Archives for category: Frames of mind

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…’

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?

There’s one thing shared by both parties who currently pull on the proverbial ‘bone of contention’ – whatever that is. Except for the ‘bone’ itself, of course.

Both parties consider the ‘others’ as being stupid. Stupid enough to ‘discard’.
So stupid that nobody actually hears what the ‘others’ have to say.

What drove me to this conclusion?

Would you pay any attention to something uttered by a ‘libtard’? Or by a ‘fascist’?

Why would an antivaxxer actually listen to the arguments presented by a vaxxer when the anti-vaxxing community is convinced – or had allowed itself to be convinced, that the vaxxers are ‘sheeple’?
Why would a vaxxer try to understand what’s going inside the head of an antivaxxer when the vaxxing community is convinced – or had allowed itself to be convinced, that the antivaxxers are slow minded idiots who cannot understand science. And put us all in harm’s way!

Why would somebody concerned about catching Sars-Cov 2 listen to the arguments of somebody who is ‘cool’ about it? When those who are casual about the whole thing are called Covidiots?
Why would a ‘Covidiot’ care about Covid-19 when so many of them are convinced there are already too many people on Earth? Too many stupid people…

See what I mean?

The problem with this line of thought is that following it blinds each and everyone of those who go along. Us, that is.

Blinds us to the fact that we are all idiots.

None of us knows everything.
Some of us might know more than others, indeed. But no one knows so much as to be able to live comfortably on their own. To be both fully independent and to have a good life for any sizable amount of time.
Hence each of us – no matter how skillful or how highly educated, might – and eventually will, be proven idiot. Sometimes by a ‘simpleton’…

Don’t you believe me?

A guy has a flat tire. Being handy enough, he starts to change it. During the process, the lug nuts end up in a curb inlet. He tries to recover them using a piece of wire but… A kid, who had been watching the whole thing, tries to intervene.
‘Leave me alone, don’t you see I have a lot on my head?’.
After another 5 minutes, the child attempts again to say something. The driver rebuts him for a second time. Another 10 minutes pass by and the guy lightens a cigarette. The child was playing nearby. Remembering his undeserved rebuttal, the ‘handy’ guy approaches the child:

‘You were trying to say something to me a while ago. What was it?’

‘I noticed you’ve lost the lugs holding one of your wheels. Why don’t you unscrew one nut from each of the other wheels, put the spare on and drive to the next repair shop?’

And, by the way, what’s your opinion? Does this guy know what he’s doing? Is he ‘expert’ enough to teach others?

Since I don’t want to leave you ‘on a limbo’, compare to this:

And always consult a manual before attempting to do something for the first time. If one is available, of course. If not, use a double dose of common sense.
Or call for help. Don’t be a knows it all idiot.

‘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?

While everything mentioned above is absolutely true, we must also remember that it was the whites – who had first reached the ‘proper stage of development’, who had given up slavery and invented ‘human rights’.
On the other side, it is also true that the whites did reach the ‘proper stage of development’ by exploiting the rest of the world.
Only ‘this’ wasn’t invented by them! I don’t want to go into the finer details. All of you know, very well, what had really happened ‘on the ground’.

So.
What are we going to do next?

‘Delete’ everything the white people have contributed only because they have been the last to exploit the rest of the mankind?

Or accept the fact that evolution works in an oblique manner?

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 do you determine the scope of a conversation?
What the other guy has in mind when talking to you?

You interpret whatever ‘comes’ from the ‘other’ side… there’s no other way, right?
But what if both of you have opposing views on the subject? If you don’t seem to see eye to eye on the matter? Do you give up, considering the other party as too ‘thick sculled’ to matter?

‘OK, and what alternatives are there?’

The way I see it, people who speak to others might be driven by any combination of ‘trying to convince the other’ and ‘trying to learn something’. Let me deal with the extremes first.

Somebody is trying to mess up with your mind if/when your arguments are dully noted only to be later dismantled, ridiculed or both at the same time. When you are never asked to elaborate. When you end up feeling that the other guy doesn’t really hear what you have to say.

Somebody is trying to learn from the encounter – not necessarily from you, if … the opposite is happening. If you end up with the impression of having been heard. Of an exchange having had happened. Both of you might end up entertaining the very same ideas each of you have started with but…

In practice, most people do learn at least something from each conversation. No matter how determined they were, at the beginning, to convince the other.

But sometimes I do wonder… what if the real goal of too many of those who ‘surf’ – pun intended, the social media is to keep the rest of us busy?
As in ‘waste our time’? Slow us down in our attempt to learn? To make at least some sense of what’s going on around us?

Happy talking!
And don’t forget to learn.

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.

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