Archives for posts with tag: ideology

Scientists haven’t made up their minds yet. They cannot agree whether viruses are actually alive or not.
They do pass over their genetic information to the next generation but that’s it.
They don’t do anything else of what all other living organisms do. Viruses don’t ‘eat’, don’t excrete, don’t feel anything…
A virus doesn’t do anything else but somehow injects itself into a ‘host’, hijacks its ‘control mechanism’ and ‘coerces’ the host to ‘mass produce’ another generation of future invaders.

Same difference exists between regular people and ‘ideologues’.

Regular people ‘earn’ their keep by being useful. The more they do for their communities, the more comfortable is the life they lead.
OK, for this to happen as described here the market would have to be actually free… I’m discussing principles here…. you get my drift.

On the other hand, ideologues act very much like viruses.
They get inside the heads of the unsuspecting and convince them to change their behavior according to the ‘ideological’ view of the world.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.
Some of the viruses have been useful for the living world
The problem is that most of the time the process takes place ‘under the table’. Most of the people don’t even know what’s being done to them. Hence they have nothing to say about it.
Because they have been kept in the dark, people are being denied their most important function.
Because they’ve been kept in the dark, the people have been robbed of their ability/opportunity to choose.

What can we make of it?

Momentous as it was the result was no landslide.
Only a little less than 120 million people bothered to vote – out of the 250 million or so who are old enough to do it – and most of them, 47.7% vs 47.5, have chosen the ‘looser’.

Actually I don’t like the notion of anybody winning – or loosing, for that matter, a democratic election but that’s a different subject. Stay tuned, I’ll probably cover it soon.

Then Trump is no Hitler, as some have feared.
Even if he is riding a similar wave of popular discontent like the one used by Hitler to rise to power, and uses the same political tricks, Trump is nothing more than the ultimate opportunist.
Check his body language.Turn off the sound and just watch him.

the-most-corrupt
While Hitler was a mad ideologue absolutely convinced of his own righteousness Trump’s only conviction is that he ‘deserves’ as much as he can ‘grab’.
Now, that I’ve mentioned ‘ideology’, in this respect it is Clinton who belongs to this category – people who conscientiously use an elaborated ideology as a compass to find their bearings and as a ‘looking glass’ to read the fine print on the maps they try to navigate. But this is a subject I’ll have to come back to at a little later.

No landslide but still momentous.

A lot of people who had not bothered to vote before have come out in droves.

Trump, the business man, and the Republican Party – which now controls both Houses of the Congress, cannot afford to forget this.
Also, they must not forget about the other half, the one which had chosen to remain silent, on Tuesday, of the electorate.
The fact that they didn’t vote, then, doesn’t mean that they didn’t have any opinion.
And they are simply too many to be discarded.

“How come we haven’t seen this coming?”

I keep hearing these laments from my fellow sociologists.

Well, the raw data was all there. Compiled in the opinion polls result sheets, only that we could not interpret them right.
Trump had felt it in his gut – and acted on this hunch, but we had not been able to see it coming despite our ‘scientific’ methods and hugely accurate number crunching machines.

Which brings me to the main topic of this post.

What happened these days is yet another proof that the math used by the number-crunchers is nothing but a (very accurate) language and that ‘science’ is nothing but a (meta) tool that can be used to make sense of various aspects of the surrounding reality.
The results obtained, by us, through the use of this tool and expressed with the help of that language depend primarily on our skills and intelligence and only secondarily on the quality of the tools used in the process and on the precision of the language used to present them.
Not to mention the fact that it was us who developed the tool and formulated the language…

I ‘warned’ you I’ll come back to ‘ideology’.
This is yet another tool. As I mentioned before, we, all of us, use it as a compass with which we try to find our way through the world and as a magnifying glass with which we try to make sense of what’s happening to us.

‘But you just said we’re using science ‘to make sense of various aspects of the surrounding reality’?!?’

Well… we’re using both.
Whenever confronted with anything new we have to make a snap decision. Try to assimilate it with something we already know or investigate it.
It is our personal ideology which kicks in first and tells us what to do. And each time that we choose to look in our mental drawers for something that might fit in the new situation we remain in the ideological realm and continue to use ideology as a light beacon – what happens to be inside that beacon is brought to our attention while everything else doesn’t exist for us.
Only if we choose to investigate, science kicks in. But not even then we are not entirely free from ideology. Each time that the investigative process leads us to anything which contradicts something that had been already ‘filed’ in our ideological cupboards we find ourselves in a huge dilemma. How to proceed from there on. Continue to trust the scientific method or revert to the safety of the already settled?

This is why individual responsibility is hugely important.
And why no one should ever consider that he is the sole repository of the entire truth.

This is why we need to be constantly reminded about the limited nature of our understanding.
And the democratic process has been proven, time and time again, invaluable in this respect.
As long as it was allowed to proceed freely and it was conducted with respect towards all members of the community involved.

That was how an old friend of mine – thanks Oache – was treating anyone who complained too much.
And there were plenty reasons to complain about during Ceausescu’s communist rule over Romania.

Five minutes ago I found this in my inbox:

A  young couple moves into a new  neighborhood.
The next morning while they are  eating breakfast,
The young woman sees her  neighbor hanging the wash  outside.
“That  laundry is not very clean,” she said.
“She  doesn’t know how to wash correctly.
Perhaps  she needs better laundry  soap.”
Her  husband looked on, but remained  silent.

Every time her neighbor would  hang her wash to dry,
The young woman would  make the same comments.

About one month  later, the woman was surprised to see a
Nice  clean wash on the line and said to her  husband:
“Look, she has learned how to  wash correctly.
I wonder who taught her  this.”
The husband said, “I got up early  this morning and
Cleaned our  windows.”

And so it is with life.   What we see when watching others
Depends on  the purity of the window through which we  look.
 

I’d go even further than that.
The way we perceive what’s going on around us depends heavily on the ‘filter’ each of us chooses to use when trying to make some sense of this world.
Catalin Zamfir, a Romanian sociologist with a keen interest in the decision making process, has studied how individuals try to assuage the feeling of acute/constant uncertainty experienced by each of them during the constant (social) encounters that constitute ‘daily life’. In one of his early books, unfortunately not yet translated in English, he explains that ‘ideology’ is not only a blue print for future action but also, and maybe even more important, the lens/filter through which we perceive what is going on around us. An interface that translates ‘reality’ into ideas that make sense for each of us.
The interesting thing about ‘ideology’ is that it isn’t fixed. Each of us can choose from whatever is available in his time or even ‘write’ his own.
Granted, the process of selection/rewriting incurs costs/risks. Some obvious, like adopting a contrarian stance, and others very well hidden in plain view, like the dangers that arise from indiscriminately following a herd.
And this is exactly why we should strive to keep our windows/ideological eyes as clean as possible.

(Reuters) – A western Massachuetts toddler died over the weekend after suffocating while undergoing a home treatment for head lice involving mayonnaise and a plastic bag, police said on Thursday.

OK, one thing at a time.

– Lice. Pestiferous insects that can carry dangerous diseases – typhus among others – usually associated with deficient personal hygiene but also with low standards of living/economic hardships. Last huge outbreak of typhus took place during WWI in Eastern Europe where both conditions for lice infections were met simultaneously. Deaths were numbered in millions, one of my great-grand fathers among them.
– Mayonnaise. Delicious – if well prepared – sauce comprising egg yolk and vegetable oil. Or various presumably edible chemicals, if bought in a jar. Some, as in this example, try to use it as treatment for lice.
Supposedly the fats that make up most of the ‘regular’ mayo will “suffocate” adult lice and the nymphs while the eggs will ‘survive’ the treatment. A second operation, involving vinegar, will be necessary to finish the business.
Anyway here is the ‘disclaimer’ that can be found on one of the sites that ‘promote’ this kind of ‘treatment’: “There are no scientific studies that prove the effectiveness of mayonnaise as a treatment for head lice, but there are many parents who have been using it for years and are very satisfied with the effectiveness of this home remedy against adult head lice.”

NB. This particular site actually warns that the mayo treatment is not suitable for children – who might try to eat some of it out of their hair. They also warn against covering children’s heads with plastic wraps after applying the mayo. These two warnings practically ban the use of this treatment whenever children are involved, right?

– Plastic Bag. Useful industrial product. So versatile that has become almost ubiquitous and so resistant that has become a rallying point for the environmentally minded people: they try to ban it because it ‘clogs’ the waste management systems. It also has been known to having produced accidental deaths, specially among children, by suffocation.

– Death. An otherwise normal occurrence for all living organisms.
It can also be induced intentionally – as in suicide/murder/self defense, hunting/culling or butchering/harvesting, unintentionally – when negligence/callousness is involved, or even against the will of the ‘perpetrator’ – by his own failure to take into consideration obvious aspects of the reality because of temporary ‘blindness’ induced by ‘ideological lenses’.

What has ‘ideology’ to do with anything?

People tend to forget that the concept of ideology has at least two sides and concentrate on the practical one. Most of us see ‘ideology’ as a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting it into operation and forget about the ‘beacon’ role it plays to our minds: ideology understood as the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group”.

Why on Earth would somebody subject an 18-months old child to an “unproven” treatment involving mayonnaise and vinegar for a condition that can be cured simply and effectively with FDA approved ‘chemicals’?
Two situations come to my mind: ‘regular’ treatment was applied, several times, and failed or the person resorting to the ‘mayo treatment’ is convinced that ‘FDA is a bunch of liars’.

In both cases that person did a poor job as a researcher. “And if you prefer mayonnaise with French fries and really don’t feel like putting it on your children’s heads, you can instead use an olive oil treatment, this will also be very effective.”

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/611812/typhus
http://headlicecenter.com/head-lice-mayonnaise/
http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/treatment.html
http://www.medicinenet.com/head_lice/page5.htm

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ideology

I came across this extremely interesting article about Hitler being a socialist.

After making his point, impeccably, Daniel Hannan – the author – ends up with: “My beef with many (not all) Leftists is a simpler one. By refusing to return the compliment, by assuming a moral superiority, they make political dialogue almost impossible. Using the soubriquet “Right-wing” to mean “something undesirable” is a small but important example.”

To me this article is nothing but another reminder that the the only reasonable alternative to any extremism is the living center, not the dead opposite extremism.

Every time that the functional equilibrium between the content (because of their affluence, carelessness or both) and the strugglers (people who are on a constant quest for new solutions, irrespective of their motivation) has been breached things tended to become rather ugly before coming back towards normalcy.
Just compare how people around the Mediterranean sea used to live during the four centuries straddling AD 1 with what happened during the next millennium, otherwise known as the Dark Ages.
Why? Just because the Roman emperors used ‘panem et circensis’ as their main political concept and the population obliged. Until things went so far that the whole empire failed abysmally…
Same things happened before the French Revolution and before Lenin and Hitler came to power in Russia and Germany, respectively. Nowadays it is currently happening in Russia and the huge gap between the oligarchs and the modern muzhiks is the sole explanation I need for how come Putin has such a stronghold on the Russian people – he is keeping both categories happy by feeding their imagination with dreams about the Greater Russia and their bellies full with the money he gets from selling oil and natural gas.
For people on both sides of the political spectrum to restart a real dialogue all of them need to understand that the other side has legitimate concerns too.
Nowadays most on the left insist on ‘equality’ while most on the right speak of nothing but ‘individual freedom’. And both of them blame the state. The left accuses the government for not doing enough to promote the sacrosanct ‘equality’ while the right blames the state for infringing on the individual’s right to do whatever it wants…  As if equality (of chances) is in anyway different from individual freedom… As if authoritarianism could exist without the guys at the top enjoying a lot  more freedom than those at the bottom of the social ladder… As if functional social order could be maintained without people cooperating among themselves based on mutual respect, said cooperation  having evolved through time and currently reaching the modern form known as “the democratic state”…
I agree with concerned people on the both sides of the divide that the state could, and has indeed in more than one occasions, represent an extremely powerful repression tool in the hands of callous political operators but the answer to this is to make sure that the democratic mechanisms work smoothly, not to thoroughly dismantle the state itself….  Precisely because a skeleton state is a lot more easily highjacked by the ‘political thugs’ than one which has respected and balanced (hence functional) institutions in the right places.
Now please allow me to end my post by extending the invitation made by Daniel Hannan and urge you, all of you, to stop assuming ‘moral superiority’ based exclusively on ideological motives. Ideology is fine but we should never forget that it is nothing but a tool and it is us who do things and are responsible for both our deeds and our fate.
If ideology is diverse enough as to help us see how complex the world really is then we are better off because of it. If, instead, we use our diverse ideologies as filters to shun whatever ‘the others’ are trying to tell us… then it’s curtains for all of us, together at last… but not in the right place.
PS
To read the article – it is brilliant – you can either click on the yellow highlight near the top of my post or here: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100260720/whenever-you-mention-fascisms-socialist-roots-left-wingers-become-incandescent-why/.
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