For those who have managed to conserve enough naivety, politics is a team job.

For them, ‘political power struggle’ is an oxymoron. A figure of speech.

Unfortunately, those who have lost their political naivety (innocence?, virginity?) have given up all table manners and have introduced the concept of ‘RealPolitik’.
At first in the international arena and then, using the back door, on the domestic stage.

To what consequences?

When Bismark had coined the concept of RealPolitik, the major players in the international arena were following an already ancient mantra. Divide et Impera.

If ‘naive’ politicians attempt to convince their partners, the ‘real ones’ have only one goal in mind. Theirs.
While the ‘naive’ start any interaction by listening to what the others have to say, in an attempt to learn before starting to build a solution – one designed to fulfill the widest possible array of expectations, the ‘realists’ will use every trick up their sleeves to impose ‘their’ solution. The one which best fits ‘their’ interests and which has been devised without/before any proper consultation with the rest of those who will bear the consequences of that solution being implemented.

Some of the politicians whose naivety has been chipped during constant contact with the social reality eventually ‘wise’ up and reach the point where they accept manipulation as a ‘valid’ political tool. They start to hid part of the truth, to promise a tad more than what would be realistically possible… but at least they continue to pay lip service to the notion of ‘liberal democracy’.
The hard core ‘realists’ are way more ‘straightforward’. They burn bridges and give up any pretense of ‘window dressing’. ‘Struggle’ is no longer understood as a figure of speech.

Political struggle descends into the ring. Or, more exactly, the entire Agora becomes a battle field. The whole ‘arrangement’ devolves into a ‘dog eats dog’ situation.

To the glee of the ‘realists’ outside the border. Who can hardly wait for those ‘inside’ to start fighting in earnest. So that the outsiders might, yet again, put ‘divide et impera’ to work.

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Pentru cei care au reusit sa-si conserve suficienta naivitate, politica este o activitate care trebuie facuta ‘in echipa’.

In conditiile astea, ‘lupta politica’ ar trebui sa fie un oximoron…  adica o figura de stil.

Din pacate, cei care si-au pierdut naivitatea (virginitatatea?) politica au renuntat la ‘fineturile de salon’ si au introdus conceptul de ‘Real Politik’.
Initial in relatiile internationale.
Mai apoi, pe usa din dos, si in politica interna.

Cu ce consecinte?

Pe vremea cand Bismark se apucase sa ‘cizeleze’ conceptul de Real Politik, mantra relatiilor internationale era ‘divide et impera’. ‘Cauta orice fisura in pozitia adversarului, insinueaza-te si fa tot ce este necesar pentru a ajunge in pozitia dominanta’.

Daca politica ‘naiva’ se bazeaza pe convingerea partenerilor de discutie, politica ‘reala’ este doar despre atingerea rezultatului dorit.
Politicienii ‘naivi’ se aseaza la masa pentru a incerca sa afle parerea partenerilor de discutie inainte de a negocia o eventuala solutie. Una cat mai larg acceptabila.
Politicienii ‘realisti’ utilizeaza orice mijloace pentru a-si indeplini in cat mai mare masura obiectivul. Stabilit deja, inainte de orice consultare cu ceilalti membri ai comunitatii care urmeaza sa sufere consecintele atingerii respectivului obiectiv.

Unii dintre politicienii a caror ‘naivitate’ a fost ‘stirbita’ de contactul repetat cu realitatea sociala ajung sa fie dispusi a utiliza manipularea ca unealta politica. Mai ascund o parte din adevar, promit un pic mai mult decat stiu ca pot duce la indeplinire… dar pastreaza macar aparentele.

‘Realistii’ puri si duri sunt mult mai directi. Ard puntile. Darama fatadele. Aici nu mai poate fi vorba despre manipulare. Cuvantul ‘lupta’ nu mai este privit ca o figura de stil.

‘Lupta politica’ coboara in ring. Sau, mai bine spus, agora intreaga devine un ring.
Iar situatia devine ‘care pe care’.

Spre desfatarea ‘realistilor’ de dincolo de granite. Care abia asteapta ca cei cei ‘dinauntru’ sa se ia cu adevarat la bataie pentru a aplica, din-afara, principiul de la care a inceput totul.

Divide et impera.

prosperitate nu securitate

O coalitie aflata la putere organizeaza un miting impotriva abuzurilor facute de ‘unele dintre organe’. Pe care le grupeaza sub apelativul de ‘stat paralel’.

‘Mascota’ fostei guvernari, Elena Udrea, posteaza si ea pe FB.

“Acest miting trebuia facut de mult timp si Romania nu ar fi fost azi tara cu asa zis sistem democratic si stat de drept, in care se petrec cele mai mari abuzuri in justitie. Majoritatea tacuta avea nevoie sa arate ca este impotriva incalcarilor grosolane ale legii si ale drepturilor minime ale cetatenilor facute de securisti si slugile lor. Dar nu s-a gasit cine sa o organizeze.
In Piata nu sunt doar psd-isti. Nici pe departe. Cunosc zeci de oameni care au votat si voteaza cu partidele din opozitie si care sunt acolo cu tot entuziasmul si convingerea.
Din pacate, l-a organizat Dragnea… Uite asa a reusit Sistemul, inca o data, sa distruga dreapta politica romaneasca si sa ii faca faca mari pe PSD si pe Dragnea…”

Pentru a avea o imagine cat de cat ‘rotunda’ asupra situatiei, trebuie sa mentionam ca:

– Presedintele Camerei Deputatilor are o condamnare, cu suspendare, pentru o infractiune savarsita in legatura cu un proces electoral si este judecat pentru o instigare la abuz in serviciu.
– Presedintele Senatului tocmai ce a fost achitat pentru ‘marturie mincinoasa si favorizarea infractorului’.
– ‘Mascota’ a fost condamnata, definitiv, pentru luare de mita si abuz in serviciu.

Mai trebuie remarcat si ‘amanuntul’ ca sistemul de justitie a fost reformat tocmai pe vremea ‘fostei guvernari’. Adica exact acea guvernare din care a facut parte Elena Udrea.

Ce rezulta din toata tarasenia asta?

Ca sistemul de justitie incearca sa-si croiasca o anumita independenta? Care deranjeaza pe multa lume? Inclusiv pe o parte dintre cei care au ‘pus la cale’ actuala configuratie a justitiei?

Ca dupa 30 de ani de post-comunism s-au adancit si mai tare fracturile din societate?
Fracturi care au condus la aparitia unei mase de manevra extrem de ‘agitata’?

“Ceausescu a cazut de la putere tocmai pentru ca prea multi dintre cetatenii acestei tari ramasesera in urma. In urma vecinilor europeni, in urma celor cu pile la partid…
Mitingul acesta a putut fi organizat tocmai pentru ca in ultimii 30 de ani am pierdut vremea. Unii dintre noi am luat-o inainte fara sa ne uitam in urma. Fara sa tinem cont de invataturile istoriei.
Iar acum, istoria se razbuna.
Sa nu ne miram ca aceasta multime de oameni nemultumiti este folosita ca masa de manevra. Indivizi fara scrupule exista si vor exista intotdeauna. Care indivizi vor incerca sa se ‘strecoare’ pe oriunde vad o ‘oportunitate’. Iar orice masa de manevra reprezinta o oportunitate imensa pentru astfel de indivizi.
Solutia? Sa ne aducem aminte ca si cei ‘ramasi in urma’ sunt oameni. Si sa-i tratam firesc, cu respect. Ca oameni ce suntem cu totii.
‘Altuia nu-i face ce tie nu-ti place’.
Cu cat ii vom plati mai prost si vom face mai mult misto de ei, cu atat ii vom arunca mai abitir in bratele celor care ii transforma in masa de manevra.
Cu cat vom face in asa fel incat copiii lor sa poata invata o meserie – ca tot e criza de forta de munca, cu atat o vom duce cu totii mai bine.

Am sa inchei cu o alta intrebare.
Cum se poate bucura cineva de o eventuala prosperitate in conditiile in care oricine, oricand, i-ar putea lua mancarea din farfurie si haina de pe spinare?

Si sa nu uitam avertismentul strabunilor nostri.
‘Fiat justitia, ruat caelum’ poate fi tradus si prin ‘aveti grija ce fel de justitie faceti ca s-ar putea sa va cada cerul in cap’!

 

Natural‘, ‘Artificial‘ and ‘Synthetic‘.

In my last post, I was arguing that rules are made by us, humans.
In an attempt to make some sense of the seemingly chaotic environment in and of which we’ve become aware at some point in our evolution.

So.

The ‘natural‘ rules are those which have only been ‘identified’ by us.

‘Two swords don’t fit, simultaneously, in the same scabbard’.
‘Light travels in a straight line’.
‘There’s no smoke without a fire’.
‘Magnets either attract or reject other magnets’.
‘For as long as the temperature of a gas contained in an enclosure remains constant, the product obtained by multiplying the volume of the gas by the pressure exercised by that gas on the walls of the enclosure does not change’ – Boyle’s Law.
‘Things fall down, unless…’
‘Two objects attract each-other with a force directly proportional with the added masses of the two objects and inversely proportional with the distance between the geometric centers of the same objects’. Newton.
‘The principle of mass conservation’.
‘E=M*C2’
I’ll come back later.
For the moment, I’ll just observe that ‘natural’ laws are, simply put, an enumeration of what we consider to have understood of what’s going on around us. Our take on the natural world.

Artificial‘ rules are decisions we had to make in order to improve our chances of survival. Decisions we had been forced to make at one point and which made so much sense that they had been perpetuated. Habits we’ve somehow acquired and which had proven themselves so useful that we impose them on our beloved children.
‘Drive on one side only’.
‘Wash your hands before dinner’.
‘Thou shalt not kill…’

Synthetic‘ rules are those we’ve made ‘out of the blue’.
How to play backgammon, for instance.
How to evaluate a moving picture… or an evening dress.

 

 

 

Things interact according to their nature.
Mass generates gravitational pull, electric charge produces electrostatic forces, a moving electric charge gives birth to a magnetic field… hydrogen is ‘infatuated’ with chlorine, white phosphorus is so keen to combine itself with oxygen that it actually behaves indecently if not ‘modestly’ hidden in water… sex is the driving force which sets the animal world in motion… while survival instinct, however powerful, is, sometimes, overcome by altruism.

Meanwhile rules are just a figment of human awareness interacting with observable interaction between things.

And no, the ‘simple’ ability to learn is not sufficient, by itself, to generate rules. The rats in Rat Park were quick to figure out how to get a ‘fix’ of morphine but that didn’t mean they had ‘discovered’ any rule…
For that to happen, the ‘ruler’ needs to be able to watch from ‘above’. From ‘outside’ the interaction.

And this is why we find it easier to study other persons. Preferably strangers. ‘The doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient’. Simply because our ability to watch ourselves from outside – and to compartmentalize knowledge, is real but severely limited.

Yet, limited as it is, it’s powerful enough to help us generate rules.

 

Nature.

‘Resources’ to structures to meaning.

Man.

Opportunities to structures to comprehension.

Society.

Pre-existing conditions to structures to culture (survival)

A knife can be used for buttering toast, slicing steak and, occasionally, for slitting  throats.
A gun can be used to hunt dinner, defend a homestead or shoot a rival.
Bare hands can knot laces, caress a woman or choke the life out of an innocent.

What makes us, humans, sometimes transform tools into weapons?

We are astonished when we learn about other animals being able to make and use tools.
Which is good. ‘Astonished’ is the opposite of ‘insensitive’. A.k.a. ‘brain dead’.

How about we, humans, learning from the rest of the animals how to solve whatever issues we have amongst us without  killing each-other?
You are aware that humans and chimpanzees are the only animals who systematically murder adult members of their own species, right?

But what instance is powerful enough to transform tool into weapon?

Human consciousness?

Is this a ‘fatality’?
The simple fact that each of us is consciously aware of the differences between ‘I’ and ‘all the rest’ means that whenever ‘survival instincts’ kick in our humanity necessarily vanishes? Entirely?
And ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ becomes ‘dog eats dog’?

We would have already been dead by now… all of us…
Our ancestors must have discovered a way to balance our propensity to ‘stick with your own kind’ with with our need to learn new things and meet new people!
Or is it that some of us continually come up with fresh reasons for ‘war’ while we, the rest, are too lazy to do anything about it? Despite everything history has ever taught us…

The Baby Boomer experience hasn’t been the same across the world but, due to globalization, you, the next generations, share much more, experience wise, than what we did. Frustration, that is.
Having said that, I don’t think that blaming us, your ‘parents’, for everything you have to put up with, will solve much.

First of all, let me explain what I mean by Baby Boomers having experienced different things across different parts of the world.
Actually, it is fairly obvious that the American Baby Boomers had it differently than the Western European ones and that the Eastern Europeans had the almost opposite experience from the first two.
The American Baby Boomers had been raised by the absolute victors of the WWII, the Western European ones by those who had been saved – from both war and the subsequent misery, by the Americans while the third category had been ‘eased into the world’ by people freshly fitted with the communist yoke.

Yet the X-ers and the Milennials have a very common Weltanschauung, on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Internet explains only half of what’s going on. Yes, the ‘coordination’ that bind all the X-ers and the Millennials has happened through the Internet but is due to the entire Euro-Atlantic region being under the same ‘spell’.

And You, X-ers and Milennials, blame us, Baby Boomers, for the present situation.

Which, in a way, makes a lot of sense.

As a matter of fact, I, and many around me, used to put a lot of blame on our parents for the damages inflicted on all of us by the onset of communism in Romania.

Then I realized three things.

That it could have been far worse.
That each generation has to face the mistakes committed by previous one but tends to brush aside the accomplishments  inherited from their parents.

The biggest of which, Baby Boomer accomplishments, being the fact that we have somehow managed to keep ‘cool’ the WW we have inherited from our parents.

OK, unlike our parents, we’ve somehow ‘lost the peace’… that’s on us, indeed.
Those who had won the WWII  had been wise enough to help the nations which had happened to be on the losing side.  Which process didn’t take place – not on the same scale, anyway, after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Those who had lost the WWII had been wise enough to learn something from being fooled into following the fake prophets that had brought them so much misery. And to assume their part of the blame. Again, this has yet to happen in the former communist countries.

And the third thing that I’ve learned is that no generation, however enlightened, will ever be able to stray very much from the previous one. It can, sometimes, understand and avoid a few of the mistakes committed in the past but will always be ‘tugged back’ by the ‘ways of the past’.

Is there any way out of this historical ‘vicious circle’? Preferably one that will conserve the benefits brought about by the virtuous circle spinning in parallel with the vicious one?

I’m afraid there’s no ‘one size fits all’ remedy.
Each generation has to open their collective mind and select what to take over and what to fix from what they have inherited from their parents.
Specially now, when so much of the whole world is almost in ‘sync’.

The oldest surviving civilized nation, China, calls itself Zhongguo.
The Middle Kingdom. ‘In the middle’ of the barbaric people that surrounded her but also at middle distance between Heaven and the rest of the Earth. The aforementioned barbarians.

And, according to Confucius, it was the emperor’s job to ‘keep things as they should remain’.

Which makes sense. After all, the whole kingdom was the exclusive property of the emperor. And whose job is to watch over one’s property?

Well, things went on long enough for those involved to believe this was the natural order of things.
Until the whole arrangement was upset by a small number of people which had come, more or less ‘under their own steam’, from the other side of the world. And who were, at that time, a lot less civilized than the Chinese.

How can be explained something like this?
OK, the Aztec and the Inca empires might have been primitive relative to the Spanish invaders. They might have prevailed over the small number of invaders by brute force but they had been overcome by the sheer novelty and the apparent sophistication of the assailants.
But China had been in contact for centuries with the rest of the ‘civilized’ world! And way advanced than the rest. Both culturally and economically.

So, what had happened?
How can something like this be explained?

We might try to take the ‘historical route’. And observe that, exactly as Confucius and Laozi had told us, China’s destiny had been tightly linked to the ability of those in charge – the emperors, to manage the empire. From the paleolithic migrations until the Mongol invasion in 1271, nothing from outside had any significant impact over the Chinese hinterland. But the fortunes of those living in that hinterland had oscillated from the misery induced by almost constant ‘live conflict’ during the Warring States period to the various prosperous eras. The Han, Tang and Song dynasties, to mention just a few of them.
The same principle had been valid also for what went on while foreign dynasties had been in power. As long as the ‘managers’ were doing their jobs, things continued to improve. As soon as the helm was grabbed by an incompetent leader… all hell broke loose.

But is the emperors’ incompetence enough to explain what had happened during the XIX-th century? The most advanced, and numerous, nation on Earth had been subjugated – for all practical purposes, by a bunch of drug pushers pretending to act in the name of the far away, and far weaker, British King?

Or we can take the sociological route.
Along which we’ll notice that the ‘drug pushers’ were only nominally subjects of the British Empire. Which empire was behaving imperially only towards the exterior while inside it was already a democracy!

Sounds familiar?

Ancient Athens, the first known democracy, had dominated the Eastern Mediterranean for as long as it had retained its democratic character and had failed, abysmally, each time it had reverted to tyranny?
Ancient Rome had established a huge empire as a democratic republic and collapsed four short centuries after becoming a totalitarian empire?
And so on…?

And what might be the difference between a totalitarian empire and a democratic one?
On the face of it, a democratic empire sounds like an oxymoron… yet there’s plenty of such examples in our history…

As you might guess from the title of this post, the ‘famous’ middle class was both the engine and the explanation for the ease with which the ‘democratic’ empires had been established. And yes, the Spanish and Portuguese ones can be explained in the same manner. At that time none of the Iberian monarchies was yet behaving in the absolutist manner they had pursued as soon as the looted precious metals had started to pour in…

But what makes the middle class so special?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb would tell you that the middle class has enough skin left in the game to really care about the outcome and I’m going to add that the middle class is simultaneously distanced enough from the fray to act in a reasonable enough manner.

Let me put back, for a short while, my historian’s cap.

Most of us consider that the middle class is a late appearance. That most of the time, humankind had been divided in two. The haves and the have-nots. The powerful and the meek.
Well, I’m not so sure about that…
For the first 60 000 years after we had learned to speak – which had made us really human, we had been living in small packs. Led by the more powerful male member of the group – if we consider that our ancestors used to behave like our Chimpanzee cousins, or ‘self managed’ in a more or less democratic manner if our ancestors had used the model followed by our other cousins, the Bonobos.
Or we could look at how the surviving ‘primitives’ lead their lives. None of the Hadzabe, Yanomami or Inuit, who have survived in the most difficult conditions on Earth, have a hierarchical social structure.
Primitives?!? Maybe… but not because of their social arrangements. After all, they are freer than most of us.
And what is it that we, proudly modern people, value more than our individual freedom?

Money? I’m going to let this rest… for a while.

Let’s go back to our ancestors.
Who, by all indications, had been living as ‘extended middle class societies’. Without any 0.1% and without people who went to bed hungry while the rest of the gang had been gorging themselves.
Let’s remember now that during those times we had actually transformed ourselves from apes to humans. And if you consider this to be a small feat, just try to teach a bonobo to speak. Then remember how many people who had been born in poor and backward countries are now successful business people or scientists. After passing through a thorough educational process, true! Only that educational process is in no way accessible to any bonobo…
Don’t disparage the long evolution we had graduated from, as a species, while living in ‘extended middle class societies’.

‘But you haven’t explained what you mean by middle class! Most of us see the middle class as those people who make a certain amount of money each year and you keep speaking about primitive people… who have absolutely no use for any money…!’

OK.
For good or for bad, our present society consist of three categories of people.
The haves, the in-between and the dirt poor.

I’m not going to assign numerical values to any of these.
Taleb’s Skin in the Game criterion is far more useful in this situation.

The haves qualify only after they have no skin left in the game. In the sense that they have so much ‘money’ that come hell and/or high water they feel safe. What they make of this world is heavily influenced by the thick ‘insulation’ which separates them from the rest of the world.
The dirt poor – or the lumpen proletariat, in Marx’s terms, have all their skin in the game. In fact, they are the famous ‘Boiling Frog’. They have no way of leaving the kettle so…

In a sense, both haves and the dirt poor are  prisoners. Neither can leave their respective cell blocks. Simply because the dirt poor have no way to go anywhere while almost none of the haves would be able to survive ‘outside’.

the boiling frog

Wesley Chang, The Boiling Frog, Medium.com

Which leaves us with the middle class.
Who have some resources stashed away – or enough credit available, to weather some crises. But not enough to last them for their entire remaining lives.
Which makes the middle class the only really interested people in the long term well being of the entire society. The only ones really interested in maintaining the freedom of the market as the main economic engine. The only ones really interested in maintaining democracy as the main manner of avoiding catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by the too powerful autocrats.

Or, from a psychological point of view, we can look at the haves/dirt poor as being stuck in an immobile state of mind while the middle class are the only open minded members of the society.
In fact, I prefer this last approach.
You see, until recently the American Dream was relatively accessible. With some luck, a ton of determination and a fair amount of brain power, the sky was the only limit. Belonging to any of those three categories, haves, middle class and dirt-poor was as much about the state of mind of those involved as it was about actual economic conditions.
The haves were free to consider the big picture, the dirt poor could contemplate brighter perspectives while the middle class were doing their thing. Keeping the whole show afloat.

I’m afraid we have reached an inflexion point. A watershed mark, if you prefer.
For whatever reason – I’m not ready to tackle this subject right now, we’ve become so preoccupied with something in particular that we’ve lost sight of everything else.

Including the middle class.

Exactly those which were supposed to maintain their cool heads and open minds.

part of the problem

Matthew Stewart,
The 9.9 Percent is the New American Aristocracy,
The Atlantic

I’ve ended my previous post by saying that we, humans, are tempted to see almost everything as a potential tool.

And the present one by asking myself ‘to what avail?’.

What are we trying to accomplish?

I kept telling you that we, humans, haven’t invented much. That everything we do has already been experimented by our predecessors. Plants and animals…

Well, one of the things that we did invent was ‘intent’. As in ‘premeditation’.

We don’t know whether plants are driven by anything else except their ‘vital spirit’.
Same thing is valid for ‘inferior animals’ (those which don’t have brains) while the superior (a.k.a. brained) ones seem to be driven by what we call emotion.

Including us!

No matter how much we pride ourselves about our ability to reason, we’re still driven by emotion.
Actually, we’re not even close to being rational!
At best, we rationalize our emotional impulses. Before or even after we put them into practice.
Dan Ariely and Daniel Kahneman, among others, have already settled this point.

Then why am I talking about ‘premeditation’?!?

And who said ‘premeditation’ is necessarily rational?

It is planned, OK, but …

You see, the real difference between us and the rest of most other animals is our ability to ‘watch ourselves watching the world‘. As if something inside each of ourselves is able to send a probe somewhere ‘outside’ and then examine its own individuality as an outside observer. I didn’t say an impartial observer, just an outsider. However biased.

I won’t elaborate on how we got here, Maturana had already done that. Brilliantly. I’m far more interested in the consequences of each of us being able to observe their own selves ‘from outside’, keeping in mind that our rationality is heavily bounded – Simon Herbert and others, and that we’re mainly driven by emotions.

The very first thing that each of us observes about their-selves is the overwhelming fragility which defines us.

And this is why we search solace in religion. In no matter which one of them, atheism included. There is ‘safety in numbers’, you know…

Our goal, professed or not, is to find inner peace.
No matter whether you call it salvation, redemption, nirvana, self acceptance or whatever else, what you crave is peace.

The sentiment (illusion?) that you are safe.

At least for a moment.

How long is that moment going to last?

Well, that depends on how you got there!
And who accompanies you…

 

 

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