Archives for category: time

I’m getting old. Old enough, as a good friend of mine had noticed, to have a way closer relation with sex than ever before.

I am a sexagenarian!

Which gives me certain bragging rights.
You see, everything around us has been made – or started – during my watch. Or earlier…

There is a small catch, though.
Not everything around us is good. In working order. Sustainable!
Some 50 years ago, humankind had developed the means to destroy itself. Remember MAD?
We – our fathers, actually, took a step back. And took the necessary steps. In the end, nothing happened. We’re still here, in spite of having the possibility to spoil everything.
Nowadays, we’ve reached another inflection point. And no, I’m not speaking about ‘global warming’. Not exclusively, anyway.

Global warming is only one of the many things which may go wrong.
One of the many ways in which we may fuck everything up!

My point being that it’s not the first time in history that we are able to fuck everything up.
It’s the first time in history that we are fully aware of the many ways in which things might go totally wrong and we’re practically doing nothing!

Why?!?
Because we have grown old!

When I grew up, there were relatively few old people around.
A lot more than when my parents had grown up but a lot less than now.

When apes had become human – when humanoids learned to speak – old people were precious assets.
Having lived a lot – and being able to share their experience, in detail – they had become depositories of knowledge. The go-to place for when you wanted to learn about something. When you needed a certain piece of information.
Hence the old-timers had, gradually, accrued a lot of respect. As a category.
Add the fact that in order to grow old – to survive for long enough, it helps to make ‘the right calls’. OK, you also need to be lucky… but being smart does come in handy…

Are you done yet? Adding these two? Being looked up to because you are old with thinking good about yourself?

Did you get ‘confirmation bias‘?

In the ‘good old days’, people who had reached my age had their ‘confirmation bias’ tempered by ‘impotence’.
No, not only sexual impotence…
In those days, individuals were a lot more aware than we are today of how much we depend on each other. Of the fact that individually we are impotent! The old ones knew they were going to starve if the young ones would cease providing for them while the young ones were aware of how useful the old ones could be.
Nowadays… We, the oldies, continue to believe we know everything – we survived, didn’t we? – while the young bucks believe they can find out whatever they might need from the internet…
Meanwhile, we – the oldies – no longer need the youngsters to provide for us.

We are wealthier than ever before, we have pension plans and we vote as a team… the world is ours, as it should be!
And since we don’t have so much more to live…

But how sustainable is this situation?
For the shortest of the imaginable time-frames…

‘Most people confuse liberty and democracy. They are not the same.’

Liberty and democracy are not the same indeed.

Like my left hand is not the same with my right one.

But I need both in order to lead what I consider to be a normal life.

Most people – specially if they get help, can survive without a hand. Or without either liberty or democracy.

But without both… without both hands or without both liberty and democracy… I’d be at somebody else’s mercy!

‘What?!?
What kind of liberty is there under communist rule???’

You see, liberty has two ‘faces’. Two dimensions.
Three, actually, but I’ll be talking about only two of them in this post.

There is the ‘inner liberty’ and there is the ‘socially sanctioned liberty’.

Liberty itself is a human concept.
We have noticed something, wondered about it, named it and then attempted to understand it.
This was, and continues to be, a collective effort.

In some places ‘liberty’ had appeared ‘naturally’.
There was enough liberty naturally sloshing around, hence the circumstances were right for those who had happened to live there at the right time to notice it. Furthermore, the conditions had been right again for the entire community to be able to agree among themselves about the concept and about how to use it/put in practice their new intellectual achievement.

Other places have not been so lucky.
They had been close enough, geographically and socio-historically, to notice the ‘birth of liberty’ but their specific conditions were not ‘right enough’. Many people living there coveted liberty but the local conditions made it impossible for liberty to take hold.
In these places ‘inner liberty’ – individually assumed freedom, can be found a lo more easily than presumed by those unfamiliar with the local realities.

Yet other places had it even worse.
Initially on the path towards liberty – and democracy, they have somehow stumbled.
For whatever causes – internal and/or external, something went wrong. People became disappointed enough to give up not only democracy but also liberty. Including their own, individual inner freedom.

A somewhat intermediary situation constitutes the third abnormal quadrant.
The people involved have given up their liberty – partially, but those running the show continue to use (‘pretendingly’) democracy as a window dressing to hide their true intentions.

The last hundred years or so have been extremely relevant in this matter.
All communist regimes had fallen. Under their own weight.
Most fascist/nazi regimes are no longer with us. Had been so ‘arrogant’ – read self destructive, that their neighbors had to do something about them. Had created so much disruption around them that those whose very existence was endangered had been forced to spring into action.
‘Illiberal democracy’ is a rather new ‘development’. Would be fascist/nazi dictators don’t have all circumstances aligned to make their final move so they have to make do with what there is at their disposal. The local population is ‘despondent’ enough to pay attention to their arguments but not desperate enough to follow them into the ‘unknown’. Hence this oxymoronic abomination.

‘Illiberal democracy’…
On the other hand, the spin doctors promoting illiberal democracies hope to be able to reap the benefits of democracy – the population being ‘rather favorably disposed’ towards the government while having to pay less ‘lip service’ to individual human rights.
A balancing act, with no safety net, which is alluring to those reckless enough to attempt it but which will end up badly. Sooner rather than later.

But the most interesting ‘combination’ – for me, at least, is Anarchy.
In the sense that those who ‘swallow’ the lure are self delusional.
They have somehow convinced themselves that their, own, liberty somehow trumps the liberty of everybody else. They feel so strong, so immune to any outside influence, that they would willingly accept to live in a no rule environment. Without understanding that ‘no rule’ means ‘no holds barred’.
They actually don’t realize that unfettered liberty actually means ‘Each of us free against all others’.
This being the reason for which Anarchy, as a political arrangement, has never survived for long enough to be noticed. Except as a transitory phase.

Many people interpret Darwin’s Evolution as ‘the survival of the fittest’.
Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is, made is crystal clear that ‘evolution is not as much about the survival of the fittest as it’s about the demise of the unfit. Read the book, it’s well worth the time. https://www.scribd.com/document/358382958/Ernst-Mayr-What-Evolution-is-PDF

The meme above had been shared by somebody who was convinced that “Covid is solely a mental disease programmed into the minds of the masses to further ingratiate themselves in their loving servitude to their slave master tyrants“.

The fact that we have so many, and so conflicting, views on such a simple natural law as the law of evolution means that… we don’t know shit!

Hence Samuel Adams was right.
Since we know basically nothing, none of us should have ‘authority’ over others. Each of us should be free. To do as they please. To follow exclusively the ‘laws of nature’.

Which one of them?
Darwin’s – as some of us have chosen to interpret, or Mayr’s?

‘Survival of the fittest’ or ‘The demise of the unfit’?
‘I’m stronger than you so move over’ or ‘If you don’t agree with our commonly shared values, please find another place to live?’
‘Free against all else’ or ‘free together with everybody else’?

.

.

.

Can we do without it?
And if not, how much of it?

– If ‘no government’, then who would pay for the army we need to defend ourselves?

Ooops… you’ve just answered the ‘why does Russia ‘encourage’ the trolls who push ludicrous libertarian ideas’ question. Which trolls attempt to achieve two things at once. Weaken the concept of free government and give libertarian-ism a bad rep. Transforming libertarian-ism into yet another form of extremism.

Let’s get serious and try to find an answer to ‘why, and how much of it, do we need government?’

The boring one would be: ‘Whenever one government falls, another one takes over. The interregnum is always bad so… let’s get used to it’.

‘Getting used to it’ works only for very short expanses of time. Left on its own, all ‘government’ becomes sloppy. So sloppy that it soon becomes such a burden that even the most ‘used to it’ lose their patience.
Government, all of them, need to be kept on a tight leash. Otherwise it will soon cease to perform as intended.

– But if you have to keep it on a tight leash, why bother with any in the first place?
Can’t we do without such a bothersome pet?
What’s the point of the whole thing, anyway?

Instinctively, we’re against ‘government’ for two reasons.
It costs us a lot and it used to represent the interests of the ruler.

Until 10 000 or so years ago, we didn’t need ‘government’.
People were living more or less like the modern day Sun People still do. In the Kalahari desert… small bands roam the place, living of the land. The bands are small – so that they might find sustenance, they don’t have any ‘private’ property to protect, hence they don’t need government. Neither did our ancestors.

As soon as people ‘invented’ agriculture – raising ‘tame’ animals at first and working the land soon after, things had changed dramatically.
The advent of agriculture brought two things. An increased productivity and private property.
Soil has not been born equal. Both pastures and arable land can be good, passable or bad. People wish to have the best. Those who already have it are willing to defend it and those who don’t are willing to steal it.
Increased productivity means that those who produce are able to hire people to protect their ‘means of production’. Their property. As a consequence of fighting for it, some people accumulate more and more of it.
More and more ‘means of productions’ – property, means an ever increasing need for ‘management’ and an ever increasing need for ‘protection’. Soon you have a very ‘wealthy’ owner – the lord of the place, call it what you like or use the name given to him by his subjects, the people who perform the day to day management of the ‘whole-sale property’ and those who protect it from ‘marauders’. Both the ‘managers’ – read ‘government’, and the ‘protectors’ – read ‘army’, used to be under the direct supervision of the local lord.
For a while – for as long as the lord kept everything in balance, everybody was happy. The ‘peasants’ were happy because thy were safe, the ‘managers’ were happy because the wise lord used to appreciate their work and ‘compensated’ them accordingly, the ‘protectors’ were happy because they were well fed and taken care of. According to this article, the great Egyptian had been built by willing people, not by slaves.
https://www.harvardmagazine.com/2003/07/who-built-the-pyramids-html
But soon enough, the lord had become estranged from his people. Government had become an instrument used to extract more and more wealth from the peasants while the army was used to protect the government against the people and, whenever possible, to increase the property of the ruling lord by stealing some from the neighboring ‘lords’. The ’empire’ was born.

But this development could take place only in certain circumstances. Where those below the ruling lord had nothing more to do than to obey. Where the best subject was the disciplined one. Where autonomous thinking and imagination were frown upon by the ruler. Where one mind was enough.
Whenever the ‘environment’ mandated the individuals to remain relatively autonomous, proto-democratic forms of self government had been experimented. From the nomadic pastoralists of the Central Asia to the sailing communities in Ancient Greece and Medieval Scandinavia. Those driving herds or sailing ships need to be a lot more independent-minded that those who just tile the earth. No offense intended here! Simple observation will notice that where the geography of the place had allowed it, somebody had ‘built’ an empire. The Nile Valley, the Middle East, the Russian plain, China, Mexico…
Where ever the geography of the place was fragmented enough by sail-able sea, proto-democratic forms of self-management had been developed. The sailing Ancient Athens versus the land-locked Sparta, Medieval Scandinavia versus Medieval France…

Fast forward to present day.
When we have two forms of government.
The more or less democratic ones. Those under whose ‘guidance’ discussions like the present one can happen.
And the more or less authoritarian ones. Which actively discourage autonomous thinking.

Mind you, there are no ‘perfect’ governments.
There’s no perfectly democratic arrangement anywhere on Earth. Because we are imperfect human beings.
And there’s no ‘perfect’ authoritarian government. Because no government can survive for long if it attempts to centralize the decision power. The closer a government gets to being perfectly authoritarian, the smaller is the crisis needed to topple it. Unless it is supported from the out-side but that’s another topic.

So. It is fairly simple to understand how authoritarian governments fail. Too much ‘stiffness’ makes it impossible for authoritarian governments to evolve. To find solutions for whatever challenges pop up constantly.

But what can go wrong with the collective forms of self-rule? With the participative forms of social self management? Otherwise known as democracies?
Lack of enough popular involvement. Due to a sense of apparent safety, initially. And to a feeling of apparent impotence, soon after.
Lack of enough fore-sight. Those who should know better become distracted, for whatever reasons.
Too much opportunism. More and more of the ‘insiders’ use ‘the power of the government’ to fulfill their own, private, goals instead of making sure that ‘government’ works properly.

And what does that mean?

A government works properly when the community which self manages itself using that particular (form of democratic) government survives in the long run.
When those momentarily working inside the government make things happen for the community at large.
When people, both inside and outside the government, follow, in spirit, Kennedy’s words.

Am I being naive?
Maybe… But wouldn’t it be a nice thing to have?
A nice thing to chase, anyway?

And what better way to chase ‘it’ than voting for people who at least pretend to be honest? Who at least make the ‘right’ noises? Whom we can hold accountable whenever they break their promises?
Instead of voting for those who promise barrels and barrels of ‘pork‘?
https://grammarist.com/idiom/pork-barrel/

Ideological pork or hands-on pork, I don’t know which is worse…

Let us imagine, for a moment – or longer, than among the already innumerable objects circling the Earth is yet another surveillance satellite.
One operated by aliens…

What would they think of the current developments?

One of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the topmost watchdog pretending to guard the ‘normalcy’ on Earth, brazenly attacks its neighbor.
Both the aggressor and the victim are members of the organization watched over by the Security Council.
But the aggressor has veto power over the Council.
And, of course, uses that power whenever it sees fit.
Another of the “five permanent members” of the Council chooses to abstain from voting. When the Council is discussing the aggression perpetrated by one of the permanent members of the Council against another fully recognized member of the ‘international community’.

Would the alien observers be laughing their heads off?
Would they keep us isolated from the rest of the Universe? Lest we spread our suicidal behavior ‘among the stars’…?
Both at the same time?!?

‘Guided missiles and misguided people‘….

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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Ordinary people are aware of their own self, have an identity and are driven by goals.
The ‘fulfilled’ ones have developed an understanding, belong to a community and are driven by compassion.
The really ‘lucky’ have found meaning.

And peace.
Those who are still driven try to spread it.

Isn’t it rather strange?

Health care professionals who are not yet vaccinated against Covid-19?
Teachers who are not yet vaccinated against Covid-19?

OK, I understand there are some people who cannot go near a vaccine. For medical reasons. But they are few. And, anyway, most of them do not ‘belong’ to this line of work.

But the rest? What is it which prevents them from getting the jab?
The ‘mandatory’ part?
Why do I care about it being mandatory if it saves my life?

Am I being oppressed for having to breathe in order to live?

Am I feeling oppressed for having to work – as in being useful for other people, in order to lead a decent life?

Is this the real reason for which so many of us, teachers and health care professionals included, refuse the vaccine?

‘I am not going to sacrifice my health for the misconceptions and irrational fears of others.’

I don’t care about anybody else but me?!?

Only time can judge this.

Which was smarter.
To accept the vaccine – and contribute to the general well being, assuming the non-0 risk involved.
Or to weather the storm. Hoping the pandemic will die on its own. And/or that enough of the others will get the jab.

But to find out what time will have decided, each of us must live. Must survive the pandemic.

And here’s the catch.
The strongest amongst us will survive. Without a mask. Without a vaccine.
While many of those who didn’t have to die will have gone under.

But what kind of a world will that be?

Dog eat dog?

Are we OK with that?
Is this what we want to leave behind?

You cannot explore the limits of something without knowning what that something is.
You might not know how that thing works, or came to be, but you need to have at least some idea about what that thing is!

So, ‘What conscience is?’

Huh?!?

‘Cognitive function…’, ‘ability to tell right from wrong’, ‘self awareness’… you name it.
Rathern confusing, isn’t it?
Specially when you already had a clear idea about what the word used to mean… Or was that only an impression?!? An ilussion, actually?

Let me introduce you to my version of things.

Everything that surrounds us has a ‘discrete’ nature.

Both matter and energy are, ultimatelly, made of quanta.
Certain theoretical considerations suggest that time and space are multiple of Planck time and space units, respectivelly. Any lenght, in time and/or space, smaller than a Planck unit not having any sense. The argument being the facts that the speed of light is limited and that matter/energy itself (which fills the space and generates time) is of a discrete nature. As in ‘made of quanta’.

And this ‘discrete nature of things’ is visible at every level.

We have quanta, quarks and other elementary particles, atoms, molecules/crystals. And ‘objects’.
We have substances, membranes, cells, organisms, species. And individuals.

When our scientifically minded forefathers first tried to make some sense of what we had already learned about the world, they had come up with the notion of ‘states of matter aggregation’. Or ‘phases of matter’.
At first, there were three of them. Solid, Liquid and Gaseous.
Currently, we recognize five. Solid, Liquid, Gaseous, Plasma and Bose-Einstein Condensate. The first four are deemed to be ‘natural’ while the last is considered to have been ‘made by man’.

The main difference between them being the manner in which the components ‘stick’ to each other. The amount of force with which each of them interacts with its neighbors.
The same ‘level of internal interaction’ governs the way in which various ‘objects’ interact when they ‘meet’. Two clouds of gas interact differently than two bodies of water. Which interact differently than two rocks. Furthermore, a stream of gas interacts differently with a liquid than with a solid object. And so on….

My point being that the ‘phase of matter’ one object belongs to determines the manner in which that object interacts with its exterior.

‘OK, somewhat interesting but rather hard to follow… anyway, what has any of this to do with ‘conscience’?!?’

Given what I’ve already written, where would you put a living organism? In what ‘phase of matter’?
Is it solid? Liquid? Gaseous? Plasmatic?!? Or, given the fact that it contains all three ‘classic’ phases it’s closer to a Bose-Einstein condensate?

For lack of a better word, I consider ‘conscience’ to be a ‘state of matter aggregation’.

We’ve associated ‘being conscious’ with self awareness. With the human version of self-awareness… the one described by Humberto Maturana. ‘The learned ability to observe ourselves in the act of observing‘.
I suggest that we point our attention towards any other living organism. And notice that it acts as if it was aware of itself. It keeps its inside separate from the outside. It choses what to ingest. What of it to digest. And what to excrete. Sometimes even where to excrete. Then it passes the instructions according to which it had performed all these tasks towards the next generations.

Or would it be more suitable to consider ‘life’ itself as a ‘state of matter aggregation’? And consciousness as a property of life? As hardness is for solids and viscosity is for fluids/gases?

‘And what about ‘the discrete nature of things’? What has this to do with ‘conscience’?’

You see, I’ve just proposed ‘conscience’ as ‘state of matter’. That ‘phase’ where life takes place.
That place where individual organisms interact, among themselves and with their environment, attempting to survive. And to pass on the information contained in them.
We, humans, have taken ‘conscience’ to the next level. Our conscience is far more than the natural tendency to uphold the functionality of the individual organism. We observe ourselves in the act of observing. We set what is good, and bad, for us. We set goals.

Sometimes without being aware that our goals might hurt us.
The individual ‘us’.
And the collective us.
The collective us which makes us, individuals, possible.

Primum non nocere!

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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3501646

Change can either be inflicted upon you or effected by you.

‘Change’ as in ‘something you need to overcome if you are to survive’.

We, humans, are the first to be in this situation. The rest – from the humble sub-atomic particles to our cousins, the great apes, experience change only as being inflicted upon them.

Gravity pulls together a huge cloud of gas and dust until it becomes hot enough for the fusion reaction to transform it into a star.
A supernova becomes so hot that gravity can no longer keep it together. It explodes and releases the heavier elements needed for planet building.
As it cools down, the second generation nebula is again pulled together by gravity.
A smaller star appears, this time ‘entouraged’ by planets.
On one of those planets, conditions are ripe for life to appear.
Wind and frost erode the mountains. Water carries the debris into ravines. Micro-organisms transform the debris into soil.
Vegetation – starting with the blue-green ‘algae’, which are actually cyanobacteria, have transformed the atmosphere into what it is today.
Animals have evolved into their present state by eating plants – at first, and then each-other.
Fungi have added their contribution towards what we witness/enjoy today by digesting whatever they ‘perceive’ as being ‘food’.

All of the above mentioned ‘change’ has been ‘inflicted’ upon those who bore it, by the ‘changing factors’, according to ‘natural laws’ implicit to the nature of the ‘changing factors’.
Gravity pulls because…
The blowing wind and the freezing frost who had broken down mountains did change the face of the Earth because it was in their nature to do what they did.
Plants, animals and fungi, together, have transformed the planet into what it is today as a consequence of each of the species doing what it was natural for it to do in order to survive. None of the species, nor any of the individual members of those species, had ever done anything ‘on purpose’!

Until we, the ‘naked apes’, have become ‘conscious human beings’.

We continue to have a lot of change inflicted upon us, of course.
Inflicted by factors outside our species – the current Covid pandemic, for instance, or by ‘agents’ amongst us. The first example which comes to my mind being the plane high-jacked by Lukashenko – the ‘last European dictator’, because he wanted to arrest a dissident journalist who happened to be inside.

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My point being that we’re the first who effect change. Who do it ‘on purpose’.
Which very ‘purpose’ makes us responsible for the outcomes of our actions.
For no other reason than the fact that it will be us who will suffer the consequences of our own ‘edeavours’!

It’s our consciousness which instills purpose into our actions.
Then our very same consciousness should better become responsible towards the consequences engendered by our purposeful actions.
For no other reason but the simple fact that it’s our own survival at stake here!

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