Burn, burn

Disclaimer. Contains a picture that some people might find disturbing. Forewarned is forearmed!

One of my workers comes into the sales office this morning. I’m sitting with my feet up staring into space waiting for the caffeine to start infusing itself into my system and halfheartedly stuffing a second ‘Vetkoek*’ into my mouth. He has this dirty bandage on his wrist. It briefly reminds me of a dressing one might find in a zombie apocalypse movie. I give him an arched eyebrow. ‘Bra Jo’ he says in greeting. He seems quite cheerful. ‘I wanted to ask you, do you think I need to go to the hospital?’

*a Vetkoek… is a South Africa institution. Its… well… its basically a big lump of dough that has been fried in oil (of questionable hygienic quality with a carcinogenic factor of 10x) in our case bought from a vendor at the side of the road. These are probably twice the size of a krispy kreme doughnut…  and cost a whopping R2 each. Which at the current exchange rate is about $0.13 per serving of happiness. Friday is usually Vetkoek-friday and I sponsor breakfast for everyone…

I take another sip of coffee. ‘Why whats wrong with you I say?’ He unfurls the bandage and I suck air through clenched teeth. Ahhhh…

Continue reading “Burn, burn”

Progress through conflict

I like capitalism. *Jo raises a bat in anticipation of having to ward off the thrown object(s)*

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I mean I like other things too, like puppies and… eh… (okay, I’m leaving this blank, I’ll come back to it later when I’ve thought of something else)

I’m inclined to believe that capitalism is largely responsible for driving humanity forward. Which sets a lot of peoples teeth on edge because capitalism also pollutes rivers, kills rhinos, exploits and disenfranchises. Personally I believe people do that. Capitalism isn’t religious dogma, mind-control or hypnotic suggestion. (although maybe it is and I’m just their mindless mouth piece or drone* and therefore shouldn’t be trusted) Capitalism is just a problem solving model, but like a lot of things it suffers from the spotlight effect.

*the ant kind. Not necessarily the one soaring up in troposphere on desert thermals and raining down death on weddings parties and daycare centres.

The spotlight effect, basically, is analogous to when you shine a spotlight on something the mind becomes visually zoned in on what is illuminated by the spotlight and you’re inclined to ignore everything else thats happening on or off stage.

Let me also say right near the beginning that I like lots of other philosophies waaaaaay more than capitalism. But these are all highly individualistic (and also often theoretical), and are very unlikely to take root on a global scale with its myriad of cultures. When viewed as a collective I don’t think we are an altruistic species. There are obviously exceptions to the rule and there is evidence to suggest there is reciprocal altruism in smaller groups, but when we add everyone together and consider things with a sense of Realpolitik, I think the statistics would skew towards the selfishness of the individual.

Surely the aliens would judge us by this metric instead of the aberrations to this rule? Ie the sum of the whole. Ergo we should stop pretending that we are something we are not and embrace the stuff thats proven to move us along our linear progression towards… eh… where do we want to be again? Has someone officially decided this? You know, the end goal we all agreed on in the strategy session. You’re not allowed to say heaven.

I recently read… or maybe I heard (it all starts to blur together) how the thing that really drives us forward, innovates and (eventually) makes our lives better is conflict (I think there is the assumption that we survive said conflict or are of a later generation than the combatants). And how our imagined utopian and peaceful society would eventually just stagnate and stop evolving for lack of conflict.

This has gotten me thinking. On a personal level I tend to believe in the motivating power of a good enemy. And maybe this is true for humanity as a whole? Maybe the best driver of progress isn’t capitalism, but rather conflict?

I am not a big fan of nationalism. (which tends to make people think I’m for globalism, which is not necessarily true, I think these issues are complicated) In any event nationalism, for all its benefits (and there really can be some profound benefits in terms of cooperation among individuals who think they are special and unique) overall, just promotes a dislike for outsiders and fosters this weird culture of taking credit for the ‘achievements’ of your ‘nation’ as something you’ve personally done.

Nationalism does lead to competition though. And when that competition spills over into hostility, generally, there is a huge leap in progress.

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I’m not going to wax on lyrically on how all the things we’ve designed to murder and maim each other have actually, down the road, become a huge boon to us all, because I think the evidence is largely irrefutable.

I do however think, upon reflection, that conflict between nations, in order to drive innovation on a sharp upward trend, needs to be a conflict of equals. Or at least perceived equals. Conflicts where one side just bombs the #$@% out of the other doesn’t really drive anything except the amount in the expense column.

Maybe these things are cyclical. Progress is initially driven by conflict, for example the space race between the USA and USSR and when space exploration ground to almost to a complete stop because there is no enemy to motivate, capitalism stepped in to pick up the slack.

Of course, there may be an important caveat to all of this in so far as, the weapons we now have now are planet killers, so any further conflict may be, self defeating. Or not. Destroying the earth would likely motivate us to become a space born, interplanetary species. This may after all be, at this point, be inevitable.

Postscript. I don’t really want to sacrifice myself in some conflict so that future generations can have a better time of it. But I am generally appreciative of the sacrifice that previous generations have made (in terms of dying en masse) so that I could have a car, iPhone and internet. Thanks guys.

Resisting Capitalism

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I don’t want to sound mean… but I think you’re going about this be-the-change-you-want-to-see-in-the-world thing all wrong. (Look at me getting my Gandhi on) But this has likely been pointed out many, many times before. Don’t worry, I was also young, dumb and full of… actually, I hope the last part of that axiom doesn’t necessarily apply to you. If I have any life advice (having now sired girl-children) be discerning about the boys that you allow access to your lady bits. We are extra-ordinarily single minded and some of us are very, very cunning.

I’m inclined to believe that people confuse consumerism, greed and excess with capitalism. Off the top of my head isn’t that a lot like blaming modern medicine for the opioid crisis? Which I suppose, some people might do. Oh, modern medicine and the fact that we don’t keel over and die (from pustulant, weeping lesions all over our body)… eh, direct result of capitalism, because while we want to believe that people do altruistic things for the good of humanity with no expectation of remuneration (and some of them do), capitalism blows these achievements out of the water in terms of sheer scale when we compare actual good done for humanity. Seriously its like comparing the sun to the moon and imagining them to be more or less equal… which for those of you who are not cosmologically minded… the difference is mind bendingly massive.

When you resist capitalism what you’re actually doing is denying humanism and obfuscating the only real (and proven) system available for people to pull themselves out of extreme poverty. You are the economic equivalent of an anti-vaxxer. Sure you can donate mosquito nets to poor people living in Africa (one of the effective altruisms goto projects for apparently getting the most ‘goodness’ bang for your buck). But really, in my opinion, poor people need free markets, liberalism, property rights and rule of law so they can pull themselves out of the pit of poverty and help themselves (and then buy their own mosquito nets). But all they (for the most part) get is fucked by their own authoritarian leadership, populist agendas and the vicious bureaucracy of their trade ‘partners’. But… I suppose with mosquito nets they will live long enough to die young from something else.

If you’re going #Resist something. Resist corruption. Or gerrymandering. Or fucken lobbyists. Or a jingoist foreign policy. Or tariffs. Or farming subsidies…  you know, all the things that are actual problems and lead to this perception that capitalism is the villain in the human success story.

Abnormal behavior

Retirement is an unnatural act.

Perhaps more accurately it is the final act (before the curtains close) in a series of unnatural events that punctuate our modernity. In the extremely short period of time that the concept of retirement has been around it has managed to become so ingrained into our psyche that we don’t even consider that what we are doing is contrary to our biology or even just contrary to basic reasoning and logic.

Let me start my tirade with the industrial revolution. Arguably this is the time where things went both really right for us (as a species). And also really wrong. Although maybe we can just skip the evolutionary anthropology paragraph and just agree that we are not designed to wake up early, caffeinate ourselves to a point of bare minimum functionality, commute to a place (that we hate) where we sit all day in a cubicle farm, under artificial light, replying to email. After which we come home, expose ourselves to more artificial light, sleep for six hours and then repeat the entire process… For forty five years.

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We are essentially large hairless primates. Primates that can cooperate effectively to get stuff done, but basically we are still monkeys. In the wild primates live in large family groups, as did Homo Sapiens, until very recently (on the universal time scale). In fact imagine for a moment that we lived now as we had evolved to. As opposed to all the craziness we have foisted on ourselves. What would that look like?

As a social mammal I would have grown up in a large communal home with my grandparents, my parents and all my siblings. Lets just pretend it’s always worked like this. (in my utopian analogy there are strong property rights and everyone believes in Libertarianism, ha ha) Because our family has never moved, that land belongs to us ergo we have managed to harness potentially the biggest factor in financial independence, inter generational wealth. We pool our resources and share assets like communal appliances and cook communal meals. In fact because there is no food scarcity in our modern world (ie we don’t have to grow our own food or hunt for it), the savings associated with living in community and the level of technology available to us we find that we would hardly have to work at all.

This is obviously in direct opposition to the way we live now. We can’t wait to move out  and get indebted buying our own home. (after getting indebted getting a usually completely useless degree so we can get our awesome cubicle job) Then we have to repurchase everything we had had while we lived with our parents, and then have to work like crazy to afford all this new stuff. If we are considered savvy we save and invest our money so that we can afford to ‘retire’ in our twilight years before spending our final chapter surrounded by strangers in some palliative care facility that our kids have picked out for us on Google. (likely the first or second entry, after all who has the time to scroll anymore)

Not only do we see nothing wrong with living like this, we embrace it. We endeavour to  become a valuable commodity to those who want to sell us pension plans and tiny homes in sleepy sea-side towns.

In a tribal culture you don’t move out. When you procreate your tribe helps to raise your children. When you get old you don’t get sent off to a ‘home’ to die quietly, you live out your life surrounded by your family and the people you love.

OMG. I hate my parents. They drive me mad. And you’re suggesting I live in close proximity to them… forever?

And, I suppose, therein lies the rub.

On the one hand we are encouraged towards independence, we fight for control, seek out power and dominion over others… all the things that make habitat cohabitation socially challenging.  Yet until recently this is how we lived. In some cultures it’s still how people live. It’s just my Western culture seems to have forgotten how to live this way. We perpetuate a broken system that splits up our family’s, destroys our social bonds and makes us poorer, both in monetary terms and in quality of life.  It makes no sense.

I think the misconception is that only new age hippy families live like this. Or poor people. And that you either have to live in a teepee in the woods next to a rusted out Buick or in single room corrugated shack in a shanty. The truth is with modern architecture we can design dwellings that make communal living a breeze. We’d have more money, more free time and likely lead better, more social lives with better mental health.

Probably.

I think we might already be too far gone. Become too self involved. We have taken our biggest asset as a species, our ability to communicate and cooperate and made it redundant. Imagine the possibilities if we worked together like we were meant to instead of trying to do everything on our own. I think that would be quite something.

Monikers

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Let me fix this for you CBSNews. Aaron Tucker skips job interview, takes shirt off his back to save car crash victim. 

Thats better.

I resist the urge to go off the deep end about this since I’ve already done my TL;DR post for the day. So let me just say, ‘Kudos to you Mr. Tucker’.

I’m a lonely croc… sitting all day on my sunny rock.

This 100 year old crocodile died from over eating. Worshipers at the Hazrat Khan Jahan Ali Shrine in in south-western Bangladesh believed that feeding this particular hallowed croc would bring them good luck and economic fortune.

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Apparently the occasional chicken became a slew of never ending poultry and the odd desultory goat when the word got out that this reptile had the power to change your reality.

I suppose its better than starving to death in your sacred pool because no one thought you had any special powers. And so when faced with a choice of two potential end games, I think this is likely the better one. (from a narrow philosophical viewpoint)

But then again I’m (generally) against keeping animals in captivity (especially for religious purposes). This crocodile should have been free to swim the streams and rivers of Bangladesh, occasionally snacking on some errant fisherman or laundry woman on the shoreline. God intended these to be hazardous occupations (which theoretically should have been remunerated with danger pay). Alas, we have stuffed up the carefully calculated economic cycle as set down by our creator.

Having now killed the… eh… croc that lays the golden egg, so to speak, everyone is now robbed of the opportunity to alter their destiny. Although maybe lucky crocs have an inherent Dalai Lama like ability to be reincarnated (hopefully in the general geographic area where the previous entity passed). I imagine the trick is find the new and correct crocodile (to nurture into obesity and eventual heart failure). They all look the same to me. Would be a terrible waste to feed all those chickens to a crocodile with no magical powers.

No true Scotsman

No true Scotsman or appeal to purity is an informal fallacy in which one attempts to protect a universal generalization from counterexamples by changing the definition in an ad hoc fashion to exclude the counterexample.

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Buddhism has a lot to teach us, you know. It has been shown to have real psychological and cognitive value. You mean like those Buddhists monks who helped the Burmese Army ethnically cleanse the Rohingya to the point of genocide? Oh, but they weren’t proper Buddhists. – The Four Horsemen, Foreword by Stephen Fry. (I think he’s quoting the above from somewhere, but I’m not sure of the source)