The Illusion of Change

 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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19 August 2017 11:09
 

Are we sure we are exacting the changes we seek when we think we are making the changes?  Are the actions taken in an instant delivering the profound effect we’re shooting for or only something realized at a later date?  And, if there is any clarity to be found within the limits of human hindsight, would we have the humility to acknowledge our deficiencies so as not to repeat them?

The dismantling of the Berlin Wall began in 1989 and was one of the most compelling depictions of change in my lifetime.  It certainly felt like it anyway.  And now, looking back, I wonder how much things actually changed in the interim.  Was there anything meaningful in the idea of that change or did we simply change the idea?  I think we like the idea of having an idea then coating it with meaning while very little changes.

That particular page of history serves as an example of the importance of maintaining amicable relations with allies and adversaries.  What if the United States had not assisted Russia in securing their nuclear arsenal?  The monument came down, there was a changing of the flag, but it still remains a huge nuclear power.  The Cold War was won against the Soviets only to have a tepid stalemate with the Russians?  Could the same be said if the tables were turned and the United States nukes were in jeopardy?  Would there be a comparable Nunn-Lugar type Act in which the Russians were allowed access in order to assist? 

Maybe thinking of everything like an illusion that we have no control over allows us to dehumanize people and minimize events into fleeting thoughts in passages of time.  That way nothing is ever real.  And once the siege mentality enters in…civilization begins to crumble.

Maybe that’s the idea.

 
 
Giulio
 
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19 August 2017 13:53
 

Is this really about the Illusion of Purpose? I am not suggesting that regularly seeking to clarify the purpose of our actions is meaningless, but wondering whether at many levels (individually, in relationships, as professional groups, as societies) whether we usually pretend to have a purpose, when we don’t (or at least the labels we give as the purpose to our actions are not much more than labels or fantasies).

 
LadyJane
 
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20 August 2017 06:25
 

I guess I’m wondering if we are actually making the headway we think we are or kidding ourselves by imagining these heroic acts of greatness merely conjured within the confines of human arrogance.  We aim to make improvements and we’ve definitely made great strides.  Without mitigating our delusions we risk impeding the actual progress we intend to achieve.  The constructs we take for granted illustrate the possibility of erecting structures that are both remarkably functional as well as aesthetically pleasing to the eye.  Taking the same approach with social constructs may yield the same result.  Building walls for our future citizens to tear down seems counter productive.  The examination of our time and place requires intellectual humility if we want to reach a deeper understanding.  An honest understanding.  Otherwise we’re doing nothing but spinning and tilting and hurdling through space on a wee pebble while lying to ourselves about what it all means.

 
 
SkepticX
 
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20 August 2017 08:35
 

I think we’re making headway, but it’s much slower than its fits and starts—it’s a wild wave pattern, but the overall pattern is progressing, and hopefully it’s increasing in the progress it makes as well, like it is in science (as we learn more we make more tools that allow us to do better at learning more).

The other side of the equation is about social digressives and who’s currently in power, why and where and all that kinda thing, hence the wild wave pattern. We just have to hope we hit more peaks than valleys I guess. It sucks right now, but at least The Donald and this populist disease that’s spread all over the place (and seems to have run into a wall of resistance even if the effects may be delayed) is being kept in check.

He’s just about down to The Deplorables. The large majority have had enough of him (somehow only realizing relatively recently what terrible human he is), and hopefully most of his voters, now over him, are dealing with educational regret ... though that’s getting pretty optimistic.

If the irrational/undisciplined hatred of Hillary Clinton weren’t so rampant and such ugly sentiments weren’t so easily stoked, it’s hard to imagine how the cartoon president could have happened, but that’s what put the clown in the Oval Office. That election has to be a contender with few challengers for the most defensive in history—the clown was chosen over Clinton, mostly because most humans are very easily manipulated by those with the means and lack of scruples to do so on such a scale.

But we do seem to be getting consistently better over time.

 
 
Jefe
 
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20 August 2017 09:02
 

If you listen to Steven Pinker - ‘Better Angels of our Nature’ - we’re improving globally in many of the measures of well-being. 
Don’t take one down-swing in a particular country as indicative of global change in that regard.  The US is experiencing some ‘growing pains’?
I’m sure the alt-right is only feeling so empowered because T’s platform was based on descrimination and ‘othering’ of what he perceives as ‘bad folks’.
Also don’t mistake the outrage-media’s coverage of these events as more profound than they actually are.  The stories are generating a lot of revenue for the media as a whole, but there really weren’t that many alt-righters gathered in Cville (a few hundred gathered in response to an all-hands call).  And there were only about 100 alt-lighters gathered in boston - so they really are just a loud but tiny minority (and yes, I grant that there are some that didn’t go to cville so there are probably thousands of them still lurking out there - but a comparatively small number).

I don’t think the modern world would allow neo-nazism, neo-facism, or whatnot to gain power and flourish the way it has done in the past - simply because of the globalization of information and the speed at which other countries would be able to notice and respond.

All that being said, we should still remain vigilant and ensure that racists, sexists and other objectionable-ists know that we, the people, won’t put up with that shit.
Make sure that they understand that most sensible people consider their positions foolish and untenable.  Like with do with flat-earthers, big-foot conspirators, and alien-abductees.

 
 
Giulio
 
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31 August 2017 13:11
 

I guess we’ve all seen Hans Rosling’s 200 countries, 200 years, 4 minutes. There is no question QOL is improving.

But what have been the logic, the real purpose, the forces driving this? Has it really been to relieve human suffering? Or has it been something else (combination of capitalism, some form of productivity optimization, relentless march of science and technology) with QOL improvements coming along so far on the whole as an additional benefit.

I ask about real purpose in response to LJ’s question because when things don’t go the way you expect, or it looks like wheels are spinning, often it’s because there has been an illusion of purpose: we thought there was a clear purpose, but on closer inspection there isn’t one, or it wasn’t what we thought it was.

[ Edited: 31 August 2017 13:47 by Giulio]
 
bigredfutbol
 
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bigredfutbol
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01 September 2017 06:44
 
LadyJane - 19 August 2017 11:09 AM

The dismantling of the Berlin Wall began in 1989 and was one of the most compelling depictions of change in my lifetime.  It certainly felt like it anyway.  And now, looking back, I wonder how much things actually changed in the interim.  Was there anything meaningful in the idea of that change or did we simply change the idea?  I think we like the idea of having an idea then coating it with meaning while very little changes.

I don’t want to dismiss your larger question—although I tend to agree with those here like Jefe and Skep who argue that in fits and starts, we are headed in a generally better direction—but as to this point, I’d just mention that my wife grew up in Communist Bulgaria. She would tell you that so much has changed since the regime fell it would be difficult for her to even explain to young people back home what it was like growing up under the old regime. Many basic aspects of society and culture remain, of course, but much of the fundamental texture of the lived experience is completely different.

That said—not all the change has been welcome, and very little of it went the way people might have expected or at least hoped. It’s those dashed expectations, I’d wager, which feed the notion that ‘change’ is an illusion. It doesn’t happen in neat, direct narratives, and it often doesn’t play out in a temporal scale that matches day-to-day experience.

 
 
Skipshot
 
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01 September 2017 17:39
 

What is your definition of “change”, LadyJane?  Some things don’t change, while others do depending on one’s perspective and how closely one views the change.  For example, we still read and value ancient philosophy from people, places, and times far from us because they contain much which does not change, i.e. the human condition.  But technological or social change has recently been quite dramatic, yet did those changes affect the overall human condition?  Probably not.

https://youtu.be/WeVWupFBkA8

 
Hitchens Immortal
 
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Hitchens Immortal
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02 September 2017 06:08
 
Jefe - 20 August 2017 09:02 AM

I don’t think the modern world would allow neo-nazism, neo-facism, or whatnot to gain power and flourish the way it has done in the past - simply because of the globalization of information and the speed at which other countries would be able to notice and respond.

Ya can’t think like that. Complacency, or ‘this fad will fizzle on its own’ cost many millions of people their lives last time. You can say what will and won’t be allowed, but what happens if it does? Doubly so, what happens if it does and the country that declares itself for modern fascism is the one with all the guns? TRIPLY so if the 2nd most well-armed nation is already declared for it.

 
 
LadyJane
 
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02 September 2017 10:19
 
bigredfutbol - 01 September 2017 06:44 AM
LadyJane - 19 August 2017 11:09 AM

The dismantling of the Berlin Wall began in 1989 and was one of the most compelling depictions of change in my lifetime.  It certainly felt like it anyway.  And now, looking back, I wonder how much things actually changed in the interim.  Was there anything meaningful in the idea of that change or did we simply change the idea?  I think we like the idea of having an idea then coating it with meaning while very little changes.

I don’t want to dismiss your larger question—although I tend to agree with those here like Jefe and Skep who argue that in fits and starts, we are headed in a generally better direction—but as to this point, I’d just mention that my wife grew up in Communist Bulgaria. She would tell you that so much has changed since the regime fell it would be difficult for her to even explain to young people back home what it was like growing up under the old regime. Many basic aspects of society and culture remain, of course, but much of the fundamental texture of the lived experience is completely different.

That said—not all the change has been welcome, and very little of it went the way people might have expected or at least hoped. It’s those dashed expectations, I’d wager, which feed the notion that ‘change’ is an illusion. It doesn’t happen in neat, direct narratives, and it often doesn’t play out in a temporal scale that matches day-to-day experience.

The more comfortable the living conditions the more easily we fall into complacency.  And it leads to the notion the changes we make carry more significance than they probably do.  Is what I’m saying.  I understand the comments on this thread regarding improvements made overall.  There’s no denying that fact.  The continuance of that success depends on our willingness to work together and solidify our political shortcomings for the greater good.  When too much emphasis is placed on receiving credit for reaching objectives, instead of celebrating the objectives we reach, it creates enemies of all those who fall through the cracks.  Any desired outcome relies on the limits of our capabilities and any changes, no matter how dramatic, are only temporary.  Regimes come and go and the ideas we stymie will soon rise again.  And remind us to refrain from becoming complacent.  Because things can always get worse.  Without a proper acknowledgment of the human propensity to backslide we hinder our ability to exact the changes we desire while relishing the illusion this creates.

 
 
LadyJane
 
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02 September 2017 10:22
 
Skipshot - 01 September 2017 05:39 PM

What is your definition of “change”, LadyJane?  Some things don’t change, while others do depending on one’s perspective and how closely one views the change.  For example, we still read and value ancient philosophy from people, places, and times far from us because they contain much which does not change, i.e. the human condition.  But technological or social change has recently been quite dramatic, yet did those changes affect the overall human condition?  Probably not.

The definition of change is when something becomes different.  That’s my understanding.  Maybe things don’t change as much as we’re looping.  That is to say they change–then change back.  And we simply revisit the same ordeals we thought we’d already fought and won.  Without nurturing the maintenance of everything we’ve gained over time leaves everyone vulnerable to the consequences of taking things for granted.  Where the only meaningful change, of any real currency, can be found in our pockets.  When you say it depends on perspective and how closely one views the change are you saying that changes are dependent on the acceptance of one’s individual observations?  There’s still an objective component when things change apart from this attribute of the human condition, right?

 
 
LadyJane
 
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02 September 2017 10:28
 
Giulio - 31 August 2017 01:11 PM

I guess we’ve all seen Hans Rosling’s 200 countries, 200 years, 4 minutes. There is no question QOL is improving.

But what have been the logic, the real purpose, the forces driving this? Has it really been to relieve human suffering? Or has it been something else (combination of capitalism, some form of productivity optimization, relentless march of science and technology) with QOL improvements coming along so far on the whole as an additional benefit.

I ask about real purpose in response to LJ’s question because when things don’t go the way you expect, or it looks like wheels are spinning, often it’s because there has been an illusion of purpose: we thought there was a clear purpose, but on closer inspection there isn’t one, or it wasn’t what we thought it was.

That Mr. Rosling is an entertaining fellow.  That presentation depicts a fairly optimistic view and the numbers don’t lie.  Any purpose applied is usually constructed after the fact and the advancing trend in quality of life is likely a byproduct of all the things you mentioned.  Rather than human compassion which is conditional and not necessarily the driving force of any desire for change.  The creative inspiration is slowly being replaced with consideration for only those, at the top of the food chain, who benefit the most.  If there is, in fact, any source of intention on our part to be found.  It takes an honest analysis of the reality of the results in order to learn from our mistakes.  For as long as we remain on this trajectory anyway.

 
 
Giulio
 
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02 September 2017 11:59
 
LadyJane - 02 September 2017 10:28 AM

It takes an honest analysis of the reality of the results in order to learn from our mistakes.  For as long as we remain on this trajectory anyway.

Agreed. And the difficult thing (maybe this is what you’re getting at?) is at the same time we have to believe, otherwise how do we get up in the morning… This is true at several levels of our lives (not just for what’s happening on the world stage).