Past versus Future

How are Muslims better than Chinese for Putin?

In the social science it’s called ‘longterm orientation’ (or future time orientation and there are other names too)
Muslim societies tend to not have much in the way of future orientation and tend toward being poorly organized and are especially incompetent in carrying out nation state like functions (perhaps why they are adored by proponents of fluidity as collectively they don’t fit into well run nation states and subvert them by their very presence). They tend to be slow on innovation or adoption of superior technologies and economically tend to get bogged down in bazaar style interactions. they long for a return of a glorious past but have no idea how to carry it out.
The Chinese are extremely oriented toward the future (at least since they’ve abandoned Mao*) tend to be far better organized and economically dynamic and while tremendously innovative they are good at adopting outside technology and making it their own.
And they are expansive and hungry (for influence and power).
Of course there are many individual exceptions, but at the global level the Muslim world is mired in backwardness and traditionalism while the Chinese are dynamic and forward looking.

*and Mao’s initiatives as terrible and disastrous as they were were all future oriented as well

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March Madness

I was going to do a post on the upcoming march in Warsaw on November 11, the 100th anniversary of Poland returning to the maps of the world after over a century of a no borders policy.

But it’s way too complicated and things are moving way too fast to do the topic justice. There’s lots of interesting maneuvering going on but I’m going to wait till the dust settles and go for a post mortem.

The one bright bit is that it might be a (super rare) version of bipartisanship going on behind the scenes as usual mortal enemies seem to be working in tandem to housebreak what has become a national embarrassment.


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Inconvenience Store

Writing checks almost completely passed Poland by. The country went from literally buying everything (including cars and houses) with cash to very widespread use of bank debit cards about 15 and 10 years ago (some credit cards, but mostly bank cards).

Then it got even easier with (don’t know the term in English) karty bliżeniowe (approach cards??? close cards???) with which it’s enough to told the card close to the credit card terminal for a second (and maybe type in a PIN if the amount is high). I had an embarrassing episode or two when I left the card on the machine while I bagged things and then walked off without it but fortunately(?) they happened in stores where they recognized me.

What I should have done….

I’d collected a bunch of coins in a drawer and I thought maybe I should pay more with cash so I stuffed some in my wallet (people here keep coins in their wallet…) and made a purchase, the total as 17 zloties and 48 groszy. I handed the cashier a 20 and repeated the amount of groszy.

“You have change?” she asked (Polish stores are always hungry for small change) and I said yes and started digging around among the coins while suddenly three people appeared behind me. It took much longer than I’d like (the coin pocket is too small to distinguish some coins which differ only in size (and then not by much) so I have to dump a bunch out in my hand and starting pawing through them).

After I finally manage to scrape together 48 groszy (after a false start or two) I turn to putting the rest of the coins and then my wallet away  and then bagging my things and the young lady behind me has already been rung up but can’t get to the machine with her card because I’m in the way so I stand back and then bag everything while the people in line (much younger) are staring daggers at me.

I think i’m going back to the card. Real convenience always wins….

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My Midterm Elections Post Will Seem Insightful… Someday

I have no freaking idea what will happen and I’m not sure what I want to happen either. Of course I’m sick of Republican Reagonomic Neoliberalism but the Democrats are (at least in the media that I get) doubling down on hard identity politics which I don’t like either. I’d like something like a return to Social Democracy (the New Deal paradigm) but both parties are fighting that as hard as they can.

My favorite result might be something that is seen as a loss for the leadership of both parties but I’m not sure what that would look like.

Meanwhile, some people want to show how little they understand the US political system, even as they make a living supposedly from informing people about it.

There is no such thing as a “house popular vote” except as a heuristic for judging party support as a percentage of the general population – which is not indicative of much of anything worth knowing about when races are run by district. Of course both parties gerrymander as much as they can but some kind of  get away with but that’s no reason to eliminate districts and it’s no reason for votes from one election to carry over to another.

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Back when it first became known that Google (among others) were giving in to Chinese censorship demands and actively working with the Chinese government better keep track of the population mmy working assumption is that for Google this was a win-win situation. They get access to China and can earn while they learn how to better…. manage the flow and perceptions of approved news in the West.

Similarly, the recent coordinated media attack against gab and the systematic denial of services needed to stay on the internet looked a lot like a trial run to me. They don’t care about gab (no worse than any other social media and no more a haven of ‘hate speech’ than any other platform) and aren’t concerned now that it’s back up. I can’t get away from the feeling that they just wanted to see where the leaks are in the system so they can get to work on plugging those up too for when they are serious.

The internet, once the liberation of information from accredited gatekeepers is being turned into a tool for the gatekeepsers to set up even higher barriers to entry.

And most people don’t know or care as they flock around the stupidest most useless capacities of the internet on the worst possible device (the stupidphone).

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We Have Always Been At War With Thoughtcrime

Back in the early 1970s during my experience of being ground through the American public education machine I was in Social Studies class somewhere around 9th grade. Anyhoo, talk turned to the Cold War and the USA and the USSR.

One of the bits of conventional wisdom of the day, often repeated in the media. was that slowly but surely the US and USSR were becoming closer and eventually the systems would be hard to distinguish as the USSR would gradually gain more prosperity and freedom and the US would gradually increase welfare protections and exercise more (benevolent) control on the economy. It should be pointed out that both of those things seemed to be happening at the time.

The US was still following the New Deal paradigm of FDR and even Republican presidents governed like social democrats while the USSR did seem to be becoming a bit more prosperous (I think I’ve read that the peak of Soviet prosperity was around 1970 before the Brezhnev doctrine began dragging it back down).

Still the teacher made quick work of this patent nonsense and as apolitical as I was at the time I essentially agreed that the foundations of the two systems were too different to ever resemble each other. The next 20 years certainly seemed to back up my teacher’s prognosis.

Fast forward another almost 20 years and… the US is actually becoming a lot more like the USSR, not so much materially but… spiritually.

Get caught in a bit of wrongthink and your career is over. I think it’s insane  and that the people that actively engage in it seem to be suffering from severe mental illness in desperate need of treatment. That anyone wants real world consequences to flow from casual private comments or online viewing habits or tweets of all things is not…. healthy. Twitter is the only social media that I follow (because it’s occasionally funny) but the idea that people use it to politically persecute others for what they write there is very scary.

To make things worse, the things that people are expected to publicly believe and profess are flat out demented on the surface. Maybe why the sanctions for violating sacred and absurd public doctrine are so severe. The way you know someone is completely cowed (or is a true believer) is by making them pretend to believe in nonsense and repeat it back to you convincingly. And the use of labels instead of arguments is also telling –words like “racist” and “fascist” have become so degraded from hysterical overuse that no psychologically healthy person can be concerned with them, yet concerned they must be lest they be called out as witches.

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Culture Creep Coming and Going

All Saint’s Day in Poland happened a few days ago. Normally every year at that time there are TV reports about the menace of the American holiday Halloween and experts say how it’s gaining a foothold in Poland (it’s not really).

People travel more for All Saint’s Day is the holiday than any other holiday in the year and during the day they clean graves (Polish cemeteries are homey, comfortable places and not scary at all) and leave candles (in little glass containers with metal lids) that burn for a couple of days.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania wszystkich świętych

Multiply this by a hundred (and it’s still prettier in person)

Walking around a cemetery at night when the foot traffic is a lot less is a beautiful sight (especially when it’s drizzly and the metal lids of the candles sizzle as raindrops fall on them.

This year I was meeting a friend to go to a nearby cemetery and while we’re on the way we hear weird amplified voices and were wondering what it could be, maybe police issuing traffic orders?

As we got closer we saw, it was a group of young Polish evangelical protestants doing their evangelical thing testifying about how great they feel now that they’ve left “religion” (ie Roman Catholicism) behind and found the truth in Jesus. It was pretty standard evangelical fare and I know they’ve been working in the city where I live for the last 15 years or so at least though they don’t have much to show for it. I’ve had a handful of students involved in them over the last five years or so but most Polish people aren’t actively religious (they’re mostly passive Catholics and only go active when there’s a political agenda to further).

My friend found them very weird and was surprised when I said it was all boilerplate rhetoric. I’ve seen what looked like similar presentations in Romania and Hungary (sort of guessing since I couldn’t understand much) but never here.

I went by them quickly not wanting to make eye contact.

“You might not understand what this is all about, you might not understand why we’re here” said the earnest young woman on the mic.

“We don’t understand!” yelled back one helpful guy from 20 or so meters away and everybody smirked.

Later while leaving the cemetery and the people selling flowers and candles I saw one seller had miniature plastic pumpkins with little electric lights inside.

That’s American culture, fundamentally missionary in nature and if it can’t slip in the front door, it will try to slip in the back or crawl in through the window….

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