On the Paris Attack

As a dedicated observer of world events, I could not miss the opportunity to read, watch, and experience the recent massacre in Paris. But what should I make out of it? Should I feel hate or compassion? There are many questions that arise and for all those who engage in critical thinking, it is difficult to decide on their position with ease.

Once more, we have to think about who can gain and who is going to lose. But to be able to do this, we also have to understand the situation in a broader sense, not just as a separate event with no connection to current social problems.

Muslims in Europe are far from being a threat in terms of demographic. Economist brought us a chart representing the current percentage of Muslims in each one of the European countries. So there is no need for us to bother with the current immigration or populations, the problem is apparently somewhere else.

One of the common interpretation of Islam in the current culture says that it is not compatible with “our” values and culture. Critics usually claim that it is the Christian values we stand for here in Europe.  But this is extremely problematic, especially when lacking any particular definition of what they mean by these values. If we look at some of the typical manifestations of them, then the whole Europe should be anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, and highly conservative in terms of family, education, among others. But once more, when we actually look at the current value system, we can see that many of these values are long gone. What is the evidence that Muslims would not undergo the same liberal revolution after spending more time in Western Europe? And isn’t it already happening?

When we look at the extremely heterogeneous group of Muslims living in Europe, what do we see? I believe that many of them are cultural Muslims.  People, who are forced or decide to abandon their country, tend to idealize it, and feel even more connected to it than when they lived there. It would be relevant to actually get a real number of church attendees among the Muslims, to be really able to map their activity throughout Europe.

Unlike many self-proclaimed democrats, I believe that people are not illegal in principle, and all boundaries are principally artificial. This means we should work on destroying them by engaging in close dialogue between the cultures, without feeling superior to anyone. After all, we were just lucky to be born exactly where we are. Into a racist and capitalist world, in which we were taught that the white race is the best. Adding another label to immigrant – Muslim or terrorist – will not improve their image, and they are going to lose because of the attack.

But back to my initial question; who will gain? The answer is clear and I would like to invoke the so called P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, which was approved by a US Congress and signed by George W. Bush on 26th of October 2001. Secret agencies, anti-terrorist programs, more police controls and routine checks. Both police and army are going to have its heyday. As well as doom prophets from the extreme right politics, especially Marine Le Pen. And once more, the irrationality of the system will manifest itself by answering murders by even more murders, teaching us to take vengeance instead of trying to understand the core of the problem – our illusion of European supremacy, which we see in our ability to buy and enslave people around the world with our capital.

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On Moral Arguments and Why They (Almost) Never Work

I try to be active in public debate and openly question any given social assumptions, be it in front of my friends, family or students.

But almost every time I try to reason with someone, I fail to convince that person, even if I have won the argument (and I do, believe me!). One of the latest examples would be my exchange of emails with my friend, who claims to be a feminist. It went as follows. As a convinced vegan, I challenged her in her meat and milk consumption, which I ultimately claimed as the same form of oppression of the society, as was before applied to women. I also claimed that my understanding of Veganism is that it continues the struggle, which was started by feminism and other progressive liberal ideologies before. For that reason, I wrote to her, I could not accept that a true feminist would consume meat and dairy products. In her answer, she told me that I was wrong in the assumption that feminism and veganism are the same manifestations of a continuous social struggle. She refused to continue the debate with me, and was apparently offended by my suggestions.

But why did it happen? Did I commit an error in my chain of arguments? Or was it her inability to understand them? The answer to this rather difficult question was already provided by the field of moral psychology. The main problem was that I was not aware of how the moral judgment process is created.

Untitled

As you can see on the picture, we tend to first judge and only after they start ad hoc reasoning. This is also displayed in the following scheme which shows the discussion between person A and B. Person A deliberately uses his intuition, and then states his judgement about certain events. Only after, person A tries to reason and explain his previous judgments. Person B listens to the reasoning of person A, but uses the same chain – intuition, judgment and reasoning – to answer to the judgments person A had made. Where is the problem? Basically, it is in the fact that by reasoning, we never really appeal to another person’s rational thinking, but rather to his instincts. And this is why no logical argument can be used to effectively convince those, who do not share the same intuitive (or instinctive) judgments.

I suggest everyone who is more interested in the topic to read a book written by a psychologist David Haidt called The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.

On the Irrational Rationality

In today’s discussion on Facebook, I realized what is the problem that has been puzzling me for a long time. It was the ability of people to analyze content in its full range, and not just take separated events to form one’s opinion. It was in the discussion about “Islamic culture” and its possible impact on the so called “European culture“. Once more the commenters engaged in the discussion about the dangers of the former, and its possible negative impact on the latter, despite the fact that both of them are highly abstract and metaphorical constructs. I felt unsettled once more, and thought hard how to convince them there is no such thing as an imminent threat of Islam in Czech republic or even Europe. But I was wrong to persuade them into a discussion that was based on a wide range of empirical evidence and historical and social facts. No, they would not listen. Instead, they posted links to a CNN video about the Sharia Law patrols in East London or started posting photos of armed children from Arab countries. These educated individuals were using a very limited information to support their claim that Europe should deny to provide immigrants from Islamic countries right to settle in.

Girls With Skateboards, Afghanistan

If I omit the fact that it is common to base an opinion on a social media hearsay, there is one big problem that can be potentially more dangerous. While every hoax, propaganda or just unreliable information can be finally reversed, it is the way of thinking that ultimately remains the same. The problem is that there is a strong tendency for our social values to be drawn from singular events. Instead of thinking about the events as a whole, it is easier to decide whether to support or not certain thing based on one piece of information. In our example with Islam, this means to take 9/11, Taliban, or attacks with acid, or Sharia Law, and extrapolate the evidence against all Muslims. Somehow we know that it would not apply to all one billion persons, but who cares?

Nazi Demonstration, Location Unknown

This ignorance-based reduction is now in its heyday, and media are serving it well by bringing as much separated events as possible without providing background information about the context in which they are happening. This means that we are constantly forced to take stances just by following the media, and in a seemingly random pattern. One day, viral video about China appears and everyone seems terrified that they will take us over. Then the cameras turn to Palestine. Then to North Africa, and so on ad infinitum. We are forced to make our opinion in the yes/no fashion about events we don’t understand so that it feels almost as a reality show. With the difference that this reality is real, and can have a very real consequences for someone, who happens to be on the losing side.

Society of Conflict?

We have passed the limit of nuclear weapons that can completely wipe us from the planet, yet we are still driven by the conflict paradigm with its only possible outcome being our utter destruction.

In my previous post, I wrote about the deep rooted conflict that is present in our society.  I have received some interesting comments and I would like to address this topic more seriously in my today’s post.

I stated that we are currently living in the era of deep conflict. One of the arguments against my perception of the current state of things was that every generation of thinkers probably thought the very same about their time. But what did I really mean by the conflict itself.

I assume that conflict is an ontological concept that projects itself differently and thus cannot be captured by mere observation of our reality. Conflict happens when we feel that our interests are being threatened or intervened by someone/something else. It can arise in the individual as well as the societal level, and they are inseparable one from another.

Conflicts are deeply rooted in our society, which leads me to think that our society could be denominated as conflicting in a matter that is unprecedented in the history. I list just a few manifestations of conflict that have direct impact on our everyday life.

1. Our political systems are designed to resolve social conflicts, but instead perpetuate it by calling for elections.
2. Economies compete (which is just another expression of conflict) with other economies, whose interests are often in direct juxtaposition to them.
3. And we all compete individually with others to get a better job, nicer hotel room, or whatever is believed necessary.

Conflict is inherent in our world view so much, we cannot even imagine living without it. Instead, we are still trapped in our perception of conflict as natural and inseparable from our nature. We reinterpret and reinvent categories of it, but do not think about the solutions. But what is the purpose of the science, if it does not have an ultimate aim in the resolution of the conflict itself or directly thinks that conflict can be even useful? This can be often read on many blogs or news articles, where a variety of “experts” claim that conflicts would benefit this or that side, while completely ignoring the destruction, unfairness, injustice, or other outcomes that are often considered rather as necessary collateral damage. This type of thinking is dangerous.

So let me state this; conflict is not natural and we should not think about it in this way. On the contrary, it is the cooperation we should take into account. It is important to stop thinking about conflict as if it was beneficial to someone, especially if it means destruction, exploitation or other type of harm on other animals.

Introduction to the Apocalypse: On the Form and Method. Or Method and Form. Or Both.

And here I am.

We live in an era of deep conflict, which has its root in an uneven distribution of wealth, resources and power. It is not possible to assume this status quo is unchangeable or even natural to us as a society. If we do not reflect on our positions soon, we will indeed be living in the future that will be a fucking mess.

This blog is something I have been thinking about for a very long time. Yet my passivity made me postpone it almost ad infinitum. But as the time passes by, I feel more of an urge to express myself clearly and put a new form to my ideas.

I decided to write in English for the reasons that are compatible with my perception of reality. This seems a little bit odd, but let me explain. I do believe that personal blogs are slowly yet constantly becoming increasingly important for both public and science. Being an aspirant for a PhD. in political science, I have found myself more and more interested in the opinions expressed freely on the Internet rather than formulated and published in the academic journals, where the form usually exceeds the content. I by myself have experienced the tedious academic procedure where it is the critique of the methodology what is established as a core of the science. What I quickly realize was that many of my colleagues often lack any ideas. They are just education-made-machines that pop out a series of articles and books, without clearly considering the basic process of their so called scientific approach.

Blogs are different. They offer space to those who are not satisfied with the current standards, and it gives them a very important tool for self-expression that, if good, reaches more people and gives them day-to-day inspiration in their lives. This is why I write in English, instead of Czech. We need to overcome the obstacles – language, culture, tradition; in order to be able to realize our sameness.

My reality is different from the reality most of us finds ourselves in every day. It is living and changing. It constantly demands my adjustment, and it gives me further reasons to explore science as well as culture. It is not possible to capture it by mere observation. It has to be lived.