Random thoughts

Since we are of different abilities, it stands to reason that some will be better at guessing than others. Of course we should be careful to differentiate between the pure guessing of indeterminate events — like tomorrow’s lottery number — and that which can be gleaned through analysis of past and current events as applied to the future.

Consider the press term, “futurist,” denoting someone with particular ability to predict future events not of the indeterminate variety. It is a feature of the human brain to be attracted to superstition, of which magic, and magical prediction, is a sub-class. This results in a presumption of validity, possibly unwarranted.

Recognize a bias in our thinking that over-regards correct predictions while under-regarding the population of predictors it belongs to (as distinct from the prevalent under-regarding of incorrect predictions from a correct predictor).

To explain with a thought experiment. Ask 100 people to predict something five years out, and then after five years analyze results. Assume 10 predicted correctly. Ask these 10 to further predict another five years out and, say, after this period one is found to have predicted correctly. Futurist? Or is the stronger explanation found in the laws of probability?

A reasonable person will be entirely skeptical of anyone claiming knowledge of the future and should repel at reports of it. As a matter of perspective, our knowledge of the past — and even the very present — is imperfect.

On this, perhaps we’re entitled to some skepticism about our daily dose of propaganda. The primary function of the state is to control its people. Some states do it hard, with force pre-dominating. Usually it’s done soft, through manipulation, although force is always present in the background. If the modern state didn’t possess violence at its core, it couldn’t exist.

We don’t even need examples like the Black Panther Party. Anyone can furnish their own proof simply by resisting arrest. The rub is that life under any system of authority is always said to be for our own good. And yet, contradictions abound. Glaring contradictions. Among them:

We live in a country whose health is judged by the Dow Jones and S&P 500, but not by mass shootings, suicides, overdoses, depression, life expectancy and infant mortality.

We are a beacon of democracy, spreading it to the world by word of missile and cluster bomb.

We are the perfect balance between individual liberty and mass incarceration.

We have no shortage of criminals — millions of them — but curiously for a country in perpetual war, no war criminals are found here.

We lecture the world on human rights while welcoming children fleeing violence in sturdy cages.

We guarantee individuals the security of gun ownership making their daily survival a game of chance.

Our youths are old enough to die in school shootings but too young to sell beer to adults in supermarkets.

For the common good we insure that the state can act against us.

As much as our privacy matters to us, it matters even more to others.

This is a land of opportunity, all the more so for the bankrupt corporation.

We have the right to remain silent, all the more so for the homeless.

Justice is blind but not deaf to powerful urges.

We are all equals once we swipe our card.

We are a country with no religious test but still swearing on the bible.

We are impeaching a president not for his crimes against humanity, but for his crimes against a rival party.

We stand with all countries that do not stand for themselves.

Our peace partner in the Middle East is in war mode. There’s a quick way to judge which side commits the most atrocities in a conflict. Look for who has the most weapons.

We live in a country that failed in its prosecution of Daniel Ellsberg, and won’t make the same mistake again.

The United States Empire tolerates whistleblowers in much the same way the Roman Empire tolerated its whistleblower some 1,990 years ago.

What is life like in a random universe? Reset.

James Rothenberg, of North Chatham, writes on U.S. social and foreign policy.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1


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