Professor Trompsky #2

Welcome back professor Trompsky, glad you took your time to talk about the controversial Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
– Thank you. These are very serious matters yes. I think he is the least capable person in America today to become a Supreme Court Justice. Every which way you look at it, this nomination is a catastrophe for our country and should be aborted at all costs.
So you are calling for abortion of his nomination. Could you elaborate?
– If we carry this nomination to term, we will have bred a monster. Brett Kavanaugh is a religious fanatic of the sort that would put the church above the constitution. The High Court will turn into a Medusa whose sole purpose it is to protect the powers of the president.
When you say we must prevent Supreme Justice Kavanaugh from happening, what exactly do you have in mind? Polonium?
– This is not the time for flippancy. I personally think there are more civilized ways than radioactive chemicals.
Such as?
– We just keep repeating the sins he committed as a young adult. Did you know that FFFF means “Find ’em, finger ’em, fuck ’em, forget ’em”? And that boofing is anal ingestion of alcoholic beverages?
This is common knowledge, yes.
– I don’t see how this man still has time for serious legal scholarship, let alone the position of highest judge in the country.
I understand your point professor Trompsky. What do you suggest as a means of last resort, to avoid this twit to ascend to the throne of the American judiciary?
– [shrugs] I don’t know. Maybe burn down the court house.

Professor Trompsky #2 was originally published on Meandering home

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Objet trouvé: modesty

A great man is always willing to be little. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A modest little person, with much to be modest about. – Winston Churchill

I want to stretch out my tentacles to tackle the idea of modesty. Sound the clarions, hoist the flags, this self-proclaimed writer marches in to lecture about a virtue that has been blemished by the stains of arrogance and self-righteousness from the beginning of text. That writer is anti-consumption, anti-capitalism, and if you don’t commit to end the destruction of the natural world, also anti-you, so he’ll probably offload his praise of Modesty as a vehicle to promote his vegan wonderland of post-consumerist nudist self-absorbed disciples of the Loving Unity and feel good about it. Before you know what has happened, he’d have moved on to his next sermon. His Vision is expanding circles or Truth, and Modesty if the Way to Salvation, to turn you into a blessed celestial elephantine Being of Grace and Glory.

But hold on for a second. Let’s strip off this layer of convenient anti-ideology, this dishonestly cynical modus essendi of lowest possible moral energy levels. It’s getting late, the serpent needs to get rid of his skin. You and I need to find a way again to write large virtues small.

Life is transient. We are guests on this prety blue planet. In fact, we consist of fickle molecules that will be recycled as part of our solar system, which is itself nothing but a speck of dust.
– O, please.

Modesty, being humble, is thinking of yourself – behind closed doors – as a triviality, as just not the thing the world is revolving around. But this is not possible unless we see ourselves as a functional part of something bigger, because as floating egos, cut off from the world around us, there is no way to escape the notion that we are in the center of everything.

The knowledge that we are part of something bigger inevitably makes us feel more important than we are. This feeling can be turned into boasting, a sense of entitlement, and generally the opposite of modesty. But it can also be “put in parentheses” through the application of living irony.
– O, please.

I feel that modesty is an impossible virtue if we follow this logic, a virtue that contradicts itself, a virtue that can not survive its own expression. This does not mean that the virtue is in itself a bad thing. The practice of approaching, circumventing, meandering around impossible virtues might be beneficial to the well-being of our species.
– O, please.

In the case of modesty, our mere intention to be modest can teach us about our innate immodesty, and lead us to live life lightly. Once we learn that we can sing in different registers than those ultra cynical ones that castrate our dear grammatically impossible virtues by portraying them as self-absorbing hypocricy, tainted with the same immoralities they claim to doubt the existence of, we might feel better.
– O, please;-

Drawing by ianbourgeot.com

Objet trouvé: modesty was originally published on Meandering home

Professor . What do you think of the intellectual climate of today?

There is a worrying decline of what I call the culture of wisdom. More often than not, people engaging in debates are more concerned with cementing their own argumentation, making their own narrative waterproof as it were. Instead of trying to integrate the stories of their opponents in their own Grand Narrative, they readily dismiss them as fundamentally flawed. I miss the eagerness to achieve such inclusivity, the wonder of how an other thinking mind can draw sometimes totally different conclusions. This presuposses, I am well aware, a fundamental respect and we shall call it a belief in the intellectual capabilities of their opponents. Rather than treating them like an annoyance they want to get rid of, I miss the intellectual attitude that wishes to celebrate disagreement in order to proceed to a higher truth. Recently I wrote about this and produced the following formula. We should attempt to reduce a strange narrative we encounter to our own.

Don’t you think this is the faux nostalgia that comes with age? Was it not the case that intellectuals in the cold war era, dismissed each other for chosing the wrong side?

[chuckles] No, I can give you a concrete example. Take the political debate. If we talk about Venezuela, our initial response almost always reveals our political core belief. Media outlets who, under the influence of market pressure, tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to know, amplify this phenomenon.

was originally published on Meandering home

Professor Trompsky #1

Professor Trompsky, welcome to our studio. At 87, do you have any plans for retirement?

Listen, the burden of the world rests on my shoulders. I can’t just give up because the fragility that is slowly but certainly shutting down my body. My responsibilities are grand, and with grandure I shall go to the grave. Can we talk about something less morbid now, provided such a topic exists in the current state of the world? [chuckles]

Yes we can. How would you analyze the current state of political discourse?

It is the fundamental unwillingness to learn from the other side, as people refer to political opponents, that strikes me as dangerous. I don’t see a humorous and convivial back and forth of well-stated arguments, but a general retreat from eloquence and the joy of seeking out a worthy opponent. Believe me, there have been better times for political debate.

What do you suggest as a solution, professor?

Well, there is no panacea. We have to carefully prepare the public for more sophisticated discourse. Right now, they seem to accept very low intellectual standards. We should welcome contrarians at our institutions of higher learning. We should let no student graduate who takes one particular standpoint without seriously questioning it, before their third year in college. Universities should teach students how to be your own best critic, not how to be your own best proselytiser.

Thank you for your clear suggestion. Do you think it has any change of success?

Of course not. I am just saying these things because I owe it to my stature as an intellectual giant. I am playing the character people expect me to play.

Do you never lose hope?

What do you want me to say? Professor Trompsky never lose hope.

Professor Trompsky #1 was originally published on Meandering home

This image got me BANNED from Facebook

Last month I posted the above image as a commentary on a Facebook post. The image is a caricature of a campaign poster in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, on which a veiled Muslim woman and a Jew are kissing in front of the iconic Erasmus bridge.

Image Volkskrant.nl

I greatly dislike the puritanical culture that Facebook imposes on its users. Of course, it has every right to do so as an enterprise operating in a free market. But such ‘blocks’ that last 3 days after the first violation, 7 days after the second and ‘even longer’ after more offences, become a serious barrier for those of us who are used to slightly less puritanical limits to their free speech.

These bans convince me that we need a Commons Facebook that differs from the current commercial platform in three ways:
1) It has no central authority, hence no universal ‘community standards’. There can be several coexisting communities with slightly different standards;
2) It has no incentive of profit extraction. The platform shall be paid for by public funding (like the British National Health Service);
3) Since it is tax-funded, decisions about the platform will be made by a representative democracy.

Facebook has too much power. Its good intention to ban images it considers offensive are promoting a very specific and dominating puritanical culture at the expense of minority views. It makes these values appear as universalities, especially to young social media users, to whom a block from the platform is akin to ostracism. First, they are afraid of speaking up against the arbitrary morals of the all-powerful Facebook, then it becomes unthinkable to do so. There is no need for mind control. The new generation of users that Facebook is raising, will voluntarily censor themselves. They will incorporate the mores of the behemoth, and the fear of becoming an outcast will make them aggressive against those who violate the ‘community standards’.

You have been warned.

This image got me BANNED from Facebook was originally published on Meandering home

Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees

The Refugee Convention entered into force on 22 April 1954.

In the above text, we look at the word particularly. We note that it does not mean exclusively. Even if the head of the family (which we should consider an outdated term, but can still understand) has not fulfilled the necessary conditions for admission to a particular country, the Convention “recommends” governments to take the necessary measures.

But what are the “necessary measures” if such measures are perceived to conflict with “national safety interests”. And what precisely means “recommends”? The dictionary states “to push for something”.

Listen, this is no match for Trump, the Artist of the Deal. Why is the verb here not “obligate”?

The United Nations now urges the US to stop separating children from their families at the border. According to a spokesperson, “The use of immigration detention and family separation as a deterrent runs counter to human rights standards and principles.” She asks that Washington adopts non-custodial alternatives that allow children to remain with their families. Fair enough.

The human drama is terrifying and I don’t see no political solution soon. Trump supporters, and indeed Trump himself, are quick to blame Democrats for passing the original laws that led to this catastrophy. I am worried that Trump defenders are reluctant to change their opinion and speak up to their peers, fearing to be ostracized. It is easy to get on the Trump Train, but you can not jump off.

A slippery slope and ‘Gazafication’ of the US – Mexico border looms over the current events. What if people approaching the border would be shot at sight (admittedly an unlikely scenario, despite extremist toads who demand so)? I can already hear the propaganda claims: It is the right of the US to defend itself. Illegal immigrants are criminals. I already see them quoting dubious crime statistics produced by the Cato institute. And I see hordes of American citizens accepting these claims. The ‘fire and fury’ of such violent border protection measures would translate into laudable toughness and a sense of ‘something is finally being done for our safety’, at least in the feeble indoctrinated minds of Trump’s following. Any critique of Trump’s actions will become increasingly harder as it will be dismissed as unpatriotic. This small step tactics has been adopted by other dictators (dixit Fox news) before.

I don’t apologize for the Godwin, if you have perceived one, dear reader.

Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees was originally published on Meandering home

The be-who-thy-be new age bullshit

I watched a well-intended speech today for fifteen year old level A students. The gist was that life happens according to your own internal clock, not according to the timetable imposed on us by society. It’s okay not to be married at 30 or graduating after 25 or getting your first job at 27. Did you know that JK Rowling first got published at the ripe old age of 32 and that Morgan Freeman got his big break at 52? Applause. Just be who you are, follow your dreams and eventually you will succeed.

That is the message. Eventually. No pressure, believe me more than you can believe yourself: you too will eventually make it big. Your story will be a success story. It has to be that way because if you believe hard enough, the universe will conspire to make it happen.

It is precisely this message that puts more pressure on people. Concrete goals such as graduating college at 22 or having 2 kids by age 33 are replaced by you-know-best-yourself goals. This absence of a yardstick to measure your own achievements against can backfire terribly. Insecure people will get more insecure and now they don’t have a way to prove themselves wrong. In the decadent be-who-thy-be philosophy, they cannot be wrong.

Guidance is replaced by slogans that smack of wisdom and the tragedy is that they are irrefutable from the perspective of the be-who-we-tell-you-to-be. The 15 year olds can not be expected to be critical, but from the educators who purvey this type of happy-go-lucky doublespeak peptalk we can demand that they study Kafka and Orwell and make their Good News less intimidating.

We want to educate critical minds not neurotic narcissists. Young people should not be seduced to manufacture only their unique success story in the face of a society that won’t reward them, I think. But do I have a solution? No. The best advice I can offer is to skip this soft of commencement talks whenever possible.

The be-who-thy-be new age bullshit was originally published on Meandering home