Gifted

I go to the supermarket and take what I want. I put everything in a shopping cart until I have enough. At the exit of the supermarket I show a plastic card and then there is some mumbo jumbo going on that has to do with numbers. Numbers that are entered into a machine . Sure, I know of course that there is money being debited from my account, I know the story. But if I forget the story for a moment, just for the fun of it….

So there’s some mumbo jumbo going on with a plastic card. I think back to when I was a kid. As a little boy, I had to go to church every Sunday. My father took me and somehow we always stood at the back of the church. Today I my explanation is that we were always late, presumably my father didn’t want to go to church either, but he thought it was good for his son. And even if we had been on time, I don’t see my father as the guy who would have gone all the way to the front and then planted himself in the bench where everyone would see him. For whatever reason, we were in the back.

Sometimes my father would allow me to sit on the steps leading up to where the choir was at Christmas. I was grateful to him for that every time. The church was boring and a torture. Only at the end something exciting happened. That was obviously the highlight of the event, what it all boiled down to was when the man standing at the front on the stage performed the trick with the egg, which he turned into something. The man was a magician who wore a wondrous robe. Everyone looked at him when he held the egg above his head and then hid it under a cloth, under which it would surely turn into a rabbit or something, I had seen something similar on TV. Each time I stood on my tiptoes, but unfortunately I could never see it clearly, because we were standing so far back. As I grew older and wiser, I learned that it was not a magic trick with an egg, but simply a wafer that turned into the body of Christ. It took a few more decades until I realized that the notion of a trick to impress all those present was the right one.

In any case, I have to think about this every time I stand at the checkout in the supermarket. The thing with the card is also such a magical moment, a story to which we have become accustomed and which therefore seems completely normal to us, but when I try to understand it I can only marvel at the miraculous mechanism that people have invented there.

If you didn’t have to pay at the exit, I, like probably everyone else, would take all kinds of stuff from the shelves, stuff that I don’t even need. I would probably drag too much stuff home and end up throwing it away.

The plastic card mumbo jumbo seems to, if not prevent that entirely, at least limit it considerably. We take what we need.

Super system. The monkeys have thought that one up neatly. So that I monkey no longer have to run into the forest to laboriously gather the stuff I need for breakfast, but only have to push a shopping cart into the supermarket to take the stuff from the shelves, ready to spread and portioned.

But it gets even more awesome. The monkeys who have not invented supermarkets, that is, the monkeys who still sit in the forest on trees, they always eat the same. So not always exactly the same, but always what grows in immediate vicinity on the trees or elsewhere. Modern monkeys like us, with our supermarkets can eat what grows anywhere on the planet, and of course we eat only the best.

I noticed this after visiting friends in Switzerland. They had such a great salt, with herbs in it. The herbs came from Italy and the salt from the Himalayas. “Wow, I’ve never eaten such a great salt before,” I said, and when we were back home my wife found the salt in the supermarket. The greatest salt in the world now sits in our kitchen. And if there is really something that is not available, you can order it on the Internet. Again, with some mumbo jumbo with a plastic card and numbers, only you don’t even need a plastic card and you even get the stuff delivered to your home and carried up to the third floor. It’s all very convenient. If I had to go all the way to Italy myself for the herbs and had to scrape the salt out of the Himalayan mountains, of course I wouldn’t take the trouble.

We modern monkeys, we all hang in such a system. The system that we monkeys have thought up ourselves and developed over thousands of years. The system, it is so complex and wonderful that one could shiver with awe. Curiously, most people complain about it all the time or say that it’s terribly unfair because there are far too many who can’t go to the supermarket and eat the best salt in the world. And there’s truth to that, of course. The system doesn’t work equally well for everybody yet. But I would say the system is working better and better, and if you look back in time, you can see that it works better and better over time, and more and more people around the world are benefiting from it.

To the monkeys in the trees, this should all seem like a miracle. If they had a word for miracle.

Sense and Senselessness

Sky over Gülitz

Problems that are easy to solve were solved a long time ago. They have died out. Only problems whose solution is not easy have survived and that is also logical, because otherwise they would have already been eliminated from the world once and for all a long time ago by some friendly monkey. The world without easy to solve problems, that is the world in which we live in.

So we are still surrounded by problems, but problems whose solution is not easy. This makes our world on the one hand very comfortable, because many stupid problems are already solved, and on the other hand very interesting, because we can now devote all our attention to tricky, challenging questions. Problems that cannot be solved with a single brain alone. Interesting problems, exciting problems, that is our world.

Every now and then we encounter a monkey who announces in a rather loud voice that everything is very simple. Then he explains anything. But it is better not to make the effort to understand what this monkey actually means. Because it is insanely improbable that there are still problems in our world where **everything** is **simple**. Very simple problems, as I said, are extinct.

And the monkey that roars so loudly actually belongs to the time when all monkeys roared loudly. It is as simple as that. But of course, it’s not that simple after all. Because loudly roaring monkeys like to attract the attention of other monkeys, who have not yet dealt with the respective problem, and therefore are capable of believing what the loud monkey roars, and they like to believe: “Oh, it’s all quite simple.”

Monkeys who have a clue not only speak more softly, they also speak more complicated. They say things like: “On the one hand and on the other hand” and “one must weigh between” and it is “more or less probable”, “it can be said (however) that…”.

A sentence that begins with “With a high degree of probability…” cannot be shouted and is not particularly catchy.

But exactly this can be used to distinguish the foolish from the wise with simple means. Not always and every time, but with a sufficiently high probability to distinguish the sense from the nonsense even in topics of which one has not the much of an idea oneself. You just have to build a filter and the filter works like this: Every time someone uses words like “everything”, “never”, “everywhere”, “nowhere”, “absolutely”, “always” and the like, you can safely direct your attention in another direction, because the probability of finding knowledge in the direction of the source of these words is so low that looking there is not worthwhile.

In this manner, a lot of nonsense can be faded out. And that makes life easier and more relaxed and also much more interesting.

Tony Schwartz – The Most Influential Writer Of Our Time

Tony-Swartz

How often does it happen that someone who changes the world does so inadvertently? Probably not at all so rarely. How many start with the goal in mind to change the world and keep going until they reach their goal? I’d like to see that monkey that, even before taking its first step, envisioning such a megalomaniacal goal. So that is unlikely.

Probably most of the people who changed the world did only what they wanted to do anyway and only in retrospect one could see – oops, they changed the world!

Probably the most influential writer of our times is a tragic hero who inadvertently steered the world into an other directions. Literature is sometimes able to change the world, but only a few works have influenced people’s thinking and behavior enough that it has shaped entire societies.

Religious writings developed such a force, or is it better to say the other way round that writings that developed such a force became religions?

James Joyce “Ulysses” had a formative influence on the thinking and acting of society. Even if only a tiny part of the people may have read this book. As someone who has spent a lifetime studying the effect of stories on perception, I know from my own experience how much this book has had a formative influence on my thinking, even though I have probably never even held it in my hand, let alone read it. But regardless of my perception, James Joyce “Ulysses” is a great work of literature, experts agree.

Adam Douglas “Hitchhiker’s Guide Through The Galaxy” developed this kind power and not only made smartphones look the way they do today – years ago I gave a friend a copy of this work printed on thin bible paper. It was a joke, of course, but like every joke, it did not come out of nowhere.

In this sense, Mickey Mouse is important literature, because Mickey Mouse also had a formative influence on the thinking and actions of society. Although the experts are no longer quite so unanimous on this point, this view is hardly disputed anymore, at least in academic circles.

All of the following considerations are based on the idea that the significance of literature, regardless of its “literary quality”, can be measured by the force it proves to have to influence society. If you are not able to follow this thought, I would like to thank you kindly for your attention up to now and say goodbye, because the following considerations will not make any more sense.

You are still here? Onwards, then.

This is about the most influential writer of the present. And yet only a few know his name. The name of his most important work is familiar to millions of people. Many have read the book and quote from it as if from a bible. The book is a work of fiction, at least that is what the author himself says. It is a work that has influenced the thinking of millions of people, has shaped society and politics in the USA and the world. The author had neither foreseen nor intended the immense political influence of his words. The author had not had the slightest idea of the consequences his words would have decades later. He did not intend it and would not have wanted it. He simply did not imagine that the stone he threw from the mountain could cause an avalanche.

As a young writer the author hired himself out as a ghostwriter more than 30 years ago. As such, he wrote a tale of a hero for someone who fascinated him, but whom he despised. It was a tale of a hero as his client wanted to hear it. The client paid the writer well to be the hero of his story.

Years later, the writer even revoked his book, when he realized the danger that was coming to the people and the whole planet. But how can you revoke fiction – a fiction that more and more people began to believe in? A fiction cannot be revoked. Just as Goethe could not have revoked “The Sorrows of Young Werther” when the book was accused of driving readers to suicide.

The young author had probably underestimated the power of his words, had thought that the words he used were blunt knives, yet they were razor-sharp. The author was at the zenith of his work. His whole life long he would never again be able to create a work of this magnitude. Disgusted by the success, he never tried in the same direction again.

He wrote the book for a 38-year-old, pretentious New York up-and-comer, a foolhardy, unscrupulous man about whom hardly anyone outside of New York had ever heard of at the time.

The writer was interested in money, he was a ‘writer for hire’, but also one who took his work seriously.

Thus the writer looked into the abyss of his hero, as every good writer does. He looked at the hero from many angles, and all these views underpinned his work.

The book is entitled “The Art Of the Deal” and now the whole world knows its hero. For he became president of the United States of America and as such he came to be a key figure in the fate of the planet. It is a history of modern media, the book made the fictional hero of the story first a TV star and the idol of millions of people before they elected him a real president.

Humans are story animals, or in other words, the ability to tell stories has turned an animal into a human. Stories have always been the instrument to make the world comprehensible. But today we live in a media world in which stories are produced non-stop, no longer to understand the world, but to entertain people, and to keep the media industry running.

So it can happen that an extremely talented writer by accident invents a hero who should never have been a hero and who then enters the real world stage.

Why Trump might have been the best thing that could happen to humanity

We are in the middle of a fundamental change of thinking. When this change began is hard to say, strong signals can already be found in the 60s or 70s of the last century. Thoughts and ideas that shape a society grow slowly, so slowly that they cannot be heard out of the noise of the time; only when you look at large periods of time can they be recognized.

It is like looking at a river. If you look at the movement of – let’s say – seven billion water molecules at one point in a river, it might be a lot, but it is still impossible to tell in which direction the river flows. It is quite possible that you are looking at a whirl that is moving against the actual direction of the river. This is not only possible, but to a certain degree probable. Only if you extend the time span of the observation and measure the position of the molecules again at a sufficiently large later time, you have a chance at all to recognize in which direction the river flows.

Societies are slow flowing rivers. So slow that one has to look at decades to be able to make a reasonably reliable statement about the direction in which they move.

The swing that occurred in the election of Obama began long before Obama. A giant pendulum had changed direction. And then Obama came along, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and almost nothing changed. The wars that the USA waged were continued, the health care reform was more of a small reform, and the class differences continued to grow. I can still remember a conversation with friends who had placed great hope in the election of Obama and were bitterly disappointed that even after years ‘everything had remained the same’. The conversation took place towards the end of Obama’s second term before the election campaign for his successor (Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump) had begun in the United States. It was the time before Trump and the height of frustration with Obama. (The trigger for the conversation was a text that I had written at that time.)

Then came Trump. The stupidest political accident to be assumed.Trump rode a wave of populism that was felt not only in the USA, but also in Great Britain, Brazil, Poland and even in Germany. The populism came at a time when there were no really major current crises. No major crises? By ‘major crisis’ I mean a crisis that cannot be solved by money.

Most problems revolve around money or can supposedly be solved with money. The financial crisis (from 2008) was one such problem, and to a certain extent the migration crisis as well. Looking at problems primarily from one point of view (usually that of money) is almost always unsustainable, but if they succeed in convincing the audience, the hour of the populists strikes.

There are problems that cannot be solved with money. Climate change is one such problem, and more recently: Corona. Climate change or corona are complex problems. All the money in the world alone cannot solve these problems.

Populist systems act suboptimally when faced with such problems – they come to stupid decisions. It is as if, fixated on money, they do not find the right levers to act meaningfully.

Non-populist systems are more effective here. A boring Angela Merkel is better suited to tackle complex problems than an exciting and excited Donald Trump.

Trump, Bolsonaro, Orbán, Johnson, Macron, Trudeau, Merkel. The less populist the better the performance in a real crisis. In the case of Corona this can be seen in the numbers.

The fundamental change that has been going on for decades is the shift towards multi-perspective. Approaching problems from multiple perspectives is more sustainable and, for a certain type of problem (the real or complex problems), the only promising way. The counterpart to the multi-perspective approach is the mono-perspective approach (“you just have to do it right” – whatever ‘right’ might be).

Societies are becoming more multi-perspective, and thus more tolerant, more complex and cleverer, because they are learning to consider many and more perspectives. This is the direction in which the river flows. And it can hardly be overlooked, if you take a sufficiently large time frame into account (50 years +).

Never all water molecules of a river flow at the same time in the same direction. Whirls and counter-movements are normal, especially when the river flows relatively fast.

Trump will have been such a whirl. Trump stands for old, traditional thinking. It is the thinking of the monoperspektive, of which one must do the ‘right thing’. If the audience thinks that way, they need someone to express in simple words what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’. Trump has fulfilled this function. That’s why he was so attractive to many and still is for many. Someone who knows what’s right and wrong doesn’t need experts or consultants to broaden the view. Trump is an animal of old thinking, a dinosaur that rebels up once more but is already doomed.

In the United States, not only the Democratic Party but all more or less multi-perspective forces have renewed themselves from scratch in the last four years. New coalitions with conservatives ( -> Lincoln Project ) are emerging, but not with the “you have to do it right” faction on the left.

Monopersective thinking is found everywhere in the political spectrum, but increasingly on the margins – on the right as well as on the left.

Trump was good for the innovation of thinking towards multi-perspective thinking, it was not his intention but it was his function. The new thinking, it would have come anyway. After Trump, it is now coming all the faster.

This is what I see.

It’s not about politics

It was the strangest president ever. A president who didn’t talk politics. Who instead flaunted himself, bragging about what he had and what he was capable of. Like a child playing king, constantly explaining to the audience what a king is and what a king is allowed to do. A spiteful child who calls those who don’t want to play with him the others and has only bad words for them. A child who calls out the others with a screaming voice, for what he constantly does himself.

It was a president who exaggerated even the most banal issues until there seemed to be only two options left. Like pretending that a race of many runners is just a fight between two. And as if the audience then had to decide which of the two they had to team up with.

How did this devil manage to bewitch so many people in such a way? That they elected a television character as president, who then made being president a television spectacle? A president who only pretended to be president and measured his success in television ratings?

The people made a prey out of themselves when they began to distrust politicians on principle. The people did not want a politician and chose a clown instead. The clown sat in the cockpit with a pilot’s cap, had no idea about flying and didn’t even show a spark of interest in wanting to learn. It was a president who could not distinguish the spectacle from reality, for whom reality and fiction were one and the same.

The president severely damaged the boundaries between reality and fiction. Like two liquids flowing into each other, it soon became impossible to tell what is true and what is false. It was as if fresh and waste water flowed into each other and made society ill.

It is necessary to investigate exactly how this accident could have happened, so that it cannot happen again in the future. It was always a foolish idea to hand the scepter to the fool. In this day and age, with the weapons of destruction at the disposal of the powerful, it can be deadly – for all of humanity. It looks like we got away with it again. We’ve been damn lucky.