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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

France

Last Friday, Natalie Nougayrède wrote an interesting article in The Guardian: France’s chaos stems from its failure to adapt to globalisation. I doubt the words failure and globalisation are appropriate. I think it's about a French unwillingness to adapt their way of life. In my (Dutch) view, the French prefer their way of life. However, even the French cannot deny that their way of life comes at a cost, and it's the allocation of that cost that is the centre of the debate.

The classical French way of dealing with cost is raising taxes on the wealthy. In 2012, Mr Hollande promised a 75% top income-tax rate on those earning over €1m ($1.3m) a year, which means they would pay over 90% after social charges (Economist). In 2016, the same guy now proposes a draft law to relax rules around the 35-hour work week, weaken the power of unions, and leave workers less protected from layoffs (Guardian).

Many southern European countries have a similar two-tier labour market: "one part of the population benefits from strong protections and solid, open-ended contracts; the rest find themselves either out of work or in precarious jobs. French trade unions represent only 7% of the active population, mostly employees already in highly protected sectors – partly because trade union finances are closely connected to the public sector and large enterprises". (Guardian).

In May 2016, the Economist reposted a March 2015 article in Facebook: Where is the best place in the world to be a working woman? France ranks at #5 worldwide. Their "glass-ceiling index, which shows where women have the best chances of equal treatment at work, combines data on higher education, labour-force participation, pay, child-care costs, maternity rights, business-school applications and representation in senior jobs". Unfortunately, that glass-ceiling index ignores an essential aspect: getting that job in the first place.

A more telling tale are some other Economist articles: France and its jobs for life (2007), Elitism rules OK (2009), The French way of work (2011), and An inconvenient truth (2012).

Unlike the French, young Greek and young Italian people have protested against their rigid labour markets in recent years (eg, Greece-1, Greece-2, Italy-1). A higher level of French welfare may have prevented a similar protest in France. However, increasingly young French people look for jobs abroad (eg, L'Auberge Espagnole trailer).


Actually, it's rather scary that a Socialist President has proposed this draft law. Given his political background such a proposal does not make any sense at all and especially not in view of his 2017 presidential re-election campaign. This could well imply that there is no more room for raising taxes. In that case, the French ticking time-bomb may be about to explode. 

Although I'm not a fan of the former Greek Finance Minister, Varoufakis, he recently did raise an interesting point: "91% of the 1st bailout went to German and French banks. The 2nd bailout, 100%. And the 3rd bailout, which I didn’t sign, [] it was $85 billion. Of that, precisely zero will go to Greece" (eg, Democracy NowHuffingtonNew Yorker).

Karl Otto Pöhl, head of the German central bank from 1980 to 1991: "It was about protecting German banks, but especially the French banks, from debt write offs. On the day that the rescue package was agreed on, shares of French banks rose by up to 24 percent. Looking at that, you can see what this was really about - namely, rescuing the banks and the rich Greeks" (Der Spiegel, 2010).

As a top French finance boss already stated in 2012: “The real risk for the euro zone now is not Greece, but France” (Economist).

Wende Snijders - Je suis comme je suis (2004) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Les Poppys - Non Non Rien N'a Changé (1971) -  artistslyricsvideoWiki



Monday, 30 May 2016

Numbers (2) - Fibonacci

Today's blog is the result of several blog ideas that all pointed to Fibonacci numbers: island gigantism (1), symmetry (2), a possible new 5th force in nature, and obviously my 29 May 2015 blog on the Fibonacci number 7 or network science or six degrees of separation. I never wrote about Fibonacci numbers despite briefly mentioning him in my 5 February 2016 blog on the origin of numbers.

Leonardo Fibonacci (c. 1170 – c. 1250) was an Italian mathematician. Fibonacci popularized the Hindu–Arabic numeral system to the Western World primarily through his composition in 1202 of Liber Abaci (Book of Calculation). In this book he introduced the sequence of Fibonacci numbers to Europe although this sequence had already been noted by Indian mathematicians as early as the sixth century (Wiki). Remarkably, Fibonacci numbers seem to rule the Universe.

Galileo Galilei, Italian astronomer & physicist (1564 - 1642), once stated that "Philosophy is written in this grand book — I mean the universe — which stands continually open to our gaze, but it cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one is wandering about in a dark labyrinth".

For years, there has been a "particular theory that relates dark energy to a fifth, hypothetical fundamental force, in addition to the four we know – gravity, electromagnetism, and the two nuclear forces". This 5th force could (help) explain why gravity calculations "have produced a multitude of different values. This is assumed to be due to various experimental errors and the official value of G is routinely updated to reflect this, with the assumption that the values will eventually converge". (New Scientist, 2013)

Since several days, news reports claim that a team at the Hungarian Academy of Science's Institute for Nuclear Research, led by Attila Krasznahorkay, may have detected this 5th force in nature. They "examined the possible existence of dark photons - the analog of conventional photons but that work with dark matter" (eg, Nature, Phys, Science Alert, Wiki).

MIT Professor Avery A. Morton (1892-1987) has written about the relationship between the periodic table of elements (Wiki) and its Fibonacci sequence and concluded that "the pattern for a Fibonacci series is evident" (publication). Others did similar efforts (eg, link 1, link 2).

Personally, I am always intrigued by Fibonacci number 2 and its related symmetry in animals and humans (eg, eyes, ears, arms, legs and even nose holes). I think, feel and believe that our perception of beauty is largely based on (the lack of) symmetry. Although insects do show symmetry by having three pairs of jointed legs, this feature may be another reason for my 27 March 2015 blog: Why do we hate insects?

Galileo Galilei's earlier statement is often abbreviated to the following quote: "Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe".

John Mayer - Gravity (2007) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Gravity is working against me
And gravity wants to bring me down

Oh I'll never know what makes this man
With all the love that his heart can stand
Dream of ways to throw it all away


Sunday, 29 May 2016

Let’s Make America Great Again

Let’s Make America Great Again is a campaign slogan which was first used by Ronald Reagan during his 1980 presidential campaign. The term was created in 1979 during a time in which the United States was suffering from a worsening economy at home marked by high unemployment and inflation. Since Reagan left office, the slogan has been used by Donald Trump (Wiki).

Recently, a young woman focused on the implicit meaning behind this Reagan / Trump slogan by wearing a hat that said: America was never great. She received death threats (eg, NY Times). Donald Trump - and to a much lesser extent that young woman – both have a valid point. America is living on borrowed time and money. 

America is a country of immense contradictions and in so many ways. Either things are the best or the worst: private vs public education, Wall Street vs Main Street, hospitals vs healthcare, military vs public infrastructure, private vs public transport, nature vs nurture, freedom vs prisons, security vs safety, virtue vs vice, credit vs savings, spending vs taxes, politics vs people, and so on and so forth.

Given America’s fundamental unwillingness to fund its own spending by paying a fair and reasonable amount of taxes, it's nearly impossible to remain a SuperPower in the remaining 84 years of the 21st Century. Fundamental choices must be made. The Trump campaign slogan underlines that future choice. The future American focus will be a domestic one rather than continuing its international SuperPower role. A Clinton Presidency would only delay the inevitable.

Often the Trump campaign statements seem erratic and especially to non Americans. Nevertheless, the international statements by Trump reflect a fundamentally different choice (eg, China, NATO, proliferation, Russia). The domestic statements by Trump reflect a bipartisan, cherry-picking, or hybrid approach but all geared towards making domestic America great again. The Trump statements on education, infrastructure, Main Street, outsourcing, and Trumpcare all point towards a national agenda and no longer an international one.

Obviously, the international impact of a domestic, national US agenda is immense. China is clearly anticipating on this (eg, South China Sea, Taiwan). Russia is doing the same (eg, Far East islands). Germany wants a European army (eg, FT). A Brexit would even leave the UK in the cold at both sides of their seas (eg, Trump on Cameron, Juncker on British deserters).

I expect that a future bipartisan, cherry-picking, or hybrid approach by Trump will become very successful for domestic USA. Given their immense challenges ahead, it's unlikely that USA will again focus on an international role anytime soon. They have learned a very expensive lesson: it's impossible to be a SuperPower abroad and a SuperPower at home, and especially when you refuse to pick up the tab after partying.

America - You can do magic (1982) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

You can do magic
You can have anything that you desire
Magic, and you know
You're the one who can put out the fire


Saturday, 28 May 2016

Do lawyers have a conscience?

Do lawyers even have a conscience? This question came to my mind in a telephone call of yesterday evening. This question is less weird than it may seem. A 2014 Psychology Today article - Are Lawyers All Raging Psychopaths? - states: “Based on [University of Oxford psychologist] Kevin Dutton's research, the second most psychopathic profession is that of a lawyer. (The first is a CEO)".

PT: "Dutton argues that there are “functional psychopaths” who—unlike criminal psychopaths—use their unempathetic, ruthless, and charismatic personalities to succeed in mainstream society. [] Dutton argues that psychopathic traits such as arrogance, ruthlessness, deceitfulness, manipulation, and charisma can help CEOs and attorneys succeed in their professions”.

The intriguing similarities between psychopaths, CEOs and politicians have already been mentioned in my blogs of 14 April 2015 (CEOs) and 29 October 2015 (Politics). After writing the previous sentence, it just hit me that Donald Trump is a CEO, politician and someone who loves using lawyers to get what he wants. This striking observation comes on top of his Narcissistic Personality Disorder as already noticed in a 2015 Psychology Today article. Also see my 9 May 2016 blog.

Being an auditor (or Certified Public Accountant) myself, I have always wondered why the cornerstones of my profession do NOT apply to lawyers: impartiality and independence. If obtaining Justice is the goal in a legal system then the partiality and the dependence of lawyers are major obstacles in achieving that goal. Lawyers seldom strive for consensus, only when ordered explicitly by a judge. Also see my 28 December 2015 blog on Fraud - auditors vs lawyers.

The result of the current legal system is that verdicts often appear to be unfair to at least one of the parties involved. I once read about an experiment in which perpetrators were allowed to agree their own punishment with (the families of) their victims. Both parties acknowledged that the verdict was fair. The involvement of lawyers only increases the legal cost and the duration of the proceedings. Any moral objection of a client to tell lies to a judge or jury is taken away by lawyers. Essentially, lawyers will use any loophole or tactic to win a case, regardless of a client’s guilt.

Many people will now claim that it's a lawyer’s job to win. If winning implies distorting the truth – and thus Justice - with known lies then I cannot but disagree. In auditing and banking, client due diligence has become more and more important because it involves future reputation risk. Reputation risk does not even exist in some specialised law professions. A criminal defense lawyer is perhaps the best example. How do these lawyers even sleep at night? Do they have a conscience at all?

Again, many people will now claim that even criminals should be entitled to lawyers. The underlying argument for that entitlement is most likely “the presumption of innocence” or “innocence until proven guilt”. Is that presumption even reasonable in case of repeat offenders? Shouldn't the law be based on something like a “3 strikes out” criterion for repeat offenders? Society should be entitled that criminals are prevented from repeating their offences.

Some people will now claim that the legal system has its flaws and that it sometimes imprisons innocent people. True. I would then argue that prosecutors are hardly different in personality from defense lawyers. They also “use their unempathetic, ruthless, and charismatic personalities to succeed in mainstream society” (PT). Even in my country, prosecutors now aim for a career in politics.

Perhaps it's time for a fundamental overhaul: let repeat offenders agree their suitable punishment with (the family of) their victims. In case they refuse this then let repeat offenders prove their innocence with the help of their lawyers.

Don Henley – The end of the Innocence (1989) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

The lawyers dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly
The lawyers clean up all details
Since daddy had to lie

Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence


Friday, 27 May 2016

Grammar - sloppy writing, sloppy minds ?

Yesterday it happened to me again: someone claims to be interested in me based upon my profile picture on a social media site. I proposed to have a conversation first. The conversation revealed some serious and fundamental errors in her Dutch grammar and spelling - apart from her typos. I am used to such mistakes with younger people but hardly with people older than me.

I tried to find out whether her origin was foreign. She finally answered she was Dutch. She claimed that she had never heard my remark about her grammar before despite speaking to highly intelligent persons in her life. My increasing annoyance with her made me reply that such would be impossible anyway as grammar errors are mostly noticeable in writing and much less in speaking.

To me grammar and spelling mistakes are a major turn off. I tend to lose my respect quickly. That left me wondering why I am so sensitive about this issue. The only thing I came up with is that a sloppy writing reveals a sloppy mind. Is this even true?? And how about the opposite - me??

Antonin Scalia, the recently deceased U.S. Supreme Court justice "asserted that writing genius consists primarily of an ability to place one’s self in the reader’s shoes, and maintained that careless, sloppy writers have careless, sloppy minds" (source).

Psychology Today: "Graphology developed in conjunction with psychiatry in Europe, not with popular psychology as it did here in the United States. Men such as Jung, Freud, and numerous other scientists were convinced of its value and studied it in depth. [] They came to the conclusion that handwriting was a window to both the conscious and subconscious mind. I consider it as a constantly available EKG for the brain, because it immediately shows our evolving physical and mental state."

The above clearly suggests that handwriting is a 2-way window to the conscious and subconscious mind. In my case, that would probably imply a careful, neat writing and a careful, neat mind. I would not disagree with that. I believe in (grammar) rules and conventions. In principle, I believe that rules benefit societies, although the EU has a habit of proving just the very opposite.

Perhaps I am just a conservative, also given my seniority. “Conservatives speak of cultural decline. But one of the worst aspects of such decline is never spoken of: the laziness, lack of logical rigor, and just plain sloppiness of our intellectual and writing classes” (Source). Perhaps I'm just fighting change. In my view, it's the wrong kind of change and thus worth fighting for.

Language is probably the most crucial binding factor in any culture and identity. Without a common language, social cohesion is bound to deteriorate. The surge of Spanish in the USA was a non-issue for long but a recent NYT article suggests a tipping point. Belgium is the perfect example of the long-term consequences of missing a common language, common culture and common identity (eg, 2001 train disaster in Belgium, number of language based Belgian governments).

I apply high standards to myself and a certain minimum towards others (eg, grammar). I cannot but agree with Antonin Scalia: “careless, sloppy writers have careless, sloppy minds”.

Montell Jordan - This is how we do it (1995) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Thursday, 26 May 2016

Allergies

Within organisations there is often a 3 lines of defence model. IT support is a clear example: a 1st call to the helpdesk, then personal assistance from a IT support employee, and ultimately specialist involvement. In Banking, the 3 lines of defence model consists of front-office (business), back-office (eg, Risk Management), and specialists (eg, Internal Audit) (eg, IIAIRM, KPMGPwC).

The IRM site makes reference to a 3 lines of defence model, possibly originating in medicine, soccer or war. The soccer example is illustrating: the mid fielders are the 1st line, the so called defense is actually the 2nd line, while the keeper is the specialist and the final and 3rd line of defence. The medicine example may relate to (1) the public sale of over-the-counter drugs, (2) a house visit by a general doctor, and (3) hospital treatment by specialised doctors.

Our immune system also has a layered defense system (eg, linkWiki). One could even argue that our bodies also use a 3 lines of defence model against diseases. The 1st line of defence are the immune cells on our body's surface (eg, airway, eyes, nose, skin) reacting to pathogens (eg, bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites) and resulting in allergies. The 2nd line of defence are the antibodies that "police" the body and signal the activation of mast cells in case of a repeat intruder. The 3rd line of defence is a specialised mast cell (eg, white blood cells) that "blasts out a barrage of chemicals". (Quartz)

This 1st line of defence - about allergies - is still a controversial theory. Since long, doctors are of the opinion that allergies represent diseases which thus need to be treated. Ruslan Medzhitov, Professor of Immunobiology at the Yale School of Medicine, is of the opinion that allergies are not diseases at all but just the way our body disposes of diseases (eg, diarrhea, sniffles, vomiting). Hence, fighting allergies with medicine may block, delay, or undermine your recovery.

Only in 1964, the 2nd line of defence model in our bodies came to light. Quartz: "A parasitologist named Bridget Ogilvie was investigating how the immune system repelled parasitic worms, and she noticed that rats infected with worms produced large amounts of what would later be called IgE. Subsequent studies revealed that the antibodies (ie, IgE) signaled the immune system to unleash a damaging assault on the worms".

This controversial 1st line of defence model theory is not new. Quartz: "Medzhitov [] found that the idea had surfaced from time to time over the years, only to be buried again. In 1991, for example, the evolutionary biologist Margie Profet argued that allergies fought toxins. Immunologists dismissed the idea, perhaps because Profet was an outsider". Essentially, another example of the Not Invented Here syndrome in Science. Also see part 1, part 2, and part 3 of my related NIH blogs.

Quartz: "Why do we get allergies? No one has a firm answer, but what is arguably, the leading theory suggests that allergies are a misfiring of a defense against parasitic worms. In the industrialized world, where such infections are rare, this system reacts in an exaggerated fashion to harmless targets, making us miserable in the process. Medzhitov thinks that’s wrong. Allergies are not simply a biological blunder. Instead, they’re an essential defense against noxious chemicals - a defence that has served our ancestors for tens of millions of years and continues to do so today. It’s a controversial theory, Medzhitov acknowledges". 

Paul Simon - Allergies (1983) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Allergies
Allergies
Something’s living on my skin
Doctor, please
Doctor, please
Open up, it’s me again
Maladies
Melodies
Allergies to dust and grain
Maladies
Remedies
Still these allergies remain
(I can’t breathe)


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Tipping point: Technological Revolution 1800-2100 (4)

While I was reading an interesting Scientific American blog on the probability of life in the cosmos, and thinking about our ever shrinking chances following a light-speed expanding universe (video), and the mysterious Denisovan people, it suddenly hit me. Compared to the disappearance of several types of humans (eg, Denisovan, Flores, Neanderthal), the remaining human population has exploded in size, almost like the Universe did 14 billion years ago.

For millions of years, the human population growth rate was quite flat, most likely due to "simple" reasons as food, health, violence and wars. Hence, average human life expectancy was low (ca. 20-30 years) and birth rates were high (> 8), partly to compensate for the first.

Even in the late 1800s, the average maximum life expectancy at birth was just 40. Since the 1900s it has doubled. (Source: Rick Sznajder of the Toronto Star). Average fertility gradually dropped from >8 to less than 2 now. A huge +75% drop which will take many years to show in the population statistics.

From 1300-1400, there was a small dip in the worldwide human population due to the impact of the global disease called the Black Death or the Plague. This disease even caused a fundamental change in regional and worldwide SuperPowers.

The overall result is this graph which shows the human population from 1750 until 2100 (source). In 2100, we expect nearly 11 billion people.

This projection is however based on a 95% drop of the expected average annual global growth rate: from 1,2% now to 0.06% in 2100.

In my view, there is already a bottoming out of the annual average growth rate in 2010 but this graph only shows that effect after 2050. This prediction may thus be (too) optimistic.

In my view, this graph also represents a mind-blowing correlation between humans and technology since 1800 (eg, food, housing, medicine). Also see my blogs on the Technological Revolution 1800-2100: parts 1, 2, and 3. There seems to be no natural enemy to humans anymore apart from the natural limitations of our planet's resources. 

As already noted in my 21 July 2015 and 25 August 2015 blogs, humans seem destined to become the future grasshoppers of the Universe.

JJ Cale - Grasshopper (1982 album) - artist, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Evil

Following my 22 May blog on Lust, I decided to watch Dexter on Netflix (IMDb). Dexter is a psychopath and a serial killer at night while working for a CSI unit of the Miami police during day time. I am interested in the mind of this fictional character. Dexter claims that he has no feelings while he clearly enjoys killing. That discrepancy doesn't make any sense to me.

Lust is part of the so called 7 Deadly Sins, sins that lead to other sins (eg, murder). Murder is part of the so called mortal sins. Sins are the result of vices and the opposite of virtues. Vices are generally considered to be the result of personality traits. Wiki: "The dark triad is a subject in psychology that focuses on three personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy".

A recent 2016 BBC Earth article focusses on Evil: How did evil evolve, and why did it persist? Essentially, there are 2 different perspectives on Evil: evolution & nature versus morality & religion. A typical example of an AND / OR dilemma. The BBC article focuses on evolution & nature by comparing humans and animals and concluding that "it is "bad" behaviour that is natural and successful". 

To illustrate their point, the BBC article uses a few animals (eg, bottle-nose dolphins and chimps). Such illustration looks a little ridiculous compared to Nature Microbiology's Tree of Life.

The 2016 Tree of Life (pic) mostly focuses on 92 Bacteria clusters (see upper 75%), and to a much lesser extent on the 26 Archaea clusters and "all five of the Eukaryotic supergroups" (see lower 25%). FYI: Animals and humans are both hidden in the Ophistokonta.

Could the Top 10 of carnivorous or insect eating plants be considered as deceptive and evil? Not really. It's basically adaptation to the surrounding environment and survival. There is no killing for fun involved. 

I think, feel and believe that genuine Evil is restricted to the hominini species - or humans. The evil noticed in chimpanzees (eg, Passion & Pom, Puist) is a leftover of "the chimpanzee–human last common ancestor, or CHLCA, [which] is the last common ancestor shared by the extant Homo (human) and Pan (chimpanzee) genera of hominini" (Wiki). CHLCA estimates vary between as early as 13 million years ago until as recent as 4 million years ago.

It might well be that the most complex structure of the universe - the human brain - is the root cause of all evil. Nevertheless, human evil is bound to be somewhere between Nature (brain, genes) and Nurture (education, environment, upbringing). Unfortunately, this scientific Nature - Nurture debate is sometimes dominated by politics (eg, Wouter Buikhuisen).

Dexter's adoptive father was able to nurture Dexter's natural evil into crimes against criminals. In Harry Potter, Professor Dumbledore is unable to do the same with the evil boy Tom Riddle. That is fiction. In real life, genuine human evil always seems to find a way out and up (eg, Hitler). In that context, the BBC conclusion makes sense: "it is "bad" behaviour that is natural and successful".

While Evolution and Nature brought Evil, only Morality and Religion are able to counter Evil.

Santana - Evil Ways (1969) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Monday, 23 May 2016

Urbanisation (2) - mental health

I have just added a new label to my 500+ blogs: Urbanisation. Actually, urbanisation is a topic of which I'm afraid that we largely underestimate its consequences. Urbanisation has an impact on climate change, crime rates, fertility rates(mental) health, housing prices (wealth inequality), politics, pollution, public services, social structures, technology and obviously work (jobs). The mental health issue was mentioned in a 20 May 2016 Scientific American article.

This topic has only been on my mind since a 2015 FT article by Ivo Daalder, called "A new global order of cities", in which I noticed a shocking statement: "For the first time in human history, more people now live in cities than in rural areas. By 2050, 6.5bn people, two-thirds of all humanity, will live and work in cities. In 1950 fewer than one billion did so." I suppose this 2014 U.N. report may have been his source.

Evolutionary psychologists claim that the Savanna Principle still rules our human firmware. Any city is abundant of artificial lights and sounds. Our minds only recognise natural lights and sounds. Any deviation triggers a primal human emotion: fear. I suspect that this fear is the linking pin between the studies on urbanisation and mental health. 

Scientific American: "Researchers first suggested in the 1930s that urban living might increase schizophrenia risk. Since then many large epidemiological studies have reported an association between the two, primarily in European countries such as Sweden and Denmark. Converging evidence has revealed that growing up in the city doubles the risk of developing psychosis later in life. Studies have also begun to find that urban environments may heighten the risk of other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety".

The opposite is also true as we humans still visit nature to find peace of mind and tranquility. A 2012 study presented to the British Psychological Society "found that all outdoor locations were associated with positive feelings (enjoyment, calmness, refreshment), but that visits to the coast were most beneficial and visits to urban parks least beneficial". BBC: "[this] could reflect an "innate preference" for the sights and sounds of water". Live Science on that same study: "The age-old wisdom that being near the seaside is good for your health may be true, studies suggest".

It's interesting that many Sci-Fi movies have urbanisation as an implicit and underlying theme. Rural living is clearly the exception in those movies. Unfortunately, those movies also picture a very unpleasant future for humans and largely due to urbanisation (eg, ElysiumRoboCop, Soylent Green, Terminator). I also noticed an interesting 2014 article about this same link.

When I grew up in my rural village in the 1960s and 70s, I never ever heard of an "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or its related medicine Ritalin. Some kids were just more active than others. What's new? Today, ADHD seems "common".

Urbanisation is treated like a fact of life rather than a threat or an immediate danger. I am genuinely afraid this is a classic error in human judgment. The only solution is to bring back jobs to rural areas.


Genesis - (Second) Home by the Sea (1983) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Help us someone, let us out of here
living here so long undisturbed
dreaming of the time we were free
so many years ago
before the time when we first heard
welcome to the Home by the Sea


Sunday, 22 May 2016

Lust

It is not easy writing about this topic. My 1st draft even omitted mentioning the intensity of Lust. Apparently, people still consider Lust as an innocent feature while making love. This topic is not about being horny or randy. This blog is about obsessive behaviour. It is about the Ramsay Bolton (GoTWiki) type of Lust. The Lust for killing, torture and whatever else. This type of Lust scares me as I often wonder whether this behaviour is hidden in all humans, including myself.

I am afraid that the answer is affirmative - a "yes". Let's use a James Anthony Froude quote: “Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow-creatures is amusing in itself.” However, this might not be entirely true as apparently ants, bottle-nose dolphins and chimps are also in the human league (source).

Anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher defines "three different brain systems: lust, romantic love and deep attachment to a partner" (2006 TED video). About lust she states (> 6.38 min.): "One is the sex drive: the craving for sexual gratification. W.H. Auden called it an "intolerable neural itch" and indeed, that's what it is. It keeps bothering you a little bit, like being hungry".

2014 Psychology Today article, called "The Philosophy of Lust", states that "Lust can be defined as the strong, passionate longing or desire for certain things: not only sex, but also food, drink, money, fame, power, and knowledge, among others". And: "MRI scanners have revealed that the same area of the brain lights up in people experiencing lust as in addicts receiving their cocaine fix. Lust is so powerful a force that it is often beyond the power of reason to contain".

I think, feel and believe that Lust is indeed more than just lust for sex. I do think that the Psychology Today article confuses appetite with lust. The difference in intensity between both is huge. Genuine Lust is - by definition - obsessive in nature. Authoritarian leaders usually have a Lust for Power. The Lust for money, better known as Greed, is another clear example outside the sex domain. The Lust for killing, murder and torture is perhaps one of the darkest corners of our mind.

I suppose that all human beings are able to display animalistic and/or barbaric behaviour and become monsters, especially in certain circumstances (eg, Abu Ghraib, ISIL, or the war crimes by Cambodia, Japan, Nazi Germany or Turkey). Obviously, I did explore the corners of my mind and frankly I did not like what I then saw. This awareness causes genuine shame rather than false shame (also see my blogs of 16 May and 17 May). Hence, my initial reluctance to write on this topic.
Lust must be located in the deeper and darker corners of our minds. It is a strong emotion which - at times - can feel like an overwhelming addiction. Most of the times, however, this feeling of lust does not even seem to be around at all. And I have no clue what triggers its awakening. Guess I still need to learn a lot about myself. At least in this area.

Clearly, obsessive and romantic lust are both part of human evolution. There is little to no doubt that romantic lust is still a useful and probably even a necessary human emotion. Its awakening is usually quite obvious. The awakening of obsessive lust is a very different story. Psychology Today: "the problems begin when [lust] turns from servant into master. It is important to be ready to recognize uncontrolled lust for the blind and destructive force that it is". Obsessive lust might well be an unfortunate evolutionary leftover in our human firmware.

The Human League - Human (1986) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

I'm only human
Of flesh and blood I'm made
Human
Born to make mistakes

The tears I cry aren't tears of pain
They're only to hide my guilt and shame


Saturday, 21 May 2016

Rejection and role reversal

Sometimes situations are far less clear than you think they are. Relationship break-ups are often an interesting example of this. You may think that you are the one who rejected the other person. Yet, you are also the one who tries to win the other person back. Could your current behaviour actually be the result of feeling rejected?? Ultimately, the real question is: Who is rejecting whom?

This question came to my mind after reading a 2016 Psychology Today article: Why it's so important to get over your ex. PT: "Why do people dwell on past relationships? It might have to do with rejection. Some breakups are mutual, but often they are initiated by one partner (the rejector) and received by the other (the rejectee). Not surprisingly, being the rejectee is often a subjectively worse experience, linked with more depression and a loss of self-esteem. Being rejected is also connected to rumination, or perpetually thinking about an ex-partner (Perilloux & Buss, 2008)".

This quote looks straightforward but what if the real roles (rejector-rejectee) are reversed to what you believe they are?? Instead of being a rejector, you are actually a rejectee. And instead of being a rejectee, you are actually a rejector. This would actually explain my personal life in two very different situations. And this would also explain my calmness in the first situation, and my mixed emotions in the second situation. Who was rejecting whom??

I now realise that the first rejection was my late response after many years of being rejected myself. I went from a rejectee to a rejector. The other party involved was not able to handle that role reversal. I now realise that the other party’s behaviour may result from being a rejectee now, after years of being a rejector. Given my experience with both situations, I now realise that such role reversal is indeed hard to accept.

I now realise that the second rejection was the exact opposite of the first one. After several years of being a rejector, I ultimately became a rejectee myself. All this new insight makes me even wonder about the real underlying reasons for the second rejection. Nevertheless, this unexpected role reversal felt like losing control and I suppose it is indeed. Losing control is not easy to deal with in case of certain personality structures, including mine.

Being rejected is a difficult experience. I now realise that it has much to do with the classic 5 stages of processing grief (Kübler-Ross model): denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. For a long time you fight to win back the love lost (denial). Then anger, bargaining and depression take over and ultimately acceptance. Latter is the same as giving up on your relationship.

The feeling of rejection must have a close relation with the feeling of betrayal. Else, it's difficult to understand where this strange need / wish for retaliation and revenge comes from. Perhaps the best retaliation is another role reversal to correct the "erroneous" ending of the earlier break-up.

The above would translate like this:















The human mind indeed works in mysterious ways.

Chicago - Hard Habit to Break (1984) - artistslyrics, video, Wiki-1Wiki-2

I guess I thought you'd be here forever
Another illusion I chose to create
You don't know what ya got until it's gone
And I found out a little too late
I was acting as if you were lucky to have me
Doin' you a favor I hardly knew you were there
But then you were gone and it was all wrong
Had no idea how much I cared

Now being without you
Takes a lot of getting used to
Should learn to live with it
But I don't want to
Living without you
It's all a big mistake
Instead of getting easier
It's the hardest thing to take
I'm addicted to ya babe
You're a hard habit to break

You found somebody else you had every reason
You know I can't blame you for runnin' to him
Two people together but living alone
I was spreading my love too thin
After all of these years
I'm still tryin' to shake it
Doin' much better, they say that I just takes time
But deep in the night it's an endless fight
I can't get ya out of my mind


Friday, 20 May 2016

The rollercoaster of Solitude and Loneliness

I am once again at the intersection of solitude and loneliness. Perhaps a rollercoaster (NL: achtbaan) is a much better image. In general, I cherish my solitude, I sincerely do. Especially when I'm writing, reading or thinking, I really do not like to be disturbed. By anyone. However, at times my thinking becomes overthinking and then my comfortable feeling of solitude turns into an uncomfortable feeling of loneliness, and subsequently of feeling incomplete.

Loneliness makes you want to reach out to people. However, people have the habit of disappointing me and thus solitude makes perfect sense - to me. Disappointments are often the result of our own expectations. I doubt that mine are ridiculously high though. It's just that people of my age often have lots of emotional baggage and are no longer willing to compromise.

This emotional baggage often includes a fair share of disappointments with health, life, love, work or whatever. Not dealing with these disappointments is likely to cause an increasing level of irritation, then frustration, and ultimately plain anger. This aggressiveness in disappointed people is often close to the surface. One misplaced word may invoke rage. I have been there myself - once.

My occasional reaching out to women is of a mixed nature. To some extent it's even like a toxic addiction: you know it's bad for you but you do it anyway (eg, smoking). I know that failure is probably waiting for me again but my eagerness to find someone compatible is even stronger. And even in case of failure, the upside is a new blog and the downside are new teardrops.

The compatibility issue is an interesting one. I know that I am physically attracted to a certain type of women - for whatever reason. Nevertheless, I would mention very different elements when it comes to compatibility. In general, the 7 elements of a successful relationship are far more important to me than her looks: communication, forgiveness, intimacy, respect, togetherness, trust, and vulnerability. An image tells me little to nothing about these 7 drivers.

What remains is a "trial and error" approach. The "error" result is often my start of a new period of solitude. A renewed "trial" is often related to ups - or downs - in my rollercoaster of solitude and loneliness. It's interesting to notice and realise that dating is nothing else than the fundamental human method of solving problems: a "trial and error" approach (Wiki).

I am very reluctant to let my life be ruled by Fear. My Piscean-Rat personality lets me deal with Doubts in an effective manner. Being a Believer, now these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love but the greatest of these is Love (Corinthians 13:13).


Syreeta Wright - Let me be the one (you need) (1980) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

May not know enough about you, babe
That can only come in time
I only know enough to make you stay
On my mind


Thursday, 19 May 2016

Intelligence vs Wisdom

Since a few days my daily page views are well above 300. I continue to be surprised by the ongoing success of my blog. Yes it's free but quite often things for free are worthless. Nearly 40 thousand page views definitely means that something interesting must be going on in my blogs.

I don't consider myself as highly intelligent. Probably just intelligent and/or smart. I am not an expert in anything, apart from auditing. My audit background is probably relevant as I look for verifiable facts rather than opinions. I look for the truth rather than accepting information at face value. And I allow my intuition to interfere when information does not feel "right". And I present my blogs based on transparent arguments.

I am an observer and I connect individual dots into a picture. I paint this picture with words that people can relate to. I have no appetite to use fancy language in order to humiliate my readers and to boast about myself. I leave that to others. I am pleased and even proud if people tell me that my blogs helped them, that they learned something, that they were thought provoking, that they were fascinating. I am not here to convince anyone. Making someone (re) think is enough for me.

Mr Sadiq Khan, the new mayor of London, made a wise comment when responding to Donald Trump, who challenged the London mayor to "take an IQ test": "Ignorance is not the same thing as lack of intelligence". (CNN, FT). Indeed, ignorance is rooted in closed mindedness and even an unwillingness to gain knowledge to improve intelligence. Ignorance is all about having opinions, even when facts refute those opinions. Also see my 12 April 2016 blog.

This week I noticed a remarkable 2015 BBC Future article in my Facebook newsfeed: The surprising downsides of being clever. The very 1st line is already great: "If ignorance is bliss, does a high IQ equal misery?" Or this superb Ernest Hemingway quote: "Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” I had to smile as I feel that it is true.

Some interesting quotes from that BBC article: "The harsh truth, however, is that greater intelligence does not equate to wiser decisions; in fact, in some cases it might make your choices a little more foolish". "Crucially, Igor Grossmann [at the University of Waterloo, Canada] found that IQ [] certainly didn’t predict greater wisdom. “People who are very sharp may generate, very quickly, arguments [for] why their claims are the correct ones – but may do it in a very biased fashion.”

These BBC Future quotes are key: "Fortunately, wisdom is probably not set in stone – whatever your IQ score. “I’m a strong believer that wisdom can be trained,” says Grossmann". "The challenge will be getting people to admit their own foibles. If you’ve been able to rest on the laurels of your intelligence all your life, it could be very hard to accept that it has been blinding your judgement. As Socrates had it: the wisest person really may be the one who can admit he knows nothing".

I feel blessed and fortunate for still being able to learn so much and to share with you the fruits of what I have learned over these 56 years. I cannot even imagine that my learning could ever "stop" as there is so much that I do not know - and even more important - do not understand. Understanding is far more relevant than knowing. Wisdom versus Intelligence.

Aaron Neville & Linda Ronstadt - Don't know much (1989) - lyrics, videoWiki

Look at this face
I know the years are showing
Look at this life
I still don't know where it's going


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Victim role in Politics (2)

Dealing with people in victim roles is difficult. I noticed that in my private life. The only effective strategy is silence. Near total silence. Sometimes an answer cannot be avoided. It's best to keep such answers brief and polite. Obviously, any answer is what these people have been waiting for as it allows them to draw you into a new debate which you cannot win. Why? There's no objective truth. Any fact becomes an opinion. Their twisted minds work in “wonderful” ways.

In Politics dealing with leaders in a victim role (eg, Russia, Trump, Turkey) is even harder. A verbal attack on such leaders is not an option as that will only reinforce their victim role. Discussions with such leaders are also meaningless as there is no truth to be found. Such leaders either deny, deliver plain lies, or even say that “everything I say now is just a suggestion” (Politico). Clearly, there is no debate, no discussion, just noise. And any media attention works in their advantage.

Ignoring people in a victim role doesn't mean that they will give up their harassment against you. Certainly not. They will always be planning a next move. Forget about anticipating such a move. Their creative twisted minds will typically surprise you. Nevertheless, their intentions are always the same: negative attention. Alleged or real skeletons in your closet are their blessing (eg, Trump accuses Cruz's father of helping JFK's assassin).

I doubt that the current Hillary Clinton can win from Donald Trump. She is in the middle of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and gets attacked from both sides. Bernie Sanders could perhaps win as he tells his own story. However, I doubt that the majority of the USA is ready for his message.

How could Hillary Clinton win from Donald Trump? One route I see is mimicking the campaign of Bernie Sanders: tell your own genuine story and don't get distracted by others. The problem is that she doesn't have a genuine story - yet. In the absence of a genuine story, she becomes vulnerable. She cannot promise change (eg, Obama) as she's the embodiment of the exact opposite.

Mimicking the victim role of Donald Trump could be a very interesting strategy and it might even work. The American public actually liked the fragile version of Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries (GuardianYouTube). The tough version is not very much liked and also appears to be the dominant and genuine version. The soft-to-tough 1979 make-over of Margaret Thatcher is still a classic (video) and could perhaps be successfully reversed in Hillary Clinton’s case.

In my view, playing the “woman card” would be much more successful when femininity is added and toughness is lost. Essentially, Hillary Clinton should adopt the role of Michelle Obama: beauty, brains, grace, and style. Or Dutch Queen Maxima (2016 Time Magazine Top 100). An unbeatable "woman card". Perhaps, Michelle Obama could even be the next VP and future President.

The Danish PM recently said: "Donald Trump changes opinions like others change underwear" (Politico). Clearly, it's useless to even try debating with him on policy matters. The best strategy is ignoring him in combination with a reverse Thatcher make-over. Playing the woman card does not require focussing on women. Donald Trump is perfectly able to alienate his female voters. Playing the woman card requires femininity and vulnerability. That may actually undermine Trump’s group of largely white male voters. Good luck.

The Style Council - Long hot summer (1983) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

I'm all mixed up inside
I want to run but I can't hide
And however much we try
We can't escape the truth and the fact is

Don't matter what I do
It don't matter what I do
Don't matter what I do
Don't matter what I do
Don't matter what I do
'Cause I end up hurting you


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Human Emotions (2) - a revisit

Several of my 2016 blogs have made me realise that my blog of 12 April 2015, on the classification of human emotions, was in need of an overhaul. My earlier wish to classify human emotions through their facial expressions was too ambitious. Hence, facial expressions have now become output in this updated classification rather than input.

Most positive and negative human emotions have now been covered in my blogs. My 16 May 2016 blog on shame was quite overdue, in retrospect. Remarkably, I now notice that a blog on lust is still missing, perhaps because of false shame (Wiki).

Our primal or evolutionary emotions are stored in our human firmware and are largely outside our influence (eg, unknown knowns, unknown unknowns). Our childhood memories are long-term, often unconscious, the result from a happy or unhappy childhood, and are often hard to understand and/or influence. Our adulthood emotions are the ones that we are most conscious about. The last category of human emotions are the ones that are most familiar to us as we notice them each day through facial expressions (eg, conversations, TV).



Understanding the origin of your negative emotions is key in successful remediation and especially as you may be tempted to repair something which isn't even broken. Human fears are often irrelevant evolutionary left-overs (eg, heights, insects, (lack of) open spaces, water). Our mostly unconscious childhood emotions might be the most dangerous ones (eg, lack of love).

Deep Purple - Child in Time (1970) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Sweet child in time, you'll see the line
Line that's drawn between the good and the bad
See the blind man shooting at the world
Bullets flying, mm taking toll
If you've been bad - Lord I bet you have
And you've not been hit oh by flying lead
You'd better close your eyes, aahaao bow your head
Wait for the ricochet


Monday, 16 May 2016

Shame

To my own surprise, I've never written about shame. I only noticed this in my 14 May 2016 blog on the psychological cost of reconciliation. Shame is the only topic that doesn't have a link to any of my previous blogs. I suppose that my subconscious was keen to hide this topic. Clearly there are things which I am ashamed about. There are even things which I should - perhaps - be ashamed of but which I am not. How does shame work?

Shame is a consequence of having done (or said) things which you later regret that you have done (or said). Or things which you have not done (or said) and which you later regret that you should have done (or said). It's about an action or lack of action and realising you can't change time. Please also see my 15 October 2015 blog on regret (shame) versus remorse (guilt).

There's another but similar type of shame which relates to things that someone else did (or said), or did not do (or say). Usually that someone else has a special meaning to you. The action or lack of action of that someone else causes vicarious shame shame to you (Dutch: plaatsvervangende schaamte). (source)

According to Wikipedia, there are a few more types of shame: false shame, toxic shame and secret shame. I do not relate to the last one as shame is typically something that is hidden from others. And the moment it's out in the open, it's called regret. At least in my view.

Again in my view, embarrassment is also a light version of shame, either caused by your own action or by someone else’s action. Usually embarrassment does not last very long. Probably, this human emotion lasts just as long as the blushing on our face.

Shame does not show and may last very long and could intensify or deteriorate over time depending on the outcome of the fight between our head and heart. Our mind is very capable of belittling our shame but our heart – or conscience – usually objects to that treatment. Our moral values largely determine the amount of shame we feel, unlike guilt. Even with low moral values, guilt may weigh heavy on someone's mind. Shame may even grow into guilt, and guilt typically grows in time. This may also explain the phenomenon of deathbed penance

In 1976, Anja Meulenbelt wrote the book "De schaamte voorbij" (weblog), or in English: "Shame is Over" (Amazon). I like the title of this book as our actions are often governed by our intention not to bring shame upon ourselves - or others. It takes quite some mental courage to overcome this fear. Actually, it's even quite hard writing these blogs if shame would still govern me. It's quite liberating to experience this feeling of "shame is over". Notwithstanding this, I do apply self-censorship in my blogs in order to prevent - or at least to restrict - the possibility of shame inflicted on others

Shame is like a dark cloud following us above our heads. We are always expecting that cloud to start raining any time soon. I prefer the sun and the wind, clearing the sky above me.

Shirley & Company - Shame shame shame (1974) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2