Archives for category: Politically induced fragility

Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York was coined by Shakespeare and put into print in Richard III, 1594. The ‘sun of York’ wasn’t of course a comment on Yorkshire weather but on King Richard. In this play Shakespeare presents an account of Richard’s character that, until the late 20th century, largely formed the popular opinion of him as a malevolent, deformed schemer. Historians now view that representation as a dramatic plot device – necessary for the villainous role that Shakespeare had allocated him. It isn’t consistent with what is now known of Richard III, who in many ways showed himself to be an enlightened and forward-looking monarch. The discovery of Richard’s skeleton under a car park in Leicester has provided precise evidence of the extent of his deformity. While being somewhat curved Richard’s spinal deformity has now been shown to have been exaggerated and deliberately faked in some portraits.

Living matter is a ‘particular case’ of  ‘ordinary matter’. It’s composed of the very same kind of atoms and its ‘living character’ is provided by the particular manner in which those atoms relate to each other. Otherwise said, the living matter is ordinary matter organized in a particular manner.
Furthermore, this ‘particular’ manner of organization’ has been honed through eons of ‘evolution‘.

Living matter depends on being able to perform two things.
It has to ‘Differentiate’ and to ‘Communicate’.

Each organism, no matter how simple or how complex, has to be able to keep its ‘inside’ separate from its ‘outside’ and to be able to ‘decide’, according to its own rules/needs, what goes in and what goes out.
A previously living individual organism dies the very moment when it can no longer fulfill any of these two conditions.

All organisms which live by exactly the same ‘rules’ belong to the same species and need to be able to communicate those rules across successive generations. As soon as the organisms belonging to one species  fail to do so that species becomes extinct.
A special observation must be made about the fact that the species whose organisms have found ways to communicate directly among the members of the same generation tend to be ‘sturdier’ that those whose members communicate exclusively with their successors.
For instance bacteria which have ‘learned’ to transmit to their ‘kin’ information about how to survive when ‘intoxicated’ with antibiotics have it easier that those who cannot do such a thing.

Human being are a ‘special case’ in the animal kingdom, just as ‘living matter’ is a special case of ‘ordinary matter’.
We are both animals and something else than that.

We’ve taken differentiation and communication to the next level. We perform them ‘on purpose’.
We have become ‘aware’ of what we are capable of.
We knowingly use our power to differentiate and choose (some of) the criteria we use when differentiating.
We knowingly use our power to differentiate and choose what to communicate of what we know.

And we consider this behaviour as being ‘rational’.

Some of us are so aware of what is going on that are constantly warning us about the limited nature of our rationality.
They say that our rationality is in fact ‘bounded‘ and that we should give up pretending that we are maximizing/optimizing anything since, in reality, all that we do is adopt/defend the first solution that seems good enough for our self-imposed goals/criteria.

Yet so few of us yield to this kind of warnings and continue to purposefully use ‘communication tricks’ in order to establish their version of the reality. Just as the Bard had done in his days.

Let me go back to what humans are in relation to the rest of the animal kingdom and extend the analogy with the difference between living matter and ordinary matter.
I’ve already mentioned that species whose members are ‘more generous’ communicators are better survivors than those whose members communicate less.
Now please imagine what would happen if a few bacteria, otherwise able to ‘share’ their ‘knowledge’ with their brethren, learn how to ‘crack’ a certain antibiotic but choose to keep that to themselves.

The ‘optimists’ among us would say that those bacteria will eventually give birth to a new species of ‘super-bugs’
The pessimists would observe that their small number dramatically increases their chances of being ‘cooked’ to death in an autoclave or ‘dissolved’ by the next swab with bactericide before having any chance at multiplying themselves into eternity.
Meanwhile the cynics/realists among us would start studying how to convince more bacteria to stop contributing to the shared pool of information about how to beat their common enemy, the antibiotic. And, probably, the best way to do it would be to inform the other bacteria that some of them are holding up information. If the bacteria would behave like so many of us currently do all of them would stop all information sharing. To our delight, of course.

Let’s take a step closer to the end of this post and try to evaluate what would happen if those few bacteria would choose to share false information about how to deal with antibiotics. Purposefully, in their attempt at becoming ‘dominant’.

A very ‘rational’ attempt, according to some of us…

‘Alternate reality’, anyone?

No matter what opinion each of us entertains about ‘alternate reality’, fact is that none of us is able to grasp all relevant aspects of even the most basic concepts.

Growing under a communist regime I had learned, very quickly, to keep my mouth shut.

Like all authoritarian regimes, communism eventually crumbled.
Mostly under the pressure that had been built from within and which could not be accurately measured, simply because people were conditioned to keep their mouths shut.

Nowadays technology makes it possible for some of us to ‘look’ ‘beyond’ what most understand by ‘freedom of expression’.

… anxiety and action shouldn’t be based only on what could happen in theory as much as what’s likely to happen in practice — and how much it will affect you.

Some people are afraid of sharks. While the prospect of being eaten by a giant fish is vivid and terrifying, it’s also unlikely, old chum. In fact, the drive to the beach is far more dangerous than the swim once you get there.

Likewise, avoid getting hacked. But more important, start taking action on the bigger risk: The stuff publicly posted on social sites.

Alternate meaning of ‘freedom of expression’?

‘You are free to express yourself and I am free to use whatever information you have chosen to share’!

Actually it makes a lot of sense.

Let’s imagine, for instance, that my son comes home and tells us he is going to marry someone.
Twenty short years ago my wife would have phoned her best friend and told her about it. In two days the news would had traveled around and feed back would had poured in, specially if we were living in a small community. We would had been informed about all past indiscretions attributed to our son’s intended spouse, as long as any had ever surfaced.
Nowadays, being technological savvy, my wife would google the name first, even before phoning her best friend – if she wasn’t already privy of ‘enough’ indiscretions, of course.

Would it make any sense to blame the public authorities who do the same thing? Or the private agents who, in their attempt to fulfill their jobs, use whatever information is publicly available about each of us?
My question should have a special meaning for those of you who live in democratic countries – where the public authorities execute whatever mandate you have entrusted them with, and under an economic regime governed by the (more or less) free market – meaning that all ‘private’ agents need at least some support from their stakeholders (yes, that’s you!) in order to remain economically viable.

I’ll come back to this subject.

Meanwhile you can learn more about it by reading the article that spurred my rantings:

“Anything you post can and will be used against you”

Just click on the title.

the-sleep-of-reason
People have started to freak out after realizing the full scale of what has just happened.
Some see him as a just retribution for our past sins – and they are probably right about this – while others look at the whole situation as if it was a sort of a Rorschach test.
How about Trump as an opportunity?
The inverse of a Rorschach test since that is about the shrink trying to learn something while an opportunity is about the subject bearing the responsibility for the consequences …
An opportunity, and a prod, for the silent majority to remember that ‘The sleep of reason produces monsters‘?
The way I see it Clinton would have done everything in her power to lull us back into our erstwhile stupor while Trump, willingly and/or unwittingly, is already making enough noise… Even the Sleeping Beauty must have already heard something…
So, test or opportunity, now it’s up to us to find a way out of the current mess. Which, I have to repeat this, is our exclusive responsibility.
The problem being that for those inside, the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ can be the actual exit or the head-light of a train engine barreling down towards them.
‘Lady Luck’ is a tough bitch and that’s why one should be really careful with these things.
PS. The ‘shrink’ already has a huge ‘blot’ to muse about. Some people never learn.
Emily Linroth being a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, the organization which has cleaned up “the National Mall following the inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington Saturday.

Growing in a communist country, Romania, I was ‘exposed’, naturally, to all sorts of communist propaganda. ‘Embedded’ in almost everything.
One ‘sugar coating’ that was very popular among the apparatchiks of the day was ‘crime novels’. ‘James Bond’-like  ‘literature’ which was supposed to educate us, ordinary citizens  who could almost never get an exit visa to go to a ‘capitalist’ country,  about the perils ‘our’ trading agents/diplomatic personnel had to ‘negotiate’ when sent abroad to ‘serve the country’.
The most publicized ‘peril’ being the ‘prostitute trap’. Supposedly the ‘pure’ communist was trapped by a skillful prostitute into believing she was heavily enamoured  of him and then lured to an apartment were the couple would be filmed while ‘consummating’  their new found passion. Later, of course, the recording would have been used to exert pressure in order to influence the hapless fool into betraying his country.

The recent articles regarding ‘the art of kompromat’ tend to suggest that those ‘novels’ were nothing but yet another example of a wolf crying wolf… but who knows…

Fast forward to our times.

Is there anything clear in all this?

And no, I’m not wondering whether there is an actual tape of Trump ‘frolicking in bed’ with anybody. Even if it exists, it is well guarded. After all, such a tape is way more valuable as long as it is hidden away than when out in the open. The threat to reveal it works only as long as nobody else but the black-mailer and the victim know about its existence.

Then why all this brouhaha?

A preemptive strike meant to dull the effect of Putin actually publishing such a tape?
Putin trying to ‘soften up’ his intended target?
But what is Putin’s goal? He cannot dream of ‘controlling’ the President of the United States. Even when that position is fulfilled by someone like Trump… The actions of any POTUS are so public that any influence would very soon become apparent, on one side, and Trump, himself, is a very ‘unreliable’ person to start with.

But what if Putin has another, and way more insidious, goal?

What if he wants to compromise the very concept of democratic elections?
To ‘demonstrate’ to us that ‘the public’ is (has become?) incapable of electing a good man to lead it to the future?

Well… the problem with ‘kompromat’ is that it has to be tailored to its intended victim.
Just imagine what effect would have had a tape depicting Obama in bed with someone else but Michelle. Who would have believed such a thing?
But Obama was, to a degree at least – as Trump had very astutely estimated, vulnerable to a campaign focused on his birth certificate. We all know what kind of ‘passion’ the birthers have managed to instill into some of the die-hard conservatives.
And we should not forget that Trump had started his political life as a friend of the Clintons. His words, “that Hillary Clinton ‘had no choice’ but come to his third wedding“, are now world famous…

Now, bearing all these in mind, shouldn’t we ask ourselves how farfetched is Putin’s project of destroying our faith in democracy? Using ourselves as minions?

After all, Trump was elected democratically!

And do you remember those discussions about the US being intended as a Republic by the forefathers, and not as a Democracy? Or Orban’s – Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister, one of Putin’s close political friends, concept of ‘illiberal democracy‘?

“I voted for Trump because I think his illiberal tendencies are actually a feature rather than a bug. When he undermines rule of law, I see not a danger, but someone who is undermining a system that has become a game for elites with access to armies of lawyers. When he browbeats Congress, I don’t worry about “checks and balances” which have become a recipe for dysfunction, but rather see him as a man taking on useless political prostitutes servicing everyone who can write a sufficiently large campaign check. When he strong-arms multinational companies like Carrier, I see someone standing up to the worst aspects of globalization.”

Who built the world as it is right now? The one where the young adult who wrote the words quoted above, had grown up into and was modeled by?

We did it? With both its good-s and its bad-s?

It is us who kompromised it?
Then it is us who’ll have to fix it!
Or we’ll have to endure the yoke the likes of Putin and/or Trump will undoubtedly try to put on our shoulders.

 

 

Israel has been backed up by the US ever since it was established.
They didn’t enjoy an unconditional carte blanche but the amount of help was  very consistent and, above all, very dependable .

Until a few days ago.
Nowadays Netanyahu, Israel’s PM, feels like he has been thrown in front of a bus by the departing President of the US, Barack Obama. Because the US ambassador, Samantha Powers, had abstained herself, instead of exercising her veto, about a resolution calling for Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.

Ever since Israel has been reestablished by his original inhabitants Russia’s rulers have tried to use this situation in their advantage. Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and lately Iran, have received backing from Kremlin in their fight against Israel. By meddling into this conflict Russian rulers were simply trying to get international stature.

Recently Russia’s ambassador to the UN had used his veto power to block a resolution asking for the ceasing of the bombardments in Aleppo. Yet another proof that Russia’s leaders do not care about how they become respected on the international stage, as long as that respect is manifest. As in ‘the world listens when they speak’.

During the Obama administration the US refrained itself from such drastic measures. The US has refused – for now, at least – to re-engage in the brinkmanship game with the Russian leaders. Effectively denying the latter the kind of status they so strongly desire.

Israel has just become yet another collateral victim in this conflict.
Just as the Arabs have been for the last three centuries.
Caught, at first, in the middle of the endless colonial wars between England and France on one side and the Ottoman empire on the other. And later in the cold conflict between Russia and the US.

Some people believe that “racial prejudice” is “the natural human inclination … to identity (sic) with members of one’s own tribe, race or ethnic group” and “Post-racial multiculturalism is the exact but equally extreme and insane opposite of Nazi racial ideology“.

Compare this to “Religion, which should foster sisterhood and brotherhood, which should encourage tolerance, respect, compassion, peace, reconciliation, caring and sharing, has far too frequently — perversely — done the opposite. Religion has fueled alienation and conflict and has exacerbated intolerance and injustice and oppression. Some of the ghastliest atrocities have happened and are happening in the name of religion. It need not be so if we can learn the obvious: that no religion can hope to have a monopoly on God, on goodness and virtue and truth“.

What’s going on here?

Where does all this ‘confusion’ come from?

Let me start from the ‘bottom’ of it.

“No religion can hope to have a monopoly on God, on goodness and virtue and truth”.

While I fully agree with Desmond Tutu on the gist of his words I must contradict him on something very important.

Religions cannot hope at all. About anything. Anyway you look at them. No matter which definition you use, religion – all of them – is something that people do together. A common effort.
It is the individuals who are the actual doers. Who love and hate. Or hope, in this case.
Who pretend that their religion is the only true one. Or understand, as Desmond Tutu did, that each religion is yet another manifestation of God.

“Religion has fueled alienation and conflict and has exacerbated intolerance and injustice and oppression.”

Again, it was individual ‘religious’ people who have done all of those things, not religion per se.
All sacred texts have been written by human people. I can even accept that the first manuscript of each religion was directly inspired by God. Only each of them have been copied a thousand times over. And heavily editated.
Then came the individual human people who have read those texts, interpreted them, passed them on and acted upon those interpretations. Upon their convictions, actually.

And this is how “Some of the ghastliest atrocities have happened and are happening in the name of religion”. Not because of ‘religion’ but ‘in the name of religion’.
Simply as a consequence of how certain people have chosen to interpret/use religious teachings.

And not only ‘religious’ teachings.

People are able to interpret – and use in their own (perceived) advantage, every bit of information that comes their way. And now, that we have started to understand more and more about how our brain is working, the manners in which we use that information have become more and more ‘convoluted’.

“Post-racial multiculturalism … began as an understandable overreaction to Nazi racial ideology…before being consolidated by academics into an instrument of socio-political intimidation, rewards, punishments, manipulation and control, a modern, secular replacement for the power-political role of medieval church ideology.”

So.
It was the academics/priests who have done the damage. Not their religion nor the information they had at their disposal.

But why?
How come people whose religions – all of them do this – are adamant about ‘respect your neighbor’ become involved in wars?  Sometimes even in ‘religious’ wars ….
How come academics, whose very job are to teach their students to think autonomously, use their ‘rank’ in order to subdue ‘their’ file?

Could the religious warriors have something in common with the intransigent academics?

How them sharing the unbreakable conviction that they own the truth?
Forged inside the ‘echo-chambers’ where they have grouped themselves according to their specific beliefs? (No matter whether those beliefs are of a religious or ‘rational’ nature…)

Only after I had reached this point in my discourse I was able to fully appreciate Desmond Tutu’s words: ‘Religion … should encourage tolerance, respect, compassion, peace, reconciliation, caring and sharing’.

He doesn’t say anything about giving up on your own kind.
Or about leaving your roots behind.

All he actually says is ‘Be very careful. If all of you will accept to see only the same side of things you will become a herd. And while there is indeed ‘safety in numbers’ all herd members are ultimately headed for the abattoir’.

Diversity isn’t something to be forcefully, hence falsely, celebrated. Or imposed on others.

What we need to preserve, and celebrate, is our ability to ‘walk around’ the things that we encounter. To entertain, and discuss among ourselves, different – even conflictingly different – versions of what we see around us. This ability would only enhance our chances to solve the problems we’ll certainly be faced with.

‘Culture’ is nothing but layer upon layer of place-specific information which have accumulated in time while ‘religion’ is how a certain group of people have learned, again in time, to cooperate in a certain environment.
It doesn’t matter whether that ‘environment’ has been created by a God, has evolved according to Darwin’s theory or both.
What really matters is how we react – conditioned by our cultures and by our religious upbringing – to what is happening to us. Both individually and collectively.

In this sense, each culture we manage to preserve will only add to our chances of long term survival. As long as we’ll learn to sincerely respect each-other, of course.
Again, both individually and collectively.

PS.
A comment on my FB wall, “True religion is God entering history and the lives of humans and revealing Himself. All other religions are man’s attempt to explain the world around him in terms of god or attempts to control lots of other people in the name of some god“, helped me to understand that “There is ‘religion’ – the shared attitude that helps us to cooperate, and there are religions – specific ways that individual communities have traveled in order to attain that attitude.
And something else. What if ‘God entering history’ and enough of us reaching the shared understanding that it is far better to cooperate amongst us – love thy neighbor – than to fight each-other are the same thing?
How to put this understanding into practice? In the various, and continuously changing, circumstances we have to face?

How about this being the very reason for us having so many religions/cultures?

gambit noun [C] (CLEVER ACTION)

– a clever action in a game or other situation that is intended to achieve an advantage and usually involves taking a risk:

 – specialized games a way of beginning a game of chess, in which you intentionally lose a pawn (= game piece) in order to win some other form of advantage later

I borrowed this definition from Cambridge Dictionary, the on-line version.
You have already noticed, I’m sure, the accent on cleverness, the ‘intent to achieve an advantage’ and the relative downplay of the risk that is only ‘usually’ involved.

A more nuanced definition of the concept would mention that the person who uses this tactical maneuver has to get out of their psychological  comfort zone in order to perform it properly.
The whole thing involves offering a valuable bait which, once taken, might produce consequences favorable to the party that is ‘spending’ it.
Since the favorable consequences are not sure – otherwise it would have been a bribe, not a gambit – but the expenditure is certain the guy who initiates this has to thread very carefully. Hence the need for the bait to be really valuable. Valuable enough for the taker to take it and valuable enough so the giver would be really careful when performing the maneuver.

We have witnessed three gambits in close succession.

Britain’s David Cameron promised a Brexit referendum in an attempt to win the 2015 general election. He won the election but lost the referendum.

Quite a large number of Americans, fed up with what has been going on in their country, have pinched their noses and elected Trump into the Oval Office. The deal is not going exactly as they have planned it – Clinton is not going to be charged, the ‘swamp’ is more likely being repopulated rather than drained in earnest – but the jury is still out on this one.

Italy’s Matteo Renzi tried to cash in on his popularity and stream-line the constitution – a move which would have given more powers to the central administration. He has just lost the referendum, is about to resign – as promised and his losing the gambit has opened a wide venue for the opposition 5 Stars Movement led by a comedian – Beppe Grillo.

Need a moral to this?
Gambit works fine when playing chess. That’s a special kind of game where all the pertinent information is out there on the table and the sole variable is the opponent’s mind/will.

Real life, a.k.a. politics, is a completely different game. There are lots of stakeholders, instead of the two chess players, while most of the pertinent information is jealously guarded by each of the stake-holders – along with most of their real intentions.

If we add here the ‘detachment’ of the players – Trump and Cameron are both independently wealthy while Renzi is rather inexperienced – we’ll soon arrive at the conclusion that we’d be better off with some unadventurous, bland even, politicians.

‘He just says what he has to say in order to get himself elected. Once he will get there he will do like all the others, he will mellow down. Besides that, the system of checks and balances is too strong for one man to upset it.’

The first, and most obvious, problem with this line of reasoning is ‘why on Earth have we grown so accustomed with being lied that we find it acceptable’? Why do we brush aside so easily the lies professed by ‘our’ candidate – along with many other indiscretions, while we meticulously and vehemently point out those committed by the ‘opposition’? Weren’t we supposed to be making ‘rational choices’ when it comes to who governs the country?

The sad fact that there isn’t much to choose from doesn’t exonerate us from the consequences of our mistakes.

But our laziness has yet another – and even more malignant, ‘after-growth’.

By voting for a candidate who promises rather ‘unsavory’ things in order to get elected we not only encourage him to ‘make good’ those promises but we actually ask him, imperatively ( 😉 ), to do his ‘best’ in order to achieve as many of those promises as he possibly can.

Hoping that once elected he will ‘forget’ about (some of) them is both near-sighted and ‘double-standard’.

 

trump-nbc-favorability-trump

trump-temperament-nbc

1478656414_trump_treatment_of_women

womens-votes

evangelicals-votes

white_catholics-votes

clinton-honesty-nbc

whether-to-continue

direction-of-the-country

trump-wins

New York Times, Elections 2016

Like always, the dispirited enough to stay at home have given a carte blanche to the  desperate enough to ‘jump into the unknown’!

And no, this is not exclusively about the ordinary voters!
They’ve already sent plenty messages stating clearly that they’ve had enough.
But those whose job was to make things work had chosen not to hear.
Then, when it had become plenty obvious that the boil had been festering for long enough, most of them had stepped aside – leaving at the forefront of the ‘operating table’ a ‘surgeon’ whose long resume was anything but capable of generating trust and a ‘willing’ and ‘enthusiastic’ ‘wannabe’ with no experience.

And now they are trying desperately to find an ‘honorable way out’…

 

the-final-countdown

 

“We’re leaving together,
But still it’s farewell.
And maybe we’ll come back
To earth, who can tell?
I guess there is no one to blame
We’re leaving ground (leaving ground)
Will things ever be the same again?

It’s the final countdown.
The final countdown.”

the-final-countdown-2

the-most-corrupt

“Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to seek the Presidency… she is protected by a rigged system” said the paragon of free trade who attempted to use eminent domain in order to evict an old lady from her house so that he could spare a few hundred thousand bucks… and who later bragged about ‘women allowing him to “grab them by the pussy” simply because of his status’.

His competitor, whose slogan reads “Stronger Together”, is a former Secretary of State who has been accused  by both the State Department and the FBI of ‘gross negligence’ and ‘extreme carelessness’ towards important matters of national interest.

89797467_emailclinton

“Mrs Clinton failed to comply with rules on record-keeping, the inspector general found, and used private email for official business without approval.”

So, one of them thinks the system is rigged only when it cannot be twisted to suit his own interests while the other believes ‘togetherness’ can be build around someone who completely disregards the existing rules…

I’ve been asking myself, for some time now, ‘what’s going on there‘?
How come so many intelligent people have allowed themselves to be sucked in this extremely dirty game of deception?

In fact the answers are so obvious that I’ve lost interest in them.
(“The 2016 presidential election has seen a strange flip-flop with respect to conservative and liberal voters. In many ways, even though Trump is the nominee on the right, he is running to the left of Hillary on many issues. Hillary represents the status quo mainstream, usually denoted as the Republican nominee position, while Trump is the obvious “change agent” of the election. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton have been seen by many government officials as being more conservative than liberal, even though they use the Democratic platform to advance their hold on power.”)

But what consequences will arise from this mess?

Is Putin going to be the sole real beneficiary of this electoral process?
Because, regardless of the outcome of the vote, America has made such a fool of herself that she has already lost much of the huge respect the rest of the world had for her?

But what if, again regardless of the immediate outcome, enough Americans will eventually wake up from their slumber and bring things back on their right track?

Don’t count America out just yet.
Hitler and the Japanese militarists  have been only a few of those who had fallen into this trap…

On the other hand too many trips to ‘the brink’ are not ‘good for your health’. The Western part of the Roman Empire had fallen apart in almost similar conditions while its Eastern half had been able to post-pone  its own agony only by becoming a dictatorship.

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