Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Grand irony

Perhaps it's surprising that association of economic progress with disillusion is western peculiarity. As a major political and social stream the left and the youth have always been conspicuously ungrateful for the benefits conferred by capitalism not the least of which has been functioning educational system and state institutions that has been instrumental to a conducive environment where they roam, think and live free. I wonder if they notice the irony.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

narrative fallacy

did you see John Kerry's article on Afghan unity government? link below and my thought is:

Politicians have us convinced that their measure is useful by pointing out instances where it proved helpful, not those where it was a waste of time, or, worse, those numerous objectives that were not met inflicted a severe cost on society owing to the highly unempirical nature of their approach. we naturally tend to look for instances that confirm our story and our vision of the world (narrative fallacy). one of those visions deal with the duality of nature - evil and good. this makes it possible for the government to construct stories that would fit our vision of the world and have us get behind it. You take past instances that corroborate your theories and you treat them as evidence. they will brush aside the numbers instances they failed. any fool with the tool can prove what they are looking for, a series of corroborative facts is not necessarily evidence. The government has massive resources to hire researcher to prove whatever they needed to be proven.  the exploitation of our confirmatory bias is then mixed with attempts like this; they will deliberately confuse audience when it suits them, they will be happy to show us their "accomplishment” and frame it as social accomplishment while there is no societal benefit from them having their job done. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

knowledge is overrated

In the last decade and half that I was part of the Afghan media circle I have come to notice that journalists tended to focus not necessarily around the same opinions but frequently around the same framework of analyses. They assign the same importance to the same sets of circumstances and cut reality into the same categories, creating an environment where opinions and analysis are based on each other. The character of the Afghan state was reclaimed a democracy after three decades of roller coaster that took it from democracy to Islamic republic to Islamic emirate. While Afghanistan had traditionally been part of Central Asia with centuries of cultural and linguistic ties it was moved to south Asia overnight, the things the mind can do - heave off an entire country. but the natives did not become conditioned to any of this; as the years passed by this become a game of the elites and far removed from the people. this should already be surprising, people carry on with their lives no matter what others make of them or think of them.  A friend who happened to be a journalist too once asked me what is the news on the street and I gave him the usual run down he readily replied “no, no. not that, the word on the street, the small talks”. he travelled around in taxis and relished a chat with the cabdriver. I later realised that he was up to something. I noticed that very intelligent and informed persons were at no advantage over cabdrivers in their predictions, but there was a crucial difference. Cabdrivers did not believe that they understood as much as learned people—really, they were not the experts and they knew it. Nobody knew anything, but elite thinkers thought that they knew more than the rest because they were elite thinkers, and if you’re a member of the elite, you automatically know more than the non elite. you might think that I am being harsh of the educated but there is a whole lot of literature out there that reveals the relation between power and access on one hand and the monopoly over knowledge; I have first hand experience of western graduates and hillbillies running top organisations or setting agenda from an advisory position. The reason Afghans took the back seat role was because the westerners had access to information or at least sources that packaged information. It is not just knowledge but information that can be of dubious value. It came to my notice that almost everybody was acquainted with current events in their smallest details. hundreds of radio and television stations had been set up with assistance from westerners and sponsored by warlords. The overlap between news was so large that you would get less and less information the more you knew. Yet everyone was so eager to become familiar with every fact that they read every freshly printed document and listened to every radio station as if the great answer was going to be revealed to them in the next bulletin. as a member of the elites and one who worked parallel with the westerners I can confirm that the problem was even worst among the westerners. they spent most of their working day gathering news from mass media and most of the afternoon in networking, euphemism for an event dedicated to information exchange.

Another variation of the same event you can see in the banking and investment industry. after the financial crush of 2008 it should be obvious to us that nobody really knew what was going on but the bankers found away to wrap their information in mathematics. don’t get me wrong the maths were accurate so is much of the information in the media but then why are we fooled.  it is a problem of knowledge and science. My idea is that not only are some scientific results useless in real life, because they underestimate the impact of the highly improbable (or lead us to ignore it), but that many of them may be actually creating false expectations and distorted probabilities. worst of all the scientific method can convincingly explain unforeseen events after its occurrence, boosting our conviction to deal with the world as we did and by using science and information. 

Generalisation is necessary for humans, but it becomes pathological when the category is seen as definitive, preventing people from considering the fuzziness of boundaries, let alone revising their categories. intellectual contagion was the culprit. If you selected one hundred independent-minded journalists capable of seeing factors in isolation from one another, you would get one hundred different opinions. But the process of having these people report in lockstep caused the dimensionality of the opinion set to shrink considerably—they converged on opinions and used the same items as causes. For instance, to depart from Afghanistan for a moment, reporters now refer to “2013 UK chart” assuming that there was something particularly distinct about music, bankers agreed on crazy indicators as explanatory factors of the quality of worthiness of individuals. If you want to see what I mean by the arbitrariness of categories, check the situation of polarized politics. The next time a Martian visits earth, try to explain to him why strong Scottish independence fever is in response to the rise of Euro Scepticism in England, Scotland would rather exit the Union with Celtic and anglo-saxon neighbours and enter one with a few dozen countries which are thousands of miles away;  or while Scottish politician are in favour of more political freedoms they oppose economic freedoms. try explaining that while Obama administration seeks to address factionalism in Iraq by supporting a central government its trying to achieve the same aim at the same time in Syria by fighting against the government. or try riddling the reason Obama administration is planning to remove Syrian president is because he is seen as evil while the administration is allied with Saudi King or Qatari government or Iraqi government which is as evil and corrupt. I noticed the absurdity of categorisation when I was quite young. The best way to prove the arbitrary character of these categories, and the contagion effect they produce, is to remember how frequently these generalisations reverse in history. Libertarians used to be left-wing. Saddam Hussain was american ally. Christian Intellectuals until mid 20 century were anti-Semite while Muslims were Jewish allies. Ukraine was Russian slav brothers. Poland has a two century experience of partition and occupation and now is at the forefront and payroll of American quasi imperial expeditionary wars. Afghan political elites were staunched anti foreign who fought the Soviets and Pakistan for  two decades and now under American thumbs. any student of history can not stop once they start the counts of these ironies. What is interesting to me is that some random event makes one group that initially supports an issue ally itself with another group that supports another issue, thus causing the two items to fuse and unify … until the surprise of separation. Categorising always produces reduction in true complexity. Any reduction of the world around us can have explosive consequences since it rules out some sources of uncertainty; it drives us to a misunderstanding of the fabric of the world. For instance, killing teachers, destroying schools, killing health professionals and destroying hospitals were legitimate targets and pursued  by American Administration in Afghanistan through Islamic radicals for a decade until the same people destroyed a few of your buildings.  

Since I have moved to the UK I have been astonished and bewlidered at how efficiently this country functions. there is no doubt that British people and those in charge of the country are knowedgable but according to my narrative knowledge is useless so what was the secret of the success. until it finally hit me, it was freedom. intelligent people and decision makers do not create prosperity; its efficient systems that create prosperity by nurturing an environment where contradictory opinions shape and struggle against each other and individual and group sets on various courses, some would fail while others would succeed. its this fertile ground for trial and error that is the reason for success. the opposite of intelligent society is not unintelligent society but efficient society. you need the opposite of intelligent society to achieve property. my idea of efficient society was reinforced when I took up for awhile trading futures, forex and other financial commodities. I realised that there is no way to derive profits from traded securities since these instruments have automatically incorporated all the available information. Public information can therefore be useless, particularly to a businessman, since prices can already “include” all such information, and news shared with millions gives you no real advantage. Odds are that one or more of the hundreds of millions of other readers of such information will already have bought the security, thus pushing up the price. I then give up watching Bloomberg and reading Financial Times. I also thought myself mathematics and run technical analysis on the market. this too was useless as i realised the strain of technical trading would wear me down and panic would easily set in when we face losses.markets are efficient not because of scientific tools or perfect information but because of the participant interaction. 

I would like to use this arguement to drive a couple of lessons that we can apply to the current events. I think the election in Afghanistan is a farce, it has no impact on prosperity as a matter of fact it has negative impact on property by causing ethnic agitation and factional confrontation. the salvation of Afghanistan is to stop elections and create an efficient system of governance. the same argument applies to Scottish independence. the question scots should ask is whether the system is working or not and whether they feel nationalistic or not. having a Scottish government led by Scottish politician will have no impact on prosperity. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

What should the EU learn from the situation in Ukraine

Ukraine is another example of EU failure resulting from expansionist policies. As the situation in Kiev increasingly resembles a civil war the EU has failed to take an effective stance. Not only does Russia have a greater stake in Ukraine, it also has more potential for wielding influence. That's not just the 15 billion dollars that Putin has now promised. With its - failed - association agreement, the EU seems to have overlooked this. Russia's partnership with Ukraine is of decisive importance for its geopolitical position in Europe. Russia has legitimate interests in Ukraine that can't be ignored. So it's high time to bury the completely anachronistic conflict between Brussels and Moscow about whose zone of influence Ukraine lies in. The EU must come to an understanding with Russia. By working together, they can perhaps bring their influence to bear in Kiev.

I have always felt that the task the EU has set itself to is too complex to be handled by an organisation. The integration of nation states into a common legal and economic block with citizen rights as the aim of governance is not something anyone has got anything reasonable against. It’s the politics and organisational processes that I object against. The EU has turned into an expansionist institution very similar to imperial powers, as they always do, the EU too has lost discretion and effectiveness. let me highlight what I mean by expansionism, after the fall of communism the EU expanded to the east and south. the accession process was the single most important engine for change in those countries. But once the member state has joined the European Union, The EU has no instrument to see whether the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary still command respect. In some cases it does not; less than three months after joining the EU Croatia created laws to protect alleged war criminals who committed atrocities during the Balkan wars from extradition. And new member states across Central Europe continue to draw fire for segregation and violent attacks against minorities. Amnesty International reported more than 120 beatings, shootings and stabbings over the past four years. When the Croatian soccer player Josip Simunic celebrated his team's victory over Iceland in 2013 with a nationalist slogan from the country's World War II pro-Nazi puppet regime, thousands of fans roared in approval. Hungary hasn't made sufficient progress towards a sustainable correction of its excessive deficit and worsened the situation by making changes to central bank, data protection and judiciary. the new central bank law puts the bank's independence at risk by allowing the president to install a new deputy governor. In none of these circumstances the EU was able to enact sanctions against the member state and it seems to an onlooker that the EU is only effective until members join the club and the club is unable or unwilling to take action against the members while very keen to add new members.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

The most common trap that developmental outreach campaigns run afoul

It is "Professionalism"! let me explain.

Development Organisations, such as INGOs and UN branches as well as government aid agencies, focus the efforts of public relation on producing what they have termed success stories. This misses the simple notion that you ought to build bridges of truthfulness and sincerity. That dreaded term, the public relation, is quite often a way to allocate resources for efforts that responds to expectations while the real object of outreach is to build trustful relation with target audience based on honesty. I am not arguing that we should set out to achieving objective honesty. far from it I believe that is not achievable in development work without the accountability that can only be assumed by democratic national government. I am arguing for intentional honesty, the aim of which is to bridge the divide between beneficiary expectation and development effort. There is overwhelming evidence that shows people are more likely to engage in efforts in the community when the effort speaks to them and when it faces similar obstacles and problems as they do.

We have all heard so many times that we have to approach this issue formally and in a professional manner. This disguise conceals lack of information and understanding but portrays someone who sounds knowledgeable. The most important element of “Public Relation” in my view is for media professionals to understand the issue first before setting out on a media campaign. The notion to summon a professional self is misguided and undermines the most efficient mechanism they have at their disposal which is relating the issue to their own experience and life. We understand the world through personal experience and no pseudoscientific media campaign comes close enough to a good substitute. I often wonder if professionals approach all issues in this manner. Can you imagine these people going home and talking with their children “children tonight for dinner and entertainment we are having a workshop, where we intend to reinforce our family values, create an environment where our sisters feel safe. The way we are going to do is by drawing. Lets draw pictures of how we see our family. What’s that Ivan, do you want some milk, that is great, go ahead and draw some milk. As a matter of fact lets all draw a supper for us. Then we sit and think about how we would eat it. Did you all like your supper?”

Much of the work about media outreach in the development context is generated by expatriates who work and live in far and wild places for a year or two where they live in a bubble inside which they enjoy amenities not available to locals. This means they don’t get to have the authentic experience of life but yet they are considered experts by fiat of just in the geographical location. expatriate professional does not understand the underpinnings and their experience is mostly literal. Much like my experience the other day in the pub. I ordered a beer and the waitress said “do you want anything else, love” and I said “oh! we're doing that, you look exquisite and nice but I am married” she looked stunned and had no idea what I was talking about, you can't even order a beer if you take people literally. I later found out that love in British doesn’t mean what I thought it meant. It’s a way of insulting people who are not doing as good as they think they are. I learned this after I picked tennis for awhile, if its 30 love then it’s not good.

Development agencies are like corporations from the  80s they have not benefited at all from the astonishing headways in the field of psychology that explains human behaviour and creativity. A more effective way of engaging the populous through media effort is by understanding how local staff relate to the organisation and how the beneficiaries value development issues. With the invent of digital media and recent advances in social media and telephony this is easier than ever before. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Against the pedant retailer of good

*Bad is better than good* not because of it's nature but because it still has a right to be good. 
Bad has parts of or more integrity, Good often arrives through the Evil Avenue but bad is always at his own expense. 
"what is wrong for one is bad for another," exhorted the degenerate. Easy. It's just for laughs. One should not be too much in the right if one wishes to have the laughers on one's own side; a grain of wrong pertains even to good taste.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Is the far right in Europe a matter of concern?

The European response to the financial crisis has produced a conglomerate of far right parties across Europe that makes the Tea Party look like a benign movement. The far right has wielded great power over European society and is on the way to rise, the example of which is the far-right Front National victory in the local by-elections in the town of Brignoles in southern France. The European Parliamentary elections is set to take place in May 2014 and you don't have to be a genius to expect a big boost for the right-wing populism.

The far right parties such as the FPÖ in Austria, UKIP in the UK, Golden Dome in Greece, FN in France and also to a certain extent 'Alternative für Deutschland' can reach behind their traditional base of disenfranchised white groups into traditionally labour and conservative working and middle class. The reason is that they have become more flexible, overcome a certain cultural guilelessness, and is making use of modern media and methods. While parties in the centre lack clear ideology and appeal to the general public.

The implementation of far right programmes in any Euro zone country will bring about a collapse in the value of the currency, a huge increase in the debt burden and higher import prices. At the same time stopping immigration would destroy numerous industries and services. In order to be effective, both policies presuppose sealing off borders, which would immediately lead to a higher rate of departures, an end to exports, a rise in the cost of living and an explosion in unemployment levels. The repercussion from the economic shock will push these countries toward further national socialism and undermine democracy.

There are two things that can change the far right momentum, the first is the political centre through heroic leadership should bring daring reforms that would cut the budget deficit, stimulate the economy and over the long term cut the national debt to restore market confidence in the financial management of the state. None of this is happening and on the contrary a less responsible fiscal policy under the auspices of national socialism is implement in Europe, link. The second point is directly linked to the first, the political centre can only hash out the lethargy of the far right in a thoroughgoing debate if they do not resort to the strategies common to them. They must forswear deals with the far right, or trying to outbid it with populist gestures. This would merely legitimise the far right. They must be honest about the challenges facing Europe, and the need to embrace globalisation. Their failure to do so is one of the reasons there is so little faith in their leadership.

The ailing of Europe is the policy of accommodation, a perennial reliance solely on innate moderation. There is no virtue in moderation, virtue is in robustness of ideas. The mainstream parties in order to maintain the status quo through moderation has maintained an unsustainable welfare state, a dogmatic idea of European Union, dysfunctional immigration policy and unwillingness to bring radical changes to the declining institutions of the state. Unless they bring key changes in these areas the far right will not be stopped. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mother Language

I want to say schiffahrtselektrizit which is German for seclusion because of language and depressed as a result is Rechtsschutzve, or it should be. I find it ironic that English is a more effective language of communication with my barber who is from Iran (structurally the same mother language). lack of literacy and connections have resulted in fragmentation of Farsi to the extent  that dialects have become so distinct that even regions within the same national border has features that are unique. The Dari I speak is only a practical spoken language with a small group of population, written language too is hermetic and insular. I just did a research and found out that the total number of internet pages and the total number of commercial content (hardcopies of instruction, guide, manual …) in Persian, *a* language of 120 million people, is fewer than Estonian, *the* language of less than 2 million people. It’s reclusive and lonely if your language is Dari and Pashto; when you think about it like that you come to realise the value of mother language and its importance for nurturing confidence and purpose

Monday, October 14, 2013


A young American Scientologist walked up to me on the street, in an attempt to sell me some religion he started “god is gracious” to which I promptly responded “I have seen decapitation of children as young as 14 for pick pocketing in the name of God to teach others by example”. He said they maintain a misguided interpretation of God. Surely we don't reason the same about everything else. We don't say pedophilia is misjudged child affection on the part of an adult. hang on, the church almost says that. We don't reason a shooting rampage is an abuse of the right to bear assault rifles. Wait isn't that how its argued in your country.

Monday, September 30, 2013

I will fix you up real good

I have one day a month that I dread the most and it is the day I receive instructions from a random member of the public or acquaintance. I have done the maths and it comes to an average of 12 per annum which statistically makes it once a month. Here are a few starting points for the instructions: What does the boy want? You can’t  put your chair here. You might want to do this or that? You should not do this or that? What do you mean it is not my business?

Why is the British so ready to instruct? Don’t take it personally, it’s not about you. if you listen carefully you will hear the inside voice which actually says: I feel powerless -  I have little control over my life -  I feel clinically depressed - I am tired of frozen pizza, cheap bear and bad weather.  It is this inside voice if you listen to that explains for the most part the popularity of football and its benign hooliganism as well as the pubs and male aggression.

Complaining is the national hobby. there is a pernicious relation with mutual impact between individual discourse on collective and nationally formed identity on individual. The media daily complaints about how nobody is fixing the climate or how disgusting it is that some dude spent £36k on alcohol in a private party. The individual submersed in this discourse mimics them and go around looking for it in the neighbourhood.  

It is not a big deal and not particular to Britons, people around the world love to complain and more those destitute. There is one thing that makes this in particular and it’s the lack of humility. I blame pop culture, comfortable life, alcohol and television, in that particular order. It is not so much complaining that you should watch out for but arrogance mixed with it, which is really obtrusiveness.

This is the fallout of national socialism in a post industrial society. People want the state to fix things for them consequently the state takes control away from them which in turn frustrate them. Most issues now delegated to the state has traditionally been the domain of individual responsibility, such as looking after the neighbourhood, personal health and family welfare. One has to be careful not to over emphasize the role of the state, after all in democratic Britain there are different forces and counterbalances that will correct a misguided direction of the state.

Obtrusiveness is also the concomitant of a  great British character, eccentricity. The English admire counter cultures, desire quirky approaches, accept the strange, cheer for the underdog and defy the mainstream. It is exactly these characters that give rise to some great British qualities such as tolerance. eccentricity brings you the surrealist, odd, unpretentious and quirky comedy of Milton Jones, Phil Jupiter, Miranda, Alan Davies and the one man institution of Stephen Fry. Ironically eccentricity is self repellent, it alters the mainstream and in the process creates idiosyncrasy. Creating ulterior motives that is revenging on common sense.   This is not so funny and has brought to you rude heckling particular to the English and self-loathing. 

The good news - you need one - 29 days 23 hours and 30 minutes is filled with the joy of dealing with intelligent and pleasant Britons. You just have to brace yourself for that 30 minutes.