Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Collection of Thoughts

On elections and minority rights:

A government (or any other type of organization) cannot use polls or election results as arguments for restricting the liberties of a segment of its population. It is complete nonsense to have the majority vote for the rights of a minority. This is why it is called a minority. Because they are not enough to win an election poll through sheer numbers and they don't share the majority views / options / lifestyle.

Rights of minorities should be derived from human rights, from philosophy, from the values to which the society adheres, and then extrapolated so they become even more inclusive. To understand the other is hard; it requires empathy, ability to position in someone else's shoes, critical thinking. Something to be educated and preached, not something to be subjected to a popular vote. For such questions, asking for popular vote is irresponsible. It means hiding in the masses and delegating moral judgement to the crowd. It only helps advance a political agenda and gain popularity on the expense of the weak. Crowds vote emotionally, not rationally nor emphatically.

As life is short and it is the only one we get, who am I to pass a moral judgement on how someone else is to live? Who am I to have the right to dictate to another and thus restrict his / her access to happiness? Every second that passes is a lost second. It will never return and it cannot be claimed back. Every time we impose our views on someone else we do a little bit of murder.

But what if we have multiple lives, the religious might ask. I am not going to argue the theological point, but from a humanistic point of view, it doesn't matter. As we don't have memories from past lives, they are as if they were non-existent.

On government and leadership:

The role of government and elected leadership is to be inclusive. Winning the elections does not give leadership a carte blanche to disregard the choices and needs of the rest of the population. Divisiveness should be a mortal sin for a politician. After all, it is treason. Leaders are mandated to lead for all, not just for the part of the population that voted for them. They are the uniquely responsible for any form of social unrest that is triggered by their deeds. And they should be held accountable.

On simple ideas:

We love certainties. We don't want complex discussions. We don't like shades of gray. Simple ideas are the ones that bind us together, at least for the most of us. We can pass them along, we can exchange them with our friends. They make us feel part of something. They make us feel connected and safe. We can draw a very clear distinction on who is in and who is out, on who is a friend and who is the enemy. And we are wrong. We are tricked by millions of years of evolution and we are not yet adapted for the world we live in today. This innate desire for connection, for simple ideas, for safety in the crowd is what makes us vulnerable to propaganda, to crocked politicians.

On TV-News:

We like watching the news (or football for that matter) because we crave for something to share, something to discuss, something to connect to others with. But news in their current TV-show-breaking-news format are distorted. Their purpose (in the best case) is keeping us in front of the TV, watching advertising. They don't have neither an educative nor an informative purpose. In their naked role, TV shows are just the breaks between two ad-spots, which need to be filled with addictive content. Same for facebook*.

And yes, lack of transparent and honest regulation, together with their wide audience, transforms them in honey pots for people with agendas (and power, and money).

*I do have a different opinion on written press. There are quality newspapers.

On complex ideas:

Complex ideas are hard. Leaving aside the mental effort needed to distill your thoughts, you enter a debate and you don't know if you are going to win. So uncomfortable. So risky.

And what if you change your mind? What will happen with all the people who were sharing your ideas? Will they exclude you? Will you be criticized, mocked? Will you be alone, an outsider? These are frightening prospects for a member of a species that survived precisely due to its ability to form bonds and act in groups.

Mental effort is hard. Our brains are slow, energy consuming and we are wired by evolution to avoid unnecessary waste. Add this to the uncertainty of your discoveries, the risk of social exclusion and there's no wonder why most of us don't like to engage in conflicts of ideas, challenge the status quo, nor to think too deep. We are wired for religion. We are wired for replicating simple known absolute truths without challenging them. Challenging them makes you a non-believer. A dangerous enemy.

On inquisitive people:

We don't like people who ask questions. Or who bring alternative facts to the table. They pull us in the grey zone. We don't trust them. They are even worse than our worst enemies. We don't know where they stand. Why are they challenging the current thinking? Let it get physical and let the strongest man survive.

We fear non-believers, the non-aligned, the most. What if they are right? What if they erode our strong beliefs? What if they make us stop in our tracks? What if they make us feel and act responsibly? No crowd. Me, standing for myself. What if I find out out who I really am and realize I am not so great / entitled / victim as I thought I was. What if I was wrong? What if others find out how wrong / weak / fearful I really am? Scary, no? We are surely wired against such people.

We love the single-idea type. Believers. People that speak out in simple terms. People that don't have any doubts. They know THE truth. Our truth. Or theirs, doesn't matter that much. They make us feel safe. They allow us to hide behind them and be content with our insecurities. They speak for us. They allow us to suspend our reason and just be. They don't see shades, they don't pull us into the unknown. We are in our comfort zone. They are charming.

We don't want to hear the other side might have some points, just like we don't really want to hear our side is not perfect. That weakens our resolution. I want my black and white view of the world.

And yes, listening and asking questions is damn hard. Much harder than speaking out loud. Uncomfortable. Everyone agrees.

On a gentler philosophy of life:

But should we be ashamed of or inhibit our need for clarity and black and white? The answer is NO. We cannot blame us for being us. We cannot even blame some of us for not trying to be a better, more developed version of us. We cannot blame people for having a different version of success than we have, or for living with different standards, preferences, conditions, life choices. Sorry for you who think you have the right to impose your views on others. You are wrong.

Life happens. Dice roll. Chance drives our lives much more than the meritocratic us like to admit. We need to be gentler to ourselves, recognize our weaknesses and be at peace. I think that if we find peace with ourselves, the negative side effects of our need for stability, connection, safety, self image are vastly diminished. I am not a fatalist, but rejecting fatalism entirely is plain stupid. We simply have to admit we live in an unequal world, that not all of us have access to the same conditions. Should we try to change that? Yes, we owe it to ourselves. We have only one life, remember? And it is short. And the person standing next to you has also one life, even if he might not realize it yet. Should we feel oppressed or blame ourselves if we can't change our condition much? No. We did what we could. It is OK. It is OK not to succeed, it is OK even not to try. It is not OK to blame others or try to limit access to happiness to others just so that we can feel good with ourselves. What is the purpose of living a life of anger, guilt, frustration and unhappiness? We should accept our choices and admit that, sometimes, when we are down, it was not us, but it was only life that just happened. Dice have rolled despite our best efforts and this time they were not in our favor. Or it was really us and we failed. So what? I think being at ease with ourselves is the key to empathy, peace of mind and tolerance.

I think it would be nice if we were all a little bit better prepared for when the dice roll in our favor and if we learn a little bit more from our past mistakes. Just a little bit of critical self reflection. But that's my view of the world, I preach it, but I will not impose it on you.

On bullying your way out of the grey zone:

It is my impression that we tend to mistake bullying and verbal aggression with speaking openly and expressing one’s opinion. Speaking loud and clear is not always assertive. Many times it is distorting the truths in loud and simple terms, without any regard for someone else’s point of view, so that it is hard for anyone else to see through. Unfortunately, this is how propaganda works – repeating over and over distorted and narrow perceptions and opinions, until they become fact.

Truth is hard to grasp because it is usually complex and has many shades. Discussing is hard. But not doing it leads to a divisive form of leadership which turns people against people. It creates borders, walls, barriers, and wars. It is effective. It works. You have an enemy. You look in a single direction, which you are pointed to. You can omit and remove everything else from view. This is how magic works and it gets the leader a free ticket. Simple. Easy. Effective. Trumpesque. And then he/she needs the next ticket. Abuse has become the new norm. Now escalate. We need more. Let's make us great again.

But does the divisive leader understand his deeds? Most of the times yes. And in this case he should be jailed or fired. These are bad people.Sometimes they learn though.

And some don't. He/she might be authentic. He might honestly have no self doubt. He might be entirely sure of his truth. He might simply be ignorant of the grey. There is hope. And I think it is our duty to bring them down to earth. But first, bullying and abuse must be stopped, so that all people can freely express their opinions and be heard.

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