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Nihilism & Crisis

Carl Sagan’s pale blue dot “tale” usually reminds us how small and pointless our world problems are compared to the scale of the universe. The earth photographed by the Voyager 1 from billions of kilometres away renders an image of a tranquil and fragile place.
The analogy is a framework to help us think beyond our problems and soften our differences.
The same applies when we think about a meaning and a purpose related to the human experience. Not having a shared experience around those topics doesn’t make it less valuable. When religion was universally adopted, we felt spiritually interconnected having sociological ramifications.

Nihilism and purposelessness usually are channelled with a pessimistic attitude towards a lack of care. The problem with this point of view is the reality of the statement, which usually feels more like a performative attitude rather than a real point of view. In other words, how can an individual operate without a real care for anything else?

The performative action is based on an individual interpretation of society in which each individual creates a set of preferences. The deduction and interpolation means that society is built by a set of individuals who care about specific things and sometimes, we can found a commonplace. Still, in so many other topics we don’t find a strong commonplace, therefore the performative nihilist kicks in with a pessimistic explanation. Topics can vary widely, but a good example is climate change. The performative nihilist will describe how close to doom we are because climate change is not a preference on an individual level, therefore we lack the global awareness to make the change necessary to transcend an oil-based society.
The issue with this line of thought is that it seems to be a surrender before committing to analysing the topic. The framework does not allow to think critically about the subject matter in detail and allows fewer ways to think about a potential solution. Psychologically, the subject tries to unload the burden of a profound crisis with a pessimist philosophy so the overall worry does not exist anymore. The subject has re-signified existence to make it more bearable but under some heavy mental gymnastics.

With this counterargument I don’t plan to downplay the deepness of any crisis or enter into wishful thinking arguing that technology would solve everything. The main point is to avoid a default nihilist perspective that annihilates any critical thought and with that any future progress to be made to surpass any challenging crisis.

UBI: Idealism & Populism

UBI as a mainstream concept has been around for a few years from now and is qualified as a brilliant public policy because is a mechanism of instant transmission of income to all socio-economical classes without strings attached in how beneficiaries spend that money. Supporters of the concept, use the example of Harper Lee, an American writer who received a salary for one year from friends to dedicate entirely to write the novel How to Kill a Mockingbird, a tremendous success with 40 millions of book sold, and a Pulitzer Prize. Other intellectuals as  Rutger Bregman (Historian) said that “UBI is a venture capital for the poor”. [1]

The concept loses sense because try to fulfil two different goals that aren’t the same. First, try to reduce poverty giving a direct transfer of money to the poorest families. Second, try to help people who lost their jobs due mainly for automatization in different industries (Wholesale retail, transport and storage in the UK [2]). For example comparing the two concepts will be similar to say  “all the UK truck drivers are poor” or vice-versa, a statement that is completely false, that’s why you can’t use the two goals as one, they treat different socioeconomic problems.

 

 

 

 

 

Individual freedom against Society well-being

Utopian ideals were always present among social imaginary. It’s human nature to try to reach those “higher” levels, but this ideas –  even with strong values and a genuine worry about the society as a whole – allow  their leaders generate atrocities against the people they want to help, becoming in big fallacies.  Leaders of this ideas seem to embody the quote of Maquiavelo: “the ends justify the means”.

The ideas are battling each other, as a box ring, where depending on recent events and mass opinion, it will determine what ideas are winning, but even if that is happening, it’s more harmful that are fixed ideas rather than dynamically changing ideas. For example, analyzing cultural behavior in the beginnings of 1900, it was accepted to women couldn’t vote because the were different from men, they were considered as inferior. Richard D Atlkins, a literature professor states in his book Victorians People and Ideas

“a woman was inferior to a man in all ways except the unique one that counted most [to a man]:  her femininity.  Her place was in the home, on a veritable pedestal if one could be afforded, and emphatically not in the world of affairs” (Altick 54). Patriarchal society did not allow women to have the same privileges as men.  Consequently, women were ascribed the more feminine duties of caring for the home and pursuing the outlets of feminine creativity.

What would have happened if this ideal maintained over time?. It’s obvious that society as we know will be much worst in so many levels. At business level we are already seeing benefits of the integrations of women in directors boards,  after the implementation of a 40% quota for Norwegian board into a formal law, the outcome after a few years is the creation of  50% more top management positions for women according norwegian government¹.

My argument is that ideas change over time, because societies seen as a system, change their own perspective. Alvin Toffler in his book,  The future of Shock, says that society is resilient to adopt big changes, but marginal changes overtime are embraced and incorporated to society, in long periods of time, so maybe the same big changes  rejected by the society, could be deconstructed in to small and incremental bits accepted for not being to radical, but after a long period of time, the big changes will be deployed.

After creating context about politics and ideas,  I have two ideas I want to deconstruct. First: Can individual freedom coexist with social well-being?, I’m not saying that they don’t exist but increase them in the same proportions, without damaging one or the other when one increases.

One of the constant outcome of living together for more than 2,000 years is freedom, some could argue that it’s not perfect, but because they are seeing the missing (or negative) part rather than comparative part, meaning they are comparing his actual freedoms, with what they expected to have, rather to analyze old societes structures, where the freedoms were more restrictive or completely nonexistent. And in other extent we have the social well being that is benefited for our selfish actions. It works  because a constant input of each individual in different topics allow the system to do well, but sometimes the effort of particular individuals are too selfish for thinking in the society and that is where the system found his flaws, reaching unethical action but inside the law with a lot of overwhelming examples being the worst recent example the crisis of 2008.

How this two ideas would live together?, I have a belief and maybe and being very naive to actually believe it but all the problems that actually have the world economy isn’t a money problem, with enough coordinated  community action a lot of problems  “expensive” problems will be deleted., right away, it’s more a will factor.  It is the cultural environment that mold us, sometimes this beliefs are full from hate and misunderstanding that we can’t grow up as comprehensive societies. What would happen if the core of “informal” values on societies were humanitarian values?,  I see that bright future (please don’t use utopia) in a capitalist environment, because it will allow to have our own right to do whatever we want, but we can add a layer of cooperation, where the people will love to help others and interact, will love to build better societies, not a matter of pretension, but genuinely will do this actions becuase are in the core, it will have no sense to steal or similar behaviors. The values will float under human cooperation and social interactions, it’s true people will act for his own benefit, but that it’s because how the environment are placed where there are less incentives to help and more incentives to earn money and being cool, obviously you can drift from that, but the mass will go to that route, being less attractive to go for that route, it’s a traction issue in some level.

Let’s say values described below are placed, what will happen with individual freedom?, I think the social outcomes sometime could damage individual freedoms, sometimes are tiny subjects but sometime will put a real danger in how we behave, two remarkable examples are the decrease of marriage in China, where 20-30 years ago it was a social obligation to marry in order to meet social standards, in some extents this is very good because allow populations to keep growing,  but in other extense over force the young population to marry, putting an “mortgage” in his career future or dreams they want to accomplish, even if is an informal custom rather than a law, now the trend of marriage is decreasing, having a society more individualist than before. Also another good example is being polite in England, even if you don’t feel being polite could be a big lie, but since you are a toddler you are teached to be polite with other and mostly with strangers.  This could raise a question in where the tradeoff is worth the effort, I have mixed opinions between this two examples, but I think is how societies react, because I truly believe in individual freedom but in a cooperative rather than an individual world, that why families are the most successful “project” of humankind.

 

Democracies XXI: Politics new paradigm

Modern politics nowadays seems more dangerous than a few years ago, being a clear example, the election as President of Donald Trump, but I’m not interested in dig in this personality, rather I’m more worried in what democracies have become.

I can’t deny that democracies are the best way to rule societies, but the outcomes still aren’t desirable. Whatever is the country you live, political parties are becoming more demagogues and convincing the populations with short term proposals, also the presence of hidden powers like company lobbyist, corrupt the real concept of democracy. The damage politicians can made, it’s completely related with how malleable are citizens minds. Political science tell us politicians are a representation of the whole population, so theoretically they have a role to serve society, but funnily enough, we end to serve them.

An interesting analogy it’s compare technology against politics, I know they are completely different concepts but the approach is only analyze  them in a timeframe of 200 years or less and see how much they had advanced in that period. Since the beginning of Industrial Revolution, the pace of productivity  increased a huge rates (graph below). It was a blend between economics and technology delivering a final outcome of extraordinary wealth and increase of world population. Even if some critics say pace of technology change is not accelerating¹, the change it’s constant.

Productivity graph per capita Source: http://www.mckinsey.com/

 

Politics in the other hand, it’s a slower process. It’s also full of new improvements that change the world, but also restrictive policy were the principal impediment to reach that improvements. Some breakthroughs on world politics can be slavery, women’s suffrage or afroamerican rights. Moral is intrinsically connected with politics, where society morals change gradually with the introduction new ideas and perspectives, and then politics takes those changes for laws and government programs. In my point of view politics it isn’t a linear process, it’s a challenging process that generates improvements but also setbacks. So for example, the breakthroughs mentioned before generated a better society, but in the middle you have wars, corruption and anti progressive politics.

What would happen if modern politics could embody innovation and being a linear process of change?. What would happen if politicians couldn’t escape from this dynamic?, generating a structure where they need to follow the rules to change without changing the core?. Overspending in governments projects is a continuous pain for democracies that have less incentives to spend wisely the money, EU have an average of 25% of spending on average² and deficit 3% of the GDP of each country the last 10 years³, so clearly the answer is not more money in to governments.

Citizens in the other hand play a huge role in how societies will perform in the future, but they are damaging democracies because WE aren’t accomplishing our designated duties, on being well informed and have a rational thinking about politics. It’s insane that in 2016, politics still is an emotional response to the masses and parties orientation is more close to be a fan of a sport club rather than a ponderation or meditation about  policy impact or individual actions of a politician, not because I’m right wing I will support blindly a ring wing party, it’s better to have a route of values rather than who has the best idea. It’s an easy dynamic being part of a particular party but at the end of the day,  that doesn’t  give any advantage to evolve politics into a new paradigm. Technology is changing the manner we think, and lastly participating in morals, that’s is the back door of politics.

Finally democracies and politics could evolve as concepts only if we let them, our political systems are old as our countries, if we don’t embrace change we wouldn’t will be alive to enjoy societies where we want to live, a revolution happened roughly 200 years ago with technology, what we are expecting to make same shift with politics?.

 

 

Two Party System:  Majoritarian model of democracy

Multi Party System: Consensus Model

Demagogism and populism

In modern politics those concepts have arisen without doubt. The different variations are similar concepts from a historical point of view, but my question is more technical than practical.

Could there  be a confusion between the terms demagogism and populism?, this is a question raised from my own ignorance and not from academic questionings.

Why can I assure such sentence or affirmation?

Well we need to review the meanings of each word:

  • Demagogism: The art and practice of gaining power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people. 
  • Populism: It’s a belief in the power of regular people, and in their right to have control over the government rather than a small group of political insiders or a wealthy elite.

In my point of view this definition raises the question of populism’s can be successful, let me explain.

The populist movements we see nowadays are concentrated in left or right wing parties, who embody the hate of the “people” against the market, the free trade or other “enemies” of the state. For me they are demagogues because they are taking the emotional part from the citizens to gain power, rather than the rational part of the citizens and even worse forgetting the long term policies,  the best example –  a pure demagogue –  is Donald Trump.

Now if we take the definition of populism, What happens? Will it be possible to capture real desires of citizens and can those desires coexist in a free society?. Even liberal countries as UK or USA have this problem where they have open societies but they respond de facto powers as big companies, political parties or biased opinions from the people. No all societies are perfect, and it doesn’t matter where you live, the elite is ruling your country with more or less power.

My thesis is based on empowering citizens to enrich decision making in the governments. The desire outcome is a more democratic and smart society where we increase well being as a total. It’s a double-edge sword because the will of the regular people can be influenced by intellectuals that want a particular outcome, playing again a role as elite. That’s why it’s important for citizens to think by themselves, not based in what others thinks, but based in facts and science. As a reader you will say that the weight will be transferred from human science to natural sciences.

Reaching this new level the citizens can have a more active participation on democracy rather than vote each 4-8 years. It’s obvious politicians can’t trust citizens, because the actual criteria of citizens is not fully developed and easily  influenced. The most remarkable and recent case is Brexit.

It’s obvious that the challenge is more social than technical, a Chilean writer Cristian Warknen says “Politicians have stolen politics”, because they are acting in their own behalf rather than for well-being of society. When the elite is a more blurry image rather than a strong component of social interactions and you add the participation and applied knowledge from the citizens into decision making the world would be a different place. It’s a task for citizens and politicians to change this picture.

 

Disclaimer: The definitions have been taken from the FreeDictionary.com. Well known dictionaries only refers to the word demagogue rather than demagogism.