Archives for category: altruism

War has been the subject of many books. From war novels to ‘how to’ treaties.
When the subject is mentioned, two stand up high. Sun Zu’s “The Art of War” and Clausewitz’s “On War“.

I’m not going to discuss the relative merits of the two treaties. Only to point out a few parallels.
The authors had been involved in wars. Wars between states inhabited by more or less the same people. Sharing more or less the same culture. Wars which had ended when the warring parties had coalesced into the what we call nations. China and Germany, respectively.

Yet we currently refer to those two treaties when we consider war between totally different nations/cultures.

Furthermore, we consider those two as being the pinnacles of strategic thinking. In a sense, that would be right. After all, both had been written by the winners of those respective wars.

But what happened next?

What major war had China won after becoming an united nation? WWII? When her enemy had been first beaten to a pulp, literally, by the US?
What major war had Germany won after becoming an united nation? The one against France in 1870? OK. And afterwards?

And what is the real meaning of ‘Si vis pacem, parabellum’?

‘If you want peace, prepare to wage war’ or ‘if you want peace, make your self resilient to war‘?

What if our self awareness, otherwise known as conscience, has evolved in order to understand, accept and mitigate randomness?

There’s no evolution – hence no life, without randomness.
Yet life, anyway you look at it, is about maintaining a certain degree of order.

Whenever there’s so much randomness that life can no longer adapt to it… evolution stops.
Whenever structures become so big/rigid that they find it harder and harder to evolve, they eventually succumb to an otherwise survivable amount of randomness. Dinosaurs and too big to fail corporations versus mice and flexible operators.

In a nutshell, self-awareness is about not being ‘fooled by randomness‘.

And to avoid the deepest pitfall we’ll encounter during this never ending journey – randomness will always be wider than our individual ability to encompass it, we must keep remembering that conscience is selfish. Untrained, it is more about protecting itself than about helping the entire ‘individual’ to survive.

‘What?!?’

Yes, it’s hard to believe!
But what other explanation is there for so many of us continuing to smoke after finding out, the hard way, that this habit might actually kill us?
I use this example simply because I still remember the cigarette I smoked when I last visited the grave where rests a woman I loved dearly. And who is no longer with us because of lung cancer.

Too often our conscience will prefer to rationalize away new information than accept that past choices could have been better.

I’m certain all of you are already too familiar with ‘confirmation bias‘.

Until thirty one years ago, the Eastern half of Europe was self isolated behind the Iron Curtain. Which had suddenly disappeared in a matter of months.

Nowadays, when SARS-CoV-2 has forced each of us to shelter in place and our nations to self isolate behind the borders, we have not only the opportunity but also the obligation to re-evaluate our take on many of the things we took for granted.

The most important one being our Weltanshauung. The way we see the world.
The fact that we have convinced ourselves – simply because our lives have been good enough, that we’ve been doing things the right way.

Marx’s communists had been convinced that dialectic materialism – supposedly backed up by science and a generous political doctrine, was the way in which humankind was going to built its future.
Not the best way, the only way!
For which reason, no transgression from the official line was allowed.
Solutions were to be found only where the official doctrine mandated that answers might have existed.

Communism had fallen. Mostly from within.
Which has prompted those on the other side of the fence to consider that their vision had been better. Which was obviously true.
Slowly, people on both sides of the previous fence have started to convince themselves that their vision was the only correct one. The only alternative had proven itself to be a failure, didn’t it?
Which seems also true. I know of no better alternative. For us. I know of no alternative which would be more helpful for us. Only the fact that I’m not aware of an alternative doesn’t mean much. The alternative might as well exist. Or not….

And here’s the problem.
Marxism had failed for no other reason than those who followed it behaved as if they were convinced that Marxism was perfect. They were implementing the Marxist doctrine by the letter. Not that its spirit was any good… long discussion. My point being that arrogance was built in the Marxist spirit. Marx had actually given carte blanche to his adepts to impose communism, by force, to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, the last 30 years had convinced me that many individuals belonging to the dominant culture, to any dominant culture, have a hard time keeping their cool.
Too many of them reach the conclusion that ‘theirs’ is the best way. That all the rest are wrong.
Which conviction has a malignant consequence. It makes them deaf. They no longer consider any other option but theirs.
They no longer hear anything but their inner voice.

For all it may be worth, here’s what I learned about liberty during the last 30 years.

Liberty as breadth.
Liberty is the breadth of the opportunity field where we might search solutions for our problems. But no matter how large that breadth might become, we’re never ‘out of the woods’.
Liberty is but an opportunity, never a guarantee.
We are the ones still responsible for the solutions we pick. For the simple reason that we’re going to bear the brunt of the consequences.

It is easier to search for solutions in a freer environment. Hence better solutions might become available sooner. But it’s still our job to look for them. To experiment. To widen our scope.

Liberty as a form of social interaction.
We can relate to freedom in at least two manners.
As an individual goal – ‘I want to be free’/’I want freedom for my people’, or as a ‘manner of doing business’.
We are free, together, because we respect, and trust, each-other. We are free, together, because generations and generations of us have build a social arrangement based on mutual respect. A social arrangement which includes certain mechanisms which attempt to bring things back on track whenever disturbances appear.
Some of which mechanisms have been put into formal law, while others have remained in the ‘public domain’.

When we put these two visions together, the ‘binocular’ image starts to develop ‘depths’.

A social group may enjoy freedom – a wider opportunity field, only as long as its individual members – all of them, enjoy their individual freedoms. For only as long as all individual members are free to roam the entire opportunity field discovered/maintained by the community.
And as soon as some individual members start to corner portions of the opportunity field for themselves… the whole social mechanism will grind to a halt.

Sooner rather than later.
The more intense the desire of the individual members to increase their ‘own’ individual liberty, the narrower the aggregated opportunity field becomes.
Each of the individuals guarding their plot means each of them staring at their feet. Individuals become more interested in guarding their fences rather than in raising their eyes to the horizon.

People obsessively defending their past will never be ready for the future.
Meanwhile individuals charging ahead with no consideration for the rest of the team will soon find themselves stranded on thin ice. With no one around to help.

„La trei decenii de la alegerile din 20 mai 1990, ele rămân un eveniment care-şi are locul în cartea de istorie a României moderne, fiind primele cu adevărat libere, după o serie de regimuri mai mult sau mai puţin autoritare, care au implicat şi limitarea dreptului de vot pentru multe categorii sociale. Demonizarea acelor alegeri poate fi, până la un punct, explicată, în contextul unei lupte politice, specifică acelor vremuri. Nu a fost Duminica Orbului, cum place unora să spună. Alegerea, atunci, nu s-a făcut în necunoştinţă de cauză, dimpotrivă. Privind retrospectiv, niciodată ca atunci agenda politicienilor nu s-a identificat atât de puternic cu agenda publică. Am ales, atunci, un Parlament, care era şi Adunare Constituantă”, scrie Ion Iliescu.

Câtă dreptate poate avea omul ăsta…
Alegerile alea au fost cu adevarat libere!
‘Niciodată ca atunci agenda politicienilor nu s-a identificat atât de puternic cu agenda publică’…
Foarte corect!
Numai că, având în vedere starea în care ne aflăm acum, la 30 de ani ‘dupe’, rezultă că nici politicienii și nici ‘agenda publică’ nu au prea avut cine știe ce viziune. Pe termen mediu/lung….

This being the most convincing argument that we really need to quit ‘smoking’.

Just think of it.
Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale…

I know you can do this, breathe, without thinking.
You’ve actually done it since your birth. And you’ll continue doing it after you’ll have reached the end of this post.
But right now you should be fully aware that your lungs have only one opening.

What has to come out – what doesn’t belong in there, needs to exit from where it came in in the first place. Which is rather hard for anything which isn’t air.
That’s why dust, tar, or even microbes, should not go in there at all.

Quit smoking. And quit belching smoke into the atmosphere.

Let’s get to the second part of the post. Presumably, the more interesting one.
Click on the image and read the whole thing.
Now tell me why would somebody attempt to ‘debunk’ such a lie in the first place? Is smoking something worth arguing for?

The anti-smoking industry is happy to carry on misleading people on this subject because that is how they make their money. I would guess that the reason many people who know better do nothing to correct this misconception is simply that they think that if people stop smoking as a result of a little white lie then so be it!
Yes it is myth that smokers have black lungs! They would probably all be very dead long before they could become an organ donor.

Oops… so the whole thing revolves, again, around money…
And, if I understand correctly the point proposed by the author quoted above, a certain Fredrik Eich, there isn’t much of a difference between being duped into giving up and starting/continuing to smoke.

No, I don’t like being duped myself.
That’s why I’m telling it straight.
Lungs have only one opening. Don’t let yourselves be duped into believing that smoking isn’t that bad for you. That some smog is inevitable for a thriving economy.
After all, this is how ‘they’ make ‘their’ money.

Now, after proof-reading this, I wonder.
What do the dupers breathe?
Do they have their, private, atmosphere?
Have they duped themselves into believing everything is as pink as a pair of healthy lungs?

As a species, I mean…

We’ve ‘invented’ mutual respect.
Based on it, we created the two institutions which allowed us to get where we are now. Democracy and free market capitalism.

I’ll make a short detour for those who are not ‘convinced’.

Democracy, the functional kind, starts from the premise that it is impossible for an individual to know everything. And that together we know much more than each of us. This being the reason for any democratic process starting with an intense discussion. Whoever has something to say, takes the stand and whoever is interested in the well being of the community pays attention. To learn where to cast their votes.

Free market capitalism starts, too, from the premise that it is impossible for an individual to know everything. That nobody, be it an individual or a group of people, might be smart enough to call all the economic shots needed for entire society to ‘feed itself’ on the long run.

These two fundamental institutions operate on the basis of mutual respect between those who live within them. The people exchange ideas and goods on the principle that the transactions are done voluntarily and in good faith. That deception is just an exception.

These two institutions made it possible for us to cooperate into building the present reality. We have developed enough technology that we are able to produce enough food for everybody.
We went to the moon
We have enough weapons to destroy the entire planet.
Each of us can communicate, almost instantly, with almost anyone on the planet.

And? What do we do in these conditions?
Although there still are many of us who are starving, we throw away food. For various reasons.
Most satellites are used (and) for military purposes.
Although we could not have ‘arrived’ if we hadn’t ‘invented’ mutual respect, we currently use information technology mainly to spread fake news and ‘consume’ pornography.

Is this really okay?
How much longer is this going to last?

Ca specie.

Am descoperit respectul reciproc.
Pe baza lui am creat cele două instituții care ne-au permis să ajungem unde suntem acum. Democrația și capitalismul de piață liberă.

Am să fac o scurtă pauză, pentru cei ce nu sunt convinși.

Democrația, cea funcțională, pleacă de la premiza că nimeni nu le știe pe toate. Dar că împreună știm mai mult mai multe decât fiecare dintre noi.
De aceea orice proces democratic începe cu o mare discuție. Cei care consideră că au ceva de spus iau cuvântul iar cei interesați cu adevărat de soarta societății în care trăiesc ascultă cu atenție. Ca să știe cu cine votează.

Capitalismul de piață cu adevărat liberă pleacă, și el, tot de la premisa că nimeni nu le știe pe toate. Că nimeni, individ sau grup de indivizi, nu e suficient de capabil să ia toate deciziile de natură economică necesare pentru ca o întreagă societate să aibă ce mânca pe termen lung.

Aceste două instituții fundamentale funcționeză pe baza respectului reciproc dintre cei care trăiesc în interiorul lor. Aceștia schimba între ei idei și bunuri după principiul că tranzacțiile se fac de bună voie și cu bună credință.
Că înșelătoria este doar o excepție.

Cooperând în cadrul acestor două institții am ajuns unde suntem acum.

Am dezvoltat suficientă tehnologie încât avem, aproape cu toții, ce să mâncăm.
Am ajuns pe lună.
Avem suficient armament încât putem distruge toată planeta.
Fiecare dintre noi poate comunica, aproape instantaneu, cu aproape oricine de pe planeta.

Și?
Ce facem în condițiile astea?

Cu toate că mai sunt semeni de-ai noștri care mor de foame, aruncăm mâncare la gunoi. Din diverse motive.
Cei mai mulți sateliți sunt folosiți (și) în scop militar.
Cu toate că am ajuns aici pe baza respectului reciproc folosim tehnologia informației preponderent pentru a răspândi fake-news și a ‘consuma’ pornografie.

O fi bine?
O mai ducem mult asa?

Messages which are knowingly incomplete, false or both at the same time.

Why?

Because they have no alternative, want to achieve something or need to survive.

As soon as a person achieves a certain level of self-awareness – read consciousness, they realize that no ‘communication event’ will ever be complete. That nobody will ever be able to communicate everything they know, about the most insignificant subject, to anybody else.

Then what? Stop talking?
Or assume personal responsibility for everything that leaves your lips?

As soon as a person achieves a certain level of self-awareness, they realize there’s more in life than mere survival.
As soon as their consciences bloom – in concert with the accrued influence exercised by the ‘environment’, individuals set goals for themselves. Which goals become integral part of the ‘ongoing project’. Of the self-actualizing conscience. Achieving, or failing, each of those goals leaves an indelible mark on the conscience itself. On the manner in which each individual relates to their environment.
Since achieving is far more ‘satisfying’ than failing, conscience is naturally biased towards ‘achieving’. If the ‘environment’ ‘allows’ it, the bias becomes more and more ‘slanted’.
The messages used by the individuals – by their conscience, to be more precise, will increasingly serve the purpose of achieving goals rather than the purpose of ‘honest communication’.

As soon as a person achieves a certain level of self-awareness, that conscience wants to survive.
Mind you, not the person but the conscience.

‘?!?
Conscience cannot exist without the mind/body which supports it….’

OK, tell that to people who believe their souls are going places after their mortal bodies expire. Then try to demonstrate to yourself, honestly, that those people are wrong. That there’s no chance for their belief to be ‘true’.

But metaphysics are hard.
Let me give you a far lighter example.
Smoking. Or drinking. Driving fast. Eating that extra piece of chocolate…
Don’t tell me you never did anything ‘foolish’. That you never lied to yourself: ‘This cannot happen to me. Chances are so small that … Only this time….’

‘But otherwise nobody would ever be able to ‘leave their houses’. We’d be all completely paralyzed with fear…’

Yeap! That’s exactly what I mean. Conscience needs to lie to herself in order to remain functional. Otherwise she would not allow the physical body who sustains her to assume any risk.
They would both suffocate.

Regulations don’t really work unless they reflect the mindset of the majority…

And here’s how it works.

The rule about driving on the ‘right’ side of the road is observed without much need for enforcement.
Because the consequences are clear. And consistent, unless you drive a tank.

People had the same problem with condoms.
Until HIV came along…
Nowadays very few people engage in casual sex without one.

Give us time and … if SARS-CoV 2 will be around for long enough…

Most of us consider corpses as being inert.
And those individuals who are in deeper stages of coma.

Living organisms, on the other hand, are considered as being reactive.
They drink when thirsty, eat when hungry, run when in danger…

As for behaving in a pro-active manner… things are no longer so simple.
Ants, for example, are constantly praised for their behavior.

While crickets are disparaged for their recklessness …

But what about the dung beetle?
Also proactive?

They dig shelters and provide them with food for the next generation.
If this isn’t proactive behavior… I don’t know what else would qualify.

‘But … really?!? Can a beetle be ‘accused’ of behaving in a pro-active manner? An insect? Are you nuts?’

I’ll make a small break now. And point your attention to something I find very interesting.
“Life isn’t predictable and it’s a good idea to be prepared”.
Prepared for what?!? For God’s sake… remember? ‘Life isn’t predictable’!
Hello!!! The ant is hoarding food during the summer exactly because she doesn’t want to starve during the winter. She absolutely knows that winter is coming. She prepares herself because she knows what’s going to happen! Duh…

Coming back to the beetle, no, I ain’t nuts. I’m only trying to suggest that species act as if being proactive. Individual organisms do not necessarily behave in a proactive manner but species always do. Those who don’t… disappear soon enough.

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