Archives for category: democracy

Let me start by attempting to answer this question in a logical manner.

Theoretically, individuals have the right to defend their lives. And properties. In some jurisdictions, the defender might even shoot the trespasser.
On the other hand, it is a lot harder to identify an example where property might end up purposefully damaged in a lawful manner while life is being defended. ‘Purposefully’ as in property being targeted in an attempt to fulfill the goal of defending life.
When groups of people are involved, things are even more complicated.
Is a community entitled – using the police force, a “well regulated militia” or even ‘spontaneously’, to inflict bodily harm to a group of people who randomly destroys property? What becomes different when the destruction occurs during a protest ‘gone wrong’?
The way I see it, things are more complicated at the social level because of the number of people involved. At the individual level, things are simple. The guy who trespasses is the one who gets hurt. The defender is the only person who might inflict injury and the one who will answer for the act. When there are more people involved…. Some protest peacefully, others do the damage… and who knows who gets clobbered – or shot, by the police?!? Same thing looking from the ‘other’ side. The owner of a property might have decided to protect it in a different manner than the police … or even not at all…
To wrap it up, there’s no single answer for this question. On the individual level, the actors/agents must decide on the spot. Considering the specifics of each incident. While being ready to accept the consequences. On the social level, neither murder nor property damage are acceptable and must be dealt with in a very thoughtful, but firm, manner.

As usual, logic can take us only this far. Far from the essence…

What are we doing here?
How can we even attempt to compare life with property?
Do they belong to the same category?
Can we sell a human being? Do houses have souls?
What’s happening to us?

One of the best examples of professional grade propaganda which had recently crept up on my FB wall

As always, the ‘gaslighters’ use ‘the obvious’ to get inside our heads.
Once there, they actually twist our minds.

In fact, the professional propagandists act like viruses do.
They use the internal mechanisms of the target to alter its ‘software’. To ‘convince’ the target to act in a manner favorable to the ‘virus’ rather than in its own interest.

And the fact that both sides – or trolls embedded there?!?, use the same ‘tools’ only makes it harder for the targets – for us, really, to defend ourselves. To maintain our sanity.

Let’s go back to the example at hand.
Yes, it’s ridiculous to blame this child for Pearl Harbor. This is the evident part of the meme.
Only it’s very legit to blame those who deny that Japan attacking Pearl Harbor was ‘murder’. Legit enough to become a must.
Just like it’s a must to blame those who deny the Holocaust.

Same thing with slavery. And with other crimes of the past.
Blaming people alive today for what their ancestors had done in the past is ridiculous. Just as ridiculous as denying that past crimes had consequences. Some of which continue to pull us down today.

Present day colored people in America – and Roma people in Europe, continue to suffer the consequences of having been enslaved for many generation.
Denying that only burdens entire societies.
It burdens the colored people themselves and, on a way larger scale, it burdens the rest of us. The colored people having less opportunities than the rest of us is a waste for the society at large. The disproportionate number of crimes and felonies perpetrated by the colored people are a cost shouldered by all of us.
Meanwhile, the blame is not entirely ‘theirs’. Had they been ‘defective’ in any way would have prevented any of them from ‘prospering’. Hence we’re dealing with a rather ‘cultural’ thing. Which cultural thing has appeared at the intersection between us and them. We had enslaved them. We had kept them at arm’s length until not so long ago. So many of us continue to look down on them.
We consider it’s their individual responsibility to pull themselves up!
And how are they supposed to do that? Statistically speaking, and in the present conditions, not only the most talented and the very lucky among them….

How are we going to proceed? Continue with the blame game – and play into the hands of those who want us weak, or attempt to do something about it? To find a real solution?

‘For things to work as intended, there must be a rule’.

Errr…

‘For things to work, there must be at least some consistency involved’.

This is a far better starting point!

An example would be fine?

Then imagine an Earth where the gravitational field was haphazard. In space and time. Where two lumps of dirt, a k a mountains, sometimes pulled at each other while some other times pushed. With no rules involved whatsoever.
Or where sometimes wood needed oxygen to burn while some other times – or in some other places, the presence of nitrogen was enough for wood to burst into flames.
Need some more? Then how about a place where dogs breed with cows. And also with butterflies. Only not always. And not in a constant manner.

Have you stopped laughing?
Well, this was how our ancestors imagined the Earth.
Sometimes after a mutation had provided them with the most powerful brain ever, our forefathers had learned to speak. To ‘trade’ information. Soon after they has started to develop something Humberto Maturana called ‘the ability of an observer to observe themselves while making observations’. ‘Self awareness’ for short. Or ‘conscience’ in everyday parlance.

Imagine a self-aware observer watching the sun go down. A rather smart one. One with a vivid enough imagination to ask ‘what if the sun will not come up tomorrow morning’…
Stonehenge has suddenly acquired a new meaning, right?

That was why God had so much traction. Simply because it gave sense to everything. It lend meaning to everything under the sun. And beyond!

In time, under God’s protection, we invented science. And, slowly but surely, we’ve started apportioning meaning ourselves.
Meaning we’ve started to take for granted.
Meaning which no longer depended on any third party!

Only we’ve gradually forgotten what science is really about.

Why we had developed it in the first place.

We had forgotten that science is wrong by definition.
That, by following this path, we’ll be forever able to find new meaning but that we’ll never be able to find ‘the’ meaning.

And now, that we’ve ‘killed’ God – as no longer necessary, we rely solely on the meaning we’ve already affixed to the things we already know.
To the things we consider to know… conveniently forgetting what science taught us….

Faced with unforeseen crises – unforeseen, not unforeseeable, we are left powerless.
Having taken so much for granted – our knowledge about the world and our ability to overcome everything the nature throws at us, above all, we find ourselves bereaved of our erstwhile powers.

Are we going to rediscover intellectual humility? And the ability to take advice? From the most unlikely teacher?

Or else?

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.

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….

For subjects to become free, they must first remain alive.
As soon as individuals die, whatever freedom they might have enjoyed vanishes.

Individual liberty is a matter of degree.
No matter what any of us might do, none of us – well, almost, will ever escape gravity. We are all pulled towards the center of the Earth and this is how things should be. Otherwise… can you really imagine us drifting freely through the Universe and still being alive?
There are some constraints we might escape for a while. While gravity stays with us forever, we need to breathe only once every second or so. If needed, some of us can go without air for almost five minutes. Most of us can go without water for days and without food for a couple of weeks.
Without friends… is more complicated.
My real point being that individuals will start considering freedom, in earnest, only after reaching Maslow’s self-actualization stage. Until then we remain subjects. Subjected to our needs.

Liberty, as a function, is a social matter.
According to Berger and Luckmann, ‘reality’ is a social construct.
Going one step further, we realize that freedom – like money, is also a social construct.
Something we all contribute to. Help building it. Or tear it apart by negligence/carelessness.
Help building it by encouraging others to become free. As in helping them to lead a decent enough life. For freedom to happen, the society – as a whole, must remain functional enough for each of its members to have the opportunity to reach the self-actualization stage.

We must constantly remember that each time somebody puts our lives in danger that somebody attempts to hurt our freedom.
Every action which ultimately reduces the opportunities for each of us to reach the self-actualization stage – or to remain there, is hurting the liberty of our entire society.

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.

Charles Darwin gave us “On the origin of Species”.

We’ve summed it up ‘the survival of the fittest’.
And behaved accordingly. Including some of those who should have known better. “The world of the selfish gene revolves around savage competition, ruthless exploitation, and deceit, and yet, Dawkins argues, acts of apparent altruism do exist in nature.

I reckon all of you know – or at least have heard of, Richard Dawkins.
Compare his celebrity with the relative absence from the public scene ‘enjoyed’ by Ernst Mayr.

And what’s so special about this Mayr guy?
‘Evolution is not as much about the ‘survival of the fittest’ as it is about the ‘demise of the unfit’ ‘

Get it?
In fact, there is no such thing as ‘the fittest’ when we speak about evolution. ‘Fit’ is relative while evolution is a process. Fit is about ‘this moment and this place’ while evolution is about the ability to adapt. To change when needed.

And what has any of these to do with “exploring the consequences of our limited conscience”?

Well, it was us who had interpreted Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’ as ‘the survival of the fittest’ individual. It was us who had lionized Dawkins’ ‘Selfish Gene’ and left Mayr’s ‘True’ Evolution in relative darkness…

To sum it up, it is us who are are obsessed with something we call ‘success’.

It is us who keep forgetting that the mighty dinosaurs – maybe the most ‘successful’ animals ever, had been the first to disappear when ‘shit’ had struck. And that is was a meek mammal which had inherited the Earth.

It is our success craving conscience which is highly biased. And I’m not at all sure this is a good thing. In the long run, I mean.

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.


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‘.

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