becoming invisible

In former times, the worst possible punishment a society could impose on an individual was being sentenced to invisibility. Ayla was thus sentenced by her clan in Jean Marie Auel’s “The clan of the cave bear“. Without the support of the cavemen society, life would normally meet an end for a social being as the Neanderthal were. Our strength lays in social interaction and thus our survival. It is hence no wonder that social isolation afflict us in a special irreflexive way today.

One widespread mode of social isolation is what elderly experience as they pass the age when they are regarded as “customers”. In a capitalist economical system—as well as the communist implementation that history records (E. Fromm), an individual may be regarded as a customer as long as this individual will actively engage in economical activities by exchanging money for services and goods. As long as each of us is seen as a potential customer we do enjoy social awareness and we feel part of the whole. But as soon as we come to fit into the type of individual that is no more seen as a potential customer, society will loose interest on us, up to the point when we will feel socially isolated. It is often for this reason that people reaching their retirement age will feel anxiety and look for workarounds to still feel useful and part of the society.

It is unfortunate and a sign of our shortcomings as a society, that we let our elderly live their life in anxiety. Those people who built the world we are now living on. That created the basement of what things we are today ourselves building. We should be reminded that this fate is waiting for all of us “customers” too, unless we start doing something about it now.

There is an untapped potential in our elderly, waiting for us to channel it. Our mobile and modern lifestyle rendered them away from the traditional family environment, but our technology can bring them back where they always belonged for a very needed role that our children today, as much as ever, long and need in order to grow as whole persons.

third healthy breakfast, first long sleep

Noon, afternoon or evening departure time, I tried them all and the slash of jet lag hits me well into the third night. Early mornings in Japan are fortunately not short of possibilities for the sleepless traveler. Five in the morning the onsen opens for a long morning warming bath and an occasional grooming. A place one can visit in style wearing the hotel emblazoned complimentary pajamas.

At a quarter to seven the Japanese breakfast room is open to a slow moving line of early guests that fill their trays with a healthy, if not conventional to the western eye, assortment of vegetables, cold fish, soup and rice.

Slowly the day grows old and the eyelids heavy in the early afternoon hours. The sugary Japanese coffee, courtesy of a state-of-the-art automatic dispenser won’t help either. My head feels numb, senses dampen. I cannot tell from what direction sounds reach me.

the stone and the rope

visiting an art exposition is an event that often struck something hidden in the back of our minds. Things are shaken that normally lie back dormant in a quiet pool. This time was a paintings exposition by Gabriele Münter in the Lenbachhaus art gallery in Munich.

The progressive theme-sorted display of paintings makes me reckon how much iteration, experimentation and discovery is visible behind those works. Makes me imagine how exciting a life of devotion to art can be, yet surely not exempt of hardships. Or for that matter, a life devoted to writing, or photographing or any creative undertaking.

At some point one ends reflecting on himself. “And how well I fare in this sense?” To come to maybe saddening thoughts. Thoughts of one’s own creativity being crippled by the almost unmovable machinery of industry and corporations. One would wish that one’s life would be like Gabriele’s—a continuous slope of experimentation and learning and of improvement of one’s work and the enhancement of coworkers and the world around. However often one sits on a nimble boat over fetid waters of politics and power-grabbing, a place where creativity would be rather seen as something that could go wrong and topple the statu-quo.

One would have a vision of corporations as rotting in the inside, not visible immediately but crumbling in the long run. We often see this increasing gap in creativity when we do travel from the splash of new ideas in the internet economy with the somber rudeness of corporation processes and tools. Sometimes we ever manage to put some patches but still the core is old and crumbling. Generation changes are too spaced. Fear of failure is deep rooted hence not trying is better than failing. Willing to ignore that failing is the antechamber of success. All for the short term. Now and here. This month, this quarter, just this status report.

“Let’s solve this now, and later we will think of a better solution. “ how often we hear those words. And we know that the truth behind them is that there will never be a later and that we will be again in the same situation in the near future, with only the old yellowing and cracking solution of old at hand. A thin sheet of gloom tell us that the next time we will be in a yet more precarious situation and that the old solution may not be enough this time.

Would be too easy to put all the blame on those who have to take decisions. Even if their own lack of imagination will doom entire teams or divisions, they are only the result of an industrial policy with a deep reformation announced one century ago and well due now. Erich Fromm confirms the common traits of the predicaments of the humanists of the beginning of the nineteenth century:

  • the need to aim the industry for the good of humankind instead of for its own sake,
  • to account for the environment in the industrial exploitation of resources,
  • that solidarity should prevail among people,
  • that the aim of any activity must be oriented to maximize the well-being of humankind,
  • that not maximum consumption but reasonable consumption is desirable
  • and ultimately that the individual needs to feel a contributor to the whole.

These, ring today with ever more remarkable actuality and urgency.

the new lords of the new world

Back in the nineties, unchecked by most, Google and Amazon started to be. At the turn of the century, Facebook and Twitter became the place to hang out for a new generation of people. Those were among the first companies who took the potential of internet and rethought the way we researched information, shop, kept in contact with each other and shared news. And this, on its own, became a breakthrough of innovation that changed the way we lived.

Yet a huge social change was about to occur, that no one would have imagined. Despised by most, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007. Shortly after, Samsung followed suit with Google’s Android OS. A paradigm change happened that expanded like a wildfire over the US and Europe and fueled those very same Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter who moved over their platforms to this new category of personal computers. And the world changed, for ever.

At a point, those internet companies became advertising moguls, the day after they became a political issue. An issue of such size that neither the young and talented Silicon Valley nor the political class in the capitals could even imagine how to tackle. The former because of lack of political knowledge and expertise, the later because of lack of understanding what those platforms were and meant.

Here we are, we people, navigating a world that suddenly blew up in size and complexity. Even if our political class is catching up, we are now living times of wilderness. Millions of people are devoting hours every day working for internet platforms without knowing it. By tagging pictures in Instagram, giving up our business network to LinkedIn, or giving out our most inner thoughts to Google search or our most private conversations to Facebook. We have given so much private information to Google and Facebook that they stopped being interested on harvesting any more of it.

Millions of people are confused with the late affluence of news outlets and lost their judgement about what to read, what is right and what is questionable. And dark agents are operating in social media targeting people one by one to change their perception of the reality.

to be or to have

What do I want? I want to be happy. Fair enough. To be happy I need things. Yet my ultimate purpose is to BE happy and not to HAVE things. So far so good.

To BE happy I need first and foremost a healthy body upon I can live. I can be happy in an unhealthy or mangled body but it is much harder. Thus I need to HAVE the first thing. If I am lucky enough to have been born in a healthy body, now I just need to keep it healthy. And if not, I have to learn to BE with what I got and try to improve it if possible. For all purposes, the body is the first and most important THING I need to BE happy.

To keep a healthy body I need once more to have things. Possibly the most urgent and important, I need to procure my body with good nutrients (not antibiotics-infested meet grown in a farm I do not dare even imagine if I want to keep myself in a state of ignorant bliss-sanity). To procure good nutrients to my body I need to either grow them myself or buy them with money. Hence now I need to HAVE land and/or money. Secondly, I need shelter; a healthy space, dry, illuminated, spacious enough and protected from cold or hot weather. I need a medical insurance. Ultimately, to be able to HAVE all of this, I practically need to HAVE money.

Unless I am born in a rich family, I need to become somebody if I want to be able to HAVE money. I need to become useful to the society and through my usefulness seek a way to acquire money. Hence my task to BE happy is usually surrogated primarily to becoming useful to the society. And here I may get already lost in the way and forget the purpose of the trip.

Now that I have and can keep a healthy body, and if I didn’t get lost on the way, I need to figure out what do I want to do with it that would enable me to BE happy. I need now a purpose. But the purpose would be meaningless if it would only become the act of HAVING things. I need to BECOME someone. And here again I can easily get once more lost. And I haven’t yet started walking my path to happiness.

carts with broken wheels

That our politicians must in the first line protect our workplaces has become an unquestioned matter-of-fact. Even some are so carried away that have taken it as an electoral banner. After a first look it may seem a legitimate expectation, or not.

The images of abated people after a factory is closed down fill us with sorrow. Those images bring to us feelings of hopelessness, and fragility. Not to mention the family stress and consequences that those people will begin to suffer. Any effort aimed towards turning around such situation may seem an imperative and something politicians would have to employ all their resources we put at their hands to achieve.

The closure of factories or mines or offices or any corporation entity is often the result of the inadequacy of that organization to create something the society needs—or it has been made to believe that it needs. As the world changes and evolves, corporations have to reframe their products and services and change too. Some do it right and some do it wrong. To discuss whose fault a closure is leads nowhere and won’t bring the corporation back to life. If they are closing down factories it is probably too late. Focusing our resources on keeping those corporations going, for sake of workplaces, is a hopeless resources sink.

The cost of opportunity is even a larger; a continued sink, a bleeding wound. By focusing on keeping a broken organization running we miss the opportunity to invest our efforts in a new corporation, one that is more suited to our times. And it is likely that in that very same moment, another group of people, city, region, or country will take that opportunity. Out window of opportunity is then gone for ever.

What we may better want to request our politicians is that they create the grounds so that those opportunities can flourish. In this manner we can provide those families soon a new more suitable job. A job that will contribute to create something desirable and not something that only exist because of a subsidy, and that nobody needs. A job to feel proud of.

Effort put on fostering new opportunities would be like pulling a cart downhill, whether keeping something broken running would be pulling it uphill. To keep a constant speed we will have to sink enormous resources and some day, no matter what, it will stop. And every body else will be, by that time, much ahead on the road. By this analogy, we want to ask our politicians to build a road around the hill, as opposite to help us pull the cart uphill.

deception after following a white rabbit

Our times are confusing. Maybe all times were confusing to their contemporaries. Yet we are now, all in a sudden, in a digital society overflown by information. And most of us haven’t had the time to learn to cope with it.

Media illiteracy isn’t a new problem, but it has today become in the form of digital media illiteracy too large of a problem. So large as to endanger the stability of our society as we know it.

“The recent proliferation of fake news is undoubtedly a matter of concern. Not that it never existed before […] But it’s arguably spreading at an unprecedented level because of digital media and their potential to access and spread information relatively easily.”

Gianfranco Polizzi

We people have become more isolated and at the same time more connected through the digital world. We learned from our parents, teachers, and friends how to navigate the world, but we haven’t yet learned how to navigate the digital world. The cities, streets, constitutions, institutions, laws, and regulations we all have come to understand and live with, do not exist yet in the digital world.

This combination of isolation from the real world, digital media illiteracy and lack of understanding of the workings of the digital world leave us all exposed to confusion.

We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads

Zeynep Tufekci

We are losing trust in our institutions. In our politicians. In one side, they also struggle to take the right decisions in an ever more complex world, with ever less sovereignty at expenses of giant corporations and overwhelming markets. In the other side conspiracy theories find fertile earth and unlimited potential for spreading in the digital media landscape like wildfires.

Ballots’ results are shocking, people take ever growing radical stances. And in this manner we approach, day by day the point when we will turn our society into an unmanageable anarchy. An anarchy made of frightened, confused, and isolated people. A return to a middle age of castles and citadels. Servants and tyrants.

Every one of us who is today losing trust, and becoming confused, thus falling in a rabbit hole may want to ponder who is reaping benefit of this and who is not. It is very likely that the society will not be in the side of the beneficiaries.

“It should be a matter of concern that while 52% preferred the BBC in 2015, only 35% of 12-15s in 2016 reported relying on it for accurate and true information about what goes on in the world, and that while 17% relied on Google in 2015, that number reached 30% in 2016.”

Gianfranco Polizzi

Disbelieving BBC to believe Google may be an—out of the 90’s when internet was a promise—romantic thought but the gears of the apparent romanticism of Google and co. aren’t meant or designed to benefit our society but to maximize their profit.

tainted blurr

The sound of two eyes‘ glance. The smell of a shared silence. The velvet hues of speech pitch. The texture of a blurry memory rescued after a passing scent. The disrupting vibration of a moving ethereal soul. The movement of a pixelated picture of lips who speak words that only exist in our imagination. The elegance of a pair of common boots alive with the motion of a piano melody. The music of scarf‘s convolutions around a neck. The dissonance of a film of sweat. The fluidic tension of a stance of curiosity. Fragile humanity searching for a crevasse in a world of steel. A patch of light where to plant seeds of future. A future that runs through oiled channels of polished glass, along the impossible thin line between laminarity and turbulence. In the coldness of absence of light. In the tremor of the void. Energy in a million different manifestations on a dance of ruptured entropic life converging into an ultimate singularity.

Spain is a constitutional monarchy…

…and exercises a parlamentiary system.

In this backdrop, approximately over two million people, a five percent of the whole country’s population, exercised or tried to exercise what they believe to be their right to express their opinion casting a vote in an illegal referendum. Presumably the vast majority of those who voted were aware that the referendum was illegal.

The referendum was certainly illegal under the constitution of Spain. The constitution being the most basic and fundamental set of laws that a country decide to abide by, the numbers above are too large to not cast questions about the inner workings of Spain.

Incidentally, this presumed five percent of population aren’t spread over the whole country but concentrated in a particular region: Catalonia, with its own identity, culture and language. Hence amounting to approximately one third of the population of the region. A region cannot possibly be expected to abide by a constitution if one third of its citizens do not agree with it. In one or another way, it requires urgent political discourse and eventually revision.

Unfortunately the Spanish government has resorted, in a moment of panic, to police brutality and to negate the dialog with the regional government of Catalonia on the basis that the referendum itself was contravening the constitution. Whatever legitimate, reasonable or unreasonable, aspirations those over two million citizens of Catalonia may have to act in violation of the constitution of Spain, the display of police brutality would in no way help deescalate the crisis.

If this situation needs to be solved within the current Spanish state government framework, the elected parlamentaria would have to bring the problem to the parliament, negotiate a solution, and propose legislation to be approved. Yet this would mean to negotiate with the support of only five to six percent of members of the parliament. It will unlikely lead to an agreement that the Catalan populace may see as fair. Hence the progressive escalation of opinions and polarization of the citizenship.

Moving the magnifier backwards to focus on Europe, this is not an isolated case. Often financial reasons are the trigger to separatist movements that have their deep roots in identities, history, and culture. A shift towards a wave of separatism is not the  solution to European countries’ problems, but a move towards homogeneity: To surround ourselves with people we perceive to be like us.

 without conflict, there can be no consensus, and although consensus leads to conflict, conflict also leads to consensus.

Ralf Dahrendorf, Wikipedia

Homogeneity starts with what could be a reasonable and legitimate scale of aspirations, but leads to the negation of all what the free world have achieved in the last centuries. We have a contemporary example of what the negation looks like in its most treminal form: Trump.

The challenge of our society is to see the monster waiting beyond the first green pastures of homogeneity. To demand of our elected representatives action, action now, and action for today’s problems, and not the possibly outdated solutions to past problems. Failing to find a solution to this issue is surrendering sovereignty over to the markets. And in this case the whole society will loose, in the short or in the long term.

20% of German population feels threatened

(Picture: The euro is a wrong design. Part ways with the Euro!)

In short this is what happens now in the German society. Each and every one of those who recently voted for the AfD—a populist party who came from nowhere and became the third political power of Germany—feels in one or another way threatened. In a wide range of strata, from existential fear to loss of buy power, everyone feels the sting of fear and anger.

Many people have temporal jobs and hardly can start families. Others have difficulties to find a decent place to live in the ever more expensive big cities. Some cannot anymore afford a series 5 BMW and have to get along with a series 3 or a series 1 instead. And some yet feel fear that their culture may be lost to the ever-increasing influx of foreigners in the country. Each and everyone would fully agree with, and feel comforted by one of the hundreds of slogans that the AfD has been flooding the streets with. Yet they are, taken as a whole, contradicting and nonsensical. Not to mention that the party would be incapable of ever attempting to govern, may things had gone amiss in these last polls.

This scenario is an ever-growing trend in the first world. The world is complex and the structures of the past will not solve our problems of today, and even less the ones of the future. Our natural reaction to change and novelty is to duck out, look at the past with nostalgia and try to revert to the old good times. But they are gone for good.

Today can not be measured with the tools of yesterday any more. The world has gone past the linearity into the exponential rate of change. We either grow up to this new speed of change or we decay in a fireball of fascism and death.