Archives for posts with tag: Consumerism

I’m sure you’ve already learned everything worth knowing about how to flatten the curve…

My post is about something else.
About the need to think with our own heads.
Individually. Each on their own.

More damages are caused by the manner in which we have chosen to react than by the pathogen itself.

‘Then what should we do?’

I don’t know. And I just told you to stop taking cues, blindly.

There is something I do know.
Nobody can get out of something like this on its own. Alone.
And another thing. If we get out of it as a herd, we’ll very soon end up in another trap.

‘Damned if you do, damned if you don’t… I really can’t figure out what you want to say….’

We, humans, are social animals.
We not only raise our young – all mammals do that, we raise them in a social context. We live in groups and we raise our children to belong there.

Living in a social context has consequences. From being prone to infestation to having adopted specific behaviors.
Humberto Maturana is actually convinced that our very conscience – ‘our ability to observe ourselves while observing‘, a paraphrase, is a product of us leading our lives in close community.

One of these specific behaviors is the herd instinct.
Whenever in a dire strait, the members of a group pay a lot more attention to the rest of the group than in the ‘peaceful moments’.
This has two bright sides and one huge drawback.

All members of a group paying close attention to the others makes it easier for those who need it to get attention. And help.
All members of a group paying close attention to the others makes it easier for the group to follow when one of them finds a way out.
All members of a group paying too close attention to the others makes it very likely that the entire group will dash out at the first opportunity. Without checking first where they’re going to land. Nor whether there are any other opportunities.

Another specific behavior is ‘opportunism’.
Some of us have figured out that by keeping their chill in a crises they are more likely to identify whatever opportunities might exist in that moment.
And the deeper the crises, the bigger the opportunities.

Theoretically, these two should work like a charm.
The opportunists keep their chill, look around, identify the best way out and the rest of the herd follows them to safety.
A win-win situation.

Yeah… but!

Wouldn’t it be a way lot better whether all (or, at least, ‘more’) of us would keep their chill? Wouldn’t we be able to identify even more ways out?
It would take a lot more time? We’d need to discuss things over, to negotiate… we’d have to exert a lot of discretion…
True enough. Hence we’d need to evaluate two things. First, how urgent the dangerous situation is and, then, whether a better alternative would be worth searching.

And something else. In a ‘follow me blindly’ situation there’s no going back. The consequences for a hasty choice might be tremendous.

We might end up with more people being hurt by our blunder-some reaction than by the cause which had spooked us.

Yet another specific behavior is responsibility.
Living in a social context means that, sooner rather than later, individuals are censored for their actions. By the rest of the community or, sometimes, by the stark reality.
Unfortunately, sometimes entire communities are censored, by the stark reality, for not behaving responsibly. For not imposing responsibility upon their members.

For not taking enough time before choosing between flight and fight.

Let me put things into perspective.
How many of you have chosen to continue smoking despite having been warned?
How many of you have emptied the shelves despite being told there’s enough for everybody? Or that there will be soon enough?
How many of you do not smoke in the presence of your children? Because you know it will hurt them?
How many of you have taken active measures to protect the elderly? For the very same reason…

As for the economy being the main casualty of the present scourge…
I’m afraid ‘the economy’, as we know it, has been dying for quite a while now. That’s why it is so susceptible to SARS CoV-2.

The Ancient Greeks had come up with the concept of ‘oeconomia’ as the art of making the ends meet. Adam Smith had described the free market as the place/environment where competing agents made it so that people – solvent demand, could satisfy their needs.
Nowadays, too many of us understand/accept ‘economy’ as the art of getting rich. ‘Free’ in ‘free market’ is understood as ‘free’ to do anything you want. Because very few are asked to answer for the long term consequences of their actions.

The economy, as the manner in which we cooperate towards fulfilling our needs, has fallen prey to our gluttony. And to our nearsightedness.
Greed is not good. And SARS CoV-2 is only an eye opener, not the cause for the current implosion.

Each of us made of a huge, but finite, number of atoms belonging to a few chemical elements, we, humans, are in relative control of a huge, but finite, planet.

As animals – living animals, that is, we need to constantly ‘ingest’ part of our environment and periodically excrete the ‘consequences’ of our metabolism.

As conscious humans we learn. Constantly.
Practically, we ingest information about what is going on around us.
We ‘digest’ it by ‘thinking’ about what concerns us.

Only the more ‘sophisticated’ animals control their bladders and bowels. Hence choosing – according to various criteria, what to do and where to deposit the ‘consequences’ of their metabolism. By doing so they actually increase their chances of survival.

We, as the most sophisticated animal around, have taken a huge step forward. We not only control our excretion, we also control our intake.
Animals – along with plants and fungi, ingest whatever they can from whatever surrounds them at any given time.
We’ve reached the stage where we actually change our environment in order to make it more amenable to our wishes. To our wishes, no longer to our mere necessities.

While the living have started to change the planet long before we evolved into being – by ingesting part of it, digesting it and excreting the consequences of their metabolism, we’ve considerably ‘revved up’ the process.
Simply because of our ability to learn and apply our knowledge towards what we consider to be our goals.

In a sense, we not only ingest our environment in a direct, material, way but also in a ‘virtual’ one. By learning about it we practically ingest it in an ‘informational’ manner. And by implementing our decisions we ‘excrete’ the consequences of our learning.

As I mentioned before, the animals who control their bladders/bowels have experienced increased chances of survival as a consequence of their new – evolutionary speaking, ability.
It is high time for us to learn how to control our imagination/desire in order to achieve the same thing. Regarding to our ability to informationaly ingest and decisionally transform our environment.

in 1 ianuarie 2016 intra in vigoare o taxa pentru depunerea deseurilor la groapa de gunoi de 80 de lei pe tona

“In prezent nu se plateste nicio taxa de mediu pentru depozitarea deseurilor la groapa de gunoi, introducerea acesteia avand ca scop descurajarea depozitarii, a explicat ministrul Mediului.”

Pentru ca lucrurile sa fie clare, aceasta taxa se adauga la tariful perceput de operatorii gropilor de gunoi, tarif care se percepea si pana acum.

Pe de alta parte organizatiile ecologiste ne atrag atentia ca, cel putin la blocuri, oamenii sunt foarte putin interesati in selectarea selectiva a gunoiului – cea mai simpla cale spre transformarea acestuia intr-o materie prima utilizabila – din cauza existentei ‘ghenelor’ de gunoi. Adica a tevilor acelea groase in care locatarii blocurilor arunca la gramada tot ce nu le mai trebuie prin casa, fara nici un minim efort de selectare.

Cu alte cuvinte incercam sa stimulam transformarea gunoiului in materie prima instituind o taxa pana la urma insignifianta pentru cei care pot face cel mai mult in directia dorita.

Se poate si altfel.

Daca stam bine sa ne gandim invazia de gunoi provine in mare parte din ‘bucuria’ cu care consumam. Cei care vand incearca sa ne convinga sa cumparam cat mai mult pentru ca ei sa aibe castiguri cat mai mari iar noi cumparam mai multe lucruri decat avem cu adevarat nevoie tocmai pentru ca acest lucru ne creeaza o ciudata stare de bine. Pana la urma toate acestea au o foarte puternica legatura cu obsesia noastra pentru bani.

Ei bine, insusi principiul ‘poluatorul plateste‘ nu face decat sa intareasca aceasta obsesie. In momentul in care cel care polueaza are optiunea de a plati pentru a continua sa polueze s-ar putea ca el sa aleaga aceasta varianta. Si atunci nu am facut nimic. Daca problema este reala atunci ea trebuie rezolvata pana la capat iar daca nu este chiar atat de importanta incat nu merita rezolvata de ce sa mai zapacim lumea cu ea?

Revenind la ‘gunoiul nostru cel de toate zilele’ ce-ar fi daca in loc de taxa pe tona ar fi implementata obligatia cetatenilor si a colectorilor de gunoi sa il selecteze? Si n-ar fi greu de facut, daca am organiza lucrurile ca lumea.

In primul rand ar trebui ca acest serviciu municipal sa nu mai fie platit direct de gospodarii catre colectori ci de catre primarii. Din impozitul local care ar putea fi ajustat in acest sens.
Primariile ar urma sa scoata la licitatie inversa atat colectarea gunoiului cat si salubrizarea strazilor. Pe portiuni, in cazul oraselor mari, si pe termene fixe, bineinteles. Iar proprietatea asupra gunoiului va urma sa treaca de la cel care a generat deseurile la compania care il colecteaza in momentul in care a fost scos pe strada.
In felul acesta colectorii vor putea sa vanda catre reciclatori mare parte din gunoi si chiar sa foloseasca fractia combustibila pentru generarea de apa calda/caldura. Tocmai de aceea vor insista chiar ei pentru ca gunoiul sa fie selectat de la inceput.
In ceea ce priveste gospodariile si acestea vor fi direct interesate in respectarea regulilor tocmai pentru ca altfel vor ramane cu gunoiul in curte.

Daca stam bine sa ne gandim tot la bani am ajuns numai ca in aceasta situatie nu mai exista varianta ‘de scapare’ pentru cei care nu au ‘chef’ sa selecteze gunoiul.

Iar faptul ca nu vor mai exista contracte individuale va avea si alte efecte pozitive. Gospodariile individuale nu vor mai trebui sa-si bata capul cu ele si atunci nu vor mai fi tentate sa duca gunoiul ‘pe camp’ iar colectorii nu vor mai putea sa justifice neridicarea gunoiului, daca acesta a fost selectat conform regulilor stabilite.

While the facts remain – there was a thinly clad teenager shivering in the middle of Manhattan and a lot of people passed by without offering any assistance – the whole incident raises some fresh issues besides those flagged by the ‘pranksters’ who staged the whole thing.
The person starring in the so called experiment was almost certainly underage. Exposing him to such temperature for so long is cruel. To do such thing in order to demonstrate the obvious – that we, the inhabitants of larger cities, have become rather insensitive – is rather… you name it!
Self serving callousness, to say the least?
It doesn’t matter that the authors purportedly want to promote a good cause. That’s no way of winning somebody to your side.

Pentru cei ce locuiesc pe Luna voi face un scurt rezumat.
800 de fosti si actuali elevi ai liceului au facut un grup pe Facebook, loc in care si-au varsat naduful acumulat in timpul vietii de licean. Unii dintre profesori s-au simtit jigniti de modul ‘frust’ in care au fost exprimate aceste ‘frustrari’. Ca urmare o parte dintre elevi au ‘suferit consecinte’. ‘Asistenta’ este profund dezbinata.

Unul dintre cele mai pertinente comentarii asupra subiectului, cu toate ca destul de pasional si pe alocuri partinitor, mi se pare cel facut de presedintele Consiliului National al Elevilor, Horia Onita. Iata un scurt fragment:

“Educaţia centrată pe elev, educaţia fundamentata pe principii de răspundere publică şi de reprezentativitate, aşa cum stipulează şi art. 3 din Legea Educaţiei Naţionale 1/2011 vor rămâne doar utopii până în momentul în care se va înţelege că profesorul şi elevul din România sunt parteneri ai aceluiaşi sistem, şi nu subordonaţi unul altuia.”

Acesta este un bun punct de pornire pentru a intelege ce se intampla.

Pentru ca tabloul sa devina cu adevarat inteligibil trebuie sa ‘marim cadrul’ pana cand reusim sa cuprindem si pe cel de al treilea mare actor al acestei drame. Si anume “publicul”, format in cea mai mare parte din “rude/parinti”.

Rude si parinti nu doar ale elevilor ci si ale profesorilor!

Sa vedem ce cred unii despre ceilalti.

Parerea unora dintre elevi fata de o parte dintre profesori rezulta din pozele si comentariile deja publicate in presa.

Parerea majoritara a profesorilor despre respectivii elevi rezulta din ‘sentintele’ primite de acestia.

Parerea parintilor elevilor despre profesori rezulta foarte clar din lefurile primite de profesori. Destul de indirect, intr-adevar, dar pana la urma noi, cetatenii, prin vot, suntem cei care am tot hotarat destinul acestei tari. Adica noi suntem cei care am adus la putere generatii dupa generatii de politicieni care nu au reusit sa reorganizeze invatamantul.
Tot noi, parintii, suntem cei care discutam ‘fara perdea’ despre subiectul asta. Atat in familie, in fata copiiilor, cat si in media.
“Invatamantul romanesc produce tampiti”.
“Profesorii sunt corupti”.
In conditiile astea chiar ne asteptam ca odata ajunsi elevi copiii or sa nutreasca vre-un mare respect pentru ‘cadrele didactice’?

Parerea parintilor despre proprii lor copii rezulta din toate cele de mai sus.
Daca ne-ar fi pasat cu adevarat de ei faceam in asa fel incat sa le lasam mostenire o tara in stare de functionare si nu o vaca atat slaba din cauza mulsului excesiv la care a fost supusa incat abia mai sta in picioare.
Daca ne pasa cu adevarat faceam in asa fel incat sa avem timp si pentru ei. Degeaba le luam telefoane performante cu care sa faca poze in timpul orelor si calculatoare cu care sa ‘aranjeze’ acele poze si sa le puna pe Internet daca atunci cand ajungem acasa suntem atat de sleiti de puteri incat nu ne mai pasa de nimic.

Copiii nostri au nevoie de sufletul nostru mai mult decat de banii nostri.
Copiii nostri au nevoie de educatie, nu doar de informatie bruta. Iar educatia nu poate veni nici de la parinti spetiti de munca si nici de la profesori flamanzi, rupti in spate sau preocupati mai mult de meditatii decat de orele de la scoala.

Ce parere au copii nostri despre noi?
O sa vedem peste vreo douazeci de ani cand ne va veni vremea sa iesim la pensie.
Si nu va ganditi ca veti fi strans destui bani pana atunci incat nu veti mai avea nevoie de ajutorul lor.
Degeaba toti banii din conturi daca copii nostri se vor fi dus sa-i ‘stearga la cur’ pe batranii din vestul Europei sau de aiurea.

Banii nu valoreaza nimic daca nu sunt pusi in miscare de niste oameni suficient de calificati din punct de vedere profesional incat sa poata tine o economie in carca si suficient de educati incat sa isi dea seama ca o tara corupta nu poate supravietui prea multa vreme.


There are two sides of this.
1. Be frugal and use only the least disruptive tools at your disposal, even if it means subjecting yourself to increased personal danger.
2. Kill everything in sight, move over when done and repeat…


M-a intrebat cineva ce cred despre articolul asta:

“Nouă personalităţi răspund pe ce se întemeiază credinţa lor: De ce cred în Dumnezeu”

Dupa ce am citit (doar) “Omul fara rost” am raspuns repezit:

“Icoana de pe peretele clasei nu este un indemn catre narcomanie sau orice altceva (din ‘clasa’ celor evocate de Dan C. Mihailescu) ci este unul catre conformism.

Si exact asta este motivul pentru care am intrat, cu totii, in criza in care suntem de vreo 50-60 de ani: am ascultat prea tare de altii si am imprumutat prea disciplinati modelele care ne-au fost propuse.
E adevarat ca dezvoltarea la care a ajuns spatiul cultural din care facem parte (cel ‘vest european’) are foarte mult de a face cu faptul ca am fost crestini numai ca noi oamenii am dat nastere crestinismului nu invers.
Cu alte cuvinte noi am dezvoltat crestinismul, noi l-am creat pe Dumnezeu (tocmai pentru ca avem credinta – “Nu M-ai cauta daca nu M-ai fi gasit!”) si nu invers.
Distanta care a aparut acum intre oameni si Dumnezeu nu se datoreaza faptului ca Dumnezeu ar fi facut ceva rau (nici nu poate, el este insasi ‘firea’ – tot ce exista – asa ca daca ar face ceva rau ar fi ca si cum si-ar trage un glont in picior.) Se datoreaza faptului ca unii smecheri incearca sa profite de credinta oamenilor. Prea mult preoti catolici isi bat joc de copii. Ortodocsii construiesc prea multe biserici monumentale si prea putine azile de batrani. Prea multi protestanti se straduie sa invete pe unii cum sa-i urasca pe altii (legile anti-homosexuali din Uganda se pare ca sunt opera unor evanghelisti americani) in loc sa-i indemne sa depaseasca diferentele dintre ei. Prea multe ulemale indeamna la varianta exterioara, violenta a jihadului.
In realitate oamenii nu se indeparteaza de Dumnezeu. Se indeparteaza de chipul pe care i l-au cioplit smecherii astia si ii cauta adevarata fata, cea care se arata fiecaruia dintre noi in particular si nu atunci cand batem matanii in fata bisericii ca Iliescu sau ca Bush dupa ce s-a ‘nascut a doua oara’. Sau ca sa ma intorc la Mihailescu oamenii merg “prin păduri, pe vârfuri de munte, prin livezi, podgorii, fâneţe, ori în largul mării” tocmai pentru ca acolo gasesc o fata a lui Dumnezeu mult mai sincera decat cele zugravite prin unele ‘altare’ sau zbierate prin difuzoare de unii predicatori!”
Abia dupa aceea am citit si restul articolului. Merita. Pe mine m-au interesat mai ales cele spuse de Radu Gologan. Pe urma am mai citit odata si predica parintelui Galeriu.

mad cow.jpg

The current mantra is ‘consumer driven economy’.
I think this is a blatant lie. Currently the economy is not ‘consumer driven’ but ‘driven by marketeers’. The consumers do nothing but set the limits… (or more precisely the limits are set by the consumers’ ability to borrow against their future).
Some nights ago, while listening to Zhang Xin about the Chinese economy becoming more consumer oriented ( I started to see the stages we passed in order to get here:

– Hunter-gatherers for most of our pre-history. Minimal material progress: Chipped stone tools, bow and arrows, fire, some weaving.
– Agriculturalists. Second longest period. Increased productivity freed some people to do something else but toil for food. Most important features of modern life appeared now: lifespan improved dramatically, at least for those not having to work endlessly under the sun, water and waste management in the cities, commerce, manufacture, thinking for the sake of thinking. Still, people tended to mind a natural order: first things first and thrills later.
– Industrialists. The advent of the machine tool. Apparently things were going even better. People started to become less ‘poor’.
– Economists. Mass production, economy of scale. The poor were still improving their lot but the rift between the have’s and the have-not’s was already widening.
– Marketers. Rational, profit seeking agents. The economy is no longer a human activity that provides goods for the consumer to choose from but a ‘killing field’ were everybody tries to get rich and the weakling be damned. People are faking the very food they serve to their fellow humans just because they need additional money to buy more trinkets. Planned obsolescence. Redundancies. Corporations try to control everything, including drinking water.

Surely we must be doing something wrong.
I’m all in for science, reason and everything else. The problem is what are we going to do with all these!?!–stiglitz

“Fortunately, what motivates most significant advances in knowledge is not profit, but the pursuit of knowledge itself. This has been true of all of the transformative discoveries and innovations – DNA, transistors, lasers, the Internet, and so on.”

This observation is in synch with a concept introduced by Csikzentmihalyi: “flow – the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” (

Unfortunately modern world is dominated by another concept: “monetization”. “To monetize is to convert an asset into or establish something as money or legal tender. The term monetize has different meanings depending on the context.”

In real life reaching the state of ‘flow’ is not enough, one also has to eat. Maslow’s pyramid is eloquent enough. If somebody wants to discern between two flow producing activities ‘profit’ comes in quite handy. Being profitable means not only a real demand for whatever is supplied but also that that activity is run by a diligent operator. In this sense profit is a very good efficiency indicator.

Contemporary economic and social life seems to be dominated by another logic. Profit has become a goal, not an indicator. Instead of trying to achieve the state of ‘flow’, people try to get rich. Instead of finding happiness by doing something meaningful people try to numb themselves by ‘consuming’. We have transformed ourselves from ‘free spirits’ into ‘consumers’.

It seems that we have forgotten what Max Weber tried to teach us. “As Calvinism developed, a deep psychological need for clues about whether one was actually saved arose, and Calvinists looked to their success in worldly activity for those clues. Thus, they came to value profit and material success as signs of God’s favor.” In this vision ‘profit’ is indeed an indicator and we should also remember about “Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism.”

And yes, this is indeed an agency problem.

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