Archives for category: complementary ways of attending knowlege

‘Japanese’ logic:
If somebody can do it, I can too.
If nobody could do it, I will.

‘Romanian’ logic:
If somebody can do it, let them do it!
If nobody could do it, why should I?

These two capture rather accurately the respective Weltanschauungs.

There are two things which bother me, though.

Once a Romanian determines that something must be done, they will find a way. No matter how unconventional…
It’s not any lack of individual self-confidence which keeps Romania back…

Secondly – but, to me, far more important,
who gets to determine whether ‘it’ is worth doing?
The doers themselves or somebody else?
And what governs the relationship between the two?
Is any mutual respect involved there?

For some reason, this whole thing made me remember Oscar Hoffman’s words.

‘Logical correctness isn’t enough. For a sentence to be actually true, it also has to make epistemological sense’.

My wife loves flowers. Cut, potted, our house is full of them.

She’s also very good at taking care of them.

I like playing with a camera.
I’m not as good as she is. None of my pictures convey the true beauty of her flowers…

Yesterday, when shooting some close-ups, something hit me.

We modestly cover up our bodies while with shameless naivety proudly display the sexual organs of the plants we grow for this very purpose.

I feel the need to disagree vehemently!

The malicious has made an option. Had chosen. Willingly! And, supposedly – according to the hypothesis being discussed here, knowingly.

The ‘stupid’ just stays put. Until the relevant information penetrates his ‘thick skull’.
It’s not his fault that those who attempt to convince him are not skillful enough.

And if the ‘stupid’ happens to be in a ‘powerful’ position… (hence his inability to understand fast enough is liable to produce considerable damage) who needs to be chastised?

The ‘stupid’ himself? Who presumably ‘doesn’t have a clue’ about what’s going on?
The malicious who had made the whole situation possible?
The ‘lazy bystandards’? Who had allowed this to happen? Out of carelessness?

Or those who are liable to suffer the consequences? Who had understood what was going on but…

On the other hand… Could Dietrich Bonhoefer – a renowned pastor and theologian, utter such ‘simplistic’ words? So callous?

“Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. … The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.”

I’m not a very social person.
I don’t know that many people.

Those I know belong to three categories. People I’ve met, people I’ve kept in contact with and people I’ve got drunk with.
Since I don’t ‘go under’ easily, you can imagine that those belonging to the third category are not ‘legion’.

On the other hand, Romania hasn’t been hit that hard by Covid. Only 22000 dead.

I’m not going to tell you how many of the people I’ve ever met – or even kept in contact with, are now dead. Because of Covid, of course.
I’m only going to mention that two of those with whom I’ve enjoyed more than a ‘merry evening’ are no longer with us. Because of Covid. I’ve known them well and I’m certain it wasn’t a bogus diagnosis.

Let’s get serious.
I know how many of you are fed up with how the authorities – all over the world, have bothched ‘it’ up.
I know how many of you are fed up with how greedy Big Pharma, and the healthcare establishment, have been during the last 50 years or so.
I know how many of you are longing to get back to ‘normal’.
I know all these because I’m fed up too. And I too am longing to raise a glass with my surviving friends.

Please note that during the previous peak it had been reached a 7 day moving average of some 8 000 daily new cases. And a 7 day moving average of some 165 daily deaths. Right now we are at a 7 day moving average of 5500 new daily cases and an average of 100 daily deaths
165/8000*100=2.06%
100/5500*100=1.82%
Better, but still! And we shouldn’t forget that the hospitals are not yet running overdrive….

That’s why I’ll continue to wear a mask, to keep my distance, to wash my hands. That’s why I’ve put myself on the waiting list.
I’m sure you have a prety clear idea which list I’m talking about.

See you on the other side!

And I pray those who are no longer with us will rest in peace.

There’s an entire literature discussing which animals – besides us, humans, are able to use tools.
Most authors also make a clear distinction between the animals which just pick an object and transform it into a tool by using it as such and the animals which actually transform the future tool according to the intended use.

The difference between using a twig ‘as it was found’ and sharpening it first with the teeth.

This morning, watching some birds while having my breakfast, I just realized that the vast majority of them are superb tool makers. Them birds, I mean. Not just the heavily publicized Caledonian Crows….

I repeat. Most of them.
Most of them are superb tool makers.

Most birds are nest builders.
In fact, they not only build houses, of sorts.
They are building uteri. Or uteruses, if you prefer this spelling. Places where eggs are laid and cared for.

What more elaborate tool is there?

After ‘firing’ Trump, the President, America’s most important stake-holders, “we, the People”, are scrambling to adapt to what Trump had laid bare.

Books are being written.
Many blame Trump. And explain, in detail, what he had done while manning the Oval Office.

The G.O.P. is somewhat fractured. Some want to get over Trump, others to hide behind his still towering presence.
The Dems act like he was a mere accident. One which can, and they are hard at work attempting to do it, be ‘band-aided’ with some money. Government money, of course.

A few years ago, I had read an interesting article claiming that Trump had been made possible by the media.
Googling to find it, I stumbled upon another. Which summarizes what Trump had done to the media

I still have to find, only I’ve lost patience, an explanation for what had ‘fed’ Trump.
Trump as social phenomenon…

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.
Washington flourished but the people did not share in its wealth.
Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed.

Trump has made himself famous. Among others, for imparting new meaning to the concept of ‘fake-news’. And for using “alternative facts” to introduce us to an ‘alternative reality’. His…

Only his reality did have something in common with that faced by many of his fellow Americans.

Middle class incomes have shrunk 8.5 percent since 2000, after enjoying mostly steady growth during the previous decade. In 2011, the average income for the middle 60 percent of households stood at $53,042, down from $58,009 at the start of the millennium.

Oops!
Suddenly, Trump’s ‘alternative’ reality – part of it, at least, has become one with that experienced by “we, the People”. By a majority of them, anyway.

What made so many people – dispirited, undoubtedly, believe that a self professed pussy grabber and proud member of the Washington establishment would solve their real-life problems… by ‘draining’ the very ‘swamp’ in which he had grown to his present stature … that’s something for other people to explain.

My point being that Trump’s behavior had very closely followed that of Goethe’s Apprentice Sorcerer. He had used his uncanny knack of playing hide-and-seek with reality to climb into the Oval Office only to be fired after one mandate.
To be the first American President who had survived two impeachments.
And the second one who had witnessed – more or less unmoved, the untimely demise of half a million Americans due to disease

But the first who had done that during a mostly peaceful mandate. Pandemic, true enough, but otherwise peaceful.

NB. The ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic, which had happened during Woodrow Wilson’s mandate, had caused the death of 675 000 Americans. Only that had occurred just after a world war, when viruses hadn’t yet been discovered and man hadn’t yet walked on the Moon.

What will happen next?

Who knows… Goethe’s poem had a relatively happy ending because a master sorcerer was at hand. Who had solved the problem with a swift gesture of his powerful wand.

No such easy solution is available now.
But one thing has become clear.
Again…

Two things, actually.
Too many dispirited people eventually become a powerful – and highly unstable, ‘Petri dish’. Where all kinds of ‘social experiments’ might ‘spontaneously’ explode.
And playing with people’s passions might take you places. But will, almost always, end up badly.

I’ve been an avid reader all my life.

Libraries, book shops – new and second hand, used to be my home away from home.

Communism crumbling under it’s own weight in my home country, Romania, widened even more my already special relationship with the written word.
Books nobody would even had dared to dream about got translated into Romanian.
Or even got imported in original.

As borders became more and more open, I’ve also ‘imported’ some myself.

The honeymoon lasted for a while.
Only at some point I was no longer ‘comfortable’ in most bookshops. If anything, there was ‘too much of it’. Too much of the good stuff, to much ‘noise’… Not enough time to read everything I would have liked to… so I gave up.
I gave up compulsively visiting book shops, not reading…

Then, in 2007, something happened.
Anthony Frost English Bookshop” happened.

A real place hosting literature, arts, non-fiction and comic books from all around the world.

The really special thing about it?
There was no ‘noise’ in there!
None of the books I’d found on its shelves ever seemed ‘out of place’. Most of them, of course, were of little – if any at all, interest for me. Yet they seemed worthwhile, if you understand what I mean.

The good thing lasted for almost 10 years.

At some point I found a ‘closing soon’ placard hanging on the door.
I didn’t even enter that day. Too sad.

I can’t say I’d given up visiting book shops.
Only that I had stopped doing it with gusto.
And, certainly, that I had given up perusing book store shelves.

I’d started to rely of friends ‘telling’ me what to read.
Real life friends, Facebook friends… you name it.

And I continued to do it.
Only my scope had become nearer and nearer.
Without even realizing what was going on….

Until a good friend of mine – a real life friend, told me – on Facebook, that Anthony Frost was alive and kicking!

Hiding behind a different name, a few hundreds meters from the old place, but the very same thing.
A rather small location full to the brink with the good stuff!

Visiting it, and perusing its shelves, I realized – with a shudder, that my intellectual bubble had shrunk.
Became ‘deeper’ – debatable, but certainly narrower!

Go find your own books!

Anthony Frost, in Bucharest, is a good place to start!
Or to rekindle your love affair with the printed word.

“The Texas educational system inundates the children with the almost mythical stories of Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and other Texan heroes. This perpetuates the feeling that Texans are superior to others. Social Identity Theory claims that in-group biases are a direct need to feel superior to another group. By reinforcing such ideals of Texas history at an early age, they are indirectly making Texans feel superior to other states.”

Don’t mess with Texas, Justin R.Erenkranz, retrieved on February 18, 2021

In fact, Texans are so proud of their state, and so confident in themselves, that their power grid, run by ERCOT – Electric Reliability Council of Texas, has no connections linking it to the outside world.
Yes, your eyes are OK. Texas – most of it, anyway, cannot import electric energy. No matter what!

For those who know anything about power management, this is insane.
For the rest of the people, this sounds like gibberish.

Who cares where the power comes from?!?

Until it stops coming… exactly when you need it most!

Texas produces and consumes more electricity than any other state, but it is the only state in the continental United States that runs a stand-alone electricity grid, which was designed to keep the state’s energy system independent and isolated from other markets.

‘OK. But surely, there are also other systems which are independent. And isolated. What about Hawai’i? It’s too far away to connect itself with anybody else and it’s doing just fine.’

True enough. And I can name a few more, easily. Only most of them are independent because they are isolated, not by design.
And, exactly because they are isolated, they are run with utmost care. More precautions are taken than in ‘normal’ situations.

‘Precaution’ meaning, in this case, spare capacity.
The responsible people running those systems make sure that, when push comes to shove, somebody is there to deliver the goods. The megawatts of power.

Since 2010, ERCOT’s reserve margin – the buffer between what it can produce vs. forecasted demand – has dropped to about 10% from about 20%. This has put pressure on generators during electricity demand spikes, making the grid less flexible, NERC said.

NERC stands for North American Electric Reliability Corporation. Which corporation, in December 2020, had released “a long term reliability study” maintaining that “ERCOT’s market and system operations have been successful over the last several years even as demand has continued to rise in Texas“. It was the same study which had mentioned that the grid was becoming “less flexible“….

SEC Rule 156 requires mutual funds to tell investors not to base their expectations of future results on past performance before they invest.

Oops…

Reality is an Acquired Taste.

Past performance is not… John Brown, Forbes, 2016

Maybe we need to reconsider our infatuation with ‘just in time management’.
While ‘just in time management’ maximizes profits by streamlining inventory, it works its magic only when everything goes according to plan. And the stricter the streamlining, the harsher the consequences of anything not going according to plan!

As people in Texas have just learned.

And there’s something else which bothers me ever since I’ve started writing this post.
How much sense does it make to be able to pipe oil all the way down from Canada to the refineries lining the Gulf of Texas when you end up freezing to death because you don’t have enough electricity to operate those refineries?!?

And no, I’m not making fun of the ordinary people who suffer the consequences!
This being the moment when I feel the need to remind you that the author of this blog – that’s me, tries to asses the consequences of our limited consciousness. Of the fact that none of us knows much. And, furthermore, that very few of us admit that!
Which consequences might be – as too often are, tragic.

Specially when those who are not aware that their knowledge is limited happen to be invested with critical decision power.

‘Handicap’ has become a dirty word…
Somewhat strange, given the breadth of its meaning. Horses get handicapped in order to even their chances to win a race. Yachts get handicapped so that different makes might participate in the same race… In these situations, its an ‘honor’ to be handicapped…

Then why has this concept, ‘political correctness’, become so ‘popular’?

You might already be familiar with the ‘upfront’ explanation.

“political correctness has reset the standards for civility and respect in people’s day-to-day interactions.”

Rethinking Political Correctness, Robin J. Ely et all, HBR Magazine, 2006

I’m convinced there was something more.
Civility and respect haven’t been invented yesterday. We’ve been polite for quite a while now.

Yeah, only politeness had been invented, and polished, when society was way more hierarchical than in is now.
In those times, when a ‘superior’ told somebody ‘you idiot’ that somebody paused to think. The ‘idiot’ could not dismiss what the ‘superior’ had just told him. The ‘idiot’ really had to make amends. He was so busy trying to correct himself that he couldn’t allow himself to feel offended. If anything, he was grateful. The ‘superior’ had made the effort to help the ‘idiot’ improve himself instead of dispatching him altogether.
In modern times, even before PC had become fashionable, calling someone’s attention about how idiotic he was behaving only made him angry. Hence dismissive and unresponsive. In an era when all people had become peers, a new ‘manner of speaking’ had to be invented in order for ‘information’ to be made ‘palatable’.

The process had been successful.
So successful that the same approach had been used when dealing with other ‘hot’ subjects. Race, gender… ‘inclusion’ in general…

In fact, the process had become too successful for its own good!

Some of the ‘enthusiasts’ have reached the conclusion that ‘everything’ is open for reconsideration.
That ‘everything’ should be closely reexamined.
According to the ideological lenses worn by the examiners, of course…

Unfortunately, the end result is rather messy.

Instead of facilitating the dialog, the stiffer and stiffer set of ‘appropriate’ ‘rules of engagement’ has almost stifled any transfer of meaningful information.

“Despite this obvious progress, the authors’ research has shown that political correctness is a double-edged sword. While it has helped many employees feel unlimited by their race, gender, or religion, the PC rule book can hinder people’s ability to develop effective relationships across race, gender, and religious lines.”

Ibid.

Not only that people find it harder and harder to understand each-other, ‘things’ themselves become blurry.

Let me give you a recent example.

In the US, many of the ex-confederated States have started to reconsider the statues commemorating ‘famous Southern figures’.
The vast majority of which had been built between 1890 and 1950, during the Jim Crow era.
Simultaneously, like minded activists have recently toppled Edward Colton’s statue in Bristol, England.

Are these two ‘developments’ similar, as PC would mandate us to understand?

Jefferson Davies – a very ‘familiar statue’ in the US, had been the President of the Confederate States of America. A slave owner himself, he was a “champion of the unrestricted expansion of slavery into the territories.” And the statues glorifying him had been erected, during the Jim Crow era, as a reminder to the fact that the Confederation may had lost the war but things hadn’t change that much.
Edward Colston, on the other side of the Atlantic, had not been a slave owner per se. In the sense that he didn’t put slaves to work for him. He was ‘only’ a purveyor of slaves. He had ‘only’ kidnapped African people and then sold them, as slaves, on the other side of the Atlantic. 10 to 20% of which had died, in horrible conditions, during the voyage. As a consequence of his ‘efforts’, Colston had become a very rich man. He had ended his involvement in the slave trading business some 30 years before his death – 1721, and used much of his wealth for charity. His statue had been built in 1895 and many of the buildings which had been raised with the money bequeathed by him bear his name. Some of those buildings are used to house schools, others as almshouses.

Now, do the statues of these two people stand for the same thing?
And no, I’m not trying to discern between two villains!

Each of them had done an immense amount of harm and had produced endless suffering. People are still smarting to this day because of what both of them had done.
Only there are some differences between them. One had also done some good in his life. While the other had been used, after his death and without his consent, as a symbol. After he had, directly, kept people in slavery he had also been used to further the sufferings of black people.

Are we capable of seeing any of these differences?
Or are we too angry to differentiate?

Do you remember why we had invented political correctness in the first place?

Despite this obvious progress, the authors’ research has shown that political correctness is a double-edged sword. While it has helped many employees feel unlimited by their race, gender, or religion, the PC rule book can hinder people’s ability to develop effective relationships across race, gender, and religious lines. Companies need to equip workers with skills—not rules—for building these relationships.


“The popularity of authors like Deutsch, Sandbrook and Foote – men of very different calibre in many different ways, but all wordsmiths who form history into desirably unchallenging packages for certain kinds of audience – is undeniable. It points to a conclusion that the wider historical profession, from schoolteachers to internationally renowned critical scholars, struggles to overcome. People, and specially people from priviledged groups, do not want historians to tell them bad things about their tresured identities. They will, indeed, forcefully react against such challenges, when given the political rallying-calls that allow them to do so. In that sense, it must be said, they do not want history. They want what they are increasingly getting: a cosy blanket of half remembering and convenient forgetting that is cushioning their slide down the slope to full-blown cultural dementia.”

Cultural Dementia, David Andress, 2018

If you have the stomach for the whole of it…

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