Archives for category: altruism

During lock-down I had more time for my research regarding conscience.
Or, in Maturana’s terms, ‘self-awareness‘.

At first glance, evolutionary speaking, conscience – our ability to observe ourselves ‘in the act’, is about increasing the survivability of the individual having said ability. Hence increasing the survivability of the species to which said individual belongs.

Now, since humankind is divided in cultural ‘subspecies’ – and, according to Maturana, conscience is an ability which has been developed in social context, cultures have different chances of survival. Depending on subtle differences imposed upon the individual consciences during the ‘coming of age’.
Only there’s something which contradicts Darwin’s evolutionary theory. According to the classical version, individuals cannot adapt themselves. Individuals can only survive – and transmit their genes, or – if said genes are not good enough for the circumstances, expire and make way for other individuals/species. According to Darwin, only species can evolve.

The notable difference being what we call ‘free will’.
Not as free as some believe it to be, not as bounded as other think it to be, free will does exist. And allows us to evolve on an individual basis. During the life span of the current generation.

Only there’s a small problem here.
Cognitive dissonance.
No matter how conscient – aka aware of our own misgivings, each of us might be, our first tendency when confronted with arguments contradicting our previously held convictions is to rationalize away those arguments.
Change convictions according to the newly acquired knowledge? Maybe later…
Don’t believe me? How much time elapsed between learning that smoking is bad for you and actually quitting? See what I mean?

Hence my ‘impression’ that ‘conscience’ is more concerned about maintaining its own consistency than with the fate of the biological organism which actually supports it.

Want some more arguments?

Northern Italy. France. Spain. Bad Corona-virus outbreaks, followed by intense lock-downs. Currently the situations are, basically, under control. Suggesting that people do learn, fast, when confronted by really dire circumstances.
Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore… reacted immediately, had relatively few problems. Suggesting that people are able to learn from past experiences. The ‘original’ SARS, you know…
Germany had a less ‘dramatic’ trajectory. Suggesting people may, under certain circumstances, learn from others.
US and Brazil. The rest of the US, actually. The NE having experienced the North Italian scenario. Too many people concerned more with remaining consistent with their previous selves than with adapting to the new challenge. ‘Government tries to subdue us’ and ‘masks are an infringement to personal liberty’.

What about China and Russia?
I’ll let you be the judge of that. Only you need to remember that ‘free will’ is of a totally different nature there than it is here. In the rest of the world.

Same in India. With a twist. While in China/Russia free will is stifled from above, in India – and in too many other developing nations, free will is ‘conscripted’ by poverty. It is very hard to think about the day after tomorrow if you don’t know whether you’ll be able to eat tomorrow.
Even less so if you are hungry right now.

‘Dacă ar fi să cereți un lucru, un singur lucru, de la guvernanți, care ar fi acela?’
‘Mai multe controale din partea autorităților. Ne-am relaxat prea devreme și se vede. Oamenii nu mai țin seama de măsurile de protecție.’
Andreea Moldovan, director medical la Spitalul de Boli Infecțioase Brașov, preluare dintr-o intervenție la RFI.

Sâmbătă am fost la cumpărături. O prostie, știu. Prea mare aglomerația!

La 9 eram pe aleea dintre cele două hale de la Obor. Destul de răcoare. Plin de oameni. Unii cu mască alții fără… Un bate-gard de la BGS, cu destul de mult entuziasm, și cu masca pusă doar pe gură, încerca să-i convingă pe cumpărători să nu stea ciopor în dreptul tarabelor.
Pe mijlocul drumului, cam la 15 metri una în spatele celeilalte, două patrule mixte. Una de la jandarmi, alta de la poliție.

‘Păi cum erau mixte dacă erau una de la jandarmi și cealaltă de la poliție?!?’
La jandarmi el era cu un cap mai înalt decât ea, în timp ce la poliție atât el cât și ea erau de aceeași înălțime. Amândouă – adică ‘ele’, nu ‘patrulele’, frumoase de întorcea lumea capetele. Amândouă conștiente de chestia asta.
Nici unul din cei patru nu avea mască. Unul dintre ei, polițistul, părea destul de îndrăgostit.

Am văzut două cozi. Mari!
Una la bere și cealaltă la cireșe.

‘Ce coadă la cireșe?!? În piață? Unde sunt cel puțin 20 de tarabe cu cireșe?’
Păi da. E un precupeț de fructe care n-are cea mai frumoasă marfă, n-are nici cele mai mici prețuri, dar la capitolul ‘raportul calitate-preț’ îi bate pe toți ceilalți la cur. Așa că la el e coadă aproape tot timpul.
Coadă din aia strânsă. Își respirau unul altuia în ceafă. Își gâfâiau unul altuia în ceafă, atât era de cald…. Degeaba încerca ‘entuziastul’ de la BGS să-i mai răsfire.
Vis-a-vis, era coada la bere. Distanțați regulamentar, baieții. Drojdieri, cei mai mulți dintre ei. Căutau să se dreagă… Dar aveau grijă să nu se înghesuie!

Terasa aia are și un difuzor. Din care un spicher ne explica hotărârea Curții Constituționale conform căreia legislația actuală cu privire la carantină are nu știu ce vicii de natură tehnică. Așa că nu poate fi aplicată. Adică nimeni, bolnav cu patalama sau suspect de COVID, nu mai poate fi obligat să stea izolat. Doar, cel mult, cercetat penal pentru zădărnicirea combaterii bolilor infecțioase…

Apoi am ajuns la Kaufland. Singurul loc unde găsești fennel ca lumea…. poveste lungă. Aveam nevoie și de niște alcool. Pentru vișinată.
O sticlă de doi litri de V60 de la Prodvinalco avea prețul de 164 de lei. Adică vreo 130 lei litrul de alcool de 96%… Altă sticlă, de acvavit nemțesc, 38%, 750 ml, era oferită la 40 de lei… adică 140 lei litrul de alcool curat. Cu tot cu arome și cărată tocmai din Germania… Prodvinalco aduce de la Cluj…
Așa că m-am dus până la Auchan. Unde un litru de 96% e doar 65 de lei. Distilat la Urziceni și fără nici un pic de apă adăugată…

‘Și ce legătură are prețul alcoolului cu distanțarea socială pe care ar trebui s-o respectăm ca să scăpăm odată de COVID-ul ăsta?’
Păi nu țineți minte că ăia care stăteau la coadă la bere erau distanțați regulamentar în timp ce ăia de la cireșe se înghesuiau în disperare?
Asta în condițiile în care o bere e vreo 3 trei halba lei iar cireșele vreo 10 lei kilu… Da, numai că halba e pentru el… iar cireșele, și COVID-ul, sunt pentru copii…

How does it work and what are the consequences.

To cut a long story short, some 25 years ago I started trading on the Bucharest Stock Exchange. The market had been freshly reinstated after the fall of the communist regime and most of us so called investors were quite naive. Due an incredible amount of luck and a small but very useful spark of intelligence I made a fair amount of money. For that time…
In an attempt to maximize my profits, I went back to school.
Where I learned the difference between fundamental and technical analysis.

I’m not going into details. It’s enough for you to know that no matter how different they are, both fulfill the same psychological function.
They ‘clean up’ the slate. They help the decision makers distance themselves from the objects they have to decide upon.

What?!?

A stock – or any other tradable item, is no different from a bicycle.
We, human beings, become attached to things we already have in our possession. We find it harder to divest ourselves from something than to buy into something new. We tend to procrastinate when having to choose between multiple opportunities to buy and to ‘defend’ an already made decision. An already acquired possession.
Fundamental and technical analyses do nothing but bridge these two ‘chasms’. Help us across.

OK. But has any of this to do with propaganda?

Well, market analysis is a tool used by the decision maker himself.
Propaganda is a tool used by somebody who intends to influence the decision maker. Using the same psychological mechanisms.

While market analysis attempts to clear the ‘sentimental fog’ which distorts the factual information available to the decision maker, propaganda works its way in the opposite direction.
Facts are presented in such a way as to ‘smuggle’ them, below the radar, into the minds of the intended targets.
While market analysis is meant to help decision makers overcome their biases, propaganda is meant to fine tune those biases towards ‘encouraging’ the decision makers into adopting the decision coveted by the propagandist.

Somebody sent me this picture.
See how things work?
Most people consider themselves as being free from racism.
Also, most people consider that other people – namely the politicians and the journalists, have ‘vested’ interests. And that these ‘other’ people use ‘divide and conquer’ to maintain their grip on power.

The key word here being ‘other’. It’s the others who engage in such heinous acts. Never ‘our’ people.

But do you know what bothers me most?
I’ve been subjected to communist propaganda for the first 30 years of my life.
I’ve never dreamed it would take me another 30 years – and a stint of daily trading on the Stock Market, to figure out how propaganda works. Only to find it being used by people who declare communism to be the scourge of the Earth.

Well, since communism actually is a scourge, how about we NOT using the same tool as those who try to infect our minds with it?
For no other reason than propaganda yielding communism having been a complete failure….

Weapons are nothing but repurposed tools. Sometimes ‘enhanced’ to fit the new goal.

Clubs had started as fruit harvesting utensils, then used for hunting purposes and eventually for bashing in the heads of those who had slept with the missus when the wielders weren’t looking. And so on…

As a tool, an implement is used to ‘put things together’. As a weapon, the same (kind of) implement is used to ‘set things apart’. An axe can be used to split wood in order to build a fire or to ‘split’ furniture during a fit of rage.
Generally speaking, a tool is used towards the ultimate goal of adding to/fine tuning a structure while a weapon is used to destroy/disable something which is meant to remain so.

Our ability to communicate was ‘the’ tool which actually transformed us into what we are today. Humans.
At least according to Humberto Maturana. His theory maintains that we’ve become self-aware social individuals through what he calls languaging.
In a nut-shell, he says that we’ve become humans – self conscious apes, by continuously expressing our thoughts towards the other members of the community. Hence simultaneously building an ‘agora’ and ‘walling in’ individual private spaces.

Yet the same ability to communicate can be used also as a weapon.
Instead of being used by individuals to mutually groom themselves, and ultimately adding to the overall resilience of the community, ‘weaponized’ communication is used to ‘downgrade’ susceptible individuals. Hence lowering their ability to coalesce into functional communities.

History suggests that, in the longer run, democracy – as a manner of decision making, increases the survivability of the communities which use it. Simply by pooling the decision making resources of the entire community instead of relying on the mental prowess – and good will, of a single authoritarian leader.
Only for democracy to be fully functional, the individual members of the community have to be able to share, in earnest, their thoughts.
This is why Freedom of Speech has been enshrined in the First Amendment.
That’s why whenever the public discourse becomes increasingly dominated by ‘fake-news’ things start to go south.

That is why whenever people allow themselves to be split into warring parties – with no real communication between the sides except for the misinformation hurled across the divide, both sides eventually end up wondering at the destruction they had allowed the ‘communication warriors’ to inflict upon them.

For some of you, this is nothing new.
For most of you, this is not at all complicated. The image being different from the real thing is rather obvious. Specially when we’re not already invested in the subject…

What on Earth is he trying to say?
Abolish his own kind? There’s nobody whiter than he is…
Or abolish ‘Whiteness’ as a race? Along with all other ‘races’?

Do you see what I mean?
Had he paid more attention in class, he would have known that such an image cuts both ways.

Magrite’s painting worked because his message was ideologically neutral. Nobody – well, almost nobody, has feelings about ‘pipes’. Hence people find it easy to keep their cool about the whole thing. To probe deeper than ‘face value’.

‘Whiteness’, on the other hand, is ‘choke’ full of sentiment. I’m certain you know what I mean. It’s a lot harder to keep a level head when the subject is mentioned.

Back to the drawing board!
The idea is generous but it doesn’t get across.
Simply because the ‘window dressing’ isn’t appropriate.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2020/june/abolish-whiteness

So, in the name of liberty and in order to protect the lives of the innocents, the government should not mandate wearing a mask in public – for the duration of the current pandemic, but should close the public funded ‘planned parenthood’ clinics forever…

Individuals – both men and women, are to be trusted to take, on their own, the appropriate measures to protect themselves – and the others, but women are not to be trusted to decide, on their own, about what happens inside their own bodies.

Meanwhile, “The US and Brazil each recorded more than 100,000 cases over the seven days from June 15 to June 21, the WHO said, the only two countries with such high infection numbers.
Do I need to refresh your memory about the fact that neither of their presidents, Trump and Bolsonaro, have never been seen wearing a mask in public?

Cică „Dacă nu noi, atunci cine? Și dacă nu acum, atunci când?”

Am auzit prima oară sloganul ăsta în timpul unui miting de protest.

La ceva vreme după aia, s-a petrecut schimbarea. Au ajuns alți „noi” la putere. Numai că aproape totul a rămas aproape la fel. La fel de prost…
După care s-au mai perintat câteva generații de „noi”.

Sau, având în vedere că lucrurile s-au îmbunătățit foarte puțin pentru noi și foarte mult doar pentru ei, ar fi poate mai potrivit să spun că s-au perindat câteva generații de „ei”?!?

Și cu noi cum rămâne?

Rămâne cum am stabilit.
Dacă nu noi, atunci cine? Și dacă nu acum, atunci când?

Dacă le tot cerem „lor” să se schimbe – între ei, pe ei îșiși, treaba lor, numai să facă treabă, când avem de gând să ne schimbăm și noi?

Când vom învăța să:

Să ne spălăm pe mâini, să purtăm mască, să nu mai punem botu’ la toate prostiile…?
Să nu mai aducem acasă hârtie de scris și agrafe de la birou? Să nu mai întoarcem capul atunci când unii dintre colegii noștrii fac chestia asta?

Să nu ne mai ajutăm șefii să fure în speranța că noi vom fi cei păstrați atunci când va veni restructurarea cea mare? Cea cu care suntem amenințați continuu, indiferent de locul unde muncim pentru a construi ‘societatea capitalistă multilateral dezvoltată’…
Să nu mai întoarcem capul atunci când alții își ajută șefii să fure în speranța că…

Și asta pentru simplul motiv că dacă mai stăm mult cu capu-n partea-ailaltă s-ar putea să nu mai fie nimic de văzut atunci când vom reveni la poziția firească.

Albert Einstein, a physicist, had noticed that observations are relative to the “frame of reference” where the observer happens to make his observations.

Humberto Maturana, a biologist, has reached the conclusion that consciousness – or ‘self awareness’, as he prefers to call it, is a personal trait which is developed by individuals living in concert.

Blending Einstein’s and Maturana’s ideas, it is easy to ‘see’ that observations made by human individuals depend, simultaneously, on two referential systems. Or frames of reference, in Einstein’s terms.

On the actual, ‘geographic’, ‘place’ where the individual makes their observations.
And on the ‘cultural place’ where the conscience – inner referential system, of the observing individual had been ‘shaped’.

Otherwise put, nobody can see things which are not there. Nor ‘see’ – a.k.a. understand, things which are too ‘distant’ from what that person already ‘knows’. Accepts as being ‘normal’. Feels like being ‘right’.

To make things just a tad ‘clearer’ – ‘nature versus nurture’, we must consider the vagaries of individual ‘biology’. Some people see/hear/smell/feel differently than others. And even ‘think’ differently.

And my point is?

Maturana made it before me. The ‘other’ – the more different, the better, is a source of richness. IF we treat each-other the right way. If we help each-other by ‘concerting’ our observations about what we have in common.
The ‘place’ we observe. Einstein’s referential frame. Where we ‘happen to stand’. Together.

And there’s something else I’d like you to read.

“J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues”
https://www.jkrowling.com/opinions/j-k-rowling-writes-about-her-reasons-for-speaking-out-on-sex-and-gender-issues

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Science teaches us many things.

In fact no, science teaches us nothing!
Science cannot teach, at all. Simply because science is not a teacher.

At individual level, science is an attitude. A mind open enough to accept its own fallibility. To accept the fact that, sooner rather than later, it will fail.
To accept the fact that the image it constantly generates during its interaction with the surrounding world is, at best, incomplete.
To accept the fact that the understanding it has reached during its existence is, and will remain forever, a work in progress.

At the social level, science is a way of conducting business.
Based on ‘trust but verify’. A scientifically minded community trusts its individual members to be honest in their efforts but verify their work because – as mentioned above, each of us will, sooner rather than later, fail.
Hence, by aggregating their efforts, a scientifically minded community will eventually paint a still imperfect image but one closer to the reality than any of those belonging to its individual members.

In order for the community to be able to continuously improve their ‘work in progress’ each, or at least, enough of its members need to preserve their scientific mental attitude. Their intellectual humility.
As soon as too many of the individuals reach the conclusion that their image of the world is the only correct one – and they start not only to bow towards it but also to convince others to join them, things start going south.

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Who among us is perfect? Perfect enough to be sure?

And why had been chosen an adulterous woman as the main character for this lesson?
Because adultery is a sin which cannot be committed in solitude? Only in cooperation with ‘the other’? As a relationship? Where each member contributes to the shared doom?

Do you see how similar science and sin are?

Both start ‘individually’ and are put in practice ‘together’.
Both are initiated as individual pulsions and put in practice as choices.

I’ve started this post by mentioning science.
The scientists among us have reached the conclusion that there was no need for a God to start the process of which we are the alleged pinnacle. That evolution was enough to drive the whole thing. I tend to agree.
On the other hand, history – yet another branch of science, has produced enough evidence to prove that God had a tremendous contribution to the present state of civilization.

Not God himself but the image of God we have created for ourselves. The Image we’ve been bowing to for some time now.

Go figure….

I’ve always been fascinated by quotes which are ambiguous enough to be simultaneously wrong and right.

In this situation, the ambiguity comes from ‘government’ covering three ‘patches of ground’.

‘Method of running a place/country’. (Self)Organized versus chaotic.
‘System in place’ which is used in running a country.
A particular group of people who man, at any given moment, the above mentioned ‘system in place’.

Now, which of the three meanings was at the top of Reagan’s mind when he was uttering those ‘famous’ words?

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptable(sic). Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.

Frank Herbert

The way I see it, government ‘as a manner of running things’ is a very powerful method. Which had served us rather well, on aggregate. Only it is not fail-proof. Or, more exactly, fool-proof.
Government as a ‘system in place’ is a work in progress. We’ve been improving it since we’ve invented government as an alternative to chaos. Only we need to be very careful. As a man made system it will always be far from perfect. It has not been perfect in the past and, no matter how much effort we’ll put into it, it will always remain perfectible.
Finally, government as ‘the team temporarily in charge’ ‘suffers’ mainly from being composed of humans. Hence both corruptible and attracted to power. Hence liable to do everything to maintain their positions.

‘Liable to do everything to remain in power’.
Which means that it’s our job to keep them on the straight and narrow.
We, The People, are the first to experience the consequences of their decisions. Hence we, all of us, are those who need to keep Government – ‘the team in charge’, on a short leash.
If they want to remain in power, they need to keep us ‘alive’.
They need to keep the system in shape. Working good enough for the vast majority, not for just a few of us. For a few of them, to be more precise.

Otherwise ‘government as a manner of keeping chaos at bay’ would have failed.


%d bloggers like this: