Failures – exposed, reflected, considered

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less posts – deeper ideas

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Preparing and posting each day, especially hoping to satisfy tastes of those curious, multi-disciplinary individuals is not an easy task.

As part of my experiment, I decided to post less – once/twice a week rather than daily – but  go deeper in some of subject matters. As I didn’t get much feedback/comments/suggestions/input for the first 2.5 months of this blog’s existence, I presume that this course of action may be acceptable for all those subscribed and sporadic readers.

Again, I would love your comments, about this blog generally or about any post in particular, and suggestions for improvement of quality of content.

Thanks,

Hayk

Written by Hayk

October 24, 2011 at 12:48 pm

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Successes of United Nations (bonus)

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Despite all its failures, inconsistencies and difficulties, check the below  list of successes of the UN:

  • The first and foremost is that it has prevented the occurrence of any further world wars. Instrumental in the maintenance of international balance of power.
  • It played a significant role in disarming the world and making it nuclear free (well, almost). Various treaty negotiations like ‘Partial Test Ban Treaty’ and ‘Nuclear non-proliferation treaty’ have been signed under UN.
  • Demise of colonialism and imperialism on one hand and apartheid on the other had UN sanctions behind them.
  • The UN acted as vanguard for the protection of human rights of the people of the world, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
  • UN agencies and affiliates such as WHO, UNICEF, and UNESCO have keenly participated in the transformation of the international social sector.
  • Limited but moderately successful peace-brokering arrangements and peace-keeping operations in a number of conflict zones (since 1945, the UN has been credited with negotiating 172 peaceful settlements that have ended regional conflicts).
  • The world body was also instrumental in institutionalization of international laws and world legal framework.
  • Passage of various conventions and declarations on child, women, climate, etc, highlights the extra-political affairs of the otherwise political world body.
  • UN interventions in a number of peace missions in Africa have done reasonably well to control the situation.

Written by Hayk

August 23, 2011 at 10:20 pm

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To post every week with DailyPost

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This experimental (read: beta) is for scanners/polymaths/curious people who like learning about life from all perspectives/angles.

I started this experiment to commit myself to more learning and writing something new for you (my audience), regularly.

To keep on this challenging task, I thought I’d commit myself to a nice initiative organized by WordPress.com called The DailyPost. The idea is to post at least once a week for the rest of this year.

With time and other constrains, hopefully I’ll keep on posting and engaging/being engaged with a committed and interesting community of bloggers out there.

Signed,

Hayk

Written by Hayk

August 16, 2011 at 11:11 am

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Hello world – in less or equal to 101 words

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Today, like any other day, I didn’t manage to catch up with my constantly-increasing pile of reading materials.

I was looking for a site which would satisfy a polymath’s cross-industrial curiosity with no-bullshit, pithy, interesting pieces from tech, business and even philosophy. I only found 101 words of fictional stories.  Stories were brief, inspiring, creative, but not what I was looking for.

This blog’s aim to press up to 101 words of  interesting/unique insights on a range of topics across different industries.

If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea.  ~David Belasco

Written by Hayk

August 8, 2011 at 7:47 pm

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Musings on imitation, induction and how we perceive success

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An idea has been afloat in my mind. What success means for us and how we go about becoming successful.

There are numerous systems, frameworks and theories of how to become successful. Your nearest bookstores, to be sure, contains – if it is a bookstore at all – at least few books about success theories or stories of those who became successful. Success theories are all woven around an abstract, feel-good, visionary set of terms, neatly connected and logically resound.

Steven Covey’s “7 habits of highly effective people” is perhaps the best one among those theories from the Western standpoint and “Karmic management” of Michael Roach is the best from the Eastern, both comprising the cumulative wisdom, philosophy, experiences and stories of countless successful personalities in the West and East correspondingly.

These two as well as many theories, like most of scientific theories, are inductive in their nature, i.e. you have a number of facts/experiments/information and you induce a logical frame, encompassing and describing them all. This is the status-quo mode of thinking about everything in our lives, and we love it because it is easy to grasp, intuitive and logical.

We connect dots, left by others who were successful before us. We draw a line and we think if we move along this line as closely as possible, we will arrive to success in our own lives. We also tend to think that the line we connected and are treading along is the only possible way of connecting those dots. We are wrong on both accounts.

We have idea of what our own, benchmarked with universal, success looks or needs to look like, and usually we are quite adamant about it.

Whether you know it or not, but inductive theories about success are usually aesthetically appealing, seemingly simple and logical, but are, with some notable exceptions, misleading. I am not saying that Covey and Roach are wrong, but that their theories are merely descriptive and need to be learnt/considered, not imitated/followed.

Induction is at the heart of imitation. Human history is one continuous story of imitation. It goes like this. There is someone visionary – what this term means is relative to the period and context of the history – who lives his life fulfilling his dreams and potential, and whose ideas/dreams/actions spill over – during or after his life – a certain number of peers, who find solace, appeal or hope in those ideas, internalizing them and in turn spreading them and sometimes building upon them. Religions are one example, science is another.

You no doubt saw (on TV or real life) a man sporting a beard, dressed in a traditional Arab white robe and who carries a book in his hand. A Muslim, you think. You think so because he fits the image of a Muslim that you read or saw. He follows the teachings of Islam and carries Koran. He follows those teachings. Whether he agrees, or is convinced is irrelevant, as he is pious and obeys those whom he considers wiser than him. His self-image is that of Muslim, and this is what he wants everyone to think of him. He treads the path (the line) recommended in teachings (points) in the hope of living a good, worthy life. Whether he succeeds in his life and lives up to his dreams is another story.

You no doubt saw a youth dressed up in what looks like the singer 50-Cent: a certain type of cap, seated above his forehead under a certain angle; a long lousy t-shirt and a baggy pair of jeans that look like they are about to fall down; colorful, shining pair of snickers. A hip-hop/rap fan, you think. Whether he is truly into that sort of music or even finds comfortable dressing as he does is another question. He follows the social code of those who are fans of that type of music and lifestyle, personified by the singer. His self-image is of someone stylish and who is into hip-hop/rap. Music is his thing, and he loves hanging out with those who are like him, i.e. appearance-wise look like him and have similar tastes in music, and thinks of those as his close circle/family and key to his future success. Whether he attains that success is another story.

We gather information, through our personal experiences, stories we read or hear about and we build our stereotypes about all aspects of life as well as success. We then dogmatize these stereotypes, build generalization upon them, draw number of characteristic criteria from those generalization and then freely apply those criteria in order to identify and describe multiple facets of our lives.

Wise words from the movie “Forbidden Kingdom” need to remind us what the success really is. The protagonist of the movie, American teenager Jason, who is a fan of martial arts, magically finds himself in ancient China and meets a number of idiosyncratic characters. Jason’s story-line resembles much our own. In one episode, while he is training in kung-fu, the background narration cites:

Learn the form, but seek the formless. Hear the soundless. Learn it all, then forget it all. Learn The Way, then find your own way.

Imitation, at its best, is the stage of “learning the form.” We learn what has been taught and reached us, the universal truths and wisdoms, the lives of success. 99% of us stop here. We live our lives following or imitating, never going any further.

The path to success goes further. It includes internalization of those wisdoms and experiences of others into ourselves, making the transition from mind (as a purely intellectual) to heart (realm of feelings and experiences).

And finally, it includes “finding you own way,” based on all that was learnt and internalized.

We are the ones that will shape the form as well as details of our own success, just like those great personalities and visionaries did back in their times – not one of them came to be successful, visionary, or important by imitation, but by creation and recreation of themselves.

Written by Hayk

August 7, 2011 at 8:53 am

The real message of Žižek

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Who is Slavoj Žižek? According to the following excellent article, he is the Magician of Ljubljana.

Intellectuals possess a special kind of power. Unlike politicians, generals, or corporate bosses, they lack both the authority and the ability to impose their will directly on others. They must therefore rely on “symbolic capital,” a term the historian Shlomo Zand of Tel Aviv University explains this way:

The power of their presence in the consciousness of their colleagues, or in wider public circles, is what establishes their status. As an offshoot, their power source is predominantly the symbolic prestige capital they accumulate. This capital, in many ways similar to financial capital, is obviously not a “thing,” but an attitude. To a certain extent it may be said that the thought patterns of consumers of intellectual output are the banks in which this precious capital is accumulated. This symbolic power can be measured in academic degrees, in prizes, in the extent of mentions and attributions, in the number of publications, and in many other practices routinely employed in the stock exchange of respect and acclamation.1

By these standards, it is safe to say that a sizable quantity of “symbolic capital” is today concentrated in the hands of Slavoj Žižek, philosopher, cultural commentator, and abounding wordsmith. Since the 1989 publication of his first book in English, Žižek, a senior researcher in the faculty of social sciences at Ljubljana University, has become the hot name of the Western intellectual scene. His books, translated into dozens of languages, have earned near-unanimous acclaim: The New Yorker crowned him an “international star” and credited him with putting his mother country, Slovenia, on the world map of ideas.2 Sarah Kay, professor of French literature at the University of Cambridge and author of a critical introduction to Žižek’s work, maintains that his enormous influence on the humanities and social sciences is reminiscent of the profound impression made by French thinker Michel Foucault on these academic disciplines during the seventies and eighties.3 And Glyn Daly, a senior lecturer in politics at University College, Northampton, who published a book of conversations with Žižek, describes him as “the philosophical equivalent of a virulent plague.”4 For its part, The Chronicle of Higher Education employed a slightly less ominous metaphor to describe the unique status of the Slovenian theoretician: “Žižek,” it writes, “is the Elvis of cultural theory.”5

What would be the kind of associations that spring into mind after reading this short para? Humanitarian, egalitarian,  democracy-loving, modern-minded?

His numerous books and articles, many of which are internationally acclaimed bestsellers, leave a different impression, but only to a very attentive and intellectual reader. Below are few excerpts from a shrewd analysis of his works. In the first instance, it is important to remember how he manipulates his “dialectical reversal” to free himself of self-contradiction and mould smoothly the disagreements between his thoughts and notions into the accepted modern discourse of humanism, democracy and capitalism.

It also provides a fine illustration of the sort of dialectical reversal that is Zizek’s favorite intellectual stratagem, and which gives his writing its disorienting, counterintuitive dazzle. Torture, which appears to be un-American, is pronounced to be the thing that is most American. It follows that the legalization of torture, far from barbarizing the United States, is actually a step toward humanizing it. According to the old Marxist logic, it heightens the contradictions, bringing us closer to the day when we realize, as Zizek writes, that “universal human rights” are an ideological sham, “effectively the rights of white male property owners to exchange freely on the market and exploit workers and women.”

Nor does Zizek simply condemn Al Qaeda’s violence as “horrifying.” Fundamentalist Islam may seem reactionary, but “in a curious inversion,” he characteristically observes, “religion is one of the possible places from which one can deploy critical doubts about today’s society. It has become one of the sites of resistance.” And the whole premise of Violence, as of Zizek’s recent work in general, is that resistance to the liberal-democratic order is so urgent that it justifies any degree of violence. “Everything is to be endorsed here,” he writes in Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle, “up to and including religious ‘fanaticism.'”

His numerous pronunciations on violence are more appalling than merely representing a “different perspective”:

The curious thing about the Zizek phenomenon is that the louder he applauds violence and terror–especially the terror of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, whose “lost causes” Zizek takes up in another new book, In Defense of Lost Causes–the more indulgently he is received by the academic left, which has elevated him into a celebrity and the center of a cult. A glance at the blurbs on his books provides a vivid illustration of the power of repressive tolerance. In Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle, Zizek claims, “Better the worst Stalinist terror than the most liberal capitalist democracy”; but on the back cover of the book we are told that Zizek is “a stimulating writer” who “will entertain and offend, but never bore.” In The Fragile Absolute, he writes that “the way to fight ethnic hatred effectively is not through its immediate counterpart, ethnic tolerance; on the contrary, what we need is even more hatred, but proper political hatred”; but this is an example of his “typical brio and boldness.” And In Defense of Lost Causes, where Zizek remarks that “Heidegger is ‘great’ not in spite of, but because of his Nazi engagement,” and that “crazy, tasteless even, as it may sound, the problem with Hitler was that he was not violent enough, that his violence was not ‘essential’ enough”; but this book, its publisher informs us, is “a witty, adrenalinfueled manifesto for universal values.”

Among other feats, Žižek is renowned for his genuine mixture of philosophy and psychoanalysis from one side and pop-culture and consumerism from the other. One of his touchstone messages is based on the famous movie Matrix, where Neo is revealed the reality by the phrase “Welcome to the Desert of the Real,” the namesake of which has become a book by Žižek.

But Zizek is not an empiricist, or a liberal, and he has another answer. It is that capitalism is the Matrix, the illusion in which we are trapped.

This, of course, is merely a flamboyant sci-fi formulation of the old Marxist concept of false consciousness. “Our ‘freedoms,'” Zizek writes in Welcome to the Desert of the Real, “themselves serve to mask and sustain our deeper unfreedom.” This is the central instance in Zizek’s work of the kind of dialectical reversal, the clever anti-liberal inversion, that is the basic movement of his mind. It could hardly be otherwise, considering that his intellectual gods are Hegel and Lacan–masters of the dialectic, for whom reality never appears except in the form of the illusion or the symptom.

This sacerdotal notion of intellectual authority makes both thinkers essentially hostile to democracy, which holds that the truth is available in principle to everyone, and that every individual must be allowed to speak for himself. Zizek, too, sees the similarity–or, as he says, “the profound solidarity”–between his favorite philosophical traditions. “Their structure,” he acknowledges, “is inherently ‘authoritarian’….term “authoritarian” is not used here pejoratively.

But to know what is worth struggling for, you need theories about struggle. Only if you have already accepted the terms of the struggle–in Zizek’s case, the class struggle–can you move on to the struggling theory that teaches you how to fight. In this sense, Zizek the dialectician is at bottom entirely undialectical. That liberalism is evil and that communism is good is not his conclusion, it is his premise; and the contortions of his thought, especially in his most political books, result from the need to reconcile that premise with a reality that seems abundantly to indicate the opposite.

Hence the necessity of the Matrix, or something like it, for Zizek’s worldview. And hence his approval of anything that unplugs us from the Matrix and returns us to the desert of the real–for instance, the horrors of September 11.

What is then the essence of his message?

Zizek endorses one after another of the practices and the values of fascism, but he obstinately denies the label.

“To be clear and brutal to the end,” he sums up, “there is a lesson to be learned from Hermann Goering’s reply, in the early 1940s, to a fanatical Nazi who asked him why he protected a well-known Jew from deportation: ‘In this city, I decide who is a Jew!’… In this city, it is we who decide what is left, so we should simply ignore liberal accusations of inconsistency.”

And his views on Jews?

In Zizek’s telling, that relationship is sickeningly familiar. Invoking Freud’s Moses and Monotheism, Zizek asserts that Judaism harbors a “‘stubborn attachment’ … to the unacknowledged violent founding gesture that haunts the public legal order as its spectral supplement.” Thanks to this Jewish stubbornness, he continues, “the Jews did not give up the ghost; they survived all their ordeals precisely because they refused to give up the ghost.” This vision of Judaism as an undead religion, surviving zombie-like long past the date of its “natural” death, is taken over from Hegel, who writes in the Phenomenology of Mind about the “fatal unholy void” of this “most reprobate and abandoned” religion. This philosophical anti-Judaism, which appears in many modern thinkers, including Kant, is a descendant of the Christian anti-Judaism that created the figure of the Wandering Jew, who also “refused to give up the ghost.”

“What makes Nazism repulsive,” he writes, “is not the rhetoric of a final solution as such, but the concrete twist it gives to it.” Perhaps there is supposed to be some reassurance for Jews in that sentence; but perhaps not. For in In Defense of Lost Causes, again paraphrasing Badiou, Zizek writes: “To put it succinctly, the only true solution to the ‘Jewish question’ is the ‘final solution’ (their annihilation), because Jews … are the ultimate obstacle to the ‘final solution’ of History itself, to the overcoming of divisions in all-encompassing unity and flexibility.”

What do we make of him? His views leave no room but to call him fascist. His witty, cultured, flirting and half-joking ways conceal his real message, not unlike the real message of Plato‘s Republic and the way it was and is still understood: completely the opposite, as can be seen from an enlightening analysis of Karl Popper in his (properly named)  “Open Society and its Enemies: Spell of Plato“.

Written by Hayk

December 10, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Introducing failures

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Hello, my name is Hayk and I am going to talk about failures. Why failures? What failures? Why me?

Failures because there is countless number of websites, individuals out there on the Web, at business conferences, during political rallies, and simply at any avenue where human activity takes place that talk about successes. It is normal. Success is something we all aspire in our everyday lives, in achievement of our goals. We are inspired, motivated and driven by successes of others. Our line of thinking is simple – if we find “secret formula” or get a glimpse of major factors causing success, be it personal or professional, we might then be able to imitate or adopt it to extent where our own affairs will improve and we will feel ourselves achieving our objectives and gaining higher grounds. Failures, on the other hand, are not easy to cope with, learn from, or let go. Failures are taken at their negative face value and as such are usually shun and rubbed under carpet. Many prefer to forget than to review and learn from them. Sites documenting failures are scarce, if any, biased, and full of stereotypical and prejudgmental conclusions. This blog will attempt to balance things out.

Failures I will discuss here vary in subject matter, scope and nature. Personal, business, political failures will feature here. I will draw on history, politics, economics, psychology, physiology, etc.

Well, I am no expert in failure management (I coined the term, it seems?) nor I am expert in history, economics or any other discipline I am going to talk about in this blog. What makes me qualified to talk about failures? Well, nothing, really. I am merely going to document failures in as balanced and objective way as possible. I will leave “lessons learnt” and “conclusions” to you. I am a mere scribe, if you prefer.

So let’s begin, then?

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September 6, 2008 at 10:32 pm

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