The Age of Nonsensical Nonsense and Unfalsifiable Fallacies


I never understood wind.  – Donald J Trump

Wait a minute.  Alternative facts?  Alternative facts are not facts, they are falsehoods! – Chuck Todd, Television Host, “Meet The Press”

That is not only not right; it is not even wrong. – Wolfgang Pauli, Theoretical Physicist

We are living in bizarre times.

In recent history, the last 80-100 years or so, society has made some incredible advancements in the fields of science and medicine.  We have split the atom, escaped gravity and broken the sound barrier.  Everyday at hospitals all over the world we trade our organs for new ones and implant tiny machines inside our bodies to keep them operating long after our ancestors would have simply passed away or lived with chronic annoyances.

We have the technological know how to produce clean energy for billions of people and drive enough agricultural output to feed every human on earth, extend life and maintain the planet.  A journey from one corner of the world to another that used to take several weeks, even months, is now over in a matter of hours.  It seems as though, there is no country or region that is too remote, no physical reality too complex and no disease too mysterious.

Dolly, the first genetic clone of a mammal. “Born” 1996.

I graduated high school in 1991.  Before the internet, biological cloning, electric cars or the construction of the international space station.  Our coat of arms contained a Latin phrase;

Scientia Vincit Omnia – Knowledge Conquers All

Almost 30 years later, it seems to me that the people of my generation, with the help of those that have gone before and are coming after us, have brought humanity to the verge of conquering all that there is to know.

We live in the greatest time is history.

Yet.

Billions live in poverty and die too young for lack of access.  Our climate is changing rapidly and threatening the lives and livelihoods of the most economically vulnerable of our population.  And the president of the United States openly admits that he doesn’t understand wind.

Now to be fair that last bit was said as his way of explaining his views on wind powered electricity but it’s still just strange and indicative of a larger problem.

That larger problem is this.

Modern windmill, according to Donald Trump, probably manufactured in China

We now have the raw knowledge to solve just about all the world’s physical problems, what we lack is the ability to recognize and prioritize their severity and the moral fortitude to humble our own self-interest in the interest of humanity as a whole.  Our political discourse has been reduced to constant bickering over the validity of proven facts.  When we pitch our rhetorical tent on the wrong side of an easily provable position we are not dealing in “alternative facts”, as some have tried to assert, we are dealing in delusion.  When we argue against clean energy because windmills are made in China but pretend it’s because they kill birds, (which is what the president went on to say when he talked about not understanding wind), we are speaking nonsense that is so far from reality and so impossible to prove that it can’t even be proven wrong, as Wolfgang Pauli so famously stated way back in the 1950s.

It’s 2020.  We are standing at the dawn of a new decade with a new generation ready to step on the stage.  My grandparent’s generation defeated fascism and started the world on the path to human rights.  My parent’s generation defeated communism and pushed capitalism and self-determination to the forefront.  My generation invented the internet and brought human understanding of the physical world to unimaginable heights.  It will be the job of this next generation to tackle the moral and ethical questions brought about by the promises made possible by those that have gone before.

The Berlin Wall – The iconic symbol of institutionalize communism came down in 1989 symbolising the end of the cold war and ushering in what George Bush called “a new world order.”

The tools we used to defeat fascists and communist won’t work in this fight.  In fact, they could just as easily backfire.  The tools we used to build physical knowledge won’t work either.  We need a new paradigm, a new way of looking at the world and a new way of talking to one another.

I don’t know what the solution is.  But I think it needs to start with this whole idea of “otherness”.  Us vs Them, we are right therefore they must be wrong, my interests are more important than your interests, everything is a competition, cooperation is weakness; that is the old paradigm.

Donald Trump, his coked out frat boy meets Bond Villain rhetoric aside, tilts at windmills because they are made in China.  China, not wind or clean energy or even a concern for the well being of birds, represent “the other”.  And it’s that sense of otherness that must be conquered.  Mr. Trump’s supporters point to the strength of the U.S. economy as reason enough for him to remain in power.  They are all too prepared to gloss over and ignore his many moral and ethical failings, and the damage he has done to “other people”, even when they would personally crucify anyone else if the results didn’t serve their self-interest.

The age of self-determination; championed by my parent’s generation and which helped fuel the expansion of technology driven by my generation must now come to an end in order to allow true human equity, and economic sustainability to reign.  We must be willing to submit our self-interest for the good of the whole.

Or because now I’m thinking about Latin and my generation invented Google Translate;

Plus Paucorum Necessitatibus Plurimis Necessitatibus

Equality vs equity – Sometimes self sacrifice makes all the difference.

We have all the physical knowledge we need; we cannot allow that knowledge to conquer us.  We must begin to use it to conquer inequality, inequity, bigotry, arrogance and selfish ambition.  Otherwise we are no better that the fascists and communists that came before and the fight will start all over again, this time with better weapons and everything we have gained on the line.

Another Latin phrase comes to mind;

Amor Vincit Omnia – Love Conquers All

We’ve reached the point in human evolution where anything less, is worthless noise.

 

 

Quote of the Day – 1/23/2017


Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin

Another good reminder in the era of Trump.  It won’t be long before many of his supporters are looking back at all of the liberties they sacrificed in the name of security and a rabid drive to “making America great again” and wonder what have we done?

America First was the battle cry of Nazi sympathizers in the 1930s, used to argue against American involvement in WWII.  Now it’s the battle cry of protectionist economics and a war on Islam.  I fear the results will be the same now as they were 70 years ago.

 

 

Saturday Night Live vs Donald Trump


When Humor Isn’t Meant to be Funny

alecbaldwintrumpEver since Alec Baldwin created his Saturday Night Live caricature of Donald Trump and even a bit before that, the late night comedy shows have had a field day making satire out of the political landscape. Of course late night comedy has always gotten laughs through satirical commentary so why should things be any different now? I vaguely remember Dana Carvey’s caricatures of George Bush in the early 90s which rumor has it President Bush himself made it a point to watch so that he could take a moment to laugh at himself.

There is something honestly refreshing about our ability to look at serious issues with a bit of humour. It’s healthy too. Dr. Avner Ziv, chair of the educational sciences department at Tel Aviv University has written extensively on the psychology of humor as an aid to education. His 1984 book “Personality and a Sense of Humor” is his most cited scholarly work on the subject and contains a large section on the purpose of humor in public discourse.

Less serious and self-involved people have held that things might be changed by a less tedious approach – that is, by means of humor. Humor exposes ugly human phenomena (those that render the world almost unbearable) to mockery, in the hope of thereby eliminating them. Man makes a mockery of man. In his efforts at changing and improving mankind, man turns matters he thinks grave into absurdities. He does this sometimes with delicate casualness, sometimes with disrespect, and sometimes with ferocity. The laughter that derives from the perception of absurdity reforms the world. [Avner Ziv – Personality and a Sense of Humor]

For this type of humor to work it must be delivered as broadly as possible. Originally theatre was the means to deliver humorous political commentary today we have the late night comedy show.

thatresatireThe English playwright, Ben Jonson described comedy as an educational instrument its goal is not to make us laugh but to arouse in us a form of moral outrage that leads us to improvement. The French novelist Stendhal concluded that the main aim of comedy is to expose people to mockery. The person who is the object of ridicule may be able to accept a reasoned rebuke without making significant changes, “thanks for the input but that’s just your opinion”, they may say. But that same person may not bear to be laughed at. Just before he died Charlie Chaplin said in an interview that the function of comedy is to sharpen our sensitivities to the perversion of justice.

We are entering a time when politicians seem hyper sensitive to this type of humor. Why, in contrast to former president Bush does Donald Trump refer to Saturday Night Live as “over-rated”, “unfair” and “biased”? Why did a prominent Texas republican senator who once likened president Obama to a Nazi recently say that we need to show more respect to the new president?

Why indeed?

Mockery and satire are the final frontier of political debate. As government becomes more totalitarian descent must become more direct and mean spirited.

Comedy is generally received in a friendly spirit. Satire is not. Its victims fear it as a threat to their power and position. Thus in totalitarian countries satire directed against the ruling powers is banned, and any manifestation of satire earns harsh punishment. [Avner Ziv – Personality and a Sense of Humor]

freespeachWhile most western democracies are a long way from a curtailing freedom of speech it is clear that there is a large contingent of politicians and citizens across the political spectrum who either feel that their only recourse is mockery or that they are being unfairly attacked. As we stand on the threshold of the Trump administration we would all do well to remember that governments do themselves a disservice by prevent or complaining about humor against themselves. Laughter is a safety value for the release of tension and one that should point the ruling party toward what the masses are really thinking. When they ignore it, seek to oppress it or complain too loudly about it they do so at their own peril.

I’m not laughing at any of this political satire anymore. I don’t find it funny in that way, it is very serious and the reaction that Mr. Trump has had to it is downright horrifying. Satire is not meant to illicit laughs it is meant to spark debate in a society where reasoned discourse has been oppressed.  When president Trump consistently complains that his detractors are “over-rated” and “sad” he is doing nothing to advance his agenda or enhance his image, he is fanning the flame. By attempting to discredit his detractors in this way the feelings of hostility will likely continue to increase. As these feelings build up they will create a kind of “pressure cooker” which will explode in time. Without satire and the laughter it invokes this hostility might be demonstrated in far more violent ways.

During the Obama administration we saw the advent of the Occupy Movement, a largely peaceful protest directed at the banks and other large institutional elites. Obama met the concerns of the masses with reasoned discourse and eventually helped temper their fears through the democratic process. I fear that unless the politicians start listening to each other again and learn to laugh at the satirists rather than seek to oppress and discredit them, the next time won’t be so peaceful.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated farming operations, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, has written 3 books on Economics and Christian Ethics and presented his ideas to business owners and ministry leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.