Archives for posts with tag: Long time survival.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan saved his political ass last week-end by urging his “supporters to take to streets in protest of coup

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Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan react to a Turkish military tank in front of the Turkish Parliament July 15, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Which they did and the coup eventually failed.

Leading some observers to salute the maturity of the Turkish democracy:
“The most valuable outcome of last night’s events is that many people who are not AKP supporters stood up for democratic values despite the recent crackdowns on the opposition, and despite the tension and the polarization of the country.” (Erol Önderoglu, Turkey’s Reporters Without Borders representative who is currently on trial on terrorist propaganda charges after participating in a solidarity campaign with a pro-Kurdish newspaper.)

“These people do not support Erdoğan, but they oppose the idea of a military coup. Turkey has a history of very painful, traumatic military interventions, so I was not surprised to see such united opposition to this attempt.” (an academic who wished to remain anonymous)

But ‘not everybody is happy in paradise’.
“Everyone spoke out against the coup last night and that gave me hope” … watching events unfold today this hope has shrunk quickly. Last night there was the possibility that the government would use this to return to a more unifying language, to return to the peace talks, to unite the country. But today it looks like they will use [the coup attempt] simply to consolidate power.” (the same anonymous academic)

What’s going on there? Is Turkey a real democracy?
Or, if we dare to look from the other side, ‘what’s wrong with contemporary democracy’?

Is it enough for elections to be held regularly and the votes duly counted for a country to be called ‘democratic’?

I’m afraid not.
Communist Romania did have regular elections, where a huge proportion of the people rubber-stamped the party line.
Putin is currently serving a third mandate as Russian president, after paying lip service to the Russian constitution and letting Dmitry Medvedev fill in between 2008 and 2012.
No major irregularities were noted at the time of the voting in Russia when Putin was reelected but somehow I cannot consider the process fully democratic.

Even in the United States things are no longer what they used to be. Both major parties have put forth candidates that are seen unfavorably by a majority of the people. So unfavorably in fact that 13 % of the registered voters would rather see the Earth being hit by a giant meteor than any of the two as President.

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Clinton trump unfavorable

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Public Policy  Polling, June, 13, 2016, Raleigh


So, again, what’s going on here?

I’m afraid that what has been known as ‘democracy’ is being slowly eroded to ‘mob-rule’.

You see, in a really democratic situation you get the ‘real deal’ with ‘all the trimmings’ while when having to deal with ‘mob rule’ all you get is some ‘window dressing’.
Or, as the Romanian saying goes, on the outside you are greeted by a white picket fence but once inside you’ll have to deal with a white fanged tiger.

Let me explain myself.
Theoretically democracy is a situation where everybody has some, even if minute, influence over the fate of the community to which he is a part.Practically it means “government by the people; especially :  rule of the majority”.

I’m almost sure that by now most of you have already figured out what I’m driving at.

‘Rule of majority’ can be more dangerous than a regular dictatorship if that majority has been improperly led into voting the way they did.
A ‘dictator’ might be wise enough to know that if he drives the situation way beyond the plausible something will eventually snap but someone callous enough to lie to an entire society doesn’t have such qualms. In fact this is the explanation for why not all authoritarian regimes end up in complete failures.

On the other hand most of them do exactly that while no democracy has failed yet, as long as it maintained its democratic character.

Why? Simple.

Running a complex system – and a country is a very complex system, is a matter of setting goals and avoiding making mistakes.

And while setting goals is important, avoiding mistakes – specially catastrophic ones, is paramount.

If goals are chosen improperly – not bold enough, for instance, or even misguided, that society will experience a ‘hiccup’ but if that society is led into a dead-end then it might never recover. The ‘funny’ thing here being that in many instances the authoritarian leaders were quite good at setting goals but almost always sooner or later ended up in a ditch because they were very poor at avoiding potholes.

But how come democracies are better at avoiding grave mistakes than centralized administrations?
‘Four eyes see more than two’, specially if they look in different directions.
Every authoritarian regime follows the cue of the authoritarian leader and tends to down-play, or even ignore, the rest of the problems. This tendency is accentuated by the fact that those positioned higher on the roster tend to be better insulated from the immediate effects of their decisions. So relatively small mistakes keep piling one atop the other until the heap cannot be balanced any longer.
On the contrary, in a functional democracy – where everybody has a real chance to bring his concerns to the attention of others, mistakes are not only easier to spot but also easier to avoid.
Only this cannot happen as advertised unless the members of a society have a healthy dose of mutual respect. Nobody is going to pay any attention to what is being said by a ‘pariah’. No matter how interesting, or important, that might be.

And this is exactly what happens in a ‘mob-rule’ environment. Nobody listens anymore to what ‘the other’ has to say. People allow themselves to be driven into separate herds and, once there, pay no attention to anybody else but their ‘own’ cattle-driver. Who not only that doesn’t have any respect for ‘his’ herd but usually doesn’t care for anything else but their votes. Reason would ask that he should pay close attention to the well being of his herd but since he is convinced that he can always attract new followers he will usually go for the ‘cheapest’ alternative – taking good care of a flock being more ‘expensive’ than luring some new ‘green horns’.

That’s how people become estranged from one another and end up with their eyes glued to the whip of the cattle driver. That’s how democracy becomes an empty concept.

That’s why an honest count of the ballots doesn’t mean much if the public discussion which preceded the voting wasn’t both free and meaningful.
That’s why reducing democracy to ‘rule of the majority’ is akin to putting the cart before the horse.

The real scope of the whole process being to openly examine as much information as humanly possible before starting to make decisions (vote), not to (artificially) build majorities around (charismatic?!?) political figures. Or should I rather call them by their rightful name? Con men?

 

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Just finished reading, again, another excellent post written by John Faithful Hamer on Committingsociology.com

I remember now that something was nagging me after reading it for the first time. I also remember the pangs of helplessness felt almost a year ago, when I couldn’t identify what was nagging me.

Well, this time I nailed it.

“Getting angry isn’t really like releasing the built-up pressure in a steam engine; it’s far more like exercising a muscle group. Every time you give in to the desire to lose it, you strengthen your “anger muscles”; every time you resist the urge, you weaken them.”….
“So perhaps it’s time to stop preaching the gospel of expression, and revisit the much-maligned virtues of repression.”

“Anger” and “getting angry” are not the same thing.
Anger is just a feeling – and, hence, a source of ‘energy’ – while ‘getting angry’ is the manner in which we allow it, consciously or unconsciously, to take us over.
I fully agree that ‘getting angry’ only worsens the situation only I’m afraid that ‘resisting the urge’ isn’t any better. In fact that would be no different from tightening your arse because you don’t want to fart in public.
The problem is not solved, not at all, only postponed. You still need to relieve yourself.
By widening Freud’s concept of repression to encompass more feelings than the simple embarrassment we might find a reason to continue to look for a manner in which to ‘release that built up pressure’.
Only now we are faced with a new problem, since we’ve already agreed that ‘getting angry’ is not the best thing to do.
Freud, again, to the rescue.
How about widening another one of his concepts, sublimation?
How about learning to express, this time consciously, our intense negative feelings in a socially acceptable, and hence a lot more effective, manner?

Read the comments to any article that deals with the European Community and you’ll certainly find something to this tune:
“This is the end of the EU”

That might happen anytime, of course, but I’d still like very much to know why so many contemplate this possibility with so much glee? And I’m not talking here about those who think they have something to gain from a weaker Europe. Putin, for instance. Or Erdogan.

Why so many ordinary Europeans are so angry towards the very idea of a closely knit European Union?

How about reading the entire history of this continent as a long story of individuals striving hard to become more and more autonomous?

Some would say that Europe was about individuals becoming free, and I can agree with that. Only that freedom had strings attached.

“My freedom stops where your freedom begins”.

Meaning that none of us is really free unless each of us respects the liberty of all the others. That our individual liberties depend on each-other. Well, that’s the definition of autonomy, not that of ‘absolute freedom’ but let’s not be bogged down by words.

In fact what helped Europe become what it is today is an unique combination of ever growing individual freedom made possible by an ever stricter respect for the rule of law.

This was not at all a smooth process.

From time to time some individuals garnered a lot of liberty for themselves precisely by depriving all other of theirs and sometime even succeeded in writing this into law. For instance, until 1848 it was still lawful to own slaves in France.

Another type of ‘garnered’ freedom is what happens in a dictatorship. The dictator and his henchmen are freer than the rest of the people, but none of them as free as the people living in a truly free country. And Europe had witnessed a considerable number of dictatorships.

Which all eventually failed.

But something lingered in the collective memory of the Europeans. Their disdain for being told what to do. Their mistrust for rules imposed from above, for regulations that did not have the opportunity to become evident, through the passage of enough time, for those called to follow them.

This is why the ‘enthusiasm’ with which “l’aquis communautaire” was peddled by the Brussels bureaucrats to the new entrants has been met with such reticence.
This is why the measures being practically imposed by the more powerful members of the Union to the rest of the gathering are met with such scorn.

Very little real consideration is being given to the manner in which these measures are adopted and then communicated ‘from above’  and, simultaneously, very little attention is paid, by those called to put them in practice, to what their real effect would be – if they’d be applied in earnest.

And, unfortunately, there is no real shortage of callous political mavericks who eagerly try, and sometimes succeed, to capitalize on these misgivings.

As if we didn’t know any better.

 

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“When we’re trying to recreate an intellectual milieu, even one that’s relatively recent, we invariably discover that the vast majority of the sources we need to do such a thing have been swallowed up by oblivion and lost forever. Sometimes those that remain—e.g., Plato’s dialogues—remain because they were the best of the best, works of great importance. But this isn’t always (or even usually) the case. Sources often survive for largely accidental reasons. Regardless, the temptation to exaggerate the significance of what we have has proven irresistible for generations of intellectual historians. As the philosopher Aaron Haspel puts it in Everything (2015): “The parable of the drunk looking for his keys under the street lamp, where the light is better, explains vast swaths of intellectual history.” (John Faithful Hamer, Touch They’re Real in his blog Committing Sociology)

As always things are not as simple as they seem at the first glance – otherwise we wouldn’t have had a parable to start with, would we?

Basically the drunkard is doing the only reasonable thing available to him. Searching in the lightless park would be completely pointless but what if somebody else had lost a wallet in the lighted area?

Aaron Haspel is also right. Our intellectual history consists indeed of whatever cultural artifacts have been lucky enough to survive. Considered important enough by a sufficient number of people so they helped preserve it to the present day.
Or, evidently, both!

I’d like to direct your attention to ‘Considered important enough by a sufficient number of people’.
You see, the drunkard was looking under the street lamp because ‘This is where the light is’. He was reacting rather sensibly to a real situation.

But what if the reality of something is not so easily ascertainable? What if it’s a ‘second degree’ reality, one that is constantly (re)created by human intercourse? Like people choosing which book to keep and which one to throw into a bonfire?

fahrenheit451

Or even a ‘third degree’ reality? One that is imagined by someone who tries to assess the wishes of somebody else?

“Politicians are fooled into thinking corporate welfare is important to voters because politicians spend an inordinate amount of time with the powerful people to whom corporate welfare is vitally important. That’s why every candidate who has tried to win Iowa has prostrated him or herself before ethanol.”

You certainly guessed it. This paragraph will be about the ‘fourth degree’ reality. The one we, the voters, bring upon ourselves at the ballot box. After having carefully considered each candidate and his or her programme. Or having voted with ‘that particular one’ just because  …

The point I’m trying to make here being that this ‘fourth degree reality’ is not at all ‘virtual’, in the manner the second and the third ones are. In fact this ‘fourth degree’ reality is exactly the one where we have to live. Where we are faced with the consequences of the choices we, ourselves, have made while bringing it about.

‘Democracy’ comes from ‘demos’, the Greek word for ‘people’.
Basically a democratic society is  a social arrangement where the people is in charge. Through representatives, as in most cases, or even directly – the Swiss organize referendums whenever they have something really important to decide.

‘Republic’ comes from Latin. ‘Res publica’ means ‘public matters (=issues)’ so a republic can be seen as a social arrangement where everything is out in the open.

Would it make any sense for the public to know everything that is going on if they don’t have any say in the matter? Could democracy work if people are kept in the dark?

So.
In communism the state (in fact the rulers) decide everything – who does what and who gets what.
In socialism there is not much difference from the previous state. (I can vouch for both propositions, I’ve lived under both regimes)
‘Anarchy’ means no rules. If you happen to have two cows you need to defend them constantly, by your own, against anyone who covets them. Remember, anarchy means ‘no rules’ whatsoever. You cannot cherry-pick. I like this rule (property rights are fundamental for me) so this one stays in place while the the rules that I don’t like will be discarded.
As in ‘I won’t respect but the rules I like and I’ll hold everybody else to respect mine’.
That would be an absolutely one sided anarchy. If you’d be able to enforce such an arrangement it would be perceived by everybody else as the most authoritarian regime ever and Stalin would be jealous of your accomplishments.
As I said before ‘democracy’ means people having their say about how things are settled in a that particular society. If people respect each-other you have real democracy. If people band together to decide, against the will of the owner, about the fate of those fabled two cows we can no longer speak about true democracy. That would be ‘mob rule’, just another form of ‘anarchy/authoritarianism’. One ‘organized’ by a ruler who is a callous spin doctor skilled enough in his trade to make a considerable portion of the population follow him, usually against their better interests.

I was just speaking about the mutual respect that exists among the members of a truly democratic society…. I have a distinct feeling that those who promote this meme think of themselves as being ‘the true democrats’… I’m not a religious person myself, not in the classic sense of the word anyway. But I won’t ever think of a religious person as being ‘ignorant’ based solely on his creed and I’ll never refer to him using such a word, regardless of his level of education. One of the reasons being that if I ‘indulge’ in such a barbarism he’ll never listen to me again.
Why should he? To get some more abuse from me?

Now lets get this straight.
Mutual respect is absolutely essential for democracy.
There can be no such thing as mutual respect among individuals whose goals are mutually exclusive.
This meme actually doesn’t make much sense. No matter how well armed the lamb is, a determined wolf would eventually sink its fangs in the lamb’s sweet flesh so a rational lamb would do his best to shoot the wolf at the first opportunity. What kind of democracy are we speaking about here?

Most governments don’t get this. You can stretch it only that far. At some point, no matter how authoritarian the regime, people will take to the street.
This doesn’t mean that democracy will automatically be installed after a public uprising, far from it. The Arab Spring is only the latest example.
It only means that people have it in themselves to try to improve their lot. If they find a way to do this together then the sky’s the limit.
And this is a fact. Only the democratic America successfully landed a man on the Moon. The Soviet Union was the first to start this game but wasn’t able to keep up.

Yeah? And what are bragging about here?
About not finding a candidate to suit your wishes AND not doing anything about this situation?
How about running yourself? Or at least going there and annulling your ballot…
If you do not vote at all the political establishment will consider that you are either content with what is going on or so despondent as to not care anymore. So why should they even consider your plight? In which direction should they change their behavior in order to suit your needs if you don’t express them when you have the chance?

Really? Is he indeed unable to make distinction between democracy and mob rule?
‘Democracy in and of itself is not necessarily a good thing’…
I’m afraid he didn’t get the gist of it!
Real (=functional, stable over long periods of time) democracy IS good while mob rule IS bad. Period.

So, any chance for this cute fellow to have nailed it?

Close but there is space for improvement so I’ll try to rephrase this.
A democratic system invariable becomes weak/unstable if the general public becomes complacent and the power is grabbed by short-sighted but arrogant and callous spin doctors who, by eviscerating the true nature of democracy, transform the concept into an empty shell. This way the democratic process becomes a beauty pageant and an erstwhile democracy becomes a subtle dictatorship.

The strangest part of all this is that exactly those who should have known better – the professional politicians and some members of the academia – are the first to fall into the trap.

 

This doesn’t catch the entire picture – each of us is heavily dependent on the environment into which we happened to be born – but clearly states the difference between us humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.
We are able to make conscious decisions and we love to apportion blame.

When engaging into our favorite pastime we’d better take into consideration two things: Our consciousness/rationality is limited and we can speak about blame only if intent was present.
We don’t have unlimited access to other people thoughts, nor can we see very far, so, in reality, we are aware of a very limited portion of the world around us. Moreover, no matter how confident we are in our minds, our processing power is also limited. So both our decisions and our ability to accurately apportion blame are not at all infallible. Far from it.
On the other hand blaming natural causes or even people who are not aware of (some) of the consequences produced by their actions for what has happened to us doesn’t make sense. A lighting doesn’t know that it frightens people and may wreak havoc in a city if the electric grid is knocked out of order, just as the ‘financial engineers’ who came up with the concept didn’t know, at first, what effects ‘securitization‘ will have upon the global financial markets.

Hey, you promised us something about manipulation and management, not another essay about financial markets manipulation!

True enough so let me discuss first what manipulation is: nothing but a psychological tool. Please note that I’m concerned here with the lofty notion of ‘thought manipulation’, not with the mere ability of ‘juggling’ objects into position….
Regardless of why or for what purpose it’s performed, manipulation remains a simple and very efficient tool that can be used even ‘pre-consciously’ – if you don’t believe me remember how toddlers manipulate their parents into buying them diverse things that are not only a complete waste of money but also sometimes dangerous for their long term health. In this case the manipulation is twofold: the merchandisers position certain items near the cashiers’ desks so that the children might not miss them.

As with any tool it’s up to the user (a.k.a. manipulator) to set the standards, what’s acceptable and what not.

Really? But what if the manipulator is not fully aware of the consequences of his acts? (Remember my digression into the subject of limited rationality/consciousness?) Could it be that the entire world might be shaken, even worse that it has already been, by the yet unforeseen consequences of a manipulation already underway?
Well, as no manipulator is that skilled as to be able to avoid detection for very long, the sad part about the whole thing is that most of the time we know/feel that we are being manipulated and allow it to happen out of laziness or complacency… This being exactly the moment when we should start blaming ourselves for our own lassitude.

Even more ‘interesting’ is how we rationalize the daily use of manipulation:

“The uncomfortable truth is that when resolving all the different pressures from existing customers, your own organization, bids for new business, and the like, you are inevitably going to have to persuade people to do things that are not entirely in their own interests.”

So, how much ‘out of their own interests’ is it acceptable for us to manipulate the thoughts of other persons? Specially when they are, after all, our close associates – either clients, subordinates, bosses or even colleagues, friends, relatives, close family.

And, given that sooner or later everybody realizes at least some of the manipulation he has been subjected to, the survival of our entire social life basically depends on how much manipulation each of us is disposed to submit to.

Rather scary, don’t you think? Specially if we take into consideration the fact that manipulators do not always know exactly what they are doing….

Don’t despair. There are people, among the ‘movers and shakers of this world’, who have noticed at least part of what’s going on and have started to act:

“Fundamentally, I believe, the gap (between HR’s aspirations and actual role) arises from two complementary causes. First, executives and managers often think their job is to get financial results rather than to manage people. Second, when executives and managers neglect people management, the HR function worries about lapses and tends to “lean in” to right them itself. On the surface, this approach seems to meet an organization’s needs: management moves away from areas it views as unrewarding (and perhaps uncomfortable), while HR moves in, takes on responsibilities, solves problems, and gains some glory in the process.

But this approach is based on erroneous thinking. It is bad for management and bad for the company as a whole. When HR sees itself as manager, mediator, and nurturer, it further separates managers from their employees and reinforces a results-versus-people dichotomy. That’s why many HR teams refer to the rest of the company as “the business”; too often, they don’t really perceive themselves as a core part of that business.”

When more of us will get it that we’re all together in this, we’ll reinvent mutual respect and scale back manipulation to its natural status: a very useful tool for grabbing the attention of whomever we want to talk to. Used in this manner, like all decent advertisers do, manipulation becomes not only innocuous but also useful for both parties. One is able to get its message across and the other finds out what going on in this world.
There are costs to be incurred, of course. Those who refrain from more aggressive manipulation may loose some money at first and those who pay a lot of attention to the messages – precisely because they are no longer aggressively manipulative – may end up spending in this manner a lot more time than they used to until now. But if and when we’ll realize that long time survival is a lot more important than short time profit then we’ll foot the bill without much hassle.

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, “Everything you do…” : https://www.facebook.com/drwaynedyer/photos/a.387583371029.167523.83636976029/10151331343881030/?type=1&theater
Segoviano, M., et all, Securitization, Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2013/wp13255.pdf
Case Study, The Colapse of Lehman Brothers, Investopedia: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/economics/09/lehman-brothers-collapse.asp
Peeling, Nic, Principles of Management, Dorset House Publishing, http://www.dorsethouse.com/features/excerpts/exdpch1.html
Allen, Peter L., Toward a new HR. Philosophy, McKinsey Quarterly: http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/Toward_a_new_HR_philosophy?cid=other-eml-alt-mkq-mck-oth-1504
Dolmanian, Sarchis, Profit, Might it be overrated?: https://nicichiarasa.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/profit-might-it-be-overrated/

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but also

So?

The way I see it ‘education’ is a blanket term that covers many things:

– Mental conditioning into obeying the prevailing rules of the moment/place
– Accumulation of information that is deemed useful by the educators.
– ‘Training of the mind to think’ – only this cannot be done without first supplying the student with some information on which to hone his mind.
– “Training of the mind to think” according to the rules of the moment/place – the term currently used for this kind of attitude towards thinking is ‘science’. If those rules are not obeyed then not only that the results of the thinking process won’t be recognized as valid by the community but the thinker won’t even be able to share them with those around him because those results won’t resemble anything known/familiar/acceptable to most of the members belonging to that community.

– Training of the mind to think outside of the box. To be able to do that a student needs first to learn what a box is so he must graduate through the first four stages AND to overcome some of the conditioning he was subjected to during the first stage.

Only after he “awakens” a student might start to discover for himself the rest of the world. And only if he uses his newly found awareness in a sensible way he will be able to share the results of his thinking with those around him and thus contribute to the long time survival of the society (family, community) that has nurtured him through his ‘coming of age’.

And only if that society (family, community) takes good care of its young it will have any chances to survive.
‘Taking good care of its young’ meaning encouraging them to open their wings in search of their full potential, not shackling them down to the nest in search for absolute safety.

 

Theoretically parties exist to coagulate as many diverse ‘interests’ and initiatives as possible and represent them on the political stage.

At some point all this has morphed into what we have now, when parties fight one another as if they were enemies, not interdependent limbs of the same social organism, “the people”.

This is ‘a fine example’ of the end-result:

“Committee Democrats have spent more than five years working on a report about the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program during the Bush administration, which employed brutal interrogation methods like waterboarding. Parts of that report, which concluded that the techniques yielded little valuable information and that C.I.A. officials consistently misled the White House and Congress about the efficacy of the techniques, are expected to be made public some time this month. Committee Republicans withdrew from the investigation, saying that it was a partisan smear and without credibility because it was based solely on documents and that there were no plans to interview C.I.A. officers who ran the program.”
(In fact it’s not the entire CIA that spied on the Senate, just a few concerned individuals who were embroiled in the mess. Why did they accept/performed their roles in the first place … that’s another question… And why does the media present this situation as if the entire CIA is to be blamed is another… Afterall ‘waterboarding’ was a political decision that has to be assumed as such. Puting the whole blame on the shoulders of the ‘people in the field’ is pure cowardry. They might not be angels but…)

Inquiry by C.I.A. Affirms It Spied on Senate Panel

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/01/world/senate-intelligence-commitee-cia-interrogation-report.html?emc=edit_th_20140801&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49304537&_r=0

At some point the significant individual involved in a situation will have to make the relevant decision.

And here comes the difference between a human and a horse.

The horse will wait until it becomes thirsty, no matter how ample opportunities to drink would present themselves before him while the human will first make sure that the water is safe to drink and only then decide what to do: drink pre-emptively, fill a flask, take a nap by the spring…

The point I’m trying to make here is that while animals, no matter how ‘sophisticated’, act according to their instincts (or ‘training’) we humans sometimes act instinctively/emotionally and some other times ‘rationally’ – we ‘identify opportunities’ and try to use them to further our goals.

And here lies the watershed…

Our ‘rational’ decisions can be good or bad and there is no real way to tell before hand which is which. Hence the ‘primum non nocere‘ (“first do no harm”) rule used by the professional healers of this world.
The problem with our rationality is that we  never have all the pertinent information at our disposal, enough time to process whatever information we do have nor the wisdom to realize the first two limitations. And this is why we too often proceed as if those two limitations never existed….

Why haven’t we failed miserably until now? (Miserably enough as to never be able to stand up again or to finally learn the lesson?)
Because we relied heavily on ‘tradition’/’religion’. Usually these two are taken together but I prefer to treat them separately. You see, it is true that both of them are nothing but information accumulated in time as a result of the social cooperation that takes place even without us being aware of it but there is a fundamental difference between them.
‘Tradition’ usually has to do with ‘technology’, the way we do things, while ‘religion’ (which comes from the Latin word ‘reliegare’ = ‘connecting to’) is mostly about sharing a common understanding of the world and acting, collectively, according to that ‘Weltaunschauung’.

And here comes the interesting part. Being the member of a certain religious cult/church is nothing but a set of circumstances. Each individual is ultimately/personally responsible for the path he chooses ‘inside’ his religious tradition, for the way he interprets/acts upon the religious teachings he has received during his upbringing.

moderate Islam

And this is exactly why I am in full agreement with Erdogan: “There is no moderate Islam. Islam is Islam”.
You see, I grew up in communist Romania and in those times we had a saying that went like this: “it’s not the “ism” but the “ist” who causes the trouble!”.

When placed in a certain situation some people act naturally – they drink if they feel thirsty – or they may decide to use whatever opportunity they identify in order to further their goals.
You can study communism in a library or conspire to impose it on people exactly as you can practice Islam in your community or try to impose it by force to all your neighbors.
It’s neither  ‘communism’s nor ‘Islam’s fault, it’s the communists who cannot understand that communism doesn’t work and the hard-line Islamists who fail to understand  that by acting exactly as the Catholic Inquisitors did during the Dark Ages they’ll eventually drive their flock away from their pulpits.

The real problems arise from the arrogance that blinds those “ists”, individuals so ‘concentrated’ on their self-assumed/assigned goals (no matter if they are well intended, like trying to spread – by force – the wealth around and to – administratively – reduce social inequality, or on the contrary – obsessed with becoming filthy rich at the expense of everybody else and/or accumulating dictatorial power over those around them) that they forget/fail to realize that human rationality is inherently limited. And so they fail to understand that ‘the law of unintended consequences’ will eventually bring them back down to where they belong – with a bang!

There are three sets of social circumstances that these kind of ruthless ‘political actors’ perceive as opportunities: inflamed nationalistic feelings, strong religious beliefs, wide spread social malaise due to economic hardships.

For instance the French Revolution (remember, today is Bastille Day) was fueled by the desperation that ‘doused’, at that time, the French people. They were not only hungry but they also felt abandoned/neglected by their rulers. Marie-Antoinette, the French Queen beheaded during the Revolution, was described as being so callous/ignorant of the real life of her subjects that when informed that her people didn’t have enough bread she interjected: ‘Let them eat cake instead!’
Some historians debate whether this really happened, one of their arguments being that the same words have been attributed to many other historical figures that lived before her but the simple fact that the utterance itself was so widely circulated remains and speaks volumes.
A century later Lenin was able to manipulate the same kind of public sentiment and imposed the Soviet rule over the Russian imploded empire while Ataturk, the leader of the Young Turks, fashioned the freshly minted Turkish nationalism into the glue that held together, until recently, the modern – and secular – Turkish state that succeed the ailing Turkish empire by 1925. It is often forgotten but if we really want to understand Turkey we should always remember that until the late XIX-th century it still was a feudal empire and the social costs of such a short/hasty transformation into a modern nation state were tremendous. Unfortunately in the last decade Erdogan has been working hard, with the unwitting help of the Euro-skeptics who reject Turkey’s efforts to join the EU, to replace secular, and relatively moderate, nationalism with religious zealotry as the backbone of the Turkish republic.
Coming back into Central Europe we have the classic example of how Hitler used nationalistic tensions exacerbated by the economic crises deepened by the unwisely imposed war reparations to implement his demented dream of a Reich that was supposed to last for a thousand years.

The same process is happening again, under our own noses. This time all three ‘components’ are present. The economy of the region is in shambles, arguably because of foreign intervention, nationalistic tensions are rife while religious ones are heated way beyond boiling point.
So why wonder that the al-Baghdadi led Isis uses Islam as a pretext to impose a new dictatorship in a region that has no real need for another one?

“Though al-Baghdadi constantly invokes the early history of Islam, the society he envisions has no precedent in history. It’s much more like the impossible state of utopian harmony that western revolutionaries have projected into the future. Some of the thinkers who developed radical Islamist ideas are known to have been influenced by European anarchism and communism, especially by the idea that society can be reshaped by a merciless revolutionary vanguard using systematic violence. The French Jacobins and Lenin’s Bolsheviks, the Khmer Rouge and the Red Guards all used terror as a way of cleansing humanity of what they regarded as moral corruption.

Isis shares more with this modern revolutionary tradition than any ancient form of Islamic rule. Though they’d hate to hear it, these violent jihadists owe the way they organise themselves and their utopian goals to the modern West. And it’s not just ideas and methods that Isis has taken from the West. Western military intervention gave Isis its chance of power.”

Now it’s up to us. Just as our great fathers used the opportunity presented to them at the end of WWII and helped Germany refashion itself, both economically and socially, by including it in the Marshall Plan instead of making it pay for the rebuilding of the war ravaged Europe we should try to help the peoples in the Middle East find their own respective ways instead of impose on them whatever we might think it would be better for them. And I mean real help, not just let/prod them fight each other to exhaustion.
In fact it would serve our interests also.
The Balkans were considered the powder keg of Europe and indeed the tensions accumulated there helped ignite the WWI. After communism imploded those tensions resurfaced precisely because the previous arrangements were imposed, more or less, from ‘above’. Exactly as the map of the Middle East was drawn by Sykes-Picot.
No, I’m not advocating wholesale dismantling of borders, as it happened in ex-Yugoslavia. If they find a way, by themselves, to preserve the present situation we should encourage and help them to do so. But we should never try to impose something on them just because we consider it would serve our (short term at best) interests.

Lebanon might serve as a good example, both to them and to us.

It won’t be simple, every major power has vested interests there, including Russia, but it can, and should, be done. Specially since the the alternative would be horrible.

I ran across this article published by CNS News.

Unusual Answer from Panelist Receives Standing Ovation at Benghazi Coalition Meeting.

It is about a meeting organized by Heritage Foundation to discuss the terrorist attack that took place in in Benghazi  in 2012.
At some point a young ‘Muslim student’ asked “…how can we fight an ideological war with weapons? How can we ever end this war? The jihadist ideology that you talk about – it’s an ideology. How can we ever end this thing if we don’t address it ideologically?”.
One of the panelists answered her that ‘there might be some 75% peaceful Muslims in the world but this is of no consequence: they follow the lead of the extremists, they don’t make their voices heard and, because of that, ‘the peaceful majority are irrelevant’ ‘. The panelist’s answer was received with standing ovations.

I’m afraid those people are making a huge mistake.

For those of you who don’t have time to read the article I’ll summarize the arguments used by Brigitte Gabriel, the panelist:
– The Germans are known as peaceful people yet the Nazis imposed their agenda and provoked horrible massacres.
– The Russians are normally peaceful people yet the Communists among them caused tens of millions of deaths, among their own people, without significant protest from the general population.
– The same happened in China.
– The otherwise peaceful Japanese allowed the militarists to take power and to start a war (the Pacific ‘portion’ of the WWII) in which another 12 million people found their death, “mostly killed by bayonets and shovels.”
– “On September 11th in the United States we had 2.3 million Arab Muslims living in the United States. It took 19 hijackers – 19 radicals – to bring America to its knees, destroy the World Trade Center, attack the Pentagon and kill almost 3000 Americans that day,” Gabriel said. “So for all our power of reason, and for all us talking about moderate and peaceful Muslims, I’m glad you’re here. But where are the others speaking out?” Gabriel asked.
The people in attendance began to applaud.”

First of all we need to differentiate between the two situations presented here.
The Germans, the Japanese and the “19 radicals” committed acts of international aggression while the Russians and the Chinese allowed themselves to be overrun by ‘misguided’ people.
Not at all the same thing.
On the other hand the German and Japanese examples are extremely interesting. A significant number of historians agree that the WWII was produced, at least in part, by the manner in which the defeated Germany was treated after WWI – they were imposed crippling war reparations which burdened Germany during the Great Depression so heavily as to produce the set of social circumstances that allowed Hitler to accede to power. This lesson was well understood so after the WWII Germany was included in the Marshal plan instead of made to pay for it. As a consequence we had, since then, 69 years if uninterrupted peace in Europe.
Japan was a ‘closed society’ until Commodore Perry forcefully ‘opened’ it in 1854, at first for trade and then to other western influences: Centralized state administration, modern army, modern management and technology, etc. And in those times the Japanese were treated, by the ‘white people’, with a ‘healthy dose’ of disdain, just as all the other non-European nations were. After the WWII all this has changed and nowadays the ‘peaceful majority’ of the Japanese have found a way, with a lot of help received from the Americans, to build a democratic society not at all different from what can be currently found in Western Europe and in North America.
Something rather similar happened with the Chinese. After Nixon went there and started to treat them as partners they basically stopped killing each-other.
But, unfortunately, this change of attitude didn’t come about between the West and Russia after the end of the Cold War. For instance we call the Ukrainian rebels  ‘pro-Russian’. Are they of any real service to Russia or to the Russian people? On the contrary… Somehow the old habit of blaming the entire Russian people for actions perpetrated by their leaders survived. Maybe because we can no longer understand the workings of a non-democratic society…since we are so accustomed with censuring our leaders.

So…

My point is that of course we have to defend ourselves from the direct actions of the ‘radicals’ – ‘shoot back’, effectively and efficiently, when ever somebody attacks us. Yet there is something else we dearly need to do, at the same time. Find a way to connect, in a respectful manner, with the ‘peaceful, yet silent, majorities’. They are “irrelevant” only as long as we treat them with the same disdain they are receiving from their own rulers. Even worse, confronted with two different kinds of disdain they’ll naturally prefer the one they are accustomed with – the one displayed by their own rulers – so if we keep packing together radicals with peaceful people and treat them as one the result will be that we’ll have to deal with an ever increasing number of radicalized ex-peaceful individuals. I propose we learn something from our parents, the ones who found a way to change the atmosphere between them and the German and the Japanese people. And since we pretend to be wiser – as all children do – than our parents were, how about doing this without wagging all-out wars? (Unless attacked, off course)

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