Archives for category: Transparency

Some of my right-of-center friends maintain that political correctness is a leftist aberration while some of my left-of-center friends are convinced that most conservatives are bigoted male chauvinists cum white supremacists cum LGBTQ+ haters.

I’m afraid both are mistaken.

The way I see it, none of this has anything to do with left nor right and everything to those on each side of the divide driving themselves into self allocated and mutually exclusive corners.

Otherwise said, this dichotomy is a consequence of populism.
People residing in each ideological corner are constantly barraged with messages telling them exactly what they have prepared themselves to hear.
People residing in each corner are constantly barraged with messages deemed appropriate by those who reckon there is something to be gained, by ‘them’, from keeping those people as far apart as possible.

Maybe now, that Cambridge Analytica has just hit the fan, we’ll start to understand how fake this whole thing is.

And I can’t wrap this up without mentioning something which really bothers me.

“As I said in my How to Fail book, if you are not familiar with the dozens of methods of persuasion that are science-tested, there’s a good chance someone is using those techniques against you.

Scott Adams, blog.dilbert.com

The ‘run of the mill’ populism is directed towards the ordinary people. Which have a valid excuse for not knowing what’s happening to them.
Political correctness is a self sustaining bubble which was generated and is maintained  inside a supposedly more sophisticated medium.

Intellectually more sophisticated medium….

political correctness zizek

Hopefully, Zizek’s arguments will help us puncture this bubble!
Click on the picture above and see for yourself.

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Recent developments connected with some people having used Facebook to manipulate the public opinion have led me to understand something absolutely trivial.

Almost everything can be used as a resource.
And it’s us, all of us, who are ultimately responsible for how these resources are being used.

For no other reason than it is us who will eventually bear the consequences.

Having said this, I’m now wondering about the wisdom of our ancestors…
And the nearsightedness of some of our contemporaries!
the golden rule

According to Protagoras, we are here for but one reason. To determine whether anything which happens around us makes any sense.
Mind you, we are not supposed to knit fancy stories and to skillfully include in them everything we perceive! A.k.a ‘narratives’.
Just ‘measure’ things and call them out for what we think they are.

I’m going to enumerate a series of facts and let you figure them out.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Violent-Crime-Rate-Chart1

Murder-Rate-Chart

 

guns in circulation per household

So, if people are less likely to be killed, in any manner, why a shrinking number of them buy an increasing number of guns?

3% gun owners

AVAILABILITY-OF-GUNS-Handgun-Supply-and-Homicies-Suicide-Rates

suicide versus mass shootings

 

murders by type of gun

Then why are people so focused on ‘assault rifles’? Only because they tend to be used in mass murders? Is this a good enough reason to try to remove them from the eco-system?
And why is there so little fuss about the huge number of suicides?
Bzw, can ‘mass murders’ be considered a form of suicide? After all, very few of the perpetrators ever managed to leave the scene… And even fewer have never been identified.

number_of_nfa_firearms_processed_by_fy

According to the ATF, people in the USA buy an ever increasing number of guns each year yet since 2012 (Sandy Hook) Cerberus Capital Management has not been able to find a buyer for Remington Outdoor – the weapons manufacturer who produces, among other ‘things’, “the most popular version of the “modern sporting rifle” sold in the US.
People in the US are interested to invest in weapons per se but not in weapons manufacturers?

Considering that, according to Bloomberg, Cerberus Capital had eventually handed over Remington Outdoor to “Wall Street Creditors”…

Blackstone Group, which offers asset management services, has been reducing its weapons exposure for years. This weekend, it verified that no gun investments remained in its portfolios, according to the Wall Street Journal. The investment giant BlackRock Inc. said it, too, was exploring ways to cull gun companies from the portfolios of clients who no longer wish to invest in them.

Cambridge Dictionary lists ‘riddle’ as being “a type of question that describes something in a difficult and confusing way and has a clever or funny answer, often asked as a game

What if there’s way lot more than this, hidden ‘in plain sight’ under the ‘difficult and confusing’ cloak draped over each of them?

“Black sheep on a white field;
He who knows them, leads them.”

“My father, the son of a subsistence farmer and his barely literate wife, used riddles to try to foster critical thinking in his daughters.”

This particular one is a classic in Eastern Europe and I stumbled on this version while Googling for an English translation. The quote belongs to Daiva Markelis, a Lithuanian American Professor with a PhD in linguistics… go figure… I included the part about the father because it illustrates perfectly the point I’m trying to make with this post.

That words, and letters, mean nothing by themselves.
We are the ones who attach meaning to each of them.
We are the ones who ‘lead’ them… even if sometimes unknowingly…

And precisely this is what riddles are for!
To tell us that languages, and letters, can and have to be mastered.
That unless we get to really know them, we’ll never be able to lead them where we want them.

But there’s an even deeper reason for riddles enjoying so much popularity.
Knowingly or unknowingly we somehow ‘feel’ that being familiar with letters and able to speak is not enough. That no matter how well we ‘know’ a language we’ll never grasp the full intended meaning of what is being spoken around/to us.

Yes, when speaking we should be forthcoming… to the tune of not becoming self detrimental, of course… and when listening we must remember to look for the intended meaning, not jump to conclusions according to our own opinion on the matter…

Language is the tool we use when we consciously transmit, receive or glean information.

While the ‘transmitting&receiving’ part is rather simple, ‘consciously and ‘glean’ might need some explaining.

You’ve all heard about ‘body language’.

Actors use it consciously to convey emotion and sometimes even meaning while profilers use it to glean information unconsciously distributed by their marks.

Artists use specific ‘modes of expression’ – language, actually – to convey emotion/subliminal meaning to sometimes unsuspecting audiences.

Skillful ‘communicators’ have learned how to chisel a message – using most common words, printed or spoken – to obtain ‘maximum impact’.

By now I’m sure you’ve already gleaned what I meant by “‘consciously’ and ‘glean'”.
Contrary to popular belief, only one half of those ‘immersed’ in communication need to be conscious of what is going on in order for language to be in use.

Actors can influence their audience without the audience being privy to acting tools.
All of us freely distribute a lot of information about ourselves – through walking, eating, manner of speaking, etc., etc. – which can be ‘deciphered’ with ease by those knowledgeable in this trade.
All of us are inundated by all kinds of advertisement – commercial, political, religious, you name it – but very few of us are aware of the full picture which is being played for us.

In a sense, those of us who can sense anything are like any device connected to the internet.

If it’s connected, it can be hacked‘.

But nothing’s as bad as it seems.
Devices can be plugged off or fire-walled while we can stop watching crap.
And, of course, we can put our brains to work, in earnest, before buying into anything which is hurled towards us.

trump on corker

 

corker on WH

OK, let me wrap my head around this.

So Corker doesn’t have enough guts to run for re-election without Trump’s blessing but has enough to openly tweet his mind about what’s going on in the White House?!?
A reality show run by the supposedly most powerful man on Earth?
Who’s about to transform the “Great” America into the biggest laughing stock of the world?

Am I the only one wondering whether any of these can be described as “adult” behavior?

There’s a glimmer of hope though.

401K is way bigger than 65K. And big enough to rise above 65K+57K+62K… I know, adding this numbers up doesn’t make much sense – there is a strong possibility that many individual readers may have liked more than one of these tweets, but still…

For some people the fog may have started to rise.

The fog generated by the fake news manipulated by the ‘Great Deal Maker’, that is.
Compare the comments which accompany those tweets.

 

 

A whole century has passed since the events described in Erich Maria Remarque’s Nothing New on the Western Front/Im Westen nichts Neues.

Not that we’ve learned much during this time…

1968

Brezhnev sends Russian troops to freeze back the Prague Spring.
Ceausescu, the communist dictator who ruled Romania at that time, refused to take part. He had even summoned enough courage to chastise the ‘outside intervention’.

Ceausescu praga

“No excuse can be found for…”

1978

Ten years later he was driven around London in a state carriage by Queen Elizabeth.
As a pat on the the back for his apparent independence from Moscow, as an attempt to weaken the communist ‘camp’ … both at the same time…
Never mind… We, Romanians, were very proud at that time while Elizabeth – and her advisers, must have had quite a heart-burn… specially later, after Ceausescu had started flying his true colors…

Ceausescu cu Lizica

1989

Romania’s was the second to last European communist regime to disintegrate and the only one which had ended in a self inflicted blood bath.  Ceausescu, and his wife – ‘the Presidential Couple’!, were shot at the end of a very short trial during which both had been found guilty of genocide, treason and subversion.

1989 Cu excavatorul la revolutie2005 Niagara

2014

Twenty five years later, Russia’s rising star was lionized by some in the European media.

the emperors clothes

Hungary’s Prime Minister was jokingly hailed as “the dictator” by the President of the European Commission.

Orban the dictator

 

Currently the Americans are trying to determine whether Putin has somehow influenced their last electoral process,

Putin Trump Hamburg

while Orban continues to build walls around Hungary.

hungary wall

Small wonder then for these two to become bosom buddies, regardless of what drives each of them…

Putin honorary

“Putin will receive the honor in the Parliament during his visit to the 2017 World Judo Championships in Budapest on Monday.”
“Putin will attend the judo by invitation of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. It will be Putin’s second visit to Hungary this year.”

 

 

What can we make of it?

Momentous as it was the result was no landslide.
Only a little less than 120 million people bothered to vote – out of the 250 million or so who are old enough to do it – and most of them, 47.7% vs 47.5, have chosen the ‘looser’.

Actually I don’t like the notion of anybody winning – or loosing, for that matter, a democratic election but that’s a different subject. Stay tuned, I’ll probably cover it soon.

Then Trump is no Hitler, as some have feared.
Even if he is riding a similar wave of popular discontent like the one used by Hitler to rise to power, and uses the same political tricks, Trump is nothing more than the ultimate opportunist.
Check his body language.Turn off the sound and just watch him.

the-most-corrupt
While Hitler was a mad ideologue absolutely convinced of his own righteousness Trump’s only conviction is that he ‘deserves’ as much as he can ‘grab’.
Now, that I’ve mentioned ‘ideology’, in this respect it is Clinton who belongs to this category – people who conscientiously use an elaborated ideology as a compass to find their bearings and as a ‘looking glass’ to read the fine print on the maps they try to navigate. But this is a subject I’ll have to come back to at a little later.

No landslide but still momentous.

A lot of people who had not bothered to vote before have come out in droves.

Trump, the business man, and the Republican Party – which now controls both Houses of the Congress, cannot afford to forget this.
Also, they must not forget about the other half, the one which had chosen to remain silent, on Tuesday, of the electorate.
The fact that they didn’t vote, then, doesn’t mean that they didn’t have any opinion.
And they are simply too many to be discarded.

“How come we haven’t seen this coming?”

I keep hearing these laments from my fellow sociologists.

Well, the raw data was all there. Compiled in the opinion polls result sheets, only that we could not interpret them right.
Trump had felt it in his gut – and acted on this hunch, but we had not been able to see it coming despite our ‘scientific’ methods and hugely accurate number crunching machines.

Which brings me to the main topic of this post.

What happened these days is yet another proof that the math used by the number-crunchers is nothing but a (very accurate) language and that ‘science’ is nothing but a (meta) tool that can be used to make sense of various aspects of the surrounding reality.
The results obtained, by us, through the use of this tool and expressed with the help of that language depend primarily on our skills and intelligence and only secondarily on the quality of the tools used in the process and on the precision of the language used to present them.
Not to mention the fact that it was us who developed the tool and formulated the language…

I ‘warned’ you I’ll come back to ‘ideology’.
This is yet another tool. As I mentioned before, we, all of us, use it as a compass with which we try to find our way through the world and as a magnifying glass with which we try to make sense of what’s happening to us.

‘But you just said we’re using science ‘to make sense of various aspects of the surrounding reality’?!?’

Well… we’re using both.
Whenever confronted with anything new we have to make a snap decision. Try to assimilate it with something we already know or investigate it.
It is our personal ideology which kicks in first and tells us what to do. And each time that we choose to look in our mental drawers for something that might fit in the new situation we remain in the ideological realm and continue to use ideology as a light beacon – what happens to be inside that beacon is brought to our attention while everything else doesn’t exist for us.
Only if we choose to investigate, science kicks in. But not even then we are not entirely free from ideology. Each time that the investigative process leads us to anything which contradicts something that had been already ‘filed’ in our ideological cupboards we find ourselves in a huge dilemma. How to proceed from there on. Continue to trust the scientific method or revert to the safety of the already settled?

This is why individual responsibility is hugely important.
And why no one should ever consider that he is the sole repository of the entire truth.

This is why we need to be constantly reminded about the limited nature of our understanding.
And the democratic process has been proven, time and time again, invaluable in this respect.
As long as it was allowed to proceed freely and it was conducted with respect towards all members of the community involved.

Unfortunately, sometimes essential meaning is lost not only ‘in translation’ but also during ‘interpretation’.

While reading an excellent article about Zineb el Rhazoui, a Charlie Hebdo survivor, I encountered the notion that “Islamophobia is not an opinion: it is an offense.

Come again?!?

Is it possible that anybody might be offended by someone who’s being afraid? Regardless of that fear being reasonable or not?

Since that notion was said to have been promoted by Collective against Islamophia in France I checked their site, hoping to understand what they mean by that.

“For the CCIF, Islamophobia has a clear definition:
It consists of all acts of rejection, discrimination or violence against institutions or individuals on the basis of their real or perceived belonging to the Muslim faith.”
OK, so they are not offended as much by the fear itself but by the heinous actions some people take against people belonging to the Muslim faith, on the basis of the real or faked fears felt by the perpetrators.
But this is far from being OK.
What these guys are doing is confounding people’s minds.
They keep preaching that ‘Islamophobia is bad’ to people who are very naturally afraid of the actions perpetrated by some wackos who pretend to be Muslim.
This doesn’t make any sense.
It’s like saying that people living in a seismic area should not be afraid of earthquakes. And instead of building their houses in a certain manner they should go to the shrink and treat their unreasonable fears.
If some people who pretend to be Muslim behave in a totally unacceptable manner it is not reasonable to expect that all Muslim will behave in the same way but after so many bad things that have been committed by people pretending to belong to the Muslim faith it would be unreasonable not to try to understand what is going on.
On the other hand those who strongly disagree with the CCIF, Zineb el Rhazoui among others, make the mistake of deepening the confusion instead of calling the bluff for what it is:
“This is very dangerous because it has even entered the dictionary as hostility towards Islam and Muslims. Yet criticism of an idea, of Islam or of a religion cannot be characterized as an offense or a crime. I was born and lived under the Islam of Morocco and live in France and I have the right criticize religion and this dictatorship of Islamophobia that says I have no right to criticize! If we criticize Christianity it doesn’t mean we are Christianophobes or racist towards the ‘Christian race.’”
In real life criticism is one thing while violence – verbal violence, even – and rejection are completely different things.
Confounding these two categories is feeding the very monster who is menacing all of us – militant intollerance.
The article about el Rhazoui also mentions her latest book: “Destroy Islamic Fascism“.
I don’t agree with all the ideas excerpted there but there’s one which should grab the attention of all Muslims who describe themselves as being moderate:
“As for mainstream or moderate Muslim clerics, El Rhazoui tells Women in the World that during the Burkini debate in France not one Imam stood up and said “Hey, wait a minute, you can be Muslim and wear a [regular] bathing suit.””
She also says that ““The Muslim religion has its place in the modern world if it submits itself fully to the laws that rule humanity today: universal principles of equality between men and women, sexual and individual freedom, and equality for all, no matter your creed or religion. Until Islam has admitted this and accepted that the freedom of men and women is superior to it, Islam will not be acceptable.””
I’m afraid there’s a small problem with this.
A religion exists only as long as it has followers and inasmuch as those who belong to it choose to make of it.
It is not ‘Islam’ that has to ‘admit’ anything but the Muslim people themselves.
In this sense it is counterproductive for us, the free thinkers of the world, to peruse the Quran in search of violent episodes and then use them to demonstrate that ‘Islam is not a religion of peace’.
What we need to do, if we want to destroy the Fascism which happens to be of Islamic nature, is to win more and more Muslims to our side.
Making fun of their main Book and of their Prophet won’t achieve that. On the contrary.
On the other hand, giving in to even the most unreasonable things in the name of ‘tolerance’ isn’t helping either.
The Federal Court of Canada ruled in February 2015 that the policy requirement for women to remove their niqabs during their oath swearing at Citizenship Ceremonies is unlawful, as it interferes with a citizenship judge’s duty to allow candidates for citizenship the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation of the oath. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration filed a notice of appeal to challenge this decision at the Federal Court of Appeal and the lower court’s decision is not in effect until the appeal has been decided by the Court.  As a result, women who wish to swear a citizenship oath may not do so with their faces covered.
What kind of oath is that which is pledged by a faceless person?
How strong is that person’s adherence to our value regarding ‘openness and transparency’ and how willing is that person – or her husband/father/mother/sibling who makes her wear a niqab, presumably against her will – to respect and promote our notion of gender equality?
PS I
And how about replacing ‘Islamophobia’ with ‘anti-islamism’?
PS II
Why is it that the spelling checker suggested me that I should write ‘anti-Islamism’ while ‘antisemitism’ is not usually written using a capital s?

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

Donald Rumsfeld (b.1932)

“Of all things the measure is man, of the things that are, that [or “how”] they are, and of things that are not, that [or “how”] they are not.”

Protagoras of Abdera (c.485 – 415 BCE)

“Making (political) decisions requires judgement and skill. It should, Plato urges, be left to the experts.”

Plato (c.425 – 348/347 BCE, ‘translated’ by Johnatan Wolff in
An Introduction to Political Philosophy, 2006)

“The Prime Mover causes the movement of other things, not as an efficient cause, but as a final cause. In other words, it does not start off the movement by giving it some kind of push, but it is the purpose, or end, or the teleology, of the movement. This is important for Aristotle, because he thought that an effective cause, giving a push, would be affected itself by the act of pushing. Aristotle believed the prime mover causes things to move by attraction in much the same way that a saucer of milk attracts a cat. The milk attracts the cat but cannot be said to be changed in the process! “

Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE)

“Give me a place to stand and I’ll move the Earth”

Archimedes (c.287 – 212 BCE)

“For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action”

Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727)

“As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form”

Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882)

“The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.

The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer.
They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes.”
Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)

“Einstein deduced that there is no fixed frame of reference in the universe. Everything is moving relative to everything else….
… space has three dimensions, and the fourth dimension is time.
Space-time can be thought as a grid or fabric. The presence of mass distorts space-time.”

Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

“”Heidegger’s analysis of Plato attempts to show that a transformation occurs in the nature of truth in Plato’s philosophy, as a consequence of which Being is subordinated to the correct perception of beings. This subordination, Heidegger maintains, characterizes the history of Western philosophy as metaphysics.
The allegory of the cave is, for Heidegger, an illustration of the nature and process of paideia. At each level of ascent — within the cave to the light, and out of the cave to the sun — the individual experiences a painful blinding. Each stage requires an adjustment and transformation in vision. This transformation in vision expresses the turning of the soul from what is disclosed in one region to what is disclosed within another. This is paideia, according to Heidegger. The relationship of paideia, in this new sense, to alétheia is not apparent because, as Heidegger sees it, we have not only misunderstood the nature of education but, more importantly, have misconceived the nature of alétheia by conceiving it as “truth.” If paideia is a transition from one abode to another, affected by the soul’s receptivity to what is disclosed within each region, then alétheia is disclosure itself: “At first truth meant what was wrested from a concealment. Truth, then, is just such a perpetual wresting-away in this manner of uncovering.
Heidegger indicates that what “truth” means is not so much a correspondence as it is a disclosure.”

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)

The depth of the uncertainty principle is realized when we ask the question; is our knowledge of reality unlimited? The answer is no, because the uncertainty principle states that there is a built-in uncertainty, indeterminacy, unpredictability to Nature.

Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976)

“Contrary to the tenets of classical economics, Simon maintained that individuals do not seek to maximise their benefit from a particular course of action (since they cannot assimilate and digest all the information that would be needed to do such a thing). Not only can they not get access to all the information required, but even if they could, their minds would be unable to process it properly. The human mind necessarily restricts itself. It is, as Simon put it, bounded by “cognitive limits”.

Herbert Simon (1916-2001)

‘Evolution is not as much about the survival of the fittest as it is about the demise of the unfit’

Ernst Mayr, (1904 – 2005, What Evolution Is)

“We human beings can reflect on ourselves, on what we do as well as on what we do not do, on what we imagine and on what we do not imagine, that is, we are self-conscious beings. Yet, how do we do this has been, and still is a mystery for many philosophers, scientists, and mystics that reflect on the matter. So, the search for an explanation continues, with some people hoping to Þnd some unique entity, different from what we connote or intend to connote as we speak of our self, that by itself may provide us (that which we are without it?) with this ability. Others look for some property of the operation of our brain that realises in us the ability that we call our self-consciousness. The old dilemma entailed in these and other different attitudes can be stated as follows: Is our operation as self-conscious beings a property of our brain, the gift of some external agent, or does it consist in some particular manner of our operation as organisms in our interactions?”

Humberto Maturana (b. 1928)

” “Consider a turkey that is fed every day,” Taleb writes. “Every single feeding will firm up the bird’s belief that it is the general rule of life to be fed every day by friendly members of the human race ‘looking out for its best interests,’ as a politician would say.

“On the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, something unexpected will happen to the turkey. It will incur a revision of belief.” “

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (b. 1960)

It seems rather obvious that humankind has ‘consistently’ oscillated between two opposing views on things.

Some of us are convinced that the (whole) truth can be achieved (and that ‘they’ had already done that) while others have reasons to believe that while ‘individual efforts’ are indeed the source of everything that exists, the final results of those efforts are always being shaped/conditioned/reacted to by the medium where they are exerted and by those who bear the consequences.

Coming back to Rumsfeld’s words it seems that the most important (dangerous?) category is, contrary to our first impression, the (presumptive) ‘known – known’.
We cannot do anything about the unknown-unknowns, except for preparing ourselves in a ‘general manner’, and we can always ‘dig up’ something fresh about the known-unknowns but it seems that nothing can convince us that what we consider to be the known-known is but a thin layer of ice floating on a very deep lake.

So the real question that awaits our response is ‘What are we going to do, now that so many have told us what’s been going on?’

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