Archives for category: alternative ways of acquring knowledge

Becoming mature implies giving up a lot of things.

A lot of the erstwhile held convictions.
No matter how they had happened to accure on you.

For instance, growing up means giving up the widely held belief that growing old will, eventually, ‘open up’ your mind.
That living long enough will transform each of us into a wise person.

Living is nothing but an opportunity.
What happens during that time depends heavily on ‘Lady Luck’.
And, of course, on what each of us is able to make of the opportunities presented by the afore mentioned Lady Luck.

In dear memory of Petre Anghel,
my Teacher,
who had passed away before we had the chance to finish discussing this subject.

“The Enablers fail to grasp that, by enabling, they marginalize themselves. That every time they kowtow to their subordinates in a ploy to remain relevant they advertise their creeping irrelevance. The gap between their superficial and actual power, between their status and the waning value of that status, is widening. Soon, they will be like the president of Germany, whoever he is.”

I’m not exactly old.
Only old enough to continue to check my email. From time to time…

For reasons outside my knowledge, this morning I’d found – in the ‘promotions’ section’ a link to a ‘common sense with Bari Weiss’ article. The title was apealing, the name rang a bell – even though I had no idea about who the person was, so I read it.

My reaction was intense enough to start writing.
Not before looking her up…

The point being that she is basically right. Enabling is a powerful phenomenon.
But she is also basically wrong.

Powerfull it might be, only enabling is not necessarily malignant. As she implies.

Enabling is done by people with means. Powerfull and or resourcefull enough for their actions to be effective.
What the enablers choose to enable… is something else.

And the consequences of enabling depend on the enablers’ choices!

Things might come up right. Or wrong.

The kind of enabling curently predominant in America has been detrimental to the society at large. Leading to the enablers becoming irrelevant.
Just as Weiss advertised. Trump has been supplanted by those who had occupied the Capitol – after being enabled by him, while on the other side of the political divide things aren’t going any better. Cultural cancellation isn’t going to end up well.

But enabling can lead to different outcomes. Depending, of course, on what is being enabled.

Take Germany, for instance.
Yes, nobody knows who its President is. Only the country, as a whole, functions far better than many of those whose Presidents are on everybody’s lips. Simply because the German enablers had chosen to enable the ‘right’ kind of behaviors.

PS
Frank Walter Steinmeier

“First day of class.
The law school teacher entered the room and asked a student sitting in the first row:
‘What’s your name?’
‘Nelson.’
‘Get out of my class and never come back!’
Everyone was scared and outraged but no one dared to speak up.
‘Very well!’ said the professor after Nelson had left. ‘Let’s start!’
‘What do we have laws for?’
The students were scared but they tentatively answered the questions.
‘So that order may be maintained?’
‘No!’
‘For us to fulfill?’
‘No!’
‘So that trespassers might be punished?’
‘No!’
‘For justice to be made?’
‘Finally! And what is justice?’
The students were already pissed off but they continued.
‘When human rights are upheld?’
‘Not bad. Elaborate!’
‘To differentiate good from bad?’
‘Then was I right to throw Nelson out?’
Silence.
‘I want an answer!’
‘No…’
‘You might say and injustice had been committed?’
‘Yes…’
‘Then why nobody did anything about it?’
‘What do we want laws for if we don’t have the will to uphold them? Each and everyone of you needs to speak up whenever you witness injustice being done! All of you! Always!’
‘Go bring Nelson back! After all, he’s the real teacher. I’m nothing but a student here!’
‘We should all learn that whenever we don’t defend our rights, our dignity vanishes.’
‘That dignity is not negotiable’!”

I’ve just read this on somebody’s FB wall.
And a couple of comments.
‘But why did you have to throw Nelson out?!? Couldn’t you have simply explained your point? Lousy teacher… you just enjoyed playing God!’
‘There is a small difference between explaining ‘something’ to somebody and making the same somebody actually feel that ‘something’. The same difference which exists between a lump of clay and the same lump of clay after God had breathed soul into it’.

Being an engineer, I’m gonna present you with a more straight-forward version than the philosophical one.

For something to be real, it has to have consequences.

‘But…?!?’

No buts!
The only thing which classifies something as being real or not is our consciousness.
Without it, without our consciousness, the something we’re talking about now – reality itself, would cease to be ‘real’.
Without us pondering about it, ‘reality’ would continue to exist, of course! Only it would no longer bear a name… Without us being concerned enough about it, it would ‘disappear’ from our ‘radar’.

‘Yes, but … you just said that something becomes real as soon as it has consequences!
We encounter ‘real’ things in each and every moment of our existence.
We need air to breathe, water to drink… food to eat. And a solid earth to walk on…’

True enough. Only for all these things to become ‘real’, we first need to notice them!

See how ironic things are?
In retrospect, electrons are real. Despite the fact that none of us can actually see them. Or otherwise ‘feel’ them. In any way, shape or form!
But until we had gathered enough evidence about their existence…

And now, that our discussion has reached this subject – evidence, I feel the need to mention the fact that Earth is not yet round ‘enough’. That there still are some people actually believing in the notion of the Flat Earth.

‘Are you implying that the Earth might be Flat?!?’

Excellent question, thank you very much!
(If I may say something like that myself. Please excuse my boastfulness!)

You see, we are dealing here with two things. Two very different things.

The roundness of the Earth. Which seems to be real.
The ‘Flat Earth’. Which is certainly real.

‘Now you’ve outdone yourself! For sure…’

I’m almost certain that you can hear me chuckle.

The roundness of the Earth belongs to the realm of science. Which is ‘wrong by definition‘. At least according to Popper… In the sense that the Earth will continue to remain round only till somebody will prove it to be different. Which had happened already… In ‘reality’, the Earth resembles a potato more than anything else!
On the famous ‘other side’, the ‘Flat Earth Theory’ belongs to the realm of belief. Which is also real. Not in the ‘direct’ sense – a concept which describes a real ‘reality’, only in the sense that it has certain consequences.

‘The Flat Earth has consequences?!? You admit that the concept – ‘the Flat Earth’, describes something which doesn’t exist yet you pretend that it has consequences?’

Yep!

Can you deny the reality of this whole thing? Six hundred and twenty million hits? In less than point 8 seconds?
Can you pretend these are not ‘real consequences’? Can you imagine, for instance, how much energy is spent only to preserve this amount of raw information in the ‘cloud’. How much ‘space’? How much bandwidth is used to transport this ‘fake-ness’ across the ‘globe’!

‘And where does this whole thing lead us?
What about the Flat Earth?
Is it still a fake?’

Yeah.
I’m actually tempted to say ‘obviously’!
On the other hand… it’s hard to deny how ‘real’ the whole thing is…

Cultural Dementia by David Andress

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


One of those books which function as a magnifying mirror.
The older you get – and the more mistakes you’ve made, the less you like of what you see when facing it.



View all my reviews

‘From virus? What?!? And from which one?’

From none in particular.
From all of them, since all viruses are nothing but information!

‘Huh???’

Most biologists consider viruses to be something ‘in between’. Not exactly ‘life’, since they cannot replicate themselves, but something more than mere matter.

Only this approach sets very straight limits to how we understand life itself.
Or should I rather use ‘narrow’ instead of ‘straight’?
‘Narrow’ as in ‘not wide enough’ minded?

“Information which perpetuates itself”.

Does this sound right for you?

We. humans, are individual human beings. ‘Social’, indeed, but, nevertheless, individual. It’s our individual-ness which sets us apart from our nearest cousins. Chimps and bonobos.
It’s our individual-ness which sets the parameters of our world-view. That being the reason for our attempt to define life as a characteristic of the individual organisms which happen to be alive.

This being the moment when I feel the urge to direct your attention upon a seminal book.

Hmmm… the Origin of Species…

If evolution is about ‘Species’, then what about life itself being more about species than about individuals?

What about life being more about the process through which information is passed along from one generation to another than about an individual organism being alive or not?

In this sense, ‘virus’ would belong to the realm of the living, right?

I don’t know anything.
I don’t know everything hence, logically, I cannot pretend to know anything.

Seems odd, since I obviously know something… to type, for instance!

Indeed, only the key word here is ‘logically’.
From a logical point of view, you either know something or you just don’t.

Not very reasonable… This line of thinking leads up, fast, into a dead end!

As soon as I realize I know ‘nothing’, I must stop!
I can no longer ‘do’ anything.
Because I cannot control – in an absolute manner, each and every consequence of any of my actions.
Further more, there is no justification for me to continue thinking.
Again, because I will never be able to achieve ‘knowledge’.

Yet so many things are being done around me…
From the sun rising in the morning to the ant helping its mates to dig a nest.
From the electron ‘flying’ around the nucleus of a Hydrogen atom to a man developing a computer application.
How can all these actions be performed when nobody, not even the ‘performers’ themselves, is able to determine the ultimate consequence of what’s going on?
How can so many thoughts be ‘spun’, and books published, when the ‘thinkers’ themselves – well… some of them, actually, are fully aware of their intellectual limits?

What drives this frenzy?

And, if I may allow myself a thought, why ‘logic’?
How can such a ‘paralyzing habit’ survive?

This was one of the favorite slogans shouted by the anti-communist protesters in Romania’s ‘Piata Universitatii‘.
And the anthem used by those who opposed the regime which had ‘confiscated’ the political power after 1990.

The only problem with this notion being that it doesn’t make much sense. Not on the ‘face of it’. Not in any rational way…

You see, most individuals would choose life against any other ‘alternatives’.
When ‘the going gets tough’ most of us would accept almost any compromise in order to stay alive.

I’m not offering any examples. Use your own ‘imagination’.

Let me explain what ‘being a communist’ meant in Romania during Ceausescu’s rule.

First of all, in 1989 the ‘party’ was 4 million strong. 18% of the population were ‘proud’ carriers of the red membership card!
Were all of them ‘die hard’ communists?
Not at all!
Most of them had accepted to become members simply because they had no other alternative. Without the party’s ‘approval stamp’ one could not ‘accrue’ any significance. Nada! Nothing!
Could not get any promotion. Get an education higher than the equivalent of a college degree. Go visit a foreign country – not even a communist one!
Nor could you move out from your parents home!
Not easily, anyway. To be granted your own apartment, you had to submit an application to the relevant authority. Which application had to ‘checked’ by the relevant party official if you were to have any chance of success. Which ‘relevant party official’ was way more likely to approve your application if you were already a ‘member’.
And so on.

Then why would anyone refuse to become a member?!?

Thirty years later, I finally figured out the real meaning of the whole concept.
For you to get the whole picture, I must introduce you to a few more verses.

“Bum better than traitor
Hooligan better than dictator
‘Good for nothing’ better than activist
And dead better than a communist!”

By now, I’m sure most of you already had your Eureka moment.

‘Better to be dead than an ‘active’ communist’!

You don’t know what ‘activist’ exactly meant in communist Romania?

For starters, a ‘regular’ communist was just a ‘member’. You did have some ‘potential perks’ but you had to ask for them. And you were never sure your wishes were going to come true.
The activists, on the other hand, were paid for their efforts. Their ‘well compensated’ job was to put in practice whatever the party had decided. What the brass had decided, actually…
To convince the regular members – and, through them, the rest of the population, that whatever the brass had decided was ‘in the people’s best interest’!
And to inform the higher-ups about the real situation ‘in the field’.

In a nutshell, it was the party activist’s job to keep the party together!

‘OK, to keep the party together… that makes sense… but … whose interests were promoted by the almighty party?
And why had the whole thing collapsed like a house of cards?’

Let me answer your second question first.
The whole thing had collapsed like a house of cards because there was no other alternative.

Because there was no alternative to ‘the’ party!

Because those at the top had drifted away from reality.
Because those at the top had been driven away from reality by those below them. Who had been acting in a rational manner!
Who in their right mind would contradict a powerful figure?!? Specially when there’s no alternative? When you, the ‘middle man’ see no way out? What alternative do you have but to become an yes-man? Who utters only what the higher-ups want to hear and keeps mum about everything else?

See what I mean?
Do you finally understand Frank Herbert’s message?
Do you still wonder why all authoritarian regimes eventually succumbs, being eaten from inside out by corruption?

‘Now you’ve lost me!
Are you implying that by actively promoting ideas, and acting as a back-bone for a political party, one becomes an ‘accomplice’? An enabler?!?’

Well, let me answer your first question now!
‘Whose interests were promoted by the almighty party?’

On the face of it, the main ‘beneficiary’ was ‘the people’.
Practically… the people had become ‘hungry’.
‘Hungry’ enough to applaud when the dictator had been assassinated on Christmas Night in 1989

You see, every established system tends to put its own survival before anything else.
Every individual member of the system wants to conserve its position. Which is a reasonable thing.
The problem with ‘single’ parties being what I’ve mentioned above. The party slowly drifts away from reality for the simple reason that there’s no competition to keep them ‘moored’.
‘No real alternative in sight’ allows any ‘single system’ to construe their own ‘alternative’ reality. Made of “alternative facts”.

So!
You may promote whatever ideas you want. How ever actively you want to do it.
Be the back-bone of any political party – or any other organization, you see fit.

But don’t be surprised that if you promote the ‘flat Earth alternative‘ you’ll eventually fall over.

Fall over the face of the Earth, that is!

A good place to start understanding what Covid had done to us is the cemetery.

A man had died. A good man had died.
Of old age. Covid had nothing to do with it.

But his beloved wife, and one of his daughters, could not attend his funeral service. They had tested positive while he was in hospital.

On the other hand…
On my way home, I stopped by to see an old friend. He lives alone and has a rather frail health. No relatives and, due to his relativelly old age, only a couple of able-bodied friends.
It’s a good thing that we have phones. If I’ll ever be quarantined simultaneously with his other friend, he’ll depend exclusivelly on delivery services….

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