Category Archives: Self-Confidence

Butterflies

Three things do not exist…

Insignificance.

Impotence.

Isolation.

In 1963 Edward Lorenz ¹ presented a hypothesis to the New York Academy of Science.

In essence it stated that a butterfly could flap its wings, thus setting in motion molecules of air, which would move more molecules of air, eventually starting a hurricane on the far side of the planet.

Derisive laughter greeted this hypothesis—Lorenz and his seemingly wacky idea were literally laughed out of the meeting.

Well, he who laughs last…

More than thirty years later, physicists from round the planet concluded that what was known as “the butterfly effect” was dead accurate!

A while later this “wacky idea” was declared to be scientific law!—aka The Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions.

Law.

Like Boyle’s Law.

Like The Law of Conservation of Matter And Energy.

The physicists took nothing on faith.

They had experimental data to back up their acceptance of “the butterfly effect.”

Now, this law deals with much more than bug wings.

It literally deals with everything.

We’re part of “everything.”

What initial conditions can we establish which will have equally profound effect?

Many might answer that without a “majority” behind them, nothing beyond mere beginnings can be achieved.

Well, consider the total energy output of a lone butterfly flapping its wings a few dozen times.

Ultimate result—a hurricane—the total energy output of a typical specimen is greater than the energy potential of the combined nuclear weapons arsenals of the entire planet.

If such a tremendous effect can result from such a relatively puny “initial condition”, what can we achieve by taking a few steps while refusing to believe in failure?

The timetable may not be ours to control.

We might not live to see the “hurricane” that results from our “wing flapping.”

But, considering this law, belief in our individual powerlessness to effect positive change is, I sincerely believe, an untenable position.

We are all greater than we have ever suspected!


¹ Founder of chaos theory, a branch of mathematics focusing on the behavior of “dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions.”

Recycling (1st)

is what I intended to discuss, but somehow it became a written exercise in free association, chasing various rabbits round the meadow.

Why do we wait for information to be spoon-fed to us by “experts”?

Experts screw up.  They’re human—they’re no better than all us non-experts.

A case in point: IBM was once convinced that random access memory, (RAM), would always be “scarce and expensive”—limited to 64 kilobytes.  Talk about getting it wrong…

Another grim example:  The Challenger disaster.

Also, we all know the Titanic was built by expert nautical engineers in a crack shipyard, while Noah’s ark was built in the middle of nowhere by nomads who had never built so much as a rickety raft in their entire lives.

Regarding experts telling us about recycling, (recycling….finally);  What’s stopping Joe (or Josephine) average citizen from snooping in the Yellow Pages for recycling info?

Things they might want to know:  Is there a local recycling center? Is it a drop-off  site or do they collect?  If the latter, what do they collect and when?

No local site?  They could call 1-800-CALL-EDF.  Ask the Environmental Defense Fund for help finding a nearby site.

And now, returning to the rabbit chase…

Calling city hall to ask about recycling, pointedly but politely asking “why not?” in case they’ve done nothing to promote recycling can serve notice that recycling is a matter of increasing concern to local voters.

Politicians set the political agenda only in the absence of our input.

The ultimate reason government gets away with ignoring voters except at election time is because we’ve let ourselves be reduced bit by bit to apathy and conformity.

We’ve come to wait for experts to decide something, and then to tell us what is to be done, assigning us our role(s).  We’re not being compelled.  We let this happen.

Politicians use these “experts” to lend credibility to their agendas, which may not square at all with our best interests.

This is not real democracy.

We should be setting the agenda(s).

By “We” I mean real people, born of a biological process, with souls, not legally constructed “pseudo-people”, whose “birth certificates” are really corporate charters.

A related post : Politics (3rd)

Politics (3rd)

“One of the best arguments against a democratic form of government is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” —Sir Winston Churchill 

Talk relieves our tension. We feel so much better. We’re even self-deluded into believing we’ve achieved something.

From the viewpoint of self-serving politicians, that’s just fine because we’ve done nothing to disturb their daily activities.

Have you ever heard the proverb:  “Talk is cheap.  Deeds are dear?”  Or the ancient warning of metaphysicians, to the effect that unless we put wheels under our beliefs they profit us nothing?  More recently, Thomas Carlyle said, “Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.”

Blah, blah, blah. We rant, rave, scream, and decry.

After which, what changes?

Nothing.

With some exceptions, we are detached from a practice of “civic virtue.”

Simply defined, civic virtue = taking a gentlemanly / gentlewomanly interest in the conduct of government officers, making sure we’re knowledgeable about their conduct, public utterances, voting history, and the like, and making sure, politely, that they know we’re knowledgeable.

Here’s a pop quiz on civic virtue:  How many of us know, (without first being pointed toward a preferred target of lobbyists, or of TV talking heads), the names of our state representatives, state senators, anything whatsoever of their voting histories, the addresses of their hometown offices, their yearly salaries, email addresses / telephone numbers of their hometown or state government offices?

More on our general competence as citizens / voters: How many voters can name six of the ten amendments composing the Bill of Rights?  While we’re at it, how many of us have read the complete text of The United States Constitution even once in our entire lives?

Is it fair to say,  (once again with some exceptions),  that we are mentally lazy couch potatoes who prefer to “veg out” before a TV or telephone screen allowing talking heads or internet scribes to stuff our minds with their preferred propaganda, in preference to doing our own homework to learn what’s really happening?

Regarding the latter, how many of us believe doing our own homework is even possible?

How many of us prefer our favorite TV programs, favorite video games, or even favorite drugs to a minimal practice of civic virtue?

Democracy won’t give us what we confidently expect to receive as sons/daughters of  “The Almighty”,  (however we understand that latter phrase).

Democracy is like farming.  Cultivate carefully or shut up about the weeds.

Said more crudely, we receive from democracy only that for which we get off our dead lead butts and work—(in the process of  which, let us remember this tidbit of wisdom from the pen of St. Thomas Aquinas:  “We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, for both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.”

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

               —Various sources, among them Andrew Jackson

“The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by an elite.”

               —Thomas Jefferson

“The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

               —Plato      

“Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

               —Lord Acton

“The only limit to the oppression of government is the power with which people show themselves capable of opposing it.”

               —Enrico Malatesta

“Only power can check power.”

                —Montesquieu