Archives for category: freedom

One way to interpret Maslow’s pyramid of needs is to consider that an individual might become a full fledged human only after having climbed to the ‘fifth floor’.

The key word here being “might”!

Because nothing mandates that all those who have overcome the material constraints of this world and have successfully integrated themselves in the social milieu will ever become a ‘better version of themselves’.

Need examples? Have you ever heard about people like Bernie Madoff, Martin Shkreli or Myron Scholes?

‘But the last guy, Myron Scholes, was recognized by the Nobel committee as a world class economist!’
Exactly! What more could a person want? Money, fame, worldwide recognition… he was on the fast track to becoming whoever he wanted…
Yet he had chosen to associate himself with one of the deepest financial black-hole ever… Knowingly, unknowingly… doesn’t matter!

‘But what does it mean to become a full fledged human?’

To be free. To consider them-self a free person and to be recognized as such by their peers.

‘Scholes wasn’t a free person?!? Shkreli?!? Madoff?!?’

Nope. Neither was free from greed!
Greed for money, power, public recognition… or any combination thereof.

‘But “greed is good”!!! Isn’t this the current mantra? Aren’t we all driven by this sentiment?!?’

First of all, greed is not good. Read Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiment.
But yes, we are bombarded from all sides with this notion. That ‘greed is good. That greed is the engine of capitalism, which capitalism has brought us here. Where it is good.’

Yes, here it is indeed good. Only for fewer and fewer of us. It used to be better but since ‘greed has become good’ every ‘bump’ we encounter along the ‘free market’ road has proven to be quite a challenge. An insurmountable challenge for more and more of us.
An unsustainable arrangement. For us, as a community.
And yes, capitalism is the best economic paradigm to date. Only, as all paradigms, it has to be put in practice. By us, the people. In the right way. In the free market way.
Only we are no longer free! Those who cannot escape their sentiment may not consider themselves free. And too many of us have been enslaved by their greed!

‘But greed is written in our DNA!’

Indeed! So is the urge to have sex!
Only we’ve managed to teach ourselves, community wise, that while sex is good, rape is bad!
Not so long ago, rape was more or less condoned. ‘She must have enticed him’. ‘What was she doing there at that hour?’ And so on…
Nowadays, rape is shunned. By most of us.

Only we still live surrounded by rape culture. Seeped in greed.

Will we ever learn?
Will we, as a community, ‘actualize’ ourselves?

We make reality.

Each of us: I, you, she, he, brings their individual contributions.
And the end result, our reality, is defined by the quality of the interactions between us.

The new reality, ours, being the ‘place’ where we, the ‘beneficiaries’ of the interactions between us – simultaneously cooperating and competing free agents, and the previous reality, will have to lead our lives.

Until we’ll change it. Again.

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….

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.

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.

For some of you, this is nothing new.
For most of you, this is not at all complicated. The image being different from the real thing is rather obvious. Specially when we’re not already invested in the subject…

What on Earth is he trying to say?
Abolish his own kind? There’s nobody whiter than he is…
Or abolish ‘Whiteness’ as a race? Along with all other ‘races’?

Do you see what I mean?
Had he paid more attention in class, he would have known that such an image cuts both ways.

Magrite’s painting worked because his message was ideologically neutral. Nobody – well, almost nobody, has feelings about ‘pipes’. Hence people find it easy to keep their cool about the whole thing. To probe deeper than ‘face value’.

‘Whiteness’, on the other hand, is ‘choke’ full of sentiment. I’m certain you know what I mean. It’s a lot harder to keep a level head when the subject is mentioned.

Back to the drawing board!
The idea is generous but it doesn’t get across.
Simply because the ‘window dressing’ isn’t appropriate.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2020/june/abolish-whiteness

So, in the name of liberty and in order to protect the lives of the innocents, the government should not mandate wearing a mask in public – for the duration of the current pandemic, but should close the public funded ‘planned parenthood’ clinics forever…

Individuals – both men and women, are to be trusted to take, on their own, the appropriate measures to protect themselves – and the others, but women are not to be trusted to decide, on their own, about what happens inside their own bodies.

Meanwhile, “The US and Brazil each recorded more than 100,000 cases over the seven days from June 15 to June 21, the WHO said, the only two countries with such high infection numbers.
Do I need to refresh your memory about the fact that neither of their presidents, Trump and Bolsonaro, have never been seen wearing a mask in public?

The world is full of problems. Complicated problems. Multi-layered and multi-dimensional.

The world is also full of simple, black and white, solutions. Pun intended, of course. ‘Choke’-full, actually.

A mural depicting African-American George Floyd killed in police custody in Minneapolis, U.S. (REUTERS/Christian Mang)

Some people are convinced that George Floyd’s death was a direct consequence of racism while others are convinced racism cannot explain much and that each man is responsible for his fate. Or should I have said ‘each person is responsible for their fate’?

Those who are convinced that racism is a thing of the past blame the current mess on “toxic masculine values emanating from gangs and peer groups, in the absence of marriage and male parenting.” and on schools being “forbidden to punish more black than white/Hispanic/Asian kids.
In other words, “black” people are responsible for their own fate and those ‘soft-hearted’ ‘affirmative action’ pussies are to share the blame. The only foreseeable solution being “the growth of black community schools that are prepared to take the little buggers by the scruff of the neck, discipline them, and make men out of them.”

Meanwhile, those who see racism as the single cause of the seemingly endless string of tragedies deface and decapitate statues…

A marble statue of Christopher Columbus was beheaded in Boston. (Photo by Tim Bradbury / Getty Images)

And things are further complicated by the fact that many of those who are convinced that racism is the root of all evil are white.

“White people are seeing racial injustice, they’re seeing Breonna [Taylor] and George [Floyd], and they’re seeing the cause of death was not Breonna or George; it’s racist policing,” … “Now they are seeking to transform the policy, and that’s a good thing.”

First things first.
White people demanding that racist policing must be changed is a step further. Only it won’t take us far enough. We don’t need to change a scapegoat – racism, with another.

What? Racism is a scapegoat!?!

Yep!
Racism was the scapegoat used by slave-owners to rationalize away the fact that they were using people – fellow human beings, as burden beasts.
Racism is the scapegoat used by our contemporaries to rationalize away the fact that African Americans are more likely than their white neighbors to drop out of school and to get into prison. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether you consider that African Americans make bad decisions individually, as a consequence of their race/culture or as a result of having been oppressed for so long.
For as long as we don’t acknowledge the fact that African Americans behave exactly like all the other Americans when exposed to the same socio-economic conditions we remain racists.
All of us.

“I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.”

What happened since Dr. King’s prophetic words?
The American Dream has grown more and more inaccessible, even for the whites? More and more white people feel that nobody hears them?

And too many of those who should have already heard continue to remain deaf?
Or, even worse, instrumentalize that rage, already multi-racial, towards their petty political goals?

Bad things happen to politics when Americans feel like the future will be worse than the past. Reactionary and socialist ideologies ascend. The stories we tell ourselves about the problems we face have profound implications for the policy directions we take in the future. But there’s much more to the story than what politicians and pundits are telling us right now.

Nota Bene.
Racism worked as a scapegoat exactly because Afro-Americans were so easy to pin-point. To identify as being different. And from ‘different’ to alien is but a small step…
This being the reason for people of color being pulled over by the police more often than their white counter-parts. An ‘alien’ driving a Tesla ?!?

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