Razor Edge

Double-Edge-Shaver-Razor-Blade

According to Carlos Castaneda clarity is one of the enemies of knowledge.

This applies to all fields of human activity, including academia.

If you know the answer in advance, there’s no point in arguing or doing a research. A scholar or a a scientist needs to stay puzzled, as well be aware of the limits of his knowledge.

At the same time, however, there must be a sense of commitment, perseverance, and even stubbornness with pursuing a research question. After all, what’s the value of a scholarly investigation if it’s given up easily?

So on the one hand a scholar needs to be determined in his inquiries and views. On the other hand he needs to keep an open mind for a fresh perspective.

Finding a proper balance may not be easy. The term “golden middle” is not appropriate here. Rather, it’s a razor edge, as slightest leaning towards either side can lead to a disaster.

Yet the efforts are worth the result.

After all, razor edge is just another challenge – although a tough one – on the way towards a man of knowledge.

Knowledge Vs. Wisdom

I am now reading an inspiring Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, a prominent psychiatrist of the 20th century and a Holocaust survivor. The book conveys a powerful message about the human search for meaning in life.

One of the author’s ideas that stand out in my mind most vividly is the distinction between knowledge and wisdom.

Let me quote Viktor Frankl here (translated from Russian):

Our scientists need something more than knowledge: they also need to have wisdom. And I define wisdom as knowledge combined with awareness of its limits.

“Knowledge combined with awareness of its limits” – isn’t that truly powerful?

A true scientist, scholar, or anyone who claims to have critical thinking must be always ready to change his point of view under the pressure of facts and evidence.

Most people are not ready to do that, as for them it is much more pleasant to know than to seek. Even people with strong intellect may get rigid in theirs views and answers.

Yet every knowledge is limited and reality always comes up with facts “not matching the theory”. In order to notice them, one just needn’t turn away.

To always feel the limits of your knowledge, your discourse, be always ready to review your theories due to new circumstances, be open to the unknown – this is what wisdom is.

I couldn’t agree more on this with Viktor Frankl.

To conclude with the author’s words, check out his famous short video below on the search for meaning. Perhaps this will serve as a motivation to check out his great book.

Religion Kills People

More people have been killed in the name of religion than anything else.

Religious wars, religious persecutions, religious phobias, religious stereotypes, you name it …

This week another death toll was taken – this time via the tragic events in Paris.

Of course this was more than just a terrorist attack. There are several angles to look at the situation from – the problem of disobedient immigrants, the failing politics of multiculturalism, the freedom of speech, etc. The incident is symptomatic of all of these issues.

Yet another fundamental concern here is how people are manipulated by religion and engage in doing things that are simply medieval and even primitive in the twenty-first century.

By no means do I mean to criticize Islam here – one of the global religions having hundreds of millions of followers all over the world. Nor do I want to discredit Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or any another confession.

The problem is not with religion (even though I am not a religious person myself). Religions are part of social reality and cannot be denied as such. The problem is with people who blindly believe that religion gives answers to all questions, who misinterpret grossly the revelations of prophets, and who belittle – either by speech or action – the God they are supposed to honor.

Does Muhammad call for calling in Koran? I never read it in full, but I really doubt so. Or does jihad actually mean eliminating anyone “on the other side”? Not a chance.

Those radical elements who think otherwise are stuck in the Middle Ages. They are elements of the past, the fading glimpses of the pre-modern society who are naive enough to think they can integrate in the modern or post-modern one.

Or maybe they don’t want any integration? Maybe they see their life mission as a fight against the “rotten consumerist spiritless Western civilization”? If two assholes shoot down ruthlessly an editorial team under the pretext of insulting religious caricatures, something is definitely wrong.

Such people are too narrow-minded to see that caricatures were drawn against all religious prophets, and not only Muhammad. They are too arrogant to realize they live in another country where freedom of speech and liberty are fundamental values. They are too self-important to understand they were kindly granted residence in a foreign land.

But above all, they will never grasp that each at the core of each religion there is a profound spiritual teaching. If they need “real stuff”, they need to dig in to the sources, and not find an escape in the shell of their distorted religion.

Condolences to the French families of those who passed away.

What an ironic twist of fate …

… that Christophe de Margerie, the president of Total – the largest French oil refinery and one of the largest companies in the world – fully supported business cooperation with Russia despite the announced sanctions … but got killed in the Russian ‘Vnukovo’ airport after his business jet had crashed the snow cutter.

As it turned out, the driver of the snow cutter had alcohol in his blood.

Who should be the real target for blame? The drunken driver? Or the person who has all the authority and power to move the country out of the “dark zone” (which Margerie was so enthusiastic about), but uses them exclusively for personal enrichment?

In place of French people – and politicians! – I would become very suspicious …

And when I hear the versions of some Russian ‘patriot bloggers’ that the death of Christophe de Margerie – the president of the French Total oil refinery – was a “political order” – I am smiling and crying at the same time.

Smiling at how easy these kind of ‘bloggers’ accuse the external enemies in the exclusively internal disorder.

Crying at how easy millions – with the right propaganda – of course, the world where C.I.A. or US Department of State can blow a strike out of space feels much comfortable compared to the world where big people die stupidly because a driver of a snow cutter is drunk …

It Takes Courage To Be A True Scientist

A scientist or a scholar is not necessarily someone sitting in a lab carrying out an experiment or conducting a boring – at first sight – academic research.

Science is about being open to the world, getting excited about unsolved problems, and becoming inspired when seeking solutions to them.

Everyone is an inborn scientist in this respect.

Yet there is an important remark to be made here.

A true scientist – or anyone who claims to have critical thinking – must be always ready to change his point of view under the pressure of facts and evidence.

Most people are not ready to do that, as life teaches us. Unfortunately, even people with strong intellect may get rigid in theirs views and answers. For many it is much more pleasant to know than to seek.

Yet every knowledge is limited and reality always comes up with facts “not matching the theory”. In order to notice them, one just needn’t turn away. As Doctor House said: “A true scientist always seeks evidence to overthrow his theory”. Unlike an average person who looks at the facts supporting his views while ignoring everything else.

To always feel the limits of your knowledge, your discourse, be always ready to review your theories due to new circumstances, be open to the unknown – this is what true science is.

A true scientist, scholar, student – anyone seeking to understand the world – never stops learning, even if his worldview gets mutated, transformed or broken along the way.

It takes balls to be a true Man. It takes intellectual courage to be a true scientist.

Politics and cakes

Most delicious cakes have several layers. They also have a filling in between the layers, and a cream on top, with decorations all over. To understand the essence of political reality around, the same “cake approach” can be used. Politics is a complicated thing with many actors and interests involved on different levels. There can never be a single answer or point on view on why a certain political event has happened. Instead, it’s worth to analyze things from several levels, for example: local, regional and domestic; or economic, political and cultural, or personal, group, and global. You get the idea.

A good cake has always many things in it. If we want to make a critical analysis of any event, we should remember about the cake: the more layers we expose, the better picture we will have. Otherwise our brains will feed on tasteless cereals.

The true nature of IMF: the case of Ukraine

The right to development is an inalienable human right… The human right to development also implies the full realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, which includes…the exercise of their inalienable right to full sovereignty over all their natural wealth and resources…

The United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development (1986)

Out of the frying pan into the fire

After the stunning civil protest known as the Euromaidan, or simply Maidan, the temporary government of Ukraine is preoccupied with pulling the country out of the economic chaos caused by the previous government of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych. Ukraine’s newly-elected prime-minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced:

The treasury is empty. We will do everything not to default. If we get the financial support from the IMF, the U.S., we will do it. I’m going to be the most unpopular prime minister in the history of my country. But this is the only solution. I would never promise any kind of huge achievements. First and the most important issue is to stabilize the situation.

While the Ukrainian government has been desperate to to get a new loan from the International Monetary Fund, I am strongly convinced IMF is nothing but another tool used by the global corporate elites to achieve certain strategic and political goals, with the loan beneficiaries becoming over-dependent on external financial assistance.

The true nature of IMF

The International Monetary Fund was created back in 1945. The organization’s stated objectives are to “foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world”. The Fund provides “political consultations and financing to countries in difficulty, as well as cooperates with developing states to promote their macroeconomic stability and reduce poverty”. These tasks are achieved by providing loans, which is generally accompanied with a number of conditions and “recommendations” to improve the situation.

Now let us ask ourselves a question: in what way can social spending cuts, recommended by IMF to Ukraine, as well as other states, help “achieve economic stability and reduce poverty”? In no way. And in fact – quite the contrary. The so-called “structural adjustments” laid out by IMF – privatization, governmental cuts on social welfare, increasing taxation, reducing state budget and many others – lead to destabilization and regression of national economies, impoverishment of populations, and hooking of member-states to loans.

Not only humiliating conditions are imposed to peoples in return for loans, the recipient-state has to give away most of its GDP to cover the national debt. Moreover, an IMF loan tranche is never used directly for social welfare (like salary increases, procurement of rare medical equipment, support of underprivileged groups of people) or economic (investing into industry and agriculture) purposes. Instead, it is always transferred for ‘storage’ to a country’s National Bank.

The results of IMF activities are staggering:

  • In 1980’s IMF demanded that Yugoslavia ceases regional leveling-off in return for a loan tranche, which contributed to unleashing the civil war.
  • In 1989 in return for a loan the government of Rwanda stopped supporting farmers and devalued the national currency. The result – sharp drop in people’s incomes and, again, a bloody war.
  • In 1980’s IMF granted another loan tranche to Mexico in return for privatization and governmental spending cuts. The result was equally unfortunate – impoverishment of the farmers, mass unemployment, huge expenditures for paying off the national debt.

And in the meantime, IMF continues recommending all these austere measures to the developing (and not only) countries, including Ukraine, in order to “overcome global financial crisis”. Do IMF business analysts not consider that these measures only increase crisis developments in the society? How come that “professional experts” do not envisage a likely growth on violence, crime and alcohol addiction as a result of “economic stabilization measures”? Can ‘advanced’ economists really bear the situation when most of the world’s GDP is given away to cover national debts, with peoples blaming their own governments?

In my view, economists, analysts and experts are fully aware of this. And the seeming contradictions disappear once you understand the true political objectives of the players:

  • The exclusively economic field of IMF activities is nothing but a myth. This organization is as much political as the UN or NATO, and is in essence a tool for achieving specific political goals by specific political elites. Interestingly enough, IMF displays its “true face” now and then. As an example, consider the not so late events in Belarus, when IMF demanded to release political prisoners in the country in return for a loan tranche.
  • It must be noted that IMF is mainly controlled by the U.S., with them being the main contributor to the Fund. And this is no wonder, as the U.S. Federal Reserve System (the country’s Central Bank) is a private institution enjoying the right of unrestricted dollar emission, with dollar not being valued against anything.
  • The offer that “cannot be resisted” – that is a loan via IMF for economic development – is in fact debt enslavement of national economies. This is the way economic crises are arranged – loans are imposed for the amounts that cannot be returned in principle; sooner or later, this a followed by a “margin call”, i.e. a request to fulfill all payment obligations.
  • What happens with countries that cannot meet their payment obligations? They are either threatened with default (consider the crisis situations in Greece, Spain, Portugal), or are forced to find a “diplomatic solution” of the problem. For example, reducing the amount of state debt in return for allowing foreign military bases into their territories, or signing profitable contracts with ‘right’ parties for the exploration and exploitation of a country’s strategical energy resources (such as oil).
  • In this way, little by little nation-states are giving away their sovereignty. It is this struggle for sovereignty of “secondary” players that characterizes the present-day geopolitical situation. And the International Monetary Fund is a powerful tool in this struggle. Not more, but not less.

A note about mass media

Undoubtedly, official world mass media will never be able to highlight the true reasons behind of the vicious circle, when after receiving “economic assistance” whole peoples are being deprived of their social, economic and human rights. This is the case as all world mass media are controlled by the same power that created international financial institutions to help achieve its strategic goals. The power that will never care how many children die of hunger all over the planet. The power that interferes aggressively into domestic politics of other nation-states. The power that crushed Yugoslavia, Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and many other places uncovered by the media. The power that evaluates everything only from the perspective of profit. And such profit-seeking logic is by nature in conflict with the interests of most of world population.

Indeed, the most dangerous and lethal weapons of 21st century are not nuclear, chemical, or biological ones. These are mass media, or mass destruction media, to be more precise. However independent they may claim to be, mass media will always serve as a political tool to influence the population of this planet. The ongoing Crimean crisis in Ukraine is a vivid example. And this applies to each and every international or domestic political process. I am convinced that it is not that terrible if people die in a valiant battle for their country. It is much more terrible if people lose the war in their hearts and minds.

Afterword

This post does not seek to explain Ukraine’s difficulties exclusively by an external factor. What it conveys is that the most talked about political events are often just a “top of the iceberg”. Virtually any country’s foreign policy is always in close relation with its domestic policy. Ukraine’s domestic policy, like that of many other states, is inevitably dependent upon IMF and similar international financial institutions.

The victory of democracy over slavery is the greatest myth that has been implanted into consciousness of masses. Slavery still exists today, although in more sophisticated financial, economic and political forms. I believe that every Ukrainian citizen and resident needs to understand what is behind advices and loans from international “financial partners”. Considering all the above, Ukraine’s key geopolitical priority lies in strengthening its national sovereignty. This is all the more important as no country without a full sovereignty can carry out independent policies for the sake of its national interests.