Chapter 3.a

March 4, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

THE VALUE OF LIFE

We know well that our mind, to guide us in life, does not need to know only the nature around us, made of trees, rocks and animals, but must also to have knowledge of the community to which we belong, made of men. Man is a social animal and its community is the environment where he lives; the laws that govern such environment must be then well known, to be able to live in it; in addition to natural events such as rain, snow, seasons etc.., he must be able to understand and foresee social events, namely the behavior of other human beings, in order to define his own. In the end, the principle is always the same: we search the correct behavior for survival; over time, our brain naturally develops some criteria to determine what behavior is right or wrong, but clearly these criteria are also culturally learned.
In our mental map, the landmarks for selecting the right behavior are called values; they will appear as something precious to preserve, safeguard and hand over, so that, in order to protect them, we appropriately adjust our daily actions. Values are something very personal, even intimate, that however should be shared with friends and acquaintances; a book is certainly not the most suitable mean for comparing our values with those of others and the main purpose of the following discussion is not to propose new values or give examples to imitate, but to lay the groundwork for introducing the following topics and make them more easily understandable. It is our firm belief that everyone should manage his own values, criticize and improve them, if necessary, by his personal considerations, exactly as we now do with ours.

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3.a.1 – What’s the meaning of life?

March 5, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

riflessione

What’s the meaning of life?

The image that modern science gives us of life is that of a natural phenomenon, like wind and rain, a result of physics and chemical laws; what is the meaning of wind and rain?
The scientific view of life seems to tell us that life in itself has no meaning, nor has ever had, while if we consider it well, it tells us that it is life that gives meaning to anything, as every organ in our body, every cell, even each protein was accurately designed by natural selection to hand down life to the next generations; even our brain is no exception to this rule: our will to live, the instinct of self-preservation, curiosity, the capacity of imagination, intelligence, the memory and even our superstitions, as we have seen, have a role in perpetuation of life.
In the world that surrounds us, every object acquires a meaning according to the role that plays in our lives: our clock can be a useful tool to measure the time and then plan the day: this way, it could be seen as a valuable work tool; if its brand is prestigious, it can be an ornament which we can show off in important social meetings; if it is a gift of our sweetie, it can be a symbol of love; sometimes it can even be all three things together.
All our thinking shows the emergence of life in our mind: what would have a meaning without life? Could we ask ourselves these questions without being alive? Of course not. Life has therefore clearly a role and therefore a meaning, it is the first and most important landmark in our mind, the first of our values
Life, being so indissolubly linked to our nature, is always a value, but today the dangers that may threaten it have changed: no more bears, lions and wolves, but robbers, road accidents and accidents at work; it follows that today the ways to protect life must change, a cultural adaptation is necessary and inevitable just because life keeps its role.

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3.a.2 – What do we mean with life?

March 6, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

ruscello

What do we mean with life?

The word life has many shades of meaning:
– it often means the existence of the individual
– other times it refers to an asset that is handed down from generation to generation; each of us receives life by parents and gives it to the children
– in biology life is considered a natural phenomenon having its origins billion years ago and today is manifested through all living forms
– we can also talk of social life, family life, professional life, spiritual life, of a second life, to rebuild our life and so on, to identify particularly important aspects of life.
In general, our life is to us far more important than that of the other, but it is a rule with exceptions and it appears normal to all of us that, in extreme cases, parents sacrifice their lives for their children and it does not surprise us even if this happens for other family members or someone else’s children; clearly in our mind is formed a hierarchy of values or sub-values related to life and their order perfectly reflects the criteria of survival of the species: first there are the lives of children and then the ones of the parents; likewise, if we must choose whether to save the life of a child we do no not or an unknown adult, the general trend is to salve the child.
We must note that is rather common in human societies, that life of the community comes first to life (or to the interest) of the individual; we have the example of both war heroes, who sacrifice for the homeland, and of criminals who waive a strong reduction of penalty to cover their accomplices; this is a typical behavior of highly social animals, for which the group takes a primary importance, above that of the individual, because he couldn’t survive anyway, nor grow his children, outside of it.
If we want to create a suggestive image of life, we can say that it is like the water flowing into a river that branches off in a thousand rivulets; each one of us is a stretch of these small water rivulets, our parents are the previous section and our children the following one, while life, i.e. water, flows from grandparents to grandchildren through us; we have seen how in human communities it is of fundamental importance not only the genetic but also the cultural heritage, so every person has an upstream cultural rivulet that feeds his life and downstream some waterways that utilize the cultural heritage handed down by it; it follows that every man must be aware of his role in the flow of the river of life even in the absence of a biological offspring; we must therefore do everything to ensure that the flow does not stop, and to this purpose we must also protect the waterways that are close to us, which represent our family or our community. Life is a river that flows over time, the source is billions of years back in time, while the mouth is the future to which it perpetually heads.
This image is just a metaphor created to better remember the concept but, in other times, it could have been inserted into a mythology and then be considered, over the years, something real; this would have facilitated the transmission to successive generations, but at the same time it would have prevented it to be critically analyzed and modified with changing of times, and now that times are quickly changing, we can no longer allow this type of error; is always useful, from an educational point of view, to use metaphors and similar gimmicks, but we must be sure that they remain such.

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3.a.3 – Education is important in life?

March 7, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

educazione

Education is important in life?

Let’s start exploring the river of life from our little stretch of canal, that is from our individual life; the first way to protect it that comes to our minds is to take care of our health, protecting our body from diseases, accidents and aggressions. We rightly see then positively the hygiene, medical care, driving safely, protection of workers and any call to caution, if well-motivated.
Modern medicine shows us that today we have new opportunities to defend ourselves from diseases: vaccines and antibiotics give results that were considered impossible until recent times, not to mention the progress of surgery; security measures and devices in the cars, instruments and procedures at work show us that even in the sector of accidents, great progresses can be made. It is to be noted anyway that in both cases health is protected by scientific and technological progress, but with little contribution from our side, although we are directly concerned; today we know that many cardiac diseases can be prevented with a healthy diet and the same is true for many forms of cancer; doctors today are capable of doing heart transplants, vaccinations and antibiotic treatments, but we still eat in an unbalanced manner, drink spirits and smoke; similarly engineers invented the seat belts, the ABS and airbags, but we continue to run like mad, perhaps without seat belt and maybe even after having had a few drinks.
It is more than evident that new cultural resources are mostly applied only by specialized people, but are not part of the common heritage and the common people incredibly does not cooperate to protect their lives.
How to explain this phenomenon? Maybe a fact known to all can help us: doctors are a category of heavy smokers and certainly exceed the speed limits like all the others do, maybe they are good at saving lives of the others, it is their work and they were trained for this but, like all the others, doctors haven’t received an adequate education to protect their own lives. This is not ignorance and lack of information, but a failure to deliver proper education: can we think that an oncologist does not know the consequences of smoking? Yet he smokes. Can we believe that an orthopedist does not know the consequences of high speed? Yet he runs. Even common people know that smoking is harmful and that high speed is dangerous, but to know it is not enough; for a correct perception of danger, to manage emotions like fear, the tendency to conformism, to transgression or to competition (which lead us to smoke and to imitate the sprinters of the road), we need an intervention of the unconscious, who must have some alternative models of behavior that can meet not only the needs of security, but also the psychological exigencies of the human mind. These examples will confirm once again how the conscious part of our minds, even if equipped with its own culture and training, is subject to the wishes of unconscious and like this, when not appropriately educated from childhood, can lead to self destructive behaviors, up to causing the person death.
How to educate the unconscious of our children? How can we help them to draw an effective mental map? Once there were tales like that of Little Red Riding Hood, which warned us, since we were kids, against wolves and the dangers of the forest; to the terrible stories of snakes and wild beasts were then added the stories and advices of our parents and grandparents, so much that some ended up to hate wolves and snakes without they ever received any harm from them. Tales, myths and religious precepts for millennia have been an effective way for educating people to keep a correct behavior to protect their lives from an environment which remained quite constant, an environment where wolves and snakes were a real threat.
In the age of television, the dangers to our lives have changed but, instead of being clearly identified and properly fought, whole generations have grown fascinated by the advertising of spirits, cigarettes and sports cars, as well as by television smoker heroes who blast on expensive cars, admired by beautiful women.
Only in recent times we have realized this cultural error; the advertising of cigarettes has been banned and those of cars do not enhance the speed as once was usually done; this is a step in the right direction, but a very late one, because the models of wrong behavior are now deeply rooted in our culture.
Despite progress, we are still far behind on this point: looking at the time devoted by the newspapers to a person sentenced to death in a foreign country compared to that devoted to the statistics of road accidents, it seems that to die on the road is a negligible phenomenon, even though depends on our society, while the capital execution concerns a foreign country; the deaths at work seem not to exist at all, unless someone dies dramatically, exploding with the whole factory where he works or something like that; what idea do we have of the dangers that surround us, watching the TV news today? How many deaths there have been caused by crime? Maybe 150, maybe 200? How many due to an accident at work? Watching television, we could think a number like 4 or 5, unless we hear in a marginal service that they are a thousand or more; and what about the deaths on road accidents? They are about six thousand. Why then are we more afraid of being robbed rather than of having a car accident? The answer is always the same: a wrong perception of the hazard, an education inadequate to our own safety.
All this shows us that education is important in the protection and management of our values, starting with the value of life, and how is important to keep it updated with current times, to new dangers. It is appropriate that parents, who are the first but not the only educators of their children, offer valuable examples to imitate, either with their behavior and by appropriate selection and comments of television programs, of books and games; but who educates parents? Not having received it from grandparents, parents must produce themselves the new culture, taking into account the reference value, the lives of their children and their own. 

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3.a.4 – Is sport really good for health?

March 8, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

boxe

Is sport really good for health?

To fight the negative effects of sedentary life, to keep in shape, it is often recommend a healthy sporting activity; the various forms of exercise and athletic activities have beneficial influence on our health as confirmed by modern medical sciences. Sport is therefore rightly promoted in our society as a value, being related to health and then to life; the fact that sport is quite spread in the population, especially among young people, seems to show that in this framework a cultural adaptation appropriate to the problems of modern life has developed, but perhaps once again appearance deceives us, since even in this case we can find some contradictions: how to explain the use of doping substances detrimental to health, even by the non-professional athletes, as happens in cycling? And how to justify the professional sport?
If we look at football, that is one of the most popular sports at professional level, it clearly appears that its aim is not to protect health: at the end of his career, a very talented footballer will be probably rich, but will certainly have significant physical problems as a result of numerous injuries like fractures, lacerations and dislocations of tendons, to which others could add if he had ever used doping drugs to enhance his performances. To be a professional player is therefore a good job, very profitable, but it is certainly not good for the health; for non-professional footballer the risk of accidents is reduced, but it still remains very high and from this activity people do not even make a single penny.
Let us examine the situation accurately: sport is good for the health when is used for this purpose, but it can also be used for other purposes, and in this case the focus is not on health anymore. There are numerous other purposes for doing sports, many of which are still beneficial, like relax, fun, social aggregation, education, physical beauty and, in the case of football and other sports followed by a large audience, also remarkable incomes; there is nothing to be ashamed in practicing a sport for these reasons, furthermore, pursuing these goals is not in conflict with health in general, but in some cases it can be so: the sport practice at professional level is usually an educational experience that shapes the young people, allowing to test themselves, to measure with others and at the same time helps to keep fit but, if practiced over a certain level, can become dangerous, especially at the professional level, and health, being in this case a secondary purpose, is forgotten.
Sport is popular among young people not because it is healthy, they are the last ones who need it, but for the sake of competition, for aesthetic aims or social aggregation and sometimes to make happy their parents, who really care about their health; often sport is so exalted in the name of health to hide other purposes considered less noble. Sport in our world is not always part of the culture of health and sometimes even leads to negative and self damaging behaviors but, because of the already known psychological pollution, often we do not realize it. Being aware of the real target to be pursued is essential to have a behavior fit for the purpose and to do a more informed assessment of risks and effects that such behavior produces. When sport will be widely practiced by who is not young anymore, to keep in shape, rather than just being followed on television as a form of entertainment, then we can say that the culture of sport-health will be really popular, but this is still a target to achieve.

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3.a.5 – Is it correct to seek welfare?

March 9, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

benessere

Is it correct to seek welfare?

 When we take care of our lives, we rightly say that we are seeking our welfare; this word basically expresses the sensation of feeling well. The exquisite sensations we feel when we eat good food are messages telling our brain that we have reached in the best way the purpose of nourishing ourselves; in general, when a sense of wellbeing pervades us, we know that we were well taken care of ourselves and then of our lives.
For feeling good, health is not enough, there are also other needs to be met, like to form a family, have relationships, feel important, have a social role, in other words all that makes us feel fulfilled. In these cases we talk of psychological needs, but perhaps it would be more correct to say natural needs, considering that we are social animals designed by nature to move, to make experiences, to accompany ourselves by our kin and to occupy a place in the hierarchy of the group. All activities aiming at making us feel satisfied should be then considered positive, but it is easy to notice that not all of them are aimed at improving our lives. How can we feel our life is fulfilled through behavior contrary to our health and to our life? Yet it happens every day to most people. It is then necessary to make some reflections on this bizarre situation recalling how our nature has a dual soul: a genetic and a cultural one; by examining the borderline, it clearly appears that our education profoundly affects the perception of our needs: the Franciscan monks led a life in poverty and full of sacrifices to feel realized, for the ancient samurai the most was to die in war, for an entrepreneur, the best satisfaction may be to make its holdings be the first in its sector and to this purpose he sacrifices every human relationship. How can be possible that to feel good we should die in war, be poor or working a whole lifetime to win the competitors? The purpose of welfare should not be to show us the right way to protect our lives? The answer is no, or at least not always. The search for satisfaction brings us not only to the protection of life, but to its realization, namely to achieve clearly defined objectives, both genetic and cultural, set by our nature; at this point we must remember that our culture can be negative and wrong, that can prefer other interests to our life, especially those linked to the group, requiring enormous efforts to climb or maintain the position in the social pyramid, making efforts for the others exceeding what would be reasonable, up to the sacrifice of our own lives or, even worse, of the life of our children letting them participate, for example, to wars absolutely useless for them.
So our psychological needs can be in conflict with the real values of our lives and those of our loved ones; it is not always true, therefore, that to seek realization is the same as taking care of our own lives; we must recognize again the importance of a sound education to protect our values adequately; the models to be proposed to ourselves and to our children should orient us towards a life that respects our nature with behaviors that make our good and that do not push us to unnecessary sacrifices.

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3.a.6 – Must we pursue wealth?

March 10, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

ricchezza

Must we pursue wealth?

It should be clear about what is meant by wealth: according to common definition of economics, wealth is a collection of goods, namely a set of things somehow useful to life, things that satisfy human needs. According to this concept, wealth is by definition an instrument for achieving our prosperity, to live a good life.
In fact, any activity that gives us satisfaction, like eating, taking care of our health, having fun or travel, requires the use of material resources, i.e. the above mentioned properties; in fact, also intangible goods like culture, a decent social role or the family affection, all priceless asset to live our lives well, are often largely supported by the material resources we have. It is also appropriate to remember that to help others,the use of economic resources is needed, so much so that an ancient proverb says that to help the poor, the best thing is to be rich; wealth then is by its nature in the service of both individual and collective life, so it is right to talk about the wealth of a community or a nation.
To increase our wealth means to increase the capacity to live well our lives and to help the others to do likewise; the production of wealth for themselves and others should therefore be considered a virtue, some even argue it is a moral duty, but then why there are many different religions and political ideologies condemning the economic prosperity and its research? The fact is that wealth is a word with many meanings and is easy to make confusion with them; let’s take as an example a diamond necklace: we know that has great value in money, so it’s a precious good, but what is its use? In what way it could help life? It is a trivial ornament, but it is also a symbol of economic prosperity and then of social prestige and power; we must remember that we are social animals and accordingly we instinctively show to the rest of the community our position in the social hierarchy and we do it in a thousand ways and continuously: starting from the choice of clothes, or having a larger desk than the others at work, the best seats at the stadium or for theater performances up to extremely costly things, like luxury cars, jewels, sailboats and personal aircraft.
We are facing another kind of wealth, whose purpose is not to live well but to compete and prevail over the others, a richness that can be defined as the sum of goods that help us to obtain as much power and social prestige as we can. Now let’s consider the classical figure of the old man as rich as miser, who throughout his life has worked as a slave, sacrificing any satisfaction to accumulate a great patrimony, he has always lived like a poor to become rich, but with a wealth that he will not ever use to live well, being designed only to become even more rich, to have a respected position in a more powerful and prestigious social class. This wealth is an enemy of life, the exact opposite of what we said at the beginning of the paragraph, however, we know well how it’s easy to become confused or switch between them. The difference between these two fundamental forms of wealth is precisely in the value that they protect: life, at the first place, power at the second; when power becomes more important than life, economic prosperity acquires a negative role.
In a situation of fierce competition, as is often found in human society, to become a leader it is appropriate to crush the others, and to accumulate assets people do not hesitate to steal them from the others; also in poor countries the economic well-being is the prerogative only of the hated ruling class and thus associated with it. We should therefore not being surprised if the negative concept of wealth is the most common, when the luxury begets any type of vices and opulence causes corruption and every human wickedness; there is also another advantage in the exaltation of poverty, i.e. to help the mass of slaves, servants and poor people to accept their condition and bear it better. In the rich western world, the exaltation of poverty today is no longer preached, as indeed is fought as an opposition to consumerism, which is the culture that is propagated as the engine for the progress of humanity, but the dangers associated with economic power are larger than ever, competition is increasingly tough and the quality of life increasingly low. This means that in fact the western world is increasingly rich in the sense that wealth consists of things less and less useful for the people, but it is continued to feed that psychological pollution which tends to make people believe otherwise, because a conscious poor consumes sparingly and tends to save rather than making debts. Do we buy small apartments with forty years mortgages? Do we buy any object with burdensome loans to be repaid in installments? Do we spend a good part of our Income on phone calls? No matter, since we are Westerners, we are part of the rich western world and therefore we are rich, as it is shown by the plasma TVs in our living rooms, mobile phones in our pockets, and i-pod in our ears.
To facilitate things, we will continue to call “wealth” the positive phenomenon and “economic power” the negative phenomenon, because these are concepts that are hardly separable in our mind and consequently so are in daily practice as well, therefore the use of different terms is certainly appropriate. We can then conclude that the wealth is an indispensable tool for living well our life and helping our loved ones to do the same, and it is important to educate our children to distinguish wealth from the economic power in order not to lose sight of the fundamental value that is their life.
A similar speech may perfectly be made on the activity that produces wealth, that is on work, which is an important value because it is the source of welfare for the individual, the family and the community, but that assumes a negative role if it is in the service of economic power.
It should be added that if to pursue wealth is right, to effectively do so is not enough to be aware of it, it is also necessary an environment that gives this opportunity: our environment is our society and by its economy also significantly depends ours; we are social animals, from our collaboration depends any productive activity; it follows that by a good organization of society, i.e. by an efficient symbiosis, consistent with our nature, giving opportunities to grow and fairly distributing the resources, depends the creation of wealth and therefore the protection of the individual, family and collective life.

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n. 20 – IL VALORE DELLA RICCHEZZA

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3.a.7 – How to transmit values?

March 11, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

valori

How to transmit values?

We start exploring the next stretch of our channel, the one that represents the lives of our children; our descendants, both genetic and cultural, are all that will remain of us when we will not be here anymore; without them our individual life seems something as ephemeral as a good that we are destined to lose and therefore it might seem useless to do so much to protect it: it would be in fact a war without hope; who believes then that the children give meaning to our lives is fully right and this can be, at least in part, extended to cultural descendants, consisting by all those who in life have learned something from us.
What is commonly known as family is a simple social human aggregation formed by a pair of parents with their children and its role is undoubtedly to grow offspring; such activity is particularly difficult for humans: to make the children autonomous in Western countries takes about 25 years, using so many resources that we have to limit the births to two or three in a lifetime. We know that it has not always been the way; as still today happens in other parts of the world, until a few decades ago also in the West it was common to have families with six children, who at twenty years were considered adult and often already independent; compared to our closest relatives, the monkeys, twenty years are lots to wean children and, also considering the energy used, we must agree with those who argue that children are also the purpose of our lives.
We must recognize that children, like the family, are values always current and in the modern world seem to be even more valuable, considering the time devoted to each child, but somebody says that the family is in crisis and that there are no more values in general; how is this possible? The current world of industrialized countries is very different from that of our ancestors and also compared to that of our grandparents, and old methods to take care of the children do no longer work today: to support a family, two salaries are needed, often both parents must work outside, children are entrusted to grandparents when possible, but it is often necessary to leave them to kindergartens, then to full time school, summer camps and other external structures; finally in the house there are always television and video games.
Despite the effort and money spent, we have less time to devote to our sons when they are children, and when they grow up, it is too late. The centrality of parents as an educational reference is highest in the early years and then it is integrated over time by other figures: first the grandparents, then teachers, friends and society; it is therefore when children are small that the absence or improper conduct of parents is a more serious problem. In the first two years, learning capabilities are similar to those of the other mammals cubs, are based on direct experience, on the game, on imitation; the first things we learn are not explained to us, we would not be able to understand: they are simply shown through guided experiences and supervised by adults; in this way we learn to walk, talk, to distinguish the affectionate gestures from those hostile and learn to recognize the first values.
Today no one denies the importance of the family, everybody recognizes it as a value and however, recalling the days when the father returned from work and all the family strictly ate together, this value was more present in our lives; it is through these behaviors and other similar that since we were kids we have learned to recognize family as a value, they are these habits that remind it to us and makes us feel it close, protected and cared for. Eat meals together is an habit common to all cultures and to invite friends to eat with us, therefore, has a great symbolic value that means we consider them as family; here with the same ritual we have also introduced the value of friendship, which is important for a social animal.
The values are therefore known and kept alive through behaviors that have always been associated to them; these behaviors in the modern world are no longer, or much less, practiced and are these habits, these ways of doing that are disappearing, not yet the values, but the disappearance of values will inevitably be the next step if we don’t do something to prevent it. We therefore need to replace the old traditions no longer practicable to other compatible with modern life, because the values are something to be practiced, inserted in our daily habits, not just mentioned.

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3.a.8 – The state is based on the family?

March 12, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

famiglia

The state is based on the family?

Exploring the paths of life we cannot forget our parents, even if maybe they have now the role of grandparents; a large part of what we are today comes from them, even if we are independent and adult, they still give us much both as advisers and as grandparents of our children. In agricultural societies grandparents are generally figures socially very important, around which the families of the sons meet in the most important social events, such as religious festivals. In the tribal society, the oldest members of the group often have a political role, such as members of a council of the elderly, a kind of senate of the tribe in which decisions important for the community are taken, creating a kind of government on family instead of on popular basis.
There is therefore an extended concept of family, not a simple family nucleus but a group of more families with grandparents or even great-grandparents in common, a community that, to avoid confusion, we could call family or family clan. The social importance of the family has always been very high and this is easily justified by the logic of tribal life: cooperation and organization within the tribe and other human communities are resources crucial for survival, that are better guaranteed and practiced in the presence of blood ties. Helping between relatives also means protecting the genes in common, which is the reason why extending the family, and with it its hierarchy and its solidarity ties, has been the main strategy used by nature to create large groups of social animals. The ancient tribal villages, composed by no more than a hundred individuals, were formed from the combination of a very small number of family clans, in turn related to one another; in an agricultural society, many of the production activities were formed by small family-run farms based on the work tradition of the family.
We know that the human being has an almost total dependence by his community, in fact to him is extremely difficult to survive outside of it; if human society is then based on family, family clan and then on the village, it is obvious that these are very important values and indeed it was ever thus until the tribal society lasted, but that world today has disappeared.
The social structure of the village began its decline with the ancient agricultural society that, with the considerable increase of its members, led to the creation of different social classes; in these new communities were also used large numbers of slaves to whom, as we have said before, could not be allowed to have their own social organization because they could use it to rebel; the family maintained its economic importance in the free population dedicated to industries and trade, but lost its political role that was reserved to the ruling class. In the western Middle Ages, the lack of social structure of the slaves was inherited by serfs, which were then in a subordinate role in society; in the same way, the clan maintained its economic importance in a community dedicated to the craft and trade, but remained without a political role in society; only in the aristocratic class, clan maintained all its value, indeed was strengthened as an element to distinguish from the other social classes. Still today noblemen are proud of their family history that is handed over by them in the centuries and this is the only thing that still distinguishes them from plebeian.
In today’s world the mass of citizens, in turn, has inherited the social disorganization of serf, keeping the mentality and their subordinate role in front of the authority of the State in spite of all the democratic laws; the great industry has drastically stripped the craft and family-run trade and, with them, their cultural tradition based on small families; in democratic republics, the rich industrial bourgeoisie has taken the political leading role of the noble class and thus, also for the nobles, the family has lost much of its importance and remained an empty tradition.
The familiar clan is then today as a value in agony, no longer having any official political function; the economic and cultural function has disappeared or nearly and the social, intended as a guide to public relations between relatives, is no longer feasible as the children often move to other cities in search of work. The natural social structure of humanity not only has been lost, but it seems that it cannot even be rebuilt anymore. This phenomenon has also damaged the family, which has maintained its cultural and biological function, but has lost the political and social function had when it was inserted into a clan: once, living in the same village, everyone knew and frequented all of his relatives, his reputation was linked to that of family and the elderly were the natural representatives, from which derived the prestige of which they enjoyed; the family was a sacred value and was actually the basis of the society. Today, when it is claimed that the state is founded on family, it is simply said something false: the state is no longer a federation of families as it was the old aristocratic class or the tribal village, and this is proven by the fact that when measures to encourage family are invoked, the political authorities can regularly ignore those requests without harming themselves.
It must however be noted that the loss of the old social structure has also remarkable positive aspects: it was a very solid structure, but also very authoritarian, and the subordination of the individual to family was virtually absolute, particularly for women; all were required to maintain a publicly acceptable behavior not only because it felt right, but to protect the honor of the family. The famous history of Romeo and Juliet, or the practice of arranged marriages in use particularly among the nobles, give us an idea of how could be harsh and intrusive the control of the clan on its family members. The figure of strict grandfather, whose word was indisputable, and that of the father-master is part of a very recent past and is certain that the ancient world was far from the concept of democracy. With the decline of old system, also some of its worst aspects have failed.
The loss of the political role of the clan, which began with the advent of the agricultural society based on slavery, has however opened a chasm of separation between the individual and the state authority; it is a wound that never healed and indeed, with the creation of large cities, today we lost the social role of the village, that is a community united by deep bonds of kinship, friendship and deep knowledge due to cohabitation; today we live in a society of strangers. We must therefore conclude that the family is a politically maimed value and therefore vulnerable; for this reason it must be protected with special care; the family clan is instead a value that has been lost and cannot be protected because it no longer exists, and also the concept of community should be reviewed, having undergone profound changes.

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3.a.9 – What happened to our community?

March 13, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

comunità

What happened to our community?

Today we know that mankind has lived for at least 97% of its existence in tribal villages, as presumably did many of our ancestors hominids; then we have always been social animals that naturally form communities. In this framework, with community we mean a group of individuals who not only share the same territory but live near each other, leading a life together, continually interacting among themselves.
We also know that a great village, with the growth of its population over time, could subdivide into several villages that, maintaining good-neighborly contacts between them, formed alliances for both military and commercial purposes;, it can be then observed the transition from a population united in a single village, i.e. a small community with very strong ties of kinship and friendship within it, and with a well precise cultural identity (linguistic, religious, etc.), to a population with the same cultural identification and making part of a single political entity (the federation of villages) that however, is divided into different communities.
The relations of kinship between members of different villages are generally less tight or can even not exist at all, the meetings are necessarily incidental and friendships much more difficult to cultivate; some members may be strangers to one another and therefore there is no doubt that these are separate communities, although belonging to the same society, politically and culturally united; we’ll then keep separate the concepts of community and society, as the population of a human society, also in the tribal world, do not live always together, but is generally divided into different communities.
One feature that is found both in the tribal and in the agricultural community, is a complex internal organization with a rigid hierarchy based on family clan or other subgroups (peasants, artisans and merchants; the elderly, adults, young people and children; male and females, etc.); a second characteristic that we can observe in the communities is their self-sufficiency, namely their independence from each other.
In small modern towns, composed of a few thousand inhabitants, we find some typical aspects of human communities: all members are known personally, the reputation of the individual is often extended to his family and is well known to all, as rumors run fast; living closely together, it is formed a sort of public opinion that notes and judges everyone, revealing to be often too intrusive and oppressive; there is a considerable cultural uniformity; in case of  necessity, it is manifested with a great collective solidarity.
Small countries, however, are no longer self-sufficient, being now closely bound to the rest of society from an economic and political point of view. The concept of society can still be identified with the nation from a political point of view, but from the economic point of view it is necessary to extend it at least to the whole Western world, if not throughout the globe. Today we talk of global economy and no one is surprised to find in a lost village a variety of products manufactured in China, Japan and the United States, perhaps with materials coming from Africa, India or South America.
In large modern cities there are even more profound changes: given the large concentration of people, local resources are insufficient and economic dependence by the outside becomes total. The large number of citizens makes impossible to know everyone personally, but also the neighbor may be a perfect stranger, personal contacts are limited to the family, colleagues at work and a small group of friends from childhood, from school, the gymnasium and from work again. In a society of strangers, no one is interested in the private life of the others, no one loses time to judge the others and we are totally free from the oppressive dependence of the opinion of the community; who moves from a small town in the province to a big city, is often taken by an exhilarating sense of freedom. Who moves from the big city to small town remains impressed by its quiet, by the absence of traffic and by the fact of not feeling alone, everyone knows you and greets you, the citizen has finally found a community, because obviously the city is not. In large metropolis, contacts with our friends are frequent, but we need to find them and find a pretext to meet: an evening at the cinema, a pizza, a discotheque, a football game; these activities also exist in communities, but are not needed to meet, indeed, the problem may be to avoid meeting.
The most striking difference between the metropolitan and the country life is to live alongside a multitude of strangers who remain so. Considering that for our nature we are profoundly social animals, it is legitimate to ask why we do not make friends with neighbors to form a community; the answer is that to live together is necessary to carry out joint activities and not just live nearby. In a tribal village is inevitable to carry out activities with the neighbors as well as in a small country people are forced to go to the same bar, the same parish, the same square and the same shops; similarly, if we work in the country, the colleagues and customers will almost always belong to the community.
In a metropolis, the neighbor who lives upstairs speaks our language, wears the same type of cloths and shows our own cultural identity, but is a stranger with whom we do not make any activity and with whom we do not go to the same places, just as if he was a member of a distant village ally of our tribe; therefore we treat him exactly as such, formally saying hello the rare times that we meet on the street.
With our friends, even if they live far away, the relationship is quite different: informal relations, expressions of affection, cooperation in fun activities and games conducted in leisure time. In some respects this relationship is similar to that which we would have with the members of our ideal village, but with some significant differences:
– with our friends we are by definition always on good terms, while in villages there is also deep resentment and terrible rivalry
– our friends do not all know each other, something that would be impossible in a village.
With colleagues from work, if we are part of a large company we develop a relation very similar to that of natural village: like in a tribe we are in a condition of necessary and inevitable coexistence and we will divide into small groups of friends in perennial rivalry between them, there are often grudges and solidarity in the same environment and everyone knows everyone just like in tribal life, but this happens only in a company with dozens of employees and the relationship ends at the end of work. Normally at work we do not consider ourselves, rightly, a community of colleagues.
Our nature brings us then to rebuild somehow our natural social environment, but this is limited to the workplace or fragmented in different circles of friends; from this we can deduce that to belong to a community is one of our profound psychological need, is a necessity which is a value still existing, although in obvious crisis.
 Even more than the family, our social village lost many of its functions: it has no political role, is no longer a self-sufficient economic unit, is no longer capable of affecting our lives, whether for good or bad, often is not able to offer even a hierarchy to climb, leaving us in an inevitable state of social subordination. The community has been supplanted in many of its functions from what we call societies, and in cities has lost its identity and its social role, it is an almost completely disappeared value, extremely vulnerable, to be protected with particular attention, like the endangered species.

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3.a.10 – Is homeland a value?

March 14, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

patria

Is homeland a value?

Often, instead of the word “community” other terms are used like societies, communities, nation, country, state; this seems reasonable since, as we said, many of the old functions once performed by tribal communities are now conducted by the community, identifiable with a national state. Our homeland can therefore look like a magnified evolution of the tribes, but history teaches us that things are not so; the present nations are mainly the evolution of ancient farming societies based on slavery, which were not just simple extensions of the ancient tribe, but a combination of dominated and dominant populations. Our society is born as an aggregate of different and enemy tribes and not as development of a single homogeneous village, which explains some unusual phenomena such as the division into social classes, the wars for private interests or for the interests of a small minority, limited political weight of the majority of the of population, even in countries defined as democratic, and the popular revolutions; in ancient empires, like the Persian or Roman, these phenomena were already present and apparently due to the existence of a dominant population that had the economic and political power; wars were fought then for its interests also to the detriment of the remaining population, a population dominated, without political weight, sometimes divided into free men and slaves who, having the opportunity, organized revolts and uprisings to regain power.
In an ancient village, rivalries could lead to internal division in two separate villages and a fratricidal war to force reunification would have no sense; in a western state instead each division is seen as an act of insubordination against the central power and that must be repressed with violence, just as it happened against a rebellious Roman province. The analogy of such conduct is certainly not a coincidence.
At this point it should be noted that dominant human populations tend to establish with dominated populations a relation of man – livestock type; in our society a phenomenon typical of stock is indeed repeated: the sheep, for instance, are social animals whose ancestors lived in herds dominated by a leader who was the guide and that somehow represented the herd unity and then its identity; today the shepherd replaces the head of the herd, which he guides and, if necessary, protects from predators, and the sheep follow him like it’s in their nature. This certainly facilitates much the work of the shepherds, who obviously do not hesitate then to slaughter lambs at Easter or even the entire flock if convenient. This phenomenon is useful for all types of farming of social animals, including humans themselves.
Following the principle of the relation man – livestock, the great empires of antiquity, as well as the monarchies, have replaced the role of natural tribal village and we, social animals, according to our nature have followed and have entrusted our lives to a society that was not ours, but that of the dominant population; the emperor or the king represents the unity and identity of each nation as any herd leader or shepherd; the village and its territory have been replaced by the nation and homeland. In the name of the kings, for their interests or those of the aristocrats who supported them, innumerable privileges, discrimination, injustice and wars were accepted; as for farming, the population was fed and protected to be exploited with work or taxes or to be physically sacrificed in battle.
These new political structures have also brought considerable economic and political benefits; the big trade, industry and consequently the modern technology probably would not have developed without them, nor the current democratic freedom that is a consequence of industrial development. However, we have to admit that behind all this, there is a deception: the national states that emerged in the West after the Middle Ages are the evolution of a dominant village and not of ours; in dominant villages, the serf have essentially remained in slavery conditions, animals bred to meet the needs of dominant, educated to serve their homeland as if it were his own.
A series of attempts to change this situation in Europe were made from French revolution onward, trying to remove the power to the class of nobles for the benefit of the people, but these attempts were in fact driven by a particular emerging class, the bourgeoisie, who had special needs for change and innovation and that finally became the new ruling class.
This change of regime, with the introduction of democratic rights, brought benefits also to the dominated population, both of economic and social type, like individual freedom, freedom of association, of starting a business and the legal protections for the individual against the state; these are indisputable advantages for the dominated population, but the society structure remained similar to the previous one and with it also the mindset and the condition of dominated population, absolutely not capable of ruling itself after centuries of servitude; the formation of the new ruling classes was thus favored.
In ancient monarchies, the political and economic power was maintained both with an adequate misleading propaganda based on false values such as national unity (unity of the territories of the monarch), homeland (land of the fathers now owned by others), false legitimation (the monarch ruled by the will of God, by divine right), false information (poor  people are destined to remain so, it’s always been so, it is a lower race that can never compete for culture and value with the noble), and by force through the army, the police, the arbitrary segregation, the torture and the death penalty.
In modern nations of western type, thanks to the above mentioned democratic rights, the use of force has been reduced or abandoned, but this has prompted the ruling class to increasing the use of deceit to maintain power. This activity has been facilitated by the development of new tools such as newspapers, television and high psychology studies on persuasion.
A confirmation that in substance little has changed from the past is given by the state propaganda for war purposes: in the past, if the aristocracy had expansionistic aims toward a bordering region, statements were spread like: “They are a threat, we must attack first. “;” We need to bring the civilization to savages “or” We must bring the true faith among the pagans “; today often on all mass media we can hear: “They are a threat: a preventive war is appropriate ” (the evidence of these threats then resulted to be false or threats were due to provocations); “We must bring our economy in poor regions” (where under the western domination, poverty continues to grow), “We must bring the democracy in these countries civilly backwards” (after that the dictatorship in that country was supported and financed by us for decades).
If the current western governments circumvented so outrageously, and brazenly, their own people is clear that governments cannot be democratic, i.e. governments which respect the people and their will, and it is equally clear that people are still guided and sacrificed as livestock. It follows that the process of democratization, started by the revolutionaries of the eighteenth century, is not concluded and that their task must be continued by present generations; it is thanks to the efforts of these heroes of the past that today we have the great advantage of not having to resort to violence, with all the risks that it would involve, as the ruling class mainly governs with deceit and then the battlefield has shifted from barricades on the streets to counter information blog on the Internet.
As we know, evolution may be positive or negative, but never returns back and thus, to protect our lives and our prosperity, we must move forward: we cannot renounce to industrial economy and cooperation of millions of people in the present society; small villages can no longer play the political role of a time and then today we need a truly national homeland.
Now we know that the homeland and the nation were always false values, serious types of psychological pollution which have damaged the individual life, the family life and the life of the whole population; this situation will endure until we create a truly democratic nations that places at the first place the protection and the interests of its citizens. The homeland has never been and still is not a true value, but must be regarded as an important value for the future, an objective to be achieved without further delay.

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3.a.11 – Do global values exist?

March 15, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

globalizzazione

Do global values exist?

Having considered the value of human life and its relations with the social context, it is appropriate to also focus on environmental context. This is an absolutely new value as the environment in the past had never needed particular protections and appeared as an eternal and unassailable frame, outside of our influence; no one has ever doubted the importance of the environment, but it could not be seen as an asset to manage.
Today the situation is quite different, we know that our life has originated and depends from the natural environment, that any damage to the environment will inevitably affect our welfare. Over the past century, damages made to the planet ecosystems were of such magnitude to make urgent a change of culture that inserts the natural environment among the fundamental values to be protected. This process is already underway, but is not developing with the necessary speed that the seriousness of the important situation would require.
It is also a value that needs to be protected through an International collaboration and this complicates matters further, because such a political alliance never existed; it is equally true that such an alliance is increasingly necessary to address global problems such as the management of economy, overpopulation and all problems related to humanity as a whole. The recent advent of global problems, namely those that affect us all, is paradoxically giving a new value to humanity as a whole, as an essential resource for the solution of these problems.
Examining the role of the environment and humanity in our lives, we realized how the river of life, even in the rivulets most distant from us, is a value to protect.

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Chapter 3.b

March 16, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

THE VALUE OF FREEDOM

Each time we plan an action, either it is something as trivial as to take a walk or a challenging thing as to open a trade, we need the necessary precondition of having the freedom to take such action; it would not make sense to make projects without the freedom to achieve them.
Even the protection of our values presupposes the capacity to protect freedom; freedom is then an essential virtually ubiquitous value to our existence, which importance is only second to life itself.

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3.b.1 – What does freedom mean?

March 17, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

tuffatore

What does freedom mean?

The word freedom basically means having the capacity and possibility of acting without hindrance, restrictions and limitations. In this definition of freedom we see two basic aspects: the chance to do something and the possibility that something prevents it; according to the different cases, one or the other perspective is highlighted: talking about freedom of action without reference to possible obstacles, or talking about freedom from something, stressing the dangers that may threaten it. Therefore an increase in our ability to act always involves an increase in our freedom and vice versa; similarly the overcoming or the emergence of any obstacle or limit implies respectively an increase or decrease of freedom.
According to the cases, the word freedom takes many different shades of meaning; especially important is the law or legal freedom, which we have when Law acknowledges our faculty to act, expressly authorizes our behavior or at least doesn’t forbids it, as is the case of freedom of thought, of the press, expression, movement, religion etc…
To the previous one, it often opposes the actual freedom, that is when our action is practically possible and has no consequences that would discouraged us, not even if prohibited by law, either because the penalty is small or because it is certain (or almost) not to be discovered.
By combining these two types of freedom, we can obtain a number of cases to be kept in mind:
– when the freedom of law makes legal the actual freedom, there is a real freedom that is practically feasible (freedom to pursue a commercial enterprise in a economic – legal favorable context; freedom of working as an employee to ensure a dignified life)
– when the freedoms of law does not correspond to the actual freedom, due to large obstacles to overcome, making our action non convenient, there is an apparent freedom; this appearance, just led by its legality, can bring to self damaging behavior (freedom to pursue a commercial enterprise in a tangle of red tape and administrative burden, of heavy taxation and social security expenses, of difficulty to access to credit, lack of skilled workers and decrease in consumption; freedom to carry out an activity in employment endangering the personal safety, carrying out alienating tasks and suffering harassment of various kinds);
when we have only the freedom of law in the absence of any actual freedom, because our action is totally impractical (or will become so in short time), there is a false freedom (freedom to pursue a commercial activity with the license of authorization, competition from illegal operators, extortion from criminal organizations, funding at usury rates, advance taxes on hypothetical income and contributions due also in case of negative income; freedom to perform an activity as employee whose remuneration does not allow to have a house and to support ourselves, in short that does not allow to be independent).

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3.b.2 – What freedom do we really need?

March 18, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

ostacolo

 What freedom do we really need?

Being free to do what doesn’t interest us or what we do not want to dois not a great luck, it would be a freedom without value; the value of freedom depends then on what it allows us to do, the importance of the activities that allows us to perform. According to this criteria, it is sufficient to ask ourselves what are the most important activities, to get the answers we seek.
Our animal nature imposes some needs to be met; in particular the freedom to move is deeply rooted in our nature, it is a physical and psychological necessity we can’t do without; prison has always been used as a punishment for criminals, people often tough and accustomed to everything, but to be locked up for long is hard to bear even for them. Then if we prevent someone from meeting his even more fundamental needs like eating, drinking, sleeping and getting warm, we enter the field of torture.
Our innate sociability leads us also to have contacts with our fellow creatures; it is an important psychological need and should therefore not be surprising that the insulation is one of the most common punishments additional to imprisonment, or one of the sacrifices that the religious people like hermits impose themselves, further to fasting and to sexual abstinence, to test and exercise their strength of will.
Closely related to the above basic needs are those economic and social in general; to have a home, maintain a family, then to have a job, to educate the children (and thus have some time for them), to have at least the hope of being able to climb a rung of the social hierarchy to which we belong, which mean career prospects and social prestige. To have the freedom to meet at least these requirements means having the opportunity to live in dignity and feeling rightly realized.
It’s easy, however, to read on any history book that, at different times, all the freedom associated with these demands were denied: sometimes after the imposition of various forms of slavery by one population to another, sometimes because of very strong cultural traditions also related to family, such as sexism and consequent enslavement of women.
If we want to study how to better protect the value of freedom, it is from here that we should start: what are the fundamental types of freedoms and what are the dangers that today can threaten it.

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3.b.3 – Respect for others is at odds with our freedom?

March 19, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

rispetto

Respect for others is at odds with our freedom?

Within the crowded human society, the rules and customs related to cohabitation are seen as limits to individual freedom; we say that our freedom ends where that of others begins and in this ancient saying there are two profound truths: the first is that the respect of the others needs imposes limits on our actions, and the other is that the rules of social life, morality, tend to be overwhelming.
But let’s accurately consider whether the community has only negative aspects compared to our individual freedoms: we know that the group is one of our main strategies for survival, our core activities such as eating, wearing cloths and working, have always been carried out through direct or indirect collaboration of our kin; thanks to the community now we can also have homes with running water, toilets and electricity, we can communicate through telephones and computers, we can move with trains and airplanes, etc… How many things we could not do living alone? How much our freedom of action would diminish? Therefore, if on the one hand the society imposes us to inhibit a number of anti-social behaviors, on the other allows us to do a huge number of things, important or otherwise impossible and the balance is clearly positive. Respecting others also means respecting their sphere of freedom and then, in conditions of reciprocity, requires preserving ours as well.
It is therefore not correct to see respect for one’s neighbor as a limit to our freedom because, although it is true that it places limits, it also allows us to overcome many others, being one of the most important values related to the community; without it, living together would be impossible and we’d lose all those freedoms that society allows us. The respect therefore, besides being a social value and as such linked to the value of life, can also be seen as a support to the value of freedom.
It is important to stress that it makes sense to fix some limits in the name of respect of others only in cases where our action involves inconvenience, annoyance or harm to others; one thing is to suppress freedom of action, another is to limit it in special cases and with a good reason.
It must be admitted however that only a part of the rules of social life aim to the respect of people, many pursue other purposes and may become a difficult weight to bear; respect for others should therefore not be confused with respect to authority; obey the orders of a office manager certainly does not help to protect our sphere of freedom even in cases where it is right to do so. The original meaning of respect is to have regard, to take into consideration; respecting the others implies then to have respect for them, taking into account their needs; comply with an order or a law certainly means to keep them in mind, but in essence means to obey and nothing else. Clearly this second form of respect can be used also to support some impositions that go against freedom. There is therefore a substantial difference between respecting the rules and having respect for others, and this leads us to review in depth the value of law.

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3.b.4 – Is legality a value?

March 20, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

legalità

Is legality a value?

For legality we mean the compliance with the laws and the laws are an expression of authority, but are also norms having the function to regulate civil life, an institutional form of the rules of coexistence. When the laws perform this function, they represent a support rather than a limit to freedom: they allow coexistence and, with it, ensure a freedom of action otherwise impossible; they require mutual respect starting with respect for  everybody’s freedom.
Unfortunately, the laws do not always have this function; history documents us on how many of them are born to support an authoritarian regime and protect the interests of a ruling class, this is why to law are often associated the concepts of harassment, oppression and injustice. There is no doubt that laws can have a negative role, but at the same time one cannot deny that they also perform positive functions: is then possible to distinguish good laws from bad ones? Often we can, and it seems quite easy, because we have just to see if they are consistent with our values: life, family, community, welfare and, of course, freedom and mutual respect. In fact, this ability of judgment assumes that we have clearly understood the concepts of those values and that we have a degree of culture and a chance to get information in order to well interpret the real purpose that the law has, sometimes disguised by propaganda just behind the ostentatious protection of the above mentioned values; it is therefore a task at times decidedly difficult, although necessary, to defend our freedom.
Everyone knows that the goodness of the laws depends on who makes them, and in general the value of law depends on the type of political regime, the current form of government; the values that reflect the laws are those of the political class in power. It is good then to know in whose hands political power actually is, to understand on what values the government from which we depend is actually based and analyze the possible alternatives.
Legality is therefore a present value, but only insofar as it actually supports the community and protects our freedoms, to the extent that it prevents riots, bullying and injustice which, it is good to notice, in the long term lead to authoritarian regimes encouraging the emergence of hard and tough laws to restore order.
In other words, to respect the authorities of our society is right and it is a duty, as long as these authorities deserve it and this is precisely how they respect our values, starting by our freedom.

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3.b.5 – What is opposed to freedom of thought?

March 21, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

gabbia

 What is opposed to freedom of thought?

History teaches us that the main forms of oppression and enslavement have been originated from authoritarian political regimes (from the empires of antiquity to the latest Nazi and Communist dictatorships) or from despotic cultural traditions as the machismo and racism; experience shows us that cultural evolution may take an illiberal and tyrannical direction and that is undoubtedly one of the strategies of survival of complex human societies with the aim of protecting its stability.
Sexism and racism, fascism and communism, imperialism and absolutism are all products of cultural evolution; then again appears the need to be able to control and direct it, so that this evolution is not contrary to our interests, but today as in the past it is almost entirely abandoned to itself.
Directing the development means using it for a steady progress of the human being, for solving the problems that afflict us without producing others; adaptation is the engine of evolution and, as we have seen, it is made possible by the variety of Individual characteristics: the greater is the number of alternatives, the greater the probability that there is at least one which is beneficial in the new situation. In the case of cultural adaptation, our wealth is in the abundance of alternative ideas, and in the freedom to use and experiment them; in this context, uniformity is therefore a serious defect.
However, we can’t deny the fact that the trend to uniformity is part of human nature and then, if it has been favored by natural selection, it must also have a positive role. In the history of human societies there are always two opposing attitudes: on the one hand, the preservation of ancient cultural traditions and the uniformity to them, on the other the search for innovation and change. From a biological point of view, both attitudes have their advantages: the protection of cultural heritage is an attitude similar to the protection of genetic heritage from genetic diseases, which is necessary to preserve from mutations, which are often harmful, the results so painstakingly achieved by natural selection; mutations, however, cannot be entirely eliminated because without them further adjustments are not possible and the species would sooner or later be doomed to extinction; the search of innovation just responds to this second need. We are facing two diametrically opposed needs and, since for meeting one we must take something off to another, it is formed in our society a sort of arm wrestling between tradition and innovation in which no one ever prevails completely over the other, so that it is reached a very unstable  point of equilibrium that can be near one of the two possible extreme positions: perfect fidelity to tradition and rejection of all traditions; just as in the case of genes, none of the two is compatible with the survival of society.
The human community was represented by the tribal model for many tens of thousands of years, a culturally far more stable environment than the current one, in which a lower capacity of adaptation was required. In this situation it was advantageous for the group that the balance between tradition and innovation was pretty close the total fidelity to tradition, while was little respectful to individual freedom. This explains the natural inclination to make the cultural traditions sacred and unquestionable and the fact that the ancient culture based on family clan was very hard, tough and restrictive of personal freedom: not only there were many restrictions, but also many obligations governed by complex rituals.
We also know that our mind refuses to review its schemes unless it is forced by severe need based on the principle that we called mental economy; this form of natural obscurantism, if applied to culturally inherited patterns, is apt to serve the cause of traditionalism, and it is plausible that this advantage has strengthened its selection even by a genetic point of view during the evolution of our species that, it should be remembered, has developed for tens of thousands of years in a tribal environment.
We can conclude that human nature and culture developed natural defenses against the changes that are:
– attachment to tradition in adulthood that may become a real fear against novelties
– obscurantism, or the denial of evident truth, to preserve the old mental patterns
– dogmatism, that is to make indisputable some beliefs considered particularly important
– intolerance, which is the hostility towards those who do not respect the rule of uniformity to the traditions of the group
– the production of stringent laws in support of natural intolerance of society.
The tribal world is now disappeared and what used to be oppressive and unfair for the individual, but beneficial to the community, now only brings problems at all levels; as the rapid changes in the world today require greater adaptability, the balance between tradition and innovation must be significantly moved towards innovation. That change is already under way, in our culture have indeed appeared new values such as tolerance, pluralism (as respect and promotion of a plurality of ideas), and the freedom of thought and opinion, which not only allow citizens to have greater freedom of action, but encourage greater variety and dissemination of new ideas, which is the basis for innovation.
Finally, we reiterate that the process of innovation, if left to itself, leads to cultural evolution, not to progress, but the trend can be either positive or negative. Innovation and progress are different things: new technologies in the field of communications allow, for instance, a greater exchange and sharing of information with a multiplication of knowledge, but an indiscriminate bombing of unnecessary information, commercial, excessive, incorrect, partial, distorted, etc., creates social tensions and illnesses.
The same innovation can be either good or bad depending on its good or bad inserting in society: it is up to us to make the right choices to build our future with awareness, reminding that innovation is a necessary prerequisite, but not enough to progress.

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3.b.6 – Dogmas are useful?

March 22, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Dogmas are useful?

Having freedom of thought and opinion normally does not mean to suffer penalties because of one’s ideas, either by the authorities or by fellows;  however, we have already seen, that these are not the only obstacles that we have to overcome: there are other, less obvious and more insidious, linked to our nature and our cultural tradition; so we must not only defend ourselves from the other human beings, but also from our education, partly dogmatic, and from our own instincts, both created for an environment that no longer exists.
Our fellow men, as bullying they could be, are unable to read our mind and if we keep secret our views, they cannot prevent us from thinking; many cultural traditions, not only religious, are able to educate since we are children not to think, to reject any logical alternative ideas, to see every innovator as subversive; they can do this by leveraging on our natural inclinations towards obscurantism and intolerance. These cultural forms are the natural enemies of our freedom in every sense and are those who act more in depth, directly on our ability to think. It is needed a cultural adjustment that protects us from these phenomena, through the rejection of any dogma or indisputable truth; an authentic truth can be called into question as much as we want, but in the end will always result to be true; then only what is false has the need to be protected as a dogma. We could be afraid that the rejection of dogmas can lead to a lack of absolutes certainties and to a sense of loss and insecurity, but experience tells us that this not actually happens, the absolute certainties are those on which there is no doubt, not the undisputed ones (in the sense that it is forbidden to discuss about them) and then the dogmas are not needed to provide security but to protect a tradition; it is to be reminded that when something in which we strongly believed falls, in short time our minds replace it with another, according to its nature; it is a psychological need that is easily met and therefore there are no dangers for our psyche, but only for our antiquate ideas.
While admitting that, at the time of tribal life, to make immoral the fact of discussing certain beliefs served to strengthen the stability of a culture in a world also stable, we must be aware that today times have changed and that this way of doing is not only unnecessary but highly damaging.

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3.b.7 – What binds freedom of expression to freedom of opinion?

March 23, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

What binds freedom of expression to freedom of opinion?

The traditionalist culture, intolerant and illiberal, naturally produces restrictive and punitive behaviors that develop the fear of being discriminated or to suffer reprisals because of our views; this is a great limit for both freedom of thought and of expression.
We all know well that to express our views to friends and acquaintances is a natural thing, to the point that if we wanted to keep them hidden, it would be very difficult. We can say that to reveal our ideas is yet another psychological need, almost obvious in social and cultural animals which we are, but there’s more: even if we do not openly declare our thoughts, it transpires from our daily behavior, from facial expressions and small involuntary gestures, all signs that our fellow men can very easily interpret and then judge us accordingly.
Our trend to communication exposes us to reprisals dictated by intolerance and this makes difficult to separate the freedom of thought to that of expression; indeed it is obvious that if someone suffers discrimination or punishment for his views it is because in some ways has expressed them, perhaps inadvertently; conversely if someone wants to stifle freedom of expression is because he wants to prevent certain ideas to spread. Therefore, for a genuine freedom of opinion, freedom of expression is also needed and in fact in the legal field are protected together as if they were one thing only.  
But we should not think that freedom of expression must be protected only to protect the freedom of opinion: to communicate is a deep human need, our ability to socialize depends on that of talking; therefore, to be free of speaking is very important also when the matter of discussion are not political, religious, philosophical opinions or other topics often subject to censorship.
For completeness, we must remember that freedom of expression is not sufficient alone to protect freedom of opinion, which may be attacked by an obscurantist and intolerant education or from modern forms of mental plagiarism irrespective of freedom of expression.

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3.b.8 – Religion is a threat or a good to be protected?

March 24, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Religion is a threat or a good to be protected?

From what has been afore said, we might think that religions are a constant danger for freedom because by their nature are traditionalists, carriers of authoritarian and dogmatic doctrines, hostile to any form of freedom, starting from freedom of professing religions different from the official one, and able to take away the capacity to freely think since we are children; we might therefore believe that religions should be eliminated in the name of freedom and progress.
Let us deeply consider what is the true nature of religions: are they truly traditionalists? This is perhaps their main feature because they are a tool to pass the cornerstones of a people culture to the following generations, in particular the values, the behavior, rituals and philosophy (considered as a collective mental map). Are religions by nature carriers of authoritarian and dogmatic doctrines? Only if they have to transmit a culture as authoritarian and dogmatic, like that of Europe derived from that of the Roman Empire and of barbarian peoples. The comparison with other cultures can help us to understand this concept: in Asia, for example, it is possible for an individual to be both Buddhist and Taoist, following two different religions at the same time, something unthinkable in the west also for the laics; yet we still talk of religions, their rituals and the devout attitude of their followers leave no doubts. Many of the features normally assigned to all religions are actually only peculiar of our particular religion and of our culture;  if we came from centuries of tolerance, freedom and culturen also our religious doctrine would have these features.
As we have said, in every culture there is both a traditionalist and an innovative side and generally the first one is dominant; the same goes for religions which, having the task of preserving traditions, leave even less room for innovation; but it has been observed that they also evolve along with the cultural heritage that hands down them.
All religious faiths have two basic components, a very intimate, called personal belief or path of faith, and a collective one formed by the official doctrine, from the system of collective beliefs and traditions in general; the second part is clearly entrusted to tradition, but to the first is given a minimum of interpretation and adaptation to the context in which we live; it is known that each person tends to adjust the religious precepts in his own way. When new values are inserted in personal belief and spread in the population, they end up being accepted by the official doctrine even though this can be contradictory with the earlier values; sometimes this process can take centuries, but sometimes just one generation, depends by the innovation drive existing in this population.
We can therefore say that religions do not produce intolerance, violence and obscurantism but transmit them, like every other cultural characteristics, either positive or negative. To eliminate religions is not necessary; once inserted into the individual belief the new values of tolerance, pluralism, freedom, adaptation, innovation etc.. these values, spreading, will sooner or later enter in the collective tradition and then in the religious doctrine. In our rapidly changing world, even religions for surviving must move their point of equilibrium as much towards innovation as possible and this means giving more room to personal belief, which is already happening in the West, even going against the opinion of religious leaders; these are in fact diminishing their influence on the population which is developing a new religious tradition. If therefore the ancient European religions fail to keep pace with time, they will disappear and be replaced by new forms of worship.
We have explained why there is no need to try to eliminate religions, but we can also say that it is absurd to try: for centuries in Europe religion has condemned sexual pleasure and has tried to repress human sexuality in all ways, as if it was a bad habit, a fashion to erase, but without success: why? Because it is impossible, is decidedly against nature, sexuality is deeply rooted in our biological nature, cannot be separated by humans, is like fighting against windmills, you cannot win this battle.
Paradoxically, the same goes for religions; man is religious by nature, is a cultural animal that has to transmit his system of beliefs, and the instrument nature gave him to do so is the religion. Religions can be changed, replaced, but not eliminated: some during the big innovative push had at the beginning of the industrial age, have tried to do it, but soon they themselves have begun to take religious attitudes towards their system of beliefs, especially in political and philosophical matters.
A man without religion thus will spontaneously produces another one, tailored for him, and try to spread it: it is clearly a psychological exigency deeply rooted in our nature, which explains why after centuries of rationalism, atheism, secular and scientific culture, not only the old religions have not disappeared, but new ones appeared, with considerable success.
Like cultural evolution, religions may in time take a positive or negative direction, it is up to us to guide them entering in them our new values and forgetting the old oppressive attitudes, the rest will come by itself.
We must therefore live with religions, and in the increasingly globalized world we must learn to do so with those of others; in this new context, freedom of religion assumes a new significance: in the past, it was not possible to choose which faith joining and this was one of the most obvious offenses to freedom of thought; considering that a freedom of thought implies the freedom of belief, freedom of religion is a natural consequence of the freedom of thought and freedom of expression which, as we know, cannot be separated; accordingly, freedom of religion also includes freely professing our own faith.
It is important now to note that freedom of expression can not imply freedom of outrage and this because every freedom of action must always remain within the limits of mutual respect; consistently the practice of religion must remain free within limits set by law, it cannot justify illegal actions made by invoking the freedom of worship, and the repression of that action is not religious discrimination.
In today’s world, where people with different faiths and once distant now live side by side, freedom of religion has also become a necessity for cohabitation and offers new opportunities to choose between new ideas, new models of behavior, new values and traditions, therefore greater freedom in general and new prospects for progress.
We can then conclude by saying that today religious freedom is a very important value and that the religions of the future, if enriched with the above mentioned values, may be an instrument in the service of tolerance, freedom and progress, but once again, this will only depend on us.

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3.b.9 – The ability to think freely is still in danger in the modern world?

March 25, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

The ability to think freely is still in danger in the modern world?

In the industrialized world the Liberal thought reported big victories on ancient traditions, but also big losses with the emergence of the great dictatorships of the twentieth century; the legal protection of freedom of thought, however, is now established with intensity and geographical spread never seen before, and this leads us to believe that there are more specific obstacles to that freedom. But we have seen how the legal freedom, if not accompanied by an effective capacity, is only a false freedom; we also examined how the freedom of thinking, as intellectual ability, can be severely limited by the cultural context in which we live and obscurantist traditions, either ancient and recent, religious and political, are not yet completely disappeared and new ones may develop; we have found that obscurantism is a cultural product of natural human inclinations, it grafts on the innate defense mechanisms and it can always spread again with new shapes, especially if there are situations of social instability that stimulate these mechanisms.
There are also new and insidious dangers lurking: the progress of psychology, spurred by trade and commercial needs, has produced highly effective techniques of persuasion, so that they could be real instruments for the control and manipulation of the mind.
From decades psychology is used with success both in forms of commercial advertising and in political propaganda, but new techniques are much more dangerous and the success of the sadly known pyramid or multilevel sales companies leaves no doubt on this point.
These psychological gimmicks are tools designed to affect our choices, they allow, wisely dosing truth and falsehood, to drive the thinking through dialogue or images, exploiting our natural attitude to identify ourselves in a story, to follow an argument that is presented to us and remaining influences by it; all this is done voluntarily by our unconscious and is therefore impossible, for us, to notice what is happening. To give an idea of the power of these new tools, we can list two characteristics they have:
– even the few people who, at a later time, understand by themselves to have been manipulated, in similar situations are again the victims of these new scams to which is very difficult to resist, being based on instinctive reactions
– often the direct manipulator, the one with whom we are talking, is unaware of what is actually doing, and he was the first to undergo a training course based on these techniques, was convinced that was doing good to the customers and then acts with perfect naturalness, unknowingly applying the techniques of manipulation as if he was under hypnosis. It is obvious that we cannot say we are free, if our choices are not. We do not know the next frontier of human persuasion, but we know that huge amounts of money are invested to develop increasingly effective techniques, with which affecting our behavior making us  become more and  more like perfect puppets.
It is important to note that these techniques of mental plagiarism, unlike traditional social conditioning, are not based on long periods of education directed to children, do not exploit sentiments of obscurantism or intolerance and are not a simple product of blind cultural evolution; they are the result of fully aware scientific studies, they are like sophisticated weapons available to anyone able to use them.
The development of adequate defenses from these weapons is a problem of immediate urgency, to be addressed obviously starting by a thorough study since the ordinary citizen is completely helpless.
The right and freedom of thought are the basis of freedom of action that is essential to develop and to appreciate life, they should be strenuously defended, but to do so we must be aware that today, because of the influence of media and of modern psychological weapons, are more threatened than ever, despite all victories on their old enemies.
Furthermore in the modern world, the freedom of thought in all its forms is even more precious than in the past because it is the necessary prerequisite to the cultural adaptation of which there is such need.

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3.b.10 – It is true that unity is strength?

March 26, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

 It is true that unity is strength?

Among the basic needs of man there is the need to socialize, to form a group, for our both material and psychological prosperity; it follows that among the most important forms of freedom, there is that of association, meant as the ability to form subgroups within the society. This is a freedom really feared by the political authorities, since unites the dominated population that can organize and plan a rebellion; it is not by chance that an old saying “divide and govern” is a principle well known and applied in all eras; as a final confirmation we can remember that once it was forbidden to form or join to trade unions of workers or to certain political parties.
At this point it is appropriate to highlight a feature of the free association: it was created to meet the needs of its members, then they expect some benefits from it; the group is a strategy to live better, if this interest fails, it would be better to dissolve it. A logical consequence of this principle is that everyone should receive the benefits of joining the group; if someone belongs to a community, but is damaged by it without drawing any benefit, he should not be called a member of the community, but its victim. Everyone must therefore have the right to form or choose the group that best brings convenience and it is very important to have the opportunity to leave if staying longer is no more convenient; to prevent that the group becomes a prison and to avoid abuses, it is therefore necessary to include to freedom of association also the freedom to dissociation.
The association uses the principle that unity is strength, which opens new possibilities of action and therefore of freedom: in particular we should remember the trade associations for the protection of workers and consumers, which allow to produce well-being and protect people, producing jobs, making them more livable and protecting families and their savings from deceiving products and services.
The core activities such as eating, drinking, protecting ourselves from bad weather and from diseases, are not individually conducted but are possible thanks to the cooperation of a large number of people and the same can be said regarding the protection of certain fundamental values, like family and work; the association then certainly is a value tied to that of life but, allowing to carry out activities otherwise impossible and facilitating many others, is closely tied to the value of freedom as well; it is worth recalling that to defend our own rights and thus our freedom, being this latter too an activity often collectively carried out, requires a degree of association.

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3.b.11 – Can we talk about freedom of education?

March 27, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Can we talk about freedom of education?

Culture, of course, is a fundamental resource of human beings, also considering a single individual. One of the key parts of our culture is the one given by the schools and it is commonly called education; being able to access to schools, high schools, universities and to all possible sources education is indeed a very important freedom, which was considered only an impossible dream until a few decades ago. Freedom of access to education alone, anyway, is not enough; it is made fruitless in case of inefficient schools, which do not prepare well our children or even provide them a poor education; even worse if they are not able to protect them from forms of bullying and by contact with various types of drugs; a first enemy of freedom of education is given by the poor quality of schools.
A second danger comes from the closed number classes in public universities, born precisely to ensure to everyone the possibility of a higher education; without doubts, over time the population of students has increased to excess, but limiting the access can be regarded as an acceptable solution? If patients would increase, would we build new hospitals or make hospitals with limited access number? Why can we build new hospitals, but no new universities? Also add that these Universities are not free and that the increase of the fees is another obstacle to access.
For example in Italy we have today undoubtedly an access to education much higher than a hundred years ago, but compared to 25 years ago there clearly has been a step back, both for a reduction in quality of the service and for an increase in costs and for the introduction of limited admission. Freedom of access to culture is a good to be protected because it is going through an objectively very difficult period that can cause severe damage. The limitation of education is not only a foreclosure for the individual, but represents a serious threat to the community that cannot fully exploit its human resources; today, in full adaptive emergency, we cannot afford such a waste.

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3.b.12 – What binds democracy to freedom?

March 28, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

What binds democracy to freedom?

When democracy was introduced for the first time in Greece in the sixth century BC, it was clearly intended to remove political power to the ruling class at the time. A similar situation occurred in France at the time of the Great Revolution, where there was a ruling class of wealthy landowners (aristocrats) and an emerging new class (the industrials) increasingly intolerant of the aristocratic domination. In English colonies in America, in the same period, the transition to democracy was simultaneous to the access to the independence from a central government, still of aristocratic, despotic and distant type; several times in history therefore democracy was proposed as a form of alternative government to that of a ruling class, felt as too oppressive. The dominated class, or the people, being generally formed by the vast majority of the population, gets free from the yoke of its rulers and then decides to govern itself; the word democracy in ancient Greek had the meaning of government of the people (demos = people, cratos = strength, power, government). In principle the concept is very simple: no more masters, and then no authority above the people, who will then have to find some form of self-government; then democracy has two fundamental characteristics:
– people become the highest authority
– the government depends on the will of the people.
Consequently, the forms of non democratic government does provide that the people is ruled by someone else, i.e. that people is subordinate to it, subject to other authorities, in other words is not free. Democracy is therefore essential to have a People free from higher authorities, including the public institutions that are themselves subject to the People authority (self government).
A free people does not guarantee that every individual is politically free, even a democratic government can establish unjust and discriminatory restrictions, especially against ethnic, linguistic, religious, etc.. minorities, but the individual can not truly say that he is free if the people he belongs to are not; democracy is a prerequisite, although not sufficient, even for freedom of individual citizens.
Although the principle of popular sovereignty may seem simple, banal, his achievement appears certainly much more difficult: the tribal societies in which the human being has evolved, as far as we know, were not of democratic type; although there wasn’t a ruling class, its role was played by the chief of the village and by tradition, especially religious, which governed the daily conduct of each member; the population was not self-managed, but followed the teachings received from ancestors and the directives of the chief, which was accepted with a certain passiveness, but that were generally valid, being the fruit of a slow evolution of a cultural experience in a fairly stable environment. It follows that the nature of the human being is not naturally democratic, this is a new cultural adaptation that, however, was only partially diffused among the population, encountering much resistance.
The populations of Western countries descended indeed from the serf of the Middle Ages, in turn descendants of slaves of the Roman Empire: their cultural tradition is even less democratic than the tribal and after millennia of servitude is difficult to incorporate into the mindset concepts such as the people sovereignty and the self government; this explains why it is so difficult to accept and profitably use a democratic culture; what is then the use of the legitimacy of the authority of people, if the people can’t use it for ignorance or lack of education? We saw that a legal freedom deprived of the actual freedom, is indeed an illusory freedom; similarly a legal authority that cannot be exercised by the people is an apparent authority of the people, that is an apparent democracy.

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3.b.13 – How to recognize the true democracy?

March 29, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

How to recognize the true democracy?

 The first thing to consider, as we have already noted, is whether the population actually holds the ultimate authority (the sovereignty); this means two things:
– no authority can impose its will to population
– the people authority should be allowed to impose to any other one.
The citizens therefore must have the tools easy to use for collectively refusing any law or government which is not welcomed; at the same time they must also be able to easily express and enforce their will.
In democracy is therefore required not only an individual freedom of expression, but also a collective freedom, such as may be the referendum or the liberal elections, but this freedom, to be effective, must not have major obstacles in practice. The popular will, once expressed, should enjoy such an authority that no other political entity could escape to it, it should in fact take precedence over any other provision or command.
If we consider the case of an absolute monarchy, the highest authority is the King, he can impose his will on anyone in his kingdom and nobody can give him orders; people can make requests, not directly but through the intermediaries, perhaps some aristocratic protectors; a wise king can meet the demands of his people, but in principle is not required to meet them. The only way to guard against a despotic and evil king is the violent insurgency, but it is a desperate choice as the King always has an organized, trained and well armed army while people live always in complete disorganization, having lost since the times of slavery their social structure and organization. The King rightly fears a coup d’etat from rebel aristocrats rather than a spontaneous uprising of the People.
Let’s imagine now a powerful King, a ruler who has obtained from some divinities some magic powers so strong that he does not fear any insurrection or coup, he may remove any whim and no crime is prohibited, however, in exchange for such power a strange ritual was imposed: every two years, the people will freely vote whether to keep the King on its throne or depose him, waiting for the deities to choose another one. This powerful King would even be a real monarch? If the citizenship can legally exile him, it is clear that the highest authority is now people and not the king, so not to risk losing his royal seat he must do his best not to become an enemy of all the inhabitants of his kingdom, trying to pander to each of their requests.
The power of this King would not be absolute, but really limited, common people could still suffer heavy impositions in theory, but only for a maximum period of two years after which, chasing the King, they would be released by it; so even with some difficulty, the class which was dominated would be able to make the other classes respect it, being able to exercise an effective authority superior to all others: what we described, can never be called monarchy, but it would be a real democracy, as strange and unrealistic it could be, and the King should be called President, Governor or something similar.
Let us note that the King is not chosen by the people, but he is only deposed by them if his behavior is unacceptable, his successor is in fact selected, with an unknown criterion, by the gods. The right to depose the highest authority of government is therefore sufficient to ensure genuine democracy? Remaining in the system that we imagined, it can be seen how little is needed to make it unusable: if the gods always choose the new King and only among the nobility, here’s the aristocracy to become a new political class unmovable by the government, there would be no actual political replacement and the popular opinion would be lost. The same would happen if the gods always choose a doctor or a taxi driver because a new ruling class would immediately form; the criterion of choice is therefore very important and cannot privilege a minority without jeopardizing democracy; particularly if there are elections with lists of candidates selected by any entity other than the people, freedom of choice in voting is compromised, in fact people are obliged to vote someone who was chosen by someone else and it’s easy to imagine to whom the commitment and reverence of the elected will address.
In reality, then, the freedom to vote is conditioned in other ways: with the violence, by propaganda, by deception, with appropriate campaigns of misinformation is easy to prevent citizens from voting in order to protect their interests; the freedom to vote is therfore closely linked to freedom of the press and spreading of information, without them, ordinary people can’t give an independent opinion and less than ever can express it in a collective manner.

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3.b.14 – Democracy is a current value?

March 30, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Democracy is a current value?

In today world, even in the absence of the above problems, the population in its complex would not be able to exercise its democratic authority due to the mere fact that has not been trained to do so. As we have already previously said, our mentality is still very similar to that of subjects, most of us did not vote to support a government program or to get a political replacement, but to promote the irremovable protectors as the nobles in the past, and it is therefore accepted with incredible passiveness that our elected (upon trust) do not maintain their promises and fool us shamelessly.
This serious phenomenon, which we can define the syndrome of serfdom, highlights that the first enemy of democracy is the lack of democratic culture; in current conditions, democracy is impractical in most Western countries and this is confirmed by the fact, already highlighted in the previous chapter, that governments of modern industrialized countries maintain a conduct very similar to that of ancient monarchies, in effect treating their citizens as subjects to be exploited, although with less violence and a lot of misinformation applied with method.
Democracy, as we said, is a prerequisite for freedom of the population as a whole and also for that of individuals; it, is therefore essential for the welfare and progress of humanity, but that democracies we know are only apparent, are poorly managed attempts, effective democracy does not exist yet and therefore cannot be protected in the present, but only built for the future; even more than the homeland must be considered a fundamental value to achieve in the years to come.

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3.b.15 – False freedoms are a serious danger?

March 31, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

False freedoms are a serious danger?

We have seen how the behavior of each of us follows the map mental we have, as this is based on the benchmarks represented by human values, and how the lack of clarity, even in terminology, on these concepts leads to a psychological pollution that leads us to act against our interests. With reference to the value of freedom, we found that it can be fully protected only in the presence of a true democracy, but we also understand that the current democracies are only apparent, because there are not the two assumptions that ensure full sovereignty of people. If we do not reach this awareness, how can we progress? How can we search for a democratic system if we are convinced to have already obtained it? Here is the serious problem of false freedoms, i.e. those situations where constraints in which we find ourselves are not immediately clear.
The false freedoms are certainly fuelled by the improper use of words: if we define democracy a system that is not democratic , it would be difficult to try to understand what is the true meaning of that term and therefore we would not ever try to pursue a true democracy. Sure to be in a democratic system, when inevitably severe social problems spread, we try to apply corrections to the system as may be the electoral majority model, the Election threshold, etc.. but in this way, even if we obtained results in the short period, we would not eliminate the social tensions in a stable way and the same would even tend to recur in ever more pronounced manner. To be aware of not being free is the first prerequisite to try to free ourselves, but this is not enough, because immediately after we must identify the real cause that limits our freedom and the right alternative; if people feel oppressed by the political system and remain convinced that it is a democratic system, with the exasperation of social tensions they will get to hate democracy rather than pursue and protect it as one of their primary resource. In a state of such hardship, people will tend to remove the real cause of their problems, i.e. the present political system, but confusing this with democracy, could open the doors to the return of authoritarian and tyrannical systems which by definition are the denial of freedom.
Still talking of democratic freedoms, we have already said how a false fundamental freedom is the freedom to vote without the freedom to choose the candidates; the borderline is when there is only a candidate, but this is a case where at least falsehood of freedom is more than obvious; what would change if the candidates are a thousand, but anyway all imposed? Virtually nothing except the fact that it is much more difficult to realize of being in a condition of false freedom; a second false freedom consists in the freedom to vote a plurality of candidates tied to a few groups or few people, i.e. freedom of voting a false plurality, a third false freedom is the freedom to vote by choosing among candidates of which are not known neither the capacity, nor the programs without having the possibility to verify their work.
Furthermore a free vote in a democracy requires a free information; on this side, a false freedom consists in having access to a plurality of sources of information which are carriers of censored, incomplete or, thing to be stressed, absolutely useless information, but suitable to distract people from real problems; a second false freedom is when the plurality of information is only apparent as all the major sources are attributable to the same group of interest or, in extreme cases, even to the same person.
One cannot conceive a democracy that does not ensure to its citizens the freedom to work, but if an honest job, either as employee or self-employed, cannot ensure a home and to be self-sufficient, there will be yet another false freedom.
Even the freedom to protect health can degenerate into a false freedom; health should be safeguarded especially at a preventive level and to do so we must have the right knowledge, keep the correct behavior and enjoy those of others: an imbalanced diet can cause heart disease, and thus be even lethal, to follow the correct food principles would be preferable, but if one is forced to eat foods chemically processed, although moderately, with toxic substances (in order to improve the color, flavor, preservation), it is clear that it frustrates all individual efforts.
Thus there is the need for an adequate legal system to create the rules to protect the freedom to live well and live with dignity, further to an efficient judiciary system that ensures the compliance to these rules, but both of them depend on the political system there is in the country we are, and in a condition of false democracy, also the freedom of seeing our rights protected easily becomes a false freedom.
All these considerations must not demoralize us: they should rather serve as a stimulus to begin to recognize and counteract the false freedom; to this end an ancient value, but increasingly current, becomes fundamental: the value of knowledge.

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Chapter 3.c

April 1, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

THE VALUE OF KNOWLEDGE

Any human activity, such as playing cards, read a newspaper, driving a car, requires some specific knowledge; every activity requires, then, its own special forms of knowledge, that is why knowledge is another value indispensable and ubiquitous in our lives, whose benefits are priceless. This simple view may seem too trivial and obvious, but often happens that we do not give due weight to it and not take it into account in everyday life. Knowledge has the fundamental function of presenting a model of the world where we live and to make available all other values that guide us every day; a lacking or distorted knowledge can provoke enormous damage, so it is appropriate to stop and reflect on those concepts. 

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3.c.1 – Why man learns in many different ways?

April 2, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Why man learns in many different ways?

With knowledge we mean learning, i.e. all the notions acquired by a single human being, from a community or the entire humanity. We said that this heritage preserved in memory is shared, interpreted, organized in our mental map. We already know that the ability to learn from experiences, accumulating them in form of knowledge, is a typical capacity of the animal world, one of the most successful strategies of survival; the experiences we do are re-utilized through all our lives: for instance, when we are children, we learn to walk and to recognize the foods by their flavor, activities that we will not ever leave. It is interesting to note that what is learned by non social animals, usually is not only acquired by humans too, but also through the same process: the direct experience; everything concerning the movement of our bodies, personal tastes, relationships with our own kin, all the non social animals do, falls within this category. The accumulation of experience can overcome the limits of instinct making us enormously more adaptable to the environment where we live.
This ability has been greatly enhanced in social animals through the development of culture, which is knowledge transmitted among humans; this way, the experience of an individual becomes a common heritage. Again the process of human learning seems to stick to our evolutionary history, a large number of social behaviors are in fact unconsciously learned by imitation, exactly as in the animal world.
In the human being there have subsequently been new developments with the appearance of the word, the use of which is acquired by imitation like the other forms of animal communication, but that gives access to new forms of learning, like listening to the narration of stories from other men; these latter did not narrate only of events happened, but their thoughts and their generalizations too, thus transmitting some abstract concepts that far exceed the capabilities of simple imitation as they directly transfer the thought. The connection between speech and thought is very close, listening to our kin, we instinctively tend to imitate their way of thinking, we store their mental paths as we do with the roads for coming back home, and insert them in our mental map as possible alternatives of thought from which alternative choices of behavior will derive. This form of learning is virtually impossible with the simple imitation, the language has made us animals of a cultural level never seen before. The evolution of learning, namely that of cultural transmission, however did not stop here; the development of writing and then the press have opened new frontiers: a single message can then remain unchanged for millennia and be distributed to millions of individuals; finally with the emergence of the internet, this operation is becoming affordable for all, today we have possibilities of learning and cultural evolution much higher than twenty years ago. Since knowledge, the wealth we accumulate in our mental archives, may have origin from sources much more numerous and richer than before, perhaps it would be good to take advantage from it.

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3.c.2 – It is important to make our own experiences?

April 3, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

It is important to make our own experiences?

There are things which by their own nature must be learned by experience, as walking, managing our friendships etc.., others instead are learnt by the experiences of others, such as math, history, geography etc. . In fact, the distinction is not so clear: there is almost always a component of direct experience and a cultural component; for instance, math is based much on teaching, but to be well understood long hours of exercises are needed, it is therefore essential also to make direct experience.
To say that everyone, especially young people, must do their own experiences, is just obvious, but we must be very careful regarding the true extent of that assertion because otherwise it may degenerate up to illogically justify any misconduct. For example, the experience of others, summarized in accurate scientific data, shows that smoking is harmful and sometimes lethal: is it then logical to assume that is normal for teenagers to smoke because they “must make their own experiences”?
We know that cultural transmission is a survival strategy of nature, which saves much time compared to learning by direct experience, but not all experiences are good for cultural transmission. In some cases it is therefore convenient to repeat the experience at every generation, maybe with a small cultural integration. Children must explore directly the world around them, but being controlled, protected and lovingly advised by parents, who always make sure no evil happens to them.
It is not always easy to determine whether it is better to follow and control the children, risking to be oppressive, or let them free, subjected to unnecessary risks; instinctively parents tend to follow their personal history, often feeling it is right to do certain experiences and follow a certain path because this is what they made. This point of view is based on two assumptions:
– the education received and experience made by parents is the best possible or at least of a good level;
– experiences of parents do not represent a major risks for children.
It is easily demonstrated that these assumptions are not always true: not everyone had good parents, some have been neglected, some others parents have been too oppressive, so if the children follow their example, they would also be bad parents; learning to drive a motorcycle requires a significant component of direct experience, but at the time of our grandparents, when very few cars were circulating, it did not present the same risk of today in a big city oppressed by traffic. We cannot therefore solely rely on instinct, but also on a rational assessment of risks in today’s world.

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3.c.3 – What is important to know?

April 4, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

What is important to know?

Being able to determine which knowledge has more value compared to the others is very difficult; human curiosity is based on the following principle: we are curious of everything since everything could be useful, even if we do not know when; it is certainly a valid principle, but sometimes it is necessary to make a selection. All of us know well that in front of a wide variety of alternatives we can have difficulties, due to the number of options, as it often happens when we search something on the Internet; due to the width of available culture, it is therefore necessary to find some selection criteria that highlight what is best learning, what is more urgent or more important and what are the most reliable sources. Considering the importance and the sensitivity of these criteria, we should follow our  personal opinions but we should also make them available to the other people, just like we should do with all our values. Once again it is important the comparison with the others, to weigh more our own reflections that can be then useful to the community, but as usual, it depends on us to take the first step.
From our personal point of view, the biological function of knowledge for survival purposes can be of help to define our criteria: culture and knowledge help to live, therefore the same appear more important when are more useful. The problem then moves on how to evaluate the usefulness of what we know: for this purpose, each of us is already using, even at the same time, several methods: a concept is more useful than another if:
– it is used in a more important activity
– its applications outnumber the others
– it is used by a larger number of people
– it is used more often.
In selecting the necessary knowledge on the basis of these criteria, the cultural elements that concern the cooperation between individuals (for example the language) and the values associated with it as friendship, respect, solidarity and work, are exploited to maximum; we can in fact note that this culture of collaboration is widely used in each human activity, including those most critical to survival: thanks to collaboration we get food, we can keep us warm, dress us, protect us from various hazards, such as illness, bad weather and enemies, etc… The culture of collaboration then appears to be the most important according to each criterion because:
– it is used in the most important activities for survival
– its applications are endless
– it is used by everyone
– it is continuously used every day.
Similarly it is valued what is usually called basic culture i.e. the set of knowledge on which all other specialized knowledge is based: the basic culture is indeed the common heritage, it is used by everyone in every activity and we must then recognize that it is rightly sought to match It with school teachings.
In various degrees, a great importance is recognized to specialized knowledge as well, as it is often used in activities important to the community, but from the point of view of the individual it makes him able to make his work and then becomes crucial to the human survival: knowing the law is useful to everyone, but for a lawyer is essential.
At this point, it is necessary to note that not always our cultural interests are led by the importance of their applications, this seems to be even the exception and not the rule. The interest is driven by subconscious, non rational, mechanisms; each of us feels a sort of attraction, generally known as passion, for a particular discipline, a special topic etc.. Cultural interests are not a conscious choice but the result of an unconscious programming, perhaps innate or dating back to childhood; the above mentioned evaluation criteria should be then considered as a supplement to our natural inclination. If this tilt depends on childhood experiences, we should think of an education tailored to a healthy development of these trends, that does not inhibit but encourages and properly addresses them, giving the opportunity to exploring new possibilities and protect them from prohibitions, obstacles or developments already tested as negative.

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3.c.4 – Is it better a wide or a specialized culture?

April 5, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Is it better a wide or a specialized culture?

We judge it is dangerous and misguiding the belief that schools should teach what is needed to learn a trade, because it would be highly simplistic: knowledge is needed to live and not only to work, the scholastic basic culture is also needed to countless and fundamental activities non related to work, as understanding the society we live in, understanding the technology that surrounds us, knowing what specialists we should call for a particular problem and understanding their suggestions.
The logic of studying only to work leads to see as positive a division of educational courses according to the future work, but it is a very dangerous trend that could lead to the formation of masses of ignorant specialists, depending on the others and easy to be manipulated: how many doctors and engineers know the difference between a real democracy and an apparent one? How many biologists and architects know the fundamental rights envisaged by the constitution? How many accountants and lawyers know the difference between a scientific theory and a superstition?A highly specialized knowledge also reduces the number of possible uses, making us little adaptable to labor market; how many people have a job other than the one planned at the school days? The possibility of being able to chose an alternative or, perhaps, better activity depends on a basic culture that allows us to acquire a different specialization. The school must therefore focus primarily on the vastness of the basic culture in the view of future specializations, which will gradually outline over time. Obviously the situation changes at the university level and is fully reversed once entered in the world of work; a more specialized training therefore must be concentrated in universities and in professional training courses and not in school.
Once understood the importance of the basic culture, it is important to have clear ideas on this concept. The basic culture is a set of fundamental notions necessary to orientation in the daily life, but we have also seen that the points of reference for our behavior are represented by human values; it is assumed that reading, writing and arithmetic are basic notions, it is equally obvious that it is useful to refine these studies with knowledge of diction, literature, grammar and mathematics, but how many, among parents, teachers and institutions, are aware of the importance of knowledge and practice of human values? How many are aware that the basic culture must also adapt to increasingly rapid changes of the environment we live in? The basic culture, to be effective, must acquire the basic knowledge on human nature from both a biological and cultural a point of view, must make us used to reflect on human values and their adaptation to the present world, must teach a method for identifying, limit and resolve the problems. How many of us can boast of having an adequate basic culture?

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3.c.5 – Must we know the truth?

April 6, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Must we know the truth?

Since we are children, we are used to think that we need to know the truth of the facts, situations and the laws of nature to have an advantageous behavior, while to follow false beliefs is always harmful or, at best, useless; examining instead how the human mind builds the famous mental map, we saw that in fact the false beliefs are a fundamental and indispensable part in our view of the world. Hypotheses and suppositions, also very imaginative, fill enormous gaps in our knowledge about the truths on the world around us; we must remember that none of us has a magic crystal ball that shows the truth that we would like to know: we can only imagine it on the basis of what we perceive with our senses; our feelings are actually the only truth we have, their interpretation and everything that follows is the result of imagination and reason, meant as the ability to verify the consistency between the sensations received and our fantasies. Most of truth is outside our reach and this emptiness is filled with our beliefs, which later will prove to be more or less close to reality.
Centuries of experimental science and millennia of philosophy have shown us that beliefs very far from the truth have proven to be very useful since led to behaviors which were however correct; in the absence of truth, we can then be satisfied with a good forgery. Between reality and a very good illusion, there is anyway a difference that makes reality always preferable, but such a discrepancy not always clearly appears, thus making in fact the two situations equivalent. Based on this view, the concept dating back to the ancient Greece of a truth never completely knowable, but to which we can get close, is still valid and widely applied by science, whose theories are seen as approximations, generally very precise, of reality.
The truth therefore, in principle, is not a value we have, but a value to be searched although it is often an unattainable goal, a valuable asset that will never be completely ours. If instead we consider the truth as an asset to protect, then owned, this almost certainly means that we are protecting a good falsehood as truth, inevitably slipping into dogmatism.
When we say that a false but effective belief is equivalent to truth and therefore it is a good surrogate of it, we are underestimating its advantages; very often a false belief is undoubtedly better than the truth because it is very often easier to understand and use.
Therefore, if we can say that the search for truth is the first value, the most important linked to knowledge, the second is the ability to invent good falseness. This ability depends, as we said, on two valuable abilities of our mind: imagination and rationality, to which correspond two equally important values to cultivate: the creativity and consistency with the evidence of facts. The creativity should be protected from the fear of new things, that can stifle it, while the consistency needs above all to be exercised with the practice because it is a difficult and challenging art. 

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3.c.6 – How to recognize bad falsehoods?

April 7, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

How to recognize bad falsehoods?

The fact that our knowledge is normally based on false beliefs must not lead us to underestimate the dangers of negative falsehood, i.e. of those falsehoods based on totally wrong and misleading concepts, because in those cases, to follow the false trail will always lead to a damage. For example, if today we persist in believing in ancient superstitions according to which diseases depend from the stars or on the guilt of an individual, we would certainly prevent to save many thousands of lives every year; the same way, if we continue to believe that the people should be governed by an aristocracy of nobles, it means to promote a long list of social injustices.
When our system of beliefs loses its effectiveness, we pass from a functional knowledge, although approximate, to a dangerous superstition, a pollution whose psychological effects are always negative and sometimes can be even disastrous. How can we recognize the harmful beliefs, then? An accurate examination of facts, such as that provided by the scientific method, allows to identify the limits of our knowledge: when it no longer reflects the objective evidence of the facts, it means that we have digressed in a context where our knowledge is no longer valid.
As centuries of absurd beliefs have shown, to recognize the evidence of facts is not always a simple thing; so much so that in science were created stringent procedures for this purpose: the observations must be independent from the person who observes and should be repeated by various individuals, in order to eliminate individual errors; unfortunately, in some cases, even this hasn’t been sufficient and after many years we have had to admit the mistake; this is the case of the studies in support of the superiority of white over black, or of the ancient physiognomy that stated that it is possible to deduct the psychological characteristics of an individual by the features of his face.
While the scientific method is based on observations, our system of individual beliefs, formed in large part on culture, is based on information. The analogy between scientific and personal research is that the observations can be seen as the means to obtain information from nature: as more observations will be strict and accurate, the more information obtained by them will be reliable. Following this analogy, we must also assess very carefully the information that we receive and then build our image of the world.
Information is the fundamental building block of culture, to be interpreted, organized and stored to be used in the future. Not all the pieces of information, however, contribute to the formation of culture: if someone tells us what time is, we certainly obtain an information, but do not enrich our cultural heritage; culture also is not a simple accumulation of information, because these are interpreted by our personal re-processing, in turn influenced by the existing culture. Anyway our world view and our culture in general are based on the information that our mind is receiving either by direct experience or from our fellow men; if we receive the wrong information, it is inevitable that the effectiveness of our mental map is undermined.
Assessing the reliability of the information is therefore a key priority for protecting the value of knowledge; every argument is based on the assumptions made: if these are not true or are incomplete, the conclusions that we reach are unreliable and sometimes absurd; even our interpretations of the information must be consistent with the objective evidence of the facts of our daily lives; when we face conclusions at odds with reality, like the one in which women cannot compete with men at school, we must have the courage to do self-criticism and review our beliefs.
When the facts observed are incompatible with our beliefs, we must doubt to be victims of a psychological pollution that can be caused by an error in the information or in the interpretation and sometimes in both of them.

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3.c.7 – How to assess the reliability of information?

April 8, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

How to assess the reliability of information?

Considered the importance of information in the culture shaping and the importance of culture for survival, natural selection has provided us of innate biological mechanisms, then culturally reinforced, to assess the reliability of the information. Always remembering that we are social animals, we normally rely on two criteria:
– confidence in the hierarchy, which varies according to the complexity of community and to the role we cover in it; in the different cases we’ll consider reliable the information obtained by the head of the family, of the village, by the priest, the teacher, the elderly etc..
– confidence in widespread behavior, which tends to believe reliable any information received or confirmed by several people; it is clear that if these people are also authorities in various sectors, reliability reaches its maximum degree.
On the other hand, an old person is considered reliable for his experience, a chief for his ability, a teacher for his knowledge, why an authority should not be reliable? Is it possible that a multitude of people that confirm us the same information are all mistaken? Once again we must remember how for millions of years we have evolved in tribes made of a few dozens of members and it is in this context that such conduct would be valid for evaluating the reliability of information. Let’s have a look around us: the experience of the older person and the preparation of the teacher can be overcome by a world quickly changing; in a community of millions of people, it is difficult to know the rulers and often there is no guarantee on their ability; we do not know nor even frequent most of the other members of the community with whom maybe we share the condominium, the subway or the hairdresser.
But the instinct of respecting the authority and of the comparison with the other is still there; it is so strong to lead us to respect not only the authority, but also the representation of the same, and to follow the behavior of others even if perfectly unknown. A producer of decaffeinated beverages can boast the virtues of his own products compared to the cardiac consequences, having them advertised by an actor who for many years has interpreted the role of a doctor in a television series, and obtain good sales; the public will respect the authority of the doctor even being aware that the information is received by an actor. Similarly, after having met occasionally many unknown people in many bars and having heard praising the properties of sweeteners for coffee, we might decide to eliminate sugar.
Here then raises the question of fake reliability due to subconscious mechanisms of evaluation; the more the social structure becomes complex and quickly changes, the more psychological pollution due to unreliable information will increase; at the same time a population increasingly specialized needs a larger and larger number of data.
In this context:
– we tend to give confidence to everyone that speaks to us with authority, and who is more authoritative than someone who speaks to us on television?
– it is known that information repeated several times at the end is deemed to be genuine, and who incessantly repeats the same information more than television?
– we usually organize our days in such a repetitive way to give a real ritual value also to the simplest gestures, and which source of information gives us appointment at the same time more than the news?
Advertisers know this well and this is why they heavily use the TV means, but also politicians are aware of it, as they make the election propaganda in the salons of best conductors of the most influential televisions. When television declares to be public, but in fact is in the hands of the politicians, when politicians are influenced by the great entrepreneurs, when the great entrepreneurs have private TV stations, we can imagine the reliability of information from television. The circle closes when the big entrepreneurs control all the private TV stations and directly cover a political leading role; it should be clearer for everyone, the reliability of the information should be considered minimal, if any, instead exactly the opposite happens; who is most authoritative of a person with great economic power and great politics power that speaks to us from several large televisions we have at home? The information he provides are continually confirmed by authoritative journalists, conductors, opinion leaders and politicians, all strangers, but all validated by the authoritative and reliable television totem. How could not be reliable people we welcome every day in our homes and that perhaps we listen to during meals, when the family meets?
The reliability of information cannot leave aside the reliability of its sources, and to judge these sources we cannot avoid to be aware of our psychological fragility.

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3.c.8 – Can we distinguish facts from opinions?

April 9, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Can we distinguish facts from opinions?

The basic information, that are the objective facts, even if not coming by experience, are processed by our minds to become subjective opinions. If the information source is reliable, the facts that it communicates and its personal views will also be so; why should we work hard to build our own subjective opinion based on the raw material of the facts when we can enjoy prepackaged views? In this case, the problem does not stop at the reliability of the source, but also concerns the terminological difference of terms.
If such distinction is not clear, if it confuses opinion with the fact, the consequences for our knowledge and our freedom will be very serious. Make ours the opinion of others is a natural process, but it means to share the development of reasoning on facts that remain objective. How can we not share an opinion, if we do not know the facts on which it is based? The view for example that a government must resign because it has not kept the election promises is certainly acceptable, but requires knowledge of these promises and data on the work of the government
At this point it is obvious that if someone has an interest in manipulating the information, he would need to cover the facts with a wide range of views, giving a sense of pluralism as being contrasting, giving a sense of true opposition raising the tones of interlocutors, giving a sense of authority because broadcasted on television, but always strictly detached from objective facts; we get to absurd debates that are discussed with differing opinions on facts also different; it frequently happens in fact to see discussions between politicians who claim to have governed well because, for example, have decreased the rate of unemployment while others accuse them of having badly governed as they raised the unemployment rate. Aren’t these two opinions both sharable? Does it make sense to follow such a debate without news on slippage in the unemployment rate, on the criteria of comparison of the differences and on the methodologies used to make the calculation?
Another very common method to cover the facts is simply to talk of other issues and it is no coincidence that the TV news, that is our more used source of information, give ample space to sports news, to curiosity about the life of celebrities, events occurring in distant countries, up to live connections with the show that will follow in few minutes.
It can be concluded that not only the information on the facts is necessary, but also the awareness of the need to have these information.

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3.c.9 – It is necessary that the opinions are widely spread?

April 10, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

It is necessary that the opinions are widely spread?  

Having understood the importance of finding reliable information, it is legitimate to wonder why we do not normally worry much of evaluating our sources. The answer can be found in the need of members of a community to remain cohesive, to be able to live together and reap the benefits that such cohabitation offers; for a peaceful and useful coexistence, it is necessary that the views are widely shared and disseminated and clearly this works better if the individuals do not insist to deepen and reprocess any news. Religions have played an important role to this end, preserving for centuries beliefs and opinions that have been homogeneously disseminated in the population.
The need to rely on the opinions of others has also become even more pronounced with the specialization of social roles, in fact, today we would not have neither the time nor the competence for investigating any information; our superficiality that we daily demonstrate against the information is then the price we pay for a more united and more specialized society; then we can say that in a community is more important to have information and opinions widely disseminated and shared rather than real.
All this must not make us think that today there isn’t the problem of misinformation, because we must stress that these allegations remain valid in a real community. We have already had occasion to clarify that today we do not live in a community, but in systems dominated by monarchies and dictatorships or political parties and economic powers; in this context, the trend to remain superficial turns against us, as it becomes a powerful tool in the hands of the ruling class to maintain its privileges; for example, it is frequently heard extolling the importance of a community and the sacrifices that must be addressed in its name, when it does not exist any community.
Our natural inclination to superficiality affects us all: we consider good the information given by unknown people on the television, we follow the family history of sports figures and entertainers etc.. but in a world that changes, we must necessarily adapt to new threats and develop antidotes to new dangers.

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3.c.10 – Do rumors have an important role?

April 11, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Do rumors have an important role?

The gossip is often confused with the backbiting; in reality it becomes so only when reporting lies and slander: in other cases, its natural function is not to destroy the reputation of a person through distorted facts, but to reveal the true moral identity or to report facts having public interest.
The gossip has the goal of transferring information within the community about the personality of its members and, although often not very respectful of privacy, has an obvious usefulness because the facts concerning the behavior of people we live and interact with inevitably affect us too: they are facts to be known in our interest.
 This is therefore the primary source of information, always been used in communities, and that is why we are so tied to it; as we have seen for superstitions, also rumors have not only negative aspects and have an important social function. But we must emphasize that this function remains valid in a real community and against members of the same; unfortunately, the increasing psychological pollution leads us to identify as members of our community celebrities presented by the mass media, even when they are people who live in distant states, with which we will never have any direct relation and which we hear talking through the voice of a dubber or an interpreter. That is why we are so much interested in the infidelity of a married actress or in the drugs addition problems of a sport champion: in practice we activate our natural attitude to gossip without realizing that in these cases it is of no use, indeed it may be harmful when it takes space away from some important information we really need.
In a community, the gossip is made by each member against all others, but in a population that includes millions of members, professionals gossip tellers are needed, who are called journalists. What is the function of journalists but to make public the facts of common interest? This is a function so fundamental as delicate because, being carried out by professionals, automatically acquires a greater authority and thus is able to influence the opinion of the rest of the population. 

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3.c.11 – Do we interpret the information?

April 12, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Do we interpret the information?

We said that the starting point of our knowledge is the sensations that we receive from the environment, while the rest is given by our imagination, which anyway does not produce arbitrary fantasies, but rational, or consistent with the experiences that we accumulate. Imagination and reason are instruments with which our mind processes the information it receives, but we also know that our psyche has other needs in addition to consistency: for purposes of survival, we must find solutions to our problems and we must do it quickly, we must also be concerned about maintaining stable our system of beliefs; it may happen then that consistency with the objective facts becomes less important compared to those needs.
We must remember that even having real information, they can be misunderstood or poorly managed for various reasons, for example:
– the right way to connect and interpret the information in our possession may be difficult to guess because of seemingly similar cases that deceive us; if for example we see a person lying on a bench, is easier to infer that it is a beggar or a drunk rather than a person who fainted
– the information is interpreted on the basis of culture already in our possession, including in culture also our usual way of thinking; because the latter is based on the already cited mental pathways that we store listening to the other, if we do not have the right culture, we could not well interpret the facts. This is a very common phenomenon; we all know that superstitions reinforce in the mind of a person because he continues to mechanically interpret the facts wrongly; for example, who relies on a lucky charm tends to associate every positive event to the possession of his amulet and will be increasingly convinced of the powers of the same
– the information can be altered, ignored and associated in an absurd way for psychological needs of various kinds, as assert their superiority extolling or inventing the defects of the others; it is the case of slanders who, in good faith, tend to denigrate other people as much as they are more virtuous, to ease their sense of inferiority.
We are also accustomed to thinking that the veracity of the information is sufficient to ensure their validity, but an element that must never be missing is the completeness of the same compared to the end we are pursuing. If we think of any theorem of geometry studied at school, probably we do not remember the details, but we remind that it was supported by a demonstration that started from the premises and that, after several steps, with an overwhelming logic, ended in a conclusion. Step after step all the assumptions were used and all were necessary; if only one was missing, the demonstration would have been stopped or would have led to an absurd result. To understand the world around us, therefore, it is not enough that the information we have is true, but it must also be complete, i.e. sufficient to give a right opinion; as a confirmation of it, we just have to remember how easy it is to overturn a speech suitably cutting some parts of it: missing some information, the interpretation thereof will be completely undermined or even lead to opposite results.
If we want to avoid, or at least reduce, this kind of problems, we must again calling upon direct experience; if our ideas are wrong, sooner or later they will prove to be in contrast with reality and, at this point, we should be able to doubt of our convictions. In some cases, however, despite our vision of the world is in contrast with the evidence of the facts, our mind unconsciously refuses to be aware of it: in other words we want to make mistakes even if we do not know it.
In these circumstances, we must leave it to others to make us see the above discrepancies and then have the strength and humility to listen to their criticism; in this context, then, humility is a value that we must learn to appreciate; to review our positions, is not an easy thing, often it involves an enormous effort, but it is necessary not to remain closed in a narrow dogmatism.
The fundamental principles of scientific method therefore can be used in other areas and integrate our natural aptitude for knowledge, increasing our ability to move closer to the truth.

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3.c.12 – History is an important form of knowledge?

April 13, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

History is an important form of knowledge? 

Our knowledge, and experience on which the same is based, must be preserved so that they can be used: memory has precisely this function: we find in it all the important events of our lives, i.e. it is our personal history. What we are today depends on our past and thus our ability to face the future depends on it.
We know well that, thanks to culture, we can use even the experience of others, we can learn not only from our mistakes, but also by those of others and then, alongside our personal history, it takes a fundamental importance also our collective history, which can be understood as history of the whole humanity, of our people or our family, as appropriate.
What deserves to be remembered as a historic event? We can follow two schools of thought: the first argues that it should be passed as much as possible because something that today seems insignificant, in the future could be very important; the other says that it is good to focus more on events that help us to reconstruct the past and its changes, particularly in some key aspects as politics, economy and technology, factors both closely related to one another and to life of man.
History is a valuable tool for understanding the present and learn from the mistakes of the past, his goal is to help us is to live in today’s world and to better address the future thanks to centuries of experience. From this point of view, history must be considered as a teaching with also practical applications that, as with any other source of knowledge, are difficult to predict; not being able to know in advance the real significance of historical events, it seems proper to try to pass indiscriminately as many as possible; as we have seen, it is the same basic principle of human curiosity: we are curious almost to everything because everything could later prove to be useful. This approach is certainly right from the point of view of a researcher, a professional historian and especially of the community in general, which must try not to lose any of its historical heritage, as a child must make the most of his experiences to prepare his future life. By an individual, not a historian, point of view, this method is not feasible, however, because too demanding or because a large mass of events, which will prove then to have no importance for the individual, would take the space to those really useful for him, and the experience of the past would become unusable; similarly to what we have already seen for culture, a selection of historical events is needed.
The individual user must learn from history a useful teaching, so it is logical to focus on events whose usefulness is already known; the most important concepts of history are then those who most help us to understand the present and to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past or, at least, those we today believe such. The study of history should then start from present more than from the distant past, through the selection of subjects in some way current.
Unfortunately, we all can see that in school curricula of all eras, selection and presentation of the arguments is not intended so much to understand the present but to justify it from a political point of view, to pay a tribute to the ruling class and to educate students to do the same; other times it is simply maintained the choice made centuries before by educators of the past.
History therefore is a very valuable discipline, but very badly managed, so that it is miseducative in extreme cases; this is for example what happens when long dynasties of kings and their wars of conquest are enhanced, or when the western colonial expansion is celebrated as a progress of civilization against the barbarity of the savages etc…
History has much to teach to the common man of today and must be part of the basic culture of everybody; if it is repeated even in errors, it is because people did not understand the lesson, has not drawn the right teaching. It is to be remembered that by the genetic point of view, there is no substantial difference between the brains of people today and that of the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians and the Romans; the difference is purely cultural and if culture, throughout history, does not help us to avoid the mistakes (and horrors) of the past, it is obvious that these will be repeated, as indeed has already happened many times.
History, among other things, teaches us that the cultural achievements cannot be considered acquired forever, although widely used and written for future memory. The Western Middle Ages for example, like all historical eras, have also had positive aspects, but it is remembered as a dark age, of cultural, economic, civil and moral regression; it is no coincidence that precisely in this period it has been lost a considerable part of historical memory of previous eras; this was not the cause of regression, but certainly helped to make it stable and thus increase the difficulties for overcoming it.
Numerous ancient texts were lost or forgotten and with them millennia of experience, not only technological, accumulated by the succession of civilization (Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Roman); during the Renaissance much has been recovered, but a major portion remained in oblivion. This is a loss of which even today we suffer the consequences because it reduces the number of models of behavior to which we can inspire, facilitating the acceptance of false beliefs very little valid, for lack of alternatives.
In the era of space conquests, of mass consumerism and universal suffrage, it is not easy to be persuaded that we live, in certain respects, still in the Middle Ages and even less that we can regress to the worst moments of that. What happened in the worst moments of that age we consider overcome? Let’s try to remember it together:
– we fought for years in the Crusades in the Middle East; atrocious and repeated conflicts very similar to the 2 gulf wars – the religious power was absolute and led the masses to uniform conduct; a widespread mental plagiarism very reminiscent of that of advertising or of political propaganda
the ruling class oppressed the people with all kinds of taxes; a continuous dripping that still renews itself at every economic political maneuver
– the population had an attitude of subservience than the dominant class, letting be piloted by demagoguery and accepting a role of subordination, a situation still widespread
– the population was socially fragmented into individual family nuclei, without a social structure that would allow a higher form of direct political organization; just like today, was therefore necessary that people were governed from above
– it was imposed celibacy for the clergy; a rule against nature and as such punctually rejected, but still in force
– it was widespread the nepotism, a selection among the protected rather than that between the deserving, that still now seems not to be forgotten
– it was easy to die for hunger, disease and violent death, such events were rightly accepted as inevitable; in the same way today are accepted deaths in road traffic accidents, accidents at work and crime even if they are absolutely not inevitable, thus demonstrating an awareness lower than that of Middle Ages
– the ruling class could exercise a right of veto over decisions by collegiate authorities; a little democratic prerogative, but still present also into the United Nations Organization.
Apart from these considerations, the greatest danger of regression of present days is not represented by the loss of cultural knowledge, but from the loss of values, a loss not less serious, that can undermine social harmony. So the value of knowledge, with regard to awareness about the nature and role of human values, assumes today a primary importance.

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3.c.13 – What is the new challenge in education?

April 14, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

What is the new challenge in education?

Knowledge obviously must not be only remembered, but also handed down; a value inseparable from it is therefore that of education meant as teaching, as training in the broadest sense. Previously we said that cultural interests are not rationally established, they have developed according to natural tendencies that, as such, cannot be eliminated, but at the same time can always be integrated by an adequate  and rational education.
The curricula and teaching techniques do not consider too much the natural tendencies and prefer to rely on tradition, sometimes antiquated, that therefore can and must be eliminated.
The cultural evolution never stops and in a world that quickly changes, the problem of a constant updating becomes increasingly important. Once parents were growing and living in a world very similar to that of their children and the teaching received by the grandparents could be totally passed on to grandchildren, without major changes. As we know, today the situation has changed: children are growing up in a world very different from the one where the parents are grown and profoundly different from that of their grandparents, so that grandparents today are seeking the advice of grandchildren, and not vice versa. The trend has become so rapid that the same individual lives his childhood in an era different from that in which he will grow old and already in adulthood he could see significant changes.
Fortunately for us, humans always survive thanks to a creative genius obtained from prolongation to adulthood of the lively intelligence of children, from an intellectual point of view, indeed we remain always considerably younger than our body; this allows us to continue to learn with some ease, an option that has always been helpful, but that today we are forced to use much more intensely.
The jobs that provide regular upgrading courses become more and more numerous and it is establishing the idea that in adult life is necessary a continual training to support the normal activities.
The challenge of the present and the immediate future seems to be an education for adults in a continuous upgrading, a work which has considerable difficulties: once adults taught to children who, once reached maturity, learned mainly from direct experience; the youth was the time dedicated to learning and maturity that dedicated to the work, applying what was learnt; today the period of apprenticeship continues until the old age and it is right to wonder who is going to teach to adults. Surely, children are unable to do so and the same goes for the elderly, because no one has prepared them for this, so the adults must do it by themselves, producing new knowledge. Such activities of self-training is in fact natural for humans, but to a limited individual extent; complex knowledge require much time to build up and spread, sometimes requires more than a generation, proceeding step by step through the contribution of many different individuals.
At present, the number of people engaged in technological innovation is much higher than in the past and, in order to exploit the collaboration of many individuals, new models of organization have also developed; all this has led to a significant technological acceleration and this success led to the extension of the same principles to business management, with particular reference to the training of employees.
A key component of adult education is an organization that allows to gather new ideas that arise in a large number of individuals, select and redistribute them to everyone. This is a new way to apply the old strategy of the group, to produce new knowledge that will enable us to address the new problems presented by our evolution.

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3.c.14 – School has still an educational role?

April 15, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

School has still an educational role?

By the studies on the training of employees, it has been found that teaching to adults is not exactly the same thing to teach children; there are significant psychological differences, profoundly influencing the ability to learn and then some methods work better with adults, while others with children.
It is strange to note that in ancient times, for example in philosophical schools of the Greek-Roman world, teaching to adults was quite common and it was done in a different way than teaching to children; it seems that in this field they were more advanced compared to almost all educational institutions of the twentieth century, structured according to the typical model of teaching to children. Teaching to adults is an art fallen into disuse since the Middle Ages and, like many other cultural traditions, was not recovered anymore, however, it has been tried to rebuild it from scratch on scientific basis and today, although rare, there are new models of teaching, alternative to the traditional.
One of the most important achievements is to have understood that the methods of learning of an individual varies with the degree of maturity and then even teaching methods should do the same for obtaining the maximum effectiveness. Children must therefore be followed in their development in school, that will gradually pass from a primary school approach to that of a training for adults.
This change certainly involves also the role of the teacher, who has always been important, but now must be enhanced even more, both because it is become more complicated and difficult, having to change strategies depending on the type of students, and because its importance to society has increased: who more than teachers must be updated to prepare young people to a world in perpetual change? The value of a service must be approved by the customer, that is, by the students and, in the case of children, by the family that must educate the children to the value of knowledge, starting by the respect they must have for the teacher; this figure should be, after their parents, the most important educational landmark and, just like their parents, must follow the students in their development by helping them to become more mature and independent, until they are adult students and, within the limits of their possibilities, producers of new knowledge. The school must maintain its educational role even more than its instructive feature because education will also continue for adults, while for preparing a new generation to follow a path of permanent training, it is required from the start an education based on the value of knowledge, research, innovation and continuous updating.

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