Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 23rd, 2012

Part 2. How do you experience Happiness? Is Happiness a modern idea?

In a previous post I explained the variations on the concept of happiness and posited the following questions:

Can the ideas of happiness have any sense if not described in the proper context? For example:

1. How an individual with a life expectancy of no more than 30 years can conceive of happiness?

2. How an individual living in the harshest conditions to survive may experience happiness?

3. How the European under absolute monarchies and with a life expectancy not surpassing 40 years could comprehend the idea of happiness?

4. How all those cow-boys of the Far West experienced the meaning of happiness?

5. Was happiness in China the same before, during and after the Chinese revolution?

6. Was happiness experienced in the same quality before, during and after the British dominion of India?

7. Has happiness the same meaning and value before and after the “Industrial Age“?

8. Has happiness the same meaning and value during this instant communication and traveling facilities?

9. Don’t you think as life expectancy reaches 80 years that happiness requires extensive planing and preparation as we hit retirement age? What can you do without talent after 60?  How can you be happy if your eye sight goes and your hearing capacity dwindle?

Put yourself in the shoes of mankind in a period where longevity meant to live a few years beyond 30? You are an adolescent and yet you watch people dying right and left, people barely older than you are…How would you comprehend Happiness to be? Even if this idea crossed your mind, you are already dead, before you express your “thought processes” or figuring out what Happiness feels, means, and what for should happiness exist in the first place…?

Normal that ancient philosopher could not conceive of happiness without the notion of eternity and immortality strictly linked to a happy life.

In the 19th century, mankind everywhere barely lived to be 40 years. Even a toothache was liable for killing you out of infection, or the cruel treatment for removing a tooth…People died from what we consider now as common diseases, and they are so many, and any one of those diseases inevitably killed, with all the bleeding treatment, and keeping the patient in stuffy closed rooms (Fresh air was considered a factor for killing the patient, and even washing with water was considered a very bad idea, liable for you to catch cold and die…)

Do you think in these harsh living conditions and poor medical understanding and treatment that you’ll be in the mood of discussing “what is happiness”?

Think of the millions of Chinese working their rice paddies. Working 360 days a year, and waking up before sun rise, knee-deep in pestilent water and blood-sucking leeches. And eating a cup of rice for breakfast and rice for dinner, and for their sweet tooth, a bite of sugary rice pudding… Do you believe these rice growers have any idea of the kinds of Happiness discussed at length by so many philosophers?

Is the satisfaction of being recognized as a hard-working and responsible member of a community a good enough ground to claim happiness?

What about the million of mothers in India, carrying babies on their back and cutting stones with stones  in order to construct a highway? They won’t even receive a pair of shoes or even sandals to walk the highway…Can these people claim to have experienced Happiness?

What about the million working 16-hour days in sweat shop factories, doing clothes, sport shoes, assembling electronic devices for multinational companies, confined in closed rooms and dormitories, barely seeing natural lights, and committing suicide by the dozens…Do you believe those people are pondering upon the attributes of Happiness?

What of those cow-boys during the Far West “conquest”, slaughtering bison by the thousands in order to reduce the Indians to famine, scalping Indians for a handful of dollar-coins, and transferring cows and horses to catering for need of the belligerent Northern and Confederate armies…

Eating beans for breakfast and beans for dinner, and occasionally shooting a rabbit…And wearing the same tight and uncomfortable non-stretchable jeans, and wearing long awkward boots for months on… Do you think a quick hot bath once a month, now and then, can change their outlook of what is happiness?

Like desiring to eventually own a ranch and working harder until they drop dead…Why do you think cow-boys badly seek gun duel? In every miserable town they stop at? They want to ending it all, this wretched life: They are scared to die of famine, devoured by wolves, mauled by bears, bitten by snakes…

They sit at the poker table drinking whiskey, and get bored, and it is as good a time for a good fight, and “Step outside. I’ll beat the crap out of you…” or “Step outside. Watch my piss-jet out distancing yours…”

What about all these people fleeing war ravaged lands, civil wars, preemptive wars, ethnic cleansing wars, expansionist wars…and seeking refuge in any country, supposedly enjoying a modicum of security…and dying on their long hopeless journeys, inside closed containers, burned by the scorching sun, frozen crossing high mountain chains…And being quickly repatriated after they had spent all their family savings for the glimpse of “heaven”…

What attribute of Happiness these people fleeing atrocities have in mind, besides a hot meal and a cozy bed…?

What of all these European of Noble classes before the 20th century, eating meat for breakfast and for dinner, raw meat, roasted meat… and occasionally some fish…

Mind you that potatoes was not grown in Europe before the 19th century, and rice was as rare as spices…Even today, it is sausage, potatoes and cabbage soup…

The only pleasure was drinking beer, wine, and any local alcoholic beverage, and “Life is good…when drunk”

And you tell me of women getting pregnant every year, 7 out of 10 babies still-born, and the remaining children not living to be 5-year old, and having to contend with a couple reaching adulthood…

And the man coming home after a long harassing work in the fields: “Woman, I am totally exhausted and cannot satisfy you tonight…” And the wife going: “Don’t worry honey. Lay down and I’ll do the job. As I usually do for the maintenance and survival of our species…”

The term Happiness was manipulated and expanded upon, through successive philosophers, trying to interpret a term that didn’t exist in the first place in their languages, exhaustively pondering on attributes and codifying Happiness into “professional books” against all odds, and rubbed at the nose of the little people…

You have to give it to the ancient philosophers: They created the term “Happiness” that never existed in any popular language, and they soared above the gravity of miseries, injustice, brute force and subjugation, and grabbed on this flimsy grace, dreaming of justice and fair treatment to all, to the elite classes…

Happiness is a luxury idea.

And luxury is what people long to have access to…

Has social media already changed history for the 5th time? What Clay Shirky had to say?

I posted this article a year ago and I figured that it is long enough to be divided into two parts.

Nothing like telling a couple of stories to illustrate:

1. How media landscape was transformed

2. How innovation is happening everywhere, and moving from one spot to another

3. How we are witnessing the largest increase in expressive capability in human history

4. How a media that is good at creating conversations is no good at creating groups

5. And how the media that’s good at creating groups is no good at creating conversations?

This article develops on the First Story: In the voting booth. The Second story: China Earthquake and Obama campaign…is reserved for part 2.

Suppose it is election time, and citizens are dubious of frauds, biased handling of the voting booth, there might be voter suppressions…

One of Clay Shirky‘s daydream projects goes as follows:

” A plan came up to video the vote. And the idea was that individual citizens with phones capable of taking photos or making video would document their polling places, on the lookout for any kind of voter suppression techniques, and would upload this to a central place. And that this would operate as a kind of citizen observation:  The citizens would not be there just to cast individual votes, but also to help ensure the sanctity of the vote overall. What matters here isn’t technical capital: its social capital”.

First big media change:  Many-to-many pattern conversation. 

The tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring. It isn’t when the shiny new tools show up that their uses start permeating society. It’s when everybody is able to take them for granted. Because now that media is increasingly social, innovation can happen anywhere that people can take for granted the idea that we’re all in this together.

Clay recounts the 4 periods that media changed history enough to qualify for the label “revolution” in the last 500 years:

1. The first one is the printing press: movable type, oil-based inks, that whole complex of innovations that made printing possible and turned Europe upside-down, starting in the middle of the 1400s.

2. A couple of hundred years ago, there was innovation in two-way communication, conversational media: first the telegraph, then the telephone. Slow, text-based conversations, then real-time voice based conversations.

3. About 150 years ago, there was a revolution in recorded media other than print: first photos, recorded sound, movies, all encoded onto physical objects.

4. About 100 years ago, the harnessing of electromagnetic spectrum to send sound and images through the air, radio and television. This is the media landscape as we knew it in the 20th century.

There is a curious asymmetry here. The media that is good at creating conversations is no good at creating groups. And the media that’s good at creating groups is no good at creating conversations.

Clay resumes: “If you want to have a conversation in this world, you have it with one other person. If you want to address a group, you get the same message and you give it to everybody in the group,whether you’re doing that with a broadcasting tower or a printing press. That was the media landscape as we had it in the twentieth century. And this is what changed.

This thing that looks like a peacock hitting a windscreen is Bill Cheswick’s map of the Internet. Cheswick traces the edges of the individual networks and then color codes them. The Internet is the first medium in history that has native support for groups and conversation at the same time.

The phone gave us the one-to-one pattern, and television, radio, magazines, books… gave us the one-to-many pattern.  The Internet gives us the many-to-many pattern; a media natively good at supporting these kinds of conversations. That’s one of the big changes.

The second big media change:  Every medium is right next door to every other medium 

As all media gets digitized, the Internet also becomes the mode of carriage for all other media:  Phone calls migrate to the Internet, magazines migrate to the Internet, movies migrate to the Internet.  Put another way, media is increasingly less just a source of information, and it is increasingly more a site of coordination.  Groups that see or hear or watch or listen to something can now gather around and talk to each other as well.

The third big media change: Audience can be producers and not just  consumers.

Every time a new consumer joins this media landscape, a new producer joins as well, because the same equipment — phones, computers — let you consume and produce. It’s as if, when you bought a book, they threw in the printing press for free.  It’s like you had a phone that could turn into a radio if you pressed the right buttons.

And it’s not just Internet or no Internet. We’ve had the Internet in its public form for almost 20 years now, and it’s still changing as the media becomes more social. It’s still changing patterns even among groups who know how to deal with the Internet well.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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