Archives for category: Culture

Any way you look at what’s currently happening, it doesn’t make any sense.

Forget about ‘we’re throwing away 30% of the food we produce while a third of us die of hunger’.
That’s ‘peanuts’. Not for those whose children go to bed hungry but…

People living on the northern side of the Mediterranean Sea had accomplished something marginally short of miraculous.
They had come up with an ideology which convinced them to respect each-other. Christianity.
They had been able to develop the best mechanism for allotting resources. The ‘free market’.
And the best mechanism for reaching decisions for the entire community. Currently called ‘democracy’.

In their attempt to understand, they have devised an extremely original manner of looking at things. ‘Science’.
Based on what they had learned through ‘science’, they had developed ‘technology’.

Working as a team – they used to respect each-other, as children of the same god – and making ‘good’ use of their technology, they had been able to conquer the rest of the planet.

At some point, Europe used to export almost everything – including coal, and import inconsequential things. Silk, spices, tea, sugar, cotton and tobacco.
At that moment, England was considered the factory of the world. It used to manufacture and export the most technologically advanced ‘wares’. Fabric, ‘china’, steel products, machinery, chemicals… And coal! Which was warehoused around the globe and used, eventually, by the English steamships plying the seas for commerce. And for war…

Look at us now!
We depend on our former colonies for much of our energy. Oil, that is.
We depend on the rest of the world for much of the fancy foods we currently eat. Brazilian beef, tropical fruit, fancy sea-food…
And we depend on China for cheap manufactured goods. From clothes to cameras to cranes. ‘White goods’, electronics – computers included, and almost everything else which is sold at decent prices.

Not to mention the fact that Europe had been the flashing point for three World Wars. I, II and the Cold one.
Not to mention the fact that as I write the biggest country in Europe – Putin’s Russia, is trying to annex some 15 % percent of one of its neighbors. Ukraine, also an European country.

If any of this does a modicum of sense to any of you… please let me know!

I, for one, am at a loss. I understand what happened – stay tuned, but I have no idea when we’ll figure out we’re on the wrong track. Going in the wrong direction.

I’m getting old. Old enough, as a good friend of mine had noticed, to have a way closer relation with sex than ever before.

I am a sexagenarian!

Which gives me certain bragging rights.
You see, everything around us has been made – or started – during my watch. Or earlier…

There is a small catch, though.
Not everything around us is good. In working order. Sustainable!
Some 50 years ago, humankind had developed the means to destroy itself. Remember MAD?
We – our fathers, actually, took a step back. And took the necessary steps. In the end, nothing happened. We’re still here, in spite of having the possibility to spoil everything.
Nowadays, we’ve reached another inflection point. And no, I’m not speaking about ‘global warming’. Not exclusively, anyway.

Global warming is only one of the many things which may go wrong.
One of the many ways in which we may fuck everything up!

My point being that it’s not the first time in history that we are able to fuck everything up.
It’s the first time in history that we are fully aware of the many ways in which things might go totally wrong and we’re practically doing nothing!

Why?!?
Because we have grown old!

When I grew up, there were relatively few old people around.
A lot more than when my parents had grown up but a lot less than now.

When apes had become human – when humanoids learned to speak – old people were precious assets.
Having lived a lot – and being able to share their experience, in detail – they had become depositories of knowledge. The go-to place for when you wanted to learn about something. When you needed a certain piece of information.
Hence the old-timers had, gradually, accrued a lot of respect. As a category.
Add the fact that in order to grow old – to survive for long enough, it helps to make ‘the right calls’. OK, you also need to be lucky… but being smart does come in handy…

Are you done yet? Adding these two? Being looked up to because you are old with thinking good about yourself?

Did you get ‘confirmation bias‘?

In the ‘good old days’, people who had reached my age had their ‘confirmation bias’ tempered by ‘impotence’.
No, not only sexual impotence…
In those days, individuals were a lot more aware than we are today of how much we depend on each other. Of the fact that individually we are impotent! The old ones knew they were going to starve if the young ones would cease providing for them while the young ones were aware of how useful the old ones could be.
Nowadays… We, the oldies, continue to believe we know everything – we survived, didn’t we? – while the young bucks believe they can find out whatever they might need from the internet…
Meanwhile, we – the oldies – no longer need the youngsters to provide for us.

We are wealthier than ever before, we have pension plans and we vote as a team… the world is ours, as it should be!
And since we don’t have so much more to live…

But how sustainable is this situation?
For the shortest of the imaginable time-frames…

Art – Esthetics – Philosophy.
Techne – Science – Manipulation.
Skills – Technology – Reality 2.0

Art is, maybe, the first form of interaction between us and the place we inhabit.
The first manner in which we ‘ingest’ that place, only to regurgitate it later. The first manner in which we learn about that place and the first manner in which we express what we have just learned.
Esthetics is how we make sense of art. How we organize our ‘first impressions’ regarding the ‘place’ we live in. How we ‘edit’ those impressions in order to make them more easily understandable.
Philosophy is what we made out during the artistic endeavor to learn. The never finished product put together by our ‘digestive system’ out of the artistic interactions we have had with ‘reality’.

Techne is what we do. The transformations we impose unto things in order to make them capable to satisfy our needs. Or our whims…
Science is the process through which we gather information. The information which becomes more and more necessary as our doings take us further and further away from the original reality.
Manipulation is what we do after we consider to have amassed enough information. After we have developed a certain understanding of the world and have decided that time has come for us to ‘take what’s rightfully ours’.

You know what ‘skills’ are. What we’re ‘good at’.
Technology is how we pass our skills to other people. So that we can work in concert. To coordinate our efforts.
The outcome of which is Reality 2.0. The reality we have brought about. The new reality which constitutes reality 1.0 for those currently alive.

Why is this happening to me?

Because you’re alive, because of the previously made decisions and because of ‘hazard’.

You notice what’s happening around you – not necessarily to you, because you’re alive. A sensitive animal. And you try to make something out of it – to find meaning, because you are conscious. A conscious human being.

Everything around you – assuming you live in the civilized world, is man-made. The consequence of previously made decisions. The consequence of culture – string of accrued decisions, and the consequence of culturally influenced present day decisions. Decisions which are being made, by us, as we speak.

Your life, and everything in it, has been shaped by hazard.
You could have been born a slave somewhere a few centuries ago or you could have been born as the only child of Kim Il Sun.
You could have been born healthy – I hope you were, or you could have been the victim of a rare genetic abnormality.

We can’t, none of us, do anything about ‘hazard’.
We can’t change culture. But we can reinterpret it. Learn more from it than blindly following rules.
We can make better decisions.

And, for starters, we may decide to stop killing each-other. To stop hurting each-other. To stop bullying each-other.
NB. ‘Stop killing’ doesn’t mean give up defending ourselves. ‘Stop hurting’ doesn’t mean giving up.
‘Stop bullying’ doesn’t mean the bully has stopped bullying because the victim caved in.

What we really need to do is to stop all forms of aggression.

Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan (1898, London); Cassandra in front of the burning city of Troy

“Oh God, please make it so that my prophecies won’t come to life!”
“I’m sorry Cassandra, that’s what I made Man for. Now, it’s Their job to heed to your warnings!”

“And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

Let’s face it!

Santa is a lie.
A white one, indeed, but still a lie.

Then why do we continue to ‘confuse’ our children?
Because for as long as they will remain convinced that it was Santa who brought their presents, they will not pester us with their demands?
It’s easier for us to tell them ‘Santa didn’t consider you worthy enough’ than ‘we didn’t have enough dough’?
It’s a ‘subtle’ manner for them to learn that deception is acceptable? If driven by ‘noble goal’? And who gets to determine how low the benchmark for ‘noble’ must be set for a deception to become acceptable?

But the strangest thing pertaining to this habit of ours is the number of fake Santas hanging in the most peculiar places.
The one above, for instance…
Why would a sensible person – me, drill a hole in the middle of an otherwise pristine wooden door just because his wife loves to hang bearded figurines?

Meanwhile, this guy has become a permanent fixture. He’s been there for years …

‘Exploring what?!?
We don’t know yet how conscience came to be, nor how it works, and you want to explore its limits?
What are you talking about?’

First of all, Humberto Maturana has proposed a very astute explanation about how our conscience has evolved into what it is today. After our brains had happened to ‘accrue’ enough computing power, our ability to speak among ourselves had created the condition for us to cooperate towards the development of ‘self-awareness’. Towards our learned ability to ‘observe ourselves in the act of observing‘.

‘OK, I can accept that.
But we still don’t know exactly how it works. How the brain ‘exsudes’ consciousness!’

Well… do you know exactly how a computer works? Or how your car transforms fuel into energy and transports you to work and back?
Does your lack of detailed understanding prevent you from using a computer? Or from driving a car?

Does your lack of detailed knowledge about how things work prevent you from understanding – and accepting, the fact that the things you use have limits? That you cannot ‘overstretch’ any of them?

‘?!?… It’s my mind you’re talking about, dude!
What do you want to say? That my ability to understand things and to act as a rational human being is limited?!?’

Yep!
You got it perfectly.
In one go…

If you want to read some more about your limits, please help me to overcome mine:

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As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

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‘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’.

This book represents Djuvara’s thesis for his 1974 Doctorat d’Etat.

There are two main ideas which are to be pointed out here.
A first one hidden under the distinction he identifies between ‘culture’ and ‘civilization’.
The second being the bread and butter of his thesis. That civilizations are initiated in one place, diffused/exported for a while and then replaced – or led further, depending on how one chooses to interpret the facts, by people until then living somewhere on the fringes of the civilization they are replacing/refurbishing.

Nothing really new, right?
‘Cyclical History’ wasn’t invented yesterday. And certainly not by Neagu Djuvara.

Well, Djuvara’s ideas – like everybody else’s, are nothing but ‘overgrowth’. Things which sprung in people’s minds ‘on top’ of what those people had already learned. Found out. Or, of course, both.

In a sense, what I’ve said in the previous sentence is the very condensed abstract of Djuvara’s second ‘main idea’.
The first, the ‘hidden’ one, – again, in an extremely abridged version, being that ‘history, as a narrative, is nothing more and nothing less than what historians choose to make of the facts they had learned about’.

Too blunt?
Well, first and foremost, I’m an engineer. Not a fancy pen-pusher…

OK. Let’s go further.
I’m going to illustrate, briefly, Djuvara’s main thesis by presenting his version of what had happened in Europe. What had started as an European phenomenon, more precisely.

The Roman civilization had grown at the periphery of the Ancient Greece. And, eventually, took over more ‘space’ than the Ancient Greeks.
The Russian civilization had grown at the periphery of the Byzantine/Orthodox one and eventually took over. Or, at least, attempted to…
The Holy Roman Empire of German Nation ‘recycled’ – or, at least, attempted to, the ‘ancient’ values and traditions.
Great Britain had grown at the periphery of Europe until it took over the whole world. At least for a while…
The US, which had started as a British colony, had grown into the most powerful nation known to man.

‘OK, I understand what you meant by trailers and trailblazers. Some of those who trail might end up trailblazing.
Do you want to add anything?
Is there an actual point to your post?’

Yep.
As they say about the market, ‘past performance is no guarantee about the future’.
The fact that things have happened as they did is no guarantee that they’ll keep unfolding in the same manner.

In a sense, Fukuyama was right, after all…
Even if not in the sense he thought it!

According to “The end of history” people – all over the World, had realized the relative merits of ‘liberal democracy’ and ‘capitalism’. Which were going to be put in practice, effectively marking ‘the end of history’.
Thirty years past that moment, it seems that things aren’t going in that direction.

I’m I contradicting myself? Who’s right, after all?
Djuvara? Since history doesn’t seem to have stopped?
Or Fukuyama, but for some other reason? Than the one advertised by him?

‘History, as a narrative, is nothing more and nothing less than what historians choose to make of the facts they had learned about’

Then, if history is ‘man made’, what about the future?

Can we really make it? Predict it?

‘Make it’, for sure!
If not us, then who?!?

‘Predict it’… that’s something totally different!

There are signs, though.

First of all, Djuvara had described something which can be compared with fire burning in a savannah. It starts in one place, burns for a while… and then starts up some place else. Until now, no fire – no fire known to man, had burned any savannah so thoroughly that nothing was left for a ‘second’ fire.

Secondly, Fukuyama said that history will end when all humankind will sync. When all ‘civilizations’ will be run according to the same paradigm. According to the liberal democratic and capitalist paradigm, in Fukuyama’s vision.
We’re still far from that.
Only there is one paradigm which is willing to play that role! To fill those shoes…

The ‘greed is good’ paradigm!
Or, if you don’t like to think in ‘monetary’ terms, the ‘my version is the only right one’ paradigm.

The problem being that these two work in concert.
They are two facets of something called ‘intellectual arrogance’.

I’ll come back to this notion sometime in the future.
Now I’ll end up telling that there’s not much left of the ‘savannah’.

When things were unfolding as Djuvara described them, the planet itself was more or less ‘virgin’. Unexploited. Unoccupied.
Human culture used to be diverse. Ideas were developing. Traded. From one place to the other. From one culture to the other.

Nowadays, much of the planet – our home, is occupied by the, more or less, same civilization. And by an increasingly similar culture.

Nothing inherently good nor bad here, mind you!

If we still have no definitive history, then the future hasn’t been written yet.
It’s up to us to choose the right trail.
For no other reason than the fact that there are very few trails left for us to burn!

Se întreabă câte unii pe net:

‘Pentru cine lucrează guvernul ăsta?
De ce închide piețele dar lasă supermarketurile deschise?’

Alții:

‘Guvernul ăsta n-are nici o logică!
Ce rost are să închizi circulația pe timp de noapte?’

Guvernul n-are nici o logică….

Păi de unde să aibe?
Având în vedere că sunt și ei oameni…
Exact ca noi!

Cum ne-au spus unii că dreptul de a nu purta mască e mai important decât dreptul de a nu ne infecta, cum s-au găsit câte unii să dea jos ‘botnița’!
Să facă mișto de cei care continuă să o poarte.

Să îndemne, practic, la ‘nesupunere civică’!
În numele Libertății și a Drepturilor Omului…

Iar vinovat pentru toate astea este… cine altul?!? … Guvernul….

NU!
NOI suntem vinovații!

Noi n-am purtat masca.
Noi nu ne-am spălat pe mâini!
Noi tragem acum…

În clasele 1-4 am avut o Învățătoare. Doamna Codescu.
Nu țin minte să-i fi spus cineva, vreodată, ‘tovarășa’.
În clasă, bineînțeles. N-am de unde să știu ce se întâmpla în cancelarie.
Copii fiind, de multe ori foloseam scuza ‘păi așa mi-a spus….’
Doamna Codescu zâmbea și, învariabil, punea întrebarea:

Păi dacă-ți spunea … să te arunci în fântână, te aruncai?!?

Tu de ce nu porți mască?
Având în vedere că virusache se transmite ‘pe calea aerului’?

Tot guvernul e de vină că suntem noi proști?
Și ‘punem botu” precum niște copii de școală primară?

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