Self Reliance: Who you gonna trust?

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“The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to prevailing superstition or taboo.” ~ H. L. Mencken

“I’m part of your government but I’m here today to say that government can’t save you.” ~ Sen. Rand Paul

This week the World Health organization was forced to clarify itself.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist and the WHO’s technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic, had said at a regular press briefing that data the WHO has received suggests it is “very rare” to have an asymptomatic person transmit the disease.

Following an onslaught of confusion expressed from social media, including from doctors, journalists, and epidemiologists, the WHO hosted a livestream on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to clarify questions surrounding transmission of the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

The highly esteemed New York Times pubished this: “Even as the World Health Organization leads the worldwide response to the coronavirus pandemic, the agency is failing to take stock of rapidly evolving research findings and to communicate clearly about them, several scientists warned.”

Do you need to stay home, or can you get up close and personal if you believe something?

You must stay home to save lives. You must socially distance and lock down. Unless you’re protesting racism and police brutality.

This appears to be the message from some government and health officials, who for months enforced a rigorous and unprecedented economic shutdown in the name of stemming the spread of the coronavirus pandemic — resulting in millions losing their jobs and students being sent home from schools across the country.

Maybe you trust our beloved CDC. Oops.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conflating the results of two different types of coronavirus tests, distorting several important metrics and providing the country with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic.

Well, give them a second chance. Oh dear.

Earlier this month, the federal health agency appears to have quietly reformatted its page on how COVID-19 spreads. Previously, under a subheading titled “spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects,” the agency simply said it “may be possible” to contract the virus from contaminated surfaces.

For those of you still wiping down groceries and other packages amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, breathe a sigh of relief: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now says the novel virus “does not spread easily” from “touching surfaces or objects”.

Remember Dr. Deborah “Scarf Lady” Birx? During a coronavirus meeting with Robert Redfield, the director of CDC, Birx, said, “There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust.”

Whoa, Deb.

So just strap on your mask and go about your business. Wait …

Two of the world’s major health organisations disagree on mask wearing. The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently discourages mask use:”There is currently no evidence that wearing a mask (whether medical or other types) by healthy persons in the wider community setting, including universal community masking, can prevent them from infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.

By contrast, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has recently recommended everyone wear a (cloth) mask. However, this is to prevent infected people passing on the infection, not to prevent the wearer getting infected.

Got that? You do know we’re all gonna die, right. Maybe not.

~ Hygge

Why we tend to be pessimistic

pessimismIt’s hard to keep your head straight in this season of pandemic and panic, especially if, as I am, you are a victim of the virus.

So it is helpful to understand how our minds tend to mislead us. Marian L. Tupy, editor of HumanProgress and a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, has written about this.

Here are some key points.

1. We have evolved to prioritize bad news. Organisms that treat threats as more urgent than opportunities have a better chance to survive and reproduce.

2. The media seldom provide a “compared to what” analysis or put terrible events in context. Coronavirus is deadly, but it is not the bubonic plague, which had a mortality rate of 50 percent, or the septicemic plague, which had a mortality rate of 100 percent.

3. Social media makes bad news immediate and more intimate. Until relatively recently, most people knew very little about the countless wars, plagues, famines, and natural catastrophes happening in distant parts of the world.

4. Remember that we have eradicated or almost eradicated smallpox, cholera, typhoid, measles, polio, and whooping cough. We have made great progress against malaria and HIV/AIDS. And the speed of our successes is increasing. The earliest credible evidence of smallpox comes from India in 1500 BC. The disease was eradicated in 1980. That’s 3,500 years of suffering. In 1980, we started to learn about HIV/AIDS. By 1995, we had the first generation of drugs that kept infected people alive. That’s 15 years of suffering. The Ebola epidemic raged between 2014 and 2016. The first Ebola vaccine was approved in the United States in December 2019. That’s five years of suffering. Last December, the coronavirus did not have a name. Today, human trials for the coronavirus vaccine are underway throughout the world.

Much more in the article.

~ Moloch

You must focus your reading time

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My default reading strategy is to peruse multiple online news aggregators, blogs and social media sites. I’m going to change that after reading what Seneca says. He was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman and dramatist. He is known for his letters of instruction to Lucilius, procurator of Sicily.

In the second letter“On Discursiveness in Reading,” he urges Lucilius to focus his reading.

Be careful, however, lest this reading of many authors and books of every sort may tend to make you discursive and unsteady. You must linger among a limited number of master-thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind. Everywhere means nowhere.

When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends. And the same thing must hold true of men who seek intimate acquaintance with no single author, but visit them all in a hasty and hurried manner.

Accordingly, since you cannot read all the books which you may possess, it is enough to possess only as many books as you can read. So you should always read standard authors; and when you crave a change, fall back upon those whom you read before.

And then this instruction:

Each day acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes as well; and after you have run over many thoughts, select one to be thoroughly digested that day.

Pause to select one thing to carry through the day.

~ Elfdalian

How many guests should you invite?

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Do you want serious conversation? Stick to four. Just ask Shakespeare.

Researchers who have time on their hands have figured out that four is the right number for chatting. If you invite more, the quality of discourse will decline and the stress level of the participants till increase.

This is all related to the ability to understand that other people do not necessarily know or intend the same things that we ourselves do, Frank McAndrew, a psychology professor, writes. If two people are engaged in conversation, each must understand what his or her partner intends and what each person understands about the other’s state of mind. So the more people you add the harder this juggling gets.

Other researchers with nothing better to do have determined that this is evolutionary.

If there are three people in the conversation, there are three possible pairs, only one of which excludes you. If there are five people, there are 10 possible pairs, and the majority—six—don’t include you, which makes it harder to get your point across.

What if, the researchers argue, there was an evolutionary advantage to not being “outnumbered” in a conversational group? The physical danger of being an isolated outcast is clear: exclusion from society in early human history could easily be a death sentence, and even most observed cases of lethal chimpanzee violence have happened when aggressive groups encounter a lone chimp.

Here’s the Shakespeare angle.

They analyzed the conversations in 10 different plays by William Shakespeare. Scholars have long been aware that conversational patterns in Shakespearean plays accurately reflect the dynamics of real-life social interactions — which is one reason their appeal has endured over time. If this is the case, it would be interesting to find out if Shakespeare applied the “maximum size of a conversation” rule to the characters in his plays. Krems and her colleagues discovered that no conversation in any play they analyzed ever involved more than five characters,

Finally, when inviting people over, remember The Bard’s rule: ““Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit.”

~ Excursus

You don’t want to blend in

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In the fabric of society it’s best to stand out. From The Daily Stoic written by Ryan Holiday:

In a famous exchange, Agrippinus explained why he was spurning an invitation to attend some banquet being put on by Nero. Not only was he spurning it, he said, but he had not even considered associating with such a madman.

A fellow philosopher, the one who had felt inclined to attend, asked for an explanation. Agrippinus responded with an interesting analogy. He said that most people see themselves like threads in a garment—they see it as their job to match the other threads in color and style. They want to blend in, so the fabric will match. But Agrippinus did not want to blend in. “I want to be the red,” he said, “that small and brilliant portion which causes the rest to appear comely and beautiful…’Be like the majority of people?’ And if I do that, how shall I any longer be the red?” He wanted to be red even if it meant being beheaded or exiled.  Because he felt it was right. Because he wouldn’t be anything other than his true self. 

It’s like Mark Twain’s line: When we find ourselves on the side of the majority, we should pause and reflect. Because it means we might be going along with the mob. We might have turned off our own mind. We might be muting our true colors. Our job as philosophers, as thinkers, as citizens, is not to go along to get along. We are not just another replaceable thread in an otherwise unremarkable garment. Our job is to stand up. To stand out. To speak the truth. To never blend in. 

Tough going in our cancel culture.

~ Excursus