Tag society - humanist @ roua.org :

the law

Written by Romeo Anghelache no comments

If you don't obey the law and you come with the excuse you did not know it, that excuse doesn't hold, right? It's your obligation as a citizen to know the law. Then the law should be published on the Net and should be freely accessible to any citizen. The responsibility of publishing the law online stays with those who create and use it in lawsuits: the juridical and legislative branches of the state; the responsibility for the practical implementation should stay with the public libraries.

This would come as a second priority, the first one would be to mandate the freely accessible online publishing of the research which has been funded, partially or fully, with public money.

These priorities come naturally from the following principle: the public property deserves at least the same strength of protection as the private property does, because the first belongs to a large group of persons who commonly agreed to call that property public or shared. The current public administrations seem to be focusing mostly toward protecting the private property and this emphasis has to change now, many in a position to administer the public property not only fail in doing so but actively misappropriate it: public libraries buying proprietary software to handle their internal tasks while free-software alternatives are available, public research libraries pouring public money in private pockets by paying access fees to private publishers of public research, government or UN or non-profit agencies pouring public money in private pockets because some trusted public administrators use proprietary software instead of free-software alternatives, technologies or knowledge created with public funds are transferred into private hands so that any member of the general public has to pay again to access them.

Moreover, transferring technologies and knowledge to private hands is a sure way to have them lost for the public at the moment when they cease to create profit for the private group in question. Publicly accessible archives should keep us protected from paying and repaying the wheel's reinvention.

The (now old) idea is to make a law that puts in place the transparency of handling public money or property: who is responsible for allocating funds for this or that task, the amount of money, the receiver, the date/time and the reasoning behind the choice. This is an archive record: it should appear as a line in a public agency's blog for any taxpayer/voter to keep an eye on and preserved for historical reference. This is practically feasible because keeping a public point of information access is relatively cheap nowadays with the Net and all.

This law (or another) has to also protect the public property from the abusive use of copyright: for example, a professor/researcher who writes a book about the research he is doing using public funding should be compelled to give up the copyright to the public agency who paid for the research. If a private agency paid for the research, it's between that agency and the researcher to decide to whom the copyright belongs, it's a negotiable private matter. However, if the researcher did use infrastructure paid with public money, or performed his work on public premises, the public is entitled to recover the expenses, and this should be stated by restricting the copyright in a precise way.

What's the meaning of accountability otherwise? It is independent of what the political color your government has, so the transparency/accountability procedures should be specified in a public standard. This public standard is important: there are, today, parliament websites where specific information is extremely hard to find precisely because these information points don't follow a standard.

Briefly, the subtitle of this law should be: let's make the bloodsuckers' lives at least as hard as our own or, in the positive reading, let's make our lives at least as easy as the bloodsuckers' lives.

euro VAT and oil

Written by Romeo Anghelache no comments

Mr. Sarkozy thinks EU should drop the VAT for oil. For oil in general? No way, that would be an encouragement for the European to consume it as if nothing happened. But dropping VAT for oil used in transportation of merchandise and in some industries seems reasonable.

Then he says the VAT should be diminished for the audio-visual, to the level of VAT for the books. What? So that the audio-visual can make more profit by ramming more advertisement down our throats? The audio-visual deserves an increase of VAT, to discourage bulshitters. Books deserve a lowering of VAT because, in most cases, they mainly contain text. The Text moves your mind, makes your imagination take off, the Image (esp. the moving image) dulls the mind and kills the imagination. Got that? (quoted from Life is worth losing, by George Carlin.)

artist's pay

Written by Romeo Anghelache no comments

How much should an artist get paid for its work? Can't settle that, ok, what is an art item then? A unique, or an almost impossible to repeat, happening; a singularity; then, yes, it's possible to copy it but not make it happen as it happened. Not even the artist itself can't have the same revelation twice, only recoils or follow-ups.

Then one cannot institutionalize artist payment (well-define a price for an art item), that's forcing the artist to transform in a production line. That's how most of the art is now: a production line, well, producing mostly profits for those having nothing to do with arts. Sometimes an artist got richer than Boltzmann; and that makes me wonder also. When that happened, in my view, an artist became a little wheel in a bullshit-selling industry; nothing to do with art anymore.

An art item cannot be verified if it's art or not, a science/engineering item can, it's almost its definition, it's verifiable. I believe that one can establish/institutionalize a price for what is verifiable, which means repeatable, which means socially meaningful, which means significant to any human. For an art item, the price can be established by a group of humans who consider it significant but that price remains valid only for that group, at the society's scale, the real price of art scales to zero.

The verifiability is the only basis for building trust in the humanist society. It follows that a humanist society should not be concerned at the institutional level with the artist's condition. That's a condition in which any human can happen at times nothing can anticipate, or maybe, for some, it never happens, without degrading their human status. In a humanist society, an artist is somebody who happens to create something beside the verifiable things one has to do in a society. That's a human's individual need anyway: the need to express, to symbolize, to enrich or twist or recheck the verifiable reality or announce a newly discovered but unverifiable reality. That (the artist's condition) comes with being a human, not with a payment established by the society as a whole.

The artist's condition, being unverifiable by definition, cannot be trusted socially, although various groups can always appreciate or have an intuition of it and pay for that, then promote it and sell it for profit. The usual notion of art in the current society is just a convoluted way for tapping into the public money: when an art item becomes so expensive no one hopes to resell it, guess what, a museum buys it with public money so you're doomed to repay it one last time; in the process, some people made their living off your (ancestor's) back. Over time one gets to learn about them in the school manuals and call it culture. I'm pretty sure the real heroes remained anonymous, perhaps Internet will change that.

The copyright for artwork is as meaningless as the copyright for work paid by the public. Copyright is nothing more than a tool in some profit making industry, and, as long as this concept exists, there should also be a copyleft one can use to protect oneself from it (Creative commons is a more refined approach) .

If you're using your copyright to buy an SUV from your book's selling, that's a guarantee you're dimming yourself to the point of extinction from humanity's memory. Anyway, if you were doing that, I'm pretty sure you were not doing it for the humanity's memory ;).

USA and Europe

Written by Romeo Anghelache no comments

I'm Romanian, so that makes me a byzantine European, that is, inclined to chit chat at the street corner. Here's my 2 cents:

I lived and worked in Pittsburgh, PA, United States, between 1999 and 2002. In less than six months I had a strong feeling I don't belong to this culture. This feeling is standardly wrapped and softened in concepts like "cultural shock", implying that any culture is fine, but I disagree with this implication: any culture has something to fix in order to preserve humanism (the human as a naturally social creature).

My clear picture about US, in 2002, was that the low-density of people, the car and the big-capital freedom, biased everything: once you put a car under everybody's ass, small businesses from the city die in favor of big-businesses outside the city, because it's cumbersome to store a high-density of cars in the city, people migrate outside it, in driving distance from the new big stores or groceries, that means they spend a lot more time in their cars, which means they spend more time isolated and brainwashed by the radio stations financed by about 10 big media companies. I was surprised then to find out a more uniform opinion about everything than in Ceausescu's Romania (Ceausescu was a petty dictator in my country, before 1989). This uniformity was tested when the war with Afghanistan started, then with Iraq. Living far away from each other didn't help at getting feedback, like neighboring people in a bus/train can get, it also didn't help with the food quality, the only practical solution being to buy sacks of food on the week-end, to eat it over the next week. That implies plenty of preservatives, which implies plenty of allergies and new diseases, which is good for the health business or making-profit-from-disease business. This also erased the sidewalks so one can't walk from one corner of the city to another. This is the suburban concept: collect coupons for the week-end, go buy whatever the TV tells you it's fancy, sit and watch your boring dream surrounding you with cars rolling and overweight people running on the alley in front of your lawn. It was clear to me that these people where living for a few others, the rich ones, who had no problem moving their money overseas when the natives had too high (read normal) expectations from their work. The money got exported, and the debt remained with the optimist suburbanite, who still thinks that evil people envy him. But the oil resource is thinning and the North-American way of life has to change. Indeed, good signs appeared, in Pittsburgh, at least: in 2008 organic food and bike stores became more visible, although the groceries did not come back: Oakland, a place with two university campuses and a big hospital, has yet no real grocery. Somebody from Pittsburgh Post-gazette asked me if I have any opinion on the current political issues, given the context of presidential elections, I declined as a recently landed here, but I still have an opinion, as an European: I would vote for president the one that promises to replace most of the highways with trains, subways and an efficient Berlin-like or Vienna-like public transportation; the one who would fund research in electrical vehicles, electrical energy storage and production; the one who currently stays connected to the Internet at least 4 hours a day and spends less than a half-hour per day in a car.

Anyway, not all is that bad as it sounds from the previous paragraph: a recession is starting, meaning that rich people from everywhere are upset, meaning that people living on credit are forced to rethink their dreams, meaning that wars are less probable, unless religious. Beside peanut butter, the next-best thing in US is the popular no-bullshitting attitude, and this is no cheap thing when I think of Europe.

I lived 3 years in Berlin and 1 year in Vienna, the rest (37) in Romania. The Germanic part of Europe seemed much more attentive and eager to discuss about what's to be fixed. I felt them as healthy societies albeit the weather must affect their overall well-being. Peanut butter is not so good in Europe, unless imported from US, but public transportation, groceries and cafes allow people to socialize, to mature as humans. The high-density of people in Europe pushes many of them to fight to create a necessity and occupy a job to resolve it, meaning there are layers upon layers of people in unnecessary positions. This helps one mature, in general, through the brushing-with-each-other phenomenon, but also drives one to cynicism: non-manufacturing people start manufacturing interferences, smoke and mirrors. High-density population generates plenty of bullshit in Europe. In the background, Europe tries to copy all the free-capital based mistaken optimism, and it will fail similarly, with a variation: it did not assume that oil is forever; otherwise, the same wrong assumption that a higher number of people means a larger market and that this is supposed to solve all the problems. Because of the bullshitters in Europe, I couldn't get a research grant related to public digital libraries for four tries (one a year) in a row, and that in the context of the "knowledge-based society". Knowledge-based society my foot. The bullshitters need ignorants to work for them, not documented and inventive neighbors. European bullshitters think Europe can exist as an entity and work for them because it is or becomes a unified market. My hope is that a common language can save the European Union from committing the same basic mistakes as the US.

So I agreed to leave to US again (with no right to work), meanwhile getting old and tempted to become cynical about some of my fellow Europeans.

I think, the most fundamental problem of the US-Europe world is the copyright, or "intellectual property", an unjustified extension from potatoes to ideas or, rather, fake ideas. If the copyright is supposed to last a life and then some, then we should also pay rent to the potato grower: for each potato which we ate, we should pay a rent to him, pay it as a "service", for life and 70 years of his inheritors; each time we walk on a bridge or look at it, we should pay a fee to the engineer that built it.

The existence of copyright is the signal that the density of bullshitters reached a critical level, it also degrades the intellectuals into plain door-to-door sellers of fake things.

Esperanto, the common Eurolanguage

Written by Romeo Anghelache no comments

I was reasoning on the necessity of a common language for EU, earlier on. I dropped too easily Esperanto as a choice, opting for Spanish instead: I feared that a constructed language wouldn't stand a chance near a historical one.

However, due to Amadeo Nuclini, Igor Negravaski, André Calmis and the other commentators on Mr. Orban's forum on the subject of multilingualism in EU, I learned, from Claude Piron, (he has a lifelong experience in handling languages) from a series of 10 episodes 10 minutes each: Les langues: un défi (in French) that Esperanto is the best choice because it is a constructed language as opposed to a historical one.

I'll try to make it here clear why, in a concise form.

His argument, in my understanding, is that the currently used languages preclude intercultural communication because of their naturally different histories. So, at least the following issues appear in an intercultural communication:

  • irreducibly different semantic resolutions (e.g. in chinese, it seems, you have to specify which grandmother are you talking about, your father's mother or your mother's; if you have to translate from English to Chinese, then you have to do some research beyond the written text to get it accurate);
  • truncated communication (let's be clear, you have to live and socialize a couple of years in a foreign country to claim you know the language, and then you only get to know a small part of the native linguistic reflexes: any naturally grown language is continuously enriched with logically inconsistent native reflexes from the street speech, so a foreigner will end up learning the grammar in a few months and then he'll have to cover the exceptions in a decade or more);
  • EU expenses on translation are large, with no benefit in sight; to provide an image about this effort, Mr. Piron says that translation costs 100 euro per A4 page, and 750 euro fee per translator per day; he also says the translation related costs for the EU institutions amount to 3 euro/year/european; although it seems little, I'd like to know the amount of indirect costs related to translation (electronics, software, maintenance, housing and travel for the translators etc.), and I'd also like to know how this amount compares with the scientific research EU funding.

Briefly, to master a language, and its accurate translation into a second language, you have to grow somehow with both.

Here comes the advantage of a constructed language: the rules are minimal and provide for consistency, so one can build naturally on it with the result being portable interculturally.

Practically, what should EU do about this state of affairs?

  • Obviously, for the official EU documents, Esperanto should be made mandatory and all the other EU languages optional. This will not only avoid the translation expenses, but also the the expenses with the armies of lawyers which will get involved in reinterpreting a semantically sloppy historical language in the face of law. In schools at the national level, Esperanto should be mandated as the second language as an instrument for communicating with foreigners, EU or non-EU, anything else should be optional.
  • TV subtitles in Esperanto should be made obligatory, or available, at least, for any TV presentation in the EU countries;
  • Try setting up an international cooperation with non-EU countries for an Esperanto-based communication.

If the EU administration doesn't decide anything in the direction of a common EU language, in, say, a year or so, those interested in this issue (I hope, all the Europeans) should start organizing themselves online for a way to push this on the EU legislative table.

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