What is a language? Is it merely something that consists of words and sentences? Is
it merely something that foreigners don’t understand?
No, it is much more than that. Language
can be used to form sentences which refer to acts having some effect and consequences. Thus, language can be a tool for action.
Without a language it would be very difficult to communicate with other people. We must understand the meaning
of words and sentences in order to correctly interpret what another person is saying. How is that possible? If we are familiar
with a language we usually can interpret correctly the meaning of what another person is uttering.
People belonging to a nation state often share the same language, and use it to communicate
with each others. However, within the ‘unifying language’ there are sub-languages used by different social groups,
and by different occupational and other groups.
If we happened to find an old document, dating
a couple of hundred of years back in time, we would have difficulties in understanding what is said in the document. Only
an expert could make a correct interpretation of it.
we don’t understand what is told to us by our contemporaries. Usually this happens when communicating with a specific
organization that uses a specific language. We are not familiar with that language, and have to make an effort to understand
The notion of functional
language refers to the idea that language is socially created, and that language and consciousness are linked together. People
take part in various activities in society, and have created different types of thoughts which are corresponding to different
A pragmatic approach to this idea presupposes that there are different functional languages
corresponding to different occupations and to different activities. Accordingly, those who are active within health care have
their own functional language. Those who are active in business have their own functional language, and those who are active
in arts have their own functional language.
But (the global) societies have their own fashionable trends when it comes to functional languages. Sometimes
a specific functional language begins to dominate in society.
During the last couple of decades
business language has entered many areas where it previously was missing. Business language and the values it represents have
entered the language of health care, the language of (higher) education, the language of ‘ordinary chat’. Universities
‘produce’ courses, and the health care should become ‘profitable’.
curious thing is that although the functional languages change over time, the way we use language to express ourselves and
our (mental) actions, is quite similar to the way people learned to reason in ancient times. Certainly,
new words have entered our vocabulary, but the way we approach a question or a problem, remains ‘ancient’.
Aspasia European’s E-Shop is selling some products (A Toolkit for Project
Work), which apply the ancient knowledge in a systematic manner to the field of business and project work. I hope those who
buy the package (for personal usage in project work or as student literature), enjoy learning complementary reasoning (inventor
style-reasoning) based on ancient knowledge applied to modern world.
The quality of services
Aspasia is slowly
returning to a normal state of life after 45 days without access to internet and phone (landline) at home.
the Eurozone has been struggling with one financial problem after another, I’ve been struggling with my internet service
My existence during the last months can best be described by the motto of ‘One step
forward and two steps backwards’, over and over again.
I wish the service providers began to compete
on the quality of services instead of competing on millions of too-good-to-be-true-offers. Some of the offers simply cannot
be profitable. It would be better to have access to a smaller number of offers that are ‘fair enough’, thank you.
These service providers have invested in extremely complex computerised sales systems, and it takes only a
couple of minutes to put through an order (and pay for it).
But when something goes wrong and you need to contact
customer services, technical services, or billing, things will not be sorted out in a couple of minutes. Not even in a couple
The problem is not having customer services in a different part of the world than sales
department, since in the age of information technology, communication between departments and data bases will not take longer
than a couple of seconds, if the links between these departments are connected. I wonder whether the problem
lies in incompetent planning or in the indifferent attitude towards the needs of the customers.
Whatever we think of
Steve Jobs and his Apple products (expensive toys for rich kids, and other sour comments), we must admit that he knew what
he was doing and that in his case it is quite correct to use the notion of visionary.
He and his team
developed products of good quality, and they were marketed successfully. They were also successful because both Steve Jobs
and his team did their best to understand what customers wanted and how the customers wished to use the products.
Much has been said about the need of creative leaders, or of the need to focus on both leaders and followers
(business and consumers sometimes fall into this category), but less has been said about the creative organization.
It is not enough to have a creative leader (unless you work alone), or creative staff members, if the organization
is too hierarchical or inhibits interaction, and the feedback goes only one-way (top-down or bottom-up).
Creativity demands an organization that facilitates creative actions. I would say that
Steve Jobs managed to create an organization where both his own and his co-workers creativity were given a platform.
Communication flows freely between staff members in a creative organization
and is characterized by reciprocal feedback and interaction. The staff members are allowed to think during the working hours,
and to take initiative (even when not asked to do so).
The enthusiasm for
the development of each project is shared by both the leader and the co-workers. The leader explicitly acknowledges and expresses
appreciation for the contribution of those co-workers, who are creative, and also of those who are talented (but not creative).
It is as simple as that.
Fire has always attracted us. Quite naturally, since we would not survive without fire.
Fire has been our companion ever since the primitive man discovered how to create it. In Classical philosophies fire was one
of the four, basic elements (fire, air, water, earth), in alchemy fire takes different shapes, and fire is also associated
with all religions and many legends.
In literature and language
fire is used as a metaphor. We may state that somebody gave a fiery speech, or that somebody is burning with anger.
images of fire
In August 2011 images of burning houses, of fire and
smoke, dominated the news reporting on the riots in London and in other parts of England. In September 2011 fire and smoke
are once again associated with the 9/11 images, pictures of the burning Twin Towers. They are associated with the suicide
attacks ten years ago.
of fire, light, smoke, and ashes are associated with horror and fear. Images of them mediate something that words fail to
In Christianity God is often present as fire or light.
In many religions God is fire. Thus, fire is something divine, and must be treated with respect and care.
Discovery of fire was a robbery
Fire-making must follow a ritual. If not made
properly, fire becomes dangerous. In many legends and myths the discovery of fire was seen as a robbery (Prometheus, for example).
Fire-making was something forbidden, a criminal act of usurpation by using violence or cunning.
For C.G. Jung fire-making represented primitive man’s victory over his brutal unconsciousness.
Fire-making became a powerful device to overcome the ever-present dark (unknown) forces lurking in the unconsciousness.
demanded attention, concentration, and inner discipline, it contributed to the (further) development of human consciousness.
However, if the fire-making was done incorrectly, and did not follow
the ritual, fire turned against the fire-making primitive man. A regression of the mind back to the unconscious state followed,
and the dark forces of unconsciousness took over.
This happens to modern people as well, expressed as psychic disturbances. Modern people are not engaged in
primitive rituals, but instead they turn to modern collective representations in form of political ideologies, ‘scientific’
or rational explanations. When these fail, the human mind turns to the primordial images of the unconsciousness. (When this
happens as a normal state of the psyche, such a regression may lead to creative ideas which can be brought back
to the consciousness through the process of progression).
These thoughts on the meaning of fire do not ‘explain’ why numerous people took
part in the ‘fire-making’ during London riots or in the terrorist attacks on Twin Towers, but they are reminders
of and offer some insight into the archetypal forces within the human psyche, which are recognizable universally and collectively.
They are there because we are human beings.
hope that something good and creative arises from these terrible events. Let’s hope that those who took part in the
riots have learned something about themselves, and those who suffered of the actions of the rioters (or of the terrorists),
have become stronger, and let’s hope that the rest of us don’t forget that human psyche has collective features,
and that it provides us with creativity, chaos, disruptions, and stability. It will never remain completely still.
reading: C.G.Jung. (1976). Symbols of transformation. (2nd Ed.) Collective Works of C.G.Jung.
Vol. 5. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
In the Heat of the Summer
In July Just a Thought was about conflicts and about the
role of argumentation in conflicts. The focus was on comparing two forms of dialectical argumentation; debate and dialogue.
Today I am very tempted to say ‘I told you so’, since we have seen examples of both on the global scene in July
(if you haven’t read the July contribution yet, please, do it now, before continuing to read this one).
Politicians in the USA have been debating the country’s debt crisis,
and after numerous heated debates where various groups expressed their conflicting standpoints in the shadow of a looming
financial crisis of global dimensions, political parties admitted that it was time for a dialogue.
As I wrote in July, dialogue
means a meeting of minds. In politics this simply means that all parties and groups involved admit that there are aspects
of reality that cannot be ignored (even if it means risking some votes). The
solution is to find common ground, and a solution according to which each party gets some of its claims acknowledged. It is
People have criticized President Barack
Obama for showing poor leadership. I don’t agree. It is easier to ‘stand behind your convictions’ than to
compromise. Standing behind your convictions is the normal solution in relatively stable economic circumstances. But when
a problem is too large or a situation too dangerous, it is a sign of wisdom rather than of weakness to compromise.
It is true that approximately once in every century there emerges a leader
who can unite a nation with an ingenious plan. However, today the faith of nearly every nation is intertwined with the faith
of other nations. This applies especially to finances.
we have no superior economic theories trusted by the majority of peoples to offer a solution to our modern world where a national
financial crisis has an impact on every other nation’s finances as well. Our only hope is that together we can find
a solution. So, my verdict of the American drama is; well done, Obama!
Europe the debate concerning the economic rescue package for Greece caused violent demonstrations and conflicts between nations
within the European Union, but in the last minute the nations involved were willing to find a compromise solution.
Once again, we had first a debate where each standpoint seemed to be in conflict
with every other standpoint, but in the end the need to find a common ground and a solution to the problem was stronger than
the need to stand behind a conviction, leading to a dialogue. So, my verdict of the Greek drama is; well done EU!
In Norway we had a drama that did not end in a compromise. A well-educated middle class man exploded
a bomb in front of the Government buildings and some hours later slaughtered adolescents who took part in a political youth
camp on an island outside Oslo. Norway is in deep sorrow and people in other countries
share this grief.
The killed and wounded adolescents belonged to the same
political party as the Government. Thus, the horrific actions were planned and ideologically motivated.
The man who was arrested on the island (he did not try to kill himself) was so convinced of the righteousness
of his actions that he did not plead guilty to the charges although he admitted carrying out the killings. According to his
conviction the acts were justified.
A heated debate without an opponent
The killer was engaged in a debate about the future of Europe. As he saw it, Europe was threatened by a ‘Muslim
invasion’, and that the governing Labour Party in Norway was enabling this invasion due to its commitment to multiculturalism.
Characteristic to his debate was that the counter part was not invited
in it. Thus, he argued for his standpoint without letting anyone argue against him. In this way the killer created in his
mind a position where it was safe to justify any action as reasonable.
the horrific killings themselves, many have reacted to the fact that he was wearing a police uniform when arriving to the
island where he killed tens of adolescents. This reaction refers mainly to the fact that in democratic societies (such as
Norway), a person dressed in a police uniform is someone you can trust.
those who do not particularly like police admit that a police uniform symbolizes legitimate authority, and that the task of
this authority is to protect people. Therefore, most people think that the killer showed calculated cynicism, because the
uniform encouraged the adolescents to approach him without suspicion.
there is another dimension to the symbolic meaning of the uniform. By wearing the uniform, the killer turned (in his own mind)
into an authority, who had the right to kill ‘the enemies’. This imagined role as an authority must have made
it easier for him to carry out the killings, which was often done face to face with the victims.
defence lawyer of the killer is doing his best to show that the killer was not in touch with reality. In other words, he is
trying to make a case for mental illness. I am not quite convinced that the actions based on the ideology of fascism should
be diagnosed as signs of mental illness.
According to recent news
about the case, the killer himself has asked to be examined by Japanese health specialists as well, since he believed that
the Japanese understand the values of honour better than the Europeans.
I would welcome this solution. Hitherto, the Norwegians have reacted to the killings in a manner that acts as a positive model
to all countries. They might as well continue to do so. The Japanese health specialists, who understand ‘the values
of honour’, might be able to explain and convince the killer of why his actions were not honourable but mad. The killer
would probably be more willing to listen to them than to any ‘European’ specialists.
must remember that behind the convictions and the horrific actions of the killer, is a person whose life must have involved
tragic developments leading to such totalitarian views of the world. We should sentence the killer for his actions, but we
should also try to understand why he was attracted to fascism in its extreme forms.
Conflicts, conflicts, conflicts...Europe
is full of conflicts today. Dissatisfied occupational groups are protesting against cuts which they feel are unfair to them.
Whole nations are feeling betrayed by international banks and by other nations...
through a conflict is part and parcel of everyday life in families, in work places, between organisations and between nations.
Therefore, we should not imagine that we can get rid of all conflicts. Instead we should focus our attention on how to solve
Conflict is about argumentation
When we are going through a conflict or when trying to solve one, we are engaged in argumentation. In argumentation
we express our standpoints, based on values, convictions, and facts, and try to convince others of our point of view.
We may argue with ourselves as well, especially when making decisions, and attempting
to choose between different courses of action. We have to convince ourselves that one of the options is the best one.
When we argue with someone else, we try to convince the opponent of the superiority of our own point of view. And
our opponent is doing exactly the same to us...
The psychology of human
minds is such that we can negate every argument in our mind and create counter-arguments to our own arguments. In that way,
we anticipate the standpoint of our opponent, and will be ready to confront and counter the arguments our opponent presents.
In these times of conflict it is useful to distinguish between debate and
Argumentation may serve different purposes, and therefore,
it is useful to make a distinction between debate and dialogue. Both styles belong to the domain of dialectical argumentation.
a debate, two or several parts are involved, and the aim of all participants is to present arguments favourable to their cause
and standpoint. The opponent’s arguments and standpoints, or arguments unfavourable to the speaker, are acknowledged
only in order to refute or disqualify them. Since both or all parts involved share the same purpose, the arguments of each
participant are necessarily one-sided.
This one-sidedness in argumentation
is not especially harmful in academic debates or in political debates amongst members of the Parliament. On the contrary,
it can make a debate very interesting and informative (and even entertaining).
one-sidedness applies also to conflicts between Occupational groups and the Government, to conflicts between nations, and
to conflicts between groups within nations. At worst, a conflict between
the Government and Occupational groups leads to industrial action, and a conflict between nations or groups within a nation
leads to war.
Gaining the support of a third party
Let’s not forget that argumentation may as well be addressing a third party, namely the general public.
If that is the case, all the participant groups involved in the conflict try to gain the support of the general public.
order to gain the support of the general public the opponent’s arguments and claims must be disqualified, and the ultimate
motives behind the opponent’s standpoint questioned. The opponent
must be portrayed to the general public as unreasonable, or as a danger to the future of all, while the speaker or participant
group itself is portrayed as acting in the best interest of all, and as speaking in the name of the general public or a universal
Such arguments are usually developed as counter-arguments
to the anticipated future arguments presented by the opponent. In that way our speaker has already created a negative image
of the opponent in the mind of the general public, and also a platform from which to ‘fire’ new arguments against
Sometimes the aim of argumentation is not to win direct
support to one’s own standpoint but rather to prevent another standpoint from winning support. This is often the case
when the participant knows that his or her standpoint has hardly any chance of winning. In such a case the main aim is to
force the opponent to make admissions to or change his or her original standpoint.
the general public seldom has access to all documents and to all the arguments presented, and has to rely on the media to
provide necessary information. Unfortunately, the media too tends to take a stand in favour of one or the other parts involved.
On the other hand, there are plenty of newspapers, TV channels, and internet websites (representing different points of views)
available to most of us.
the aim of argumentation in a debate is to win the argument, the aim of argumentation in a dialogue is to find common ground
and a solution that is satisfactory to all parts involved.
presupposes a meeting of minds. There is a willingness from the side of all participants to listen to the standpoints
and arguments presented by others, and a willingness to consider these and to be on the lookout for potential common ground
on which a solution can be based.
A meeting of minds is a good way to describe argumentative
situations in organisations, in joint ventures, and in negotiations involving governments and nations.
We may state that if a debate can lead to war, a dialogue is needed to initiate the peace negotiations. A
dialogue may at best lead to a lasting peace treaty.
A debate approach to peace negotiations from the side
of the winner usually leads to an outcome that is humiliating to the ‘loser’. Humiliation is a state of mind that
may well act as a catalyst for future conflicts.
A dialogue or a meeting
of minds is also fundamental in many psychological therapies. C.G. Jung described his own therapeutic approach as dialectical,
in which the therapist and the client aimed, by means of a dialectical approach, at building a bridge from the past and present
towards an unknown future goal.
The distinction between debate and dialogue is theoretical, of course. In all forms of negotiations, elements
of both debate and dialogue can be present. In a conflict situation a dialogue may begin by letting participants present arguments in support of their
own standpoint. In the next phase, all participants consider the standpoints and arguments presented by others. After that,
the goal is look for common ground.
is here and we need to have something to worry about The media have as their task to create sensational
headlines so that we can worry, be afraid, or feel schadenfreude of someone’s misfortunes... The revolutionary wave
of demonstrations in the Arab world earlier this year created sensational headlines some months ago, and most of us thought
the events were wonderful and represented a gleam of hope in an otherwise depressing world. The Arab Spring continues,
but it does not anymore attract as much attention as it did some months ago. The headlines moved quickly from one revolution
to another. Today the media are reporting on the ongoing changes taking place in Yemen, Syria and Libya. Yesterday the focus
was on Egypt and on Tunisia. Remember Egypt? Remember Tunisia? I must say I haven’t seen a single article
about Tunisia lately... What happened after the revolution? No idea (except that there are plenty of people trying to leave
the country to escape poverty and high unemployment which did not ‘resign’ t the same time as the President did,
and that several new governments have been formed in a short period of time).Be very, very afraid...This
summer we can worry about the food we eat, especially about the green, salad vegetables; we have E coli amongst us...How
awful for all those who try to diet and eat light meals mainly consisting of salad vegetables... Soon after the sensational
news about the scale of the E coli outbreak in Germany, the authorities in Germany thought that they found the culprit in
Spanish cucumber, and we all could read in the media that we should avoid eating Spanish cucumber. Only the Spanish cucumber
was obviously not responsible for the outbreak... Then we learned that we should avoid raw vegetables and
wash our hands often. Within a week the sales of not only the Spanish cucumber but of most salad vegetables plummeted. This
happened both in Spain, Germany, and other European countries. The future of many farms and farmers is at risk...The
next news was that the most likely sources of the E coli were bean sprouts from a farm in Lower Saxony in Germany... This
was the first time the media mentioned that tests would be carried out at the farm. Unfortunately, the first test results
have been negative. Thus, we have to wait a couple of more days before we know what the name of the next
scary vegetable is...It is very tempting to blame human psychology behind our need to identify the source
for the outbreak as soon as possible, even if we don’t have any evidence supporting our conviction. If all the first
persons, who fell ill, had eaten cucumber, it is easy to draw a conclusion that cucumber was to blame. Unfortunately, two
factors (cucumber, illness) may appear on the scene at the same time, but this fact is not enough to explain whether one of
them (cucumber) caused the other (illness). It is true that when something scaring happens, we wish to know how to react, what
to avoid, or what not to eat. Nowadays we have learned to take our guidance from the media perhaps too easily. Sometimes there
is no simple answer or solution. I would say that the media encouraged and fed our fears
by sensational reporting on the outbreak. To begin with, the media did not inform us about the evidence or on what grounds some
particular vegetables were assumed to be the sources of the bacterium. Secondly, very little attention has been paid on the
biological aspects of the E coli. It seems to produce toxins as well, and be resistant to antibiotics. These facts are certainly
worth a couple of serious articles in the newspapers and some expert panels in television. Has our extensive misuse of antibiotics
led the E coli to become resistant to antibiotics? Now that gives us reason to be very, very afraid..!
The Royal Wedding in London was beautiful and the street parties were fun. Why is it that people are so found
of Royal Weddings, ask many republicans.
The fairy tale appeal of the marriage, which so many gave as the reason
why they travelled to London and camped overnight in the Parks not to miss a minute of the event, is probably as good an explanation
as any other explanation.
The sunny side
A British Royal Wedding
(and at least to some extent all Royal Weddings) has an archetypal character, in that it strengthens the belief in the ideal
marriage between two persons and between the royal couple and their 'subjects'. It strengthens the expectations that
the ideal royal couple will act as a role model to its subjects.
This marriage took place in the Ancient Westminster
Abbey, and the ceremonies were led by prominent leaders of the Anglican Church.
The invited guests were seated
according to their rank or closeness the royal family. There was a sense of ancient wisdom that demands a hierarchical structure.
All the ‘actors’ knew their place.
It certainly was comforting to people in these recession times
full of uncertainty. When the world seems to be chaotic and the future unpredictable, following such a ceremony or a ritual
gives a sense of continuity. It feels safe.
Perhaps the wedding was also experienced as a healing process between
Britons and their Royal family with the thought of the tragedies that took place a couple of decades ago. It was finally the
right time to feel joy again. And most people seemed to be very happy. At least I was!
We should not forget that
the joy experienced after tragedies is an important part of both ancient drama and fairy tales...
If we accept that ceremonies are needed as reminders of our need for structure in our lives,
and as reminders of the important role of collective experiences, then the wedding was a success.
we leave the archetypal aspect of it for awhile, and reflect upon the impact of hierarchical structures on society, we might
not feel as happy.
A world where everybody knows his or her place, based on rank or origin, does not bode well
for ‘social mobility’. Ranks and hierarchies based on origin do not naturally embrace meritocracy.
they promote status quo, where things and people remain in their given positions.
Thus, even if we appreciate
the unifying role of Royal Weddings, it is not evident what kind of exemplary role people wish the Royal family to offer for
Britons in their ordinary life.
In these days many people will
learn that they have been made redundant, and many can’t find a job at all, or only temporary, part-time jobs.
This month I’m dedicating my blog writing to those who live on a low budget. Go to http://aspasiablog.aspasiaeuropean.com to
find out more.
During recession people (even those who are in employment) tend to become ‘conservative’
with money, hesitant to spend, which of course does not help businesses to grow, or culture to flourish, which in turn does
not bode well for economic growth, which in turn is not good for anyone...
And economic growth is still the only
known ‘method’ to get us out of recession (at least as long as we prefer to live in a monetary economy).
This fear of spending or austere-way of reacting is comparable to psychological depression; people don’t seem to have
anything to look forward to, the future looks gloomy, things are only getting worse, and so on.
In other words,
economic depression and psychological depression have much in common.
Yet, there is space for some creativity
both on macro and micro level management of resources.
During and after the Second World War people became quite
inventive in the way they used the scarce resources available...
Today people are already quite aware of environmental
concerns and of our need to reduce waste.
Thus, individual households, businesses, and governments have
a chance to show some creativity that will be good for the future (of the entire planet).
doesn’t have to mean waste or neglecting the environment. Today environmental thinking and health concerns have become
‘main stream’ thinking and businesses ought to take this into consideration when planning their production line.
People are willing to buy healthier food and products that are friendly to the environment. In other words, even
‘junk food’ can be turned into healthier food.
Individual households are already insulating their homes
(supported by the governments), and thus saving some money on energy, and sorting their household waste for recycling.
Some people do this simply to save money, some people do it because they see it as their duty to save energy (and
the environment), and some people do it for both reasons. Sorting garbage helps you to become aware of what you are consuming
and potentially helps you to decide to change (some of) your consumption habits!
So, let's become creative when
facing all future challenges...
February has certainly been full of interesting developments
already, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. People power is not anymore wishful thinking but reality at
least in Egypt.
I’m afraid the actions of ‘crowds’ are very often understood in Psychology merely
as uncontrolled emotions, whereas the positive aspects of collective movements and crowds have mainly been ignored.
The only psychology that comes to mind is Positive Psychology, which stresses optimism and trust in meaningful actions.
However, it too tends to focus on the actions of individuals and not on the actions of crowds.
The study of mass
movements in Psychology has mainly been related to the study of such movements during the 1930s and the 1940s, and the focus
was on collective actions based on fear and enmity. Thus, the image of collective actions became negative.
it comes to the events in Egypt, another interesting observation was that the protesting crowds did not define themselves
as members of any specific, radical- political movement, nor as Muslims, but simply as Egyptians. People were claiming back their
This is a very good example of national identity and how national identity can be expressed positively.
This month I’m writing on the www.aspasiaeuropean.com Acculturation-page
about acculturation strategies and about ethnic and national identities. And on aspasia's blog you can read more
and add your own comment on the subject; http://aspasiablog.aspasiaeuropean.com
What we mean by national identity is certainly not easy to define, but the good example shown by the
Egyptians indicates that it is possible to do so without becoming a 'nationalist'.
Nationalism has historically
been linked with xenophobia rather than with the wish to integrate migrant populations. Perhaps this historical
fact about nationalism is the reason why so many are reluctant to reflect upon the meaning of national identity...
Happy New Year, readers. Let’s hope this year
will not become as miserable as it is supposed to become!
While I was writing Part II of What is just treatment
(see, Money Money-page), I could not think of any good example of why the principle of ‘To each the same thing’
is not working in real life situations. However, since then I’ve found some suitable examples.
a British Member of the Parliament was given a jail sentence for claiming false parliamentary expenses. This was debated in
Any Questions?, which is a radio programme where (mainly) politicians answer questions stated by the audience. After the programme,
there is a follow-up programme called Any Answers? in which the callers express their opinions of the comments made
Politicians seemed to be very keen to stress that they approved of the sentencing. So called ‘white
collar’ crimes should be treated in the same manner as other crimes. They also stressed that this person was not representative
of all politicians.
This is understandable, since people tend to generalise the actions of one person as typical
for the entire group to which this person belongs. Thus, the politicians needed to distinguish between the individual and
the conception of ‘politicians’, and between the actions of this individual and the actions of the group ‘politicians’.
Many of the callers were satisfied with the sentencing and expressed their less polite opinions of all politicians.
However, there were also those who stressed that if politicians are judged in the same manner as other people, then one should
take into consideration that in this particular case the sentenced person did not have any previous criminal record and that
he also had shown remorse. Thus, treating the politician as an ordinary person might have led to a shorter sentencing than
the one given to the politician.
Politicians are not seen as ordinary people but belong to the category of elites.
As I wrote in What is just treatment (see, To each according to his or her rank), elites have more power than ordinary people,
but they are also expected to take on more responsibilities and act as good examples. To avoid ‘old boy’ networks
and favouritism, elites cannot be treated in the same manner as ordinary people. When judging a crime committed by a politician, his
or her elite status weights heavily.
Yet, it is a pity that the so called ‘parliamentary expenses scandal’
has created such a hostile attitude towards politicians. In all groups in society, including elites, there are individuals
who are dishonest. We should not forget that most politicians are honest people who have become politicians because they are
interested in society, have strong convictions (which vary from one party to another), and wish to work in the best interest
of the entire society.
Aspasia European is now 3 years old
website was established in April 2010.
The very first Just a Thought was published during the first
days of May 2010.
During the first year, Aspasia European attracted a couple of hundreds of hits per month.
Today, it attracts over 11 000 hits per month (latest update 31/03/2013).
On behalf of Aspasia European,
Pirjo Niemenmaa thanks all the visitors and hopes that you continue to visit the website.
to the pages
There will be some changes to Aspasia European's website. Some of the pages
will become password protected.
Aspasia European made an attempt in March to appeal to readers to voluntarily donate
£5 to keep the pages open to all.
I'm afraid you didn't pay much attention to the appeal!
To fund the running of the website (or at least to cover the webhosting service charges) the visitors need
to pay £5 (or more if you wish) for 2013 to get access to the password protected pages.
Some of the
pages are best kept password protected for another reason as well;
Aspasia European does not wish to encourage students
(or anyone else) to copy chapters or whole pages without the permission of Aspasia European.
many of the pages will remain free and open to all.
Myfun-page, Entrepreneurs, Mobility, Boring Facts, and the
old Moneymoney-page will remain free (plus Community-pages and general information pages, of course).
if my decision to charge for access to some of the pages annoys you, my dear readers.
After all, you are used
to having access to all pages.
Unfortunately, I didn't establish password protected pages already
a couple of years ago.
Thus, psychologically it makes sense to feel annoyed, although it doesn't make
I estimate that 99 percent of my readers can easily afford to pay £5 per YEAR (!), and
therefore there are no rational reasons for not doing so.
Many of you, of course, would be able to pay
more, and you can do so, if you wish.
In the E-shop there are different payment options for Protected pages.
But £5 is the minimum.
Remember, it covers the entire 2013.
There will be some new pages
shortly, and they all will be password protected.
The new Just a Thought-page will be available within a couple
But the free Myfun-page continues to have new ideas and updates as usual.
you continue to enjoy reading both the open and the protected pages.
Why not read the very first Just a Thought
in May 2010?
It was written before the Parliamentary elections in Britain. I think my vision of the near future was
You will find it below 2013 Just a Thought-articles (middle column).
One step forward, two steps back
the recent years I have often wondered whether European societies are going backwards or forwards in time and in development.
The results of the recent elections in Italy were regarded as a joke
The Five Star Movement, founded by Bebbe Grillo, the comic,
and Gianroberto Casaleggio, won enough votes to prevent any of the coalitions parties from forming a majority government.
The Five Star Movement has declared it will not be part of any coalition
Thus, they are not interested in taking responsibility
of the governance of the country.
Some see the results as a victory for democracy. I don’t.
The Five Star Movement uses the internet and the social media, through
which they intend to give ‘ordinary people’ a chance to influence politics.
media certainly is good for campaigning but it is not the right means to govern a country.
Running a country means long term planning. It should not be based on whimsical opinions
which change every other week.
Another surprise was that Berlusconi, the crook, is back in Italian politics. That is unbelievable.
In the UK, we saw the Liberal Democrats keep their seat in the Eastleigh by-election.
The circumstances certainly weren’t helping them, so well done Lib Dems.
most attention was given to the party that came second, namely the UK Independence Party (UKIP). This party
is xenophobic and hostile to the EU.
It won more votes than the
Conservative Party. Initially the Conservatives were expected to compete with the Lib Dems. The Labour Party had little to
say in these elections.
Personally, I’m not so surprised by the increase
in the UKIP votes. I would say that the media, TV, radio, and the newspapers have done their best to promote the UKIP.
They have given the party a lot of attention, and done it free of charge, although
UKIP could easily afford to run an expensive campaign without the help of the media.
UKIP has an army of wealthy backers. These ‘patriotic’ Britons prefer to live in Luxembourg.
If the other (smaller) parties had received an equally large amount of free marketing, they too would have
I’m especially disappointed in the BBC.
During the last year, hardly a week has gone without hearing or seeing the leader
of the UKIP express his ignorant opinions (but in a convincing manner) in one or the other BBC programme.
I would like to see the media scrutinize the performance records of the UKIP in the European Parliament. They
tend to be absent from their Committee (for Fisheries), also when it is time to vote.
that really the kind of ‘responsible’ politicians people like to see in British national politics?
Smaller and smaller units
Today there are separatist movements at least in Spain, Belgium, and in Britain.
There are smaller
and larger political movements in most European countries demanding separation from the European Union.
What will come next? Do people wish to establish small city states, similar to those before the 16th
or 17th centuries?
Imagine a city state with its own Prince (or other ruler/government)
and with its own rules and laws.
A modern city state will, of course, not be an exact copy
of a medieval city state.
If each city state had a well-defined constitution, based
on shared values and convictions, people could decide in which city state they would like to live.
Thus, citizenship would be based on shared values, not on ancestry, kinship, or any kind of ethnicity.
Doesn’t that sound great? Unfortunately, this illusion would not last long.
Should one of the languages be given a superior status over the other
languages, if several languages were spoken in the city?
Should the citizens have the right to express and apply different
interpretations of the meaning of some of the shared values? Or should they be forced to leave the city?
How would such a city state trade with other city states in the neighbourhood and far away?
Should they limit their trade to internal trade only? If not, who should decide what rules apply to foreign
How would they fix their financial markets? Would they reject the
global financial markets entirely and rely only on local financial markets?
free to add to this list)
The long lasting recession, austerity, conflicting interests,
lack of moral, competition from other parts of the world, finding someone to blame, and general confusion seem to dominate
the reasoning of Europeans today.
Spengler and Toynbee
It might be worth revisiting historians and philosophers of the past
and ask where Europeans stand today.
Should we trust Oswald Spengler’s
theory of whole cultures as more accurate units of history than the division between ancient, medieval, and modern histories?
According to Spengler (Der Untergang des Abendlandes, 1918), cultures
have a starting period (summer), growth period (autumn), and a decay period (winter). In other words, they are like biological
Cultures have a lifespan of some thousand years. The final
stage of each culture is ‘civilization’.
Spengler (who made the statement nearly a century ago), modern Western culture was ending and going through its last season,
Arnold Toynbee (Civilization on Trial, 1948) rejected
Spengler’s deterministic view, and claimed instead that civilizations decline when their leaders are not able to respond
creatively to challenges.
Civilizations decline when nationalism, militarism, and the tyranny of a despotic minority dictate the future.
Thus, people dictate the future of a civilization or culture. History
does not have to repeat itself, if we so decide.
We may as well add a psychological approach to understanding
our current, confusing times.
When individuals go through some painful event, and try
to understand what went wrong, they usually polarise the current situation against another situation, usually in the past.
They create an image of the past that was different from the present,
or an image of a person in the past that is different from the image they have of that person currently.
When a relationship begins to fail, the persons involved may suddenly experience one another as strangers,
as completely different from what the other person ‘used to be’.
may be that some previously ignored characteristic of the other person has become stronger, but mostly the changes are dealing
with projected images.
We project an image of an ideal onto another person, and
then feel betrayed when we realise that the other person is not like the ideal image.
we feel the need to gain more insight into our own past and into our own upbringing, the values which we hitherto regarded
as self-evident and ‘necessary’, may suddenly seem hostile or worthless to us.
Every value, principle, behavioural code of conduct has (at least) two sides. They can be positive or negative.
For example, we may have appreciated another person for being frugal, careful
with money. However, when the circumstances change or rather our perception of the circumstances change, we may begin to think
of this person as mean.
Accordingly, if we previously only saw the positive aspects
of the values and principles we brought along from our childhood, we may turn against them when we become familiar with the
other (opposite) side of them.
Sometimes it may take a long time before we begin to find
a balance between the opposite views. In the best case we create a synthesis of them.
think European societies are going through this kind of period right now.
have witnessed the polarisation between nations, between sectors and groups of individuals within nations.
We may polarise between North and South Europe, between private and public sectors, between bankers and ordinary
people, between hard working families and benefit claimants.
there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
One day we will find the balance, but we must be patient.
Let's not wait for Godot anymore
February is the month when there are new art exhibitions and new drama plays to see.
It is also the month when we are supposed to enjoy St Valentine’s Day, and when we are impatiently waiting
for the spring.
On Saturday we saw the last two episodes of Borgen, the
great Danish political TV drama. I wish the real world was more like Borgen.
it be great if most countries had a Prime Minister like the fictional Prime Minister, Birgitte Nyborg in Borgen?
She is a Prime Minister with strong convictions. A Prime Minister, who both listens
to others and says firmly no, if the suggestions made by others go against government’s plans.
She is a Prime Minister who sometimes supports politicians belonging to other political parties and who is
able to find new allies in strange places.
Have you noticed how fiction
tends to present these qualities in a positive light only when the main character is a woman?
Borgen also brought to our attention the fact that the old division between left and right probably isn’t
the best way to imagine a potential future to contemporary politics.
Borgen, Birgitte Nyborg was a member of the Conservative Party who wanted to invest in public health care. Imagine that.
The toppled old Labour Party leader in turn stated after resigning that he was
the last worker in the Danish Labour Party.
The main division today
seems to be between those who see in austerity the new Holy Grail and those who put their hope on investing in economic growth,
through both private and public sectors.
Although Borgen is a fictional
drama that does not reflect the real actions of the real leaders of today, it gave a glimpse of hope to us all. (Visit
also Myfun-page to read my comments on Borgen episodes!)
Boring and repressive reality
of inspiring political speeches and promises based on convictions, we hear in the real world about new financial scandals
in Spain and Italy involving banks and/or political parties.
the spirit of austerity does not encourage us to dedicate our minds and senses to the beauty of things, to anything that could
No, we are only encouraged to become mean-spirited towards
one another, and to kill all joy in our world.
Money, bills, and working
without decent pay have become the boring realities of everyday life for most people.
an expression of being a free country, we have been given the chance to direct our indignation either towards those who are
not ‘doing enough’ or towards those who have too much money. I suspect this applies to many European countries
In Britain, as in many other countries, regional councils have to
find ways to reduce their costs, and funding of arts and culture is certainly on the list of activities and services to be
reduced up to 100 percent.
Yet, we seem to be like Vladimir and Estragon, waiting
for Godot but at the same time admitting that we would not recognize him when he finally arrived.
I would encourage people to go and visit those great Museums and art exhibitions that still have a free entry.
Especially, Londoners have access to great Museums and Art Galleries.
People outside London might not be able to afford the luxury of buying
economy class train tickets to London anymore, just to pay a visit to some Museums.
while writing this I’ve learned that the skeleton found in a car park in Leicester, has been confirmed to be the skeleton
of King Richard III. He died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
in East Midlands (and in London too) can go and see something new and exciting in Leicester. Great!
I know that many are tired and short of money, but I’ll assure you that seeing great paintings and visiting
all kinds of cultural activities will inspire you.
They may offer
you aesthetic pleasure or they may confuse you and make you think. That is exactly the point. They will stimulate your mind.
Our minds need stimulation.
Fat, lazy, poor people
A week ago or so, I read on BBC website that the Public Health Minister decided to encourage people to talk
about obesity and food by stating that ‘you can spot poor children by looking at the size of their waistline’.
I read some of the comments on this article people had sent to the
website. The frequently appearing expressions in these comments were ‘lazy parents’, and ‘benefit claimants’.
Obviously, people associated obesity with laziness and also assumed
that fat people must be benefit claimants.
This is by no means surprising,
since existing research in the attitudes towards obesity indicates that there is a stigma against overweight people.
Cross-cultural research confirms that this stigma is becoming a cultural norm
around the world.
Laziness and lack of self-control or willpower are repeatedly
found in research to be attached to overweight people. Obese people are also found more disgusting than other people.
Research at Food Research and Action Center in the USA found that although obesity
has been increasing across the population, there were complex relationships between income, gender, and ethnicity.
Obesity has increased more in children coming from low income families than in
other income families.
However, their research also showed that the rate of increase
in obesity over two decades was fastest in high income and high education groups.
German research group studied attitudes towards obese persons in a sample of 120 (voluntary) Human Resource (HR) professionals
(from HR Online, UK, 2012).
They were shown pictures of persons who were obese or
of healthy weight, of different gender, and of different ethnicities, and asked to rate work-related prestige and achievements
of the persons in these pictures.
They were not given any information about the persons,
They found that the participants overestimated the occupational
prestige (position and achievements) of healthy-weight persons and underestimated the occupational prestige of obese persons.
When asked whom they would absolutely not hire, they tended to disqualify obese
persons, particularly obese women. Although there was also a mild bias towards racial and gender discrimination, obesity was
the greatest predictor of disqualification.
Perhaps these and other
research findings should also guide ministers when they wish to stimulate debates?
was thinking of famous fat people, and two names appeared in my mind immediately; Sir Winston Churchill and Alfred Hitchcock.
Both of them were very intelligent, hard working, and successful.
I encourage all overweight or obese people to go out and proudly
talk about your achievements and skills.
I know that in many countries St Valentine's Day is a day when couples,
girlfriends and boyfriends are expected to show how much they love one another.
In Finland this day is called
'a Friend's Day'. I like it since it includes all friends, not only sweethearts.
I wish you all Happy St Valentine's Day, and let’s all go and enjoy cultural events this February!
If you wish to comment this or any other article on Just a Thought
or on any other free page, please, send your comments to: email@example.com
It's a new year- silly old world!
new year has just started, but hardly anything has changed in the world.It is still the same
silly old world.
What do we need?
We have huge problems to solve on our planet.
The climate change continues and the ice-bergs are melting.
need to save energy. We need to invent new, environmentally friendly means of production and products.
These are problems that cannot be solved by individual nations but all nations must work together.
We need to create economic growth and more employment opportunities.
What do we not need?
we do not need the kind of economic growth that unnecessarily harms the environment.
do not need the kind of jobs that unnecessarily risks the lives of workers.
We do not need new businesses
whose greatest ambition is to avoid paying decent salaries to their workers or to avoid paying taxes.
do not need governments who worship money or put money ahead of the wellbeing of the residents.
people in Europe (an in many other countries) nowadays know that the changing age-structure of the populations put a strain
on pension funding and on welfare in general.
Although we know
that we cannot expect as much of the state as before, we do not wish to sacrifice all human values on the altar of money.
We need to find new ways to live our lives and decide which comes first, humans or money.
Since both socialism and capitalism have failed us, we need to find a new economic system!
have we got?
What have we been up to during the last years?
In the USA the Republicans have provided us with entertainment in 2012.
Unfortunately, their task was not to entertain us, but to provide a serious alternative
to President Obama. They failed.
During the last months of the year 2012 the politicians in the USA haven’t
been able to agree upon an economy or tax policy to save the country and half the world from a new recession.
appears that for many of them it was far more important to defend the right to egoism of a small group of billionaires than
saving the country.
It was not until the ‘last minute’ the politicians seemed to be able to
agree upon a course of action.
Wealth and decency in Europe
In the Euro zone the economic struggles have continued. Nationalism and fascism have become new-old features
in the political arena.
Curiously enough having your country’s economy in a relatively good shape does
not prevent the rise of nasty nationalism.
This is the case
in many European countries, for example, in Finland.
On the list of ‘richest countries
in the world 2012, consisting of 181 countries (source: International Monetary Fund, based on Cross domestic product per capita:
on the purchasing power of people), Finland did quite well.
In the ranking of 181 countries Qatar and
Luxemburg were the richest countries in the world. The USA was the 7th, and Finland the 22nd
On the same list Zimbabwe was on the 179th place, Liberia on the 180th,
and The Democratic Republic of the Congo on the 181th and last place.
In other words, all the
poorest countries in the world were in Africa, not in Europe.
ranking the whole of the European Union shared 24th place with Hong Kong and New Zealand).
the World education ranking (reading, maths, science) Finland was on the second place in 2010 and on the first place in 2012.
The USA was on the 14th place in 2010 and on the 17th place in 2012.
In the OECD ranking of the Best 25 countries to live in Finland was on the 10th place. The USA
was on the second place.
It sounds good for Finland (and the USA). But does this information make the Finns
proud or happy about their country?
No, it seems as if they needed to find a common factor to defend and a common
enemy to attack.
They have found it in a strange kind of nationalism. A part of it promotes protectionism
meaning that persons and businesses of own nationality should be given priority to employment opportunities, business contracts,
education, and benefits.
A part of it is related to meanness, especially meanness towards other European Union
countries. Why should we be paying for the failures of other countries, is the message.
a part of it is simply xenophobia (and racism). It is based on the fear of losing one’s own national identity and on
the fear of everything that is strange.
Belgium is another country
doing surprisingly well in the middle of all Euro zone and other crises.
It was the 20th richest country in the world. In the World education ranking it was on the 8th
place in 2010 and on the 16th place in 2012.
And in the list of 25 best countries to live in, Belgium
was on the 13th place.
Instead of congratulating themselves the Belgians have
decided to hate one another even more than they did before.
On the one side of argument we have the
Flemish/Dutch speaking population, and on the other side the French speaking population.
This is the country that managed to be without a Government nearly a year. It means that the country was in such
a good shape that no urgent (governmental) decisions were needed during that time.
Do they seriously believe
that they would be doing better if they split the country?
I wonder if life isn’t too good in
these (and many other) countries, since people desperately need to find something to complain about?
tell you: It’s time to wake up and see how well you all are doing!
What about the United
Kingdom? It has a Government that seems to be specialised in insulting its residents.
Over the years, the Government
has portrayed the country as a sinking ship unless severe cuts were made in the public sector.
the private sector take over most of the tasks of the state was the only way to save the country.
Government has used war-time rhetoric and encouraged the population to show Blitz-spirit to survive the austerity measures.
But making hundreds of thousands of public sector workers redundant did not improve the economy of the country.
The private sector did not ‘step in’. On the contrary, it too has made people redundant.
The Government has done and is doing its best to create a myth in which the population is divided into ‘hard
working families’ and into ‘unemployed, disabled, retired benefit-cheaters’.
how sinking is the UK? In the list of the richest countries in the world the UK is on 23rd place.
the World education ranking in 2012 the UK was on the 6th place. In the best countries to live in, The UK was on
the 11th place.
Is that a sinking ship? No it isn’t.
So, stop pretending it
is 1940 and you are at war with Germany or with the rest of Europe.
The only reminder of the war
time is the rhetoric of some ministers which reminds me of the rhetoric of a certain Herr Hitler. In addition to the Jews
and communists, Herr Hitler wanted the German people to despise the unemployed, homeless, and mentally ill.
don’t you believe that leaving the EU would solve your problems!
On the contrary, many of the smaller businesses
whose main income comes from export to the EU would probably leave the country, as would most of the international investors.
But The Olympic Games in London were a huge success. Even the weather was good.
Everyone was smiling and friendly to friends and strangers alike during a couple of months.
The rest of the world
It is amazing how desperate the Taliban
must be since they had to kill ‘Western-influenced’ charity workers who provided much needed polio vaccinations
to all and education to girls in Pakistan (on the 136th place in the richest country list).
Taliban believe or try to convince the population in Pakistan to believe that the polio vaccination is a Western plot to kill
or sterilise Muslim children.
I assure you, it is not. I wish the well-educated and intelligent people of Pakistan
had more to say in their country.
India (on the 128th
place in the riches country list) is becoming more and more like many ‘Western’ countries.
During the last weeks mass protests have been held in many towns after a young
woman who was gang-raped died.
the women in India want a change in the attitude towards (harassment and abuse of) women.
As in many European countries, conviction rates are too low in rape cases in India.
to change your attitude, India!
The People’s Republic of China (on the 92nd place in the richest country
list) has continued its bad reputation concerning human rights.
And it has not forced the industries
to address environmental concerns or to improve the health and safety and earnings of the workers who create the wealth of
I wish the great Vladimir Putin of Russia (on the 54th place in the richest
country list) had shown more sense than seeing Pussy Riot, a feminist punk-rock band as his enemy number one.
Don’t you see that Pussy Riot is exactly what you need to increase harmless expressions
of democracy in Russia?
The Middle Classes
Now that I’ve battered several countries and continents, I’m turning my anger towards
the middle classes of all nations.
The middle classes, or rather the well-educated middle
classes once formed the backbone of every society.
You acted in the best interest of the entire
society. You defended the weak, you fed ambitions in youngsters, you enjoyed arts, and you appreciated businesses.
Where are you now? Today you are not even acting in the best interest of the middle classes.
each of you now act only in the (assumed) best interest of yourselves and your families.
That will backfire. I
want the old Middle Class-spirit back!
aware that many of you, who read this article, have made similar observations and share most of my opinions.
That at least is something to be happy about!
The greatest sources of inspiration for years to come were the experiments in the Large Hadron
A HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone!
MAY 2010 (the very first Just a Thought)
Much is changing in our world. The way we work or earn a living is one of the areas where changes are taking
People are increasingly aware of the fact that finding or keeping a permanent employment in some large
public sector or private sector organisation is not anymore as self-evident as it used to be.
Instead, we are
expected to find new ways to earn a living, to establish our own businesses or to become self-employed.
are natural entrepreneurs and may find these changes exiting. At last their skills will be appreciated; openness to new experiences,
embracing challenges, willingness to take moderate risks, being their own boss...
Such enthusiastic entrepreneurs
deserve all the help they need to realize their dreams.
However, there are others who are struggling to cope. Unsurprisingly,
some are struggling because they have been made redundant after tens of years of permanent employment.
as they knew it has ceased to exist, values and norms are changing. But there are also younger people who may be struggling.
They are not natural entrepreneurs and have no interest in creating businesses.
The Janus-faced business world
The world of business and money in a free
market economy is Janus-faced.
On the one hand we have big businesses and investment banks and bankers whose recklessly
greedy actions without doubt contributed to if not caused the current global recession.
We may well ask whether
completely unregulated free market encourages greed and sociopathic behaviour in individuals. This question is even more relevant
now when also our schools, universities, and hospitals are expected to follow the corporate model.
On the other
hand, we have enthusiastic entrepreneurs who create original enterprises, and who do not put the available money in their
own pockets but rather use it to expand their business.
They feel responsible for their business, for their employees,
and for the shareholders. I suspect that this type of entrepreneur was the model for the original idea of free market and
These entrepreneurs do exist and I have personally met such persons.
the actions of the recklessly greedy may cast a shadow over all businesses, banks, and business activities. We do not know
what the impact of the new changes in working life is on individuals.
Human psychology will become increasingly
important and relevant tool to face changes both on individual and collective levels.
Mobility of people
Another area where changes take place refers to the
general issue of globalization, the globalization of businesses, of finances, of production.
This website is mainly
interested in some specific aspect of globalization, namely in the mobility of people and in the psychology of being a foreigner.
Mobility has increased rapidly during the last decades within and into Europe.
The old image of migrants as poor and
unskilled workers moving from poorer countries to wealthier countries does not hold anymore.
Today also well-educated
professionals and skilled workers move from one country to another, and sometimes do so several times during their lifetime.
Some people move simply because they wish to reunite with their family members.
There are also those
who return back to their country of origin after living for decades in another country. They may have children who never before
visited or lived in the parents’ country of origin.
Within the European Union students are encouraged to
study outside their country of origin and plenty of people from the Northern European countries have moved to Southern Europe,
some because they prefer the warmer and sunnier climate of these countries, some because they prefer the mentality of the
people in these countries.
In other words, there are various reasons for people to move from one country to another.
This website prefers the concept of foreigner to describe and define such people. A foreigner is a person who
moves to another country for whatever reasons, and may be of any nationality, race or religion.
The concept of
migrant has predominantly been used to describe uneducated poorer people forming a minority population, or people belonging
to a minority race or religion in the new country, and thus might be misleading here.
Since the mobility of people
is here to stay and in the near future being a foreigner may become as usual as staying in the same country, there is no reason
to assume that those who stay in their country of origin represent the norm for normality, whereas those who move are deviations
from this normality.
But unlike the host population a foreigner is a newcomer to the host country
and needs to find a good way to adapt and not only to adjust or assimilate to the values, norms, and ways of life in the new
And, we should not forget that people in the host country need to adapt to the newcomers as well. Some
people find it very hard to adapt to newcomers, especially during a recession.
Adaptation to the new country is
a process that takes time, and it takes place in many different areas of life.
Once again, psychology becomes
a key issue in the process of successful adaptation.
This is an area where new research, especially psychological
research that sees the issue from the perspective of the individual is needed.
Endings and beginnings
So we have finally reached the last month
of the year 2012.
In a strange way, the ending of one year and the beginning of another always seems so significant
to us. And, yet, a new year merely means that we have to buy a new calendar; change the year in our letters and e-mails.
Time itself continues as it always has done.
But somehow these endings and beginnings
are important to us.
Curiously enough, we don’t appreciate real endings, such as somebody’s life coming
to an end, or a relationship coming to an end.
Endings and beginnings
are also related to our fears.
We fear we haven’t done enough. We fear that we will not be able to
do enough in the next year.
The Mayan calendar
I’ve learned that according to the Mayan calendar ‘time’ is coming to an end. Or that time counting in the
Mayan calendar is coming to an end.
Many have interpreted this
as a sign that the whole world is coming to an end. That, of course, scares many people.
For some reason, the
same persons who ridiculed the American Bible interpreter for his Doomsday Prophecy a couple of years ago, are willing to
trust the calculations in a Mayan calendar.
Fortunately, the latest interpretation I’ve heard
is that the Mayan calendar only states that an astrological cycle is coming to an end and a new cycle is beginning.
So, let’s just assume that there is a new beginning ahead of us. If it
is an astrological cycle, it will last at least a millennium!
this is a time for celebration and joy; this is the time of the year when Jesus was born. The good news is about love.
In Western European countries this Christian celebration gives us all a couple
of holy/red days.
I hope you will enjoy these days the way you wish. It
doesn’t matter whether you are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or atheist.
We all can enjoy these couple of free
Some of us may use the time to pause and reflect upon our lives.
Some may use it to enjoy good food and good company.
Whatever you are going
to do during the Christmas days, I hope you will do it without feelings of guilt.
you afford a Christmas?
We are in the middle of
recession, and many fear that they cannot afford to ‘have a Christmas’.
I would say that as long as you have a roof over your
head, you have something to be happy about.
Parents, who cannot
afford to buy as many gifts to their children as during the previous years, should remember that the best gifts they can offer
are love and spending some extra time with their children.
not everyone has a home. There are homeless people in most European (and other) countries.
Fortunately, there are also people and organizations who dedicate
their time and resources to looking after those who are without a home.
is good to know that such people and organizations exist today, have nearly always existed, and will exist in the future.
In today’s economic
climate, I think they are the best reminders of what our civilization is about.
If you can donate to such charities, please do so.
The New Year
During the last days of the year we take stock of ourselves, of our achievements, and try
to figure out what to do with and during the next year.
I wonder what
I wish for and of the New Year?
I might write something about my wishes and hopes
at the end of the month.
During December 2012
Aspasia European has a couple of new articles on its free pages.
The Myfun- page is mainly about Nottingham, which
is a city in the East Midlands, UK.
You can read about the history of Nottingham, and what characterizes
There are also some pictures of today’s Nottingham.
the same page Alter Ego will soon offer you some gift ideas (a spoiler; the gifts are available in the E-shop).
Moneymoney-page the Protestant Ethic, Capitalism, Psychology article continues.
Chapter IV will be published soon
and it will be about Martin Luther.
He initiated the protestant movement and reformation but was also a very interesting
I hope you all will enjoy the last month of this year.
Values, values, and more values
had some trouble in deciding what the theme of November’s Just a Thought might be.
Yet, there are so many
worrying tendencies in the world that I need to share my worries with you. My worries are about our values.
The secrets of a celebrity
In Britain we have witnessed in October how a popular celebrity showed to be a paedophile using his celebrity
status to abuse vulnerable girls and boys. This person died a year ago, and the abuse he committed took place decades ago.
Just a Thought I wrote about the contradictory nature of human mind. I’ll offer you some more example of it.
After the first sensational news came out about the activities of this celebrity, people didn’t
want to believe the news.
I remember how people in numerous online chat-rooms
condemned those who had accused him. ‘Why didn’t they report him immediately after the abuse took place? It is
not fair to accuse someone who cannot anymore defend himself’ were often repeated in these chats.
However, soon all the newspapers, and TV stations were full of reports about his horrific activities, and
more and more victims came forward.
Then the tone changed completely. Everybody was condemning this celebrity.
Both the BBC and several hospitals have been accused of letting down children. Yet, the abuse took place during
the 1970s or 1980s.
We have been reminded that a couple of decades ago
most people would not have believed any accusations directed towards a popular celebrity.
After all, this was a celebrity who had made great contributions to numerous charitable activities. Now we
Do we? As I said earlier, the first reactions of
‘ordinary people’ were to condemn those who accused him of abuse.
Not until practically every piece
of information confirmed that he really was a paedophile, did people change their minds about him.
So, let’s not forget that the objective human mind does not exist. There is only a mind that is influenced
by the culture, values, and historical time in which it operates.
Hurricane Sandy and exemplary behaviour
The Hurricane Sandy caused damages in the Caribbean Islands, in the USA, and in Canada. In the USA
Sandy’s arrival coincided with the presidential election campaigning.
was strange to see how both candidates had to adapt their behaviour to the ‘wrath of nature’.
There were a couple of days of no-campaigning during the
worst days of the hurricane. President Obama was busy supervising rescue operations, and Mitt Romney was busy with fund-raising
to the victims of the hurricane.
During the following couple of days the campaigning
was low-key before returning to ‘normal’.
amazing how well and reasonably both candidates behaved during the worst days of the storm and afterwards. Personally, I don’t
believe there were any (greater) calculated intentions behind their behaviour.
(This week we will see if and what the impact of the hurricane was
on the elections.)
However, we should remember that both candidates
were well protected and very unlikely to suffer any harm during the storm.
who suffered and lost their homes might have behaved differently. So, what do we learn from this?
We learn that people who are in well protected positions in society must act in the interest of all and protect
those who cannot protect themselves during a time of crisis.
Obama and presidential candidate Romney both acted as good examples of such behaviour.
Such expectations do not only apply to crises caused by hurricanes and other natural catastrophes but
to various kinds of social crises as well.
the most worrying country is Greece. There is too much violence and too much fear in that country.
The Golden Dawn seems to have gained support and power by using violence (mainly towards foreigners and those
who oppose it) and no-one seems to be strong enough to stop its criminal activities.
People support or tolerate
it because the organization brings food to them.
organizations should mobilise their forces to bring immediate help to ordinary people in Greece who need food, shelter, and
health care. And I mean to all people, not only to those who were born in Greece.
The EU rescue packages and the outcome of such rescue efforts will take time. Thus, such rescue packages cannot
offer immediate relief to people. It can only be done by humanitarian organizations.
The desperation of the Greek government is shown in its attempts
to silence journalists who reveal weaknesses in the government’s activities. Why does it take such desperate measures?
Because it irrationally believes and fears that free speech is its
enemy, when in reality free speech might be the best remedy for the country.
What values do you support?
Everywhere in Europe people are trying to cope with recession by identifying
suitable groups to attack and accuse for the failures of economy.
We should not forget that the state of our ‘civilisation’
rests on our historical and cultural values.
For most part
of the last century some of the important and profound values in Europe (at least) have been tolerance, open-mindedness, intellectual
curiosity, as well as admitting responsibility for the most vulnerable members of our societies and in other parts of the
these values we have values characterising fascism.
the word fascism with black shirts, leather boots, and violence. Yet, fascism does not take the shape of violent
acts in the beginning but is expressed as changes in our attitudes towards many of our profound values.
Roger Griffin (editor) in his book on Fascism (1995, Oxford University Press) presents a list of factors that
characterise fascism. Consider the following values and attitudes.
Fascism rejects liberalism; tolerance, pluralism, individualism, pacifism, and
parliamentary democracy.It rejects traditional politics based on the idea
of parliamentary democracy. It rejects both liberalism and socialism, and conservative preservation of law and order.
Fascism believes in the new birth of a nation. To support the
new birth, it creates a myth of glorious epochs in the past of the nation. These glorious epochs are supposed to encourage
people to heroic future acts when defending the new nation.
supporters of fascism come from different backgrounds; they come from the political left and right, from the middle classes
and working classes, they can be well-educated and uneducated.
stress on heroism, violence, wars, and imperialism is more appealing to men than women but does not exclude women.
Fascism creates a myth
of the new nation in which all productive members are rewarded, and parasites punished.
Fascism is anti-cosmopolitan and rejects as decadent
the liberal vision of a multi-cultural, multi-religious, and multi-racial society.
It usually treats (depending on the specific circumstances of each country) some group as ‘different’
and not welcome. This is often expressed as hostility towards migrants and foreigners, who should go back or be deported back
to their home countries.
The ideal of fascism is a homogeneous, perfectly
co-ordinated national community. Although the birth of a new nation demands rejecting old structures, the outcome is a totalitarian,
Would you like to live in such a society? I wouldn’t.
Democracy, parliamentary democracy, and the profound
values of Europe are based on convictions admitted as reasonable by most Europeans. If we wish to preserve them, we have
to defend them.
Conflicts as usual, cuts, and cool adverts
This month’s Just a Thought is a bit delayed. The reason for
the delay is the fact that mental energy has gone to other duties.
Aspasia European is struggling to solve financial problems- as most people
The important observation and insight from
this is that when the financial situation is not in order, there are hardly any energy reserves for mental
efforts. Also the ability to see the ‘big picture’ becomes clouded.
This applies to most people, but I wonder if it didn’t apply also to politicians. Why?
during these recession times the politicians seem to be busy offering us treatments of symptoms (mainly in form of cuts),
without being sure of what the illness is.
Some people react
to financial hardship by showing aggression, often towards other people who are not involved or caused the hardship. Sometimes
the aggression is turned inwards.
Some people become
apathetic, and are willing to accept whatever other people suggest or demand of them.
Some people withdraw from the company of others, to reflect upon the situation or to blame themselves.
Finally, some people reach out for other people in a similar
situation, unite their forces, and together become a force to be recognized.
you help Aspasia European?
Aspasia European would be very happy to receive readers’ comments and suggestions on how to make Aspasia European
survive. Send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org
And some of you might even consider making a purchase
in the E-shop.
All the products in the E-shop are of high quality and affordable to all those, whose disposable
income is above minimum wage!
is a pity that the initiative to promote awareness of the unemployment among well-educated people must come from Benetton,
United Colors of Benetton, and not from some thinktank or from the academic world, or from the politicians.
Benetton’s adverts are about ‘the unemployee
of the year’-campaign, with pictures of non-filmmakers, non-lawyers, and of non-engineers of different nationalities.
Unemployee of the year is a contest where young people without work between 18 and 30 can participate. Good luck
and the media (most of the time) still like to portray the unemployed as an anonymous, uniform group, with implicit or explicit
references to lacking educational qualifications and poor family background.
In extreme cases the unemployed are portrayed as idle and undeserving of state benefits. This is used as an
argument for more benefit cuts.
ever are we offered any statistical information on unemployment among those with educational qualifications from Universities.
No, let the well-educated
create own projects and movements. In that way society would probably gain more than by expecting them to lower their ambitions
and compete with uneducated people on temporary jobs demanding no educational qualification.
The right solution
is not expecting them to happily compete on every job at the cleaning firms, supermarkets and burger bars. And why should
employers at these firms and organizations select candidates who are very likely to be unhappy in their posts and leave at
the first best opportunity?
But since that kind of support is very unlikely to come from the political decision-makers, we must say thanks
What kind of reaction can we expect from this army
of non-employees? Aggression towards others? Aggression towards oneself? Apathy? Or will they form a union and start demanding
Conflicts as usual
The world is not more peaceful place than it was last month.
The armed conflicts inside Syria continue and there has been shelling of a Turkish border town by Syrians. Turkey has returned
fire but also assured us that it is not interested in war.
does not look good. The international community and the UN must finally agree upon some strategy to stop the conflict. The
situation is too dangerous for us all.
There are people who are convinced that no international co-operation is needed. They are
convinced that each country should establish its own unique relationships with every other country.
They are wrong. We live in a global world now. Every conflict has an impact on us all,
on trade, on neighbouring countries, on prices of goods and energy. There is no way back to the ‘good, old days’,
if they ever existed.
Fear, causality, competition, contradiction
2012 can be written in history books as a relatively happy month. The Olympic Games in London were a great success and hundreds
of millions of cheering people all over the world were watching the games.
Britons had a chance to feel great thanks to the successful British athletes and all the volunteers
and organizers who kept thing running smoothly.
was important for the British ‘psyche’ in the middle of ‘the austerity years’, and after repeatedly
hearing how badly most Britons were doing.
Nearly everything in our contemporary world is uncertain. We don’t know what
the future holds for us, we don’t know if we can trust the ‘bankers’, the politicians, the businesses, our
neighbours. Nor do we know if we can trust ourselves.
now we are in September, and although the Paralympics may keep us happy yet another month, we are beginning to return to our
A reason to like athletic performances
A good reason to like athletics or rather
to watch athletic performances, such as running, is that there is a recognizable and visible causal relationship between hard
work, good performance, and winning.
The idea of causality
as a model of reality may have been rejected in physics for a half century ago, but human mind doesn’t seem to have
adjusted to such changes. We are still looking for causal explanations (the term is used here in a rhetorical rather than
a scientific sense) to most events in our lives and in society.
Therefore, we enjoy the athletic performances. We know that the person who runs fastest reaches the
finishing line first and wins the run.
We also know that the
best runners are those who have talent for running, who have worked hard to improve their capacity to perform well (Yes, I
admit there are cheaters amongst the athletes, but that’s not the point here!).
All this confirms our
view of a just world where people get what they deserve. Those who work hard will be rewarded and those who cheat will be
Of course, we ‘know’ that hard
work is not always (if ever) rewarded, and cheaters tend to be rewarded more often than they should be.
the purity of the competition in the Olympic Games was a good reminder of how a positive and fair competition looks like.
Contradictory human mind
We human beings are amazingly irrational and full of contradictions. What we see as acceptable in one set
of circumstances becomes unacceptable in another set of circumstances.
For example, during the ‘good economic’ years it was not unusual to hear cynical and casual
comments (without any deeper reflection) on how false and dishonest politicians were.
most people were not too bothered about it. There were no riots, nor major protests demanding a change in the way politicians
Everything related to ‘science’
was doubtful, as well. Statistics was only used to lie about the state of affairs, and so on.
But then came the recession. Fear and uncertainty about the future alerted people to expect to
see more exact figures on how public money was used.
Politicians too expected more of the population
they were serving. Suddenly people were expected to show how honest or hardworking they were, in order to justify their existence
or their access to any state benefits.
People were expected to compete
on honesty and hard work. Those who were not good at this competition were ranked very low in the social hierarchy of ‘rights’.
Approximately at the same
time the revelations of the fraudulent or ethically incorrect behaviour of the politicians in the UK became public knowledge.
People were shocked and angry, and they let the politicians feel that anger. Abusive language was
directed towards politicians at every opportunity.
We might ask why. After all, the expressed opinions about politicians prior the recession indicated that people
expected the politicians to be dishonest.
The only good
explanation lies in the irrational and contradictory nature of the human mind.
When people are fearful about the future, they are looking for causal explanations to understand
what is going on.
Suddenly it becomes important
to distinguish between fair and unfair, between good and bad, between deserving and undeserving people, without reflecting
upon what should be covered by these notions.
contradict all this, people were surprisingly easy going towards the financial markets, although hundreds of billions seemed
to have disappeared in thin air.
The anger was directed
towards ‘bankers’ although most bankers had nothing to say about the way their bank was conducting itself.
When we learned that a politician had cheated us of some £600
or a person falsely claimed a thousand pounds in disability benefits, we got angry, since we can easily relate (or anchor
as the term is called in Psychology) the sums with activities in our own lives (buying a car, paying a rent, etc.).
But to what can we relate hundreds of billions? Most of us simply don't know. The sum is too big to even
In other words, we limit our attacks on
those whose dishonesty is related to something that make sense to us.
times and dangerous minds
We live in dangerous times
with our irrational and contradictory minds. It is surprising how little our minds have changed although most people today
can read and write, have access to information and sources of information.
need more than ever truly honest politicians, who are brave enough to say that the times are uncertain, and that there is
no miracle solution to the ongoing economic problems. Pointing a finger at one or another group of people in society will
not change anything.
There are elections coming in the near future,
for example, in the USA. We must only hope that the Americans are brave and sensible enough to admit that there are no
And hope that they will not put their hope on a candidate who promises them a miracle.
The rest of us may begin to reflect upon
our own values. How do we value work and money? Where did our values come from? What is the origin of our work and money ethics?
Some historical roots to these questions outline the topic of a new article on Protestant work ethic to be published on the
Moneymoney-page later in September.
Back to the topic
of uncertainty. There is also another kind of uncertainty, namely the uncertainty that consists of waiting.
Norwegians can put a closure
on the violent events that took place in July 2011 and move on with their lives. The relatives of the victims, of the 77 killed
and hundreds of injured, can forget about the character of the killer and direct their thoughts towards the victims and towards
their own lives and future.
The waiting is over for most Norwegians, now that the Norwegian Court has found
Anders Breivik sane, and sentenced him to 21 years in prison.
Breivik regarded his mission to kill people,
especially young people who were politically active, as justified. His irrational mind had convinced him that the supporters
of 'multiculturalism' had betrayed the country and deserved to die.
If interested, Just a Thought in August 2011 discussed the Norwegian killings,
go and read it.
I hope you will enjoy your September. I will.
In August we will be entertained
by the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Athletes from over 200 nations take part in these Games.
will see everything from great swimmers, runners, and cyclists to beautiful horses!
Those who participate represent the best athletes in the world, and there will be many winners
in these Games.
Those who do not win medals are still great athletes. Thus, as far as I’m
concerned, there will be no losers.
Focus on non-winners
During the very first days
of the Olympics, the media seemed to be more interested in reporting on those who did not win medals than in reporting on
the medal winners.
It is excusable to prefer
to report the sensational news that those who were expected to win, did not do so.
However, it is
far less excusable to practically ignore those who won in the same events.
The British cyclists
and especially Mark Cavendish were expected to win but dind't. The media focus was on how he failed to win a medal.
However, there were winners of gold, silver, and bronze medals in the men’s road cycling. They deserved a space
in the main headlines, as well.
To honour the winners we say congratulations to: Alexandre Vinokourov, Kazakhstan (gold),
Thiago Pereira, Brazil(silver), and Kosuke Hagino, Japan (bronze).
headlines were produced in swimming when the favourite didn’t win a medal. Again the winners were left in the shadow
of the non-winner, although they performed extremely well.
Fans are great to have and the cheering people surrounding each event are certainly appreciated by the athletes.
Unfortunately, some ‘fans’ use the social
media to send malicious messages to the athletes.
Tom Daley, who was expected to win but came fourth in synchronised diving, received
malicious tweets about his performance.
Many seem to think that
since you do it online and not face-to-face, it doesn’t matter what you say.
But it does matter. Our words expressed online hurt and harm as much as words expressed
in direct contact.
Too good results
As always in international competitions, exceptional performances are doubted, and questions are raised.
This time the performance of the 15 years old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen on women’s 400m individual
medley, has been questioned, simply because of the speed of her performance.
I noticed how the media
stressed the senior position of the person who openly questioned the performance of the young swimmer.
Such an approach gives an impression that when an established person expresses his disbelief, it is an
argument from authority, and we should trust it.
we should remember that Ye Shiwen was clean of doping in the tests carried out in the Olympic village.
Thus, as long as there is no evidence to the contrary, we should not deny her
the right to be seen as an exceptionally talented swimmer.
The new PROMO-pages are for you!
Aspasia European has created some new pages this month. The new PROMO-pages are for you!
you have developed a product or service you would like to promote, you can do so on Promo-pages. If you have an idea to a
product or service, you can promote it on Promo-pages.
you are looking for new products or services, or ideas to products or services, you can use the Promo-pages to find one.
All kinds of ideas and services, from high tech
products to dance performances are welcome on that page.
The reasons for establishing these pages are various. One of the reasons is (the nearly) global recession.
People become easily narrow-minded during recession,
and give little space to innovative thinking.
who develop new products or services often find it hard to promote their ideas and to find people who might be interested
in their products or ideas.
potential buyers are not necessarily active in the same region or in the same country as the person who developed an idea.
Aspasia European is the right forum to act as an exchange place between
those who wish to promote their ideas and those who wish to buy new products or invest in new ideas.
The website attracts visitors from all 5 continents most of the time. Since the topics
on the free pages cover various fields, they attract readers from different sectors of society and working life.
Aspasia European offers affordable space to promote your products or idea. Take the opportunity
CHEER UP WORLD!
SPAIN-THE CHAMPIONS OF EURO2012.
did it again!
After all gloom and doom, we might enjoy a little respite in July. We have much to
be happy about, so let’s forget the cheating bankers for a short while.
too. Egypt has finally got a new President - the one who got the most votes in free elections.
new President, Mohamed Morsi, has promised to protect the republican system and to respect the constitution and rule of law.
The Eurozone seems to
be on the brink of finding a solution to the crisis instead of being on the brink of catastrophe. Some might say the new solution
is a compromise. I would say it is more than that.
To me the last couple of years have appeared as good examples of dialectical argumentation. The Eurozone
crisis began as a debate and turned into a dialogue.
In the early phase, the proponents of different solutions took part in the Eurozone debate.
argumentation did not seem to lead to any acceptable solutions, and finally, each of the proponents had to make an effort
to understand the standpoints of the opponent.
The Olympic Games begin this month in London.
That too is something to be happy about.
Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society dedicated its July Issue to the Olympics, and to the Psychology
good to be reminded of the positive impact of competition in these times when we are nearly daily reminded of the reckless
behaviour of the actors in the financial markets.
It appears from Psychological research that our performance tends to improve when competing
against another/other person(s).
In other words, training with other people will give better results than training
alone. As always there may be individual differences (meaning that some individual may reach better results by training alone).
Another factor improving performance is enjoyment. The mood of a player may influence the performance, and
especially positive mood can improve performance.
In team games, the mood of an individual player can be infected by the mood of the team.
who watched the Spain vs. Italy final (4-0) on Sunday 01/07/2012, could notice how the Spanish players quite obviously enjoyed
the game during the second half.
Of course, it is easier
to enjoy the game when you already reached a 2-goal-lead in the first half! Those goals must have influenced the mood of the
They enjoyed the game so much that they made 2 more goals.
Aspasia European says to all visitors:
Aspasia European’s website is planning some new activities in the future. These plans
have not yet been cemented.
Some new pages, some additions to existing pages... After evident success, Alter Ego
continues to host Myfun-page.
Enjoy your summer and continue
to visit Aspasia European!
Life is difficult to understand, and collective or global phenomena are even more difficult to understand.
In order to make sense of everything that’s happening, we arrange events and facts in little boxes, or in
categories, if you are a scientist.
This is especially helpful when the events take place at a distance, or in
a large scale, globally or in individual societies.
We thought that the Arab Spring was a solution
to old problems, and loved the expression of Arab Spring, because it provided us with a nice little box to be stored in memory.
But the Arab Spring was only a prelude to future attempts to solve
old problems. We are watching today somewhat confused how the Egyptians are slowly learning that free elections can lead to
unexpected (or undesired) outcomes.
The opinions and standpoints
based on the categories of austerity and economic growth have not changed the fact that Greece continues to find itself between
a rock and a hard place. For Spain we haven’t even defined a box yet.
Boxes for Age groups
Today I've learned that there are some 25 million citizens out of work in the EU. In many
countries especially youth unemployment rates are high. In some countries these rates are above 20 percent.
people too find themselves out of work. When I say older people, I’m not referring to the population over the age of
65. No, unfortunately, the concept of ‘older people’ includes nowadays much younger age groups. It has become
more difficult for people over the age of 35 to find employment.
Some 50 years ago, those who
were over 65, used to be seen as old, partly because they had reached the retirement age, and partly because their bodies
started to feel old or show physical signs of ageing (age related illnesses).
Today a 65-year-old person
does not necessarily feel old or show any serious, physical signs of ageing (and who cares about wrinkles).
afraid we have boxed people in age group.
It is said that young
people are not attractive in the labour market, because they are inexperienced, and know too little.
It is said that ‘older people’ are too experienced, inflexible, stuck in a rut, and unwilling
or unable to learn new skills.
In other words, you can always find excuses by making generalizations.
If the person, who expresses such opinions, is an ‘older person’, it is not unusual that this
person sees him/herself as an exception to the rule.
The same applies to younger persons who doubt the ability
of their own age group; they themselves are exceptions to the rule.
age-groups out of the box
Those who studied intelligence, memory, and cognitive
performance, are not convinced that ageing reduces all our intellectual abilities and cognitive skills.
are various components of intelligence and huge individual differences in the measured intelligence.
words, there are individual differences in the abilities of young people, individual differences in the abilities of middle-aged
people, and individual differences in the abilities of older people.
It seems that the factors that
have an impact on individual variation in intelligence and cognitive skills in early years also have an impact on individual
variation in intelligence and cognitive skills in old age.
Health, nutrition, socio-economic
and environmental factors, and environmental stimulation are some of those factors.
There are, of course,
various measures of intelligence and of cognitive skills. Two terms often used to distinguish between different forms of intelligence
are fluid and crystallized intelligence.
Fluid and crystallized intelligence
frequently used form of fluid intelligence is a measure of the speed of information processing. Young people usually
perform better (they are faster) in such tasks than older people. In other words, this ability tends to decline with age.
Crystallized intelligence can be measured in terms of the ability to use accumulated knowledge and experiences
in decision making, and in terms of the ability to communicate one’s knowledge. This ability remains high in old age.
Skills and work
There are different kinds of work-places
and different kinds of tasks and duties within work-places. Different kinds of tasks demand different skills.
Psychological research in expert judgment indicate that experienced judges more easily than novices
can discriminate between relevant and irrelevant information in situations where the judgment demands problem structuring,
information seeking and selection, and interpretation of guideline cues.
When the problems can
be solved by means of mathematical calculations (and thus, the problems have a single correct answer and all necessary information
is at hand), the performances of experienced judges and novices are not that dissimilar.
How many work-places
have only tasks that demand that a single employee is at the same time a) quick to react, b) able to combine previously learned
knowledge with previous experiences of applying the same knowledge in different ways, c) able to learn quickly new concepts
and procedures, d) is able to apply previously learned concepts and procedures to new tasks?
think the description above applies only to inventors and self-employed people, at best.
In most work-places
different kinds of tasks, each demanding specific skills, are performed by different employee groups. It is the accumulated
efforts of groups of people that lead to result.
An important fact is that those, whose work is intellectually
and mentally stimulating, may improve their intelligence and cognitive skills with time.
Academics often continue
to be active within their professional field after retirement, and thefore, can prevent a decline in their skills and abilities.
Thus, if skills and abilities are not used they will decline.
So what to do with work-places?
A task for work-places might be to prevent staff members from becoming bored in their duties or
too stressed. The duties might be more stimulating if staff members could be prevented from doing tasks in the same way year
in and year out or doing the same tasks year in year out.
Alternatively, job-swapping could be introduced
to most work-places. In the private sector, professionals are encouraged to change jobs within or
between organizations often. This is assumed to be good for their careers.
But what if changing
jobs (or positions) means that these professionals remain flexible, and can combine their previous experiences with the demands
of the new work places?
I don’t think I have seen any such studies (if you are familiar with such studies,
please, let me hear from you).
And what about the unemployed?
treating unemployed people, whatever their age, as social outcasts.
Stop demanding that well educated or highly
trained people ‘lower their ambitions’. Ask them instead to aim high.
services and help adjusted to the needs of individuals. There are plenty of well-educated people among the unemployed today.
University educated people do not need basic skills training courses!
Let people with somewhat similar qualifications, skills, interests, and needs form their own support and mutual advice-groups.
Let them become self-employed together or establish social or profit-making businesses together or alone.
sum, let’s leave the era of box-thinking behind us (I refuse to write ‘think out of the box!)!
Is the truth out there?
There are no simple answers
The whole world seems to be in a chaotic
state. The ceaseless flow of information does not make it easier to understand what is happening in different parts of the
world. What information and what sources of information should we trust?
African countries seem
to be full of political and armed conflicts. Should we blame tribal traditions in Africa or European colonialism for such
developments? Who should we support in each of these conflicts? And for what reasons?
China and India are struggling to figure out what it means, socially and politically, to be the new economic
powers of the world.
What should they prioritize; economic growth, human rights, health and safety of their work
force, commitment to environmental concerns, or political power?
are no simple answers to these questions. The problems cannot be solved or dissolved by means of mathematical calculations,
since the problems do not have single correct answers.
Yet another example; Europe and many other
parts of the world are struggling with recession. Which one is the right remedy, austerity or economic growth?
Of course, the advocates of austerity do not deny the need of economic growth, and the advocates of economic
growth do not deny the need to reduce the budget deficit. But the starting point in their argumentation
Governments in several countries have difficulties in
convincing their audiences that one or the other of these approaches is the right course of action. In several countries,
in France, for example, elections are fought in the name of austerity and economic growth.
again, there are no simple answers, and the problems cannot be solved and dissolved by means of mathematical calculations.
Facts, truths, and lies
We can select some economic or social parameters
and subject them to mathematical calculations based on some particular model.
We can use the outcomes
of such calculations as ‘facts’ and claim that they point at one particular direction. For some people, such facts
are equal to ‘truths’.
People sometimes talk about lying with statistics, but strictly speaking statistical
information is not based on lies.
Instead, gathering statistical information is based on some underlying assumptions,
and these assumptions already point at some direction. Assumptions are based on our values.The same goes for mathematical
models applied to human societies.
In other words, each calculation is true in the sense that the
calculation procedure leads to a correct answers (unless mistakes are made in the processing of information for the calculations!).
But no single calculation can take into account all potential assumptions and values.
But if we
wish to defend our opinion and cannot claim that our ‘opponent’ is lying, what can we do?
is what we can do: It is always possible to argue against our opponent and his or her ‘facts’ by referring to
another set of assumptions, or by referring to calculated ‘facts’ based on another set of assumptions.
Does economic growth necessarily harm the environment?
all advocates of austerity are neoconservatives, wishing to get rid of most of the public sector and state involvement in
There are also those, who see in austerity an opportunity to put a stop to economic
growth. These advocates of austerity understand economic growth as equal to unnecessary or excess consumption, which, in turn,
they see as a threat to the environment by escalating climate change.
It is true that for some
people economic growth is the end in itself. Every (presumed) obstacle to economic growth should be removed; out with health
and safety regulations, out with regulations protecting the environment, etc.
But economic growth may
as well be seen as means to an end. It may mean sustainable production and consumption. Such an approach suggests that we
should be investing in new (renewable) sources of energy.
It suggests that we should be producing
clothes, food, goods, etc, based on organic or recyclable materials. It may even suggest that by investing in sustainable
production, many will find new employment opportunities within fields where they can do something they believe in.
After all, we will not stop eating, or using clothes, shoes, or living in houses,
studying and working in buildings, walking and driving on roads, or travelling...
All these activities
demand innovations and production, and contribute to economic growth.
Thus, if we so decide,
economic growth will be sustainable growth instead of being growth that harms the environment.
do we value?
If there is no single truth, or single correct answer, how are we then supposed to
decide what political parties, or what movements to support?
And how are we supposed to decide what courses
of action in our own private lives to prefer and select?
We live in a complex world, and it is preferable
that our decisions are based on knowledge-based information.
Unfortunately, knowledge-based information as such
cannot decide for us. We need to relate knowledge-based information to our profound values.
think it’s time we all paused to think of what our profound values truly are.
What kind of society
do we wish to live in, and what kind of society will the next generations inherit from us?
decision and choice is based on some underlying assumption. Assumptions, in turn, are based on values.
Values may refer to human life in general, to our outlook on life, to
our attitudes towards other human beings and to their right to be different from us, to our attitudes to various kinds of
activities taking place in society, from education to business, from arts to food and tools.
other words, before deciding anything, we need to reflect upon our own values.
If we don’t seem to have any values, we need to continue to reflect upon all kinds of values, until
we find the values with which we can live.
Continue reading or return to the top of page by clicking this link
From Dinners for Donors to Health and Safety
Dinners for donors, VAT on warm pasties, imagined petrol-shortage panic, and the come-back of George Galloway
in Bradford by-election. These are the latest themes in Britain. At least they are according to the media reporting.
Funding of Political PartiesDinners
for donors refers to what the Conservative party treasurer had told to some reporters, namely that a ‘premier league’
donors would win a dinner in Downing Street.
Personally, I’m not as bothered about who is
and who is not invited for dinner (or supper) at Downing Street as I am about the funding of political parties in Britain.
All parties have to find their own donors. This takes time, money, and energy. It is also hard to believe that
a person or an organization who donates hundreds of thousands to a political party (in government) would not expect one or
the other form of favours.
Public funding would assure that all parties, large and
small, can carry out political work. In a radio programme someone expressed an opinion against public funding, because it
would mean that also BNP would be funded by the tax-payer, and because a Tory-voter would be forced to finance the Labour
Party, and vice versa.
I would like to remind those who share such an opinion, that a political system
is not a market place. In a democracy, there must be opportunities for both established and new and small parties to promote
their political views to a broader audience than to family-members and neighbours.
We do not have to like
all the political parties, who would receive public funding. It will not harm us to hear political views we do not approve
of. We can always argue against them. And, we do not have to vote for them!
The ‘nation of
shop-keepers’ was certainly not pleased when they learned that in the latest budget the most wealthy in the country
will receive tax cuts, whereas the ‘little man’ selling (warm) pasties will be punished with VAT.
The positive and/or negative impact of tax cuts and added VAT here and there
on economy are difficult to judge, but in the minds of people, the budget did not sound fair.
The Chancellor has
lost his narrative. Next time he says (if he dares) ‘we are all in this together’, people will not believe him.
Health and Safety
The media reporting on the potential tank drivers’ strike and on the advice given to people
(to store petrol at home) by a Cabinet office minister have focused on the unnecessarily created panic to store petrol, and
thereby following shortage of petrol.
Very little has been said about the reasons for the potential strike amongst
tank drivers. The drivers are not asking for better salaries, but wish to improve health and safety measures in their working
there is a pressure to cut costs, health and safety suffer. Untrained or under-trained agency workers are brought in to do
a dangerous job (to a lower cost), risking both their own lives and the lives of others. Driving a tank as well as loading
and unloading fuel, demand good training.
Health and safety are
serious matters, although they are often ridiculed by people. I’m afraid the problems stressed by the tank drivers,
are no isolated problems.
There will be more problems coming in the near future related to neglected health and
safety issues.Boring Facts-page on this website deals with health and safety issues,
especially related to Accidents at work.
Voters wish to be offered hope
George Galloway won the Bradford by-election,
attracting first-time voters as well as previous Labour, Liberal, and Conservative voters. Galloway calls himself an honest
man who says what he means and means what he says. Hmmm, pretending to be a Muslim (without explicitly saying so) is not so
Galloway made promises (more jobs, no tuition fees,
get our boys out of Afghanistan, and so on) he knows he cannot keep, since he has no political power to do so. But let us
hope that he at least makes an attempt to keep them.
And, yet, it is these
promises people desperately wanted to hear. Such promises give hope in these austerity times.
The true challenge
for the established political parties is to create a narrative full of hope (in which they themselves believe) and combine
it with political realism. Not an easy task!
Change is always difficult.
Change is especially difficult when it is forced upon us.
Change is not easy for an individual
who is expected to change his or her habits due to health reasons.
Change is not easy for a dictator or a dictatorial
leader who refuges to admit that his time in power is over.
Change is not easy for a nation who needs to change
C.G. Jung once wrote that only
a necessity can make the conservative individual wish to change.
Thus, an individual with health problems needs to weight health concerns against some harmful but
pleasurable habits. Potentially, he or she also needs to weight the expectations of other family members against own ‘yearnings’.
Usually, the fear of change is bigger than the steps towards change. It is not unusual that the first
steps towards change are preceded by anger and aggression.
Change cannot take place until it has been
internalized, accepted, and analysed.
dictator or a dictatorial leader fears the future without power. Admittedly, a dictator may also fear the fury of the population.
In Egypt and in Libya
people are slowly learning new ways of doing things, yet the progress is slow, and it is easy to go back to old ways of doing
things, when there are no explicit signs of progress.
In Syria, the President Bashar al-Assad, refuges to leave, and the evidence of what happened to the dictatorial
leaders of neighbouring countries is not helping him to change his mind.
The only option a dictatorial leader sees in
front of him is fighting and winning, killing everyone who opposes his reign. It is a very irrational reaction based on a
mixture of fear, anxiety, and anger.
Greece, a whole nation is forced to change its life-style. Austerity measures hit hard and at least during the first years
have a paralysing effect on economy.
However, I believe that the protests have been as much the results of the
fear of change in life-style. When the change in life-style is internalised in the minds of each individual Greek, the economy
will start growing once again.
Let’s hope that there will soon be peaceful
developments everywhere in the world.
Nothing seems to have changed so I encourage the visitors to read what I've
already written in Just a Thought in October 2010! Follow
the link to the right for Just a Thought 2010
positive to think about in February 2012!
‘Necessity is the mother of inventions’ to
times call for desperate measures’.
Which one of them encourages economic growth?
We certainly have already seen enough of ‘desperate measures’.
I don't think desperate measures will contribute to economic growth althought I admit that some austerity measures
I still hold the old fashioned view that economic
growth is the only way out of recession. Therefore, I put my hope on inventions.
We have a handful of ‘necessity’ available, and thus,
the time should be ripe for inventions. But where are they?
Some people think that we do not need
any economic growth, that we should use the available resources carefully. To some extent I agree.
We do not need to encourage huge, multinational businesses to continue to grow and get bigger and bigger
They certainly are the most evident Phallus-symbols in society! We are tired of those Phallus-symbols!
We do not need cheaper and faster production
of food and goods, if cheap and fast mean the use of children as the main labour force working in unhealthy working environments.
But we need new, green energy sources, and green methods
of producing energy. We need sustainable economy, sustainable consumption.
We still need to buy
and sell food, clothes, beauty products, entertainment services, home and office furniture, means of transportation, information
technology, etc. There is plenty of space for inventions!
These are ordinary and necessary transactions, and they are needed for healthy economic growth.
necessity is the mother of inventions, then who is the father?
Money should be
the means in transactions when we sell and buy goods and services. It should not be both the means and an end.
the 21th century new inventions, discoveries, and innovations demand knowledge-based skills.
Only in rare cases
can new products, services, or processes be developed without specific knowledge of the field. Mostly, they demand both financial
and human capital.
Investment bankers and private investors do
not invest in risky ideas, which are potentially ‘useful to society’.
No, they invest in
products and services which are expected to be profitable to them. Society has no place in their thinking. Their focus simply
is not in society.
Thus, we have to ask who the father
(the investor) of inventions, discoveries, and innovations, is.
answer is the State.
It is the State, the Government, the Tax Payer,
who must invest in the future of the entire society.
It is their historical role!
How can Europeans be good neighbours?
Today we all can be good neighbours to Greece and help the economy to grow by buying goods
and services produced in Greece.
Don't say you cannot afford it. You can buy olives, Feta, and yughurt produced
in Greece. Ask for Greek olives in the shop where you usually buy food.
Those who can afford to make holidays can
make them in Greece. Live in Greek hotels and Inns, eat in local restaurants.
If tens of thousands of us start
buying Greek goods and services, it will make a difference.
New Year 2012 - New Hope!
We have arrived to 2012. This year will be as good as we decide it to be.
the world is full of problems.
National governments and international organizations are struggling with
huge problems. And so are individual households.
But isn't that what life is about? To struggle with problems?
To look for solutions, to find solutions. And feeling a great satisfaction when a solution is found?
Happiness can be found in struggles as well, especially when we are reaching a breakthrough.
was created during the recession. Against all odds. The number of visitors to Aspasia European's website
increases day by day.
And this is not any usual retail site presenting discount offers. Admittingly, this
is a bit different website but it is working.
Only recently I became aware of the fact that this website
mainly offers positive information to those who are struggling. This is good news (gospel!).
Both free information
and the products in the E-Shop help you to deal with problems, with struggles...
So why not keep coming to this
website? And, why not send a comment to Aspasia!
There will be new free pages available soon.
wish you all A Successful and Decent New Year.