September 15, 2017

Roundabout VI


TRIBALISM, A COMPUTER SIMULATION

September 14, 2017


I'm not sure I understand this article's title and if the question it poses is answered in the narrative. Your thoughts?
"On this line between beastly machines and angelic rationality, where do we find the human species? If we humans are super-rational, or at least on our way there, there is reason to be optimistic. ... Our cultures are evolving today, but not, it seems, toward any harmony. The chaos of the 21st century makes our simulations feel immediately familiar. ... As intellectuals at both political extremes increasingly see the possibility of a rational political order as a fantasy, Shibboleths take up their role in defining racial, national, and religious boundaries and appear once again to be ineradicable features of political life."

...
"The [computer simulation] models, at least, encourage a guarded optimism. ... Even the genocidal machines at the violent end of the spectrum may carry a heartening lesson. They emerged from the depths of a circuit board, simulated on a supercomputer in Texas. They had no biological excuse to fall back on. Maybe we, too, shouldn’t make excuses: If a behavior is so common as to emerge in the simplest simulations, perhaps we ought neither to fear it, nor to idolize it, but to treat it, the same way we do cancer, or the flu.

"What if we saw tribalism as a natural malfunction of any cognitive system, silicon or carbon? As neither a universal truth or unavoidable sin, but something to be overcome?"



THE CASE AGAINST CIVILIZATION

September 13, 2017


"[T]he lives of most of our progenitors were better than we think. We’re flattering ourselves by believing that their existence was so grim and that our modern, civilized one is, by comparison, so great. Still, we are where we are, and we live the way we live, and it’s possible to wonder whether any of this illuminating knowledge about our hunter-gatherer ancestors can be useful to us."

...
"A key to that lost or forsworn ability [anthropologist James] Suzman suggests, lies in the ferocious egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers. For example, the most valuable thing a hunter can do is come back with meat. ... The secret ingredient [to living a Keynsian life of less selfish greed] seems to be the positive harnessing of the general human impulse to envy. As [Suzman] says, 'If this kind of egalitarianism is a precondition for us to embrace a post-labor world, then I suspect it may prove a very hard nut to crack.' There’s a lot that we could learn from the oldest extant branch of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to put the knowledge into effect. A socially positive use of envy—now, that would be a technology almost as useful as fire."




WHY RELIGION IS NOT GOING AWAY AND SCIENCE WILL NOT DESTROY IT

September 12, 2017


"In brief, global secularisation is not inevitable and, when it does happen, it is not caused by science. Further, when the attempt is made to use science to advance secularism, the results can damage science. The thesis that ‘science causes secularisation’ simply fails the empirical test, and enlisting science as an instrument of secularisation turns out to be poor strategy. ... Historically, two related sources advanced the idea that science would displace religion. First, 19th-century progressivist conceptions of history, particularly associated with the French philosopher Auguste Comte, held to a theory of history in which societies pass through three stages – religious, metaphysical and scientific (or ‘positive’). ... The 19th century also witnessed the inception of the ‘conflict model’ of science and religion. This was the view that history can be understood in terms of a ‘conflict between two epochs in the evolution of human thought – the theological and the scientific’. ... The conflict model of science and religion offered a mistaken view of the past and, when combined with expectations of secularisation, led to a flawed vision of the future. Secularisation theory failed at both description and prediction. The real question is why we continue to encounter proponents of science-religion conflict. Many are prominent scientists. ... [S]cience needs all the friends it can get. Its advocates would be well advised to stop fabricating an enemy out of religion, or insisting that the only path to a secure future lies in a marriage of science and secularism."



THE PRIME MOTIVATION FOR TERRORISM IN AFRICA IS NOT RELIGION, IT’S RETALIATION FOR STATE OPPRESSION AND INTERNATINAL MEDDLING

September 8, 2017


"Authorities are battling jihadi groups such as Boko Haram in west Africa and al-Shabaab in east Africa, as well as Islamic State and al-Qaida offshoots in the Sahel, often with the support of the US and other western powers.
"Violent extremism in Africa has killed more than 33,000 people over the last six years and caused widespread displacement, creating or aggravating humanitarian crises affecting millions of people and hitting economic prospects across the continent.
"'In a majority of cases, paradoxically, state action appears to be the primary factor finally pushing individuals into violent extremism in Africa,' the new [UN] report, Journey to Extremism, says.
"Of more than 500 former members of militant organisations interviewed for the report, 71% pointed to 'government action', including 'killing of a family member or friend' or 'arrest of a family member or friend' as the incident that prompted them to join a group."

...
"The interviews, conducted over the last three years in west and east Africa, pointed to political and economic marginalisation as key.

"The majority of recruits to violent organisations come from peripheral areas and frontier zones that have suffered generations of marginalisation, the report says."

...
"The most common emotion when joining was 'hope/excitement', followed closely by 'anger', 'vengeance' and 'fear'.

"Those who join extremist groups tend to have lower levels of religious or formal education and less understanding of the meaning of religious texts, [UN report lead researcher Mohamed] Yahya said.
"Although more than half of the respondents cited religion as a reason for joining an extremist group, 57% also admitted understanding little to nothing of the religious texts or interpretations, or not reading religious texts at all."

...
"Many analysts and policymakers have blamed religious education for the spread of violent extremism. Yahya and his team found, however, that receiving at least six years of religious schooling reduced the likelihood of joining an extremist group by as much as 32%.

"The idea that their 'religion is under threat' was found to be a common perspective among many respondents.
"'The success of the ideology is that it gives the individual a chance to fight back against their conditions, which are portrayed as due to the government or some global conspiracy,' Yahya said."



MARTHA NUSSBAUM – MORAL PHILOSOPHER, PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL

September 6, 2017


"[Philosopher Martha Nussbaum] argued that certain moral truths are best expressed in the form of a story. We become merciful, she wrote, when we behave as the 'concerned reader of a novel,' understanding each person’s life as a 'complex narrative of human effort in a world full of obstacles.'"
...
"Unlike many philosophers, Nussbaum is an elegant and lyrical writer, and she movingly describes the pain of recognizing one’s vulnerability, a precondition, she believes, for an ethical life. 'To be a good human being,' she has said, 'is to have a kind of openness to the world, the ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control that can lead you to be shattered.' She searches for a 'non-denying style of writing,' a way to describe emotional experiences without wringing the feeling from them. She disapproves of the conventional style of philosophical prose, which she describes as 'scientific, abstract, hygienically pallid,' and disengaged with the problems of its time. Like Narcissus, she says, philosophy falls in love with its own image and drowns."
...
"Nussbaum once wrote, citing Nietzsche, that 'when a philosopher harps very insistently on a theme, that shows us that there is a danger that something else is about to ‘play the master’': something personal is driving the preoccupation."
...
"Nussbaum went on to extend the work of John Rawls, who developed the most influential contemporary version of the social-contract theory: the idea that rational citizens agree to govern themselves, because they recognize that everyone’s needs are met more effectively through co√∂peration. ... For a society to remain stable and committed to democratic principles, she argued, it needs more than detached moral principles: it has to cultivate certain emotions and teach people to enter empathetically into others’ lives. She believes that the humanities are not just important to a healthy democratic society but decisive, shaping its fate."
...
"Anger is an emotion that she now rarely experiences. She invariably remains friends with former lovers, a fact that Sunstein, Sen, and Alan Nussbaum wholeheartedly affirmed. In her new book, 'Anger and Forgiveness,' which was published last month, Nussbaum argues against the idea, dear to therapists and some feminists, that 'people (and women especially) owe it to their self-respect to own, nourish, and publicly proclaim their anger.' It is a 'magical fantasy,' a bit of 'metaphysical nonsense,' she writes, to assume that anger will restore what was damaged. She believes that embedded in the emotion is the irrational wish that 'things will be made right if I inflict suffering.' She writes that even leaders of movements for revolutionary justice should avoid the emotion and move on to 'saner thoughts of personal and social welfare.'"
...
"We began talking about a chapter that she intended to write for her book on aging, on the idea of looking back at one’s life and turning it into a narrative. 'Did you stand for something, or didn’t you?' she said. She said that she had always admired the final words of John Stuart Mill, who reportedly said, 'I have done my work.' She has quoted these words in a number of interviews and papers, offering them as the mark of a life well lived. ... She said, 'If I found that I was going to die in the next hour, I would not say that I had done my work. If you have a good life, you typically always feel that there’s something that you want to do next.' ... 'I think last words are silly,' she said. 'Probably the best thing to do with your last words is to say goodbye to the people you love and not to talk about yourself.'"



U.S. WORKING CLASS HISTORY

September 6, 2017


"Working-class history is often about heroics and radicalism and solidarity at the plant gate and the union hall. But those bright stories should not distract us from the other side: the dark, hard, claustrophobic, insular, racist, angry, fearful, even bitter, social burn of a group of people who have little standing in American civic life."
...
"While the working class is a fractured multicultural mosaic, white guys remain its most volatile and angry part, even if, objectively, they have a lot less to worry about than working-class women and minorities do. We know, for instance, that those white men are less optimistic about their lives than are minorities, that their longevity is literally decreasing, and that their occupational mainstays are dwindling. They have fallen from grace. And they are explosive."
...
"What’s interesting about Trump is that he won, not that his strain of politics is new. It’s always been around. Let’s not go wild trying to figure out what happened: The crazy train of American history happened. The lineage that winds from Andrew Jackson to Tom Watson to Joe McCarthy to George Wallace to Pat Buchanan to Trump is not just 'conservative,' nor is it just 'working class' in any way an intellectually driven conservative or Marxist or liberal would recognize or celebrate. The conservative/liberal divide is a deeply tenuous construct. Looking for a populist savior, however, is bedrock Americana. ... [America] is a messy stew of populist, communitarian, reactionary, progressive, racist, patriarchal, and nativist ingredients. Any historical era has its own mix of these elements, which play in different ways."

March 6, 2017

A Letter To America From An African



"Dear America,

"[L]ast year’s hostile presidential campaign and election unmasked you and laid you bare. The veil of democracy that has always shrouded your ways and protected you from scrutiny came off. The mystery of a matrix of constitution, law and order that made you divine was violated. Your power, benevolence and beauty, which have been the focus of our envy and desire, have been tainted.

"America, for long we worshipped at your altar. You became the mirror through which we viewed and judged neighbours, friends, foes, and ourselves. You my friend were infallible. We wanted to be like you."
~
"For long, we believed that the principles of democracy and a free society were tightly cemented in the hearts and minds of every American. We envied your ethos for individual rights, regardless of an individual’s race, religion or sexual orientation. We thought yours was the perfect egalitarian and equitable society where all can aspire to and achieve the ‘American dream’. That perfection pedestal, upon which we had placed you, is quickly crumbling. You have exposed your nakedness for the world to see. In your effort to make ‘America Great Again’, you may have replaced us as the laughing stock and pity pet of the world."
~
"America, you have demystified yourself. You have sprawled naked – exposed for the world to see. You no longer confuse or confound us. You have stripped naked and revealed all your flaws.... We can now see that you are no better than the rest of us, and in some instances, may be worse off."
~
"[R]emember all the Western media reports about tribal clashes, xenophobia, dictatorship, corruption, military coup d’√©tats, poverty, disease and hunger in Africa? I never knew I would live to see the day when all this would be said, in some way, of AMERICA! You have proved that at heart we are all the same – good and bad. You have shown the world that Africa does not hold the patent for ‘ugly’.

"As Africans, we have noticed some striking similarities in the character of the man Donald J. Trump and his rise to power to that of some of our past and present strongmen, dictators and tyrants - the ones you condemn and castigate."
~
"It is my earnest hope that Mr. Trump will not follow this lead. I also hope that his actions will not trigger a global epidemic of ill will and disdain for the U.S. or lead to a violent international incident.

"I wish you all the best as you try to settle into your new role.

"Yours truly,

"An African"

February 24, 2017

HALF PRICE! - Circumcision and Coffee in Uganda



KINDLE PRICE REDUCED! To celebrate the upcoming official launch in East Africa of my new book Circumcision and Coffee in Uganda my publisher has reduced the Amazon Kindle eBook price for everyone to US$9.99. That's 50% off the original Kindle price beginning now and throughout the month of March 2017. Thank you for your support of this book, a tribute to a great people. All book sale proceeds go to assist needy youth in Uganda.

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

February 13, 2017

White, Christian Trump Supporters - Let's Talk



"You say you are aggrieved because you have not achieved what you think you deserve or you think some less deserving other has taken it. Despite having moved into the middle class, I have spent my career teaching about and advocating for labor unions, a living wage, affordable childcare, social security, affordable healthcare, accessible higher education. Progressives are actually the ones who support the economic programs and policies that could make a difference for the working class.


"You have a right to be aggrieved, but I fear you are targeting the wrong people. Low paying jobs, job insecurity, companies moving work overseas, low benefits, little vacation ― these are the results of decades of policies that benefit the truly wealthy ― those whose wealth depends not on the labor of their hands but on their ability to exploit the production of poorly paid laborers. The problem is not that immigrants have taken your jobs or drained money from the safety net. The problem is that the system of wealth sets workers against one another so they do not target the real economic power that limits their work and financial security."

Trump won mainly due to the margin Rust Belt Whites gave him because they were angry. Angry because there are fewer employment opportunities where they live; because they felt like second class citizens; because they believe they deserve the lion's share of the wealth and opportunity the country has to offer; because they believe it is they and the politicians they elect who should say if non-Whites should get any of the pie and, if so, how much. Shut up! Now you know how Blacks, Latinos, and other non-whites have lived and felt for decades - marginalized, underemployed, living in the shadows of wealth all around them. Don't like it, huh? Too bad! It is the American corporations that sent your jobs overseas, not because the Liberals in the White House and Congress forced them to but because it meant more profits for those corporations and their stock holders.

African Americans and Latinos who voted for Trump: Do you really believe Trump is going to give you more equality and access to wealth and power than have the Democrats? Read below my post entitled "Doomed?" on Trump and Bannon's vision for our country and a world dominated by White, Western civilization. In this new world they are working toward you will not be sitting as equals among the wealthy and powerful on the bus. You will return to the rear and be forced to take the crumbs they may or may not brush your way.

All of us in the US want a better, fairer chance at achieving the American Dream. Resist the Trump regime to the best of your ability and vote the Republicans out in 2018!


US Secretary of Public Education Destruction

Betsy DeVos
US Secretary of Education

Betsy DeVos is Secretary of Education. What!? I believe and accept it. But I don't like it and will do what I can to resist her actions to dismantle and drain the swamp at the US Department of Education. Here's what DOE (ED) does, from its official website:

Overview and Mission Statement

ED's mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.

ED was created in 1980 by combining offices from several federal agencies. ED's 4,400 employees and $68 billion budget are dedicated to:

  • Establishing policies on federal financial aid for education, and distributing as well as monitoring those funds.
  • Collecting data on America's schools and disseminating research.
  • Focusing national attention on key educational issues.
  • Prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education.

"Ignoramus" - "A totally ignorant person—unknowledgeable, uneducated, or uninformed; a fool." In terms of her qualifications to lead this department, the one that oversees education across our nation, she is "totally ignorant", "uneducated", and "uninformed". As for being a "fool" that applies to more than her. Being utterly unqualified she nevertheless accepted the post. Only a fool would do that. The bigger fools are the person who nominated her and those in the Senate who voted to approve her. Utter fools!

How is she going to lead this department's effort to "promote preparation for global competitiveness" by dismantling it and sending all authority over education to the states and local communities, where home schooling, creationism as equivalent evolutionary biology, and charter school segregation can expand?

Do you think US students are weak now compared to other countries in their knowledge of science, math, history, geography, and critical thinking? Wait until our children's education goes totally local and our kids graduate and lay some "creation science" and "alternative facts" on them at international professional conferences. Boy, that sure will demonstrate we are globally competitive, won't it!? That is, if our locally-schooled attendees know enough about international geography to find their way to the meeting in the first place.

Me? Just a whiny, snowflake liberal elitist who is intolerant of alternative facts and other points of view - attended public schools throughout, BA, MS, PHD; Peace Corps Volunteer science teacher 1980-83; school board chairman, Lincoln Community School, Accra, Ghana 1988-89.

No, don't even start. Every time I stop at a yard sale here in Fayette County, Georgia and go through the home school science books being sold, every one of them is creation science published at Bob Jones University. And no, charter schools are not better for most families, especially not for poor families who can't afford them; improving public schools is.

Yes, I'm very unhappy about what the president is doing. His picks for Justice, State, Health, and Housing and Urban Development were bad enough. But to me, a lover of knowledge and education, the choice and confirmation of DeVos was the absolute worst.
Join this patriot and many others who love our already great country and who don't support what is being done to it and its institutions, including the Department of Education. Resist and prepare for the November 6, 2018 election!