Category Archives: Society

Direction in Life – is there a right one? Can one be better than another?

Hunter-gatherer societies live what we might define as rather unsophisticated lives, which could even be said to be “nasty, brutish and short” seen as murder rates are far higher within such communities. Yet those hunter-gatherer societies which exist today do not think of themselves as backwards, weak and unhappy. Take one tribe in the Amazon as an example. I won’t tell you the tribe’s name because I have no idea of how to spell it. But I can tell you a bit about them nonetheless.

They live in the middle of the Amazon. Each person works on average ten to twenty hours a week hunting/gathering and cooking food. The rest of the time they do whatever they want. They are fiercely proud to belong to their tribe, and although they have opportunities to learn Portuguese and enter Brazilian society they tend to think that the reverse should be a more likely story. They do not write or read. Their language has no numbers, and so they have never count. The language has far fewer words than ours. For example the word for skin, grass, cheek and a couple of other things is all the same. And yet scientific observers report that they smile and laugh far more than anyone in a “civilised society”. Indeed they often told the observer from whom I learnt all of this that if we could, then everyone would want to become a part of their tribe and live the way they do.

And they have some things to teach us as well: how to live sustainable lifestyles in keeping with nature; how to rebalance the equation between work and leisure; and also some more specific things. Their language includes a number of prefixes and suffixes, which inform you not only about what the information is that they have, but also where it came from. For instance imagine that you’re at a meeting and you say product X is worse than product Y. In English someone would have to ask you to elaborate. But in their tribal language you would have to structure the sentence so as to say where you got the information i.e. whether it was an opinion, found out from experience, inferred from something else etc.

So my question to you is basically this: is their life better? Or is ours? If you had the choice which would you choose and why?

Scapegoats in the 21st Century – Politicians?!

In almost every time of struggle, whether that struggle be economic, military, social or spiritual, human nature has shown a remarkable sense of ease in creating scapegoats to discriminate against.

It would not be very controversial to say that in the present crisis immigrants, religious minorities, gypsies, the homeless and the homebound are being discriminated against. But what about others who are overlooked?

For example what about those in the lower class we label “chavs”? What about the rich who we attack for their stranglehold on power? What about bankers, who most likely are the profession most labelled “wankers” in history? And what too about politicians?

If you have political experience on your CV today recruitment advisers tell you to take it off. It doesn’t matter if that’s in organising national campaigns, managing staff etc i.e. things relevant to the job being applied for. Groups who should be only too willing to talk to politicians hang up the phone on them. Employers refuse to give them interviews. And I’m not exaggerating here. A friend of mine was recently told quite specifically by a potential employer that he would never be given an interview while he held a position of political leadership, and no that wasn’t a job in the public sector. People respond with scorn when you say that you’re involved with politics. And the natural assumption is that politicians are, well… evil and corrupt.

What are your thoughts? Are we scapegoating those outside the obvious groups? If so who are we discriminating against? And if not why is it justifiable to treat people in a certain way simply because of their job or leisure time title?

Does blogging have a bright future?

The number of bloggers has risen exponentially over the past two decades, and now for every Russian and Australian person in the world there is also a blogger. But what was once heralded as a way to decentralise the media and break the power control that big firms have is now back in the hands of those who already had the power and money.

So what’s the future of blogging? Will it go much bigger, and eventually become like an online CV for every person? Will it drop in size as people realise the true nature of the industry? Or will it become like any other area, where some people pursue it as a hobby, while some people dedicate more time and try to make it into a business venture?

Are we too future oriented or not enough?

Watch the video above. It presents an interesting view on why certain cultures exist, and why the pace of life varies from place to place. But if it’s right, and you can group people into past, present and future-oriented groups, then it means that we can change a great deal by making people more or less future oriented.

The video implies that future-oriented people are likely to increase economic growth more than those who live in the present. Does this then mean that we should make people more future oriented? Or should we instead realise that future orientation is causing people to say “I sacrifice friends, family and sleep for my success”? Should we encourage more future orientation or less?

A Death Knell for Utopia

Utopian visions have caught the imagination of some of the greatest minds in history, and formed a theme that has been echoed in historic libraries around the world. We have Plato’s Republic, Thomas More’s Utopia, an unparalleled publishing of nearly 100 utopian fantasies between 1875 and 1905, and more recently the publishing of Fukuyama’s ‘The End of History and the Last Man’, in which he says that the future will simply be managing past ideas. Most now agree that ‘the end of history’ reflected no more than a mood at the time. In fact it’s no coincidence that each utopian vision is eventually discredited. A state of universal perfection is a backward concept. It belongs with the absolutes of Newtonian physics; not with society past the teachings of Einstein. What’s perfect to one person is an abomination to another. And what is perfect to someone at age 40 may be an abomination to that same person aged 50.

So in fact there is no such thing as a true Utopia. However there are such things as ideals, and as such the closest we will ever get to utopia is a state of constant reform, adaptation and evolution.

Do you agree? Is the mood today one that will result in a death knell for the continued publishing of utopian visions?

Can we trust people?

Statistically speaking the extent to which we’re able to trust others reflects on our ideological leanings. So the answer to this question may say more about your politics than anything else. But a new study suggests that our modern pre-disposition to trust strangers may result from a change in social norms e.g. urbanisation and increased market behaviour i.e. increased dealings with other people.

The results of this new study, based on more than 2,000 participants from 15 societies across the globe, show that “fair” behaviour during a bargaining game increases the more a society has incorporated market exchange and world religions.

But all this doesn’t say whether or not we should trust strangers, and to what extent, and in which circumstances. So, in your opinion, are humans intrinsically trustworthy or not?

>What makes a great book?

>I read/watched War and Peace recently (I read the first couple of books and then switched to watching the BBC series) and I have to say it really is quite brilliant. The reason I find it so brilliant is that no matter what Tolstoy is writing about he doesn’t get bored or seek to rush on to a more action packed moment. This means of course less sales. But it also means Tolstoy is able to weave a truly epic tale based not on pure fiction and exageration but on normal life. As the title suggests it deals with the lives of Russian aristocrats during the Napoleonic Wars both in peaceful times and in war. It follows a huge number of characters, and its effort to describe all aspects of life, rather than just those that sell more books, mean that he’s able to develop a wonderful character in Pierre. Pierre is a confused philosophical character, who up until reading/watching War and Peace I wasn’t sure if any book could do justice to due to the depth of character inherent in such philosophically minded people.
But pick up the book not knowing of its reputation and you’ll probably put it down through boredom or confusion with all the different names in the first couple of chapters. So what is it that makes a great book? Is it the characters? Is it the writing? Is it just the presence of something new and interesting? Is it the action? What entertains us and makes us buy new books? And how are we able to appreciate books such as War and Peace and at the same time read tabloids and books designed for children?

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