Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States

Traditional indicators of noncompetitive performance still apply: corruption (the most seductive activity humans can consummate while clothed); the absence of sound, equitably enforced laws; civil strife; or government attempts to overmanage a national economy. As change has internationalized and accelerated, however, new predictive tools have emerged. They are as simple as they are fundamental, and they are rooted in culture. The greater the degree to which a state--or an entire civilization--succumbs to these "seven deadly sins" of collective behavior, the more likely that entity is to fail to progress or even to maintain its position in the struggle for a share of the world's wealth and power. Whether analyzing military capabilities, cultural viability, or economic potential, these seven factors offer a quick study of the likely performance of a state, region, or population group in the coming century.

These key "failure factors" are:

  • Restrictions on the free flow of information.
  • The subjugation of women.
  • Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure.
  • The extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization.
  • Domination by a restrictive religion.
  • A low valuation of education.
  • Low prestige assigned to work.

[...] Whether on our own soil or abroad, those segments of humanity that fear and reject knowledge of the world (and, often, of themselves) are condemned to failure, poverty, and bitterness.

—Ralph Peters

Message to Future Generations

— What would you think it's worth telling future generations about the life you've lived and the lessons you've learned from it?

"I should like to say two things, one intellectual and one moral. The intellectual thing I should want to say is this: When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed. But look only, and solely, at what are the facts. That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say.

The moral thing I should wish to say... I should say love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world which is getting more closely and closely interconnected we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don't like. We can only live together in that way, and if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet."

—Bertrand Russell

The Investment of Societies

No society wants you to become wise: it is against the investment of all societies. If people are wise, they cannot be exploited. If they are intelligent, they cannot be subjugated, they cannot be forced into a mechanical life, to live like robots. They will assert themselves - they will assert their individuality. They will have the fragrance of rebellion around them; they will want to live in freedom.

Freedom comes with wisdom, intrinsically. They are inseparable, and no society wants people to be free. The communist society, the fascist society, the capitalist society, the Hindu, the Mohammedan, the Christian - no society likes people to use their own intelligence, because the moment they start using their intelligence they become dangerous - dangerous to the establishment, dangerous to the people who are in power, dangerous to the "haves"; dangerous to all kinds of oppression, exploitation, suppression; dangerous to the churches, dangerous to the states, dangerous to the nations.

In fact, a wise man is afire, alive, aflame. He would like rather to die than to be enslaved. [...]


The Search for Reason

[Giordano Bruno] Remains therefore committed to a fierce struggle until the end against ignorance, prejudice, intolerance and dogma.

"It should never stand as argument the authority of any man, regardless of how excellent and illustrious he is... it is grossly unfair to fold one's own feeling to a submissive reverence toward another; it is worthy of mercenaries or slaves and contrary to the dignity of human freedom to suppress oneself and to be submissive; it is supreme stupidity to believe by inveterate custom; it is an irrational thing to conform with an opinion because of the number of those who have it... it has to be sought, instead, always a reason, true and necessary... and listen to the voice of nature."

—Giordano Bruno

Bruno is ahead in this way - and perhaps contributes to inspire - the demand expressed later by Bacon to purify the mind of preconceived ideas, which become an arbitrary prevention to the faithful understanding of nature, that should be achieved through compliance with the objective conditions and not with the subjective. Indeed says Bruno strongly that nature should be law to human reason, and not this one to the former.

The Zen of Python

Long time Pythoneer Tim Peters succinctly channels the BDFL's guiding principles for Python's design into 20 aphorisms, only 19 of which have been written down.

—Tim Peters

The Regrets of the Dying

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog. "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again."

I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

—Bronnie Ware

The Uncopyright Mindset

As some might know, I'm not a fan of copyright. In fact, I've uncopyrighted this blog and my other blog, Zen Habits.

And while uncopyright and minimalism might seem at first glance to be unrelated, I believe they both stem from the same mindset.

Here's how.

Copyright stems from a protective mindset, one that believes the creator owns his work, and must protect that ownership in order to profit from said work. The creator will share his work with others, but only at a price, and anyone who takes without paying, or uses it as a basis for further creations, is stealing.

That's the copyright mindset.

The uncopyright mindset is that of someone who gives without any guarantee of profit, who lets go of ownership and believes the world owns his creation. He hopes to contribute to the world in a small way, and if others benefit from this contribution, that's a good thing. And if others use his contribution to create something new and beautiful, that's a wonderful thing.

The uncopyright creator lets go of ownership, because to hold on to ownership hurts the world, and to try to protect that ownership leads to unnecessary stress.

The minimalist also eschews ownership, at least to some degree, and believes owning things doesn't make him happy. Doing things makes him happy. Helping others makes him happy. Creating makes him happy.

It is from this place that the minimalist embraces uncopyright, and in doing so gives to the world and hopes that the world will be better for it, at least in a tiny measure.

—Leo Babauta

The Purpose of Religion

I cannot understand why we idle discussing religion. If we are honest - and scientists have to be - we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can't for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet. Quiet people are much easier to govern than clamorous and dissatisfied ones. They are also much easier to exploit.

Religion is a kind of opium that allows a nation to lull itself into wishful dreams and so forget the injustices that are being perpetrated against the people. Hence the close alliance between those two great political forces, the State and the Church. Both need the illusion that a kindly God rewards - in heaven if not on earth - all those who have not risen up against injustice, who have done their duty quietly and uncomplainingly. That is precisely why the honest assertion that God is a mere product of the human imagination is branded as the worst of all mortal sins.

—Paul Dirac

The Internationalization of Amazonia

During a recent discussion, in the United States, someone asked my opinion regarding the internationalization of the Amazon Region. The youngster asserted that he expected a response of a humanist and not of a Brazilian.

This was the first time anyone had established the humanist viewpoint as the starting point for my response. In fact, as a Brazilian I would have responded simply against internationalization of the Amazon Region. Even if our governments have not given the attention that this treasure deserves, it is ours. I responded that, as a humanist, realizing the risk of environmental destruction that threatens the Amazon Region, I could imagine its internationalization, just as for everything else that is important to humanity.

If the Amazon Region, from a humanist's point of view, has to be internationalized, then we should internationalize the oil reserves of the entire world as well. Oil is just as important to the well being of humanity as the Amazon Region for our future. Nevertheless, the owners of oil reserves feel it is in their right to increase or decrease oil production and to raise or lower the price. The rich of the world, feel they have the right to burn this valuable possession of humanity. Similarly, the financial capital of the wealthy nations should be internationalized. If the Amazon Region is a natural reserve for every human being, then it could not be burned down by the decision of a landowner or a country. To burn down the Amazon Region is so tragic, as the unemployment provoked by the arbitrary decisions of world wide speculators. We cannot permit that the world's financial reserves serve to burn down entire nations according to the whims of speculation.

Before the (internationalization of the) Amazon Region, I would like to see the internationalization of all the world's great museums. The Lourve cannot belong only to France. Each museum in the world is a guardian for the most beautiful works produced by the human genius. It cannot be permitted that these cultural possessions, as the natural posession of the Amazon Region, can be manipulated or be destroyed according to the whims of an owner or a country. Recently, a Japanese millionaire decided to have a painting of a grand master burried with him in the grave. This painting should have been internationalized.

At the time of the meeting, in which this question came up, the United Nations convened the Forum of the Millennium and the presidents of several countries had difficulties in attending due to barriers (they faced) at the border. Therefore, I contend that New York, as the base of the United Nations, should be internationalized. At least Manhattan should belong to all of humanity. Similarly Paris, Venice, Rome, London, Rio de Janeiro, Brazilia, Recife, every city with its own beauty, its own history should belong to the whole world.

If the United States wants to internationalize the Amazon Region, due to the risk of leaving it in Brazilian hands, then we should internationalize all the nuclear stockpiles of the United States. Particularly since they have already shown that they are capable of using these weapons, causing a destruction thousands of times greater than the sad fires taken place in the Brazilian forests. During their debates, the current U.S. presidential candidates have defended the idea of internationalizing the world forest reserves in exchange for the debt. We could begin to use this debt to guarantee the right of every child in the world to attend school. We could internationalize the children treating all of them, regardless of their birthplace, as a posession which deserves the care and attention of the entire world. Even more so than the Amazon Region. When the world leaders attend to the world's poor children as possessions of Humanity, they will no longer permit that these children work when they should be studying, that they die when they should be living.

As a humanist I accept to defend the internationalization of the world. So as long as the world treats me as a Brazilian, I will fight so that our Amazon Region will be ours. Only ours.

—Cristovam Buarque