All entries for February 2006

February 18, 2006

In Fifty Years… by P. Coelho

Writing about web page http://izvestiya.ru/coelho/article3027157

Paulo Coelho for Izvestia

1. Degrees will lose their significance: only degrees in Medicine, Law and Engineering will still be valid. Others will disappear, as the coming generations would realize the redundantness of getting a degree at university to then work within a totally different field.

2. The return of tribe culture: Marshall McLuen – an outstanding specialist in communication – once said that the world will turn into one big village, where everyone will be following much the same rules. He couldn’t’ve predicted the coming of the Internet, that would allow people to group according to their tastes and interests. Nations may maintain their significance, but people will start creating virtual nations.

3. De-urbanization: the heritage of the current epoch – big, cosmopolitan cities, which were created essentially due to the limits of communications and services – will lose their significance. Carpenters and craftsmen will have a higher wage than psychologists and sociologists. The service area – banking, shopping and etc – will all become computerized and made available via Internet.

4. Change of the perception of “success”: people having a better time and enjoying themselves more will be considered more successful than those with fatter wallets.

5. Life will become much easier: we’ll go back to the simple joys in life, available for little, or no money at all, e.g. beautiful landscapes or a walk in the town flee-market.

6. Intuition will be given same importance as logic: men will start developing their previously undiscovered potential

7. Goddess will reach the 'throne': it may take more than 50 years for people to start recognizing the holy mother figure, along with the predominant father figure that holds monopoly in nearly all the world religions at the moment. However, there will be fewer prejudice, and, quite possibly, the Catholic church will start contemplating trusting women key posts in clergy.

8. Fundamentalism will reach its apogee: precisely because of this, points 2 and 7 will be taken with greater frenzy. Speaking of tribe-azation of human race, I suppose, I expect the major tribes be formed by the fundamentalists of the basic world religions.

9. Decrease of xenophobia: the enmity, widely experiences in the ‘first world countries’ toward the foreign, will go downhill and will take the form of tougher immigration laws. However, tribes would already have gained enough strength to finally fight off xenophobia.

10. Rise of Islam: of the three major monotheist religions, Islam will become the strongest. Today, unfortunately, the idea of martyrdom is coming forth to the front due to the preachings of Islamic fundamentalists. And that shall make Islam a dominant religion.

11. New languages: people, who’d visit Spain in 50 year’s time will see that Catalonians will be speaking strictly Catalonian, and el País Vasco will have all its public information in Vasco. The same will be taking place in other parts of the world: dialects and ‘regional languages’ will gain further development and grow stronger, since it will be the most recognized form of cultural identity. Parallel to that tendency, new inter-tribal languages will emerge. English will most likely become the lingua franca, since it’s so closely linked to the language of the World Wide Web. Although in 2055, most people will be speaking Chinese.

I am 58 and I will hardly live to 108. But if any of you youngsters find my musings attractive, cut out this little article of mine and some day you’ll check if any of my predictions would come true.


February 15, 2006

Christ is mighty!

My Valentine Christ

February 08, 2006

The Penguin Bear

Penguin Bear Romance

Penguin Bear1

This Bear looks like Penguina.


My First Day at School

I don’t think parents can ever fully understand and appreciate their children’s shock on their first day of school. I had my first day at school today and it was absolutely horrifying! It was a big building – big mostly because it’s unfamiliar, it’s only four storeys tall really. There was, as to be expected, plenty of unfamiliar people; all in smart suits, looking like they just came back from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and have just established world peace somewhere. They joke in Latin and sneer at people who reply in Greek – all of them speak at least three languages and find ordinary Russian jokes boring and flat. They quote Plato and look at things in rhetorical ways. They know what’s going on in every corner of this world. They honestly intimidate me. I turned into one scared bird, looking for holes on the perfectly white walls. Hard as I tried to overcome this irrational fear of the new people (the same people I desperately wanted to meet just two months ago) I couldn’t help feeling out of place. I wasn’t trembling, no, but it definitely wasn’t the kind of experience I wanted to live over and over again.

Julia, my good Russian friend, once told me we have to disturb our own minds in order to live a fuller and richer life. Apparently, we tend to assume things of other people and once we find our place in the society we hardly ever break out of the routine of our own life and behaviour. So right now I’m doing the ‘what if the other kids don’t like me?’ scene, denying myself the chance to meet new exciting, Latin-speaking people. Julia also told me that the key to human interaction is to make people happy with your presence. She said she was gonna try passing her exams using that technique: bringing joy to her examiners and showing the required minimum amount of proficiency in the subject. I’m yet to ask her how that went for her. But one thing is true: a big full-hearted smile can be real contagious. Maybe I’ll try that tomorrow: bring happiness to people with my presence and my shiny maniacal smile! And they will, subsequently, love me.


February 07, 2006

From Fred to Fred

Bear Parade

Bears March

Bear Reveal!


February 06, 2006

Things I respect

1. Wikipedia link
2. Google link
3. Linux - Ubuntu link
4. Mozilla Firefox link

You get the idea


February 04, 2006

A Review on a Book That’s Not Out Yet – America Against the World

America has always been against the world, hasn’t it? Well, in the eyes of an extremist, such as myself, it has. This Monday I had the luck to be present on a discussion of the book America against the world, which is to be published this May. The writers of this book initially held the aim of studying the global response to globalization. Americans love polls of opinions. That’s what democracy is about, isn’t it? So in the process of questioning random people from 50 countries across the globe, the researches stumbled upon the fact that there was another phenomenon, much more worrying than globalization. It’s called the anti-American movement. They didn’t wait long to turn that into an ISM word, so before we knew it, we were discussing anti-Americanism.

Anti-Americanism is fun and widespread. It’s trendy and catchy. We were shown a big number of rather interesting graphs and figures, all proving that the world is now hardly bearing with America. France and the UK were among the countries where it was no longer fashionable to chase after the American dream. The love has been declining quite tremendously from year 2000, plummeting rather significantly after the 9/11 and even more drastically after the Iraq invasion. In 2003, only 1% of Jordanians still favoured the US in some way; the rest of the Muslim world was also much unimpressed.

When asked about the ‘What’s your problem, man’, most respondents said they had issues with American policies. The truth is, not that many people really know of the policies existing and practiced by the States. So what they meant to say is ‘they had issues with the American government’. Fewer people thought of American people as carrying evil and promoting intolerance. However, a staggering amount of respondents gave up their last hope in Americans (as people) after they’ve re-elected George W. Bush. Disappointed they were indeed. In the words of the presenter himself ‘As the Daily Mail put it ‘How can 54 million people be so dumb?!’’. Before you go on and argue – it’s a rhetorical question. As Justin Timberlake has it ‘oh, oh, the damage is done, so I guess I’ll be leaving’. The president was elected and there should be no arguing.

When the researchers settled down to find the answer to the ‘Why, oh, why do they hate us so much?’ question, they came up with a bewilderingly stupid answer: Americans are different. I’ve heard this ‘we are different’ crap so many times it’s starting to gently pour out of my ears. Every single country is unique. Americans, due to the prolific work of the Hollywood, have long successfully imposed their ideology on the rest of the world. Besides, being tolerant as I am, and as fashion dictates it nowadays, I’m willing to accept any kind of ideology. So, what Americans believe in is much tolerated, if hardly respected sometimes.

Another explanation provided for the un-love was the religiosity of the Americans. Apparently, over 95% of Americans take guidance from religious organizations and count with their opinion. Oh, bollocks! So now I have to blame god for all the wrong-doings of the Americans?

Third excuse: Americans are patriots. Oh, now that’s just not smart. I’m sure students around the world have experience Patriotism a la Chine and had a taste of what united Chinese students look like when someone is attacking their country. And yet people aren’t hating the Chinese, definitely not for their patriotism!

What I personally have against the States is (1) their pseudo-democracy, (2) their blatant propaganda (I mean, just watch that Bush’s speech recently: how many times have they applauded and how much of a show it was?), (3) their hypocrisy (probably above all) and (4) Bush’s accent.

Going back to the responses to globalization: the researchers have found out that the ultimate ‘Land of opportunity’ does not rest on the land of the US anymore. It’s like the geographical poles not matching with the magnetic poles of the Earth. The British are looking enviously at Australia, the Chinese have their mouths watering over Canada and the Pakistani, surprisingly, are queuing to get into China! The grass is always greener on the other side. And only the Indians are still looking up at the US and seeing buckets of green currency in their dreams.

Despite the huge number of rather peculiar statistics (which I absolutely love!), the essence of this book strikes me as another biased PR book to fix the image of the US in the eyes of its fleeting lovers around the world. I mean, why would they call it ‘America against the world’ and not ‘The world against America’ if they were to objectively speak of the phenomena? Victimizing self is just poor taste and obtuse tool to win an argument. I know it’s considered bad manner to speak of a book that’s not been published yet, but I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. I do promise to read the book if it’s ever out and do a proper review of it. However, with my biased extremist views I think I’ll hardly change my opinion on that book.

P.S. My dad said that a famous dead Russian journalist’s dad (sorry about that, was just being precise) said that only the stupid and the ignorant could hate America. If so, then I am the ignorant one. Oh, and I don’t hate America, like the anti-globalists don’t hate globalization. I should travel to the States some day and do a review of the country.


On Fear IV: Fear and Arts

Another thing that discriminates humans from animals is our awareness of the fact of our inevitable death. Moreover, to the reckoning of many philosophers, the knowledge of the unavoidability of our own death is what makes us humans. In his work Biology and Medicine Mechnikov wrote: all animals avoid death instinctively, without realizing it. Babies and children avoid death based on the same principle, until they later become conscious of the inevitability of their own death, which should be attributed to the outstanding development of human mind. Mechnikov argued that the Fear of death has always been ‘one of the greatest worries for men’ and being aware of death, many people couldn’t live a full life. Mechnikov saw a solution in creating a science that would on one hand help prolong people’s lives and on the other hand – help people realise the naturalness of death, thus making people more at peace with the idea of death and stop fearing it so desperately. At the end of his life Mechnikov created a study of orthobiosis – the kind of life that offers calm and peaceful old age in continuation of an active and busy life, thus helping people feel overwhelmed (even surfeited) with life and welcome death more willingly.

Many scientists argue that the basis of human worry lays in the effect of anticipation. Only humans can fear something that’s not happening or has never happened to them before. Moreover, humans seem to have proved that the intensity of Fear they experience during the anticipation is higher than the intensity of Fear during the actual moment of facing the troubling event (e.g. death).

Fear and Art

The Fear of the unknown and the Fear of death, according to a number of historians and art critics, have always served as the two major propellers of creation and art. Oddly enough, the most common therapy in treating children’s neurosis occurring on the ground of fear is the method of gradual de-sensibilization and the method of ‘drawing fears’. The former involves exposing children to their Fears by making them confront their Fears from the least worrying to the most troubling and scary ones, but only by the means of a dramatised game (e.g. using children’s stories starring scary characters). That raises the question of whether theatre, drama, cinema, opera and ballet are essentially de-sensibilizations for the grown-ups. ‘Drawing fears’, as psychologists reckon, does not deepen the effect of the source of Fear, but quite the opposite, – reduces the sense of worry related to the anticipation of the fearful object. In drawing one’s fears one is led to believe that the horror has already taken place, hence there is little left unknown or to be uncertain about.

Jose Ortega y Gasset assumes that the entirety of human culture and art has essentially been created to help us overcome the Fear of death. Of course, at the current stage of development of human society, death is no longer the only Fear we have, and thus the art now represents our moral and social Fears as well. In all art forms, we try to ‘tell our hearts’, in other words, we try to get rid of our Fears and worries. Worries that are related to the Fear of the unknown, the Fear of death and loneliness can be reduced by reproducing them in arts and confronting them in this form.

Nota Bene.

The reason I chose to translate this piece of work is because of my own curiosity and my desire to understand and analyze fear. The original work is available on link and belongs to the NTV (Independent Television, Russia). This text is a transcript from a television show called Gordon (by the name of the presenter) that used to be quite popular and aired late at night. It has other interesting transcripts talking about all kinds of random things from Stalin to Heretics. In translating this piece I have cut out some bits that were overly scientific and frankly beyond my understanding. I have also intentionally failed to convey the overly patriotic sound of this work. On a number of occasions this work has argued the originality of some theories and methods, claiming they had been discovered by Soviet scientists, stolen and/or plagiarised by the western scientists. I did not do this translation for justice’s sake, hence I chose not to mention the roots of theories and methods altogether. Also, I have not been paying much attention to back-translating names of the western scientists, because they were not important to me. The only name I can be sure of is that of Jose Ortega y Gasset. My views on the subject of fear may differ from that of the one presented by the original text.


February 02, 2006

On Fear III: Harm of Fear and Manifestations of Fear

Follow-up to On Fear II: Causes of Fear and Phobias from Reverie

The harm of Fear

While the main function of Fear is a protective one, Fear can also cause life-threatening damage. The phrase ‘pass out from fear’ isn’t just a figure of speech. For the more advanced animals and humans the process of mobilization of the organism is an exceedingly strong force pushing the body’s chemicals level to an extreme. Clinical researchers and coroners have seen and recorded a number of cases where death is not caused by any organic reason. In so-called primitive civilizations (tribes) there have been recorded deaths that were caused by the crossing of a cultural taboo or a cursing of a witch. This is called ‘Voodoo death’ (studied and described by physiologist Kennon). Acute catatonic schizophrenia, which may be caused by intensive Fear (along with other reasons), may have a fatal outcome for the patient.

In mobilizing the body in anticipation of danger, Fear can literally overdo its task. Total mobilization is only appropriate when the subject needs the strength to plunge into a fight for life. However when such intensive actions are not taking place, the mobilization becomes excessive and cause unnecessary loss of body energy. Quite often students anticipating a tough exam have a higher pulse rate, which equates to that of a mountain climber. The sweaty palms reaction experienced during nervous moments were once designed for an easier grasp of the enemy, should the subject require to enter a fight with the source of threat. Uncontrollable urination was designed to lighten the body weight of the subject, should fleeing come into picture. However all of the above mentioned reactions would be totally inappropriate if the Fear (whether conscious or subconscious) is caused within a completely different set of situations, e.g. social interactions.

Increased coagulability of blood slows down the loss of blood in case of physical injuries, which are almost inevitable, should the subject join in a battle with the aggressor. Yet, if such struggle is not taking place, then the increased coagulability may lead to infarct or heart attack.

Manifestations of Fear

Many scientist name Hate as one of the most common manifestations of Fear. Psychologists and Psychiatrics often search for a source of Fear in order to explain irrational aggression.

Being one of the strongest human emotions, Fear, based on pendulum swing principle, can turn into a powerful positive emotion. There are many examples from films and fiction where on the brink of death people suddenly experience great passion. This can also be explained with human’s basic instinct: when faced with near-death experience, people instinctively try to prolong their species, presumably by developing deep passion. That is to say, one can die of love and one can fall in love before the face of death.

Human Fears differ from animal fear. According to Anton Kempinski, depending on genesis, apart from natural Fear, humans experience social, moral and disintegrated Fears. Conditions, under which humans develop sense of Fear, can be divided into four groups: (1) immediately life-threatening; (2) bearing social threat; (3) inability to act upon one’s own choices (limited freedom) and (4) disruption or tremendous change of the existing structure of relations with the outer world.

While experiencing the Fear itself we are usually unable to tell exactly which kind of Fear is controlling us. For example, patients, suffering from neurosis, experience a genuine Fear of death even though their condition is not life-threatening; on the other hand, there have been cases when in the early stages of developing oenological diseases, patients experienced social and moral Fears, when the real reason for their Fear was biological.


February 01, 2006

On Fear II: Causes of Fear and Phobias

Follow-up to On Fear I: Functions of Fear from Reverie

Causes of Fear

All causes of Fear can be divided into four categories: intensity, novelty, hereditary natural reflexes and reasons hidden in human social interaction. Pain and loud noise are examples of intensive stimuli; unfamiliar faces can cause Fear because of the novelty. Situations known to have threatened the members of the same species for an extensive period of time may evolve into natural causes of Fear for this particular species.

John Bowbly – a famous scientist studying the development of children psychology – listed a number of inborn determinants of Fear, which he labelled ‘natural stimuli and their derivations’. Such stimuli as loneliness, unfamiliarity, sudden approach, sudden change of stimulus, height and pain were classified as natural stimuli. The core stimuli of Fear are darkness, animals, unknown objects and unfamiliar people.

Bowlby named loneliness as the most profound and the most significant cause of Fear. Other natural stimuli, such as unfamiliarity and sudden change in stimulation, have much more considerable impact if they occur on the basis of loneliness.

Bowbly also points out a group of cultural determinants of fear that are believed to be pure results of cultivation and cultural upbringing. For example, even the dimmed sound of air raid siren can plant fear in people. Bowbly notes that many of the cultural determinants of fear could represent natural determinants subtly hidden by misinterpretation, rationalization or projection of Fear. The Fear of thieves, for example, or ghosts, could be the rationalization of fear of darkness; the Fear of lightening bolts – rationalization of the fear of thunder storms. William Richman, psychologist, describes the process of cultivation of cultural determinants of fear using the concept of traumatic stipulation, that is to say, according to Richman, events or situations that cause pain can cause fear with or without the pain occurring again.

Phobias

Sometimes Fears develop into forms of uncontrollable psychological disorders and become phobias. How does the natural emotion transform into a mental illness? Science doesn’t quite answer the question. According to the basic theory attempting to explain the occurrence of phobias and other severely inapt reactions to stimuli (a.k.a. irrational fears), Fears are psychological traumas, experienced in one’s childhood, forgotten, but stamped on one’s subconscious.

Most of the hypothesis explaining phobias can be divided into two major groups. One of them makes links to Freud’s concepts of psychoanalysis and the other one explains phobias using Pavlov’s conditional reflex theory. According to Russian scientists, a vast majority of phobias form as pathological stamping of conditional reflex. For example, the persistent fear caused by disruption of cardio-vascular system, pains in the heart, cold sweats occurring during one’s presence at open spaces may further develop into agoraphobia.

According to the classical conditional reflex theory, conditional stimuli gradually lose the ability to provoke reaction, if not supported by unconditional stimuli. Phobias can last for years without being supported by repeated exposure to stimuli; however this does not contradict the theory. The paces of shaping and fading of a phobia very much depend on the emotional background accompanying the formation of the temporary link between the source of fear and the fear itself.

Clinical researchers found that importunate Fears have a tendency to generalise with time. For example, initially a person develops a fear of trains due to experiencing an extensive psychological trauma related to having a heart attack during one of his train rides. At the second stage, Fear kicks in at the moment of anticipation of the train and the related traumatic experience. At the final stage irrational fear may occur with the mere notion of the situation. Quite often such obtrusive notions lead to extremely affective tense reactions.

Importunate Fears evolve with the evolution of human society. A Soviet psychiatrist Davidenkov noted that we used to fear mentally challenged, crazy or psychologically unstable people, we feared cancer, crazy dogs, syphilis; some time later we developed phobias to arterial hypertonic disorders, heart attacks, myocardial infarcts, leucosis. These changes are felt especially strong within the class of social phobias. The current phobias are much related to the crash of ideals and values, aliens (as in creatures from other planets as opposed to from other countries), STD s and AIDS.

In a vast majority of cases we develop fears in our childhood. Scientists note that emotionally sensitive children are more likely to develop fears being influenced by the following factors: presence of fear in their parents; a sense of worry in relation to the child, over-protectiveness, isolation from the children of the same age, a big number of proscriptions coming from the parent of the same sex, as well as total freedom granted by the parent of the opposite sex, also a great number of unrealised threats coming from all the grown-ups in the family, the lack of role identification with the parent of the same sex (predominantly in boys); psychological traumas such as a scare; unstable psychological atmosphere in the family and confusion caused by a switch of roles between the two parents.

There are other known hypotheses explaining the mechanism and cause of fear. In the latest decades scientists have been working to determine a gene of fear. Some scientists have detected certain changes in chromosomes of the lab rats, that were conditionally exposed to electrical current as stimuli of pain and thus fear, but it does not prove that fears can be hereditary.


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