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THOUGHTS IN PROGRESS

I don’t know why the media endorses presidential candidates. Once you publicly declare your position, you would naturally start defending your position. Gradually everything you say will be positional. Positional debates are not constructive.

I’m not saying that the media should not have an “editorial” department; in fact, I believe they should. There are theories, hypotheses, and speculations that cannot be backed up by facts. I think this is the hole that bloggers filled. I noticed this during the financial crisis of 2008. Because the news media were limited to reporting what can be backed up by facts and avoid making speculations, I turned to bloggers for more relevant information and their expert interpretations of what was happening.

Theories, hypotheses, and speculations do not have to be positional. The media could make their best guesses at what Henry Paulson was thinking during the crisis, and they wouldn’t be taking any sides. It’s still value-neutral. They could debate about the potential impact of Trump’s immigration policies without making a value judgment, simply speculate what they think will happen.

Speculation is often looked at as a bad thing but we all need to speculate to some degree to prepare ourselves for the future, and the media play an important role in that. They cannot provide just facts. Their audience also need structural frameworks to make their own judgment. Facts alone are not useful unless the reader is an expert on the subject. It’s like supplying random ingredients without teaching them the basic skills of cooking. But they don’t need to tell the readers that lasagna is better than ziti. Endorsing a presidential candidate is as absurd as declaring which religion is the best.

If they are going to claim that they are unbiased and objective, they need to do a much better job at being unbiased. Otherwise, they need to declare themselves to be a biased media outlet and state their bias up-front. It’s the pretense that’s harmful. In this election, I think we witnessed how harmful it is. The media was completely out of touch with the half of this country and mislead the country.

Everywhere I look, I see hypocrisies and double standards. I keep pointing them out like whack-a-mole, but the sheer volume is overwhelming. It feels to me like people are tossing garbage everywhere while criticizing others for tossing garbage. A double whammy—garbage and conflicts everywhere.

Differences in our values do not bother me because we have a solution for settling them (democracy). There is no need for us to debate about our differences in values. It’s pointless. Leave them be.

But, when there are internal contradictions in our cognitive processes, it is worth our while to resolve them because we can prevent injustice and unnecessary conflicts. And, resolving contradictions requires the help of others. We cannot do it alone, at least not well.

The irony here is that people love arguing about differences in values but hate talking about their contradictions.

For the rich and powerful, the fact that everyone can vote in this country is a real nuisance. They would prefer it if they could just fight among themselves without the masses who they consider are too stupid and ignorant to make any judgment.

Imagine if you were a billionaire on Wall Street, and you want some bank regulations changed in your favor. Naturally, not all rich people would agree. You would have enemies you have to fight to get what you want. The problem, however, is that you cannot directly fight your opponents. You have to fight indirectly by helping the representatives on your side win the elections, but to do this, you would have to get the masses involved because they have the votes. The masses are not going to understand, or be interested in, any bank regulations. The fight would have to be about the issues that the masses can understand and relate to. So, you, as a Wall Street billionaire, have no choice but to figure out how to play up the issues that have nothing to do with the issues that matter to you.

In this manner, the election war is like a cockfight financed by the rich and powerful in order to make the masses vote in their favor. The control that the masses think they have over their own situations is an illusion. As an ordinary citizen, if you happen to get what you wanted as a result of the election, that is because your opinion happens to coincide with that of some rich and powerful people who orchestrated and manipulated the media circus.

This research by a Princeton professor is interesting in that he and his team have proved statistically what we all have been speculating about the rich and powerful. It’s not a conspiracy theory. And, reading the leaked emails of Hillary Clinton supports this too. They are feeding us this cockfight and trying to make us believe that we have the power to decide our future, when in fact we don’t. When the small number of rich and powerful disagree with the rest of us, they always get what they want. What they are really after are the issues that we are not even aware of. We are fighting over their decoys.

This is another problem of representative democracy where many issues are bundled into one representative. The politicians abuse their power over the issues that the public has no knowledge of.

Why do we end up with a binary choice in the US presidential election? Because people see it as a war. It is not an occasion where we express our values while we respect those of others. One side must be absolutely right, and the other absolutely wrong. So we wage a war in the name of righteousness.

So, why does a war lead to a binary choice? Because in order to defeat an enemy, we have to unite. “You’re either with us, or against us.” In the face of a common enemy, we are willing to suppress our differences in order to win. We must quell dissent within our own army, because, if we split, neither would be able to defeat the enemy. We have to force unity. We also have to discourage our soldiers from knowing too much about our enemy. They won’t be able to fight effecively if they develop too much sympathy or empathy towards the enemy. We also have to suppress independent critical thinking because ideas can spread like a virus and undermine the unity.

How is it possible for someone like Hitler to come to power through a democratic process? It is precisely through this type of peer pressure to conform and unite in order to fight the objects of our fear. It was not because the millions of Germans were inherently evil.

Our democratic process falls apart when we look at it as a war. We cannot harness the wisdom of crowds if the crowds are driven by hysteria and herd mentality. For our collective decisions to be wise, we need a diversity of opinions expressed honestly without peer pressure. We are destroying this mechanism when we look at the election as a war.

If someone built a gravity-defying flying saucer and said he doesn’t know how he did it, we might consider him a genius but not “intelligent.” The criteria by which we determine someone to be “intelligent” is use of logic. Use of logic is “intelligent” not because we can prove this claim, but because we defined “intelligence” as such.

In the split between the mind and the body, the former is seen as the intelligent part and the latter the dumb part, but the truly intelligent part is actually the body. It can convert matters into energy. It can move fluidly and efficiently. It can heal itself from cuts, bruises, and scrapes. It can fight pathogens. And, it can reproduce itself. The mind can comprehend only a fraction of what the body can do.

Those who use the term “diversity” as a buzzword seem quite happy with the idea of having none among their friends for political perspectives.

There is a practical reason why some philosophical writers use abstruse and/or cryptic language on purpose. It can prevent people from rushing to judgement. It naturally repels people who expect everything to be a passive form of entertainment.

We love our enemies because they distract our attention away from ourselves. But it’s too much work for us to find our own enemies, so our two-party political system and the media create our enemies for us. But wait, there is even more. They supply the words we can repeat so we can vent our anger safely in our own echo chambers.

We would go crazy without these great offers.

When we use the word “abstract”, we generally mean to say that it makes logical sense but lacks a connection to anything real. In this sense, “abstract painting” is a misuse of the word. It’s true that an abstract painting does not point to anything real but it’s because the painting itself is the beautiful object. The term is misleading in that it implies it is still a pointer, or a sign, that happens not to point to anything. 

In fact, very few things are truly abstract. For instance, for most people, music theory is abstract. Even if they can understand it theoretically, it would feel abstract, especially if they don’t play any instruments. But it does not mean that music theory is inherently abstract. It’s only abstract to those who have not developed an intuitive sense through physical practice. Something being “abstract” is subjective. 

Historically speaking, for most subjects we study, theories came after the fact. When we study any new subject, we tend to start from theories. This leads us to believe that theories came first for everyone. This is partly why many people struggle to understand abstract works of art; because they go in head first, instead of allowing themselves to just experience them first. Having nothing for their brains to process throws them off.

Anyone can disagree with people far away. What is hard is disagreeing with people around you because you risk being a social pariah. The latter was precisely what was needed in Nazi Germany.

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