About Arthur Dawn: Manager of the Allentown Square Apartments in downtown Buffalo, NY in the historic area known as the lower west side. Arthur is also a computer and marketing consultant.
AN INTERVIEW WITH AN EDUCATOR:
I had the privilege of meeting a former teacher/educator from the Bronx, NY, who is now living in Buffalo. I don’t know how we started talking about Education but she opened-up and talked to me about the way politicians and government give very little or no priority to Education; you can see it in the way they treat teachers, educators, and the teacher shortage nationwide, and the on-going need for qualified teachers in troubled areas. With all these concerns, you would think teachers would be welcomed with open arms, but that is not the case. After talking to her for a while, I took interest in her story and asked her if it was ok for me to publish her story by asking her questions regarding her experience.
Here it goes:
Latino Village: Can you begin by telling us a little about your background and your educational preparation in becoming a teacher?
Samantha Didrichsen: Most of my career, thus far, has been in the realm of early childhood education, which in New York, ranges from Birth to second grade. I hold two education degrees: a Bachelor of Science (Early Childhood Education), with a concentration in Biology from SUNY Fredonia in 2015; and a Master of Science in Education (Special Education & Early Childhood Intervention), graduating from Hofstra University in 2017. With the two degrees, plus my exams taken, I am certified to teach both general and special education students within the early childhood population. I also specialize in ABA (applied behavior analysis) from my Hofstra program, which uses the science of behavior analysis to change social behaviors. Many times, this is associated with the treatment and education of those with autism, but this can be used for anyone. The techniques that I use in my career for all my students come from ABA. I’ve held several different types of positions since my Fredonia graduation. I’ve been a toddler teacher, a behavior technician, an elementary school special education teacher, a preschool special education teacher, and an early intervention teacher, and some I’ve held at the same time!
Latino Village: What made you decide to go into teaching?
Samantha Didrichsen: When asked this question, people tend to have some sort of dramatic story to tell about how a teacher affected them and made them decide to become teachers. This is not my story. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what to do with my life for a very long time. As a child, I had this dream of being a published writer, mostly inspired by J.K Rowling. I was an avid reader (I’m jealous of past me). I would write so many different stories of my own original characters or fan fiction from different anime series. One time I wrote an original story that went beyond two-hundred pages! I did it all for fun. I was really pushed to go to college. My father had gone to college, and my mother tried, but it wasn’t for her. They wanted their children to do better than them, and I can understand that. When I was a junior at Massapequa Senior High School back on Long Island, I spoke with my A.P English Composition teacher, Mr. Merges, about my idea of getting a degree in Creative Writing. He told me to think about that—maybe consider English education instead. We went back and forth slightly about this. I feel that he understood my love of writing, but maybe wanted some job security for this poor young woman who had some serious self-esteem issues. There was a point where he told me, “You know you’ll have to get a master’s, right?” and I said, “That’s okay.” He shrugged and said, “Alright then!” After looking more into it, I felt that English education wasn’t for me. However, I found something else that I might like, which was early childhood education. It struck a chord with me. The high school had a relationship with Junior Achievement to do volunteer work in elementary school classrooms in the district, and so I signed up and did that. I also earned high school credit to help me graduate on time (I had moved into the district and was short a credit) by completing a summer internship called Summer STARS, where you volunteer as an assistant at the summer school. I enjoyed working with the preschool students the most, so that sold it for me.
Latino Village: If you don’t mind me asking, how much did your education cost?
Samantha Didrichsen: In total, my entire education, grants, and scholarships put into it, cost me a little less than $100,000 in student loan debt. If I could estimate my cost per degree, I believe that my time at Fredonia cost me somewhere between $25-28,000. From there, however, is where I had to take the big pill for my state mandated master’s degree. Hofstra was extremely expensive. Getting into a SUNY or a CUNY for your graduate degree is an accomplishment, as they are exceptionally selective because of the limited seats and lower cost in tuition and fees. At that time, I required housing if I were to continue my education in New York, and I didn’t want to teach full-time and get a degree at the same time. While I loved Western New York, Buffalo State was the only one that had the early childhood special education graduate degree that I wanted, but they didn’t offer graduate housing. So, I was forced to look back in the New York City and Long Island areas at their private institutions, as the CUNYs also didn’t offer housing. Hofstra did, and the graduate program that I graduated from with them was also affiliated with a big federal grant to boost the amount of early childhood special education teachers in the field. Since I needed housing, Hofstra easily put another $80-90,000 on to my debt within two years.
Latino Village: I remember that you had taught in the Bronx, in a lower income neighborhood where education is most needed, can you tell us about your experience?
Samantha Didrichsen: Absolutely. This will be a long story, as I taught for both the public school system and a non-profit organization down in the South Bronx. During my final spring semester at Hofstra, it was evident that I would most likely be teaching in New York City. I had plans to move into my then-fiancé’s home with him and his parents in Rockland County, so I was applying for teaching positions both in Rockland, Manhattan and in the Bronx due to us being in the lower Hudson Valley. I was very interested in the public-school systems at the time, as I was very supportive of them. I had attended public education my entire life, minus my time at Hofstra. I had applied to be a Select Recruit in the Early Hiring program for the New York City Department of Education, which I’ll be calling the city DOE from now on. The city and state Department of Education offices are two separate entities. At the time in 2017, the Select Recruit program was aiming to do early hiring to get more teachers into the Bronx. I had gone to three hiring events and was turned down by at least a dozen principals on the spot. One principal slammed my resume down on the table as soon as she started reading it and said, “I hate when you people do this!” I asked what the problem was, and she pointed to my certificates. “You people when you only get certified up to second grade!” Meaning, us early childhood professionals who don’t get an additional degree or advanced certificate to expand our age range to 6th grade. I should have realized that that fast chat wasn’t going anywhere, and I should have walked away. But that’s all-in hindsight now, and you always learn with experience. I was called back to several different schools in the Bronx for second interviews. I even demoed for two. Out of the two, I was offered a position at P.S 226 as a Kindergarten special education teacher to work in an ICT classroom (integrated co-teaching with a general education teacher). I thought I was set. City DOE public records had shown that the school’s data was relatively well for them down in the University Heights section. However, the retention of staff statistics wasn’t that fantastic. School quality reports for the 2016-17 school year only showed that the number of teachers with three or more years’ experience working within that school was at 53%. This didn’t pique my interest at the time. Before the first day of school, my position change twice. Over the summer, I received notice that there weren’t enough Kindergarteners coming in with IEPs (Individualized Education Plan), so they were turning me into a SETSS teacher (Special Education Teacher Support Service) to work within the early childhood grades and pull students out of their classrooms to form academic support groups. Then, a week before school started, I was notified that again I was going to be teaching in an ICT 2nd grade classroom with 28 children and one general education teacher. It didn’t take long for me to find out that not only did my now partner didn’t want to teach in a special education classroom, but why I was moved around—there were already special education teachers quitting before the school year started. By the end of the first month, my partner and I had a rocky relationship. And I can understand. When you don’t get a choice as to what and how you’re teaching, it can be beyond frustrating. Plus, we both had very different styles of teaching and beliefs on how to teach the children. She was very forceful and would yell at the children and belittle them, just like many of the other teachers at the school. That wasn’t me and I don’t support that. As the year went on, we barely spoke, as she would belittle me as well and eventually turned the grade against me. Backtracking slightly, but come October of 2017, I was working two jobs at 226. My supervisor, one of the assistant principals, pulled me and my mandated teacher mentor into her office one day. I thought it was to finally set up a mentor schedule, as I hadn’t received any mentor time and the school needed to report that to the state. My supervisor tells me that for two periods of the day, I would work as a SETSS teacher with a caseload of kindergarten students. Meaning I would be leaving my assigned classroom to gather five Kindergarten students, bring them to the defunct library that hadn’t been properly used in at least thirty years, and teach them based off their IEPs with no curriculum for me to use. As the year went on, my second-grade classroom added more students. Eventually we hit the cap of an ICT classroom and had 32 students. One of the students was very abusive. He would round his peers up to gang up on me and physically harm me and run out of the classroom. It wasn’t uncommon for me to come home with scratches and bruises. Administration would never back me up or help me. The only people who tried to help me in any of these situations were the wonderful social workers from Turnaround for Children, who were working under a grant there at the school for a limited number of years. They would help me use calm talking methods to redirect the students back into a more stable mindset. My supervisor would blame me for the beatings and disruptions, and told me that if I just taught, that this wouldn’t be happening. I received multiple disciplinary meetings with letters going into my file. Come March of 2018, the Kindergarten self-contained classroom teacher quit. As the only other person who could teach young children with disabilities, my administration again moved me to that classroom, but did not have any hope in me. My principal, upon telling me of the change, told me that I needed to be the strong teacher that she saw during the demo, because now when things happen, I don’t do anything. The only people who believed in me were again the staff from Turnaround for Children. We came up with plans for as smooth of a transition as possible for these students. However, come April 10th, I had a mental breakdown during what would have been my final disciplinary meeting. At every disciplinary meeting in the city public schools, you were allowed to bring your UFT (United Federation of Teachers) union representative. The UFT is the union that covers the public-school teachers in the city. During this meeting, I can’t recall what set me off, but I broke down in tears and stormed out of the meeting room. I had some sort of episode that I couldn’t control. While I’ve been on medication for depression and anxiety for several years now, during that time, I struggled. But I finally broke during that meeting. A kind cafeteria woman saw me sobbing and wheezing in the hallway, and she calmed me down. She said, “They always do this.” That moment shaped me into the educator that I am today. I gathered myself and walked back into the meeting. I sat down calmy with my union rep still there, and both assistant principals. I excused my absence and told my supervisor to continue. She went on concerning an incident between a student of mine and his aide, as they had taken a walk in the hallway and my student had gotten loose. She said, “I came into your classroom, and you reported that you didn’t know where they were.” I responded, “No, I said they were on a walk.” She looked up from her papers with a smile and said, “You reported that you didn’t know where he was.” I repeated, “I said they were on a walk.” It was clear that she was very upset but went on with the meeting. I defended myself as my UFT rep did nothing, just as he hadn’t done in the other disciplinary meetings we had. The meeting ended with another letter in my file. At the end of that day, I packed up my personal items from my closet and left knowing that I wasn’t coming back. I did not complete my first year of classroom teaching, and I didn’t care. I used up my final three sick days, and on that Friday the 13th, at 3:00 PM, I sent an email to my principal notifying her of my resignation effective immediately. This legally affects me to this day. When you leave a public-school position in the city DOE, you need to give at least 30 days’ notice. This is how one leaves in good standing. Upon leaving, you are not allowed to teach in a public school or UPK (universal pre-k) position for a full year in that specific zoned district your school was in. After that, you can return. Otherwise, you were free to teach elsewhere. If you don’t give that appropriate notice, you are blacklisted from the entire New York City public school system. Your file is coded, and you are never allowed to teach in a public school or UPK classroom there ever again. That is the position that I continue to find myself in, and I am fine with this. From there until that September, I worked full-time as an early intervention teacher at an early intervention agency up in Orange County. Rockland is the smallest county in New York, so I wasn’t too surprised that none of their agencies were hiring. But that’s how much I wanted to get back into early childhood—real early childhood. I was willing to drive 40 minutes north of me for less pay because I wanted to go back to my roots. I enjoyed my time working with infants and toddlers so much that, when I started my new preschool special education job in the East Tremont section of the Bronx, I kept some EI cases on the side to work on in the evenings. September 2018, as a newlywed, I started working at a non-profit called Volunteers of America-Greater New York. I specifically worked at their Bronx Early Learning Center, which is NAEYC certified and dedicated to serving preschoolers with disabilities. I was hired to lead one of their smaller ratio classrooms with an 8:1:2 ratio (8 students, 1 lead teacher, two assistants). This center was even more unique, as every classroom was a certified bilingual classroom. The lead teacher would be a monolingual English speaker, and the two assistants would give support in whatever languages were expressed in the classroom. Though the East Tremont section has its roots as a former Jewish neighborhood, today it is predominately Dominican. Many of my families didn’t speak English, so my assistants were of great help. What’s more, my entire classroom was filled with students with autism. With my ABA background, the center hired me on as they felt I would be a good fit for them. They used to have an ABA program, but it was scrapped several years ago. Thus, the classroom that I ran was very ABA-lite, using some methods in small and whole group instruction. My students learned how to communicate using expressive language or using a different way, such as a PECS book (Picture Exchange Communication System) or alternative augmentative device like a tablet. My co-workers were wonderful men and women who really did enjoy working with their students. And because of them, I learned some Spanish! I have funny stories from my time there. I would work there until August 2020, when I was virtually teaching from up here in Buffalo.
Latino Village: Where has your career taken you since?
Samantha Didrichsen: After leaving VOA, I started working at The Summit Center. I was initially hired as a SEIT (Special Education Itinerant Teacher) to work 1-on-1 with their preschoolers in the school and around Western New York, but they offered me a different position due to COVID restrictions at the time. I was teaching in one of their Kindergarten classrooms. I spent several months there, but in the end, it wasn’t working out and I left in February. I currently work as a SEIT through Buffalo Hearing & Speech and work with young children from infancy through preschool with delays and disabilities by traveling to their homes, childcare centers, or schools. Currently, I am considering a doctoral program at the University at Buffalo. I am interested in supporting the creation of an early childhood special education program at any of the local colleges or universities in the region to help generate more pre-service teachers into that part of the special education field, just as Hofstra had done. There is a large deficit in the amount of people who are licensed to work within the Birth-2nd grade special education population here in Western New York, with Buffalo State being the only granting college in the region. Because of this, many infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are going without services, and preschool special education classrooms are being taught by certified teaching assistants instead of certified early childhood special educators. I am also going to be published around November 15th, 2022. I had conducted ABA research at Hofstra as part of my multi-project capstone (comprehensive exam, research, and student teaching). After years of trying to get it published, Hofstra’s very own online journal titled Special Education Research, Policy & Practice has decided to publish my research paper. The article is titled, “Familiar Vs. Unfamiliar Stimuli in Multiple Stimulus Preference Assessments”.
Latino Village: Now, we can find a lot of the numbers online but how was the compensation, were you fairly compensated for doing arguably the most important job in the society?
Samantha Didrichsen: To answer this, we need to break that up by the different jobs I held while working downstate: NYC public school teaching, early intervention teaching, and non-profit teaching. Public school salary: At the time I started, my salary was about $60,000. This wouldn’t go up for another 5 years until I became eligible for tenure. After that, the salary increase would have been dramatic. Public school teachers in New York City who put 25 years in can most definitely hit $100,000 by the time they retire with a pension. However, where you begin teaching can make it or break it for you in the long run, as evident by my experience. Non-profit teaching: By the time I left VOA, my salary matched my former city DOE salary at $60,000. Each non-profit may pay differently, but with my master’s and my experience, this is where I ended. Early intervention teaching: This is done by hours billable and is run by the county’s Department of Health. I believe each 45-minute session was around $40 in Orange County. So, it’s all tallied up at the end of each day when you submit your billing, and that’s how much you made. Let me quickly state this: don’t be fooled by these numbers. It may have looked like I was making excellent money downstate. I was not. A teacher’s pay generally reflects the tax rate in that given area. I may have been paid $60,000 in salary, but I was heavily taxed. Generally, the more a teacher is paid, usually the higher the taxes are. I also paid $250 a month in tolls to cross either the Tappan Zee Bridge or the George Washington Bridge to get to the Bronx, on top of the $200 a month I paid for monthly parking. The Orange County rate is affected the same way, as the state’s early intervention program is a tax-funded program, so it all depends on the taxes collected in that county. So, do I think that we’re compensated? No, I unfortunately don’t. There are many reasons why. Most notably in the public schools across the state, but especially in the city, you will find a lot of school-tax waste. Extra administrator there, new consultant here, while the public-school teachers are using money out of their own wallets to get materials for their students. As for non-profit salaries, that also fluctuates by government funding and donations. For each non-profit, it’s a little different as to how much funding comes from the government in terms of tax programs (like Medicaid for therapeutic services) and grants. Private donations by businesses and individuals are the best thing for them! Taxes and grants come with strings attached and can only be used for certain things. Donations can be used for anything, so please consider donating to that non-profit you’ve been thinking about!
Latino Village: Can you tell us about your experience with the Teachers Union?
Samantha Didrichsen: My only experience has been with the UFT down in the city. The organizations that I’ve worked with since then are not part of any city or state union. As previously stated, I feel that the UFT didn’t do anything for me when I was in crisis. It was clear that P.S 226 was building a case against me to have me lose not only my job, but maybe even my teaching certificates. My union rep was friendly, and nice—he worked in my school as a paraprofessional. He was very knowledgeable about polices in the city schools as well. However, he never spoke up for me during any of my disciplinary meetings. After each one, we would talk about them, but he would say that they didn’t say anything that would cause the union to get involved. If that’s the case, then I disagree, as the way a teacher is treated should be enough to have someone speak up for you. Our UFT regional leader came to the school once to hold a meeting with us teachers to see how things were going. We met in private in a meeting room and we all discussed the abuse the administration gave to all of us. I specifically spoke to him after the meeting and told him that I was a first-year teacher, and everything that was happening with me. He told me that once the open market opened in the spring, he would help put in a good word for me to have me transfer. When things got bad and I was on the verge of quitting, I emailed and called him multiple times asking for help. Never once did he ever pick up the phone, call me back or email me back. While I am not anti-union, I do believe that when they get to a certain size that they forget what they’re there for.
Latino Village: What do you think are the top 3 things that need to change to improve the teaching profession?
Samantha Didrichsen: An administrator that would care and listen. The support I’ve received at VOA and from Buffalo Hearing & Speech, has helped me grow. When a teacher is trusted and heard, they will succeed, thus the students will succeed. In terms of early childhood education, we continue to be viewed as overly certified babysitters or daycare people. Though actually, I have never once “sat on a baby” or “cared for a day.” We are childcare providers, preschool teachers, or K-2nd grade professionals. Society, including administrators, should understand the importance of properly trained professionals caring and working with people at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. We need to cut the school tax waste. Look where the money is going? The money needs to go for salaries, school materials, and community activities.
Latino Village: Is there one more piece you would like to add?
Samantha Didrichsen: Your child is also my child. They aren’t just my students. When I talk to people about them, I always say, “My kid” or “My boy” or “My girl.” It doesn’t matter if I have them for a whole school year or two months. They are my kids, and that’s how I treat them. Please know that it is hard when it’s time for me to say, “You’re going to Kindergarten!” We are on the same team. Please remember this as we go along this journey together.
EDUCATION: HOW WE GOT IT BACKWARDS
I am yet to see a politician that will not preach the importance of education; equally, I am yet to see a politician advocate for a proper living wage for teachers. That is not including their private tutors in their family mansion, but I digress… For decades the educational problem of our nation has been the butt of jokes around the globe. The general education levels of course is not a problem for a society that has no intention of advancing into the future, and the bill for this mistake does not come due much later until a crisis occurs.
Now, thanks to our nation abandoning education, we have people who can barely speak English as their first and only language and my favorite, refusing to do things actual scientists tell them to do. Certainly, Science can be wrong and (scientific method literally depends on that fact), but the chances of someone with proper data, and research on similar past circumstances, is much lower than Billy who believes birds are government drones because a funny man on YouTube told him so.
There have been some things that have been done to remedy these problems, charter schools for example, which have their own slew of problems that can be a topic of another article. Is it really a surprise when you pay masters graduate teachers barely enough to survive that they are more likely to quit the profession altogether?
Looking at the teacher shortages around the country and the horror stories we hear from teachers, It is no wonder! Why would any sane person go to college for at least 6 years, incur tens of thousands in debt and then go to a profession where they are not valued in pay or treatment! That is just a recipe for societal decline and the biggest victims are the people who need education the most. For as the same politicians who are pocketing trillions say: “The best way to get out of poverty is education.” What we are providing those people is a travesty. For next month, I will be interviewing a teacher that has had experience with teaching in the Bronx, and in New York State in teaching in general.
THE MOST BORING PEOPLE TO TALK TO:
Imagine this common scenario: You get invited to an event with your friends and meet their or another friend group; you arrive just expecting to meet new people, have some nice chat, maybe a few drinks and unwind, but when you arrive, there is one or more people who have already started talking politics and ideologies, “how bad is the orange man”, or “he can do no wrong.”
What do you think? Personally, I think that person is not worth talking to, not because I agree or disagree with them, but because it’s always the same story. We have heard their talking point, time and time again, from the media anyway. Unless you are bringing something interesting or original to the table, it is just like watching TV news…
There is nothing wrong about talking about politics or current events, but if everything you talk about descends into “X people are good or Y is bad”, well, that can really get redundant and boring. The study of politics is a study of careful nuance and things are much grayer than a lot of these characters or actors make it green. In today’s information and technology, era, we are forgetting an important part that makes information into knowledge —- Critical Thinking!
I do not mean in the sense of the “Critical Race Theory”, which just aims to see everything from the lens of Race and singular groups; I mean actual critical thinking. Asking if what you are hearing is correct, being able to tell yourself, wait a minute, this does not sound right, let us investigate this. Just this component quickly reaches its practitioner that everything in the world is complex and nuanced. Let us look at a few quick examples.
“Communism is evil and nothing good can come of it.”
We can unequivocally say that Communism, as an ideology, has failed, but we must know this evil” was also what saved us from the “Laissez Faire Capitalism” Collapse. It was the unions that were born out of this ideology, clashing with the unrestrained capitalism, which gave us 5-week workdays, 40 hours workdays, paid overtime, sick leave, and many other benefits, and workers did not have risk losing their heads like they did in the French revolution.
A person who says “communism is evil and nothing good can come of it”, is already so indoctrinated, and will not listen to reason; but we must stop or avoid stereotyping people, which many of us do. We know there are always flaws with the way we are running things. However, if you were to point out a specific issue or concern where you found something wrong, but offered alternatives, you would find that people become much more sympathetic and open to your point of view and the discussion can continue, and with possibilities of learning from each other, and teaching each other.
However, one must realize that having a political discussion or conversation, is an awfully difficult subject. Having an ability to think and the knowledge that prepares one to have a decent political discussion, makes one feel accomplished and complete.
ISOLATION OF THE ELITE:
HOW THE INSANE LEADERSHIP BECAME THE NORM
It is without a doubt the American Empire is facing a decline, not because of a weakening economy, military, or an adversary, but because both top, as in the people with most say in the way things are run and the working classes are in a state of individual isolation. Sir John Glubb, author of “Fate of Empires”, states that “the decline and fall of an empire begins with its people becoming irresponsible and corrupt compared to what they used to be.”
There is another relevant aspect that most say is not well elaborated, but any student of history knows will be familiar with; the isolation of the elite from the people, and most importantly, the consequences of their actions.
Sure, we may not have kings and queens, but we do have our own political class and super wealthy class that use bribery to lobby the political class into doing what they wish for them to do. In that sense, things are a little bit different and by its nature, salvageable. That is a topic for another time, but the class that does have the greatest power over the overall decision-making, is the corporate boardrooms as we can see from the laws that pass, rather than what politicians like to preach. If we look to the past empires, such as the Ottoman Empire, the palace, where the ruling elite had lived, became a much more isolated place. So much so that not only did it develop its own culture, but even its language that was incomprehensible to someone speaking the classic Ottomans (the Ottomans spoke Ottoman Turkish). It became so bad that there were two literary cultures living in parallel, those artists who wanted to be paid by the elite, and the folk artists who of course would not get patronized, but fortunately we know some of them. All of this started with the decision of the ruling families to distance themselves from the common folk and solidified with Ottoman Kafes (English: Cage) system, which was put in place to prevent succession murders.
Today we see a similar phenomenon taking root. From legacy students to gated communities.(*) These may seem trivial to you, but if you look at the ruling class or the rich class today, you will see them talking about and advocating policies that have resulted in housing crises, dilapidated conditions in various cities; all the while, they are protected from the consequences of their actions through lack of accountability and their own gated communities while an entire colony of homelessness is living a few blocks down the street.
Last time I checked, the Skid Row now extends to Hollywood Avenue, which I find to be hilarious, considering Hollywood is more concerned about token racial gestures and demoralization (as the KGB puts it), rather than providing entertainment. All we can do for now is to be aware; for this is but one of many data points to form a plan of action.
(*) A Legacy student is admitted to a school (often a college or university), primarily because one or both of their parents are alumni of the same institution. A gated community is a residential area with roads that have gates to control the movement of traffic and people into and out of the area.
Comedy is perhaps the most fascinating social tool we have, one that is integral to the human condition. Through comedy we not only entertain ourselves but can see things from other perspectives, expose ourselves to our own failings and the failings of others while laughing. Comedy is also an important sociological and psychological tool to create compliance in a group. Some have taking it a little too far. By that I mean comedy being used to push certain agendas and talking points. This is even more dangerous than normal propaganda because one thing comedy does is psychologically disarms us from applying our standard anti-propaganda tactics and even risk being the “buzz kill” in the room. Let me elaborate. As usual I will be taking two examples of two sides of the American political spectrum; while I do not subscribe to either, it is important to be aware of what both sides are doing.
Louder with Crowder: I think this entire show is an example of using comedy to push ideology. With that being said, we must appreciate that they do their research, and a lot of the times if you investigate their sources, you will find that they are accurate. With that said, at times giving news with the combination of comedy is what all such shows used to be; but now they are more like political advertisements, calling you to vote differently or to call your representatives, etc. This is the border to propaganda territory; there is one famous example from this show which became a meme to this day. But on its own, is a great publicity stunt. A desk setup at a campus where he says, “Male Privilege is Myth, Change My Mind.” On its own, this could be a whole show on its own. Person A goes to a place where Statement X is accepted truth and sets a desk and debates people who want to change his mind, but we all know that is not the point and never was. That is why humor is such a successful political tool. The ethics are completely up to the person but I think nothing was explicitly wrong with it.
Stand Your Ground: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: I think this show generally does justice to its topic. What does concern me, however, is the ending of this one. The call to action in this or any show meant to be entertaining should never cross the line into requesting action but should stop at informing people and let them draw their own conclusions; most importantly, encourage them to do their own research. Awhile back, I wrote that the best weapon against propaganda is awareness and this is the counter weapon in the propaganda war, to disarm the targets of propaganda. Now do I think John Oliver and his team were fully intending to indoctrinate people? No! But do I think he often projects his personal beliefs and the whole ideological package to his audience? Yes! While intention is not there, one day, and that day seems to be coming faster and faster, when both ideological extremes will no longer accept compromise, we can see that shift. The only thing that we, as the people, is to be aware, and not let ourselves be manipulated by such methods when it becomes visible in full force.
THE FACE OF MEDIA BIAS
I have a confession to make…
I have not watched any news channels in well over a decade. If I wanted to find out what was going on in the world, I would go to the news websites that I know will take different sides on an issue.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was during the civil war in Syria. There was a chemical attack on multiple villages of innocent civilians and children. One side controlled by government forces allied with Russia, the other side controlled by western backed rebels.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which I considered a reliable news source and respected for trying to remain impartial on international issues, only reported the on the rebel-controlled village and directly blamed the Syrian government for the attack or conflict.
It just so happened that there was “Russia Today (RT)”, a Russian government sponsored news channel, talking about the same attack with extensive coverage. RT’s bias is already well-known and demonstrated.
I was curious what they would say about the issue. To my amazement, they reported that there were two attacks of the same type, both well documented and they proceeded to underhandedly ridicule western media for their one-sided and bias reporting.
You can find dozens of examples like this. There is no doubt that journalism has degraded in the past 20-30 years. The question is: How can this be fixed?
There is a clear lack of integrity across the board on all sides of mainstream media. The only place you might find any fairness for integrity is in independent media, and even then, they are not too reliable – due to a smaller scale of operation and personal bias. Unfortunately, the only thing mainstream media seems to care about is pushing their political narratives and advertisement revenue.
It is hard to hit the media on the political front simply because they can stonewall any argument then misdirect (as the Fox News network likes to do) or throw their favorite bunch of isms, etc.
On the other hand, money and advertisers are much simpler to deal with. Do not give them your view. Without those ratings, the propaganda machine simply cannot get advertisements, and thus, will look the other way. Perhaps they will even start using facts, though that is unlikely. Look into independent media or smaller news sources for news or information. They must work for your view and interest. Make your viewing and news interest worth something.
Always do your research to find a news agency that aligns itself with proper journalistic practices.
I cannot think of a better way of broadening one’s horizons and dealing with the media cancer that we have today.
A NEW PRICE FOR FREEDOM OUR JUST DOING THINGS THE WRONG WAY?
The question of safety/stability vs freedom has been a political and philosophical question since the very first settlements. While its meaning evolved over time and different societies took different stances on this topic over the years, never does this question become more pertinent at the times of crisis like the one we are. The specific example we have today is the Covid-19 vaccination and the wearing of the mask.
Our nation is all about personal freedom; I believe this is one of the values that makes us strong, innovative, and adaptable. The drawback, sadly, it gives people the freedom to ignore crucial information that is clearly to their benefit. Critical thinking and proper information could have certainly reduced this drawback. Unfortunately, the education and media in its present state, it’s understandable why we have senators believing in the Qanon+ conspiracy — an elaborate prank played by 4chan++ on the innocent. The drawback is obvious and dangerous. It can happen in any crisis, someone can bring down the whole ship just based on misinformation, manipulation – and lies! One can certainly make the argument that the only solution to the problem would be to clearly mandate these things we know to be true; but as any politician in the United States fears, it will most likely be political suicide.
I would like to bring an important point as to why we must tolerate these conspiracy theorists. It is a very slippery slope that we have been down before. It first begins with do X for the good of the society. Then comes Y, or even worse, when the political pendulum inevitably swings; now you are playing a game of political extremes where there is no middle ground.
Which unfortunately, is how the society becomes so politically divided. All they can hope for is a figure that can bridge the gap before it all collapses. This is even without speaking about the fact, that sometimes, those conspiracy theorists can be right, once in a blue moon, as we have seen with the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) special relationship.
I personally think the solution to this dilemma is for us to stick to the belief that individuals can decide what is right, but we must emphasize the importance of “education”, as well as hold the media community accountable for providing unbiased and accurate information. If not, the alternative is authoritarianism, as experienced by so many countries that took the easy way out.
+QAnon is a disproven and discredited far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against U.S. president Donald Trump, who is fighting the cabal.
++4chan is an anonymous English-language imageboard website. Launched by Christopher “moot” Poole in October 2003, the site hosts boards dedicated to a wide variety of topics, from anime and manga to video games, music, literature, fitness, politics, and sports, among others. Registration is not available and users typically post anonymously; posting is ephemeral, as threads receiving recent replies are “bumped” to the top of their respective board and old threads are deleted as new ones are created. As of November 2020, 4chan receives more than 20 million unique monthly visitors, with more than 900,000 posts made daily.
NOTHING TO LOSE
I was watching a video from Jim Sterling that discussed what happened on Wall Street this past month. He talked about how wealth begets wealth and that there are more ways to get wealthier, especially when you are wealthy to begin with. We see that the difference here, from 1920s to 2020s, is that common people seem to have nothing left to lose, and they just gamble it away.
While the economic situation for lower and middle class is worse than it used to be, it can be a worse experience in other countries. In this issue, I want readers to understand why millions of people still want to come to the “good USA” and make a living.
Let me try to paint you a picture:
You live in a third world country, you learned to prepare a budget, not because you wanted to save, but because if you do not, you will not make ends meet; and even then, you might not be able to. You are probably living on loans, living with your parents in a one bedroom or small apartment. Sure, it may be illegal technically, but your other choice is living in the streets; shelters are full or do not exist, so that is out of the question.
Charities? You thought the charities in United States were corrupt, and only a dime out of a dollar donated to “March of Dimes” goes to the needy?
Well, here they do not have to hide it, almost no resources go to the poor. At most, stale bread and groceries would be thrown away anyway. That is the reality of poverty in developing countries. Oh, find a job, you say? Best part, all those people are employed, but the salary is not enough to make ends meet. Few are lucky to get government housing.
The concept of savings is something that exists among the luckiest of the few. That is indeed the picture of a dysfunctional economy. That is exactly why even with all our problems, people still come to America in droves – with a wish to live, establish, and contribute to a country with a future.
That is the direction that a declining nation, where the welfare of the low and middle class is abandoned, where they are no longer seen as people, but as assets to be leveraged. We can see that with the discussions around economic stimulus and how the money is distributed.
Unfortunately, that is the future we are heading towards, especially if we do not get our economic perspectives back on track. Even with the highest GDP in the world, if not leveraged right, then you only have an economy that is utilizing a fraction of its potential, and only fueling public unrest.
The stock market is not the economy.
CAPITOL RIOTS: ON THE SUBJECT OF NOISE
February 2021 Issue
In Electrical Engineering there is a fascinating term for noise that can be applied directly to the news media and communications. Noise is an unwanted modification or a signal that your intended signal might have gone through.
We have seen this a lot with the recent Capitol riots. As of today, people continue asking questions and talking about it, but not realizing while it is quite bizarre what transpired, unfortunately, it fundamentally changes nothing that a bunch of hooligans got into the Capitol building. Certainly, there are measures that must be (and are being) taken to prevent such things from happening in the future. The only significant thing that occurred with future implications, is that Donald Trump has finally conceded, and hopefully we can look forward to a functional transfer of power.
However, the news has travelled all over the globe about the incident, and the world just loves the opportunity to make fun of the great bad USA.
Meanwhile, a lot of things have happened in the world, yet this is what we continue to hear about the most. The news tends to favor the things that will be watched, after all, it is how they get paid; but the world as you know, operates a bit less bombastic than that, and getting the big picture is getting harder, especially if you are following mainstream new sources.
It is essential to separate noise from the actual signal in this situation; the method is simple, just continue to ask the questions. Does this matter in the long run? If yes, then it is a signal that you should be paying attention to; if not, then it is noise that can be safely ignored.
A lot of things can be a prelude to a much bigger event, in this case for example.
If the Capitol attack results in meaningful policy change and functional improvements, then it will teach us that, but for our senators to act, they must feel personally threatened, otherwise, they will mill around like usual.
Naturally, the world is more nuanced, and we should remember that when listening to the news. We must remember not only do the news sources have agendas, biases, and affiliations… Now we should add that noise to this list when hearing about news.
The truth is often somewhere in the middle.
TOTALITARIANISM NEW POLITICAL PARADIGM SHIFT?
December Issue 2020
In modern history, every breakthrough and change in the international balance of power came first from a different perspective on international politics. Oftentimes the new paradigm subverts and outmaneuvers the old one. The most famous example of this was Otto von Bismarck’s Realpolitik, which in its time had outmaneuvered the rigid diplomatic traditions of balance of power and even Woodrow Wilson’s morality-based politics that came after it. Unfortunately, it requires an incredible amount of effort, skill, and downright genius at times to execute. A failed execution resulted in the seminal catastrophe known as World War Two.
Today we will look at a new paradigm shift that has been gaining popularity among developing nations: Totalitarianism. The defining characteristics of this paradigm has been the centralized models. While decentralized systems (such as the system we have today) have proven time and time again to be the most effective way of dealing with internal issues. It cannot be denied that the ability to economically hurt any smaller entity on the spot and have them kneel to one’s whims is a powerful tool indeed, (e.g. NBA in china and Activision Blizzard in China). This is of course not a tool available to free market democracies.
In the past 20 years, many nations have used their ability to convert their economic and military power into diplomatic or other types of power through use of their wide reach. This has allowed them to gain power in the regimes in wide variety of circles where you would not expect them, such as the UN. The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) elected Saudi Arabia (the country that has allowed women to drive only a year ago) to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.
The way it works is simple; in the west, we believe in separation of powers, and, for the most part, business from politics for the most part. Totalitarian regimes, on the other hand, believe they are all appendages of a single entity, which is true, but the extent of it is different from democracies. In a democratic regime, if an executive is put in jail for crimes they committed, the country may or may not issue a request to extradite. A totalitarian regime, on the other hand, will see this as an attack on their economy, or an attack on the entire country. It will retaliate with full force, especially if it is in their best interest. An example of this is Huawei heir being arrested in Canada, and consequent actions taken against Canada on national level, and the hostage diplomacy initiated by China.
This is the fundamental difference between the two.
EDUCATION VS. MISEDUCATION
November Issue 2020
Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine about a show called “Adam Ruins Everything.”(*) on paper, the show has a particularly good concept; every episode talks about misconceptions about the given topic in a humorous way. The host invites experts on the topic mid-way through the episode to add legitimacy to their claims.
The argument was about how these infotainment shows are great for public education, but they are also extremely dangerous; the potential for public indoctrination is enormous. Just to give you one example: the whole “anti-vax movement” was started by a misguided TV show that was not even built on the premise of educating or informing the viewer. When you combine such techniques to boost your credibility, such as a specific type of self-deprecating humor (lowering the guards we have against propaganda), and quoting scientific studies or articles to support your statement and even hammering it home with expert cameos, you have a powerful tool for education or miseducation.
Most episodes are relatively harmless and indeed factually correct with extraordinarily little deviation from scientific publications. There is, however, a noticeably clear bias of the show are of the same political belief and demonstrate facts from their perspective.
Potential harm exists when the show is obviously incorrect, such as the episode about mammograms and how it advises against the medical guidelines. I have personally talked to (watched that episode with) my friends in the medical field. Their reaction was complete disbelief that something like this was even allowed to air for public viewing.
Anti-Vaxers, Flat Earthers, and conspiracy theorists, can post whatever biased evidence they wish onto the internet, even on TV.
It is up to us, the viewers, to raise the questions and decide what we should believe. It is only by questioning can we reach the truth. We cannot expect the truth to just come to us. When it does, it is usually somebody else’s truth.
(*) “Adam Ruins Everything” is an American educational comedy television series which aims to debunk commonly held misconceptions held by the public on a variety of topics.
Editor’s Note: The whole anti-vaxer movement is taking a whole new meaning, especially during the Coronavirus and Trump era.
DO POLITICALOR PERSONAL AGENDAS HAVE A PLACE IN ART AND ENTERTAINMENT?
October Issue 2020
With the announcement from Disney in which they have admitted some parts of their company has lost the purpose of being a company and have decided to pursue political agendas at the cost of profitability. The way the more, politically active projects such as Captain Marvel and the new Star Wars Trilogy has indeed been a wakeup call for the upper management and the investors. This month, I would like to recap the events that have led to the point where the most successful science fiction franchise has been deemed “disappointing” in terms of both box office and audience. Ultimately leading to the question: Do political or personal agendas have a place in art and entertainment?
As the academia had been infiltrated by the Marxist thought, it was only a matter of time that we would eventually see graduates who would apply that thought to achieve its ideals at any cost to themselves or the company they work for. As such graduates grew in number and started occupying more and more important positions in the entertainment industry such as critics, movie makers, bloggers etc. We see a common culture of promoting what we now call “Social Justice” at all cost. This had first come to the light during the summer of 2015 during the “Gamergate” incident where the people at the side of the game journalists and the perpetrator of the incident had started calling themselves “Social Justice Warriors.” In time within some sections of the entertainment industry pushing the social agenda became the norm and movies, shows and games that promoted these ideals began to receive large critical praise. This has of course caught the attention of some of the executives in high places.
Social Justice Warriors of course had also led to a counterculture which media could never really pin down and had taken to calling them everyone in that group, no matter the reason or political standing as “Alt-right.” In hindsight this certainly did not help the political division in our country we still see today. Partly due to fact that people who occupied influential spots in the media, those who did not fully agree with the social justice ideas, had to remain silent to keep their jobs after all we had seen that, in the path to social justice, every method was fair. Including calls for violence, harassment, doxing and worse. In case you are wondering this is where the #cancel culture got its roots. People who did not have large enough following did lose their jobs and their livelihoods because of these attacks and had to silence themselves. Other side of course was not much better with same harassments, calls for violence etc. There was a moderate side to both groups that wanted this to stop but as “us vs them” mentality grew, that became impossible.
The projects with the fundamental thought that they are “Politics first” idea began to make debut. From the controversial Gillette commercial to Star Wars switching directors for mostly no other reason than political stance, we have seen the result of this great experiment in the media. We then seen that of course in the review websites. Where critics praise the product with perfect 10/10 scores and public scores… not so much. As the gap between those two groups grew further and further. The audience began posting a slogan whenever they had seen a project of this type. First coined by Jeremy Habley, “Get Woke, Go Broke” who himself had been assaulted and had to leave some of the communities he was deeply passionate about which he leveraged to make a living. This slogan very much encapsulated this counterculture.
At the same time it is naturally a noble goal to try to make the world a better place in any way we can and throughout history, we have seen agendas and politics driving art and society, for good or ill, towards the future. A person’s politics, personality and ideas are inseparable from who they are. If those are gone, then we do not see the real naked art created by the person but a hollow shell of creation. That is the natural state of things hence why the burden of proof lies with the people who wish to take certain pieces of the creator out of the product. Just looking at the most recent news articles and people on the streets shows there is indeed people asking for the things that were considered unthinkable such as police defunding are being discussed and are being implemented with very rational reasoning behind it as well. Can this perhaps mean the social justice warriors did have a point, perhaps a point not so extreme as they had but a point, nonetheless?
Now that we have covered both sides on this question that has been floating around for past 20 years in the digital entertainment sector (and longer in philosophy). Where should we draw the line? The is, as usual, is blurred. If the artists wants to make a political piece, that is fine. We had good and bad examples in so many formats but looking at all the failed pieces of media we can see a common pattern and lessons of what not to do.
Do not put your message above the core quality of your product. If the race of your actors is the most exciting thing about your product. Strongly reconsider.
Do not try to preach or change people’s mind, all you will do is push the audience away.
Do not try to add your agenda world views into an established piece of media and focus on the original message of it and then go from there (Doctor Who comes to mind).
Do not insult your fans. They are the reason you still can create something.
Learn to separate the criticism of the media and criticism of your politics and take them both.
Harassment is never okay. This goes for both fans and creators.
I think if we learn how to properly create and experience works and realize that our beliefs are inseparable from what we see and create, we, as a species, can explore topics we could not before and no longer have our one aspect of our lives be hijacked by another.
THE ME TOO MENTALITY
August Issue 2020
The “Me-Too” movement had shaken up the entertainment industry to its core, and it had grown way bigger than what all the Public Relation departments could sweep under the rug.
I think it had mixed results, but it was something that had to happen; people in charge who could’ve had it resolved, gracefully have chosen to pass it down until it was forgotten, like they usually do, rather than fix their despicable behavior.
This month, I would like to address the recently surfaced news about the allegations and evidence of sexual harassment in the video game industry. In many ways, if it was not the movie industry, it would have been the video game industry.
The main difference is that the big wigs in the video game industry tend to be quite tech savvy, and as such, are able suppress the information much more than their movie counterparts. The news from the video games industry is important, not only because the video game industry is now larger than movies and music industries combined, but also because the video games industry has always been the vanguard of the latest money squeezing schemes that companies cook up.
For the past 20 years, the news of worker abuse through crunch and constant use of working people, to complete and exhaustion to simply replace them with the next naive exploitable college graduate, have become commonplace. However, finally the dam burst, and more and more people have been coming forward with even more insidious allegations. Most recently from the French originated video game giant, Ubisoft.
These have become so numerous and people have been coming forward with evidence. Recently, 3 top executives were forced to resign as a result. For those interested, I would suggest you view the most recent video report from a consumer advocate, Jim Sterling, a long time, established independent journalist in this field, , in a video titled: “Ubisoft spent years protecting mental and physical abusers.”
They are the same people who have been cutting themselves multimillion dollar bonus checks while firing 800 people in the same breath. Under normal circumstances, these people would simply go unpunished as they are simply too big to fail. Thanks to their vast resources they can win the legal battle of attrition in court thanks to our “justice” system.
As more and more of these stories surface, it becomes harder and harder for these people to avoid punishment; eventually the outrage becomes too great to suppress. Thus, where the court of law has failed, the court of public opinion begins to form.
As the public, we must also remain vigilant against, all false accusations and listen to evidence. As we have seen in the me-too movement, a lot of opportunists have come forward to accuse their rivals of a variety of reasons and this is equally unjust, despicable and would only lead to real accusations not be taken seriously.
A Productivity Nightmare
July Issue 2020
Working from home is a dream come true, for some, but for others, a productivity nightmare. It is understandable considering we are creatures of habit and context. If we have subconsciously designated a space to work, we will feel uncomfortable to play, and, if we have designated a space to play, then we will have a hard time concentrating on the work.
One of my biggest criteria for any job I have ever done has been how close it is to home or can it be done from home. As a result, I have ended up doing quite a bit of work from home and have noticed the phenomenon being a huge factor in productivity. I would like to share my tips and tricks for maximizing productivity and show you that, just like I was in the 2 months I was working 100% from home, you can be more productive at home than at the office.
Clear your workspace: When you are working from home it is quite common to get distracted and sometimes, we need distractions to maximize our performance. However, those distractions must be on your own terms and not that of the distractions. What this means is, clear your workspace of any books, unrelated notes etc. This includes your computer desktop. Do not keep your Facebook or YouTube open on the same window as you do your work, which brings us to the 2nd tip.
Use an extra monitor: The best way to prevent distractions is for them not to be in your face. You should have an extra monitor only for work activities, preferably at an angle where you cannot see your entertainment monitor. The benefits of this may not seem major now but it is fascinating how much simple compartmentalization can do for you.
Write Reports: Have you ever wondered why reports have been instrumental in any workplace for thousands of years? They are great for letting others know what you did but they also keep you accountable. Accountability reduces the willpower load on you and helps you develop habits. More importantly you can always go to yesterday’s report to make sure you completed your routine tasks.
To Do Lists: Simplest and perhaps most effective productivity tool, make a list of the things you wish to accomplish during the day but here is the twist: ALWAYS KEEP IT IN YOUR FIELD OF VIEW. Even if you are not focusing on it, it should be in your line of sight. This way when your eyes inevitably start wandering off, you will encounter your notes and will remember what you need to get done now.
These are the time-tested major tips I have heard from the experts and applied to myself. I have achieved a quantifiable increase in productivity in all types of work that I have done and would thoroughly recommend to everyone. Remember, willpower is a limited resource, so use it well.
June Issue 2020
Here is a story from my college days I like to tell my friends. I feel it is relevant for a lot of people these days considering quarantine issues and a record amount of people never leaving their homes due to the Coronavirus.
You might have heard the term “cabin fever” and if you have seen the Stanley Kubrick Movie “Shining”, you will know what I mean. Cabin fever is a mental affliction that develops due to long term isolation. It can first start as irritability and often escalates into various other forms and symptoms. So, let me tell you a summary of my first real encounter with this affliction.
It was our sophomore year of college and we came from Turkey to study in the United States. There were four of us, three (3) in Computer Science, and one (1) in Psychology. The first few weeks we explored the area and familiarized ourselves as best as we could. The classes were different, the culture was hard, the expectations and stress levels were high.
At the end of our first semester, our friend in Psychology announced he was dropping out because he could not take it anymore. We all understood, from my friends looks, I could tell they all considered it. We would regularly keep in touch, but we were not close. Our friend John started showing up less and less to the classes and had no friends to speak of.
We did not suspect anything for weeks, but he became more and more obsessed with something that happened in his past and he started getting paranoid like Jack Nicholson’s character in the film. Eventually it led him to being hospitalized after trying to assault another student he thought was conspiring against him, while in truth he was trying to help him. Naturally, he dropped out of the program the following semester.
This article would be exceedingly long if I were to include the details. Therefore, it does not have the emotional impact I would like to convey; but it is more relevant than ever. If you, or someone you know, are in isolation, recognize the symptoms and recommend professional help. It can make a huge difference for you or someone else.
Quite frankly, in most circumstances, all the people starting to get cabin fever need is a friend and human interaction, something they do not even realize they need.
FASCINATING CONCEPT OF
May Issue 2020
Initially, I was going to write about the quarantine protests, but there is an interesting cultural phenomenon which is very alien to us, but also very counter-productive by any measure, known as “saving face.”
For one reason or another, Eastern cultures are quite obsessed about “saving face.” This concept does not even fully translate to English, for it is counter intuitive and alien to us. It is the exact reason why no one really questioned the Covid-19 cover-up in China. We just chalked it off as protecting their investment, but we all know had they acted sooner they would have garnered much more sympathy from the world community. This is not a uniquely Chinese problem either. In Turkey, I encountered “Saving Face”, and it has been a topic of quite a few comedy skits and sit-coms. I also heard of this in the past from other cultures as well.
How does this “saving face” work? It is surprisingly simple in thought, but quite difficult in practice, the reason why it makes such great comedy material. It is basically a country or person trying to hide their defects or mistakes through any absurd tactics necessary. Should anyone want to speak about those things to solve it, they will only speak about it in secret among their “in groups.” If you have ever gone to any website where the topic of an Eastern country comes up, almost any time, and without fail, some people will defend that country with whataboutism, and will chastise the people who brought it up, not realizing that the discussion of that topic is part of the solution, and it is much more dignified to own up to it and work to address and solve it. That is always the case in the end.
We have stories where such owning up to it was rewarded and is seen as a strength of character. On the other hand, those who do not realize or possess this awareness, will instead humiliate the person with the fault. It all depends on the how the owning up is done, and to what end.
In the West, we consider it to be a strong and right thing to admit to one’s mistakes and to fix them, but in the East, it is considered weak, and instead, not making mistakes is highly praised.
They always fail to realize that the only way to not make mistakes is to take extreme precautions when trying something new or taking risks.
In this Coronavirus crisis we have seen what happens when countries try to save face. This should be a lesson to everyone. Honesty is the best policy
F E A R
April Issue 2020
“There is so much blood pumping through your brain, it is like rocket fuel. Right now, you can run faster, and you can fight harder and jump higher than ever in your life! You are so alert that it’s like you can slow down time! What is wrong with scared? It is a superpower! It is your superpower” – Doctor Who S8E4
Fear is a superpower, but with great power, comes great responsibility. Without wisdom, strength is less than useless, and it can become very destructive, and it has…
These past few weeks, due to the reality of the Coronavirus, that is exactly what we have seen. People with purchasing power, going to the extreme, buying all the toilet paper (for some reason), even some going as far as price gouging. Fear, however, has an important place in the human psyche. It’s as the Doctor said (above), it is one of the great superpowers that humans have — but we merely need to learn to use it.
As anyone has witnessed, someone under the effects of an emotion will react in an unpredictable or specific pattern. The individual who is afraid is more likely to run or fight, however, the person who is angry is more likely or certain to fight. Their rational judgement is suspended during this fear process. The actions taken during these states are much more effective due to altered state of mind and the hormones going through the individual; they are pre-programmed.
The state of fear can last up to when the source of fear is gone, and the individual may not even be panicking, but just anxious enough that they do not ask the simple questions.
This is exactly how people lose money on the stock market. Stocks are falling, so they run and try to “cut their losses.” That is, of course, a topic for another time; this is just to give you an example of how this creeping “fear” can damage a person while they may not be fully panicking.
Fear has a time and a place. It is a superpower that unless controlled, will lead the person to jump off the cliff.
WHAT MATTERS MIGHT NOT MATTER
March Issue 2020
In the past two decades something very peculiar happened. As we have gained access to people, at just about any time we desire, via internet or phone, we have had the pace of our lives quicken very subtly. Now when something happens, we do not wait for the next day to inform people. We tell them immediately. When an emergency or something relatively major occurs, we notify others. I think this reality has intervened with the psychological rhythm of how process and handle problems, and quite a few people have been taking advantage of that.
Please allow me to elaborate. President tweets X statement, that statement hits news immediately with all the other great tragedies occurring around the world. The news naturally is not reporting advancements or good things — after all those do not sell. That makes sense! Why panic about something that is good? Then, the said news reports it as the world is coming to an end; they need the ratings! The viewers, you and I, instantly think it is a huge issue, while in truth, it has no bearing onto anything. This is clear to anyone who can think, but unfortunately, that is not the case.
This instant and perpetual state of panic makes for people who are compelled into watching and hearing more; how can they protect themselves from a threat they do not know? Thus, they watch it, but at the end of the day, the news never mentions what this small thing means in the big picture, or in the daily lives of the people. Think of the whole debacle that was created by Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Democrats new it would never pass without a miracle, it ended up being nothing but a drama, and very little was accomplished, if anything. Then again, one can say the same thing about our politicians or elected officials, however there is a lesson here.
Do we ask the question, what does this ultimately mean? That is the question we must always ask. Not to shirk responsibility but quite the opposite. What is the point in panicking, or even wasting time on something that ultimately does not matter? This can certainly be applied to any aspect of a person’s life. It is of course good to be on the know, but it is important not to be emotionally invested in any of this news. In that way we will be able to look at things calmly and rationally.
Simply ask the questions, does this has any bearing on me? Can I somehow influence it? If not to both of those questions, then why worry to begin with? Save that energy to things that truly matters.
MILLENNIAL COMMUNICATION & CASUAL CHATS
February Issue 2020
Do you remember the first scene in the Godfather, where Don Corleone was talking with his old “friend” who has a request to make at his daughter’s wedding? Upon the request, Don responds, and I am paraphrasing: “What have I done to earn such disrespect? You never invited me for coffee, asked how I was, and now you ask for a favor on my daughter’s wedding?” This scene has never made sense to me. It is a very powerful scene, and I get it; but how does mafia Don Corleone have the time for such trivial things? I always have put this to my social awkwardness, but as I have discussed this with other people, I have found that at least in my generation, this thought is surprisingly quite common. As such, I would like to explain my hypothesis as to why.
I think this mostly comes from the upbringing of a sizable portion of the millennial generation. Millennials have been brought up with the availability of the most advanced entertainment and stimulation technology that has been thought impossible just a few decades ago. This is important because when your main source of stimulation is that of a challenge in the right environment, a tea party with your friends seems even worse in comparison, except to break the monotony and do something different.
This R&R (Rest and Recuperation) activity becomes much more important when one accounts for the increased work hours, and drastically reduced work-life balance most millennials now have grown accustomed to. Thanks to the cell phones and the economic system that has been squeezing every penny out of both its workers and customers without providing more value. It has become common place to work as a contractor with no regular hours, no benefits, no regular hourly pay, etc. The gig economy, becoming normalized, has the effects of people becoming less human, who would have thought? It becomes a very reasonable question how can anyone prioritize regular social meetings and casual encounters with friends? It becomes a much greater investment than it used to be, naturally. This is, of course, not an excuse but goes to show that the cost of something we take for granted, has changed, as the balance of life has changed.
Naturally, this is not all millennials, but a section of those who do share this view on social gatherings, which I am sure many think is unhealthy. This is one of the few reasons why, perhaps, a sizable group of the new generation does not view social events in the same way. After all, with all the social media around us, staying in touch is easy, but quality relationships are harder than ever.
THE JUNGIAN PSYCHOLOGY
January Issue 2020
I had the chance and the energy to catch up on some reading, and a section in Dr. Murray Stein’s book, where he is surveying the Jungian Psychology, caught my attention. In one of the earlier chapters about energy, and how the mind uses it to adapt to its environment, gave me an idea for an experiment to boost one’s own control over themselves and be influenced less by their mental constraints by feeding their inner world less energy.
The book talks about how when a person is in the process of adapting to his or her environment, they use their mental energy (or as the book calls it, ‘psychic energy’ but that can be confused with less scientific terms) from a pool of energy, and while generally that energy is used to adapt to one’s own environment, when that adaptation is complete, the energy does not just go away but begins to sip into their inner world. This is described as a form of introspection etc., but one thing that we also observe, is that after the recovery from the last challenge, a person goes into a stagnant state and begins to regress. This makes perfect sense if you consider that now this person is adapting to their new environment of less challenge. Hence the Roman saying, “comfort breeds complacency and weakness.”
I also have a hypothesis, in addition to this adage in the light of, when you are not expending energy to push yourself that energy that goes inwards will feed persons complexes, make new ones and will feed mental problems. The way I like to imagine it is, if the mind is a factory, sending too much energy or resources that is not designed to receive so much will lead to leakage or breakage which will cause it to drain even more resources until it is fixed.
Now that the holiday season is over, it is the best time to remind ourselves — that if we are not moving forward, we are moving backwards. Not pushing ourselves to achieve our goals, no matter how trivial, will keep us healthy, and should, hopefully, prevent the problems inside ourselves. During this time, we need to pick our battles and priorities, but just keeping ourselves fighting, can be a victory in/on itself.
(December 2019 Issue
Last month I talked about individualism, in as many aspects as I could without writing a 500-page book reiterating myself. It is not that this is not a very important topic, it is just that I am big believer in concise writing.
This month I would like to talk about the importance of hobbies for an individual, something I have noticed which is very American, something I have not seen in the rest of the world, at least not to a large extend. Hobbies are a wonderful thing, not only do they help us relax and recharge, but how people choose their hobbies might be a major indicator of individualism.
The way hobbies were perceived in Turkey was different There were no hobby stores or local game shops. No places dedicated to skateboarding or riding a bike. All the people who were interested in these things would have to in private. The biggest reason I think is that the culture in Turkey was so rigid, anything outside of going out to drink and watching TV or maybe playing football, was usually seen as something far out and pretentious. In the west, if you are not hurting anyone, you can have any hobby you like and consensus to the strange ones is… “Whatever makes you happy.” This freedom is important for an individual’s growth; after all, by having your options limited on an irrational basis is objectively sub-optimal. This freedom allows for people to form their own sub communities, and not only make friends outside of their already existing group, but also lets them grow in the direction they wish to grow – if they wish.
One example that comes to mind is how Henry Kissinger and John F. Kennedy’s favorite game was a very niche game called “diplomacy”, which has a sizable following – even to this day.
In conclusion, we should realize how in this culture, day and age, we are much freer to pursue hobbies that support our self-growth and self-development with little resistance. We have the freedom to select and participate in these hobbies with these privileges in mind. We pursue them with full confidence, as individuals, to grow and not succumb to peer pressure. That is one of the important cornerstones and uniqueness of what makes someone a member of the Western Culture.
IDENTITY OF SELF – Part 2
November 2019 Issue
Last month we talked about how important it is to diversify both your community and a general idea how to reduce friction in a diverse group on an individual level. Our cultures’ obsession with labels comes with some quite dangerous drawbacks, as we are seeing today in politics. In time, not only has it made individual’s opinions easily written off as they were part of “x group”, the individuals becoming less of individuals but pawns of their ideology/group (hence making the group 1’s view pretty valid), but has diminished the greatest advantage having a diverse community which is diversity of thought and perspective. The fact that we are no longer coming up with effective and efficient solutions today is certainly an indicator that not only our basic competence as society has gone down, but also our individualism has been diminished.
We can talk about the macro solutions all day and accomplish nothing, but I would instead suggest a radical personal action that has got me some weird looks, but has been a positive trade off. Simply reject labels. You are an individual – first and foremost. Why? Because it makes you no longer you, a safer, a part of an overarching identity but less of you, less independent, more of a prisoner of your own mind; Less stressed about being wrong and less vulnerable but less effective and more scared to stand for what is right and thus, making you less inclined to learn to what is right.
How? When you get labeling statements such as “but you are X, X loves Y!”, respond to them and to yourself ” They may love Y, but I am not myself and not just X.” This often happens to me in following format, Friend says, “But you are Russian, how come you don’t drink?” I say something along the lines, “Well, drinking is not a good thing to begin with, why should I hurt myself for it?” From what I have seen, the expected response is to jokingly say “I am not a very good X”, but that simply reinforces the surrender of individuality even if it is a joke. Instead, take it up a notch and double down on the comedy by adding, for example, in the case of drinking and Russian, “Well then comrade, maybe they are not very good Russians, because in Soviet Russia, Vodka drinks you!” In this way, I think not only do you make fun of the stereotype, but also get to redefine what that label is afterwards.
At the end of the day, I think what separates an individual from a herd is what they answer to the question of why? Why do they think this way? Why do they believe this thing? Why do they think that? The answers given is what determines who that person is after all. A good person will do that thing because it benefits most people, a lawful person will do it because that is the way it must be done according to the rules. Efficient person does things, or says something because it is the easiest way to achieve their goal.
These may seem like basic things but as Lao Tzu says,
“Simplicity, patience and compassion are the greatest treasures.”
IDENTITY OF SELF
October 2019 Issue
I am certain that I’ve written about this before, however it is something that is part of our culture that people with certain motives tend to exploit.
I will argue why the fact that our culture makes a big deal out of a person’s ancestry, is not only detrimental to the individual on a daily basis, but also is very dangerous on a macro scale, due to how exploitable it is by our politicians.
First let us frame the problem at hand. The first question we will address in the larger whole, America is a ‘salad bowl’, that at least on paper, celebrates our differences and encourages us to use them to achieve a common goal.
Too much difference results in abrasion, and is detrimental to productivity and to the quality of life. Too little difference results in “group thinking” and ineffective problem-solving due to members’ inability to use different skills to contribute to a solution.
For example, if you have an engineering problem but all your team members are engineers, great, but when you encounter a sales problem, your team will falter. Or when you have a too diverse team, not only will you have problems managing the personalities, but also you will not have enough members to solve the problem that requires more people in a certain department.
This is exactly why teams and companies tend to lean towards the abundance of a few departments based on the challenges they face regularly as well as avoid the specific challenges their groups cannot overcome. This is not due to lack of skill or will, but it is just not what their team is built around. This, with few exceptions, applies to any group.
The solution to that problem, as it always has been, introducing a bit of agreeableness and individualism into who you are. Sure, that identity, and in this case, national/racial identity can be a part of an individual, but when it becomes a person’s main identifier, all they become is a ‘stereotype.’
When a person becomes anything but themselves, or accept a label, another person can attack that label and discredit the individual.
When we talk about labels that others like to attach without a person’s conscious choice, such as race/gender/sexuality, the person who has the label attached to them can easily be smeared in public eye at least, or be the target of attacks at worst.
Generally, we avoid this by offering the person doing this kind of action, a reality check by pointing out they are an individual first; however, when one is having a one-sided conversation, such as in a rally, that is not possible, and the speaker’s words become the only thing left.
Next Month I will propose a potentially radical however simple and applicable solution on individual level so stay tuned.
CHAN CULTURE/GAMERS AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO MASS HYSTERIA
It is human nature to seek culpability in times of tragedy, however, as the Turkish proverb says, “He who gets up in anger, sits back with loss.”
In recent news, I was quite surprised to see the topic that had been discussed during the 1990’s and which was basically concluded in 2008 but being fetched back up again in 2019. Namely, do video games cause violent behavior? Now, however, there is a specific internet subculture thrown into the mix. While the topic of video games causing violence being debunked many times, something new has been introduced into the mix.
In the past few years, a specific website/s, has been thrown around: 4chan or 8chan. You might have heard of these websites as “being associated to the mass shooters in recent and past incidents.” We will discuss to see if they are indeed the ones to blame, or is it just another attempt, especially by media and politicians, to shift the blame to protect or line up their pockets. For those not familiar with 4chan, it is website which emerged during the early 2000’s, and characterized by its loose moderation “a site where anyone can speak anonymously.” In time, more control was instituted when there were literal crimes being committed in some of their boards. However, the idea that anyone can say whatever they want and start discussing in their threads and share images, turned into a cesspool — the meme treasure trove of the internet.
4chan had always been the counterculture; when being right wing was hip, they were extreme left, and when being left became hip, they became extreme right, and to the level where to some people, Hitler is revered, holocaust is denied, and quasi facts and very strong propaganda is spread; it is perhaps the largest social experiment of our time in anarchy.
As for 8chan, it was created as a response to what they have seen as a tyrannical censorship, and consequently a lot of 4chan users migrated to 8chan. 8chan’s selling point was that every board would be moderated by their own group of people not affiliated with any organization, unless the people who registered the board elected to. This of course ended up being completely ‘wild west’ of actual discourse, and on multiple occasions, some of the boards had to be shut down due to criminal activity. Having said that, it is also a place where I have seen the funniest internet cultural artifacts being born, the said criminals being brought to justice, not by an external authority, but by 8chan members themselves, not to mention the freest, and at times, quite influential movements in the making.
In conclusion, these places should be allowed to exist in moderation, if not, they will continue to exist in underground systems, and we would not be able to monitor them. If we are to control and eliminate these deplorable ideologies, we must do so in the form of debate first and foremost not censorship, not violence.
After all, ideas are supposed to be bulletproof, but nothing is factproof.
INDOCTRINATION (Part II)
August 2019 Issue
Last month we talked about “what is Indoctrination” and how to detect it as well as some basic methods of de-indoctrinating ourselves. I think it is worth expanding on that topic. I should also mention; a lot of this information comes from Yuri Bezmenov’s (*) lectures whose conclusions I do not always agree for the human mind is a lot more complex, and his conclusions apply on extreme cases which are sadly a sizable group. The methods that I will suggest are to help those who have been basing their world views on the ideas created through very intelligent, seemingly benevolent, however, fundamentally malicious purposes.
Mind you, while Bezmenov’s lectures in the 80’s were about the communist ideology, the very same methods are being used for the both extremes today. The methods are being used while are more refined, the way of disarming them remains the same because at it is disinformation and reformation of human mind. However, what has been twisted and broken can be fixed, the human mind is quite resilient like that. If there is a will, there is a way.
Firstly, something that can benefit anyone, how to protect ourselves against indoctrination. A quick recap of this topic in a way. The best defense is remaining rational. Never invest emotionally into an idea, no matter how right it seems. If you see evidence against what you thought was true, take that evidence and gather more until you can say, “Yes this fact was incorrect” otherwise just 1 or 2 cases should make you say, yes there are exceptions to the rule. Find out why those exceptions occur; is it due to a fundamental flaw in your view, or is it something rare and bizarre? Even in programming, we often have to resort to exception handlers as such be ready to accept that, that is what it means to be of open-mind and foot firm on the ground. Reality is complex and fundamentally incomprehensible to current the human mind, there will be flaws and some we must accept.
Secondly, ask yourself, Qui Bono? – or for whose benefit? If there is a pattern, be suspicious. Always be skeptical of everything, however trust axioms and fundamental evidence. The combination of healthy skepticism and methods of finding more for yourself should safeguard you against most methods. For more insidious methods and short hands against misinformation is knowing these tactics that will make you go “that’s a trap”
Now that we have talked about sound barriers for our own minds, let’s talk about those whose lives have been impacted, usually negatively, by propaganda and how can we help them. There is very little we can do but always encourage them to look at the facts. A lot of such people are sadly too far gone and just must wake up themselves. In family counseling, the most important lesson I’ve learned was, never try to help those who do not want to be helped. If you try, they will just repel and reject you, best case scenario, you wasted your time. For those who are still open minded, remind them that the world is shades of gray and is not black and white.
The things we think are absolute good or evil – are never so.
(*) Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov, journalist, known by the alias Tomas David Schuman, was a Soviet journalist for RIA Novosti and a former PGU KGB informant who defected to Canada.
As a follow up on our political concepts, this week I would like to talk about a word we rarely think about but should always be aware of:
What is indoctrination? Indoctrination as a noun is the process of conditioning someone or a group of people to think or behave in a certain way that they will not question. Unlike education which promotes critical-thinking, indoctrination actively discourages it and does so, often in very subtle ways.
The reason I picked this topic is as our country’s political stances get more and more divided with no end in sight. It is important to realize why some people might be so entrenched in their views that no evidence or argument seems to change or even question their stance. This of course makes any meaningful debate very difficult.
This is caused by various methods, deliberate or not, that made those views corner stones of who they are. Should those views be challenged, they take it a personal attack. You might have seen examples of this in the past, very nice or even very smart people turning most unreasonable when their ideology is questioned. This is a very dangerous and anti-intellectual phenomenon that must be cured. However, the only thing you can do is point it out to the person, as politely as possible, so that they can build themselves on solid ground, hopefully.
As Yuri Bezmenov, former KGB agent, told in his lectures, the goal of malicious sedition is to create these ideologues that he termed “Useful idiots.” These are people who have been so indoctrinated in communist ideology that they will not question it, accepting it even in the face of damning evidence or as he likes to call it, “until the new government puts them down to establish stability.” I would strongly suggest looking up his lectures on YouTube, it really gives you an idea on why all the turmoil in our college campuses today, as well as the rise of communist thought in the college or university campuses today.
However, not all indoctrination is deliberate. We sometimes, without realizing it, indoctrinate ourselves into certain beliefs and start defending the indefensible, and with no awareness. The first step is to realize this and shake out of it. The second step is to learn and develop new foundations for your worldview.
Never be afraid of questioning the most fundamental “truths” that we see, no matter how popular or unpopular they are. Of course, media has realized it is easier to indoctrinate groups over individuals. Just remember the words of Plato in this regard:
“It is a sign of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
“The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them “ — Thomas Jefferson
STAYING CLOSED TO THE TRUTH
June 2019 Issue
The current news trends in general are marked by societal division and draw into extremism on all sides, similar to what we have now.
The question is, how do we keep sane and close to the truth as possible in these times?
Today I will reveal the exact way that I have done it by combining the advice of people who have been through these before and applying it to the new age.
The advice is common and most effective at most times. Take your news from both sides, take out the differences and things in common and filtered by common sense is most likely to be true. Look at the extremes and the sources in the middle. They will all have bias and agenda however since those agendas clash, what is not in common, tends to be false.
The other advice is look to the newcomers in the media, these tend to be idealistic journalists, the dying bastions of journalistic integrity before they are squashed or acquired by larger outfits. Today we have a way to combine these two in a way that is easier than ever!
That is Youtube, you can always watch individual journalists and content creators on both sides of the spectrum however Youtube being an open platform you might still want to stay away from the very extremes and keep to those who try to uphold some journalistic integrity and reliance on facts even though those facts are usually cherry picked and distorted, with some experience of watching both sides you will be able notice the distortion in no time.
With that being said, the ones for left side i have seen being somewhat entertaining and informative were Contrapoints and Hbomberguy. These essayists tend to research their topic reasonably well and try to back up their point of view with facts. I should however warn you that this being YouTube, you will see more shocking content, mostly from Contrapoints because part of her platform is costumes and acting.
On the right side, we have Black Pigeon Speaks, and Sargon Of Akkad. while I may not always agree with their message, you can see they have done their research and are engaging in what mainstream media should have been doing, evidence, and then maybe, their point of view.
Lastly, I would like to mention Caspian Report for relatively Apolitical geopolitical analysis, as a way to balance the aforementioned relatively extreme content creators.
COMPUTERS AND GENERATIONAL TECHNOLOGIES Part 2
May 2019 Issue
In my previous article, I talked about how technology, which is most mainstream at the time, is what makes kids of that generation the most competent at it, in general. We also briefly discussed some outliers and the important point which is: Just because you did not grow up with that technology, it does not mean you cannot be competent, or even one of the best people with that technology.
There is a sense of dread with how fast the technology has been advancing in the past 30 years. However, as it advanced in the tech industry, the question of ‘user friendliness and ease of learning’, became a major question which are even studied under the computer science subject, human-computer interaction. That is because, even for those at the cutting edge of the tech industry, struggle to keep up while end-users are completely left in the dust otherwise.
It was easy to discover that just because something is powerful, does not mean it has to be esoteric. In fact, those that are esoteric, are always taken over things that are much easier to use. We can thank the free markets for that. Fortunately, the popular technology is often passes this litmus test, and the main obstacle that the older generation faces, is often nothing more than a mental barrier against the new technology.
I have been fortunate enough to be on all sides of this situation. In the past, and when it comes to any technology, as soon as you figure out the logic behind the basics, there is really nothing stopping you from grasping it in full.
The kids of that age were not anything special. With your own life experiences, if you do not erect a mental barrier around the problem, it is much easier not to only grasp it, but to go even further and expand one’s own horizons through grasping that new piece of technology. Examples of this are out there, so go out and fear not the unknown, for there is no shame in learning, but there is shame in willful ignorance.
“THE MAN WHO NEVER LOOKS AT A NEWSPAPER IS BETTER INFORMED THAN HE WHO READS THEM” — Thomas Jefferson
April 2019 Issue
The current news trends in general are marked by societal division and draw into extremism on all sides, similar to what we have now.
The question is, how do we keep sane and close to the truth as possible in these times? Today I will reveal the exact way that I have done it by combining the advice of people who have been through these before and applying it to the new age.
The advice is common and most effective at most times. Take your news from both sides, take out the differences and things in common and filtered by common sense is most likely to be true. Look at the extremes and the sources in the middle. They will all have bias and agenda however since those agendas clash, what is not in common, tends to be false.
The other advice is look to the newcomers in the media, these tend to be idealistic journalists, the dying bastions of journalistic integrity before they are squashed or acquired by larger outfits. Today we have a way to combine these two in a way that is easier than ever!
That is YouTube, you can always watch individual journalists and content creators on both sides of the spectrum however YouTube being an open platform you might still want to stay away from the very extremes and keep to those who try to uphold some journalistic integrity and reliance on facts even though those facts are usually cherry picked and distorted, with some experience of watching both sides you will be able notice the distortion in no time.
With that being said, the ones for left side i have seen being somewhat entertaining and informative were Contra-points and Hbomberguy. These essayists tend to research their topic reasonably well and try to back up their point of view with facts. I should however warn you that this being YouTube, you will see more shocking content, mostly from Contra-points because part of her platform is costumes and acting.
On the right side, we have Black Pigeon Speaks and Sargon Of Akkad while i may not always agree with their message, you can see they have done their research and are engaging in what mainstream media should have been doing, evidence and then maybe their point of view.
Lastly, I would like to mention Caspian Report for relatively Apolitical geopolitical analysis, as a way to balance the aforementioned relatively extreme content creators.
COMPUTERS AND GENERATIONAL TECHNOLOGIES
March 2019 Issue
In past few generations, we have had a curious phenomenon that many talked about individually but not as a whole and that is how a generation grows up with a certain technology that defined their childhood-early adulthood and becomes very proficient at it and not the one next and last then proceeds to praise or complain about the next generation being so good/bound by it.
This is something that came to my attention when I would help the previous generation struggle with computers while myself having very little idea on how to fix cars and this tends to be the general trend for most millennial. Especially the ones who have not grown up in the States where the entire culture of people could be defined by cars they drove and got familiar with.
Similarly, to how the Boomers to Gen X generations grew up with cars, the millennial grew up with computers and since they were so exposed to them in their youth, they picked it up as their view into the technical world. This is absolutely no excuse not to understand either technologies enough to use it. For a while I believed the first half of the paragraph more than I should I have, as in this was the reason other generations did not understand those technologies but that was until I met one of the best system administrators i have ever seen.
A 65-year-old Linux wizard from Fredonia who taught us Linux commands and system administrating. He was originally an electrical engineer which is quite distant from computer science and got into computers when he was 45. Conversely my cousin who makes a living administering a popular game server gotten into cars as well as many millennial including myself after getting my first one. Turns out as soon as you drop the bias that “It is Generation (insert generation here) thing” it becomes much clearer that the technology we are talking about is simple because the principles of the systems stay the same, the best systems are the simplest ones. Sure, when you get into the nitty-gritty and combine them, they become complicated but after understanding the underlying principles they simple become just complicated instead of impossible.
Hence, I would like to invite everyone when you encounter a piece of technology you do not understand, do not be ashamed, for there is no shame in learning but there is shame in willful ignorance as says the Russian proverb.
DIPLOMATIC HEAT, AND HOW TO MANAGE IT
February 2019 Issue
There is a hidden concept or a mechanic, if you will, when it comes to dealing with large groups of people.
Every action you take costs a degree of social currency, some more than others. However, the way that currency works, seems that it functions less as a currency as we know it but more as a steam pressure or heat build-up. You might have seen the effects of these in your work or in the news. When a person is seen doing anything too many times or just taking too many actions, they will draw the ire of the people regardless if it is good or bad.
Bill Gates and Elon Musk in the past fell into the same trap, that if we just do good things people will like us. That is simply not the case. People and the news will find a way to interpret what a person is doing in the most negative way. It is just a way of our social nature to balance itself, after all, if it was a linear transaction, we would have the same people stuck in the same positions, and it would all be very simple, however, as we all know, human interactions on a large scale is anything but simple.
This happens on smaller scale as well. Think about kids in the family, whether the news is good or bad, if there is a constant stream of events, it tends to be bothersome, so unless those are consistently objectively good, it begins to bother people. On a large scale, there are always people ready to interpret what you are doing in the worst way possible. Elon Musk tries to take us to the stars, dozens of news pundits slam him for not feeding the poor. Bill Gates tries to feed the poor and prevent epidemics, but dozens of news pundits slam him for not tackling bigger projects for humanity.
So, what is the solution when you yourself have garnered too much heat? Personally, I never had that in real life but from my mentors who did, one way or the other, the solution has always been the same. Subtlety.
Go dark for a bit, lay low, let the dust settle. Keep doing your work but keep it subtle and never talk about it. One way that the young business people garner heat, even if they are careful, is through some “joking remarks.”
In today’s world with the “me too” movement, this has been made even more clear which I find most educational for humanity.
Yes, it is fun to joke around in a serious situation. Yes, people should not be offended because you said something that can be made sexual out of context. However, those things garner heat.
In conclusion, I would like to – very strongly – reiterate and take to the logical extreme the immortal words of Plato:
“A wise man speaks because he has something to say, a fool speaks because he has to say something.”
September 2018 Issue
This one is, I think, would be the conclusion for now on the article of propaganda. I will unfortunately have to come back to it as our media keeps outdoing its own shenanigans every other month but until then I think this should conclude this series. I had some thoughts that I had concluded today, so wanted to put them in writing
Can Propaganda Be Good? If you have seen my previous articles, you know how much i like to reiterate that it is not the tool that is good or evil but the person or intent using it. So, lets for this one, i would like to share a thought i have been debating for quite some time. Can a tool as maliciously used as propaganda which i would argue has been more devastating than any weapon in human history, be used for good? So first thing is, can we think of a case where propaganda be a tool for the benefit of mankind, after all, if something has had such a destructive effect like allowing the rise of the third Reich and the razing of cartage, its constructive effects may also be great. I think i finally came up with a case where it can be.
The case where the propaganda, the methods used to make person believe or think in a way without questioning it can be a good thing would be if we had crucial information for a person to have that was simply beyond their understanding but it is crucial that they perform the actions towards that belief. Which I think was exactly the idea beyond all the religious dogma, it is hard to understand the reasoning behind it and it would be too long or difficult to teach a large group of people as to why this action is good or bad. This, I think, is the only condition for propaganda to be considered good. I will have to add caveat here that. In this case, the people who created it must leave tools and explanations as to why they have thought people to do the actions they taught. This is because as the time goes on, some will begin to wake up and realize this dogma has no rational basis, they will think this of course unless the originators of the dogma did not give their reasoning somewhere, in texts or in a way it can be passed on.
In a way, last paragraph also explains why there are still sizable group of religious people among scientists and even some of the greatest minds in fact. Were they too occupied to see the propaganda or did they see the benefit of society going along with this propaganda? I do not know but that is a topic for another day perhaps.
Any other case I can think of is simply too easy to distort and thanks to human nature and group think, it is also even more dangerous. I think that is why propaganda is so dangerous in the end. Just like cancer, it spreads not because it is strong on its own, but it is strong because it uses the existing mechanisms in the body to propagate itself. Just like that not only does propaganda spread but is also reinforced thanks to the social nature of human race.