Archives for category: collective identity


Does it make any sense?
Not really…

Then why are we sharing this kind of memes with so much gusto?

I can’t figure out, with any degree of certitude, what drives those who make them in the first place.
Some might find it funny, others might just be employed by those who make a living by selling advertising space…

But why do we, ‘innocent civilians’, share them?

Because they – those which we share, reinforce our stereotypes?
Sharing them makes us feel like ‘contributors’?
We cherish the likes we get?

Do we realize how divisive these memes are?
How they reinforce our tendency to divide people into ‘members of our group’ – the ‘right’ ones, and ‘the rest’?

How they reinforce our tendency to poke fun at ‘the rest’?
To consider them, if not outright ‘expendable’, at least ‘unworthy of consideration’?

Monotheists insist there’s only one.

I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me.”

– And why would this be of any interest?
– All current civilizations are off-springs of an Weltanschauung built on ‘monotheism’, aren’t they?
– Really?!? How about India? China? The Buddhist countries?
– Have you noticed the scare quotes? In my book, Hinduism, Confucianism and Buddhism are all forms of monotheism. Atheism also qualifies as such.
– ?!?
– I’ll make that point a little later.

Then, if monotheists insist there’s only one God, which one of them is the ‘real McCoy’?

“The real McCoy” was the inventor Elijah McCoy, born in Canada in 1844. He had many different inventions including an ironing board and a lawn sprinkler. Other companies copied his devices, but these never worked as well as Elijah’s so people would say, “I want a… , and make sure it’s a real McCoy.”

When humans had first became conscious, as in aware of their own frailty, they needed a way to assuage their new acquired scares:
‘What would happen if the Sun will not come up tomorrow morning? If spring will never come back? If Mother Deer will not allow me to hunt another of her children?’Mother
So they started to raise prayers towards the Sun God. And towards other various agents held responsible with diverse aspects of human existence. Nowadays known as ‘totemic figures’.
Please note that each totemic figure was simultaneously responsible for one aspect of the human existence and the ‘founding father’ of a certain group of people.

After the advent of agriculture had transformed everything – including human social arrangements, things dully changed.
Agriculture gave birth to private property. Individuals needed to know which was their land and who owned the harvest. Otherwise, why bother?
Private property needs to be protected. Which demands a certain social structure. A hierarchy of social roles.

Around the Mediterranean Sea – due to geographic conditions, the ‘top brass’ were never that far removed from the ‘bottom’ as to make them ‘impervious’ to the social reality. Hence the hierarchy of Gods. Belonging to successive generations. Very similar to the succession of the dynasties which ruled the ‘land under the sky’.
At the opposite end of the Euro-Asian continent, were the emperor was further removed from the vulgus, things took a different path. Since no communication was any longer possible – between the ordinary people and the rulers/gods, gods and rulers were melted into one. Confucianism mandated that people cherish their ‘elders’.
Meanwhile Buddhism made away altogether with gods. And rulers.
The most interesting situation had evolved in India. Due to the high density of population – coupled with the diversity of languages/subcultures, the local leaders continued to be in touch with the general population while the highers up were equally insulated as their Chinese equivalents. Hence the survival of the plethora of Indian gods coupled with the advent of karma. The concept of individual responsibility for ones own fate.

The individuals’ responsibility for their own fates…
This being the common place between all ‘monotheistic’ religions. The way I see it, anyway. All three ‘sisters’ relying on the Holy Book, Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism… Atheism…

So, then again, how many Gods are out there?

Or, more likely, how many images of the same God – a.k.a. ‘reality’, have we, humans, carved out? Out of the before mentioned reality?
How many faces of the single reality available have we been able to identify? According to the prevalent local circumstances?

And how much more time do we need? To understand that we live under the same umbrella? According to the same set of broad rules?
Which makes us all members of the same family?
Children of the same God?

Smart enough to brag about it when attempting to become the next President of the United States…. at least according to Donald Trump… and to those who had voted for him – numerous enough for him to achieve his goal.

Smart enough or smart, period?

Let me put it differently.
You have no car. Yet you need to go to work and to shop for groceries. Hence you use public transport. Do you pay for it?
What would happen if a sizeable portion of those who use it would find a way to stop paying while still using the service? Those who continue to pay would have to pay more to keep the service going? Or the community at large would have to subsidize it?

You don’t care for my example because you do have a car… Then you need roads to drive on… hence you have to pay local taxes. And federal ones for the interstate highways…
You’d like them all to be privatized? Then you’ll pay gladly?
And how much will that be?
At this point I must remind you of Ma Bell. The telephone company which had to be dismantled, by the government, to make room for the present ‘data revolution’. If prices to move information from one place to another would have remained in the same range as in Ma Bell’s time you wouldn’t have had access to internet today. Unless you were a millionaire…

Taxes, local and federal, are ‘access fees’. If you want to operate – as a corporation or as an individual, out of a civilized place – safe and all, then you incorporate your business/set up residence in a civilized country. And pay the taxes collected by the administrators – read governments, to run those places.

Taxes are too high and or ill spent?!?
That’s a completely different subject!

Most civilized places are run as democracies.
You don’t like the way your money is spent? Or how much of it is collected to run the place?
Then what’s keeping you from voicing your concern? From holding accountable those who misspend your taxes? From doing whatever you see fit? After you pay your taxes, of course…

You feel ‘crushed’ by the majority? Whom you despise, by the way?
Then you don’t live in an actually democracy.
That’s either a ‘mob rule’ – a.k.a. populist regime, or the population is so divided that no real conversation is taking place between the various social segments. And democracy without honest conversation is nothing more than make believe.
I had chosen very carefully the word ‘population’. When something like this occurs, ‘nation’ is no longer appropriate.

Still unwilling to pay your dues?
Still convinced it’s a good thing to turn your back to what’s going on in your front yard?

Still convinced that remaining ‘sane’ is more important than finding out what’s really going on?

Further reading:

“Why arrogance is dangerously contagious”.

My father uttering this, again, convinced me to share with you the interim conclusion of my informal study. “The consequences of our limited conscience”

Consciousness is a ‘phase of matter‘ which has an intrinsic characteristic.
One which closely resembles inertia.
The prevalent tendency of consciousness is to preserve itself, even if this means putting the individual hosting it in mortal danger.

Doesn’t make much sense?

How many of you still smoke? Or did smoke? Had an occasional ‘one drink too many?’ Carry around a couple of ‘extra pounds’? Used drugs?
All these knowing too well that ‘it’s bad for you’?

I challenge you to remember the arguments you used to quell your worries.
More precisely, the arguments used by your conscience to quell its worries…
‘I’ll give them up ‘sometimes’.’
‘One cannot hurt me.’ Much…
‘My grandad lived for almost a century and smoked to his last day.’

See what I mean?
Our consciousness is more concerned about keeping itself ‘together’ rather than preserving the well being of the host it inhabits. On which it depends. For its dear life…
It actually prefers to lie to itself rather than face the reality.
Until the shit hits the fan…

And sometimes no amount of ‘wake-up calls’ can do the trick. I know a few people with cirrhosis of the liver who continue to drink – ‘I’m already dead, why bother?’ and a few people who cough their lungs out in the morning and go on smoking.

Same thing in politics.
After an individual had made up his mind…. it is very hard for him to change his opinion. It would mean to accept that last time he had been wrong. That he had been duped.
So he keeps looking for the flimsiest reason to continue on the old path …

Or, if the guy/party he had chosen doesn’t have any chance… he prefers to stay at home, rather than to vote for a looser. Which would mean he had knowingly placed himself on the loosing side. Unacceptable.

I’m sure you’ve already figured out what I want to convey.

It is rational to consider that one cigarette won’t kill you. But it’s unreasonable to smoke. Period.
It is rational to consider that one glass won’t kill you. If you don’t drink and drive, of course…. But it’s unreasonable to drink yourself to death!
It’s rational to stay at home if ‘your team’ has no chance to accede to power.
But your staying home doesn’t spell the whole truth. By staying home you transmit the message that you don’t care. That you are satisfied with what’s going on around you. Or too ‘tired’ to care…

Which practically gives carte blanche to whomever gets elected!
‘If so many of them do not care about their own well being, why should I? Let me take care of my own people and to hell with the rest’.

See what I mean? Not everything our consciousness feels good about is actually good for us.
We really need to get our heads out of our asses if we want to look forward.

“Every morning, the CEO of a large bank in Manhattan walks to the corner where a shoe shine is always located.

He sits on the couch, examines the Wall Street Journal, and the shoe shine gives his shoes a shiny, excellent look.

One morning the shoeshine asks the Executive Director:

– What do you think about the situation in the stock market?

The Director asks in turn arrogantly:

– Why are you so interested in that – that topic?

“I have a million dollars in your bank,” the shoeshine says, “and I’m considering investing some of the money in the capital market.”

– What your name? –Asks the Director.

– John Smith H.

The Director arrives at the bank and asks the Manager of the Customer Department:

– Do we have a client named John Smith H.?

– Certainly –answers the Customer Service Manager–, he is a highly esteemed customer. He has a million dollars in his account.

The Director comes out, approaches the shoeshine, and says:

– Mr. Smith, I ask you this coming Monday to be the guest of honor at our board meeting and tell us the story of your life. I am sure we will have something to learn from you.

At the board meeting, the Executive Director introduces him to the board members:

– We all know Mr. Smith, who makes our shoes shine in the corner; But Mr. Smith is also our esteemed customer with a million dollars in his account. I invited him to tell us the story of his life. I am sure we can learn from him.

Mr. Smith began his story:

– I came to this country fifty years ago as a young immigrant from Europe with an unpronounceable name. I got off the ship without a penny. The first thing I did was change my name to Smith. I was hungry and exhausted. I started wandering around looking for a job but to no avail. Suddenly I found a coin on the sidewalk. I bought an apple. I had two options: eat the apple and quench my hunger or start a business. I sold the apple for two dollars and bought two apples with the money. I also sold them and continued in business. When I started accumulating dollars, I was able to buy a set of used brushes and shoe polish and started polishing shoes. I didn’t spend a penny on entertainment or clothing, I just bought bread and some cheese to survive. I saved penny by penny and after a while, I bought a new set of shoe brushes and ointments in different shades and expanded my clientele. I lived like a monk and saved penny by penny. After a while I was able to buy an armchair so that my clients could sit comfortably while cleaning their shoes, and that brought me more clients. I did not spend a penny on the joys of life. I kept saving every penny. A few years ago, when the previous shoe shine on the corner decided to retire, I had already saved enough money to buy his shoeshine location at this great place.

Finally, three months ago, my sister, who was a whore in Chicago, passed away and left me a million dollars.”

Somebody sent me this as a Whatsapp message.
I looked it up and shared it with you for a very simple reason.

We all know Mr. Smith, who makes our shoes shine in the corner; But Mr. Smith is also our esteemed customer with a million dollars in his account. I invited him to tell us the story of his life. I am sure we can learn from him.

Division of work was the first milestone we had passed in our quest to reach humanhood.

If not convinced, compare the effectiveness – in any situation, of a team composed of identically educated and similarly skilled people versus one comprising individuals with various skills and diverse exposure to the world – a.k.a. education.
In other words, compare a bunch of ‘robots’ to a gang of people who complement each-other.

Historically, societies – when and where enough resources had been present, have become increasingly complex. While those composing them have become more and more specialized. And more and more dependent on the rest of the society. On the smooth functioning of said society.
In Adam Smith’s words: the baker, the butcher and the brewer depend on each-other to feed their respective families.

In fact, all of us depend on the smooth functioning of the market. Those of us who had experienced communism had learned this on our own skin.
Same thing is valid for all totalitarian societies. Any attempt to run complex systems from above – in a centralized manner, will – sooner rather than later, end up in failure.
For no other reason than the fact that nobody – individually or in a small team, is above error. No matter how smart or well intended, all of us make mistakes. If the system allows for those present to point out errors – and to demand those errors to be fixed, things may continue.

But, by definition, a totalitarian – a.k.a. centrally planned, system has no feed-back loop. The planners have ‘no’ information about the consequences of their decision making. Well, my experience suggests a combination. Those at ‘the bottom’ gradually loose their appetite for sending information topside – because those at the top had the habit of ‘killing’ the bearers of bad news, while those at the ‘top’ gradually loose any interest in what goes on at the bottom.

Working democracies are organized around the principle of ‘separation of powers’. Another form of ‘division of work’. Each ‘power’ does what it’s supposed to do and, together, balance the whole system.

Nothing ‘fancy’.
For as long as those involved pay due respect to the principle instead of lip service to the form…

Nassim Taleb had coined an interesting concept.
Intellectual yet Idiot.
Any individual conceited enough to believe he’s always right and arrogant enough to try to impose his worldview on those around him.

Or, in Karl Marx’s terms, an individual who has convinced himself that the world needs to be changed according to his own precepts.

Are you implying that Marx was the first ‘intellectual yet idiot’?’

No, only the second…
Remember Plato’s ‘king priests’?
What’s the difference between those who, according to Plato’s advice, were to be groomed to govern and those who had been conditioned by various totalitarian parties and sent out to ‘spread the word’?
What’s the difference between Plato, Marx and, say, Alfred Beumler and Alfred Rosenberg?

Plato had been inspired by what Pericles – a dictator, had managed to achieve and his most prominent ‘product’ had been Aristotle. Who, in his turn, had educated Alexander the Great. Supposedly one of the greatest generals and statesmen in human history. According to European historiography, anyway…
If you ask to those of his contemporaries who had happened to be in Alexander’s path to glory… you might get a different opinion!
And what’s so glorious in being the immediate cause of death for so many people across three continents only to die of alcoholic poisoning?

Marx had come up with a brilliant explanation for what went wrong in early capitalism and with an abysmal solution for the problems he had identified.
The worst thing being that he didn’t stop at proposing aberrant solutions.
He was actually instrumental in several attempts to put them in practice.

Alfred Beumler and Alfred Rosenberg. Is there any need for me to comment on them? On their absolute arrogance?
How else to call their willingness to declare that some people are to go on living while others should be disposed off?

This being the moment I’ll be pointing the finger to what Plato, Marx and Beumler/Rosenberg have in common.
All of them share the willingness to divide people into ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’. The arrogance to put forward criteria which are to be followed by the rest of us.
The arrogance to consider the world should follow their teachings.

Division of work had done it’s job.
Invented by nobody in particular, used by most of us – and many of our ancestors, it had brought us to where we are now. When so many of us have time to think.
Technology – maybe the most evident consequence of ‘division of work’, is proficient enough to feed us all. If we use it right.
Or to kill us all. If we use it wrong.

What will it be?
Are we going to remember what, time and time again, our forefathers have figured out? That ‘together’ we can ‘move mountains’? That diversity is the key to survival? To finding new paths into the future?
Or are we going to fall pray – not for the first but, certainly, for the last time, to those who teach us to despise our neighbor? To stay separate? To consider some people – mainly ‘us’, as being above the rest?

In a free-enterprise, private-property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to their basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.” Milton Friedman, 1970

Between 1776 and 1970 the world had leaped forward. Technologically, economically and socially. Not only that we’ve managed to learn so much about the world and to produce immense wealth but we’ve somehow managed to ‘spread around’ the results. The proportion of people who had improved their fortunes had grown constantly during the entire period.

The majority of Americans share in economic growth through the wages they receive for their labor, rather than through investment income. Unfortunately, many of these workers have fared poorly in recent decades. Since the early 1970s, the hourly inflation-adjusted wages received by the typical worker have barely risen, growing only 0.2% per year. In other words, though the economy has been growing, the primary way most people benefit from that growth has almost completely stalled.” Jay Shambaugh, Ryan Nunn, HBR

Isaac Newton hadn’t invented gravitation. He only ‘noticed’ it. Put it in words.
Adam Smith hadn’t invented the free market. He had noticed how it used to work and opened our eyes about it.
For what ever reasons, enough of us had chosen to close those eyes back. And have reached the conclusion that ‘greed is good’.

Milton Friedman was both horribly wrong and exactly right.

He was right in the sense that he had gouged correctly what the ‘general public’ wanted/was ready to accept. “in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible

He was horribly wrong in the sense that he had perpetuated Marx’s error. Karl’s, not Groucho’s.

Money isn’t everything. Life beats it to the post.
Profit is, indeed, essential. Only it is nothing but an indicator. About how efficient a corporation is.
Meanwhile the role of a corporation is to accomplish – as Friedman himself had dully noted, the will of the shareholders.

The problem arises from the fact that ‘near mindedness’ blinds.
If/when both shareholders and management have nothing but ‘money’ in their scopes the market actually looses its freedom.

Economic agents no longer converge towards the market to solve each-others problems – like Smith had noticed, but to ‘make money’.

Not the same thing. Not by a long shot.

A new pandemic is gripping us.
By our egos!
One which is a hell of a lot more dangerous than Covid….

In fact, narrow mindedness is a disease which occurs naturally. It probably affects some 10 percent of the population in ‘normal’ times.
When things are no longer normal – and people become nervous because uncertainty does all kind of ‘funny’ things to our minds, narrow mindedness becomes an opportunity.
A golden opportunity for those who ‘professionally’ fish in troubled waters.

“The Petersons weren’t wearing pro-police T-shirts,” notes Churchill. “They weren’t carrying a banner, holding a sign or waving a black-and-blue flag. They appear to just be listening. But merely listening to an opinion that some Skidmore students find objectionable is apparently enough to get a professor in hot water.”
Professor Greg Patton at the University of Southern California (USC) was telling students in a communications lecture last month about filler, or pause words, such as ‘err’, ‘umm’ or ‘you know’ in English.
Footage of his lecture, which has now gone viral, shows Prof Patton saying: “In China, the common pause word is ‘that, that, that’. So in China, it might be na-ge, na-ge, na-ge.”
Enunciated, na-ge sounds like the N-word, which led several of the professor’s students to complain to the university. Responding to the complaint, the dean of the university, Geoffrey Garrett, told students that Prof Patton would no longer be teaching the course.
“It is simply unacceptable for the faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students,” he said.

As a mediator, I was trained to differentiate between needs and wishes.
Between something which will actually make your life easier and something you just fancy.
And to understand the fact that everything we do has consequences.

A father has asked me the other day:
‘What had I done wrong? My only son hardly ever speaks to me…’

‘When did the rift became apparent? How early?’

‘Things went fine until he had become an young adult. OK, we had some ‘misunderstandings’ when he was a teenager but he seemed to had overgrown them… Until sometimes in his early 20-ies when he really rebelled. And told me everything he couldn’t tell me – his words, about how he felt while growing up.”

‘And what exactly were his grievances?’

‘He was cross at the manner in which I was telling him things. At the manner in which I was trying to stimulate him. He’s very bright, you know, only didn’t do much in his life. Not by a long shot! And I kept telling him that. I still do, as a matter of fact.’

‘You see, no matter whether you go to the church or to a brothel, the soles of your shoes will get thinner. This doesn’t depend on where you go. It only depends on the road you chose and the manner in which you shuffle your feet.
Same with words. What you’re trying to say is, indeed, very important. But even more important is the manner in which you try to get the message across. Whenever your ‘target’ becomes angry at you … the message will be truncated in the process… Even more importantly, the ‘target’ will retain a ‘bad’ memory of the whole incident. And if more and more ‘bad’ memories keep piling one on top of the other…
But not everything is lost! The very fact that he took the trouble to talk out the matter with you means he was not ready for a ‘divorce’. Not then, anyway…’

“For a proposition to be true, it is not enough for it to be logically correct. It also needs to make epistemological sense.” Oscar Hoffman

Ricky Gervais is right, right?
There’s no logical connection between being offended and being right…
There’s no doubt about this!

Only Gervais is wrong.
Wrong in saying it, not in what he said.

Yes, there are people who declare themselves to be offended in an attempt to get something. Sympathy, some slack… or even the others to accept their version of things. That ‘they’ are ‘right’.

But this is not always the case!
Some (other) people are so offended by the manner in which things are unfolding that they actually need to express their feelings.
To send the warning ‘don’t continue in this manner or you’ll loose my attention/will to cooperate’.

In this sense, Gervais is actually wrong.
His saying had been used by numerous meme builders to create a bubble inside which callousness is actively encouraged.
‘Go on disregarding other people’s sentiments. They’re nothing but pussies.
It’s just words, not sticks nor stones.’

Here’s a more detailed analysis:

So fucking what?!?
Somebody just told you they are not going to stop paying any real attention to what you are trying to say to them and you don’t care?
Why did you start communicating in the first place? Or ‘performing’ the ‘offensive’ thing in public?
Was the ‘offense’ premeditated? For a reason or just for fun? Then it’s not ‘so fucking what’ anymore…
Or you just hadn’t thought about it beforehand? And you’re looking for an easy way out?

No, you don’t have to pretend to like people when you don’t.
But, in the longer time frame, it pays to honestly respect those you get in contact with. All of them.

Your life will get a lot better!

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