Archives for category: re-definitions

You are entitled to your own opinion.
But you are not entitled to your own facts!

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

“a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal : craze”

“Something that has actual existence. An actual occurence.
A piece of information presented as having objective reality.
The quality of being actual.
A thing done: such as”

Destination first. If you know where you’re going, getting there will be a lot simpler.

According to Daniel Moynihan – “you are not entitled to your own facts”, facts are obvious.
So obvious that doubting their existence, their factuality, would push us beyond the realm of the reasonable.
Appropriating facts – transforming them into ‘private property’, banishes the perpetrator from the community….

Hm…

Let me put it differently.
Moynihan had said something.
What was it? A fact? Or an opinion?

Currently, we – well, most of us – believe that freedom of opinion is the cornerstone of our Weltanschauung.
When it comes to facts… We’re OK with the definition – we do use the word/concept, quite extensively – but we seem to have some problems when dealing with the actual reality. Remember the still famous ‘alternative facts’?

Let me add something personal to all this.
My opinion about ‘facts’.

The current definition is somewhat incomplete.
We take something for granted. To the tune of no longer mentioning it.
We assume all of us see the elephant in the room and no longer talk about it.

For something to become a ‘fact’ we have to notice it.
First.
And then we have to agree among ourselves about its meaning!

Things used to fall down since ….
We’ve been discussing the matter since… we’ve learned how to speak!
But gravity had become a fact only after Newton had noticed the famous apple, wrote about it and we agreed. Gravity had become a fact, and continues to be one, only because his contemporaries had agreed with Newton on this matter. And we continue to believe Newton was right!

In this sense, alternative facts have been with us since day one. Well, something like that…
God had told something to Adam and Eve, the serpent had said something else… and the rest is history! For some…

Newton had said something to us. And most of us had chosen to believe him. Or ignore his words…
Darwin had said something to us. Many of us have chosen to believe him. To accept his arguments about the matter. While some others have chosen to dispute Darwin’s findings. To actively negate Darwin’s explanations about how we’ve got here.

Gravity is a fact while Evolution is still a theory.
Statistically speaking, of course.

In this sense, Moynihan was wrong.
For his words to ‘hold water’, we must to agree on how to separate facts from opinions.
Until we agree among ourselves about how to determine ‘factualness’, we’ll keep having to deal with ‘alternative facts’.

I actually cannot wrap this up before ‘unveiling’ my litmus test for factualness.
Consequences.

Does it have consequences?

Yes? It’s a fact!
No? Then it’s not – not yet, at least – a ‘fact’. It did happen – otherwise we wouldn’t be speaking about it. It even does have consequences – we do speak about it, but that occurrence doesn’t yet have meaningful consequences. It is not a ‘factual’ fact.

Who wrote the Bible?
Who considers God to be both omnipotent and wholly good?
Who had become human by learning ‘to tell good from evil’?
Does evil even exist outside our minds? Is anything actually evil unless considered so by one of us?

And no, I’m not hair-splitting when speaking about the huge difference between bad and evil!
An earthquake, for example, is bad for those affected. Yet no evil is involved here but for those who ‘question God’s actions’.
An individual who tortures animals for fun is also bad. Arguably less so than a major earthquake… but for everybody in their right mind that person is undoubtedly evil!

According to the Bible written by some of our ancestors, by “knowing good and evil” we have become “one of us“. “Like one of us“… Not (yet?!?) able to “live forever” and for certain ignorant of most things.

‘What?!? “Ignorant of most things” yet still “knowing good and evil”?!?’

Yep!

A more relaxed reader of the Bible may notice that what’s written there recounts, symbolically, the becoming of Man. The foremost apes notice the difference between night and day. And name both. The difference between ocean and dry land. And name them both. Notice the stars above and the living things, plants and animals, with whom they share the place. And name them all.
“Apes”, not ape, because nobody can learn to speak by oneself. Nor become self aware. As in ‘able to observe oneself while observing other things’. (Maturana, 2005)

That same relaxed reader may also notice that the very ‘fallen nature’ of Man stems from the ‘inconsistency’ noticed above.

We’re basically ignorant yet still able to call out evil!

Oops…

Humberto Maturana, “The origin and conservation of self consciousness…”, 2005, https://cepa.info/702

James Garvey, “Ethics is invented, not encountered…”, 2017, https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/philosophy/ethics-is-invented-not-encountered-why-the-philosophy-of-jl-mackie-remains-essential-reading

We need to go forward.

Going back is not an option. If back were good enough, we wouldn’t have left it in the first place.

Many people believe we’re reliving the fall of Rome.
Contemporary with that fall was the advent of Christ’s teachings. The fact that, eventually, Christianity has altered his teachings to fit the needs of the christian hierarchy doesn’t demean any of what he taught us.

That people who treat each-other respectfully fare a lot better than those who allow the exploitation of the weak.

That people who live ‘together’ fare a lot better than those who keep forgetting that ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ are both relative and temporary.

That people who are convinced that ‘survival belongs to the fittest’ will eventually make place for those who understand that evolution is solely about the demise of the unfit.

“And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”

How many times have these words been invoked? By people who use them to divide? To carve a follow-ship? A follow-ship for them to lead…

How many times have these words been invoked? By individuals cocky enough to pretend they are speaking for Christ? Cocky enough to pretend they are able to fill Christ’s shoes…

In physics, ‘temperature’ measures the intensity of the interaction between the elements which ‘inhabit’ a certain place.
The more energy exists in a certain place, the more intense the interaction. If the place is inhabited by a gas, each molecule is able to ‘travel’ a short distance before actually hitting one, or more, of its neighbors. If the place is occupied by a liquid, the molecules glide against each-other and if we speak about a solid, the components just shimmy together.
The more energy exists inside a place – the higher the temperature, the more intense the interaction between the individual components. And if, for whatever reason, ‘too much’ energy accumulates into a given space the interaction becomes intense enough for ‘change’ to happen. As temperature raises, solids melt, liquids boil and evaporate while gases become plasma.

Adding energy isn’t enough to determine change. Temperature might rise without anything noticeable to happen. Specially when we speak about liquids and solids. If enough outside pressure is applied, the liquid cannot start to boil and the solid stays in place.

Same thing when it comes to a society.
High output societies need a very intense social interaction to make things happen.
To make so many things happen at once… that being the reason for which those societies need to be democratic. Autocracies are too rigid, they cannot accommodate the continuous adjustments needed to ‘absorb’ the huge amount of ‘social change’ warranted by the amount of energy ebbing through the system.

One way to measure ‘social temperature’ – other than the ‘output’ of that society, is to gouge how vulnerable a society is when confronted with a highly infectious disease which is transmitted through direct contact. Cholera will sweep through an entire community which drinks from the same well, regardless of how much contact individual people have with each-other. Covid, and Ebola, need people to ‘touch’ each-other in order to jump from one to another.

But don’t forget to factor in ‘pressure’. And other things specific to each individual ‘place’.
Otherwise the analysis might produce less relevant results.

“You have a right to defend yourself, be armed, be dangerous and be moral.”
Madison Cawthorn, Representative for NC

In the context of Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial, a friend asked me ‘which right takes precedence?’

A ‘right’ can be understood in two ways.

As something granted to somebody by somebody else.
Or as a consequence of modus vivendi. A consequence of how people interact among themselves.

People who see it in the first way, will ‘fight’ to establish that ‘precedence’.

Those who understand rights as being a consequence of social evolution will negotiate among themselves about the order in which rights should be exerted.

Hence my assertion. No guns should be present at a ‘peaceful’ manifestation. Where people come to manifest their grievances. Where a car or two might get torched. Where a window or two might get smashed.
But where – if things go as ‘planed’, nobody will loose more than a couple of teeth. No matter what!

But as soon as guns are brought along, the ‘atmosphere’ is changed. People start loosing their lives.
And while a car, or a window, can be replaced… lost life cannot be brought back!

And for me, life takes precedence over property. I would aim a gun – If I had one, at somebody trespassing through my bedroom but I would not shoot at them unless my – or others, life was in danger.

So yes, Rittenhouse was right to defend himself but he shouldn’t have brought that rifle to a manifestation. No matter how riotous. It wasn’t his job to police the town. A town which wasn’t his home, where he owned no property… but where he eventually had taken two lives while ‘protecting property’. While asserting “his right to bear arms“.

Kyle Rittenhouse: Calls for calm after US teen cleared of murder.
These Are the Victims Killed in the Kyle Rittenhouse Shooting in Kenosha.
A Tale of Two Shootings.
St. Louis couple who brandished guns at protesters plead guilty.

For knowledge to become actionable, it has to be trusted.
It has to be believed as being true!

In order to cooperate with somebody, you need to trust that person.

But trusting a person is far more complicated than believing that a piece of information is true!

Evaluating a piece of knowledge is a uni-dimensional business. That piece of knowledge either corresponds with (what is considered to be) reality – it is ‘true’, or it doesn’t. Hence it is false.
And it’s only after you have satisfied yourself about an information being true that you may start to ‘own’ it. To act upon it.

When it comes to trusting a person, you are confronted with a bi-dimensional endeavor. Which makes it a real problem.
In order to be able to cooperate with somebody, you need to be satisfied on two accounts.
That that person is qualified enough for the business at hand AND that that person ‘means well’.

Not that simple, is it?

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Until recently – historically speaking, people had two ideologies to choose from.

Conservative and liberal.

The conservatives used to posit ‘law’ as a ‘cage’ which didn’t allow any transgression while the liberals understood ‘law’ as an agreed upon environment which allowed people an individual but orderly pursuit of happiness.

The advent of Marx’s communism changed everything. His promotion of ‘class warfare’ as a legitimate political instrument had effectively muddled that which had previously been considered a clear choice.

After communism proved itself to be an abject failure, the naifs have forgotten about Marx.
Flying under the ideological radar, ‘class warfare’ has metastasized.

Nowadays, Regular Joe is confronted with three ideologies. And to make things worse, their names – attributed and/or assumed, are misleading.

We have a line of thought which uses (natural) ‘law’ as a line of defense against any kind of change. And as a means of bringing back the ‘better yesterday’.

Another line of thought which sees (man made) ‘law’ as an instrument to implement – forcefully, if needed, whatever the ‘implementer’ wants to achieve. One of the most often professed goals being ‘equality’. Close on its heels comes ‘diversity’.

And the ‘classical’ liberals who are squeezed between the previous two.

The state/government – whose job is to keep ‘the playing field’ level and functional, is paralyzed by the first two factions fighting to control it.
The ‘conservatives’ want to use the state/government as a ‘preserving agent’ for what they consider to be their (natural) ‘rights’.
The ‘progressives’ want to use the state/government as an instrument of (forceful, if needed) change towards what they consider to be ‘the common good’.

Meanwhile, the classical liberals – berated by both of the above, have a hard time explaining to a shrinking audience that the state/government is an extremely dangerous instrument if allowed to fall into the hands of ‘single-minded’ operators. That as soon as the freedom of the markets (the economic and, way more importantly, the ideatic ones) is curtailed, everything starts to go south. Fast!

Democracy and the free market have brought us so far.
The freedom of thought/expression and the freedom to act as an honest entrepreneur have been instrumental in us reaching the present state. With the goods and the bads in it.

Each instance in which the state/government had fallen prisoner in the hands of ‘men of state’ with ‘focused vision’, history started to run backwards.
No matter whether that ‘limited vision’ had been focused in the past or on “a certain” future.

Each time this subject comes about I remember about Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History.
About how concentrated he was on the future he considered to be forthcoming.
About how his ‘hard focus’ had prevented him from noticing the sunken part of the iceberg.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/oct/10/texas-abortion-law-jonathan-f-mitchell-profile
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf

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A bunch of ideologically motivated criminals got together and perpetrated a horrible act of terrorism.
A group pf courageous passengers got together and partially foiled the terrorists’ plans.

Both the terrorists and the courageous passengers eventually died.
The terrorists died killing people while the heroes died saving lives.
The terrorists didn’t reach their ultimate goal – the US is still standing proud.
The heroes did achieve their goal. The hijacked plane crushed in a field, far from the target the terrorists aimed to destroy.

Doing something alongside others isn’t enough.
For that something to end up well, the goal must be wholesome!

On the face of it, the two men couldn’t have been more different: Bingham was 31 when he was killed; Judge was 68. Bingham, a former college rugby player with a 6-foot-5, 220-pound build, was a gay public relations executive with an active dating life. Judge was a kindly Franciscan friar who was “selectively out,” according to longtime friend and LGBTQ activist Brendan Fay.

But both men showed courage beyond comprehension that day, saving lives and perhaps even souls.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-news/saint-911-hero-flight-93-lived-different-lives-share-legacy-death-rcna1979

Plants transform water, minerals and sunshine into organic matter.
Herbivores transform plant matter into meat.
Predators cull the misfit among the herbivores.
Scavengers return the ‘discrete components’ back to where they belong. At the start of the cycle.

Please note that this train of transformations happens both above and below water.
That it includes all living organisms we know about.
And that it constantly reshapes the environment.

The oxygen we breathe had been produced, at first, by some primitive bacteria.
The soil which currently nurtures the plants which feed everybody else is a ‘by product’ of past and present organisms.

And so on.

Life is a web. Each of the species, a knot in this web.

Each member of a species gives some and takes some from the web. And, in doing this, keeps the web alive. Gives strength to each knot and keeps the entire web in one piece. In one functional piece.

At first, we – humans, as well at the rest of the apes, have been playing ‘top dog’.
We’ve always taken more than we’ve been giving back. Apes have very few natural predators, except for viruses and bacteria. But what we used to take wasn’t that much out of proportion as to make a noticeable dent. As to endanger the big picture.

Until we, humans, have invented agriculture.
Have actually enslaved plants and animals to serve us.
Shaped the world to cater for our needs. Transformed forests into savannas to feed our animals and savannas into fields for our crops. Then fields into cities for our dwellings and industrial parks for our factories.

Enslaving the nature hasn’t been enough. We have enslaved our own brethren to work in our place.
To take care of our animals, to tend our crops, to clean our houses, even to nurse our new-born.

And we have started to fight among ourselves. Attempting to control more and more of the Earth, we have stepped on each-other’s toes. Then ‘we’ have started to push back against ‘them’. By force, if necessary. By deadly force, if we saw fit.

Here’s were we stand now.

Our current contribution is negative.
We have polluted the planet way beyond its short term capacity to cope with all the refuse we’re stacking on its back.
We have burned enough of the fossil fuel which had been accumulated during hundreds of millions of years that we have thus changed the composition of the atmosphere. Changed it in the wrong direction…
By hunting and by ‘repurposing’ the land we have contributed to the huge bio-diversity loss we are currently witnessing.

Some of us have started to understand what’s going on.
Not only to understand but also to attempt to remedy the situation.

When one country had fallen under the ‘spell’ of terrorists – and a danger for all other countries, a large coalition of ‘interested parties’ have stepped in. And tried to make things right.
For a host of reasons, that effort turned sour. And the ‘interested parties’ have decided to leave.

Amid all that mayhem, a lonely soul had remained steadfast. And spun the Earth in the other direction in his desperate attempt to save his protegees from the advancing Taliban. In his successful attempt to save his protegees from the advancing Taliban…

LONDON (AP) — A former U.K. Royal Marine who waged a high-profile campaign to leave Afghanistan with almost 200 rescued dogs and cats has flown to safety — with the animals, but without his charity’s Afghan staff, who were left behind in Kabul.
A privately funded chartered plane carrying Paul “Pen” Farthing and his animals landed at London’s Heathrow Airport on Sunday after a saga that gripped and divided Britain, raising difficult questions about the relative value placed on human and animal lives.

The way I see it, we – humans, are here to impart meaning to everything we get in contact with.

Now, what’s the meaning of the ‘story’ above?

Are we finally understanding the responsibility we have towards the rest of the living world?
Or we’re still arrogant enough to do as we please? Without any consideration for what’s going to happen next?

As I said before. Humans don’t have any natural predators.
Except for bacteria, viruses … and other people.

A little over three centuries ago, a certain Thomas Malthus maintained “that infinite human hopes for social happiness must be vain, for population will always tend to outrun the growth of production.” Let me add that Malthus had been educated at the Jesus College in Cambridge – where he had received his master of arts degree in 1791, and had taken his “holy orders” in 1797. Had been elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1821, elected a member of the French Academie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, to the Royal Academy of Berlin… and so on…
Until now, Malthus has been proven wrong. We somehow managed to feed ourselves. In fact, despite the fact that we’re now roughly 8 times more numerous than we were in 1800, most of us eat far better than most of Malthus’ contemporaries. Live way longer. Lead far happier lives.
Not without ‘associated’ costs. Borne mainly by the environment. And by some of the ‘others’.

The problem being that the things which had worried Malthus – population growth and the limited nature of the Earth, are true only in part. Yes, population growth puts indeed a lot of pressure on the limited Earth we currently inhabit, but the main thing which limits our “social happiness” is our limited understanding of what’s going on here.

Our self centered and self serving image of the world.
Our own inability to find a long term, life preserving meaning for the things which happen around us.

To us.

By us.

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/
https://www.britannica.com/science/biodiversity-loss
https://apnews.com/article/lifestyle-europe-cats-dogs-kabul-2ef71936faed95629c5f258e3e7ff9ea
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Thomas-Malthus
https://www.statista.com/statistics/1006502/global-population-ten-thousand-bc-to-2050/

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Driven by hunger, trained by habit and enhanced by hope.

That’s how we, humans – a.k.a. conscious animals – operate.

Hunger must be satisfied.
Animals do it instinctively. They can be trained, some of them, only that training is based solely on memory and reward. Their individual contribution to the end result is small.

Humans do it conscientiously. As in ‘on purpose’. They identify first the available food sources – according to their training, rank them – according to their acquired tastes and to the relative ease with which food can be obtained from each of them, and proceed to feed themselves only after all these steps had been performed. However perfunctorily.
It is easy to notice that here individuals have a lot more lee-way. Their contributions to the process can be substantial.

In all of those three phases. And beyond.

When choosing.

When ‘training’ others how to choose.

And when determining that we’ve had enough. That time is ripe to let others feed themselves.

Why are all these people fleeing? From their own country?
Because the Taliban have arrived?

Why had the 300 000 strong, and well equipped, Afghan Army crumbled when left alone to face the 75 000 strong Taliban insurgency?
Because the Afghan government was corrupt? And because “All the major countries – probably except India – in the region had come to terms with the Taliban government.”?

What made these youngsters – very much similar to those above, to choose the Taliban side of the conflict?
And what made the Taliban ultimately more successful than the ‘democratically elected’ Afghan Government?
The Americans deciding it was time for the Afghan People to stand on their own two feet?

As I said at the beginning of the post, we, humans, have a lot more lee-way than the rest of the animals.
None of us is entirely free but each of us has some agency. Some power to influence the destiny of other people.
When exercising that power we’re all influenced by our previously received conditioning and by the present circumstances.
When pressed by ‘urgent considerations’ very few of us remain aware of the fact that present day decisions set the scene for what’s going to happen tomorrow.
When pressed by what we consider to be ‘urgent’ we forget about ‘primum non nocere’.
When caving in to urgency we forget that we are the ones going to live with the consequences of our present decisions.

The Afghans flee their country because they have lost hope.
The Afghan soldiers have caved in because they have lost hope.
The Afghans who have joined the Taliban have done that because they felt there was no other hope.

Who will have to make do in these circumstances?
When are we going to take responsibility for our own fate?
When are we going to start building our own hopes?

Bearing in mind that we have only one Earth at our disposal?
And that if we play our cards right, the sky is the only limit?

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