One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Are Hazaras of Quetta really trapped???

So we are in midst of 2nd World Wide Protest against ongoing Genocide of Hazaras in Quetta, Pakistan, something that didn’t materialize when Taliban were systematically massacring Hazaras in Kabul, Mazar Sharif and Hazarajat from 1998 until Fall of 2001. Of course, it is the fruit of a decade long struggle of Hazaras to recollect their torn off society to rebuild their civic life. I don’t find any other nation on the face of earth that have faced more than a century long systematic genocides as Hazaras have been facing since 1885. Just in my life time, there have been three systematic genocides in three decades so far. It seems that Hazaras populations are the hotspots of Genocides.

While the Genocides of Hazaras in Quetta is continued and the culprits appear to have strong support and will to carry on their genocidal plans without any check from Government, there are fears of civil war in Afghanistan after withdrawal of international forces after 2014. Both sides of tunnel are dark and there is no light to show the way out. In this situation the migration is natural phenomenon but there are fears that the brain drain of capable men and women make these already torn off populations of Hazaras more vulnerable.
Now, what are the options? I am really glad that there are brains inside Hazaras who frequently speak their minds and there are political forces and organizations that are duly responding to crises in very civic manners. If I focus on current issue that is Genocide of Hazaras in Quetta, I should acknowledge that the Political forces have been wise and successful in making Genocide of Hazaras a national issue and are heading towards making it an international issue. As we are all aware that Countries act according to their national interests and it is really hard to conceive that Pakistan, neighboring countries and Gulf States will give concessions on the costs of their foreign policies. Then if Hazaras have been and are victims of geopolitical interests then it is really hard to believe that being a minority in Pakistan, Hazaras can make very big impacts in avoiding their victimizations. Similarly, internationalizing the Genocide of Hazaras might not influence international community to stand for Human Rights of a minority that do not affect global economy and global politics.

Having said all these continued civic movements and protests of Hazaras might influence the international organizations and people that really believe in Human Rights and do not link it just to their national interests. But more important than Human Rights are the Hazaras populations that are now scattered around the world. Their active participations not only make it more costly for forces to continue freely their genocidal plans but also benefit these communities themselves. It is natural to expect that Hazaras feel insecure after facing a century long genocides and they feel more secure within themselves. These protests and activisms will make them to reach out other communities and become active part of plural and democratic societies and let their potentials benefit all.

In short, I am hopeful about the political activism in the Hazaras society and as there are more able and experienced people in the field so I just wanted to express my gratitude to their struggles. BUT, the purpose of this piece of writing was expressing my concerns over other neglected areas.

Hazaras in Quetta was known for their contributions in civil services, education, sports, philanthropy and social activism. In facing the current crisis, politics have dominated the society and all other parts have gone into shades. For long, I am reading and listening to the suggestions about, what Hazaras need to do in face of ongoing crises but I fail to find anything beyond politics. Pakistan for six decades focused just on defense and the result of this one factor policy is now obvious to all. Despite of having a nuclear arsenal, well developed missile defense system, Six hundred thousand strong and organized military, she is moving towards a failed state. Now that Government has realized the mistakes and are trying to focus on the 3D (Defense, Developments and Diplomacy) it doesn’t have the means to do so. Pakistan might need more than a dedicated decade to develop the capacity of implementing her 3D policy.

I may be wrong but I feel that relying just on politics may harm Hazaras on the long run. While political maneuver of Hazaras are local and national more or less but their Economical, Cultural and Social activism have the potential to go global.

As I said earlier that Hazaras in Quetta is known for their contributions in non-political sectors of Province and the country. Learning and encouraged by organizing worldwide protests and activisms, it is time that Hazaras get out of the trap, evolve and bring to light their other areas. When I read the banners, “Hazaras of the world get united”, I do not see any other ways except that we take out our experiences and potentials in education, sport, arts, literature, music, philanthropy, social activism and most importantly economy to go global by networking, working together and most importantly REACHING OUT OTHER COMMUNITIES.

Please feel free to correct me in part that you feel, I have misunderstood… Thanks 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

“X” is power

In a scene of the movie, “J. Edgar” – A biographical movie about FBI director, “J. Edgar Hoover”-…… Hoover takes Gandy (His personal secretary) to the Library of Congress, and shows her the card catalog system he devised. He muses about how easy it would be to solve crimes if every citizen were as easily identifiable as the books in the library……. Although Edgar was thinking of having a centralized catalogue of all citizens fingerprints but now the social networking site, “Facebook” made it really easy to make every citizen identifiable as easily as finding a book in library of congress. Facebook do not use fingerprints but instead life-prints. When Edgar said, “information is power”, he might not had an idea that one day, “information” can create “Arab spring” (A clear goal; democracy) and another day, it creates, “Arab winter” (Confusion; what does it mean?). You may have heard a lot that, “Money is power” and then you learn that there is a common practice of “Fractional reserve banking” (One deposits 100 dollars for example to a bank, the bank keeps 20 dollars as reserve and lends out 80 dollars out of it which naturally in ways ends in another bank and it just goes on). Yes, information is power but the real power is in perceptions. Doesn’t matter, you catalogue it, reserve it or rationalize it. 

 For few days, I was feeling that I am going to get cold as there were signs of fatigue but to a restless nature, rest is a punishment. What else I could do except doodling and hanging on in hope of getting something done. I heard that Che Guevara, the famous revolutionary figure was suffering from asthma but still he set to travel South American continent on a motorcycle for four months but ended up traveling on motorcycle, steamship, raft, horse, bus, and hitchhiking, covering more than 8,000 kilometres (5,000 mi) in nine months instead. He just wanted to see what he had just read in books but this travel totally changed his perspective about life, people and government. The rest is what everybody knows. I wanted to watch the movie “The motorcycle diaries” that is based on Che’s travels and tell the fatigue (you are not as good as asthma) that I am not somebody who gives in to pains (Sometimes bragging tastes as sweet as ice cream)… Information, if creates a reasonable perception can give a purpose that changes life/lives. Che’s travel provided him the information that was right for the recipe of a “revolutionary perception”.

In the morning, I wrote in my notebook while taking notes, we are not just in the age of “information” but we are “thinking in paradigm of information”. The whole evolution is based on variations and mutations of “genes” and even “reductionist evolutionists” like to call it, “selfish gene” as everything else is just meant to propagate them. Wonderful huh, with this coin, they are the real “Illuminati “. No, we just can’t blame only evolutionary biologists to be trapped in “information paradigm”. In fact, it began with Philosophers. To Plato, it was not acceptable that “information” with its excellence perish in the dust of time so he created an “ideal world” and called the changing reality as its shadow. What Plato was calling shadow of ideals; human civilizations were just one of its categories. Being the product of information (Mankind’s great minds), they were not immune to falls. The falls of civilizations were the fallibility of human minds and there were always efforts to find ways to make human minds or information infallible. Although, by now, I get irritated to use the “I think, therefore I am” declaration of Rene Descartes but I have to refer to it again as it was yet another reductionist effort to find a way to make human mind infallible. After failing again and again, the Philosopher tried to copy the nature. If nature has created DNA, an infallible carrier of information then perhaps the “language” as carrier of information is the tool that can make human mind infallible. So far all efforts to create a language that make human mind infallible went in vain. We can do math but we can’t speak mathematics. When we say 99%, we don’t mean any figure but instead we mean majority common people. It is what happens when we try to speak math. 

 It doesn’t matter how hard one tries to be exact, how detailed a correlation one makes or how centralized the data become, at the end it is the “X” –the perception- that is the power. Right perceptions are revolutionary and wrong ones “confusions”…

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Walking Across.....

I don’t know, whether it is an addiction or ritual but I like to call it ritual as it sounds positive. So in general, the best of part of my day is the ritual of watching a part of some historical Korean drama while taking my lunch (Once, I was calling it, “fill in the blanks” meaning to enjoy doing my favorite things in time-gaps instead of waiting for a leisure time but now it falls; watching movies, reading and writings are my favorites). I like this ritual as it allows me to see how people in other cultures rationalize their acts and behaviors. (Currently watching Yi San; though, the characters in the story are very soft and the story is very slow and sometimes even boring but still, I like it as it makes me realize that, although we all cherish the same values but we rationalize them differently. Slowly, I am also realizing that if we set aside advances in technology and knowledge in general, the history doesn't change much in terms of values. The only thing that changes are the ways we rationalize them. That also happens across the cultures. So either we walk across the cultures or across the history, it is the rationalizations that change not basic values). As in humans, 90% of Serotonin is in gut and the rest in the CNS so just by guess; I hope that this ritual (nourishing body and mind simultaneously) also increases Serotonin levels in my blood (it is just a guess).

Yesterday, I was very late in taking my lunch (the drama part was also very uneventful, hehe). The net effect, I was feeling so sleepy that I thought, it is wiser if instead of pushing myself and tiring myself while not able to make any progress in my work, I should get a nap for an hour and come back to work with a fresh mind. I set my alarm for an hour. When I woke up, it was dark. I checked the time and found that I had slept for three hours instead of one. I even didn’t notice the loud alarm (it was very deep sleep). Initially I felt bad about it but soon my mind started its work, “rationalizing the act”. You know, brain consumes 25% of oxygen and glucose in blood and if one is involved in an intensive problem solving thinking process, the brain consumes almost as much energy as an athlete pushes hard his body to break a record. So, it is natural to get exhausted after a mental work although the body appears to be idle in the process.

Unconvinced by my back-rationalizing, while still lying there, the thoughts of why ancient people about cared those hard questions, “who am I?”, “Why am I here?” “Where will I go?” come to me (I guess, it is the way mind work. It is good at diverting attention and escapes the troubles it faces. This totally unrelated thought was an escape strategy). In nutshell all those questions are linked with purpose of life. Usually, we tend to think that the “primitive people” think simple things and as people advance in terms of knowledge, they questions become more sophisticated. These are really hard questions that still people struggle with. Because, I had just awaken up so the thought of “Morpheus” came to me. In Greek mythology, Morpheus is the God of sleep and dreams. it can take any human forms to appear into dreams (Morphine is named after it).

In a way, it allowed me to hypothesize that because ancient people had not much understanding of nature so they needed explanations to match their life styles (It is because we are highly addicted to brain’s reward system, Dopamine. When our ideas are appreciated or we think, they are right; our brains reward us with dopamine). Coming back to dreams, it is still mystery. Although there are a lot of explanations but none of them are satisfactory. If I was living in ancient time, the belief that Morpheus appears in different forms in my dreams would be a very surreal idea and my brains would definitely rewarded me with lot of dopamine shots.

Although, Science is snatching all those surreal narratives but on other hand it has given us another fancy way of rationalizing and getting rewarded by brain and that is “Hypothesizing”. Brain is very good at finding patterns among very random things and constructing a hypothesis out them to rationalize things.

So what was the pattern here? Well, I guess, in order to get a higher dose of dopamine, when we rationalize, we try to link with something superior and it is perhaps why, Greeks mythology is filled with Gods and Goddesses. Those complex questions of purpose are linked with superior beings to feel superb. It is just an egoistic nature of men that do not accept things as they are (and perhaps better not to). Things have not changed much. Now that modern men think of themselves in-charge instead, we tend to think that we understand most of things and we are right. It appears to me that in future, someone while lying in his bed might be thinking about the ways we rationalize things currently and might try to find a pattern to make a sense out of them. Who knows?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Does human sense of fairness match to standards of Capuchin monkey?

It is believed that in humans, upon entering into puberty stage, they start questioning their childhood beliefs. Now, I am realizing that how shallow is that questioning?  Actually, the life of this questioning is very brief and is soon shut by dominating social values that make individuals who dare to differ either based on their conscience or misunderstandings look freaky and odd. 

 It is not just biologists who have struck by close relatedness of organisms to each other. I guess, every culture has noticed these relatedness and have their own explanations. What I want to point out is that, these explanations are constructed very well to fit perfectly to the dominating social values and norms. This is just a manifestation of human arrogance that they want to see the whole Universe revolve around them. What we usually know as Anthropocentric world view. A perspective or world view that is not anthropocentric hurts human ego and arrogance.

 It is not unusual to not get struck by very close similarities of apes to humans. When I was just a kid and was not exposed to evolutionary theory, the only prevailing explanation was that the apes are descendants of the "cursed ancient nations" that had disobeyed God. Now, I understand that how arrogant humans can be  that they even go to extent of demonizing innocent animals. Of course, if one is not exposed to biological perspective, these explanations make them to think of apes as something to hated or at least something not clean/disgusting. It is another way of intimidating people to not question the dominating social values. 

If one follows the same line of reasoning in observing human behavior regarding animals one can understand clearly that why despite of availability of information and the ability of humans to think rationally, they  demonize each other (Animals yet have still long way to wait). It  really makes sense when I see the intimidation of dominating social values. To me, it appears that  most of  humans do not have the courage to maintain the freedom of their minds. Now look at this. Morality is one of the three basic constituents of Philosophy and it stands at the core of Theology. Why the morality should be so specialized and complex when everyone needs to have it? The simple reason is that the individual's sense of justice and fairness is thoughts as something dangerous to society and making things complex is a way of blocking free thinking (Mankind are generally lazy in thinking) by intimidation of complexity (You are not qualified to have a conscience; You need to be logician or specialized in religious studies to have good judgments).... 

 Watch these two interesting videos of experiments and decide what kinds of teachings are responsible for the sens of fairness in these monkeys? Isn't it the absence of intimidation? (Complex cultural constructs)

What is really noticeable are protests against discrimination and inequality. When I watched these two videos, I really felt that by accepting the discrimination and rationalizing injustices either by legal, cultural and religious constructs, the mankind have lowered their conscience or moral standards and let me dare to say that human standards are not even matched to the standard of these Capuchin monkeys (because either way we tolerate or even accept different levels of discrimination)


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Meme is still waiting for its language

I just looked up in dictionary to reassure myself that my understanding of “Meme” is not much different from that of a “standard” one and found this definition; … “(biology) a cultural unit (an idea, value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one person to another by non-genetic means (as by imitation)”…. Frankly, I am happy that Meme is non-genetic. If it was genetic, then perhaps we might have been calling it, “Memememe” and that is not a good looking word.  No, it is not me who thinks so but it is the “neuroscientists” who imply so. You may have read and heard several times that the brain inside our skulls is not actually a single brain but rather, it is 4 in 1; the reptilian brain, mammalian brain, Ape brain and Homo sapiens brain. That means, there is not a single “Me” but a “reptilian Me”, a Mammalian Me”, an “Ape Me” and a “Homo sapiens Me”.   

Though we have “Memememe” but our personalities are the product of meme, meaning the cultures we are exposed to. My intention here is not just to play with words but to say that memes that are responsible for giving us a sense of identity and personality is mostly “constructed reality”. No, I am not trying to imply that there is a war between the “constructed reality” and “natural reality” but instead that there is war within “constructed reality” and the main weapons is the “rationality”.

Well, it is good to rationalize things but anything out of moderation loses its originality. At least, the efforts to mathematize the language tell us so (The efforts to produce a logical language like that of mathematics based on symbols is now an example of classical failure in Philosophy). To me, the thinking that, math is the only rational way of expressing things is underestimating the complexity of reality especially the life. I am telling so because it has shattered one my childish dreams. From my early introductory (just out of curiosity) reading in Psychology, I found that there is a “subconscious mind” that the conscious mind remains mostly unaware of its “thinking” and one of the main “reasons” is our unfamiliarity to its language. It uses the language of the “symbols and images” and the verbal and numerical languages that we (conscious mind) understand are not of much use to communicate with this part of our minds. It is a fact that when we sleep, the conscious mind goes passive and unconscious mind becomes active and the unconscious mind communicates with us in form of dreams and usually they are strange and we do not know their meanings. Because we do not understand their meaning so we usually just discard them by ignoring them. The idea that a symbolic language would help us to communicate with unconscious mind was very thrilling for me. Modern arts somewhat were attracting me as I was “believing” that these seemingly “irrational” creations are influenced by “unconscious mind” and are windows for us to look into unconscious minds of their creators.

As I learned that computers have their own language that is very different than ours and we need an intermediary language to translate our language to the language that computers understand and likewise translate the language of computer to our language, so we could communicate with computers, made me even more hopeful. Perhaps, what we needed was an intermediary language.

With this thrilling idea in my head, I was looking for an intermediary language (How na├»ve) and when I learned about Bertrand Russell’s book, “Principia Mathematica”  and that it is a book about “symbolic logic”, I got really excited. It was not hard to find it. I was available at Provincial library. I started reading it very carefully but my hope was evaporated when I found out that it is neither an intermediary language nor a language for unconscious mind. In fact, it is not even a language for conscious mind (This is one of the reasons that I got allergic to mathematics and it is really taxing me high on my “intellectual” health). I know that I am the product of meme (Cultural unit however, I take it as me + me; Conscious me + Unconscious me) but actually this meme is me-me and still awaits for an intermediary language to make it meme. 

When passive becomes active…

It might be a constructed misconception but I found it interesting in case it holds some truth in it and that is, “women change their minds frequently”. I found it amusing because I was born and raised in a country (Pakistan)whose half population (women; that are approximately more than 90 million) are dominantly passive population and it is a prevailing concept that the rest of the population (90 million men) value or better to say honor “standing on one leg” , no matter what. A thin layer of society that is active men and women are very slow in changing their minds. Although, I understand that it is a distorted face of “Real men keep their words” but “unfortunately”, it is now widely practiced and is a reality. It is also amusing that people are aware of this and there are many jokes on these stereotypical concepts that are not appropriate to repeat here (Making fun of it and standing firm for it; that is the sole paradox that is appreciated and even there TV shows that are totally based on this single paradox)

Let’s for a moment, assume that it is true, “women change their mind frequently”, then how Pakistan will look like if the 90 million passive populations become active??? One thing that will change for sure is the shift from “contradictory society” to “paradoxical society”. Let me explain, what does it mean?

Contradict mean, denial of “truth”, denial of others’ realities and contradictory society means, taking firm positions that, others’ truths (beliefs, constructed realities or whatever you like; doesn’t matter much) are utterly wrong and should be resisted or wiped out. In other words, there should be only one world view or “truth” exists and it should prevail.

Paradox means, self-contradictory or understanding that things that appear true have also another face (“wrong”) OR conflicting realities and the possibility that both might be right or both might be wrong. Paradoxical society means, people accepts the co-existence of multiple realities and people do not try to exterminate the reality of a part of society just because it is not matching with their own.

Although it is just a contemplation that by once 90 million passive population becomes active, that are supposedly frequently change their minds, a society shifts from contradictory to paradoxical society. One might ask that, why a society goes from paradoxical once it is not contradictory? Whether we accept or not but it is a fact that all societies are actually either contradictory or paradoxical in their basic nature. There is no truth or reality that does not contradict others or itself. Let me give an example, there are people who oppose “Evolutionary theory” that is a unifying theory in biological sciences but follow biological research in health. On other hand there are people who are great defender of “Evolutionary theory” but politically favor socialism or libertarianism (both of these two systems are thought to contradict evolutionary theory; Evolution is not product of controlled/regulated environments). It is just the nature of reality and it seems that there is no escape from contractions and paradoxes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Changing the perception, not what you like most?

I like Sherlock Holmes and have watched all the series and movies based on this fictional character. The expression, “I suspect nothing and everything”, taking the “absence” of something as important clue as “footprint” and drawing big conclusions from seemingly very small and sporadic clues are my favorites that have dragged me to be big fan of this character. In short, Sherlock Holmes is what a rational man can/expected to do in controlled and deterministic yet thrilling fictional world. The utmost efforts of mankind to rationalize everything and look down to what appear as irrational are a self-serving evidence that rationality is most sought trait at least to “modern-humans” (Sometimes when I come across some evidently irrational expressions and comments in favor of rationality and sanity, I just get a stroke of puzzlement; Thanks to our brains that have evolved to ease us by changing the perceptions to create reality at least by illusion if not by facts; foods for beliefs?).
Cottingley Fairies
Being a fan of the fictional character of Sherlock Holms as a symbolic representation of a rational man, it is natural to think of the mind behind the character as a highly creative and rational person. Arthur Conan Doyle is the creator of this character but you may be amazed to know that the creator of such a rational character also believed that fairies do exist. In 1921, he wrote the book, “the coming of fairies” and he believed that the 5 photographs of fairies that were taken by two cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths in 1917 in Cottingley, England were original. He was a member of “Ghost Club” and based on the differences of beliefs on “spiritualism” broke up with his friend, Harry Houdini who was a magician and was opposing “spiritualism”. So, how a rational person accommodate such an apparent paradox? Before pondering on this question let’s explore some more related paradoxes…

This is what one of my teachers told us as a joke,

…. The government started a literacy project for distant villages and was sending teachers to villages to teach people reading and writing. In some villages the village chiefs were opposing and resisting the project. A teacher reaches in one of such villages where village chief was against the project. He chooses the mosque as his classroom and evenings for his classes. It was a good strategy as people were free at evenings and were coming to mosque for evening prayers and following chatter. He succeeded to attract most of villagers and it made village chief furious. The village chief appeared in one of the class sessions. The teacher wrote “snake” on board. The chief went to blackboard and draw a snake beside the word and asked villagers, which one looks like snake, my snake or the teachers snake? Villagers replied your snake. The chief was successful in driving out the teacher by saying that he was fooling people…..

This is not really funny to make you laugh but I remembered this parable yesterday when I saw some large abstract sculptures and paintings exhibited at concourse between Albany State Museum and MacDonald. I am somewhat OK, with those abstract painting that have expressive color combinations but what about sculptures? The materials, colors and shapes, nothing in them are expressive. Expression is at core of Arts. Without expressions nothing makes sense in Arts. The modern Arts are like Arthur C. Doyle beliefs in fairies, there should be something that is above our understanding to merit as an imaginative.

I would have forgotten about the Modern Arts but today seeing a wooden abstract sculpture that has replaced by “late” fountain in front of library tower at University reminded me again the debate of the teacher and village chief. To me, nothing is more expressive, beautiful and romantic than water, especially fountains and water falls. I think, the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang is right. Perhaps as our rationality grows so is our irrational parts and Modern arts is an expression of our co-evolved irrational part. May be my obsession and thirst for natural beauty is due to my primitive rational part.

I better to grow more rational so my irrational part also grow and start loving modern arts. No I think, a better solution is to change my perception to accommodate more paradoxes. It is much efficient way..hehehe. In fact, there is one aspect of modern art that I appreciate and that is the factor of “rebellion” but not to the extent that Ai Weiwei and Aliaa Magda Elmahdy's went. It is my understanding that cultural rebellions, though sometimes controversial helps in shedding hardened skins and shells during cultural metamorphosis. So, how rational men accommodate irrationality under at an attractive names of Modern Arts and even religious devotions? I think, the answer lies at plasticity of our left hemisphere. It has the job of rationalizing our deeds and likings. No matter, how much irrational and paradoxical are our devotions and likings, left hemisphere is very good at rationalizing things and convincing us.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The brains of golden ages

Celebrity gossip is not a modern phenomenon. As long as there were big names, the desire to link extra-ordinary things to them were there. Legends sprout that most of times overshadow the reality but still these legends provide a window to see glimpses of the prevailing reality. Alexander the great is the biggest name among great kings of ancient time so the desire to compare this great king to a great thinker is quite understandable. When Alexander conquers Athens, the big names like Socrates and Plato were no more so we find the legend of linking him to another big name in Philosophy, Diogenes. This legend is very common but still worth to read it again as it provides a glimpse of the prevailing thinking in ancient Athens,

Image Source

…………“Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to Alexander with their congratulations, and he expected that Diogenes of Sinope also, who was tarrying in Corinth, would do likewise. But since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him; and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many persons coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, "Yes," said Diogenes, "stand a little out of my sun." It is said that Alexander was so struck by this, and admired so much the haughtiness and grandeur of the man who had nothing but scorn for him, that he said to his followers, who were laughing and jesting about the philosopher as they went away, "But truly, if I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.……………Wikipedia

I chose this legend as it beautifully illustrates the appreciation and dominance of Philosophical thoughts in Athens. To me, the comparison of a penniless philosopher to that of a great king in the form of a legend is more show of this kind of functional-brain-wiring than anything else.

For long, I was fascinated by this tiny (from our modern perspective) ancient city state; Athens, with an estimated population of 250,000 populations, out of which only 30,000 men had civil rights and the rest were women and slaves. Just for sake of comparison take Hazaras of Quetta; Hazaras is a minority in Quetta city (the least populated province of Pakistan) with an estimated population of more than 600,000 which is more than double population of that of ancient Athens. I understand that it is reasonable correlation to compare a modern population with an ancient city state that have more than 5000 years of time gap in between. On other hand it does make sense when we compare their accomplishments. Living in ancient times, when human knowledge was primitive and means of recording and transferring known knowledge was expensive and limited and at a time when modern educational institutions were absent, in a very period of time, Athens produced the kind of great men whose thoughts became the foundations of Western civilizations as a whole, Muslim civilization in part, USA and global world in general. It is not just the failure of Hazaras as even much bigger nations that have access to modern human knowledge had failed to produce not even a single man of knowledge of that statures… Why?

Image Source

Right now, one possible (of course from many) answer comes from “Neuroscience”. Though there are doubts about the methodology (It was started with “Split brain experiments” and now is dominated by fMRI – Functional Magnetic resonance; measuring the blood flow in brain; as brain does not store energy so it depends for supply of sugar on blood and measuring oxygenated and de-oxygenated blood is way of measuring consumption of energy and activities of certain brain areas and correlating them with certain behaviors or thoughts provides key information to know how brain functions; correlation is tricky though) but still, one thing is appearing as a common pattern and that is brain does not have a “central control”. Different brain areas functions “independently” or “semi-independently” or in aggregates and it is why we have conflicts inside our heads but the good news is that all these happens in subconscious level and we usually do not notice so the conscious mind is usually has a resolved form of thought as a conscious product (comes with rational theories/explanations about final decisions)…

One common example might be the breaking of rule that we make to follow strictly but we tend to go easy on ourselves and rationalize once we break those rules; e.g, if you have made your mind to stop taking sweet dishes but seeing your favorite sweet dish, your lizard brain make you eat and once you have broken the rule then your left hemisphere come up with a theory to rationalize it, usually with a reward theory to justify the acts.

I am not neurologists and these explanations might change as new techniques or new hypotheses emerge but one thing that I get from this is,

The frequent use of certain brain areas increase their performance and make them dominate over other parts (increased neuron connections in those areas) so the wiring of the brain depends on the rate of usage of certain areas. In simple words, it is the functional wiring of brain that determines a person…. If it is true (as of now accepted) then reasoning on the same line, it is possible that each era is Dominated by “Particular Functional Wiring of Brains”…

“In other Words, if we know human history based on the certain golden ages like, the correlation of rise of Athens City State with “Golden Age of Philosophy”, the correlation of Renaissance and industrialization with “Golden Age of Sciences” , the correlation of rise of digital technologies with “Golden Age of entrepreneurship”… it makes sense in the light of dominance of certain “functional wiring of brains” because they are seen as way of unbeaten success in their relative times….”

1. Golden Age of Philosophy;

Athens city state was much smaller as compared to Egyptian, Indus, Chinese, Babylon and Persian Kingdoms but because the rhetoric and reasoning was a way of earning/maintaining high social status and political positions in the so called Athenian “democratic state” so the Sophists were offering those skills to people in market places. Coming back to our functional brain wiring types hypothesis; because of higher demand for reasoning, the push for this functional brain wiring was a dominated so it make sense that some of those sophists distinguished themselves from the rest as Philosophers. Right now, for me it is a convenient explanation for how in short amount of time, Athens could produce so many great names in Philosophy whose thoughts became the foundation of Western civilization in particular and modern civilization in general.

2. Golden Age of Science;

Based on same line of reasoning, the renaissance and following industrial period was a time for naturalism. The reasoning supported with evidences was a kind of thinking that was proving a liberating and empowering force. “Liberty; Libertarian Philosophers” and “Power; Nietzsche and Darwinianism” were two main themes of these period (Colonization and World Wars were two tragic byproducts of these kinds of functional brain wiring). Again, it makes sense that the zeal of empowerment and sense of freedom made the discoverers and inventors social outliers. So it is not surprising that why in a short period of time continental Europe produced so many great Scientists that reshaped the face of earth and redefined the basic concepts of Man, God and Universe.

3. Golden Age of digital Entrepreneurs;

I don’t think, I need to explain this period as following the same line of reasoning, anyone can figure out why in short period of time, the Silicon Valley produced so many successful entrepreneurs in very short amount of time. The big names, like those of Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft), Steve Jobs (co-founder of “Apple”) and Mark Zuckerberg (Founder of Facebook), Sergey Brin (Less known; the co-founder of Google) dominates over other fields. Now, it became a trend and a recipe for success to come up with a novel idea for business which promises an empty niche for rapid growth and becoming a giant before competitors appear in the market. So it really makes sense to see the dominance of this kind of functional brain wiring in Golden age of digital entrepreneurs.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Camel and desire for meaning

A Persian parable goes like this,

“One day Sa’adi (a Persian poet) was traveling by foot from one village to another. The footprints on the trail caught his attention. There were footprints of a camel and a man. After a while, he saw print of camel in sitting position and prints of hands shanks, toes, foot (the sign of difficulty in climbing down and climbing up of camel), and of low pressure pee beside it. He concluded, “A pregnant woman must be sitting on the camel”… and then he noticed that there are flies at one side of trail and bees on other side trail flying here and there, “Hmm, the camel must be loaded with ghee at one side and honey on other side” .. While continuing to follow the footprints, he also noticed that grass at one side of trail is grazed upon and other side is untouched, “Aha, one eye of camel must be blind”… On his way, he meets a man with a stick who was looking desperate. As he reached the man, the man asks, “Haven’t you seen a camel on your way? I stopped for rest and fell into sleep and after waking up found that my camel is missing”.. Sa’adi replied, “Was your camel blind at one eye?” …”Yes” the man becomes excited… “Was it carrying a pregnant woman and was loaded with honey and ghee?.. Sa’adi continued asking… “Yes, all the signs are correct” the man becomes hopeful … “Well, I haven’t seen your camel”… Hearing the answer, the man loses his temper and starts beating Sa’adi… “You must have stolen my camel”… It took a few hit of sticks and lot of explanations before he could convince the man that he has just seen the prints and marks not the real camel… It is said that after getting out of trouble, Sa’adi promised to himself that this good lesson, if people ask me, “Have you seen camel?” even if I have seen one, my answer will be, “No”….

Though this parable was created to warn for unnecessary zeal in expressing quick conclusions but my aim here for it is to illustrate the deep desire of mankind for finding meaning in everything is basically originates out of their ARROGANCE. Men basically want to appear right because proving wrong or errors wounds their ego and self-confidence. Men try very hard and even at great costs to appear consistent and absolutely right. And it is why they try to relate themselves with something that “That is always right”… Some men try to be consistent with nature (Naturalists), Some try to be consistent with a form of “Infallible Truth” coming from a higher source like that of “God” (Religious people), Some try to be consistent with logic (axioms that have passed the tests of falsifications; Philosophers) and some try to be consistent with Science (Hypotheses that have passed the tests of both falsifications and evidences)…

You might say, “OK, that is what we all know… What is the problem?” … Well, quest for consistency is not a problem in itself. It becomes problematic with the emotions are invested in it. You know, mankind is basically “Slaves to their emotions”. Emotions are system of rewards and punishments within each person. When something is consistent with our emotions, our emotions reward us with good mood and feeling good. As a joke makes us laugh, similarly by feeling “Right” or be on the right side, our emotions reward us with feeling good. On other side, by feeling that we are wrong or we are on the wrong side, our emotions punish us with sadness and guilt.

Men are in fact slaves of their emotions and it is why, they usually do not listen, read or investigate what their opponents say. They fear that by being wrong they will be punished by their emotions and they try by every way to escape it. It is also the basis of our prejudices and standing on one leg and stressing on “Our truth” against “others false”…

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Venus Project, Jacque Fresco -

Usually, we take the Utopian thinking and its products, "utopias" as something "more than real" and as our sanity ends at reality so they look "unreal", and un-examined. It is the same as when we say, "more than happy".  It has nothing to do with happiness but is just an expression. But wait a moment, how the science progress? error and trial.. How the philosophy progress? thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis... how human experience grow? by learning from mistakes... Does the fear of errors and mistakes stop us to not practice Science, Philosophy or interact with each others?

Of course, we go but there is a way to go safely for them and that is to first test them in small and pilot projects in a manageable environments to learn the costs and benefits out them and to perfect them before putting them in practice...

You might have heard about Venus project of Jacque Fresco. Of course, it is utopian but just because it utopian doesn't mean it is totally unreal. Utopias are in fact mirrors in which we see the reflections of our current reality. So, I hope you will enjoy seeing some reflections...



Monday, April 2, 2012

Hungry eyes

It was raining. After a week of clear and sunny sky that I used to know March with, it was again cloudy and rainy. I like to see the pouring sky especially when it dances in mild wind. I like rain because I see it as a soul of life on earth. The water that rains have been part of every living being on earth, from bacteria to vegetables, Dinosaurs and men and after going through us, they are going to be part of coming living beings. Yes, rains are transcendental and they carry life to every corner of earth. Usually when I sit and watch it raining, my mind goes blank and it makes the sound of rain loud and I can feel the cold touches of raining deep to my bone marrow. This time however, my mind was not blank. The pictures of old women and old men who invested their lives to raise their children and now just in snapshot of time with few spray of bullets, their sons and daughter gone forever and it was troubling my thinking. The pains of mourning families and their despair had dominated my mind and for a while I was deaf to hear any raining and numb enough to feel any cold. Then a car passes on Avenue and I come again to my conscious. I was standing for long out on the porch and I was cold. I came inside and turned on heat and sat next to heater to warm myself but the apartment was looking much smaller than usual. Now it is more than six months that I had shifted to this new apartment and it is well designed to fit comfortably a person and I was comfortable in it especially because of considerate, respectful and quiet neighbors.

Every generation has its own traditions and these traditions are based on their visions of life. There were a tradition of building spacious rooms in previous generation and the reason as I was told, to make children’s hearts and minds grow big. They believed that living space effects on thinking and personality of children and to make their children think big and have big hearts, they were making spacious rooms. I don’t know how much truth it holds but I respect the philosophy, it is based on. Parents were trying to go beyond their limits to make sure the availability of abundance in basic needs of their children. There was the concept of “hungry eyes”, something as a signature of bad upbringing. To install content in the children, one could hear again and again the proverb, “if one is hungry we can make him full but if one’s eyes are hungry then nothing in the world can make them full”..

My feeling was that the people who were targeted killed on Thursday (March 29th) was brought up in spacious rooms, they were raised to be content and have big hearts and think big, much bigger to think mean for others. Their heads and hearts were targeted because they were much bigger to be places for narrow-mindedness. They were raised to work single-mindedly for progress and of course their “progress” in this narrow-minded and envious environment is looked upon as a crime punishable by death.

The first time that I saw the real demonstration of “hungry eyes” was in Rawalpindi. I was early and had to wait for the bus to go back to Quetta. The waiting wasn’t boring as this overcrowded bus stop had a lot to observe. The buses go to all major cities in four provinces from there so one sees people from the provinces and northern areas. The diverse outfits, languages and behaviors and most importantly attitudes invite any curious person to observe. It is not just bus stop, the hotels, food stalls, costermonger, street vendors, cart pushers and taxi drivers, all trying to earn a living for their families. Whenever a bus arrives, the taxi drivers and cart pushers surround it to get passengers or offload and carry their goods to taxi.

A bus stopped in the middle of this narrow road, as usual taxis and carts surrounded it. A fat, bald and waddling old man that was appearing, the father of the family escorted the three women, two young girls and an elderly woman to other side of road and got busy offloading his goods on carts and then into taxis (A lot of goods, rented two just to take his goods and third one for his family). The women were looking different from crowd; they had fair skins and had half covered heads with dupatta but what I had never seen was that a lot of people had stopped and were looking at them as they were aliens or something strange. One could see the uneasiness and urgency in the girls, their mother (who was trying to cover her daughter by standing in front of them...notch.. huh) and the father who had difficulty in walking and was trying hard to get out of there. It was the first time that I had realized, how the normal looking crowd is terrifying when they have “hungry eyes”. There wasn’t anything unusual in dressing or behaviors of those girls. It was just their fair skins that had caused uneasiness for them (I could imagine that how something that should be a plus point make lives miserable in a crowd that are suffering from hungry eyes)

The same is true for Hazaras in Quetta. From journalists to former President of Pakistan (Pervez Musharraf) is saying the same thing. The crime of Hazaras is that… they are progressive and in short amount of time have “progressed” to appear as outliers and it has attracted the “hungry eyes”… Again, if some are hungry, their stomach can be filled but if their “eyes are hungry” then even the lives of people can’t fill them…