Furthest Right

Signs of decadence: truth is an offense

Someone slipped up and told the unpopular truth:

Blaming the city authorities of the early 90’s, the former finance minister said that Berlin’s economy had stagnated. West Berlin’s isolation during the Cold War meant that it was never able to replace its business and intellectual elite. On the contrary, skilled workers generally left the city, while drifters and political activists came. “People who wanted to work were replaced by people who wanted to live,” Sarrazin quipped.

He claimed it was a serious problem that “40 percent of births happen in the underclass,” leaving too many of the city’s population not contributing to the economy. “The media is focused on social problems,” he said, “but Turkish homeless shelters won’t drive the city forward.”

“There needs to be a complete change of course in family policy,” Sarrazin said, “away from cash handouts, particularly to the underclass.”

“I would strike a completely different tone and say: Anyone who can do something and strives for something with us is welcome. The rest should go somewhere else,” he told the magazine.

Deutsche Welle

And while these sorts of problems — which are not just economic, but spiritual: we’re running out of constructive people but have lots of critical, resentful, unspecialized drifters — eat away at us like a cancer, instead we have warm fuzzy feelings we trade with each other, as this brave author points out:

[Barack Obama] will be awarded the Nobel Peace prize even though he has just decided to escalate one of the two ineffectual wars he is conducting. He will be awarded the prize only because he is a Democrat, a liberal and a black man who defeated the Republicans and cast George W. Bush out of the White House.

Oslo has provided us with many amusing jokes in recent decades. However, the joke of Obama as peace prize laureate is the funniest of all. It proves the absurdity of the lengths to which the self-righteous European culture of political correctness can go.

Obama’s Washington understands the challenge very well. So do Nicolas Sarkozy’s Paris, Angela Merkel’s Berlin and Gordon Brown’s London. Even Dmitry Medvedev’s Moscow is beginning to understand. But the general public in North America and Europe has not yet internalized what its leaders know.


If you leave it up to people as a whole to decide their future, do you think they’re going to (a) focus on what benefits themselves in the short term or (b) sacrifice the short term and personal for the long-term and collective?

Even this:

When infants 18 months old see an unrelated adult whose hands are full and who needs assistance opening a door or picking up a dropped clothespin, they will immediately help, Michael Tomasello writes in “Why We Cooperate,” a book published in October. Dr. Tomasello, a developmental psychologist, is co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

The helping behavior seems to be innate because it appears so early and before many parents start teaching children the rules of polite behavior.


I think they’re overlooking something vital: for a tendency to be genetic, it means that individuals with that trait survived and bred at a greater rate than those without it.

This means that this seemingly altruistic act by an infant is an act of self-preservation: somehow, it helps them survive, perhaps by convincing others that they are “good.”

This impulse, like our over-eating, our compulsive shopping, our neurotic search for happiness, and our mania for wealth, is an evolutionary urge gone wrong. No longer constrained by its natural context, which “pushes back” and keeps it in check, it becomes a goal in and of itself.

Now the conventional wisdom is the opposite: lots of choice makes people less likely to choose anything, and less happy when they do choose.

The most famous supporting evidence is an experiment conducted by two psychologists, Mark Lepper and Sheena Iyengar. They set up a jam-tasting stall in a posh supermarket in California. Sometimes they offered six varieties of jam, at other times 24; jam tasters were then offered a voucher to buy jam at a discount.

The bigger display attracted more customers but very few of them actually bought jam. The display that offered less choice made many more sales – in fact, only 3 per cent of jam tasters at the 24-flavour stand used their discount voucher, versus 30 per cent at the six-flavour stand. This is an astonishingly strong effect – and utterly counter to mainstream economic theory.

Financial Times

When too many choices exist, the chance of any choice being a real stinker is more likely. If you have two choices, and pick the wrong one, it was either cryptic or chance. If you have 30 and pick the wrong one, you had all those options and blew it, and you’re going to look like an idiot. Pick the safe choice — altruism.

Originally, altruism was a means of survival for the individual, not necessarily the group. Your fellow humans are more likely to save you if you’re altruistic, or feed you, or keep you warm at night. Being nice has its advantages.

The problem is that, much as eating food is good but if it becomes compulsive it is destructive, our altruism has become compulsive. We’re spending too much effort demonstrating goodwill and not enough effort figuring out where it is appropriate to demonstrate goodwill, and where it’s appropriate to say “that’s enough.”

If we want perfect goodwill, after all, we’ll never tell anyone that no, they can’t do something because it has bad consequences. Consequences are a long-term problem; having this person like us because of our goodwill is in the short term, and keeps us out of fights.

What authors Tao Chen, Ajay Kalra, and Baohong Sun found was that people tend to overvalue products that make them happy, they tend to overestimate the likelihood that a product will need repair or replacement, and they are overly thrilled with unexpected price breaks.

Specifically, consumers are more likely to buy extended warranties for pleasurable products (such as videogame controllers) than for more utilitarian products (such as printers), they’re more likely to buy them if they’ve seen a product get lost or need repairs before, and they are more likely to buy them when they get an unexpected price break.

Smart Money

In other words, people overestimate risk and greatly overestimate it for really important things — sort of a worst case scenario. What might be most important? Survival. So when we face social fear, like fear of being proven wrong or mocked in public, we don’t see the small case. We see a huge failure ending in total alienation and death.

This is how bullies work. They gain power over us by making us feel that we’ll be made to look stupid, weak or afraid in public. The bully on the other hand has no such fear that we can see. So we buy them off not because they’re going to necessarily win, but because they’re not as afraid as we are and so they’ve got power over us.

Even more:

In the past decade, the neuroscience of social behaviour has blossomed. A major catalyst for this has been the discovery of what seems to be a physiological mechanism for social interaction, located in the brain’s “mirror neurons”. These have been seen to fire not only as a monkey, say, grabs a peanut, but also when the monkey sees an experimenter do the same thing. Imaging experiments in humans have similarly revealed parts of our brains becoming active when we see someone moving, or even when watching a walker hidden among moving dots. It seems we are not just observers of the social scene but that we automatically share the experiences and emotions of the people we are observing.

This is only half the story, though, as interaction between people extends far beyond this. When I see you in pain, I feel your pain and my face automatically expresses this pain. What’s more, you can see by my expression that I share your pain, and you are comforted by the knowledge someone else shares your pain. You are responding to my response to you.

How can such behaviour be explained in terms of neuroscience? We think that two people performing together in this way are best described as a single, complex system rather than as two systems interacting. We also believe the same kinds of description should be applied generally to the brain activity that occurs when two people interact, because their brains also become a single complex system.

During any kind of social interaction people unconsciously imitate each other, or else show the appropriate complementary action and reaction. When this happens, the parts of the brain that unconsciously respond to the actions of others create a form of resonance. We are not usually aware of this, but when it occurs we feel “on the same wavelength” as the person with whom we are interacting.

New Scientist

The salient part is here:

These have been seen to fire not only as a monkey, say, grabs a peanut, but also when the monkey sees an experimenter do the same thing.

This means that by the nature of how our minds learn, we project ourselves onto the actor in any situation. In particular, this explains why reading fiction is so satisfying: we project ourselves into the scenes and onto the characters. But this introduces a troubling question about our altruism, which can now be seen as not only manipulative, but also, never even involving the other person — except as a figment of our own minds.

Our fear leads to our speech codes because we fear ourselves in others. We are trying to fool other people as if they were ourselves, which is why the most broken and empty people are the worst manipulators. But in a group, this fear may seem to become rational, and then we are manipulating merely to stay out of the way of conflict, and so decisions get made by default: avoidance of reality that could force our neurotic minds to observe and respond to reality itself, not figments of themselves.

Things to think about.

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