In a previous post, I asked your input on why Asians seem so mortally afraid of individualism. This is an important question because many Asian nations demonstrate abilities on par with the west, however this potential almost never gets translated into innovation. Let us be clear about one thing- innovation is not possible without individualism.
There are those who propose explanations based on culture, social conditions, genetics or similar external factors, but their seemingly good explanations don’t hold across cultures. An explanation for why China did not innovate do not hold true for Japan and the reason behind the stagnation of the Ottoman empire don’t hold true for various Indian empires. However it is hard to ignore that the Ottoman empires response to innovation was strikingly similar to those in Japan, China or India. To put it another way, the Turks reacted in a manner similar to the Japanese- though they had never seen each other.
There is something else at work and I will try to explain my theory in the rest of this post.
The assimilation of western ideas into Asian cultures is biphasic- useful technology is quickly copied and even improved, but ideas and modes of thinking are rarely accepted.
Why not? Why were Indians, Japanese and Turks proficient at copying handguns but so determined to ignore the printing press? I believe that this pattern is not accidental and is part of a world view. It was also not simply an aversion to change because guns changed the lives of people and empires as much as books. Let me use another example to illustrate my point.. Muslim Arabs have a surprising if veiled tolerance for western “sins” such as cyberporn, booze, drugs but a striking intolerance of apostasy and criticism of their culture. Are you starting to get the point I am making?
People have an innate aversion to be exposed as stupid and incompetent poseurs. However culture and traditions are largely about stupid, meaningless and often counterproductive posing. Civilizations which have been around for a long time accumulate too much cultural and traditional baggage. An unfortunate aspect of the human condition is that most people, even clever morons, cannot see past cultural and traditional shit.
Unlike many other continuous cultures a series of events in the west during the 1300-1500 AD timespan produced a large discontinuity from the past. Events such as the black death, a series of very bad harvests, various wars in the early middle ages caused a non-voluntary shutdown and reinstall of the OS, device drivers and programs in their cultural computer. As many of you know from experience, doing that often restores computer performance and allows the machine to do things which were previously considered impossible.
But what about cultures who did not have to reinstall their software from scratch and upgrade their hardware? For them, piecemeal installation of selected new software packages and complicated workarounds the dysfunctional OS are the only realistic option. Almost nobody wants to willingly reinstall the software or update the hardware in cultural computers.
So how does this tie into a fear of individualism?
Individualism represents an attempt to update the system, install officially unauthorized applications or update the hardware in a manner that conflicts with existing resource allocations, applications, processes and threads. The rejection by eastern cultures of post-renaissance thought, especially individualism, is therefore an attempt to protect an obviously dysfunctional cultural computer- though they will almost never publicly admit that.
The antipathy of eastern culture to printing, especially privately owned printing, in previous eras and dissenting electronic communication today is due to the subconscious realization that their systems are fragile and incompatible with any real reform. The ‘elites’ of eastern cultures have therefore always tried to buy time by selectively adopting post-renaissance technologies to keep themselves competitive, while actively ignoring the spirit and ideology that gave rise to them. Likewise, many asian behavior patterns stressing homogeneity and conformity are due to the subconscious realization that their systems are ill equipped to change without some major and unpleasant readjustments.
Even the west would not have changed on its own if things had not gone to shit in the 1300-1500 AD timespan. Luckily for them, occurrences beyond human control forced their hand.
Will write more in future posts on this topic.
You might have seen a news story about a Cop caught on camera having sex.
Bert Lopez was honored in the Capitol Rotunda in May 2010 as the New Mexico State Police District 1 Officer of the Year. In July, he received a Challenge Coin, a select commendation his department bestows on officers identified as having gone above and beyond the call of duty.
Now, he’s on paid administrative leave and facing possible disciplinary action for an incident that has caused embarrassment to the department. Images surfaced Monday — and were posted on websites across the country by Tuesday morning — showing him in uniform apparently having sex in broad daylight with an unidentified woman on the hood of her Honda outside the gate of a county-owned ranch south of Santa Fe.
My own contribution to the story involves a little noted artifact in one still from the video.
and “Keep on Fucking” is from the music video “Outside” by George Michael.
It seems that not one day goes by without some politician, academic hack, ‘capitalist’ or ideologue spouting about how “Keynesianism does not work”.
Here is my counter question- Why bother trying to come up with new ways to tell the world that it does not work?
How much ink or electrons are spent on trying to convince others about the futility of believing that the earth is flat, common infectious diseases are caused by spirits, fire is cold or feudalism is a good idea? Why not? Because the truth is obvious based on multiple lines of objective evidence which can be independently verified.
You can look up and observe the spherical shape of other astronomical bodies such as the moon and other planets, fly in airplanes at 50-60,000 feet or send up your own 200 dollar high altitude balloon to independently verify that the earth is not flat.
It is similarly possible to isolate, culture and characterize pathogenic bacteria and viruses with fairly basic lab facilities. You can also follow the course of an infection after giving an appropriate antibiotic. To put it another way.. it is bleeping obvious!
Now take a look at the ideological arena. Today few people see feudalism, absolute monarchy or communism as viable and hence these ideologies are not the object of hate and critique. But Keynesianism just doesn’t go away, does it? Why not?
The very fact that Keynesianism has to be actively denounced in the anglosphere tells me that it works better than the status quo. Many of the socialist or populist policies in West-European Countries and some East-Asian countries such as Japan are Keynesian in nature. Need I remind you that the golden age of the american middle class (1940s-1970s) also occurred when the nation was run by people who believed in that ideology.
Look around you.. CONservatism, neoCONservatism, neoLIEbralism and Randism have failed and still people focus their critique on Keynesianism. Tells you a lot about their supposed intellectual objectivity, doesn’t it?
Most people have a rather narrow understanding of the concept of martyrdom and it’s effect on the course of human history. When asked about it, the majority will mumble something about Romans throwing early Christians to lions.
While Wikipedia defines martyr well enough, it does not go into significant detail about their outsized role in human history.
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.
I would alter that definition to include people suffering significant personal loss for an unpopular cause.
Let us start with the role of martyrs in the establishment of religions..
Take Judaism. What would Judaism have been without Moses? Assuming that his story is based on a real historical character, it is very obvious that he left a pretty good gig in ancient Egypt to lead a few thousand argumentative people on a multi-decade camping trip in the Sinai desert. Let me rephrase that- he left a pretty cushy life to do and ultimately die for what he believed in.
Or take Gautama Buddha, a prince with all the trappings of luxury and wealth just giving it up to look for the meaning of life. We have Buddhism because one really rich guy decided to just give it up and become a monk.
Then there is the case of a liberal Jewish rabbi whose Crucifixion created a new religion which many of you are familiar with. He could have saved his ass by being less controversial, but he evidently chose otherwise.
Islam has two main branches- sunni and shia. The shia branch exist because this Husayn ibn Ali became a martyr at the battle of Karbala. That event and its fallout still affect the world, especially in the middle-east. Sikhism is a religion about Martyrdom.
Secular religions also have their martyrs-
Even 400 years after being burnt at the stake, Giordano Bruno’s memory is still invoked to criticize religion in general and Catholicism in particular. He could have chosen to be more diplomatic, but he didn’t- ultimately making him one the biggest PR nightmares for Catholicism. Spinoza could have chosen to follow in his father and become a rich Jewish merchant, instead of a heretical philosopher. Ignaz Semmelweis could have chosen to not press his theory about infections, rather than tirelessly promote it to a uncaring world. Robert Oppenheimer could have just become another businessman like his father or remained a somewhat famous professor rather than do something which made him famous, controversial and ultimately a martyr in the american communist witch-hunt of the 1950s.
Leonidas could have stuck a deal with Xerxes and saved his life and about 300 others. Thich Quang Duc could have chosen to die of old age, rather than immolate himself. His sacrifice was the beginning of the end for american designs in Vietnam. Killing Martin Luther King Jr just ensured that he is now seen as a saint, or as close to one as secular ideology allows. It is hard to argue that those 19 people caused more direct and indirect socio-economic damage to the USA than traditional adversaries with ICBMs.
People who believe in a cause strongly enough to suffer or die for it are often far more powerful in death than in life.
I should note that all of these events occurred in the era before mobile phones, ubiquitous internet, Facebook, Twitter etc. Imagine the effect of some of these events in our world.. or just remember what happened in the Middle-East because some guy set himself on fire.
The idea behind this post is that the world would be far better off with fewer school teachers. So how did I reach this conclusion-
Let me start with the question: Do most schools or school teachers teach anything that betters the lives or ability of the average student or even the vast majority of them?
The simple answer to this question is.. NO. If school teachers actually taught something which was useful in an environment that enhanced the learning experience, kids might look forward to attending school to learn.
It is a myth that kids don’t like to learn. Do kids require motivation to learn new games, use new gadgets, pick up useful skills, learn new languages, visit new places or try new things? If anything, their brain is wired to learn.
If kids don’t look forward to “learning” in school, it can only mean that schools and teachers do not teach anything useful or worthwhile. While the subjects taught in school might be interesting, it is obvious that the manner they are taught in is counterproductive to learning.
Schools and teachers are to kids what prisons and prison staff are to adults. They have no useful social function and do not create better people. It is all about government jobs, corruption, perpetrating abuse, showing power and hurting those with less power than yourself. Both institutions give the appearance that TPTB are actually doing something about “real problems”- and don’t give me that shtick about how prisons keep criminals out of society. If you really think that a poor black guy who steals 500$ from a corner store is worthy of jail time while a white guy running a pension fund that destroys the life-savings of thousands is a paragon of capitalism.. you have some “issues” with reality.
Neither prisons nor schools can be reformed in any meaningful way because those who work in them or benefit from their existence are already large lobby groups. If anything the teacher and school bobby is far larger than the prison lobby. They will try very hard to maintain the status quo and will resist any serious attempt to reform because that would upset their gravy train.
Teachers do not care about the welfare of kids. It is about the paycheck and kicks from facilitating abuse and wielding power. If they cared about the real purpose of their job, they might actually express disapproval of the status quo and try to do something about it. How many do that? A few percent.. maybe? The rest just play the assigned role of prison guards.
Any real reform requires such people to disappear for good and there are many high- and low- tech ways to achieve that end. I cannot see a less radical method to successfully achieve that end.