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The Ghost Shirt Rituals: Preparing for the End of the World

 Ishi, (c. 1861 –  1916), the last member of the Native American Yahi people, photographed as he was in 1911 when he came out of the woods. How did the Yahi react when they saw that the Whites were going to exterminate them? Perhaps not differently from the way we are reacting to the prospect of the collapse of our civilization: going crazy. The reaction to the current Covid pandemic is just the first stage of the wave of madness that's engulfing humankind. Imagine you are a Native American living before the arrival of the Whites. Maybe you are a Lakota, hunter of the central plains. Or maybe a Yahi, living in the thick forests of California. Or a member of any of the many Native American nations that existed back then. As a Native American, you have your family, your friends, your day-to-day routine of things and tasks. And you are busy with that, except for one thing: you know that there is a big problem. A VERY big problem. There is an entire nation, out there, bent on exterminating you and your people: the Whites. At first, you try to ignore the problem: those Whites are far away. Or maybe you'll deny that they are coming, or that they are so many as they are said to be. But, at some moment, the truth cannot be anymore ignored or denied. The Whites are there. They are coming for you, for your family, your children, your friends, your people. And you know that there is really no way to stop them. So, what do you do? You go crazy. And so does [More]

The Great Reset: The Western Path to Dekulakization

 One of the Soviet propaganda posters promoting the collectivization of agriculture in the 1930s. On the lower right, you can see a small man opposing the line of the marching peasants, He is recognizable as a "Kulak," one of the local independent farmers who were dispossessed and partly exterminated to leave space for collectivized farms.  In the 1930s, the Soviet Union carried out the "dekulakization" (раскулачивание) of Ukraine. It was the term given to the removal of the relatively wealthy, independent farmers ("kulaki"), to be replaced by collective farms. Their properties were confiscated, many of them were relocated to remote regions, and some were exterminated. We don't know the exact numbers of people involved, but surely we are in the range of a few million. The transition to collectivized farms may have been one of the causes of the great Ukrainian famine of the early 1930s, known as the "Holodomor," The reasons for the dekulakization are several. In part, they were related to the belief that large-scale, centrally planned enterprises were more efficient than small family-owned firms. Then, the Kulaki were seen as a potential enemy for the Soviet Government, while the region they occupied was a strategic asset in terms of food production in an age when famines were an effective war weapon. But these considerations are not enough to explain why the Kulaki were so ruthlessly destroyed in just a few years. It was, rather, just a simple power [More]

Back to the Classroom: The Best Teachers are the Students Themselves

 During my whole professional life, I always enjoyed teaching. It was part of my life, part of what I am, part of the way I relate with the world. I made mistakes, at times made a fool of myself, sometimes I was ashamed of how poor a teacher I was. But I always did my best. And I think my students, some of them at least, appreciated my effort. And most of them enjoyed being students, just as I did when I was their age.  I don't know how it happened, but a few months of folly have been enough to turn universities into jails, the students as prisoners, and teachers as prison guards. And teaching was transformed into an odious chore. A senseless ritual performed in front of a computer screen, the students reduced to small 2-D squares, as real as the characters of a videogame.  On the media, everywhere the students were insulted, humiliated, insulted, told over and over that they are little more than walking bags full of viruses, plague-spreaders, irresponsible, vicious, self-centered individuals unable to restrain their instincts and harming their elders because of that.  This is truly a disaster. Going to school is one of the few remaining chances that the young have to socialize and become functional adults. Chuck Pezeshki said it very well in his latest post on his blog "If we’re to start understanding why the enforced collapse of socialization matters to all students, we’re going to have to come to terms with what we [More]

The Ghosts of 2020. And the Ghosts of 2021

  The devil scene from Walt Disney's 1940 "Fantasia" movie. A fitting representation of the nightmare that 2020 has been. This clip is especially fitting because you may notice how the devil doesn't really do anything bad during the whole scene. He summons ghosts and demons, they scream, they fly, they dance, but they don't touch anything, don't harm anyone. Evil is a characteristic of our mind: we create evil and we suffer its consequences because we believe in our own creation. Perhaps we could hear bells dispelling evil in 2021, as it happens in the movie at 5:40? Maybe, but it is also possible that we'll create even worse ghosts than anything seen in 2020. Whatever the case, as always, we'll remain dominated by the ghost that we ourselves create. [More]

The Ghosts of the Past Year. What Ghosts for the New Year?

  The devil scene from Walt Disney's 1940 "Fantasia" movie. A fitting representation of the nightmare that 2020 has been. This clip is especially fitting because you may notice how the devil doesn't really do anything bad during the whole scene. He summons ghosts and demons, they scream, they fly, they dance, but they don't touch anything, don't harm anyone. Evil is a characteristic of our mind: we create evil and we suffer its consequences. Perhaps we could hear bells dispelling the devil in 2021, as it happens in the movie at 5:40? Maybe, but it is also possible that we'll create even worse ghosts than anything seen in 2020. Whatever the case, as always, we'll remain dominated by the ghost that we ourselves create. [More]

Another Victim of the Covid: The Collapse of the Christian Church

 Christmas of 1914: soldiers from opposite sides met in a friendly manner across the front line. For a short time, the Christian message of love managed to overcome the message of hate that came from national governments. It was just a brief moment for a deed that surely didn't go unpunished, later on. But it was highlighting a deep contradiction that was prefiguring the final collapse of the church, but that would take another century or so. It is coming now.   Sometimes, life is like watching the long needle of an old mechanical watch. No matter how carefully you eye it, it doesn't seem to move -- time seems to be frozen. Then, you look at something else, and when your glance is back to the watch, the needle has moved. Time has passed, and that moment will never come back. Sometimes, you have the same sensation with history. For a long time, everything seems to be frozen and nothing changes then, suddenly, everything has changed and the world is a different one. It has happened in this 2020 that, suddenly, changed everything, and the world of one year ago will never come back.I already noted how some institutions have been shattered at their foundations by the COVID crisis of 2020. One was the university, destroyed by the sudden discovery that it was an expensive machine that produced nothing useful for the state. Another illustrious victim is starting to crumble: it is the Church. Primarily, the Catholic Church in its claims of universality, but all [More]

The Fall of the Citadels of Science: the Pandemic and the End of Universities

 Far from being an ivory tower, nowadays universities look more and more like battered citadels besieged by armies of Orcs. The Covid-19 pandemic may have given the final blow to a structure that was falling anyway. (image credit "crossbow and catapults") A couple of weeks ago, I saw the end of the University as I knew it. It was when I saw a line of students standing in the main hall of our department. All of them were masked, all of them had to stand on one of the marks drawn on the floor -- at exactly 1 meter of distance from each other. A teaching assistant was watching them carefully, least they would stray away from their assigned position. The only thing that was missing was iron chains and balls and the students singing the cadence gang march. That was not the only humiliation imposed on our students because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Of course, it is all done with the best of intentions, but it is a heavy burden. Students can't get close to each other, they have to reserve in advance a seat if they want to attend a class, when they enter a building they have to show their ID and to stand in front of a camera that records their face and takes their body temperature. The diabolical machine can also check if they are wearing their masks right and will refuse to open the door if they don't. Then, of course, the university personnel is supposed to check that the rules are respected and to report those students who don't respect them. Symmetrically, I [More]

The pandemic as the end of consumerism. Everything that's happening is happening because it had to happen

 These Medieval ladies look like fashion models. With their splendid dresses in silk brocade, they are showing off their wealth in an age, the 14th century, in which Europe was enjoying a certain degree of growth and prosperity. They couldn't have imagined that, one century later, Europe would plunge into a terrible age of witch hunts that would put women back to their place of child-making tools. It is the way history works, it never plans, it always reacts, sometimes ruthlessly. And all that happens had a reason to happen (above, miniature by Giovanni da Como, ca.1380) Can you tell me of at least one case in history where a society perceived a serious threat looming in the future and took action against it on the basis of data and rational arguments? With the best of goodwill, I can't. Societies react to threats using a primeval stimulus-reaction that may be aggressive or defensive, but that's almost never rational.Curiously, our society, that we call sometimes "The West" and at times the "Global Empire," was the first in history to have a chance to do something rational to avoid the destiny awaiting it much before the threat was clearly visible. It was in 1972 when the newly developed digital computers were coupled with a powerful analytical tool, "system dynamics." The result was the study called "The Limits to Growth" that foresaw how the gradual depletion of natural resources coupled with increasing pollution (that today we call "climate change") would cause [More]

The pandemic as a tool of history. Everything that's happening is happening because it had to happen

 These Medieval ladies look like fashion models. With their splendid dresses in silk brocade, they are showing off their wealth in an age, the 14th century, in which Europe was enjoying a certain degree of growth and prosperity. They couldn't have imagined that, one century later, Europe would plunge into a terrible age of witch hunts that would put women back to their place of child-making tools. It is the way history works, it never plans, it always reacts, sometimes ruthlessly. And all that happens had a reason to happen (above, miniature by Giovanni da Como, ca.1380) Can you tell me of at least one case in history where a society perceived a serious threat looming in the future and took action against it on the basis of data and rational arguments? With the best of goodwill, I can't. Societies react to threats using a primeval stimulus-reaction that may be aggressive or defensive, but that's almost never rational.Curiously, our society, that we call sometimes "The West" and at times the "Global Empire," was the first in history to have a chance to do something to avoid the destiny awaiting it much before the threat was clearly visible. It was in 1972 when the newly developed digital computers were coupled with a powerful analytical tool, "system dynamics." The result was the study called "The Limits to Growth" that foresaw how the gradual depletion of natural resources coupled with increasing pollution (that today we call "climate change") would cause the [More]

Everything that's happening is happening because it had to happen. The pandemic as a tool of history.

 These Medieval ladies look like fashion models. With their splendid dresses in silk brocade, they are showing off their wealth in an age, the 14th century, in which Europe was enjoying a certain degree of growth and prosperity. They couldn't have imagined that, one century later, Europe would plunge into a terrible age of witch hunts that would put women back to their place of child-making tools. It is the way history works, it never plans, it always reacts, sometimes ruthlessly. And all that happens had a reason to happen (above, miniature by Giovanni da Como, ca.1380) Can you tell me of at least one case in history where a society perceived a serious threat looming in the future and took action against it on the basis of data and rational arguments? With the best of goodwill, I can't. Societies react to threats using a primeval stimulus-reaction that may be aggressive or defensive, but that's almost never rational.Curiously, our society, that we call sometimes "The West" and at times the "Global Empire," was the first in history to develop tools for long term forecasting. It had a one-time chance to use these tools to do something to avoid the destiny awaiting it. It was in 1972 when the newly developed digital computers were coupled with a powerful analytical tool called "system dynamics." The result was the study called "The Limits to Growth" that foresaw how the gradual depletion of natural resources coupled with increasing pollution (that today we call [More]

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