Archives for category: Mindset

The American Revolution was fought under the banner of ‘Taxation without representation is tyranny”.
Meaning that the first Americans saw taxes as money well spent, as long as paying said taxes allowed them to vote. As in ‘being able to determine their own future’. Albeit in a collective manner.

In fewer words, the early Americans viewed liberty as being valuable enough to die for, let alone to spend some money in order to maintain it.

10% anual pay rise

time.com

And what made so many modern Americans willing to sell their hard won ability to vote? To determine their future?

Are they so poor that, for them, liberty has become an empty word?
Have they lost all confidence in the democratic process?
Are they so infatuated with money?

Any mix of all of the above?

 

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We are constantly being told that we’re living in the best possible world.

I agree with that.
Of course it’s the best possible one… specially since there’s no other!

On this side of the Styx, anyway…

Let’s get real now.

This is the Century when we’ve managed to open up all corners of our round Planet. We’ve ‘conquered’ the most remote and inhospitable places – both poles, all mountain tops and most of the ocean floor, including that beneath the Arctic Ice Sheet, and, way more important, made most of the Earth solid surface accessible for almost everybody. By car, by train, by plane, by bike, by ferry …
We’ve managed to populate all the ‘cubicles’ designed by Mendeleev and we found uses for most of them.
We’ve managed to identify a vast array of natural resources. We’ve developed matching technologies to exploit each of them, to transform and combine them into what we thought it would fit our fancies and to distribute the results to whomever wished to receive them.
We’ve continued to develop already invented means of communication and we transformed them into something totally different. Practically, we’ve restored the world to it’s ‘Golden Age’. We now live in the Global Village.

Which is not that much different from the old one…

Now, with the world watching Aleppo burn, Daraya fall, and Idlib and other Syrian cities suffer so brutally, Pope Francis’s description of Syria as “abandoned and beloved” rings chillingly accurate. After Bosnia, I was sure the international community would never again stand by and watch in silence as hundreds of thousands of people were bombed relentlessly, starved, beaten, traumatized, and denied the most basic human rights, including education and medical facilities. During the height of the worst years in Sarajevo, from 1992 to 1994, you could chart the ebb and flow of the city’s hope, like the steady flow of the Mijacka River, whose shelled bridges we had to run across to avoid getting hit by snipers. Food supplies ran out; soldiers were getting slaughtered on the fronts; the hospitals’ generators went down.

Janine Di Giovanni, From Sarajevo to Aleppo, Lessons on Surviving a Siege,
The Atlantic, October 12, 2016

What happened with “only a fool learns from his own mistakes, the wise man learns from the mistakes of others“?

OK, back to square one…

1918 had seen the end of the First World War.
Which was the first ‘mixed’ war and the one which should have been the last…

‘The last’ part is obvious, let me elaborate on ‘the first mixed’ one.

Basically, people are both lazy and easily frightened. Their natural tendency is to ‘give in’, a.k.a. ‘trade in’ rather than ‘fight for it’ ‘to the ultimate consequence’.
Which actually makes a lot of sense. Just imagine what would have happened if we were just a tad more combative than we used to…

Need a clue? Click on the picture below.

sex bonobos chimps

Welcome back.

The proposition “Laziness and congeniality is our default mode (mood?)” is valid but from a ‘statistical point of view’.
On a ‘case by case approach’, the manner in which each of us reacts in specific circumstances depends both on those circumstances and on our own interpretation of what’s going on. In fact, it’s our individual consciousness which makes things even more complicated than the situation described in the video above.

During most of our history, human social arrangements have closely resembled those of the chimpanzees. Alpha males have somehow managed to climb to the top of the food chain while the ‘laziness’ of the rest kicked in and allowed the alpha males to do more or less what they pleased.
Which had included a lot of unwarranted aggression.

Up to WWI, most wars had been started by aggressive rulers who had somehow convinced their followers to attack one or more of the neighbors. Which neighbors were also organized more or less like a chimpanzee troupe – ‘lazy and congenial people’ ruled by which ever alpha male was aggressive/cunning enough to remain in power.
These social arrangements had a very interesting consequence.
All conflict was between rulers and all wars were ‘turf wars’.
The belligerents were not attempting to out-kill each-other but to establish hierarchies. More prosaically, war was nothing but ‘protection racket’. The loser had to pay a certain amount of money to the winner – ‘war reparations’, surrender a piece of the ‘turf’ or both at the same time.

In time – due to particular circumstances, some of what are currently known as ‘nations’ have learned that ‘chimpanzee social order’ leads to unnecessary suffering and have (re)invented an alternative. A.k.a. democracy.

WW1 was the first major war which pitted authoritarian regimes against democratic ones.
Yes, humankind had already witnessed some wars which had been started by more or less democratically run countries – the British Empire had attacked the Boer Republics in South Africa, for example, only this is but a blog post, not a 500 page dissertation…
Unfortunately, the democracies which had won the WWI had behaved totally inappropriately… with dire consequences. For them, as well as for the rest of the world.

The Treaty of Versailles imposed a huge amount of war reparations upon the main loser. Germany.
Two consequences have arisen from here.

The obvious one was WWII. And almost nobody disputes this.
The less obvious one was that those war reparations had transformed war itself.

A democratically run coalition imposing war reparations upon a defeated and leaderless/dispirited population had transformed war from a dispute between rulers into a dispute between nations.

This was the ‘accelerant’ used by Hitler to start the second funeral pyre which had engulfed Europe…

Democratically run nations behaving inconsiderately towards other nations also established an immensely dangerous precedent.

The first example of which had occurred less than 20 years later in Spain.

 

20 years ago, very few people were talking to (by?!?) themselves while walking around the city.
And most of the passers-by were tempted to call 911 because they considered the ‘talkers’ had forgotten to take their medicine.

Nowadays, when quite a lot of people walk around speaking blindly – to a naive onlooker, nobody cares anymore.

As in nobody cares to check whether the ‘speakers’ have any ear-plugs stuck in their ears…

The early believers were convinced that God’s ‘real’ name could not be uttered by their ‘mortal’ lips.

Their logic was simple. Using a single word to ‘differentiate’ something from everything else is somewhat arrogant. It implies that the ‘god-father’ knows all that there is to be known about that something – or at least enough to give credence to that naming.

As faith became stronger, so did the self confidence of those involved in the process.
When writing about their beliefs, some of them circumvented the initial shyness by using multiple names to describe the object of their adoration – hoping that in this manner they’ll get close enough to the real thing.
“To begin with, God is referred to by a number of names in the Bible—not just a single name. By some counts there are more than 20 different names for God mentioned in the Bible. And each of these names has great significance. Each one tells us something important about God—His character and how He relates to us.”
Others still stick to the ‘no name’ policy, refer to their God using a title, Allah – the ‘One and Only Who Deserves to Be Worshiped’ – instead of a ‘proper’ (?!?) name, and use a number of attributes to describe him. Such a large number of attributes as to make it evidently clear that stringing attributes is in no way enough to ‘exhaust’ the inner nature of any god. Of anything, really.
“”If We had sent down this Quran upon a mountain, you would have seen it humble itself and shatter out of fear of God.  Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect. He is Allah, there is no deity but He.  He is the Knower of the unseen and the seen.  He is ar-Rahman (Most Compassionate), ar-Raheem (Most Merciful).  He is Allah besides Whom there is no deity.  He is al-Malik (Sovereign), al-Quddus (Most Pure), as-Salaam (Giver of peace), al-Mumin (Giver of security), al-Muhaiman (Vigilant), al-Aziz (Migthy), al-Jabbar (Overpowering), al-Mutakabbir (Glorious).  He is pure from whatever they ascribe to Him.  He is Allah, al-Khaliq (Creator), al-Bari (Perfect Maker), al-Musawwir (Fashioner); to Him belong the most beautiful names.  Whatever is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him.  He is al-Aziz (Mighty), al-Hakeem (Wise).” (Quran 59:21-24)”

After writing for long enough about their beliefs, the worshipers had become emboldened enough to transform their convictions into precepts. To be not only followed by the believers themselves but also imposed upon others.

And this is how various groups of people have traveled from “The Truth Shall Make You Free” to defining heresy as being the most heinous crime… so heinous that the congregations felt the need to punish it in the most eloquent manner.
Does it seem logical that heretics were burned alive, with their mental faculties intact, to give them one last chance to repent before being sent into the “eternal fire”? Could it be that burning an individual at the stake was seen as a merciful death, as a means of giving that person one last chance to save his or her soul before final damnation??? I have read that “burning at the stake was believed by some medieval authorities and scholars to liberate the sinner from his or her formerly damned state and offer some hope of salvation to the now ‘cleansed’ soul”.

After some of us have somehow survived that era, a few parts of the world have become ‘the lands of the free’.
The countries where a majority of the inhabitants believe that “your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”

It’s here that things get really interesting.

The quote defining freedom as stemming from the relation between your fist and my nose logically leads us to observe that those who define liberty in this manner are a bunch of tired, and maybe wised up, fist-fighters.
Who have finally reached the understanding that it’s better to negotiate it rather than fight over it.

‘Negotiate? What is here to be negotiated?’
‘The distance between our noses? How close am I allowed to bring mine to yours before you becoming allowed to defend your intimacy?
After all, if my nose is so far away that you’ll never be able to touch it, this particular definition of liberty ceases to make any sense while if you’re never allowed to punch mine then I’ll be able to use it to crowd you out of your own life.
And vice-versa.
Capisci?’

Which points out the cruel reality that we cannot negotiate everything.

To start any negotiation we must first have something in common.
A common language would be fine indeed but I have something else in mind.
Both sides involved in any negotiation need to share the same attitude.

This is the hardest thing to convey.
To convince the other side that you’re going to keep your end of the bargain.
Only after both sides have reached this ‘belief’, they will feel free enough to discuss the real issues.
This is where ‘religion’ comes in handy. It teaches us that all people are to be treated equally – all of them have been molded in a single cast, and that they share a spark from the same divine fire.
God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them“.

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians, 1:6-10)

 Which brings us back to the original question.

Is any liberty possible, outside the one we continuously build ourselves, through constant negotiation?
Is any bona-fide negotiation possible without a healthy dose of mutual respect among all those involved in it?
Why do we, grown-ups, still need our father to constantly remind us to stop bickering?

a-mans-ethical-behavior

 

 

(http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/names-of-god)

https://www.islamreligion.com/articles/10827/chapter-59-verses-21-24/

http://biblelight.net/burn-heretics.htm

https://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/10/15/liberty-fist-nose/

http://biblehub.com/niv/galatians/1.htm

 

From a friend’s FB wall:

“African proverb:
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

It doesn’t matter weather you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you better start running.”

(from The World Is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman)

It seems that the modern world is gradually becoming more and more ‘African’.
We’re so busy running ourselves out that we’re failing to remember the essential.

That we’re people.
Neither gazelle nor lion!
And that most of us have long ago left the jungle and now live in cities!

How about ‘taking five‘ from our incessant quest for trinkets and use the time to remember “togetherness”?
As in “communion”?

In the civilized world, ‘Dog eat dog’ was supposed to be an exception, not an everyday occurrence…

Ruthless acquisition or competition, as in With shrinking markets, it’s dog eat dog for every company in this field. This contradicts a Latin proverb which maintains that dog does not eat dog, first recorded in English in 1543. Nevertheless, by 1732 it was put as “Dogs are hard drove when they eat dogs” (Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia).”

PS.
After reading this, my son pointed out that lions are the only cats which hunt cooperatively on a constant basis.
Could this be the reason for which they are seen as the royals of the animal world?

Fake news

“Federal lawmakers on Wednesday released samples of 3,000 Facebook ads purchased by Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign. The ads conveyed the wide range of influence Russian-linked groups tried to enact on Americans…”

Let’s zoom out in order to gain some perspective over all this.

Fake news are defined by Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries as “false reports of events, written and read on websites“.

The way I see it, “fake news” have a lot in common with counterfeit currency.
In more ways than one!

First of all, most money in current use is ‘fiat money’.
We are dealing with either printed pieces of paper or otherwise useless pieces of metal.
We ‘trust’ them for trading purposes simply because we are convinced that the institution which stand behind them – Central Banks, free(ish) markets and law enforcement, will do what they are meant to do. We trust that the Central Banks will not print too many of those pieces of paper, that the free(ish) markets will set a reasonable price to everything and that the police will manage to weed out (most of) those who try to circulate fake money.
Not even a return to ‘real’ money – a.k.a. gold,  wouldn’t insulate us from crooks. Gold coins can be, and had been, tampered with in so many ways. Human greed is a very powerful motivator but not necessarily a good mentor.

Which brings us to the reason for why fake money came to be.
Simply because some ‘industrious’ people ‘make’ them and some other, equally greedy, people knowingly distribute them.

In conclusion, we wouldn’t have to deal with fake money if money wasn’t essential for an efficient free market and we would have a lot less of it if greed were not such a widespread attitude. And no, a cash-less economy would not solve the problem. A printing press is no longer essential for faking money. Hacking skills have become  a good enough substitute.

Let’s translate this rationale to (fake) news.

We need to know what’s going on around us so we’ve developed an equivalent to the financial system. The mass media.
Which has a more or less equivalent set of ‘guardians’.
The ‘printers’ are responsible for the equivalence between their ‘product’ and the reality it represents while the market (readers, that is) is responsible for ‘setting the price’.

Of course, there are also differences.
‘Law enforcement’ has indeed a role to play in the news industry but its scope is a lot narrower than in the first case. And rightfully so. The ‘information’ market needs to be a lot more ‘flexible’ than the one dealing in ‘economic goods’. There’s a lot to discuss on this subject, I’ll leave it here.
There’s also no Central Bank to ‘tug at the sleeves’ of those who ‘jump the shark’.

As a consequence of these two differences, the ‘counterfeiters’ have an easier life and the consumers/victims a far greater responsibility for what’s going on. Simply because the consumers/potential victims cannot rely on any third party to do their job. To sniff out the ‘bad thing’.

But what if ‘it’s the thief who plays the victim’?
That very much depends on who the ‘thief’ is!

Let’s go back in time for a short while.
First to the American Revolutionary War. During which the British attempted to crash the American economy by injecting in it enough counterfeit money to cause hyperinflation. “No economy, no more war.” The British did manage to produce and distribute a huge amount of fake money yet the outcome was not the intended one. “Even when at one point the amount of counterfeit currency in circulation may have exceed the amount of legitimate currency, the economy hung on by its eye teeth and never fully collapsed.”
One and a half centuries later, the British had found themselves at the receiving end of the same game. “…during World War II the Nazis almost destroyed the credibility of the British pound sterling by producing near-perfect forgeries, The Telegraph reports. By the end of the war the forgeries were so rife that Bank of England notes would not be accepted by any neutral country on the Continent “except at a very large discount…”.
Hitler was even less successful than the British had been but the inflicted injuries were huge nonetheless.
Now, would Hitler have attempted this on his own, without the British establishing a precedent?
We’ll never know… Sufficient to say that the US has also used fake money, obviously fake this time. For propaganda reasons and not as an attempt to ‘crash the economies’ of the countries they were fighting.

To close the circle, we must ask ourselves how successful would Putin’s trolls have been if Trump wouldn’t have beaten so hard the ‘birther’ drum…

Seriously now, propaganda is a very efficient weapon. Maybe more efficient than guns.
But, and in total contrast with a gun, propaganda is useless against really determined people.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me” is true. But only as long as those being called names are in the right state of mind. As soon as they start feeling hurt, all hell comes loose.

If you think of it, Trump’s birther campaign, fake as it was – he had admitted that much, eventually, was a very successful ‘fake news campaign’. It had established Donald Trump as  shrewd  media manipulator.
Unfortunately, it had an even worse outcome. It had very much helped those who wanted the American public split into warring parties.

And who are now pushing these parties further and further apart.

PS. While researching for this post, I found out that “fake news” has been declared ‘word of the year’ for 2017. A fitting development… last year’s ‘champion’ was “post truth”…
What next? Doublethink?

Yeah, right…

boogeyman

Like each time after you’ve just finished eating it, the Boogey Person will come out of nowhere and rip it out of your stomach!

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

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.

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