Archives for category: Psychology

Humankind is a work in progress.

We’ve changed the planet we’re living on and we’ve changed ourselves.

We’ve invented the automobile and we’ve become more autonomous.
By driving we’re now able  to cover more space in less time, carrying a lot more with us.
To achieve that we’ve straddled the globe with seemingly endless ribbons of tarmac.
The changes which had appeared as a consequence of ‘automobile’ are enormous. Some conspicuously visible – the roads and our increased individual autonomy, a few less so – we’re not only more autonomous but also more ‘socially dependent’, building cars and maintaining roads depend on a lot of us ‘working together’, while ‘the jury is still out’ on yet others – global warming, for instance.

We’ve invented vaccines and we live longer and better. Small pox has disappeared, polio is likely to follow suit, being bitten by a rabid animal is no longer a death sentence and so on.
I don’t need to explain how this has changed us, right?

All these have come with some costs attached.
Thousands, if not millions, die each year in traffic accidents and many more are injured.
Children suffer side-effects after immunization.

What intrigues me is that we treat these two phenomena in two completely different manners.

We’ve introduced tough regulations when we’ve discovered that some car companies were cutting corners in their attempt to increase margins. We insist for wide-spread ‘call-backs’ whenever we hear about a batch of cars having systemic troubles. Some of us try to produce self driving cars – even if these would be somewhat ‘counter-productive’ – in our very orderly life, where many of us are reduced to following procedures, driving is one of the few areas where we still retain full responsibility.

Yet I don’t know of people dissuading their children from learning to drive or from buying a car. Even if some of them will, helas, die as a consequence of traffic accidents.

Then why so many parents refuse to vaccinate their children? Not only putting them into harm’s way but also extending a warm invitation for many diseases to make a dramatic come-back. Measles have killed tens of children in both Italy and my native Romania in the wake of recent anti-vaxxer militancy…

OK, there might be a back-lash against ‘big-pharma’. I can understand more indignation being felt against huge corporations profiteering from people being sick than against big corporations making a faster buck by selling ‘lemony’ cars… but why throw away the baby along with the bath water?

Why give away the shared safety of herd immunity instead of introducing better safety measures? Instead of cutting down to Earth the virtual monopolies which produce most of our vaccines, making it easier for the ‘safety inspectors’ to do their jobs?

One of the possible explanations being that vaccination is ‘prevention’ while learning to drive is a matter of improving one’s skills.

And prevention means paying the price up-front while having only an expectation for a possible pay-back while skills improvement is seen as something having a certain outcome.
Corroborate this with the ‘fundamental attribution error‘ and things become a lot clearer.

For those unfamiliar with this term, the whole thing boils down to how we tend to ‘apportion’ blame and praise. When something good happens to us we tend to attribute it to our skills while when something bad falls on our heads we blame the bad luck we had in that moment.
And this is only half the picture. When things happen to other people we tend to turn the tables. When something good happens to a guy we attribute it to his luck while when somebody is subjected to a misfortune we are inclined to believe that ‘he had somehow brought it upon himself’.

Hence we get sick only as a consequence of misfortune – but we consider ourselves lucky, don’t we? – while safety on the road depends exclusively on our driving skills.

In this situation blunt reason tells us to ‘let all the other children be vaccinated’, ‘constantly improve our driving skills’ and ‘check our cars often’.

Well, the same blunt reason tells the others the very same thing. That’s why they insist that all children must be vaccinated – individual ‘specifics’ must, of course, be taken into account, all drivers must be vetted and all cars checked periodically.

 

From an atheist, that is.

Let me clear something, from the beginning.
I’m perfectly happy with the current scientific explanation of how we arrived here. OK, there still are a few gaps that need to be bridged but, on the whole, the story  seems pretty straightforward.

But, on the other hand, me – and a huge number of other, scientifically minded, people – having no need for God as an explanation doesn’t preclude God from existing nor from having caused the ‘Big Bang’ and/or intervening since. In various manners still unknown to us.

And something else.
The God we ‘know’ is a god of our own making.
All sacred texts that guide our religious life have been written by humans, all sermons are officiated by us and, also, all religiously motivated crimes, and religiously fueled heroic acts, have been ‘committed’ by some of us.
My point being that the ‘image’ that we have crafted about what some of us consider to be ‘the ultimate cause’ for everything might be far away from the one “It” has about Itself… if it exists at all, of course.

What Dawkins has to do with any of this?
Well, some 10 or so years ago he came to Bucharest and tried to convince a few of us – about 100 students and some 20 ‘academics’ in two separate conferences, I attended both, that his work is proof enough that God cannot even exist. Period.
Really?
Then what’s the difference between Dawkins and the guys who had set Giordano Bruno on fire? OK, OK, different manners of expression but the very same level of intransigence…

Anyway, I feel a lot better now that I’ve finally figured out the difference between ‘there is no need for a particular something’ and ‘that particular something cannot even exist’.

“the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, non-governmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage…Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.”

Rings a bell?

Sounds too neoliberal for you?

I’m afraid we are dealing with a huge communication problem here.

For some ‘competition’ has become a dirty word while some others interpret it according to their, narrow, ideology. To fit through their horse blinkers.

To make my point I’m going to use Valentine Wiggin’s Hierarchy of Foreignness. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Orson Scott Card’s work, Valentine is one of the main characters in Ender’s Game.

– An utlänning was defined as a stranger recognized as human from the same planet as a subject, but of a different nation or city. Utlänning means “foreigner” in Swedish.
– A främling was defined as a stranger recognized as human, but from a different planet than a subject. Främling means “stranger” in Swedish.
Raman were defined as strangers recognized as “human”, but of another sentient species entirely. The term was only ever used to refer to the entire species as a whole rather than an individual member. Although not a common word, it may be constructed in Swedish from rå + män, where rå indicates “coarse,” “raw” or “crude” (not refined), and män means “man” or “person.”

Varelse were defined as true aliens; they were sentient beings, but so foreign that no meaningful communication would be possible with the subject. Varelse means “creature” in Swedish.
Djur were non-sentient beings. They were capable of independent thought and action, but their mode of communication could not relay any meaningful information to the subject because the djur itself lacked the capacity for rational thought and self-awareness. Djur means “animal” in Swedish.

It’s simple to understand that this hierarchy is based on the ‘subject’s’ ability to communicate with the ‘foreigner’. But not exclusively! The whole thing also depends on both parties willing to accept the other as a ‘partner’.

In fact the entire Ender’s Game series is about Humankind wagging an all out war with an alien civilization, only to discover that the conflict was produced by a colossal misunderstanding.  Neither of the belligerents had recognized the other as ‘raman’ and, as a consequence, both had treated the other as ‘varelse’. And, eventually, the humans prevailed. The book was written by one of us…
Read the whole series, you’ll have a surprise at the end!

Coming back to ‘competition’, let me remind you that it is nothing else but the most comprehensive form of cooperation.

Not only that the participants do something in common – they all obey the same set of rules and cooperate in throwing out the cheaters – but they also help each-other to become better at whatever they are competing about.

Savvy?

What would any competition turn into if too many participants would no longer obey the rules?

Act as djurs? Obsessed by their own wishes and behaving disdainfully towards all others?

 

Trump has been around for ages.

His buildings litter the world, his marriages were of a very public nature, his involvement with the media generated a lot of (fake?!?) reality (shows), he not only published a number of books – the most interesting, to me, being Think BIG and Kick Ass in Business and Life, but also pretended to educate us using an university he eventually had to close amid huge controversy.

Even if he was wearing a ‘fresh figure’ in politics when he presented his bid for the American Presidency he was nevertheless the epitome of a ‘public figure’.

Nobody could pretend he wasn’t aware of how Trump was going to behave.

Yet the Republican Convention nominated him as candidate, a considerable number of people had voted for him and more than half the Americans had chosen to stay home even if he was on the ballot.

People refraining from casting a ballot is easiest to explain. The alternative wasn’t any better.
Republicans nominating him as candidate is also relatively simple. They wanted so badly to ‘win’ that they had chosen not to consider all the implications.
Same thing goes for those who had voted for him. The majority of them are not the bigoted monsters the ‘other side’ fear them to be. They were just exasperated by what was happening to them.

What is harder to understand is what’s going on after the votes have been counted.

Remember that Trump was the known quantity here. Nothing surprising in his behavior.

What surprises me is that so many Republicans act as if they were hoping he was going to become presidential after the election, that the Democrats have not yet understood that they share the blame for Trump becoming what he is today and that so many of the public take sides instead of joining hands and mitigating the dangers of the current situation.

By ‘mitigating the dangers’ I don’t mean ‘impeachment’ or anything like that.

What I’m trying to say is that too many of us treat Trump as a symbol instead of as the symptom he is.

By either admiring or hating him, as a person, we allow ourselves to be divided into warring parties which no longer communicate effectively and meaningfully.

By either trying to emulate or to destroy him, or others like him, we only throw fresh fuel on an already blazing fire.

How about a little moderation?

We have learned to make, and tame, fire since humankind’s childhood.
In the last 70 years or so we have also learned to tame the atom. We are now able to build both atom bombs and power generating nuclear reactors.

How about re-learning to tame greed? For both money and power?

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.”

People tend to treat it as if it was a ‘point’.
A theoretical concept that has been put on a table, studied from all angles, found desirable/unacceptable and which is now aggressively marketed by fervent apostles/rejected by ‘die-heart fundamentalists’.

I’m afraid it should rather be treated as a continuum.

People belonging to diverse cultures who freely decide to live together will, sooner rather than later, generate a meta-culture based mainly on intercultural mutual respect.
People belonging to diverse cultures who have to live together, without previously being asked whether they want this to happen or not, will, later rather than sooner, generate a meta-culture fusing together various cultural segments appropriated from the various cultures that were forced to coexist.
I am fascinated by the fact that both ‘extremes’ can happen simultaneously.
Individuals, usually unaware of what is going on, find ways of cooperating with members belonging to other cultures to impose/reject ‘cultural artifacts’ upon/coming from individuals belonging to other cultures.
The key of all this being a simple matter of ‘perception’.
We find it easier to cooperate with people belonging to cultures which we perceive as  ‘friendly’ and to treat with disdain those belonging to cultures which are different enough to be perceived as inferior. Hence ‘unfriendly’.

About the future, I mean!

no kids

This ‘piece of information’ keeps bouncing inside the Internet and is interpreted in various manners.

From ‘what to expect from leaders who are ‘this’ selfish’ to “I find it trashy and irrelevant. Merkel’s husband has two sons, btw.
Well… Macron’s wife also has her own children. And a few nephews.

What startled me was this reaction.
I’m under the stark realization that the most intelligent of the population have the fewest children, which might not bode well for voting statistics in the future.”

While the observation is, of course, correct, I’m afraid the interpretation attached to it is somewhat ‘confused’.

First if all, it’s not ‘intelligence’ that drives people to give birth to fewer children. Intelligence – coalesced at social level – helps a population to increase its living standard. As such, children no longer die young so parents no longer have to have so many of them. In order to have somebody help you in your older days you no longer have to give birth to more than two or three children.

If intelligence alone would have prevented people from having children Israel and the US would have been at least as ‘childless’ as Japan or most of the European Countries.
On the contrary. The US is still in a better situation than the EU, 1.8 vs 1.6, while Israel thrives at 3.1

Another way of making sense of what’s going on is to consider that people no longer make kids simply because they have reached the conclusion that ‘money’ can just as well help them cope during their older days. Since so few children live with, or at least near, their old parents this no longer seems so farfetched as it may look at first glance…

But what’s going on in Israel? They also have enough money…

The country needs soldiers to defend it’s very existence?

But, you know, Israel is a free country. Those kids could leave anytime before being drafted. As some of them do.

But most of them stay! Freely!

Then how about people giving birth having at least some connection with ‘hope’?
As in people having hope for a better tomorrow? One worth defending?

One worth making children for?

DSC_0463constrast mare

“Dolma”.

A vast variety of delicious dishes and a very complex social reality hidden behind a short string of letters.

The word itself, literally meaning “something stuffed“, belongs today to the Turkish language.

Google it and you’ll be ‘served’ with a cornucopia of Greek recipes, most of them teaching you how to prepare  stuffed grape leaves…

Check its etymology and you’ll find out its “First Known Use: circa 1889“.

Common, people must have been stuffing vegetables long before that… all around the Black and Mediterranean seas… the Italians have their ‘ripieni’, the Persians have been stuffing bell peppers (dolmeh-s) for some time now,  Armenians have their tolma-s while the Greek have the ‘wider’ gemista dolmadakia being reserved, as I already mentioned, for ‘stuffed vine leaves’.

So, what had happened during the XIX-th century that made so many different people – who were living more or less together but spoke different languages, to use the same word for a dish?

Forget about etymology and consider this.
Simultaneously with ‘dolma’ becoming the ‘dominant’ word for ‘stuffed vegetables’, the dominant power in the area where this was happening, the Ottoman Empire, was crumbling.

We can discuss ad nauseam the reasons for yet another empire fading away into history, but this is not the purpose of my post.
What I’m trying to say is that most of the inhabitants would have gladly continued to coexist peacefully and share their meals – if that had been possible, of course.

Just look at the symbolism of different vegetables, stuffed with the same filling, simmering together in the same pot and becoming delicious sustenance for the various individuals gathered around the same table to ‘break bread’.

But it didn’t come to be… the various forces and agents involved in the matter – the central power trying to survive, the ‘revolutionaries’ attempting to ‘modernize’ the society, the surrounding states and empires trying to gobble up portions of ‘the Sick Man of Europe‘, each followed what they considered to be ‘their best interest’.

And this is what’s going on now…, in the same city where traders from all over the Middle East used to partake dolmades in the world’s biggest covered market – the Aleppo Souk.

160822-aleppo-0302_f99cf07c0972e0b6131bd2989932a1b0-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000

Injured children are carried amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following airstrikes targeting the rebel-held neighborhood of Al-Mashhad in Aleppo on July 25. BARAA AL-HALABI / AFP – Getty Images

I checked my FB wall before ‘reloading’ ‘on the thickness of things’.

‘Zuckerberg’ made me an offer I couldn’t refuse:

“Your Memories on Facebook
Sarchis, we care about you and the memories you share here. We thought you’d like to look back on this post from 4 years ago.”

Wow, a robot – you know that FB is involved way over its head in AI, don’t you? – which cares about it’s client…

Anyway…

Here’s what I posted then:

“A Dog’s Life

An older, tired-looking dog wandered into my yard.

I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home
and was well taken
care of.

He calmly came over to me, I gave him a few pats on his head. He
then followed me into my house, slowly walked down the hall, curled up in
the corner and fell asleep.

An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out.

The next day he was back, greeted me in my yard, walked inside and
resumed his spot in the hall and again slept for about an hour.

This continued off and on for several weeks.

Curious I pinned a note to his collar: ‘I would like to find out who
the owner of this wonderful sweet dog is and ask if you are aware that
almost every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.’

The next day he arrived for his nap, with a different note pinned to
his collar:

‘He lives in a home, with my non stop chatting and nagging wife,
he’s trying to catch up on his sleep ……

Can I come with him tomorrow ?

Thanks !”

Since I do not have any recollection about this I googled some of it in an attempt to find it’s origin.

Disclaimer

Many of these articles were submitted by PetPlace.com dog lovers and the original source is unknown in terms of origin, author or copyright. It is not our intent to infringe on anyone’s copyright and if it is done, it is done unknowingly and we would be happy to remove the offending content. Just email us!.”

The same text has been published by tens and tens of sites.
Or maybe more? I just scrolled down on the search results page, didn’t count them…

It looks like things do have a certain thickness, don’t they?

Regardless of nobody being absolutely sure about who said this, there is a more or less shared consensus about history being written by the victors. After they had finished butchering the heros

execution of William Wallace

William Wallace

The problem being that most (written) history is a compelling proof that too often the ability to win doesn’t necessarily imply a real understanding of what had happened during the contest!

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