Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Crisis: Insane Trump, Healthcare, Authoritarianism, Assange, Fascism - On Pessimism

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
3. Why I am pessimistic

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, June 27, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will continue with it, but on the moment I have several problems with my computer, my modem, the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible, and my health.

Since I am still looking at 35 sites every morning what I will do is to list the items I selected as worth reading, but without any of my comments. Today I selected five items, and they are below and link to the originals, but on the moment I have no comments, basically because that takes too much work.

2. Crisis Files

I have been writing on the crisis since September 1, 2008 (Dutch) and with considerably more attention since June 10, 2013 (English).

If you check out the
crisis index you will find that I wrote in over eight years nearly 1600 files, that nearly all consisted of a reference to one or more articles that were partially quoted and mostly commented.

I will continue with that, simply because I think the crisis is a very important social, political and economical event, but meanwhile I have turned 67 and need a little rest,
so what I'll be doing the coming weeks (at least), is selecting 3 to 6 files from the 35
sites I consult every morning to see what's happening in the world of politics and econonomics, and present them, but now without my comments.

Here is today's selection:
1. You’re not crazy: Trump just blamed Obama for the Russian
     attack that Trump says didn’t happen

2. The Secret Healthcare Bill
3. Authoritarianism Is Making a Comeback—Here's the
     Time-Tested Way to Defeat It
4. Julian Assange: Democratic Party is “doomed”
5. Americanism Personified: Why Fascism Has Always Been an
     Inevitable Outcome of the American Project
These are all well worth reading.

3. Why I am pessimistic

Let me first define "pessimism":
Pessimism: Attitude to life or aspects of life to the effect that it makes more sense to expect bad or indifferent than good things.

There are other possible definitions of pessimism, and it is hard to arbitrate between pessimistic and optimistic attitudes, first because these tend to be vague, imprecize and general positions anyway, and second because they seem to depend rather a lot on one's native temperament, and some are born melancholic, and others happy-go-lucky, both with little choice, other than medication.

Even so, two things can be said on the side of pessimism as a practical attitude, after reiterating that one cannot be precize here, and stressing that real melancholia and depression are medical conditions, that are excluded here.

First, in many practical things it is wise not to be overly optimistic about one's chances of success. This both prevents grave disappointments (which can make one very much more pessimistic than the - so to speak - academic pessimism in practical matters recommended here) and counsels to properly investigate one's chances of failure, in order to counter them, and not to enter into prospects that have a small chance of success, especially if the price of failure is large.

This is not always wise, because if one takes action, it usually is better to do it in a committed and fullhearted way. But it is wise when one deliberates about what one can and might desire to do, if one has that freedom - which one does not always have. But then, if one can, the rule of thumb seems: Be pessimistic in your estimates, but optimistic in your acts - deliberate carefully, but do boldly, for you can choose from many, but select and do just one.

And indeed, there are conditions, such as dictatorship and persecution, that one has little choice to resist, whatever the chances of success and the price of failure, unless one wishes to commit suicide or be a conformist, coward and collaborator.

Second, in many theoretical and especially ideological things it is wise not to be too much of a credulous idealist about human beings: Much of the harm men do - and men have done very much harm in history - is based on idealism and founded on faith in rationally incredible doctrines and promises (such as the Millenium, God's blessings in war, or 72 heavenly virgins for eternity, for martyrs of the faith).

In brief: Since the worst things have been done for the noblest sounding reasons, it makes sense to remember that 'men incline much to evil, and little to good', even if that may not be true of all men or women.

Note that pessimism is not (as defined above, which is the sense in which I mean it) melancholia or depression, which are - if serious - medical conditions. Also, I am not so much speaking of moods here, although these are also important, but of intellectual attitudes.

There are many reasons to be quite pessismistic, but the main one is given here (and taken from the Wikipedia

                             World population milestones in billions
Population       1          2         3           4          5          6         7         8         9
Year            1804     1927      1960      1974     1987      1999     2011    2024    2042
Years elapsed  ---        123        33         14        13         12        12      13       18

That is: I was born in 1950, when there were 2 billion people living on earth; at present there are 7 billion persons, and if I manage to reach 74 (in 7 years) I will then find that there will be 4 times as many persons than there were in 1950. (And - of course - if I meanwhile die, the prediction remains precisely the same.)

I got interested in the world's human population and in ecology mostly thanks to two books, which I read respectively in 1970 and in 1972:

The above two links are to Wikipedia, and they are well worth reading. Also, I was - already in the early Seventies - more skeptical about the first than about the second book. (Both were given considerable criticism, especially in the Seventies, but also later.)

In any case, I have been reading about the human population, ecology, the dangers to the envionment, and - a little later - climate change for nearly 50 years now.

Next, here is the graph of the growth in the number of humans:

            Graph of human population from 10,000 BCE to 2000 CE

Since the publication of "The Population Bomb" and "The Limits To Growth", there has been a lot of interest in various aspects of ecology, in terms of books, in terms of studies, and also in the media.

And here is the - gross - effect of more knowledge, more discussions, and more studies, about population-growth:

That is: None whatsoever in the 60 years between 1950 and 2010.

I think that these figures and graphs are excellent grounds for my being - an academic - pessimist.

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