interesting things about Clinton are hardly mentioned while Gary Johnson is all but absent – only this doesn’t explain the insistence with which some of the Republicans keep obsessing about Trump.

Even after some of their own party bosses have started to ‘see the light‘.

Their hoping that  ‘he will defend the Supreme Court’ resides on assuming that ‘The Donald’ would act, if elected, as a bona-fide Republican.
What in Trump’s behavior ever made them believe such a thing?

Do they really want to relieve the Bush experience, only at a different – a lot lower, that is – level?

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