Minorities in the EU, where do we go from here?

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It has been a while since my last post, which is unfortunate but necessary. This year I hope to go back to be active again, sharing thoughts, interchanging ideas and simply trying to see the world in a better light.

As a fan of debates and roundtables about sociocultural issues, I came across this talk presented below that, in my opinion, should be shared, discussed and be a source of motivation. The subject, as usual in the last few years, is how to deal with minorities in the EU. This particular talk occurs in a synagogue so, of course, the tendency is towards anti-semitism and Israel, though also skillfully illustrating and debating much more than that (Islam and European status quo confusion…). Chapeau!, Mr. Maajid Nawaz, for voicing reason while having faith.

Trispectivism as perceived by Roland Barthes, in Mythologies

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“How is a myth received? We must here once more come back to the duplicity of its signifier, which is at once meaning and form. I can produce three different types of reading by focusing on the one, or the other, or both at the same time.

 

  1. If I focus on an empty signifier, I let the concept fill the form of the myth without ambiguity, and I find myself before a simple system, where the signification becomes literal again: the Negro who salutes is an example of French imperiality, he is a symbol for it. This type of focusing is, for instance, that of the producer of myths, of the journalist who starts with a concept and seeks a form for it.
  2. If I focus on a full signifier, in which I clearly distinguish the meaning and the form, and consequently the distortion which the one imposes on the other, I undo the signification of the myth, and I receive the latter as an imposture: the saluting Negro becomes the alibi of French imperiality. This type of focusing is that of the mythologist: he deciphers the myth, he understands a distortion.
  3. Finally, if I focus on the mythical signifier as on an inextricable whole made of meaning and form, I receive an ambiguous signification: I respond to the constituting mechanism of myth, to its own dynamics, I become a reader of myths. The saluting Negro is no longer an example or a symbol, still less an alibi: he is the very presence of French imperiality.

The first two types of focusing are static, analytical; they destroy the myth, either by making its intention obvious, or by unmasking it: the former is cynical, the latter demystifying. The third type of focusing is dynamic, it consumes the myth according to the very ends built into its structure: the reader lives the myth as a story at once true and unreal.”

[Taken from Roland Barthes, Mythologies, Selected and translated from French by Annette Lavers, The Noonday Press – NY, Farrar, Straus & Giroux  p. 127.]

When Was the Last Time You Listened to Real Music?!

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Sometimes the most inspirational epiphanies arrive from the most unexpected places. Recently I had the pleasure to experience one of those feelings.

music069For some time now, I found myself less and less enjoying to simply listening to music. I still think it is inspirational at times, some music can, still, drive me to tears but I don´t find any pleasure in simply having it around me constantly (except specific moments). Well, to be honest, up until recently, I never actually stopped to seriously think why I feel this way, unattached by music. Then on a train ride where I finally got the chance to start the next book on my list, I came across this next phrase:

¿Os gusta la música?

Le mentí. Acostumbrado a los infinitos rumores de la mar, no concibo otra música que no sea la de las olas. Ade­más, la verdad, no estaba yo para muchas músicas. Y dila­tar la tarea para la que había sido llamado, me parecía, en verdad, un fraude. Pero como debe hacerse en tales ocasio­nes, disimulé y le contesté de esta manera:

-Mucho, señora. La música eleva los espíritus y consue­la de las aflicciones.” (from En el último azul, Carme Riera).

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Briefly, it says that after being asked if he likes music, the Captain felt he had to lie, saying that yes, the music lifts the spirits and sooth afflictions. However, his main and truer claim is that music seems to him as a fraud, for he was accustomed to the “infinite murmurs of the sea” where he could not conceive man made music but the one of the waves.

For so long I simply thought that people were right telling me (after realizing my stand about music, of course exaggeratively) that I was emotionless, unable to feel the intensity of a Leonard Cohen’s song, of a Rhapsody melody, or a shake with Shakira (I actually enjoy that part). “You are a robot! – some said – I feel bad for you.”

But no, I used to love music, listening to it all the time, as a teenager in high volume and later, while growing up, somewhat more constrained. I listened to all types of music having my periods of modern Greek style depressive songs, to Rock, and during other periods the Classics and New Age. I listened to music constantly, until my travels. And then, music began to fade, songs became a cultural experience, another form that construct one´s identity. Sounds and tones simply lost their power after experiencing the pleasure of listening to the jungle´s heartbeat. Music became a fraud, a mere imitation of howler-monkey-the true power of nature. I found my connection with nature through the eternal song of life, in the form of animals (what instrument can travel 3km inside a dense jungle like the cry of a howler monkey?); of a summer storm (what greater emotion can a drum give next to a series of thunders or even the break of a pacific 5m wave some footsteps away from you?). Music became a fraud, a simple man-made artifact to incite in us a safe imitation of those intense emotional states as they appear in nature.

It has been many years since the industrious mind of man’s imitations was clear to me. Lipstick for an aroused woman, high-heels for a better physical posture, tailored broad shouldered suit for a more distinguished male look. Perfumes are a billion dollar industry today, simply to imitate the smell of a young, fresh pheromone of a desired girl, or to enhance the masculinity of a village-born man with his wild nature. So much money is invested in finding a formula that will reproduce natural phenomenas, the mimetic existence we call real life.

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We worked so hard to run away from nature into comfort, great technology. But are we really that far away from it as some will say? It seems that the more we want to distinguish ourselves from nature, the more we look for it with artificial creation.

So, next time, a person next to you is not thrilled from the music around, from colored faces and Armani suits, don’t scorn his “inability” to feel the music but instead, we can appreciate the capability to simply be truthful to the origin, to the source, constantly and only overwhelmed by the eternal song of Gaia.

music-tree

My TEDx Paradox!

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TED Talks is one of the innovative inventions in last twenty manage to enter the top entrepreneurial mission one can define as success. It is the essence of what good Internet use is all about. Briefly said, it is sharing good and creative ideas while inspiring and promoting the feeling of joy for the progress of men and women. That being said, no great invention can, and should, exist without some criticism. I personally heard comments that had implied the conferences as elitists, others that say it´s a waste of time of serious men and women, scientists and person of culture, and some speakers even complained about censuring their talks. Taking into account this criticism, one cannot argue with the hundreds of thousands of view for every recently-uploaded Talk or with the smile and awe most people immediately get when discussing the last TED Talk.

1656319_10205408741838721_1313697782321493374_nSo, to celebrate the release of my TEDx Talk video I thought of scribing some words about this memorable and wonderful experience. As it seems, about three months ago I had the chance to participate in a TEDx event. I was one of eight speakers, all of us excited and nervous, no matter what was our background and experiences we lived.

The title of my talk is Trip to Awareness and New Trispective about Life. In it I shared experiences, as well as wonderful, exuberance, life filling events that made my life rich and interesting. Many adventures, of the kind that for years were left unspoken, were revealed on this TEDx stage, mentioning some travels I did and the subsequent thoughts I had. As it seems, after many travels and adventures in different countries experiencing and learning about cultures, languages and some of the similar preoccupations we share, I might have managed to reach few exciting conclusions. The Talk was an exciting event, and although I was asked for more journey anecdotes as well as experiences I acquired, I think I succeeded inserting some of the mindful conclusions I had and the unique and pragmatic theory about life (some of which can be found in my books).

I did not say it during the Talk but without any doubt, it is inspired from a book I published in 2012 called Trispectivism (from which part of the title and this very blog are derived). In it I elaborate the method of thought process that I used to arrive to that theory and, as mentioned, was pondering about the wonderful experiences I had in the many countries I have traveled and lived.

When I think about this TEDx experience, one particular thought comes to mind: The TEDx Paradox. It is the constant effort to balance between what one might see as egocentric blabber and a necessary explanation about oneself. How does one choose wisely what to say about the things he or she did, what is great, what is mediocre and what is common and might seem as over-reacting self consumed person? As an academic, I participate in conferences regularly for the last 5 years but this experience is quite different. Presenting your work in front of experts in the matter that will judge your academic or professional ability turned out to be quite different from presenting yourself in front of a large variety of curious people with different backgrounds that will judge you according to how you present yourself in public.

“Just look above the audience”, was the first of few good advices I received and gladly assimilated. Another one was to engage with the audience, this one I failed to follow. Yet my learning experience was more than those advices and seeing my limitations but also about fear, responsibility and doubts before, and while, the Talk.

But maybe the important conclusion for me is that the Talk initiated one of the most significant contemplation I did in recent years and that is the realization that in spite of my amazing experiences, I began to acknowledge how little I have actually done to make the world a better place. This introspective reasoning rearranged my priorities and now, at the age of 36 it´s time to try and give back no matter how little we might think any contribution one can make.

And to end this, nothing better than the words of TED founder in person:

And to end this, nothing better than the words of TED founder in person:

What do Durkheim, Charlie Hebdo and Trispectivism have in common?

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The reflections of Emile Durkheim, the person considered by many as the father of Sociology, are relevant to the understanding of any modern era social problems. According to his theory, there are some structural effects in society that by acknowledging them, one might be able to organize better. Now, I´m not a sociologist but the resemblance of certain parts of his writings to the universal idea of Trispectivism captured my attention. Well, that and an article someone brought to my attention that blames the Western European societies in the recent clash with some radical Muslims.

Actually, when talking about the Western world and in particular about the differences between the US and countries as France, Denmark and England, the most obvious social issue that is noticeable is with the difficulties with the Other. While the US fights with that omniscient Other abroad, meaning, extrinsic alterity problems, the Europeans have to fight it intrinsically, in their cities and amongst their population.

DurkheimIronically, in the beginning to the middle of the 20th century many thinkers mentioned Durkheim’s theory of the differences between Social Solidarity to predict that the US will collapse from interior conflicts because of the immigrant that were swarming into the neo-promisedland. With a capitalist system and thought, surely the individualism will thrive, separating the different groups into heterogenic groups that eventually will deteriorate the country from within, or that is what they predicted.

As we now know, in the US the immigrant manage to integrate unimaginably better than the EU immigrants. While there are, of course, some racial issues and the streets are rivers of prejudice and a-prioris, the level of hostility and anger is small in relative to the old continent.

So what is the difference? Durkheim divided Social Solidarity into Mechanical Solidarity and Organic Solidarity. The first is collective consciousness in beliefs, work, thinking the same about value, which, as you have might guessed can remind us the Marxist way of thinking. It is when the social forms a unity (as bird flock of fish schools). The Organic solidarity, on the other hand, is more to describe modern societies, that are based on functional interdependence.

Both of the paradigms can be explained with the trispect mindset, after all, in every discussion about society the use of Trispectivism is obvious and even necessary. There is the individual, whether indigenous or immigrant, interacting with the universal (the social sphere, the country), and the change between the configuration of one system and another is the interaction, which is constant and prone to continuous modification. While in the EU there is a kind of emphasis on the social group acting as one (even with the capitalist influence), the Americans give more relevance to the fact that an individual, any individual will want to succeed, thrive, live better and thus will have to develop a will to integrate into the current. Free will and personal effort of integration from the individual in the US has turn out to be incredibly different from the country programs of integration and continuous effort to make it seem as one happy family.

USvsEU

France is a great example of that, today with more than 6 millions of Muslims that making about 14% of the total population, the country is in disarray. Immigrants find themselves as marginal groups unable to comply with the rest of the traditional ties that were assumed by the locals many years back. Thus, instead of integration we see self-segregation, a search for another identity. When in the US one creates an identity within a multiple of other individual identities, in the EU, one creates a sphere within a beating social collectiveness. This is more terrifying than any crazy radical individual on the American ‘higher unity’ of individuals, as Simmel described it.spot1_nov04

There are many other components in this equation, no doubt, state of economic crisis, the fact that the numbers of immigrant augmented immensely in the last 30 years and many more.

So, to reiterate, it seems to me that the problem of assimilation in the EU is BECAUSE of erroneous programs of assimilation of the governments and not the lack of them. The reality is that while the immigrant feels as if the country owes him equal rights, he will most likely do the least possible to attain them (generally speaking of course). While if US makes it clear that rights are not attainable but by proving you are worthy of them, the country thrive on hard working, assimilated new Americans. The interdependence of many individuals is a well established reality that is function better than the ideal of one social collective body.

Why, one might ask, does the sporadic radical Muslim, attacks, act and react mostly in France, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, when other countries, little further in the region, in Africa on in many other places have a much more bloodier history with the Muslim world (not only under the Ottoman Empire). Why is it that Charlie Hebdo and some Jews in a kosher market get to be the target for radical, mal-integrated, group of 2nd generation individuals? Or is it simply a question of media coverage? Who know?

Charlie Hebdo

Are emotions an obstacle for happiness?

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Well, while reading the title one would surely notice the oxymoron or irony of it. Of course happiness is an emotion, and if we eliminate emotions we´ll have no way of knowing if we are happy, certainly not to the usually aspired degree of Happiness. This is some of the contradiction people confront while thinking about rationality and emotions. I mean, if the Aristotelian Eudaimonia is the reason for our actions, then emotions should be the most relevant reason for our actions. This last deduction might frighten any reasonable being because we all know how irrational and terrifying, as well as surprising, emotions can be.

assumptions-rational-choice-theoryThe intuitive manner we live upon can be an obstacle and here is probably where emotions can be somewhat problematic. Today, thousands of empirical and statistical experiments reveal, throughout the world, and with overwhelming conclusions, that in most situations we have no idea what we are doing. For example, we now know beyond any doubt that we are thinking in a heuristic, bias way about everything around us, while believing we are actually being far from bias about anything at all. Fear, love, hate, anxiety, nervousness, so many emotions that dictate the way we think, act, and even how our bodies react to diseases or affect our decision-making abilities. Depressed people cannot manage to estimate clearly success, reasons for different activities. Put a nasty odor in a room and see how people turn to vote more conservative and become less open to change. We, as brainy animals, see and like to share patterns everywhere. We witness them when we think about someone and then see them in the street, when we think we are having a “lucky hand” (usually when we like to taste success) and in countless other occasions.

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On the other hand, who did not feel sorry of acting the way he or she did while being angry (at their partner, parent or even colleagues)? Which one of us don’t aspire to be able to always make the better choice, in business, in love, and all the way to the supermarket? We all saw and loved the movie Life of Pi, right? With so many examples of how it is nicer to simply let our emotions dictate the world around us and not dry calculation and science. But is it really true? Anyway, does ‘true’ really matter?

star-trek-spock1So many of us toy in our head with the idea of being more rational, calculated, pragmatic, but then, remembering Mr. Spock from Star Trek, we dismiss it with horror. Luckily, today, more and more scientific fields are getting together to show a harmonious existence between those two is possible and even very relevant. These new visions about life teach us not to dichotomize or generalize but to know, to understand and eventually to apply it in our lives.

Rationality through emotions! Although it might sound weird to some, it makes perfect sense. Actually, it is both rationality through emotions and vice versa, emotions through rationality. We hear quite a lot about rationality being robotic, mechanic, cold and emotions as warm, individualizing, communal. That is a common mistake for the simple reason that any person with the minor intelligence will never discard the existence of feelings in a person, even the most rational there is. Hence, the simple reality is that it´s irrational not taking emotions into account.

In the next clip there is a co-founder of an interesting center that is dedicated to those questions and more.

Here she speaks about Planning Fallacy:

From the same Center, here´s a checklist of Rationality: http://rationality.org/checklist/ and a recommended reading: http://rationality.org/reading/. Enjoy!

Congratulations for the new born baby!!!

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After long and arduous labor, finally 2015 was born weighing only infinite lb and illimitable oz.

The New Year of 2015 has just been born and as any of her older 2014 sisters, she also feels slightly insecure. There are many things she would like to achieve but the failure of her younger siblings lingers on in her mind. On the other hand, from her first day into this world she already begun to hear glorifications and stories of greatness about some of the older ones, and thus, 2015 now begins to wonder if she will end up like the firsts or the seconds. Even though she already prefers the latter, she doubts if she will ever be good enough to hold the torch and become as great as some once were.

2015 is still a baby, and like all babies she has a mixture of feelings between happiness and bitterness. She would have certainly liked to stay in the warm uterus of ideas and wishful thinking but her 7 billion parents were waiting for her to come. This is how, in a timid and nervous posture, she made her first steps stumbling a little until being able to hold her weight on her own. Her parents, naturally, have endless plans for her, some even say extravagant and unrealistic that most certainly will cause her some future psychological issues. It is amazing how amidst so many parenting advices and guide books, still they can be so irresponsible and immature. This new generation of such demanding parents has lost its path, some will say.

Yet, even in this toddler state, 2015 is already thinking about her path and goals in life. As a daughter in a family of immigrants, she looks forward, towards progress and triumph and with her innocent look, she feels excited to face all of the unknown possibilities and endless opportunities.

So, dear friends, let´s embrace her into our lives with a warm hug and many kisses and let her be herself, discovering the greatness, heroism and merit that is innate within each and every one. She, no doubt, inherited many of our good and bad character yet while recognizing her struggles and encouraging her brilliance and sublimity, she will grow up to be the legend she is already becoming.

HAPPY 2015 EVERYONE!!!

congratulations