Thursday, October 26, 2006

Economics and Rationality

"I think the assumption that people are rational is the biggest weakness of economics. Without it economics wouldn't really function, with it human society wouldn't."

(Want to keep this comment somewhere where I can keep an eye on it... -- rationality is also it's biggest strength though...)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday, October 09, 2006

I learnt a New Word

It's not all that exciting, it's Indonesian, "pembantu".

Translated it apparently means "nacker", "chav", "Prolle" or "white trash" (-- wow, I now know that word in multiple dialects and languages ;).

I remember there was a wave of websites and people pointing out chavs in England, and now expat's blogs in RI are going on about "pembantu".

I know where it comes from, fair enough, but basically it's bullshit.

Pembantu / chavs / fiddy cents of this world are a million times more interesting than the average Ikea loving, fake Abercrombie and Fitch wearing, Mac computing people that love themselves.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Messenger."

"There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Messenger."

I realise Saudi Arabia is an extreme in the Islamic world, and I realise the the media have an interest in uncovering the most vile parts of any society (reporters thrive on bad news) but all in all it sounds like some sort of hell.

Indonesia more has a liberal take(s) on Islam derived from different cultures in the archipelago. By all accounts there have been moves towards more conservatism in Islam in Indonesia. Questions:

1) Is Saudi /the/ role model for ultraconservatives?

2) Do Saudis live more virtuous lives than Indonesians?

3) Isn't fundamentalist Islam itself wrapped up in Bedouin culture? -- just as fundamentalist American Christianity is too wrapped up in American white heterosexual culture...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Richard Dawkins: The Root of All Evil Part 2

Maybe I am an atheist afterall. Always believed I just lacked faith, but that probably means I am an atheist...

Richard Dawkins - The Root of All Evil - Part 1.avi

Thoughtful piece about religion and why atheism may not be so bad...


Age takes Everything, Leaves Nothing (Gogol(?))


A "process of non-thinking called faith." (Richard Dawkins)


I don't believe evil exists.

Once you call something evil, you have admitted that you don't understand it.

The word Nazi is synonymous to evil for most.

Al-Qaeda are on the same level for many westerners.

Communists for many Indonesians.

Japanese soldiers (1930s-40s) for many Chinese.


The English establishment - many Irish during the 70s.

The list goes on.

When you label a group "evil" you believe they are pretty much motiveless in their wrongdoing and therefore unable to change. You don't believe they are fully human anymore. The response is often to wipe them out immediately rather than understanding their incentives and motives.

A response based on understanding may be more effective.

Fighting evil can justify almost anything. It's been used by autocrats down through the ages.

It hasn't fallen out of use however. ("Axis of evil" anyone?) Islamic terrorism and America are the world's ultimate evils nowadays, depending whose side you're on. People fear it. Politicians justify their increased power by it.


Germany I think has gotten to grips with its past better than most if not all other nations. Most Germans believe that Nazism was evil, I suspect most would profess not to understand it or fathom it.

Admittance of ignorance is at least an honest response, but then you hear of German politicians condemning far right politicians being elected, and ignoring them as if they are "evil". Shouldn't they rather ask themselves how desperate the electorate must be, how they are completely failing their electorate.

I've taught students in towns with high NDP (far right) support in East Germany. The students were some of the most generous people I have had the pleasure to meet. But people in those towns are in a desperate situation (1 in 3 unemployed -- with mass emigration from their towns). The usual politicians are letting them down, many of the most desperate have little other option but to vote for the far right.


The far right are not evil. Terrorists are not evil. Racists are not Evil. Religious fundamentalists are not evil.

They can be friendly, humorous, honourable and intelligent.

Many of their means and ends are not good. They are misguided. They need to be confronted. The arguments and battles still need to be won -- but we must understand them and treat them with the respect all humans deserve.