Echoed Extremism

People are ‘talking’, if that’s what you can call posts on social networking sites. They’re talking about Trump incessantly, they’re talking about Race as if it’s a real thing – and therefore talking about racism… and either side seems to be as hateful as the other.

If your feed, if all you can post about, is how horrible an elected official is – you’re not addressing the problem. You’re not. Blaming an elected official isn’t either. You’re pissing in the wind. You really are.

Be it hating on Trump, or Obama, or G.W., (or T&T: Rowley, or Kamla, or…) the list goes on. You cannot blame society’s ills on elected officials. You cannot.

Society elected them.

So, rather than spit the bile out on a site, rather than just regurgitate someone else’s pointed finger at someone to blame, take a deeper look beyond that. Take a look at what caused it.

The electorate. For one reason or the other, the electorate chose this. Now you can cling on to whatever you want to say about voting machines, or whatever, and put yourself into the same cycle that happens after every close election. You can. And, as history will show you, that solves nothing. Not. One. Damned. Thing.

Democracy isn’t about voting anyway – it’s about conversation. Discussion. This is an *exchange* of ideas. It’s you extremists that can’t have a conversation with opposing views that are the problems – and you might be surprised it’s not the White Supremacists and BLM and whatever other groups aren’t the real problem. The real problem is their echo chamber.

You.

Yeah, sure, there are people with extreme positions – but why do they have them? Largely it’s because of culture and lately, economics and policies that hurt them. And sure, you’ll say, “They don’t hurt them, they aren’t about them.” Maybe they are. The Left is convinced that the Working Class are the poor, whereas the Right is convinced that the Working class is the middle class. Same country. Same language. Amazing.

Instead, I see an echo chamber that will perpetuate extremism – yes you, well meaning reader, posting everything bad you can possibly find about an elected official to show everyone (who already agrees with you) how bad they are. Yay, group masturbation.

So if all you got is how bad someone else is, and that’s all you can post about, you’re just adding fuel to the fire. Take a look at your stream. It defines you. It defines your connections; algorithms do not sweep the bad under the rug – they aggregate it. It’s the rare evil that does not think that it is doing good.

Adapted from one of my Facebook status updates

On ‘Race’

TheTruthHasNoConscienceThe history of ‘race’ is one of illusion, based on tribalism and nationalism – both of which have had a sometimes useful purpose in mankind’s development. It boils down to someone being ‘one of us’ or ‘not one of us’.

The Greeks, those that gave us the concept of democracy, called everyone who wasn’t Greek a barbarian:

The term [barbarian] originates from the Greekβάρβαρος (barbaros pl. βάρβαροι barbaroi). In ancient times, the Greeks used it mostly for people of different cultures, but there are examples where one Greek city or state would use the word to attack another…
…The Greeks used the term barbarian for all non-Greek-speaking peoples, including the EgyptiansPersiansMedes and Phoenicians, emphasizing their otherness, because the language they spoke sounded to Greeks like gibberish represented by the sounds “bar bar bar;” this is how they came to the word βάρβαρος, which is an echomimetic or onomatopoeic word. However, in various occasions, the term was also used by Greeks, especially the Athenians, to deride other Greek tribes and states (such as Epirotes, Eleans, Macedonians, Boeotians and Aeolic-speakers) but also fellow Athenians, in a pejorative and politically motivated manner…

Sound familiar? We see it every day, really. What we do not understand we dismiss as alien, invasive and ultimately something that needs to be dealt with because of fear or resentment. It is not hard to imagine how this has served in repelling foreign invaders. It is also not hard to imagine how this has been used to dehumanize others as either a reason to conquer. “They’re only barbarians.” Modern media, which sells advertising to stay alive (except the BBC, I think – funded by the Queen), promotes things that people want to see. It’s a reflection of society. Nowadays, we get to pick our channels – which makes it more complex.

Social media creates echo chambers for the same reason, where everyone you know agrees with you either by algorithm or active choice. Some talk about ‘Fake News’. Fake news wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t what people wanted – it fits their viewpoint. Contrary to what people believe, we’re all subject to that – no matter how hard we try.

We invent our own bogeymen because we refuse to see them as the same as us. Now, people will quickly draw a parallel with however they see the world.

A person who appears Middle Eastern will think immediately of how they are seen as Muslim or terrorists, a hispanic will immediately think of the hispanic perspective. Being brown in the developed nations of the West comes at a cost with little or no redeeming value.

Being of African descent, identifying as black, is pretty much the same in this regard because of slavery. When slavery was abolished, the poor European descendants (white) and the former slaves were pretty much on equal footing, just as the Indentured Laborers from India were in parts of the Caribbean and South America with the former slaves. I imagine that there are other examples, but these are the ones I know.

This was a problem for the people in charge, so they stoked the flames. How do you do that? Make them fight among themselves; reinforce the natural tribalism and the tendency to treat people unlike as outsiders who are not to be trusted. Pakistan may be an example of this when you look at the Colonial period, since it was created as a two state solution for violence in India under British rule.

Some people might have been a bit uncomfortable with slavery, so those that were in power went to scientists or had scientists come to them to create pseudoscience which demonstrated ‘others’ were less than themselves. Intentionality? Most certainly. Whose? Well, it’s hard to say, but it would likely have to be both the scientists and those in power. Get the right people behind it, and suddenly, anyone who is not like ‘us’ is less than ‘us’ because ‘science’ says so.

People who know this have a tendency to attribute intentionality to all of this. It most certainly has happened. There is no denying that. The way it is portrayed by some leans on either the Left, where the history is portrayed as one of intentionality, or one from the Right, where those ruled were problematic in creating the troubles. The problem with this is that they are likely both right.

Some of this could be as simple as an uncomfortably sweaty Governor hearing about the troubles and seeing how the troubles would help rather than hinder those they represented. “Well then”, he might say, “It is not in our interests to intervene.”  That’s not intentionality, that’s allowing society to take it’s course. Argue if you must (and some of you must), but that stands. If you look closely, you’ll see it every day around you when people see things and do not intervene. We could delve into the psychology of it, but then we’d be stuck arguing at a different level. What we can say, whether we like it or not, is that it’s demonstrably human nature. Sometimes.

Some of this that we see, after seeing how well not intervening worked, might be a sweaty Governor hearing about troubles and saying, “Let’s help push this along, shall we? It’s not going fast enough”. There we have intentionality. There is no question there, there is a simple use of making the situation worse to make the problem work toward someone else’s interests.

A combination of both ignoring situations as well as intentionality is likely the truth of it all.

All the while, those enforcing control over these factions retained power because no one had the time, energy or will to even question those in control except a select few. The successful of these few we know about – Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, etc.  We can be certain that the numbers of the unsuccessful dwarf them; we can study each leader and come to some conclusions, but in the end it’s a matter of serendipity and ability. The right people, the right time. These people only seem to succeed when society is willing to let them, and when society is only willing to let them when there is a common problem that society recognizes and wishes to solve.

Otherwise, it’s business as usual.

protect delusionThe truth of it all is that there are no races. Bureaucracies still count people based on this archaic illusion and perpetuate the illusion. I have mentioned that when I purchased a weapon in Wisconsin, I noted that on the form I was asked about race – as if someone in the U.S. Government wanted to have the number of armed Samoans at their fingertips.

Policies that are based on race – this illusion, this bad parody of science – also perpetuate the illusion.

Stop the illusion.

Or, by all means continue it and wonder why progress doesn’t happen.

If you are colored by the past – pun intended – how can you not be colored by it in the future? The future is what we take with us.

Repetition: Trinidad and Tobago

Nothing To HideI don’t comment much on Trinidad and Tobago because there’s not really that much to comment about. It’s all the same thing over and over again. To write commentaries on most things is simply to repeat myself.

I hate repeating myself.

I hate repeating myself.

I hate repeating myself.

I hate… well, that’s my threshold. I can’t find myself doing it again.

There’s only one thing that’s worse than being wrong: It’s being right.

Reading B.C. Pires’s Thank God It’s Friday, I can’t help but wonder how he has handled this over the years. There are others who comment as well, and they too continue to repeat themselves – a litany of the ills, a litany of what could be changed, a chorus sung at one time only on paper and now more interestingly on the Internet.

Through the volume of share ideas and opinions on things in T&T, if you hit squelch the same solutions keep popping up. Emotional opinions, grounded in nothing more than how something is said or written, drive the rational underground into caverns where they shake their heads. Rum talk, all of it.

In this way, Trinidad and Tobago is the planet in microcosm.

No Matter Where You Go

CavemanIt didn’t start this way.

It used to be that when you didn’t agree with the group, you’d wander off somewhere else on the planet and do your own thing. It could be about anything – if you saw more good in the risk of leaving the group than the bad of staying, you could wander off. Do your own thing, whatever it was, wherever you went. It was all pretty straightforward. If you got a group together that agreed on this, you’d have your own little starter tribe moving off to another part of the world.

No matter where you go…

The beauty of the world was that we hadn’t quite figured out that it was round, much less finite. It was all pretty infinite since we were using our feet back then. Then more you disagreed, the further you and your group walked. Maybe you were very angry but you find somewhere relatively near that was hospitable, and because of that you ended up closer than you probably should have to your original tribe. So you came up with a tree branch that you could whack other people with, or you figured out how to sharpen it. If you encountered people that you didn’t like, it was a simple matter of whacking them over the head or introducing them to your sharp and pointy stick. Eventually they would do the same.

Maybe you reconciled. Maybe you didn’t. At some point, you either ran out of people or one group moved further away than another. Things moved on. Nobody remembers Ug’s last stand where he was surrounded by pointy sticks, all begun because he believed in picking the fruits a little earlier than they did. Ug felt strongly enough to die for it. He’s not in your history books. Ug also had strong feelings about quantum mechanics, but we’ll never know.

If only Ug had wandered away, we might know.

And so diversity in thought came to the world as people moved just far enough away from each other to not get on each other’s nerves. They created little genetic pockets that caused a change in appearance, however small, even as they figured out how to make metal to chop down forests so that they could use that new invention, fertilizer. Populations grew, and soon the distance that was far enough some time ago was no longer far enough away for some. Wars were waged, walls were built, and conquerors decided that their way of life was so good that people wouldn’t mind a little violence to have their way of life.

As luck would have it, during that violence many people who disagreed with the invading way of life would be removed from the planet…. or the invading force who was convinced of how awesome their way of life was were removed. None of this was decided on merits. It was decided by technology, by aggression, and by strategy. There are some that say that this hasn’t changed very much since.

During all of this, one of the descendants of the folks that killed Ug – remember Ug? – figured out that things floated and, with a little work, they could make things that could take them over water. On a planet mainly covered in water, this was a pretty big deal though they didn’t know it at the time. Some guy would later be accused of proving the Earth was round the same year that the globe was invented, all because he was lost. He wasn’t the first, of course, but the people who wrote the history books wanted him to appear first – so he did. We know better now.

And so some people got to wander again, finding different lands where – surprise – they found different people who had been minding their own business and fighting with each other for as long as  they could remember. This was inconvenient, so after a while they conquered them if they didn’t slaughter them. Or, maybe it was time to have some slaves again – slave technology had been around for a long time and hadn’t changed much. For slave owners, who had the authority and power granted to them by themselves, sea faring meant being able to travel with the comforts of slavery to do things that they wanted to do without getting too dirty or sweaty. That these were other human beings didn’t mean too much to them. In fact, they denied it despite obvious indications that this was so.

Populations grew. There was no real place left to wander, and when you get enough people packed closely together for a long enough period of time, they find things to fight over. They did. World Wars came and went, bringing aircraft into the mix even as they started flying around. And so things went.

Meanwhile, with people all over occupying more and more land, there needed to be more effective ways to communicate. Before you know it, there were wires running and people tapping away in code to let other people know something that someone thought was important.

This evolved to the Internet, which you are likely using right now. Connecting the world that had been made of wanderers, it demonstrates how far apart people have grown more often than not.

…there you are.
– Confucius

Work

Working GirlWhy do we work? For those of us that do or have, we’ll say that it has to do with recompense (getting paid), or a sense of accomplishment, or both. Some of us work toward our own version of success, some of us work for society’s version of success, sometimes they are one and the same.

When our version of success and the work we do differs, we’re little more than whores – at best pole dancers performing for a leering audience. We do what they want us to do, and while we may enjoy some of it, we know that we’re just working. And why do we do that? To pay the bills. To make ends meet. Maybe even to get ahead – from what I understand, pole dancing and prostitution can be quite lucrative (someone will take issue with that, but that’s because they’ll miss ‘can be’ in their reactionary reading).

In the end, if you’re not working toward something, you’re just doing what someone else wants. You’re someone else’s bitch. And, likely, you’re afraid of losing that work so you put up with quite a bit from the pimp… or manager. The manager’s job is to get the most out of those they manage, and their manager’s job is the same at a higher level. An hierarchy.

What is the point of work? For some, that’s all it is. For others, it is a labor of love. For those of us who do our work out of love for it, we often don’t see eye to eye with those above in the management hierarchy… but we do it anyway and, as we do, they chip away until we’re no more than the pole dancers.

If feminists can argue that pole dancing and prostitution are exploitation…

Technology, Bureaucracy and Corruption

WireIt’s been an accepted opinion that technology reduces corruption. Examples abound. India is a popular example, and is mentioned in books (such as Performance Accountability and Combating Corruption) and articles on the Internet. And, at least in the ways that people are used to, corruption is mitigated. Reduced? Maybe.

It moves, or at least the potential for it does. And that is largely a good thing, where fewer people have the opportunity to profit from the bureaucratic systems put in place to manage things – be it land, licenses and permits, or registrations. With less human hands touching these things in the process, there is less injection of ‘human error’ – conscious or otherwise. And that, too, is a good thing since such human error slows things down to the point where the system is bypassed or ignored.

When the system is bypassed or ignored, the bureaucrats will say that it’s corruption and create Law that makes it illegal to – or they might actually start enforcing Law that already exists. They do this rather than fix the system as appropriate, which creates resentment in the populace. This simmers. Boils. And now and then, given the right circumstances, it erupts – and when it does, violent or not, those that boil over almost never have a plan for overhauling the systems if they are successful. The cycle continues.

Every sociopolitical space on the planet has these problems – it’s a matter of degree, and it’s a matter of Will to remedy these problems. In implementations of democracy around the world, this Will is rare to see used on things that are unpopular. Politicians like to get re-elected.

At some point, people might figure that out. At some point, people might identify this flaw on a collective level and do something about it – because that is the root of the problem.

The Will to fix things versus the Will to be re-elected.

 

On Success

Money PropAn article yesterday had a headline along the lines of, “If you’re intelligent, why aren’t you rich?”. The teaser asked, “Why don’t people with high intelligence become successful?” I won’t bother linking the article because I didn’t read it – all because of the headline and teaser. There are so many things wrong with these things that I decided not to waste my time.

First of all, measures of intelligence are flawed. Secondly, success isn’t necessarily being rich – society may believe that, but individuals may not. Third, because of the prior 2 points, who is to say whether those with an incisive (unmeasured, immeasurable) intellect in certain areas or on a broad spectrum are actually unsuccessful?

There was a time I aspired to be both intelligent and successful in these contexts. I recall staring at a MENSA letter in the late 1980s and wondering, at that point, what being a member would mean to me. The idea that intelligent people should only hang around intelligent people didn’t really rub me the right way – because of my personality and the way I grew up (we could argue chicken and egg here), I counted loyalty and honesty to be the most important thing for social connections. My experience with those accused of intelligence did not demonstrate either of these things. I tossed that invitation in the bin. It was a big moment – a decision that to be intelligent I didn’t have to be recognized as intelligent by some group of people who sat around doing puzzles.

I hated writing that paragraph because in it’s way it’s self-defeating, but I believe it adds value in context. 

I’d already figured out life was a puzzle, a puzzle provided with no answer to work toward. There was no image on the box to guide me- society had one, but it assumed certain conditions that simply did not exist for me. When I applied for financial aid at college, as an example, I had the misfortune of not being of African or Hispanic descent and an inability to be dishonest about it. And yet I was a minority. Society didn’t care about minorities, it cared about appearing to care about minorities.

Churchill success quotationThere was little that I tried that I couldn’t do. This, in retrospect, came down to grit. Grit is what got me through my life so far; intelligence was only a tool. I can’t tell you the number of times friends and family told me that I would fail. Every time, without exception, I succeeded. Did I make lots of money? Sometimes. Did I spend it on the same people who thought I would fail? Sometimes. Why? Why would I help those who wouldn’t even give emotional support? That question haunts me.

I’m no dullard, yet I have met people who are – at least in some regards, if not many  – are more intelligent than I am. Being intelligent doesn’t actually mean anything, particularly in a standardized education system where intelligence is anything but standard. The world needs all kinds of minds (read that link).

And what, really, is success? Is it fighting to accumulate things that mean nothing to you when dead? Is it really all about accumulating wealth? Society largely says so.

SuccessI measure success differently. My success is about being able to look myself in the mirror and like what I see – not physically (as we get older, we appreciate that disappointment more) but emotionally and mentally. I am successful.

But financially? Well, that’s another story entirely. But because of how I gauge success, I owe no one anything. People owe me.

And their success determines my financial success, but does not determine my success.

I do that. And that’s my real success – not being tied to society’s version of success.