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Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Will Trump mobilize non-white communities like Obama in 2008?

The 2008 U.S. presidential election showed a substantial increase in both turn-out and in non-white voters. NYT-2009: "Compared with 2004, the voting rate for black, Asian and Hispanic voters increased by about four percentage points. The rate for whites declined by one percentage point." Obama won by delivering a positive message ("Yes we can").

The 45th U.S. President has been quite successful despite - or perhaps as a result of - delivering a slur of negative messages (eg, Twitter). In his 2016 campaign, he frequently mocked non-white communities (eg, HuffPost-2016). His 2020 re-election campaign shows a relentless attack on prominent members of the African-American community (eg, PBS).

The Trump Administration is mostly working on undoing the 2008-2016 Obama legacy. The 2020 Trump campaign seems to be the exact opposite of the 2008 Obama campaign: using negative messages towards Obama's demographic segment of non-whites. Winning in 2020 through negativity would be Trump's ultimate vindication over Obama and his messages of hope.

Trump's strategy seems incredibly risky because mobilizing the African-American community again - similar as Obama in 2008 - may easily result in Trump losing his 2020 re-election. I think, feel and believe that this is Trump's biggest gamble ever because it's personal. Hence, a high risk, high reward strategy. The US-China trade war is "just" business.

If Trump would lose in 2020 - which is far from sure - then his legacy would still include creating the most-divisive country ever. Other nations, like China and Russia, would be able to leverage on his divisive legacy. Hence, there is a clear win-win for Trump's revolution of disruption, chaos and destruction (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 of my 2017-2018 blogs).

If Trump would win in 2020 - with or without foreign assistance - then America is up for an "extreme makeover". Most likely, the separation of powers - between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government - will be further eroded by appointing Trump family members at the helm of vital institutions and/or positions (eg, Fed, G20UN, World Bank).

I'm more and more convinced that the arsonist-in-chief is aiming at torching his own country. Given Trump's love for using reverse psychology, it's quite possible that Trump hates his own country and would love to go back to the country of his grandfather Friedrich Trump. As often with bullies, nobody is waiting for Trump in Germany.

"Last September 16th, I was walking in downtown Seattle when this pick-up truck pulls up in front of me. Guy leans out the window and yells, "Go back to your own country," and I was laughing so hard because it wasn't so much a hate crime as a crime of irony." A quote by Sherman Alexie (b. 1966), a Spokane-Coeur d'Alene-American novelist, short story writer, poet, and filmmaker.

Go Your Own Way (1976) by Fleetwood Mac ft. Lindsey Buckingham


Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

The micro-macro conundrum (2)

Last week's blog on the micro-macro conundrum had an open-end as I concluded that it "seems difficult to solve". The humanitarian and the Greater Good perspective both feel valid. Nevertheless, it feels that a choice must be made between both perspectives. I decided making a diagram as "a picture is worth a thousand words".


The diagram above adds a component which I didn't even notice in part 1 of my blog: the Arrow of Time. The Arrow of Time appears irreversible, despite a recent claim by "researchers [having] returned the state of a quantum computer a fraction of a second into the past" (eg, Phys-2019).

An irreversible Arrow of Times implies that a macro state of affairs can never be returned to its micro original. That perceived implication has far-reaching consequences: there is no choice between a humanitarian and the Greater Good perspective. The choice must be made based on the macro state of affairs, as time is irreversible.

The above paragraph may explain why politicians generally opt for the 2nd Law of Intended Consequences and Unintentional Fallacies when dealing with an undesirable macro state of affairs.

My diagram above refers to my 5 July 2017 blog: Advantage vs Empathy. That blog ended with the following observation: "Our relentless efforts in gaining advantage (eg, Knowledge, Power), might be what really separates humans from anything else on this planet. []"

I think, feel and believe that I've solved my micro-macro conundrum, although it does not feel to my liking. Nothing escapes Time - until further scientific notice.

Nothing Escapes Time (2019) by Frank Ly
artist, no lyrics, video, no Wiki


Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Monday, 29 July 2019

Why is acceptance so hard?

Within a week, I was twice forced to face the cycle of grief as developed by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance - or DABDA. Bargaining solved the situation on Sunday last week. That outcome was short-lived as the situation returned last Thursday. I know that acceptance is my solution but why is that so hard?

I have thought about several angles: (my) accountability & responsibility (my blogs) and trust vs distrust (my blogs). I also know I shouldn't ask questions of which I don't want to know its answer. And how far should I go in understanding the motivation for this situation?? None of these angles solved my issue.

Considering the principle of Occam's razor (my blog), the most logical and most simple answer would explain why. In that case, the answer is as simple as this: I do not want to accept this situation even though I know very well that it's over. The breach of trust is just too big.

Weirdly enough, the resulting suffering following this situation feels a little addictive. Apparently, my experience is not weird at all:
HuffPost, 2017: "Suffering and struggle are emotional addictions as strong as addictions to alcohol, nicotine and drugs. "

The above quote opens a brand new outlook for me on a depression. It also explains why it is so hard fighting a depression. It may even explain my subconscious fear over any addiction.

A consequence of acceptance is that it implies making a choice between forgetting and/or forgiving (my blogs). That choice is also much harder than it looks like. Probably, this situation is a matter of forgetting as there is not much to forgive, despite the breach of trust.

I have no clue about the real reasons for my latest break-up. Apparently, it's not about me but about her. I have heard such words before, and I never fully believe that. It's unlikely, however, that I will ever find out her true motivation. Acceptance is thus clearly my best option.

Sometimes, I wonder whether the universe is smiling at me and giving me new inspiration for writing. What better motivation for writing than a break-up? I just want to forget....

A quote by Thomas Szasz (1920-2012), Hungarian-American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst:
"The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget." 

I Keep Forgettin' (1982) by Michael McDonald

I keep forgettin' we're not in love anymore 
I keep forgettin' things will never be the same again 
I keep forgettin' how you made that so clear 
I keep forgettin'


Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Sunday, 28 July 2019

The Great Awokening and Its Discontents (VF)

Vanity Fair title: The Great Awokening and Its Discontents

Vanity Fair subtitle: Are conservatives just too damn nice? An academic debate over the culture war in a little-known political journal has set off an unexpected storm on the right—and forced Republicans to reconsider what they really want from Donald Trump.

Publication date: 7 June 2019


"The fate of any political opinion journal is to lose money and stare in the face of futility, but sometimes, with a combination of talent and luck, it has a moment. Today, First Things, a conservative and religiously oriented magazine with about 27,000 subscribers, has achieved this improbable state, attracting both fans and haters for articles that have been sometimes shocking, sometimes reactionary, sometimes brilliant, and sometimes all three. Its editor, R. R. Reno, was among the essayists featured in the National Review package titled “Against Trump,” which ran in early 2016, but in the months that followed Reno found himself driven to a position he describes as anti-anti-Trump. True to its name, First Things is asking fundamental questions about how American society should be ordered in this strange new time.

It was therefore appropriate that First Things should have been the setting for an essay that set off an unexpected storm on the right over the past week. It was penned by New York Post op-ed editor and conservative Catholic Sohrab Ahmari and carried the title “Against David French-ism,” a headline surpassed in sexiness only by “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.” But its arguments tapped into visceral feelings on the right about the left, Donald Trump, and the place of government in society. The titular David French is a lawyer and writer for National Review who seems to enjoy a universal reputation as a nice person (I say that without knowing the man). He has also become, against his will, a symbol of a certain kind of conservatism that many on the right, Ahmari included, view as weak and self-defeating.

Ahmari argues, in short, that French’s brand of cultural conservatism and political liberalism—in which “individual autonomy is his lodestar”—spells defeat in the culture war. “Individual experiments in living—say, taking your kids to a drag reading hour at the public library—cannot be sustained without some level of moral approval by the community,” Ahmari writes. “Autonomy-maximizing liberalism is normative, in its own twisted way. Thus, it represents the interiorization, and fulfillment, of French’s worldview. And this is how David French-ism gets trapped.”

I’ll leave that to conservatives to debate, because the real message of Ahmari’s essay is far simpler. And that message is, “No more Mr. Nice Guy.” Or maybe, in MAGA argot, “Don’t be a cuck.” And that is the insult often hurled at David French by those on the MAGA right. French is too feeble, too willing to criticize his own side too willing to submit to the demands of a totalitarian left. “People like David French have a nice little cottage industry going of calling conservatives racists in The Atlantic,” the blogger Ace of Spades recently sneered, while another author on the blog called French a “prissy little pussy.”

Those who aren’t on the right might find it odd that conservatives in the Trump era are worried about being, of all things, too nice. Trump is president; he has a Senate majority and had a House majority for two years; and he says and does big and awful things and has help doing it. The left, meanwhile, is out of power. But the frustrations on the right are born of a sense that electoral wins by Republicans have not held back the cultural tide or offered much in terms of policy. On the contrary, they feel, conservatism has been losing ground in every way that matters, particularly in day-to-day life.

Such feelings have coincided with a dramatic shift in mainstream mores. The trends of culture have for decades been leftward overall, but what had arguably been a drift until around 2012 became a rocket in the years that followed. There has been an undeniable lurch in liberal opinion, what Vox’s Matthew Yglesias has called “The Great Awokening,” and, in a break with past norms, American institutions such as corporations and nonprofits have embraced the shifts with as much enthusiasm as the activists. This has made many conservatives to feel besieged and even fatalistic. A sense of defeat on the right was what led the writer Rod Dreher to pen a book, The Benedict Option, which argued for Christians to withdraw from mainstream society altogether and create alternative organizations and communities for spiritual self-preservation.

Then came Donald Trump, who appalled many people on the right but also kindled hopes that he might, in his own odd way, use governmental power to advance the cultural aims of conservatives. That’s a divisive idea in itself. Those in the camp with David French agree that there’s a culture war, but they want, in essence, to fight culture with culture and keep government out of the matter, except when it comes to preserving bedrock rights. Those in the camp with Sohrab Ahmari feel that government must take a more active role, using its power to do things like curb the excesses of leftism in academia and promote the traditional family structure, or else the culture war is as good as lost already. Beyond that, they feel the other side has declared war and stooped to any means to win it. For Ahmari, a radicalizing moment was the confirmation fight over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whom Ahmari saw as the victim of a power-mad left. These conservatives don’t dislike that Donald Trump is willing to play dirty, because they feel it’s only self-defense.

But as everyone, including Ahmari, knows, erosion of boundaries can fast get out of control. The Kavanaugh fight was indeed ugly, but, for many liberals, it was payback for what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did to Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.Now, with a conservative majority on the court, we hear liberals proposing an expansion of the number of justices. It’s easy to see where this goes. Many on the left today are as furious with Democrats in Congress as many Trump supporters are with David French. “Now is not a time to be fucking cowardly and weak,” tweeted Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko when Congressman Steny Hoyer announced that impeachment of Trump was unlikely. He spoke for many on his side.

If there were a god to tell us which side was right in the many disputes over fairness, we’d have a lot less anger. But immortal powers remain silent on these matters, leaving us to figure it out for ourselves. In 1944, a frustrated Winston Churchill wrote to one of his generals that the British should consider using gas against the Germans. “I do not see why we should always have all the disadvantages of being the gentleman while they have all the advantages of being the cad,” Churchill complained. Fortunately for humanity, the idea remained on paper, but the argument behind it will always be with us: don’t be a principled loser. The point is fair. It can also be poisonous."


Source: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/06/the-great-awokening-and-its-discontents

Saturday, 27 July 2019

We oordelen, zonder ons in de ander te verdiepen (Trouw)

Trouw titel: De Anton de Kom-lezing van Kathleen Ferrier: We oordelen, zonder ons in de ander te verdiepen

Trouw ondertitel: Toen ze na vijf jaar in Hongkong terugkwam in Nederland, viel haar op hoe de samenleving is verhard en gepolariseerd, en hoe diep breuklijnen op het gebied van inkomen, religie en etniciteit zijn geworden. Dat vertelde Kathleen Ferrier dinsdag in Amsterdam tijdens de jaarlijkse Anton de Kom-lezing. Hier leest u een verkorte versie.

Auteur: Kathleen Ferrier (Wikipedia)

Publicatiedatum: 19 juni 2019


"Wie is je vader, wie is je moeder?” Sinds presentator Jörgen Raymann Tante Es in het leven riep, weet heel Nederland hoe een kennismaking in Suriname verloopt. Want zo gaat het als je geïnteresseerd bent in de identiteit van een ander: je voorgeslacht vertelt een verhaal.

Mijn vader was Johan Ferrier en mijn moeder was Edmé Vas. Mijn ene over-overgrootmoeder kwam als achtjarig meisje aan in Suriname, met de Lalla Rookh, de eerste gammele boot die contractarbeiders uit India naar Suriname bracht. Haar ouders hadden de overtocht niet overleefd en waren overboord gegooid. Mijn andere over-overgrootmoeder was een tot slaaf gemaakte vrouw uit Afrika. Mijn ene over-overgrootvader stamde af van Portugese Joden en de ander van Groningse boeren.

En dan zijn er ook nog de banden met Schotland, de afstamming van opgejaagde Hugenoten uit Frankrijk, en mijn verwantschap met de beroemde zangeres naar wie ik ben genoemd. Toen mijn vader eens door een Nederlandse journalist gevraagd werd waar zijn wortels lagen, in Suriname of in Nederland, antwoordde hij dat die over de hele wereld verspreid liggen.

Mij is als kind steeds voorgehouden dat wij afstammen van de allersterksten, van hen die slavernij en mensenhandel overleefd hebben. “Wees je bewust van de kracht en moed van onze voorouders”, is mij vaak gezegd, “en draag die kracht uit met een opgeheven hoofd, een luisterend oor en een kritisch kijkend oog”

Ik heb op verschillende plaatsen in de wereld gewoond. Behalve in Suriname en Nederland, tien jaar in Latijns-Amerika, in Chili en Brazilië, en de afgelopen vijf jaar in Hongkong. Als je dan terugkomt in Nederland, vallen een paar dingen op. Hoe de samenleving is veranderd, verhard, gepolariseerd en hoe, om het kort te zeggen, de breuklijnen in de Nederlandse samenleving zoveel dieper lijken te zijn, dan vijf jaar geleden. Breuklijnen op gebied van inkomen, opleiding, religie, etniciteit, woonplek.

Loyaliteiten
Breuklijnen zijn hier niet nieuw. Nederland is van oudsher een verzuilde samenleving. Verschillende groepen waren er ook toen ik coördinator was van SKIN, Samen Kerk in Nederland, de vereniging van internationale kerken, of Tweede Kamerlid, namens het CDA. Maar toen was er wel de wens om een samenleving te zijn. En het lijkt mij nu, nog geen jaar terug uit China, alsof die wens er niet meer is.

Integendeel, soms lijkt het of het er vooral om gaat de breuklijnen te benadrukken en te verdiepen. Dat jij anders bent dan ik en dat jouw wereld niets met de mijne te maken heeft. Omdat je een ander inkomen hebt, een andere opleiding, een andere religie, een andere kleur of een andere seksuele geaardheid.

We oordelen, zonder ons te verdiepen in die basisvraag: wat is de achtergrond, wie is de ander, wie is jouw vader en wie is jouw moeder, wat is jouw verhaal? Wat mezelf betreft: ik ben niet alleen een zwarte vrouw en feminist, ik ben ook moeder van twee zoons en liefhebber van yoga. Ik hou van Paramaribo, ik hou van Hongkong, ik hou van São Paulo en ik hou van Leusden. Ik heb meerdere identiteiten en loyaliteiten.

Slavernijverleden
Dat eendimensionale beeld waartoe we elkaar door gebrek aan werkelijke interesse zo gemakkelijk veroordelen, heb ik ook gezien in mijn huidige hoedanigheid als voorzitter van de beoordelingscommissie om te komen tot een nationale museale voorziening Nederlands slavernijverleden. Juist als het gaat om het zoeken naar verbinding in het kader van ons gemeenschappelijk slavernijverleden zie je wat er gebeurt als mensen tot eendimensionale identiteiten gereduceerd worden, waarbij bovendien etniciteit een bepalende rol speelt. De zwarte is de slaaf en slachtoffer. Het beeld van zijn nazaten blijft dat van slachtoffers. De witte is de slavendrijver en uitbuiter. Het beeld van zijn nazaten blijft dat van uitbuiters.

Die eendimensionale identiteiten waarin we elkaar gevangenzetten, de afwezigheid van gesprek, en de aanwezigheid van vooroordelen leidt in onze gepolariseerde samenleving tot een sterke ondervertegenwoordiging in bepaalde sectoren, van nazaten van tot slaaf gemaakten en sowieso van mensen met een bi- of multiculturele achtergrond. Men zegt wel diversiteit of zelfs inclusiviteit te willen, maar in werkelijkheid kiest men toch weer voor meer van hetzelfde.

Neem het openbaar bestuur. Terwijl van de iets meer dan 17 miljoen Nederlanders 23 procent, dat is ongeveer 4 miljoen, een migratie-achtergrond heeft, is één procent van de burgemeesters bicultureel, en 2 procent van de gedeputeerden. Het percentage vrouwen in de Tweede Kamer is lager dan in vorige regeerperiodes (nu 47, 2012: 60, 2010: 64) en er zit op dit moment geen enkele nazaat vanuit een voormalige kolonie in de Nederlandse volksvertegenwoordiging. De nieuwe Eerste Kamer kunnen we beter de Witte Kamer noemen, hoorde ik iemand terecht opmerken.

Nederlands voetbal
Maar er zijn ook maatschappelijke sectoren waar we een oververtegenwoordiging zien van mensen met een biculturele achtergrond, nazaten van tot slaaf gemaakten in de voormalige koloniën, of van de voormalige gastarbeiders uit Turkije en Marokko of, recenter, vluchtelingen. De sport natuurlijk! Ja, waar zou het Nederlands voetbal zijn, als men daar de hang naar boreale suprematie had doorgevoerd?

We zien het ook in de zorg. Politici spreken bij voorkeur over de oververtegenwoordiging van biculturele Nederlanders in de criminaliteit, maar ik hoor ze zelden over de ‘oververtegenwoordiging’ van biculturele Nederlanders aan het bed van zieken, ouderen en stervenden. Want ons zorgstelsel, en dat geldt trouwens ook voor andere sectoren, zou volledig instorten als we, zoals sommige mensen graag willen, terugkeren naar vroeger, toen het leven overzichtelijk was, de EU niet bestond, de gulden het betaalmiddel was en de Nederlandse bevolking overwegend roomwit.

Ook geopolitiek zien we ingrijpende verschuivingen. Om maar iets te noemen: de opkomst van Azië, van India en zeker van China. Het werelddeel herbergt 5 miljard inwoners, twee derde van de wereldbevolking, twee derde van ’s werelds megasteden, twee derde van de mondiale economische groei, zes van de tien grootste banken, acht van de tien grootste legers, vijf nucleaire machten, gigantische technologische ontwikkelingen, de nieuwste lichting topuniversiteiten. Dat alles heeft men in Nederland en Europa vol overtuiging eeuwenlang de rug toegekeerd. Nu wij eindelijk oog beginnen te krijgen voor wat daar gaande is, weten we niet wat we ermee aan moeten, omdat we niet zijn voorbereid.

Gebrek aan kennis leidt tot angst. ‘China wil ons alles afpakken. Tot aan onze landbouwgronden toe, de klei waar we uit getrokken zijn.’ En ja, dan kom je aan de identiteit van Nederland, dus pas op.

Schanierpunt
Onze blik is steeds gericht op het Westen, op de VS. Precies de plek waar momenteel de neergang plaatsvindt. De VS en het Verenigd Koninkrijk, de motoren achter het industriële tijdperk zijn piepend tot stilstand gekomen en maken de decadentie, het verval van dit tijdperk, pijnlijk zichtbaar. De VS, de leider van de westerse wereld, door een politiek bestuur dat het land in een morele chaos stort en het VK door een onzalige brexit die het failliet van de politieke cultuur glashelder maakt.

We staan op een scharnierpunt, het begin van een andere tijd. Voor mij is het duidelijk: we moeten op een radicaal andere manier naar onze samenleving, naar onze manier van leven en naar onszelf kijken. Radicaal anders omgaan met onze planeet, radicaal anders omgaan met elkaar vooral.

Terug uit Hongkong viel mij op dat de breuklijnen in de samenleving verdiept zijn, maar waar ik echt van schrok, is dat ze zijn doorgedrongen tot in onze instituties.

Als taalgebruik dat mensen onderverdeelt in categorieën gemeengoed wordt in politiek, bestuur, wetenschap en onderwijs en als we ook daar niet terugdeinzen voor etnisch profileren, bevinden we ons op zeer glad ijs.

Het is mijn overtuiging, dat, wanneer we antwoorden willen geven op de vragen van vandaag, we genoodzaakt zijn de volle breedte van de diversiteit van de mensheid in te zetten. Zonder dat, zonder inclusiviteit, redden we het niet. De tijd van superioriteit, van inferioriteit, van wegkijken en je veilig in bubbels terugtrekken, is voorbij.

China
Om te beginnen is het goed eens te kijken vanuit een ander perspectief. Want tot nu toe is het perspectief altijd dat van de machthebber geweest, de geprivilegieerde positie. Als je het slavernijverleden bekijkt vanuit het oogpunt van de slaven, krijg je een heel ander verhaal. Zolang China de fabriek van de wereld was en we naar hartenlust goedkope kleren en speelgoed konden kopen, was het best. Maar nu China alles in huis heeft om dé wereldleider te worden en technologisch in vele aspecten ver voor loopt op Europa, wordt China een bedreiging en gaan alarmbellen rinkelen. En zolang Sylvana Simons leuke radio- en tv-programma’s presenteerde, was ze iedereens lieveling. Maar toen ze de politieke arena betrad, ging de beerput open.

Als je de zogenaamde opkomst van China vanuit het land zelf bekijkt, is het helemaal geen opkomst, maar het terugkeren naar de rechtmatige plek in de wereld die dit land, met een cultuur van 5000 jaar, toekomt na een korte periode van 150 jaar dat het anders was.

Nog steeds zijn er mensen, wetenschappers en onderzoekers, die denken dat als er ergens in een land een groeiende middenklasse is, die toegang krijgt tot westerse producten, hun kinderen in het westen laat studeren, zoals nu in China, die middenklasse als vanzelf gaat verlangen net zo te worden als wij, hier in het liberale westen en gaat verlangen naar democratie. Ik denk het niet.

Naïve veronderstelling
Ongeveer diezelfde gedachte ligt ten grondslag aan de naïeve veronderstelling, dat, toen in de jaren zestig en zeventig van de vorige eeuw arbeidsmigranten naar de EU en Nederland gehaald werden, deze mensen vanzelf zo zouden worden als de meerderheid hier. Als ze maar lang genoeg hier woonden en we lieten ze maar een beetje hun eigen gang gaan, dan zouden ze vanzelf onze aantrekkelijke en superieure levensstijl overnemen. En daarbij hun achterlijke gewoontes uit het land van herkomst, op gebied van kleden, opvoeden, eten en vooral geloven, achterwege laten.

Dat is niet gebeurd. Integendeel. Een samenleving die vanuit het perspectief van de machthebbers en een superieure houding voetstoots aanneemt dat de meerderheidscultuur vanzelf leidend zal worden, komt bedrogen uit.

Natuurlijk bepaalt in een democratisch land de rechtsstaat wat geoorloofd is en wat niet, maar als migrant zou je in alle vrijheid moeten kunnen bepalen wat jij overneemt en wat je behoudt, wat voor jou onopgeefbaar is.

Flintertje democratie
Na vijf jaar China ben ik mij er ten zeerste van bewust dat de waarden waar Europa voor staat, zoals burgerrechten, mensenrechten en vrijheid van meningsuiting voor ons, hier in Europa, heilig en onopgeefbaar zouden moeten zijn. Dat zijn de waarden waarom de Europese Unie ooit begonnen is. We denken dat ze vanzelfsprekend zijn, maar dat zijn ze niet. In Hongkong gaan honderdduizenden mensen de straat op om voor die rechten, voor vrijheid en veiligheid, voor het flintertje democratie dat daar nog is, op te komen.

We kunnen deze waarden alleen beschermen door veel nauwere Europese samenwerking. Democratie beschouwen als een vanzelfsprekendheid getuigt van naïviteit. En van gebrek aan respect en waardering voor hen die in ons belang hiervoor hebben gestreden en hun leven hebben gegeven, zoals Anton de Kom.

Bij die radicale wijziging hoort ook inclusief leiderschap. Het masculiene leiderschap heeft wat mij betreft zijn langste tijd gehad als ik kijk naar het old boys network van Trump en Poetin, Erdogan, XI Jinping, Bolsonaro, Duterte en Bouterse. Het is hoog tijd dat we feminien leiderschap meer kansen bieden. Van Jacinda Ardern, premier van Nieuw-Zeeland, tot het radicalisme van Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, het jongste vrouwelijke congreslid ooit in de VS. Van Michelle Obama tot Sahle-Work Zewde, president van Ethiopië die zorgde voor een gender-equal kabinet.

Ook wij als burgers hebben veel meer macht en invloed dan we denken. We zouden, als mensen van goede wil, veel meer van ons moeten laten horen en ons daarbij ervan bewust zijn dat ons taalgebruik breuklijnen kan verdiepen of juist bruggen kan creëren.

Ook kunnen we zelf in actie komen als de politiek het laat afweten. Wat was het goed om te zien hoe velen de campagnespot van de SP over Hans Brusselmans ofwel Frans Timmermans publiekelijk afkeurden. Ik zie ook allerlei initiatieven, bijvoorbeeld op het gebied van duurzaamheid, mensen die zelf voedselbanken, kledingbeurzen en plastic-opruimacties organiseren.

Geheim van Suriname
Anton de Kom zelf is ook een groot voorbeeld van hoe je als burger je verantwoordelijkheid neemt door in verzet te komen, met alle risico’s van dien, als jouw hart en jouw geweten je dat ingeven. Zijn levensovertuiging was daardoor een directe afwijzing van armoede, onderdrukking en uitbuiting.

Mij wordt vaak gevraagd wat het geheim is van Suriname. Hoe kan het dat daar diversiteit wel een bron van kracht is, terwijl het op zoveel plekken in de wereld tot ellende en zelfs oorlog leidt.

Sommige mensen noemen Suriname een failed state vanwege het multiculturele karakter. Deze mensen wil ik duidelijk maken dat als Suriname een failed state is, en moreel en economisch is Suriname inderdaad failliet, dat zeker niet ligt aan de multiculturaliteit van de samenleving. Integendeel. In Suriname zie je dat het besef dat we elkaar als mensen nodig hebben om te overleven geen holle frase is. Ook al is er in Suriname natuurlijk ook sprake van discriminatie en ongelijk(waardig)heid, er heerst wel degelijk het besef uiteindelijk een samenleving te zijn.

Bij iedere werkelijke samenleving hoort dat de mensen in geprivilegieerde posities – of ze nu wit zijn, man, heteroseksueel, hoogopgeleid, gezond – afleren zichzelf centraal en als norm te stellen. En andersom: dat de mensen die niet in een geprivilegieerde positie verkeren, uit die slachtofferrol stappen. En dat zij niet de houding die zij bij machthebbers zo veracht hebben, zelf gaan overnemen.

“Geen volk kan tot volle wasdom komen, dat erfelijk met een minderwaardigheidsgevoel belast blijft”, zei Anton de Kom."

Dit is een verkorte versie van de Anton de Kom-lezing van Kathleen Ferrier. De lezing is een initiatief van het Verzetsmuseum in Amsterdam en Trouw.

Slavernijmuseum
Kathleen Ferrier (1957) was van 2002 tot 2012 Tweede Kamerlid voor het CDA en daarna universitair docent in Hongkong. Ze werkt nu als gastdocent en heeft verschillende bestuursfuncties. Ferrier leidt een beoordelingscommissie namens de gemeente Amsterdam voor een toekomstig slavernijmuseum.



Bron: https://www.trouw.nl/nieuws/de-anton-de-kom-lezing-van-kathleen-ferrier-we-oordelen-zonder-ons-in-de-ander-te-verdiepen~b900123b/

Climate change helped destroy these four ancient civilisations (WEF)

World Economic Forum title: Climate change helped destroy these four ancient civilisations

Publication date: 29 March 2019


"Ignorant, malign and evil. This is some of the unapologetically harsh criticism directed at climate change deniers by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Her point is as simple as it is blunt: “Climate change undermines the enjoyment of the full range of human rights – from the right to life, to food, to shelter and to health. It is an injustice that the people who have contributed least to the causes of the problem suffer the worst impacts of climate change.”
Image: NASA


It is widely accepted that the Earth’s climate is in a near-constant state of flux. There have been seven ice age cycles, featuring the expansion and contraction of glaciers, over the last 650,000 years. The last major ice age ended approximately 11,000 years ago, ushering in our modern climate era, the Holocene. Since then, the climate has been mostly stable, although there was a Little Ice Age that took place between 1200 and 1850 CE.

But there’s more to climate change than the spread of glaciers and many once-mighty civilizations have been devastated by the effects of locally changing climate conditions.

The Mayan civilization in Mesoamerica lasted for some 3,000 years. Their empire was spread throughout the Yucatan Peninsula and modern-day Guatemala, Belize, parts of Mexico, and western Honduras and El Salvador. Agriculture was the cornerstone of Mayan civilization, with great cities being built as the population grew. Religion was an important part of Mayan life; sacrifice – including human sacrifice – was a regular ritual, intended to appease and nourish the gods and keep the land fertile.

However, somewhere around 900 CE, things started to go wrong for the Mayans. Overpopulation put too great a strain on resources. Increased competition for resources was bringing the Maya into violent conflict with other nations. An extensive period of drought sounded the death-knell, ruining crops and cutting off drinking water supplies.

They were not the only ancient people catastrophically caught out by climate change.

More than 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia – the area currently made up of Iraq, north-east Syria and south-east Turkey – the Akkadian empire ruled supreme. Until a 300-year-long drought quite literally turned all their plans to dust. It was part of a pattern of changing climate conditions in the Middle East around 2,200 BCE that was constantly disrupting life and up-ending emerging empires.

When the effects of drought began to be felt, people would leave the stricken areas and migrate to more abundant ones. These mass migration events, however, increased the pressure on remaining resources, leading to yet more problems.

The iconic Angkor Wat temple is a reminder of the prowess of another of history’s lost civilizations – the Khmer empire of south-east Asia, which flourished between 802 and 1431 CE. It too was brought down by drought, interspersed with violent monsoon rains, against the backdrop of a changing climate.

Even the Viking settlers of Greenland, in the far north Atlantic, are believed to have been affected by climate change. Some 5,000 settlers made the island their home for around 500 years. But they may have had their way of life disrupted by climate change. Temperatures dropped, reducing substantially the productivity of their farms and making it harder to raise livestock. They adapted their eating habits, turning their attention to the sea as a source of food. But life on Greenland became unbearably difficult, leading to the eventual abandonment of the island colony.

The natural cycle of climate change is an ongoing and unavoidable part of life. But history seems to be telling us that when past civilizations have overstretched themselves or pushed their consumption of natural resources to the brink, the effects of climate change soon become amplified. With dire consequences for those caught up in it.

Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, increasing amounts of polluting gases have been pumped into the atmosphere, triggering an unprecedented rate of warming. According to the IPCC, human activity has caused around 1°C of global warming (above pre-industrial levels). The likely range is between 0.8°C and 1.2°C. Between 2030 and 2052, global warming is likely to hit a 1.5°C increase.

That increase of 1.5°C could put between 20% and 30% of animal species on the fast track to extinction. If the planet warms by an average 2°C the damage will be even worse. For the human population, one of the threats climate change poses is rising sea levels and eight of the world’s 10 largest cities are in coastal locations.

Another is the risk of climate-driven drought leading to mass migration events similar to those seen thousands of years ago. The Climate & Migration Coalition has warned that countries caught up in armed conflict or civil war are particularly vulnerable to famine in the event of drought. The Horn of Africa, home to Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia is an area that has been hit hard by both man-made conflict and climate change. Around 13 million people there face serious food shortages.

In volatile parts of the world, it is exceptionally difficult to address the challenges of drought and famine; getting aid to people in a conflict zone is fraught with difficulty and danger. This can make the effects more profound and longer-lasting, which will, in turn, increase the likelihood of large numbers of people uprooting themselves in search of somewhere they can live.

The challenge facing our world due to climate change is something that should not be underestimated. But neither is it cause for despondency. Because unlike the Mayans, the Mesopotamians and other ancient civilizations, here in the 21st century, we are in a position to do something constructive.

The Paris Agreement was one significant milestone in the fight back against climate change. Signed by 195 members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, it has put in place a serious of goals and commitments to keep the increase in average global temperatures below 2°C. Despite a high-profile decision to leave the Paris Accord, there is now a growing movement in the US political sphere to rejoin. There is also talk of the European Union refusing to sign trade deals with countries that are not signatories to the agreement."


Source: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/03/our-turn-next-a-brief-history-of-civilizations-that-fell-because-of-climate-change/

Note LO:
For a similar article and my 27 January 2019 blog, please see: How climate change caused the world’s first ever empire to collapse (Conversation)

Steeds minder mensen willen hun woning van het gas afhalen (Trouw)

Trouw titel: Steeds minder mensen willen hun woning van het gas afhalen

Trouw ondertitel: Negatief gestemde bewoners vrezen hoge kosten. Nederlanders die wél graag hun cv-ketel de deur uit doen denken nu vooral aan Groningen, dan aan het klimaat.

Publicatiedatum: 16 juli 2019


"De steun voor aardgasvrij wonen kalft af. Minder dan de helft van de Nederlanders is het eens met het politieke doel om elk huis te vertimmeren tot duurzaam, zonder cv-ketel. Een jaar geleden waren zes op de tien mensen nog positief. Bovendien groeide het aantal uitgesproken tegenstanders, van 29 procent een jaar terug tot 43 procent nu. Dit blijkt uit een landelijke peiling onder 2350 Nederlanders, uitgevoerd door expertisecentrum HIER klimaatbureau.

De toegenomen weerstand sluit naadloos aan bij recente cijfers van het Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau (SCP). Daaruit bleek dat de landelijke steun voor uitgaven aan breed klimaatbeleid, zoals elektrische auto’s en windmolens, afbrokkelt. Het SCP schreef dat toe aan het verschijnen van een ferm concept-Klimaatakkoord. Daarin liggen plannen vast om de CO2-uitstoot van Nederland in 2030 te verminderen met 49 procent. Gasloos wonen is daarin één hoofdpijler.

Afspraken
Het kabinet presenteerde een softer definitief Klimaatakkoord, om burgers niet af te schrikken. “Maar de afspraken voor aardgasvrij wonen staan rechtovereind”, zegt Eva van der Weiden van het HIER klimaatbureau. In 2050 moeten alle 7 miljoen bestaande huizen gasloos zijn, waarvan 1,5 miljoen in 2030. “Nu het zo concreet wordt, zetten meer mensen de hakken in het zand”, zegt Van der Weiden. “Begrijpelijk. Dit klimaatbeleid komt tot achter de voordeur.” Aanbod van informatie en aantrekkelijke financieringsregelingen kunnen zorgen wegnemen, denkt ze.

Linkse hype
Negatief gestemde bewoners vrezen hoge kosten. Ook zitten ze met allerlei praktische vragen over de gevolgen in huis, als de gaskraan sluit. De meeste ondervraagden weten niet op welke techniek ze moeten overstappen. Dat maakt me ook niets uit, zegt 20 procent, als mijn huis maar warm is. Het meest genoemde argument van tegenstanders: gasloos wonen is “weer zo’n linkse hype”. Het idee dat de bijdrage die Nederland kan leveren aan het oplossen van het klimaatprobleem te klein is, leidt ook tot weerzin.



Opvallend is dat de Nederlanders die graag willen stoppen met aardgas, een krappe minderheid dus, daarvoor de aardbevingen in Groningen als belangrijkste drijfveer noemen. Het klimaatprobleem aanpakken geldt op de tweede plaats als reden om de gaskraan thuis af te sluiten. Een jaar geleden was dat omgekeerd. De aanhoudende schadeproblematiek in het noorden maakte van Groningen de prioriteit.

Bij de verbouwing tot aardgasvrij ziet een meerderheid van de Nederlanders geen hele actieve rol voor zichzelf. De meeste ondervraagden willen wel ‘geraadpleegd’ worden, en geïnformeerd.

Voor 2021 moeten gemeenten, per wijk, met plannen komen voor gasvrij wonen. Die plannen moeten concreet worden, maar niet dichtgetimmerd, zegt Van der Weiden. “Als alles vastligt haken mensen af.”

Warmtepomp
De warmtepomp geldt als meest geliefde alternatief voor de gasketel, blijkt uit de peiling van HIER. Van de ondervraagden noemt 20 procent de warmtepomp als ‘op het eerste gezicht’ als favoriet. Hierbij lijkt mee te spelen dat een bewoner de warmtepomp zelf kan kopen, op een eigen moment. Wat ook kan: met de hele straat in één klap overstappen op een collectief warmtenet. Dat spreekt 13 procent van de mensen het meeste aan. Een op de tien voelt het meest voor de vervanging van aardgas door groen gas, zodat de pijpleidingen behouden blijven.

Feit blijft dat de meeste mensen geen voorkeur hebben. Ze willen zich eerst goed verdiepen in de mogelijkheden, blijkt uit de peiling. Twee op de tien mensen wachten liever af tot anderen een besluit nemen, de gemeente of experts."


Friday, 26 July 2019

Cultural diversity

Nowadays, people believe that cultural diversity is good and a monoculture is bad. Nevertheless, movies often show successful monocultures (eg, Margin Call, Trading Places, Wall StreetWolf of Wall Street). In the 1983 comedy Trading Places, there is even a bet between two very rich white men that applying diversity will/will not make a difference in their trading firm's results.

In a 2019 blog post, the Hult International Business School gives an overview of the 13 benefits and challenges of cultural diversity in the workplace. Their overview seems balanced and fair. Apart from benefit #4, the rather theoretical benefits do not seem to outweigh the more practical and realistic challenges.

To some extent, cultural diversity seems to match the micro-macro conundrum (see yesterday's blog): it may benefit on a micro level (ie, #4) but poses many challenges at a macro level.

In 2014, a field hockey coach told me his formula for success: Output = (Talent x Discipline) / Ego. Please see my blogs of 2014 and 2018. Despite the validity of his formula, I added another component: positive thinking. Hence, Output = ( Talent x Discipline x Positive thinking) / Ego. On a micro level, both formulas explain increased output (eg, benefit #4).

In my view, these same two formulas also explain failure at a macro level. Cultural diversity may boost the aggregate talent of a team. However, cultural diversity does not enhance the three other components at the level of an organisation or a society: discipline, positive thinking and egos. The opposite seems more likely, including a drop in output.

In other words, cultural diversity takes away team spirit. Cultural diversity often contributes to identity politics (eg, culture, religion, skin colour, sexuality) within an organisation or society. Identity politics undermines the power (eg, output) of an organisation or a society. At a macro level, identity and power are each other's opposites.

There are several contemporary examples of a repression of identity politics in favour of national power and prestige: the indigenous peoples in Canadathe muslim Uyghur minority in China, the gypsies in EuropeCrimean tatars by Russia, and native Americans in USA.

The worst example of the challenges of cultural diversity, and the related surge in identity politics, is the rise of Islamic terrorism in Europe. The European migrant crisis of 2015 onwards also caused a (German) crime wave due to a lack of proactive integration (eg, culture, language, work). This may be another example of a mismatch between Needs, Wants & Beliefs (see last Wednesday's blog).

In the end, cultural diversity is nothing else - or more - than multiculturalism, which has "utterly failed" - according to the German Chancellor in 2010.

Devil Don't Care (2019) by Di-rect


Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Thursday, 25 July 2019

The micro-macro conundrum

Rescuing refugees from the Mediterranean feels like a good deed because else they will drown and die. However, such rescue efforts also attract more refugees because they will expect future rescue efforts. Moreover, human traffickers are said to be cooperating with NGO's saving these refugees. How can good micro decisions be so wrong on a macro level?

To some extent, there is a link with the Law of Unintended Consequences, as "popularised in the twentieth century by American sociologist Robert K. Merton". This Law, however, assumes "outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action". Clearly, human traffickers and NGO's must know that rescue efforts will attract more refugees.

The 2015 decision of the German Chancellor to open the German borders and welcome more than a million of migrants and/or refugees is an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. While her humanitarian decision may be applauded on a micro level, its consequences on a macro level cannot be underestimated (eg, AfD, Islamic terrorismIslamic sexual assaults).

It does not seem farfetched that the unintended and unforeseen outcomes of the (First) Law of Unintended Consequences trigger a Second Law of Intended Consequences - by purposeful action. This might explain the micro-macro conundrum in the tile of my blog.

Examples of the Second Law of Intended Consequences are the detention centers for migrants and refugees in various territories, such as Australia, Europe and USA (eg, Eureka Street-2014, BI-2019Independent-2019, NYT-2019). Their mediocre humanitarian conditions are intended to scare off future migrants and refugees.

The Second Law of Intended Consequences may cause unintentional fallacies (1987 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies). An example is the current Dutch debate on freedom of religious education - as funded by the Dutch state - following Article 23 of the Constitution. This intended consequence is causing problems with undemocratic Islamic education (an unintentional fallacy).

People are often keen on solving a puzzle or riddle. The micro-macro conundrum seems difficult to solve. From a philosophical view, applying the Greater Good theory - or utilitarianism - would make sense: promoting "actions that maximize happiness and well-being for the majority of a population". From a humanitarian view, saving lives makes perfect sense.

“We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.” A quote by Ken Levine (b. 1950), American writer, director and producer in the television and film industry.

 Consequences (2018) by Camila Cabello


Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Needs, Wants & Belief: mismatches

Early May 2019, several European countries "launched an appeal to boost EU climate action", in view of a summit on the future of Europe. Germany, Italy and Poland did not sign this document (EurActiv). On 20 June 2019, the EU Energy Roadmap 2050, aiming at "decarbonising the energy system", collapsed after a Polish veto (eg, Forbes, Trouw).

The above is an example of a mismatch between the 3 main stages of societies, being: Needs, Wants & Beliefs. No country has ever reached the stage of Awakening; only individuals seem to be capable of reaching that 4th stage. The above is also an example of arrogance versus (alleged) ignorance. Let me elaborate on this.

Many non-Europeans (like to) view Europe as one entity, like a Federation. Well, they are wrong. Europe is a group of nations which are in different phases of their development when viewed from a civil, economic, political, religious, social or whatever other angle. 

Some eastern European countries are still in the Needs stage, similar to countries in Africa. Some western European countries are in the Beliefs stage, similar to UK and USA. The other European countries are in the Wants stage, which is characterized by consumerism

The Polish veto is a conflict between their Wants and others' Beliefs. Only wealthy people and/or  countries can afford to be in the Beliefs stage. Such people and/or countries are financially independent and have the luxury of what is sometimes called Fuck-You money. In other words, they do no longer care about the opinions of others and just follow their beliefs. 

The aforementioned is also the link with arrogance versus (alleged) ignorance. People in the Beliefs stage are that sure about their opinions (ie, arrogance) that they consider the opinions of others, who are still in the Needs or Wants stage, as unknowledgeable and thus ignorant. 

The above solves one of my dilemmas: why are the Left arrogant and the Right (allegedly) ignorant? The Left is usually already in the Beliefs stage, while the Right is usually still in a consumerism or Wants stage. Deeming people as ignorant - who are (only) interested in a house, a garden, a pet and/or a car - defines arrogance. 

The Polish veto helps prevent that Europe enters the Beliefs stage like the UK or USA, where "everyone" seems to be in the Beliefs stage, with (utter) disregard for the opinions of others (ie, us and them mentality). 

A quote from a 2010 book called It's Not Him, It's You by Christie Hartman:
"Don't confuse confidence with arrogance. Arrogance is being full of yourself, feeling you're always right, and believing your accomplishments or abilities make you better than other people. People often believe arrogance is excessive confidence, but it's really a lack of confidence. Arrogant people are insecure, and often repel others. Truly confident people feel good about themselves and attract others to them."

Mismatch (1977) by Harry Chapin (1942-1981)
artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2



Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Why is it so hard to sift the essential from the inessential?

Each day, I receive some 150 emails. Several are deleted immediately, after a brief look. Some 135 daily emails (ie, last Thursday) are archived after speed reading them. I earmark several of these emails for (possible) future use in my blogs. Hardly any of these 150 daily emails are personal. Nearly all of them only provide information.

How do you sift the essential information from the inessential? Example: a moment ago, I received an email from Apple promoting their Apple Watch series 4. I do not want that product. Hence, I delete that email without even looking at it. However, most of my 150 daily emails require (much) more effort.

On most days, my email in-tray is almost empty when I'm off to sleep. That gives a relaxing and satisfying feeling because my "work" is done. The opposite is also true: a full in-tray - either in the early morning or late evening - gives an uncomfortable feeling, like I've been lazy or something similar.

Why is it so hard to sift the essential from the inessential? A proverb may explain this: the devil is in the details. A title of an article may be misleading as it requires the author/editor to fully grasp the impact of its contents. Quite often, I notice a future blog "hidden" in the details of an article. This means that I cannot rely on titles, which could and would have been time efficient.

So how do I sift the essential information from the inessential? First and foremost, I look at the subjects. Several subjects are outside the scope of my blog (eg, fashion, food, sports, travel). The remaining topics of interest are usually within the 7 Belief systems, being: Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science & Technology, and the Truth.

Sometimes, I feel lucky when I notice a subject that had been escaping my "perimeter". In 2015, I suddenly realised that Love is a 7th Belief system because Love provides probably the most compelling reason to sacrifice your own life for a greater cause (eg, romantic love, love for your country, divine love, parental love).

Each day, I struggle through my 150 emails, while subconsciously being "afraid" of missing some essential information (eg, my 2016 FOMO blog). I do realise that I am getting better and better at this task, similar as the proverb predicts: Practice makes perfect.

--------

Farnam Street title: Albert Einstein on Sifting the Essential from the Non-Essential

Brain Food weekly newsletter: # 325

Publication date: 14 July 2019 (originally December 2014)


"Why is it so hard to sift the essential from the inessential? Few things have more of an impact on your life and career than your ability to zero in on what matters most. And yet most of us spend time cluttering our minds with things that don’t matter, rather than focusing on the simplicity that does.

It can feel difficult to keep up. There is an ever increasing amount of information coming at us. Occasionally we get motivated and try to reach inbox zero but the onslaught doesn’t stop and we are soon back to where we started from. Efforts like this are well meaning but misplaced, focusing on more and more effort instead of addressing the most important tool in our toolbox: our mind.

A lot of people think that Albert Einstein’s greatest ability was his mathematical mind. It wasn’t. Granted it’s probably better than yours or mine, but in comparison to his impact on the world most people in the know consider his mathematical gifts average at best.

Einstein’s greatest skill was the ability to sift the essential from the inessential — to grasp simplicity when everyone else was lost in clutter.

John Wheeler points out in his short biographical memoir on Einstein that it wasn’t that he understood more about complicated things that made him impressive:
Many a man in the street thinks of Einstein as a man who could only make headway in his work by dint of pages of complicated mathematics; the truth is the direct opposite. As Hilbert put it, “Every boy in the streets of our mathematical Gottingen understands more about four-dimensional geometry than Einstein. Yet, despite that, Einstein did the work and not the mathematicians.” Time and again, in the photoelectric effect, in relativity, in gravitation, the amateur grasped the simple point that had eluded the expert.

While it’s tempting to think that Einstein was born with this skill, that would be a lie. In fact, it was developed consciously as an adult. “I soon learned,” Einstein said, “to scent out what was able to lead to fundamentals and to turn aside from everything else, from the multitude of things that clutter up the mind.”

“We have a passion for keeping things simple.”
— Charlie Munger

Where did Einstein acquire this ability to sift the essential from the non-essential? For this we turn to his first job.
In the view of many, the position of clerk of the Swiss patent office was no proper job at all, but it was the best job available to anyone with (Einstein’s) unpromising university record. He served in the Bern office for seven years, from June 23, 1902 to July 6, 1909. Every morning he faced his quote of patent applications. Those were the days when a patent application had to be accompanied by a working model. Over and above the applications and the models was the boss, a kind man, a strict man, a wise man. He gave strict instructions: explain very briefly, if possible in a single sentence, why the device will work or why it won’t; why the application should be granted or why it should be denied. 
Day after day Einstein had to distill the central lesson out of objects of the greatest variety that man has power to invent. Who knows a more marvelous way to acquire a sense of what physics is and how it works? It is no wonder that Einstein always delighted in the machinery of the physical world—from the action of a compass needle to the meandering of a river, and from the perversities of a gyroscope to the drive of Flettner’s rotor ship.

Who else but a patent clerk could have discovered the theory of relativity? “Who else,” Wheeler writes, “could have distilled this simple central point from all the clutter of electromagnetism than someone whose job it was over and over to extract simplicity out of complexity.”

***

The biggest mistake that most of us make is that we try to consume more information. We do this because we feel like we’re missing something. While we can all learn and improve our understanding of something, the constant search for what we don’t have and what we’re missing is also the natural response of someone who doesn’t truly understand what matters and what doesn’t. To understand what I mean consider investors.

The worst investors I know are focused on every news article, blog, or commentary on the company they own. Glued to their screen they look for some esoteric detail that others have missed. And because they are looking, they will eventually find something. Our brain convinces them that all of that effort paid off and they overvalue the new information. In fact, the vast majority of that time (9,999/10,000) that new bit of information won’t matter at all but they’ve lost the forest for the tree. Overvalued insight means unwarranted confidence. You can see where this is going.

On the other hand, the best investors I know focus only on company press releases and company filings. They know the few variables that truly matter and focus on monitoring those.

Simple. Effective. And efficient.

Clearly not every email in our inbox is important, not every moving part in a project will matter equally to the outcome, and not ever opinion in a meeting is equally valid. We only have so much time. Giving things equal attention is not only inefficient but also ineffective.

Time is a great example of an overlooked simplicity. Sure, we learn a little bit about time in school. First we learn how to tell time and later we learn about time in the context of dates and speed. As we age, birthdays mark the passing of time. And of course, we have to be somewhere at a certain time, for a date, a flight, a graduation. That’s about the extent most of us will think about time until it’s too late.

Only when we’re older will we think about how we lived, what we worked on and who we worked with, and what mattered. Time is the simplicity before us that we ignore preferring to think about something more complex.

The skills to better filter and process are within our grasp: (1) focus on understanding basic, timeless, general principles of the world and use them to help filter people, ideas and projects; (2) take time to think about what we’re trying to achieve and the 2-3 variables that will most help us get there; (3) remove the inessential clutter from our lives; (4) think backwards about what we want to avoid."


Source: https://fs.blog/2014/12/albert-einstein-simplicity/

Monday, 22 July 2019

Stretching definitions

Trump's factually incorrect remark about 4 newly elected Democratic firebrands has been labelled as "racist" in a resolution adopted by the Democratic majority of the U.S. House of Representatives (eg, Guardian). It's unclear to me how you can label Trump's highly provocative and factually incorrect remarks as racist, unless you start stretching definitions.

The definition of anti-semitism has been stretched for much longer. Semitism once referred to people belonging to the 3 Semitic religions or Abrahamic religions, being Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The reason is simple: all 3 religions recognise "patriarch Abraham, a major biblical figure from the Old Testament". Also see my 2016 blog: The origin of antisemitism.

In the USA, the term sexism now includes what Europeans would (still) call flirting. MarketWatch, June 2019: "In the #MeToo era, 60% of male managers say they’re scared of being alone with women at work". The U.S. vice-president has even adopted the Billy Graham rule: "not travel (including by car), eat or meet alone with a woman other than his wife" (WaPo-2017).

The 4 Democratic firebrands, a.k.a. The Squad, are somewhat of a nightmare for the Democratic party as these 4 women keep issuing provocative statements - similar to Trump. Republican Newt Gingrich called Trump a "strategic genius" and stated: "He wants the Democratic Party to identify with them. I think the president is often inartful, but remarkably effective." (WE)

The most notorious squad member is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), who recently stated: "The U.S. is running concentration camps on our southern border and that is exactly what they are. They are concentration camps." (CBS). She has already accused the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of "singling out newly elected women of color" (eg, BI, CBS, CNN, Fox).

Trump is actively stoking in these internal Democratic feuds by attacking these 4 firebrands. His attacks appear to be a win-win game: either the liberal-left media will attack the Dems for not supporting these 4 women, or Dem voters may turn away for supporting these 4 firebrands. Trump, being a "strategic genius", is stretching definitions. He is more like an evil genius-spirit.

Considering that thus far none of the many Trump scandals (eg, Bloomberg, HuffPost, ThoughtCo, Wiki) sticks to "Teflon Don", it seems more and more likely that the arrogant Left will lose (again) from the ignorant Right - in 2020.

The above reminds me of an old English proverb:
With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Trump was even stretching the definitions of this quote by offering "support" to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her struggle with AOC and the Squad (CommonDreams, RawStory).

I'll Be There for You (1995) by The Rembrandts - Friends Theme Song
artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2, Wiki-3


Note #1: all markings (bold, italic, underlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Note #2: the cartoon above, by political cartoonist Gary Varvel, is from a 2016 Medium article.