Confusing social perceptions

Why we should not trust our intuition?

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The existence of female intuition and it´s less considerate counterpart male intuition, as well as an all-encompassing universal intuition is mentioned extensively in so many situations. On the contrary to the common popular defense of intuition, I believe it is still an unsolved matter. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a simple definition of intuition is:

A natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence: a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why; something that is known or understood without proof or evidence.

einstein-intuition-1068x660In order to understand it, we can first distinguish the temporality of it with a simple division of three moments: Pre-event, during the event, post-event. The difference might well be that when we feel intuition towards something or someone before it happens, later, theoretically at least, we can either prove or disprove the intuitive assumption; During the event, while it occurs, we feel an intuitive thinking and we can address it in real time, verifying the truthfulness of the sensation; and after the event, when we remember the intuition we had towards the event in question and then assert it to be true or false. For those of us that are interesting in this concept of intuition, I´m sure that you heard it usually in a context where the intuitive sensation was actually asserted to be true and it helped the capable person with a certain situation and/or person.

Let´s try now to evaluate the certainty of that sensation.

Using intuition or our “gut feeling”, as It is commonly referred to, is, according to PsychologyToday, that “we think of intuition as a magical phenomenon—but hunches are formed out of our past experiences and knowledge. So while relying on gut feelings doesn’t always lead to good decisions, it’s not nearly as flighty a tactic as it may sound.”

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Typìcal quote about Intuition, here 

The idea, I believe, is clear, Intuition, as it seems, can be said in the place of or with certain confusion of terms such as Empathy, Spirituality, Instincts, Judgement, Emotional intelligence and many more that have little or nothing to do with it. Hence, in my opinion, intuition, like consciousness, cognitive thinking, Free Will, and many more sensations we share, is usually an abstract feeling that provides comfort and a general sense of control and security in the interaction of a person with the surroundings (whether material or animated form). Meaning, just like when we claim that two events occurring in a relational way are a coincidence, we simply can´t analyze the unimagined amount of information that preceded the coincidence. Like Hana Estroff Marano says, intuition can be the lack of awareness, or knowledge if you wish, evoking the subconscious, whether with an impartial bias or current subconscious estimation of the situation.

Intuition is trispectivism unaware of the circumstance and I do believe many times can actually do more harm than good. For example, the way we treat other people, most of the time our defense system is preventing us from accepting the other (or Other depending on the topic), yes only when we recognize some negative aspects in the person in front of us we take credit in the sake of intuition, all other times it simply fades in the multitude of people and time. We can save that by being aware and conscious about the instinctive mechanism in us and by more thoughtful consideration of any person and situation according to the context. Admittingly, it does require much more work but in the end, I think you will agree: it´s worth it.

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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.

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.

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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!

The death of Esperanto, explained by Trispectivism

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Esperanto used to be (and for brave few still is) the hope for a better, happier society. Born out of the notion that language can be the bridge of cultures, understanding and peace, this language, similar to her older sister, volapuk, was created in order that everyone will be able to communicate with everyone.

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So, why such a positive initiative experienced such a failure?

For that we will have to understand some facts:

– Esperanto was created in 1887 by Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, an ophthalmologist from Białystok, and was based on the initiative to create an international auxiliary language open to all.

– Language is a very complex topic that has branches in all aspects of life. Hence, in linguistics there are many sections and subsections with different specialties that investigate this highly diverse topic. To illustrate some it is enough to mention divisions such as: socio-linguistic, phraseology, phonetics, cultural linguistic, experimental linguistics, diachronic linguistic, translation and a long et cetera.

South-park-esperanto

In order for us to understand language we can use the example of a car, a cell, an ant, a star and pretty much everything that exist. For the sake of simplicity let’s pick a car. When someone drives a car there is a set of road conduct set by humans in a natural way, most of which were later explained and described in a more methodological approach as a set of traffic laws. Meaning, today we say a tree and the linguist can write an entire book about the word explaining how it came to life, why, when and what happened to it since. However, in order for that word to be understood by others, the interlocutor in question needs to have the same set of linguistic notions. Thus, the more culturally and physically in pair he will be to the speaker the more understanding they will have.

Trispectivism says that the individual All cannot exists without the universal All and has to constantly interact with it. Similarly, a word cannot exist by itself but needs to have constant interaction within and towards a language. A word will not be understood without a context (if I meet a friend and tell him “apple” and leave, he will look at me wondering if I´m ok).

Esperanto_melonoThrough the course of its existence, Esperanto experienced moments of great success. People from different countries understood each other while talking about simple material topics. The difficulties began when it needed to rise to the next step, meaning in more variety of conversations. When two people started to talk about abstract issues, the material epistemological understanding was no more, leaving each one to understand the abstract word according to their background. This is when the connection between the individual All and the universal All suffers a breaking point and leaves both parties in their respectful notion of mere definition. In most cases, this situation complicates even more when each one thinks she understood what the other person wanted to say according to her experience or personal notions while in reality it has nothing to do to the notion pronounced by the speaker.

When an Indian person says to a Danish one, let´s eat ‘spicy’, the latter might say yes, but if he does not know the Indian culture, he is in for a long night of pouring water on his burning tongue. And what about the word ‘marriage’ between an American and a Saudi, or even worse, when a Muslim says God, the Christian hears a Judeo-Christian God (which explains why they all say that they have the same God even though everything about what their God says differs completely). Hence, when Esperanto aspired to become international and began to cross borders, the understanding between one and his kin diminished alongside with the effectiveness of the intercommunication.

In short, emotions, as we witness in many occasions, are what bring sense to the language, but it is the person (or persons), that creates the story to contemplate upon.

A story about a woman and a beard

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WurstLately I heard some people calling the Eurovision a freak show, a circus –“What has become of it?”- They utter with a sneer. While it is true that each one of us is entitled to an opinion, only in a perfect world the opinion will be based on real facts, some common logic and lack of hypocrisy. The even more worrying reality is that so call critic was made towards a flesh and blood female, having an anomaly in the form of a beard. Hence, dear Miss Conchita Wurst (with its amusing literal translation Vagina Sausage) was thought of being a bearded woman (if there are some who do not know still, she’s a drag queen). However, all jokes aside, this, in my opinion, is much worse than the reality, for to critic someone for being born one way or another is much more cruel than towards one who chose a certain lifestyle and line of work. Aparently, though there is much difference between the two kinds of bearded ladies, for some, their image can create the same effect.

My love of art revealed an interesting painting to me that can be used as an example for this post.

12. José de Ribera. La mujer barbuda

The Bearded Lady is a painting by the Spanish artist José de Ribera (made in 1631). Ribera spent a long time of his life in Naples, where he saw this woman on two different occasions. The woman is identified by the engraving on the rock (on the right hand side) as Mrs. Magdalena Ventura. However, it seems that Rivera tried to exacerbate and captive the viewer by the shape of the breast (more to the middle of her body) and the fact that she is represented nursing a baby. The engravings say that at the time of the portrait Mrs. Ventura was 52 years old, thus, making the representation a little more unreal. Therefore, by using the breast and the baby to emphasis the feminine nature of Magdalena, Rivera succeeded in making a greater impact on the viewer.

This was Rivera’s way to bring forth a social problem. Civil protection for the disabled or for those suffering some deformities did not exist in the society of the Spanish Golden Age. In fact, Freak shows were for many of years the center of attention and derision for those considered ordinary.

Without going into the philosophical studies on the perspective of the “Other” (work such as Levinas, Foucault etc.), it is interesting to reflect on the way we acknowledge those people. Somewhere in between rejection and fascination we try to capture the malformation mixed with our imagination. This phenomenon was more popular in circuses, but later the same idea was marketed into what was perceived as the human zoos, town fairies and vaudevilles. The common people paid good money to be fascinated by people with rarities and amorphous (bearded lady, bowlegged…), feeling attraction and rejection simultaneously.

The fact of the matter is that “bearded women” are suffering from a complicated medical condition called virilization (or masculinization) that can be developed because of excess of testosterone production or use of anabolic steroids. In girls who are going through puberty or adult women there are more than few causes for such a difficult hormonal imbalance, for example polycystic ovarian syndrome, certain medications or anabolic steroids, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, tumors of the ovaries or adrenal glands that release male hormones. The tumor (one of different gonadal sex cord-stromal tumors) is known as “androblastoma” or “arrhenoblastoma”. One of the most frequent signs that appears as a result of this imbalance is hirsutism which implies hair in women in the so-called androgen – sensitive areas (upper lip, cheeks, chin, around the areola of the breasts, breast, central line of the abdomen, gluteal area and the upper third of the thigh from the inside), places where the hair in women normally do not occur, and represents secondary sexual characteristics of males. Beside hirsutism, women who are suffering from this kind of hormonal imbalance have irregular menstrual periods, their skin changes its’ structure frequently becoming more oily and with acnes. However, signs of virilization in a female depend on the level of testosterone in the body, so in a more difficult condition they can develop deepening of the voice, loss of female fat distribution, male muscle pattern and occasionally enlargement of the clitoris also can occur. For the women that truly suffer this imbalance, this can be a nuisance and uncomfortable from an early age.

Being a drag queen homosexual or a person with any kind of abnormality, there is no sufficient reason for any kind of remark or fear. Both are people with dreams, desires and most certainly a story (and quite a difficult one, I presume). While the more conservative are also the more religious and as a recent study by David Pizarro shows, also the more disgust, they seems to be the last to follow their own rule of love thy neighbor and do not judge other etc. It would probably be better if we look at what’s inside and less on physical decoration (by choice or by birth) and accept some of the diversity that make our world so worthwhile with honesty and love.

All about the money

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In the past few years I’ve been living in Spain, where for the last 4 years you will find a large scale economic crisis. I don’t want to prolong about this unsettling issue (a theme for a future post), now I simply want to reflect about the choices and decision-making that led people abuse the system so badly that left tens if not hundreds of thousands of people penniless.
Here’s an example for I mean. Yesterday I needed to change currency from Euros to pounds, something I have done many times in the past. This time it ended up being not only different but also illuminating (after being humiliating). The thing is that I got ripped off. From all the countries I’ve visited (developing world included), the first to rip me off in exchange shop is in Oxford, UK.
2014-03-29 17.22.11As I was saying, I was looking for a place to exchange money and came across this center shop with many signs that shows the currency rate and written in large letters 0% commission. I entered, said hello, asked if it possible to change from Euros to sterling and gave 100 Euros to the teller. The amount she gave me back was lacking little more than 10 pounds. I told her she made a mistake and she said no. I insisted that there should be ten more pounds (according to the 1.27 written all over). She said that it is the commission. Confused I looked at the sign and pointed on where it was written for blind that there is no commission. Little I knew how wrong I was. In small small prints it said on the bottom to ask about the 13.6% commission. Yes, to “ask” about the commission.
I immediately understood and asked to cancel the exchange. Calmly she said there is no refund, pointing to a little plat sign hidden behind the neighboring teller booth.
To be honest it is the last place I expected to be deceived in such a way (perhaps it is the exact reason why they chose that location). I felt cheated and helpless. So this is how people do business. I asked her why she didn’t say there is such a commission and she said she cannot or she will lose her job. The reply to my next question was interesting, I asked how she can do that if she knows the person will be deceived, and she replied that she doesn’t have the luxury not to work. I have to admit that after all the weird jobs I did, this answer was not surprising yet annoying. So that was self reasoning for daily deceiving people, as if it is either deceiving or drinking alcohol watching in a sinking sofa.
Fortunately for me, I´ve been taking a Mooc class of prof. Dan Ariely from Duke University about Behavior Economics and this was a real life application of the course. Ariely talks about how the Default option actually change our way of dealing and negotiating decisions. Having that in mind I couldn´t forget those small prints saying “Please ask about our 13.6% commission”. I began thinking that if someone asks, the teller will tell him there is no commission (or less, depending on how she looks), and it they simply assume they read well the large letters saying 0% commission (without venturing to the unseen letters), she will charge them without saying anything. I went back to the shop and asked. “well – she said – it is negotiable!”. “This is wrong – I said – who can I contact?”. She gave me an email address.

chequepoint
I have to admit that doing Ariely’s Mooc I learned quite a lot but I never really understood the use of it until yesterday. Ariely talks about it in doing good things (as setting the default to donate organs etc.) but now I understood how it is done to legally cheat, to be dishonest in a way that all you think about in the end of the day is how much money you made. Many people choose to blame Capitalism and free market with that, I wouldn´t go that far; I think it is simply people who decide to fraud and cheat, not the tool.
For any of you who arrive to the UK, beware of this company:
Chequepoint
28 Cornmarket Street, Oxford OX1 3EY

shop in Oxford