Archives for category: man induced fragility

A few short weeks ago, Trump and his supportes were celebrating the Supreme Court as the last bastion of normalcy. As they saw it…
Presently, the still President of the United States acuse many of the judges, including all members of the Supreme Court, of not having ‘enough courage’.

Consequences?

Who could have imagined something like this a few short years ago?
The most powerfull democracy on Earth being the scene of such a tantrum?

How do we vote?
For a candidate/party or against? Usually against the incumbent… Or against what we dislike…

What do we vote for? What do we expect?
Leadership or stewardship?
Do we expect our elected officials to take us by our collective hand and lead us through darkness or just want them to turn on the light?
To make it so that we may lead whatever lives we choose for ourselves ? For as long as we behave in a generally acceptable manner, of course…

Which brings us to ‘what democracy really is’ and ‘how can we make it work for real’?

First of all, let me point out that no democratic ‘arrangement’ had ever failed. For as long as it managed to maintain its democratic nature, of course….
Secondly, no authoritarian regime had survived for long. And most of them had fallen under their own weight rather than under outside pressure.

You see, even the ‘weakest’ democracies are way more adaptable than any authoritarian regime. The fact that anybody can voice their concerns sheds light on each problem, as it arises. The fact that all positions under the despot are filled with yes-sayers actually blinds all authoritarian regimes.
Furthermore, the fact that ‘we, the people’ has peaceful means to ‘fire’ those who do not rise to the occasion makes it possible for the society, as a whole, to survive ‘the event’. Even if the previous ‘decision maker’ could not find a way out. Faced with the same predicament, an authoritarian regime must first pass through a revolutionary transformation…

Then, if democratic regimes have such an evolutionary advantage compared to the authoritarian ones, why are we still confronted by so many dictatorships?

Because democracy demands something which is in short supply.
Mutual respect among all members of a given society!
Furthermore, democracy works only when the questions seeking answers are about the ‘how-s’ of the matter and not about the ‘what-s’.
A democratic society will remain democratic for only as long as its members continue to stick together. To have a common goal. To share a common weltanschauung.

As soon as a society allows itself to be divided into ‘parties’ promoting antagonistic interests its previously democratic arrangement will fade into ‘mob-rule’. Which is the ante-chamber of authoritarianism.

You live in a house.
And need a gardener.
You find one.
Because you don’t know him, you hire him for only a year, with the option to renew.
When the contract is due to renewal, you attempt to make up your mind.
The guy wasn’t that bad – for the garden, all things considered, but you’ve learned that he doesn’t brush his teeth and he occasionally beats his wife.
‘What the hell!. I seldom see the guy and I don’t know his wife! Why bother finding another?’

You live in a walled in community. Which is operated as a condominium.
The community needs a gardener.
In the area, there are only two agencies which provide gardeners. Each of them sends somebody. One of the guys is selected.
After one year, the community organizes a meeting to decide whether to extend the contract or to hire another guy. The garden is, more or less, OK only the guy is rude. So much so that he had alienated some of the owners as well as some of the neighboring walled-in communities.
The caveat being that the guy available from the other agency is deemed unreliable by those who would like to continue with the current one.
The owners are so divided that some of them no longer pay their dues while some of the opposition picket the entrance gate.

You live in a village.
You need a mayor…

Funny?
Obviously!

Does it make any sense?
Not really…

Then why are we sharing this kind of memes with so much gusto?

I can’t figure out, with any degree of certitude, what drives those who make them in the first place.
Some might find it funny, others might just be employed by those who make a living by selling advertising space…

But why do we, ‘innocent civilians’, share them?

Because they – those which we share, reinforce our stereotypes?
Sharing them makes us feel like ‘contributors’?
We cherish the likes we get?

Do we realize how divisive these memes are?
How they reinforce our tendency to divide people into ‘members of our group’ – the ‘right’ ones, and ‘the rest’?

How they reinforce our tendency to poke fun at ‘the rest’?
To consider them, if not outright ‘expendable’, at least ‘unworthy of consideration’?

Division of work was the first milestone we had passed in our quest to reach humanhood.

If not convinced, compare the effectiveness – in any situation, of a team composed of identically educated and similarly skilled people versus one comprising individuals with various skills and diverse exposure to the world – a.k.a. education.
In other words, compare a bunch of ‘robots’ to a gang of people who complement each-other.

Historically, societies – when and where enough resources had been present, have become increasingly complex. While those composing them have become more and more specialized. And more and more dependent on the rest of the society. On the smooth functioning of said society.
In Adam Smith’s words: the baker, the butcher and the brewer depend on each-other to feed their respective families.

In fact, all of us depend on the smooth functioning of the market. Those of us who had experienced communism had learned this on our own skin.
Same thing is valid for all totalitarian societies. Any attempt to run complex systems from above – in a centralized manner, will – sooner rather than later, end up in failure.
For no other reason than the fact that nobody – individually or in a small team, is above error. No matter how smart or well intended, all of us make mistakes. If the system allows for those present to point out errors – and to demand those errors to be fixed, things may continue.

But, by definition, a totalitarian – a.k.a. centrally planned, system has no feed-back loop. The planners have ‘no’ information about the consequences of their decision making. Well, my experience suggests a combination. Those at ‘the bottom’ gradually loose their appetite for sending information topside – because those at the top had the habit of ‘killing’ the bearers of bad news, while those at the ‘top’ gradually loose any interest in what goes on at the bottom.

Working democracies are organized around the principle of ‘separation of powers’. Another form of ‘division of work’. Each ‘power’ does what it’s supposed to do and, together, balance the whole system.

Nothing ‘fancy’.
For as long as those involved pay due respect to the principle instead of lip service to the form…

Nassim Taleb had coined an interesting concept.
Intellectual yet Idiot.
Any individual conceited enough to believe he’s always right and arrogant enough to try to impose his worldview on those around him.

Or, in Karl Marx’s terms, an individual who has convinced himself that the world needs to be changed according to his own precepts.

‘What?!?
Are you implying that Marx was the first ‘intellectual yet idiot’?’

No, only the second…
Remember Plato’s ‘king priests’?
What’s the difference between those who, according to Plato’s advice, were to be groomed to govern and those who had been conditioned by various totalitarian parties and sent out to ‘spread the word’?
What’s the difference between Plato, Marx and, say, Alfred Beumler and Alfred Rosenberg?

Plato had been inspired by what Pericles – a dictator, had managed to achieve and his most prominent ‘product’ had been Aristotle. Who, in his turn, had educated Alexander the Great. Supposedly one of the greatest generals and statesmen in human history. According to European historiography, anyway…
If you ask to those of his contemporaries who had happened to be in Alexander’s path to glory… you might get a different opinion!
And what’s so glorious in being the immediate cause of death for so many people across three continents only to die of alcoholic poisoning?

Marx had come up with a brilliant explanation for what went wrong in early capitalism and with an abysmal solution for the problems he had identified.
The worst thing being that he didn’t stop at proposing aberrant solutions.
He was actually instrumental in several attempts to put them in practice.

Alfred Beumler and Alfred Rosenberg. Is there any need for me to comment on them? On their absolute arrogance?
How else to call their willingness to declare that some people are to go on living while others should be disposed off?

This being the moment I’ll be pointing the finger to what Plato, Marx and Beumler/Rosenberg have in common.
All of them share the willingness to divide people into ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’. The arrogance to put forward criteria which are to be followed by the rest of us.
The arrogance to consider the world should follow their teachings.

Division of work had done it’s job.
Invented by nobody in particular, used by most of us – and many of our ancestors, it had brought us to where we are now. When so many of us have time to think.
Technology – maybe the most evident consequence of ‘division of work’, is proficient enough to feed us all. If we use it right.
Or to kill us all. If we use it wrong.

What will it be?
Are we going to remember what, time and time again, our forefathers have figured out? That ‘together’ we can ‘move mountains’? That diversity is the key to survival? To finding new paths into the future?
Or are we going to fall pray – not for the first but, certainly, for the last time, to those who teach us to despise our neighbor? To stay separate? To consider some people – mainly ‘us’, as being above the rest?

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.

Society exists in two forms.
One in which the individual members have a certain amount of respect towards their peers.
And another one, where John Doe doesn’t give a damn about anybody else. Or even hates everybody else.

The first kind evolves. People talk – and listen, about their problems. Then find solutions.
The second experiences revolutions.

When too many individuals have never had anything ‘substantial’ on their name, and feel they have no chance of improving their lot – because ‘everything’ has already been appropriated by a small minority, that society has a marked tendency towards communism.

Sometimes, too many individuals see their fortunes go down the drain, for no matter what reason. From there, only God knows how, those fortunes go straight into somebody else’s pockets. Any society which experiences something similar has a marked tendency towards fascism.

The problem with both communism and fascism being that they have always failed. Crumbled from within before being pushed into the precipice by those who has seen the situation as an opportunity. As an opportunity too good to be wasted.
Then, if neither had ever survived for long, why are so many people who continue to profess either? So many intellectuals who try to convince their audience that …

Well…, first of all, because ‘intellectuals’ are nothing but regular people. With a twist! Not only that intellectuals have the same ‘passions’ as the commoners – ‘greed’ being the most intense, but they also have a very good opinion about themselves. Hence too many of the intellectuals consider that they are the ones who should be in charge. That they are the ones who know what everybody else need to do if they want to live comfortably.

In a nutshell, too many intellectuals fall into the trap of considering themselves infallible. And ‘deserving’!
Hence those would do everything needed to get what is rightfully theirs.

If a society is ripe for communism, one/a bunch of the ‘intellectuals’ I described above will, for sure, drape themselves in a communist flag.
If another society is ripe for fascism, in a similar manner, one or, probably, more ‘intellectuals’ will drape themselves in a fascist flag.

It’s up to us, who’ve experienced at least one of them, to blow the whistle.
And it’s up to the rest to listen…

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?

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