It is shocking to see that adults are damned to stay as they are. Only children are supported to learn something new, but once they threw you into the world of the adults to go out and earn your own money, all support is gone. It seems they just intended to educate you as far as you need to earn tax payers’ money for paying taxes and buying commercial crap. But they do not support you to become a mature personality.

Of course there is self-education, but that is limited to technical things (electronics, computing, …) and does not help to overcome social problems (because of fear to learn what one wants to learn).

And of course, there is experience, but that does not help you to learn social things either, as they only allow you to gather experience (on the job) in areas where you already have some qualifications so that they can hire you. Also people will fear to accept a job that they fear to fail in (as it is about something they need, and maybe want, to learn yet).

And also, there are adult education services, but that is expensive, totally inefficient, and people do not have the time for it. Instead, education must be integrated into daily life.

Might this be a solution: we need hackerspaces for education in technology, and intentional communities for education in social and self governance skills, both with a semi-formal mentoring and evaluation program.

From a practical, motivational and experience-based perspective, it is useless to try to do something that is not favoured by the current circumstances, if that activity is something regular or habitual or something that requires many contributions over time (as part-time work). Such attempts will all fail eventually, and up to that point of time, they burn a huge amount of motivation, strength and other resources.

The solution is to change the circumstances instead. That is, to create surroundings (infrastructure, organizational rules etc.) that favour the activity one wants to do. This can be called “behavior setting design”; see the behavior setting theory.

It is however possible to perform one-time projects “against the circumstances”; this also consumes much motivation, strength and other resources, but that is o.k. if one can “re-fill” that wile living in ones day-to-day circumstances.

Examples:

  • To gain fitness, don’t create regular “train this or that” tasks, instead find a friend as a training partner, or a sports group so that training will get a regular, fun activity.
  • To become a more social person, move into a flat sharing community instead of creating tasks to meet people while still living in a very isolated way.
  • To recover from a burn-out situation, place yourself in a relaxing, supportive situation instead of creating tasks to relax, tasks to train physically, tasks to socialize etc..

A related insight is that it’s complete nonsense to permanently try to exhort and persuade the population to do more sport and live healthier, to increase public health. Because, all of the population know about the risks of not following these recommendations, and still do not follow them; so this must have a reason, and cannot by cured by simply intensifying the exhortations. The reason are multiple obstacles in the circumstances that make it impossible to uphold healthy activities in the long term with average human motivation (see above). People are simpl in a behavior setting that promotes unhealthy action (on average and in long term; individual actions and people might deviate, but a behavior setting is always effective on average, and average health is of interest here). So peopel cannot be blamed for living unhealthy, instead, these circumstances have to be changed to be more supportive.

Examples:

  • open, friendly sport groups to join
  • more informal social security to motivate people (by friends and family)
  • 24 hour gratis gym, operated by the city, incl. trainers
  • well-known places to meet for sports in informal manner
  • city-operated public Internet forums to find sport mates etc.

Have wrath, just don’t do evil: this seems to be the Biblical idea about how to deal with people if some tougher mode is required: if it is required, use the tougher mode (have wrath). There is no meaning in whimsy-flimsy behavior if only strength and tough, honest words lead to the goal. This phrase is actually something Paul wrote once to the Ephesisans: “Be angry, yet do not sin” (Eph. 4:26 ISV); so, it is “biblical”. (On a side note, this is not necessarily a quote from Ps.4:4 which rather speaks against wrath at all; because this connection can only be made via the LXX version, says Matthew Henry in his commentary on Eph.4:26.)

But then also, as Paul goes on to say: “Do not let the sun go down on  your wrath!” (Eph.4:26 ISV) . What does he mean? Know the limits of your wrath. When keeping wrath long term (“over night”, and longer), it breeds aggression and every kind of evil-doing. Therefore it is necessary to limit it to being a short-term emotion. Because then it is just a mode of more powerful social interaction: using the human expression abilities to full potential where that becomes necessary. It seems to me that Paul means this function of wrath here.

Remaining things to think about here:

  • What role does culture have here? Is it wise to adapt the severity of ones expression of wrath to the surrounding culture (like being less wrathful in Asian countries, as they are not used to it, but being more wrathful in South European countries, as they get the message only then?)
  • How to “not let the sun go down” if the reason for ones wrath is still there on the evening? Wouldn’t it corrupt ones message and credibility to still reconcile with the other party?
  • What actually are legitimate expressions of wrath if doing evil  (like destroying things, shellacking people) is not included? From the example of Jesus it seems that screaming and shouting is not even necessarily a part of showing wrath, rather a sharp message that is uttered in a direct, authentic, but sober-minded, low-emotional way.

There are two possible roles that the law can fulfill: protecting the weak from being exploited, or protecting the exploitation of the weak. In the first case it works for the interests of the poor, in the second case for the interests of the rich.

In the case of employment, trade unions successfully fought to implement laws that prohibit the most severe cases of exploitation. Namely, physical exploitation. What remains is financial exploitation: the ratio of annual wage to yearly gain per employee is mostly far below 1, meaning people do not at all get what their work is worth just because the company owners (or investors) have the right to the company’s organizational “shell” and market power – though that was built up with the labour of employees also!

In the case of self-employment where well-defined customer relations exist that are regulated by law, exploitation is also not much of a problem. Probably less of a problem that in the case of employees, who still suffer from financial exploitation. This includes for example companies like a doctor’s surgery, a pysical retail shop, a web shop, a cab company, a small manufacturer, being a hirer, and all craftsmen and other people who are paid by time. Among them are also freelancers who got a high reputation by some means, and can now demand being paid by time.

Now the problem is the case of the self-employed freelancer. There are no laws that protect him (or her) from even physical exploitation. The freelancer mostly has to give fixed-price offers, and the full risk of miscalculation is his. There is no minimum wage guaranteed by law – and this can drive him out of business. The problem is that a freelancer is in the economically weaker position: he has to fulfill obligations before getting paid, and needs the payment to exist. This seems to be a hole in the law system: for every other economically weaker party, the state created laws (like for tenants, employees etc.), but the freelancer has to negotiate his own rights though being in the weaker position. Bold freelancers can succeed here, but many others fail. It is also no solution to set up very rigid contracts with customers, ideally payment by time; as customers simply would not accept that as they are themselves often forced by their situation to avoid such high risks. And the state does not do something about this except calling it “precarious occupation”. The best thing is leaving this business area as fast as possible …

Looking at the other side of the scale, there are many laws protecting “possession”, and laws that implement rights so that possession generates more possession (the fact that interest rates are not forbidden etc.). Also, politiciany are currently (2008-2010) very eager to minimize the risk of investors by state-based guarantees that their loans plus interests are going to be paid back (see e.g. the Greece sovereign debt crisis). All these are laws that protect and increase the means of the rich (investors, people with a private or passive income etc..). Sad but true, this seems to make up the majority of the German laws, its primary intention.

Summary: I now see that law (or: a legal system) can be a good thing, because it can prohibit people to exploit each other (meaning, the stronger exploiting the weaker ones). Strict legislation and well-defined rights make it possible for people to get along with each other in a large society, even though you do not know the people you interact with personally. So even though you cannot trust the people you interact with, law makes meaningful interaction possible nonetheless because it guarantees you meaningful rights in the case the other party should try to exploit you. In the case of Germany, there are many good aspects where the legal system fulfills this role; but there are also many holes (see above), and many things where overcomplication makes law effectively unapplicable (e.g. through high process costs that you have to pay yourself if you win but the other party has no money).

My more visionary solution is however this: to live in a resilient, autarkic community of trustable people. Within it, very little laws are needed (just about getting and losing membership, and a daily time of “community work” for everybody). And in the external relations, no protective laws at all are needed: the community is autarkic, so is never in the weaker (exploitable) position because it needs nobody from outside. It would for example accept no fixed-price contracts, but demand getting paid by time. If customers do not want this: no problem, the community does not need customers.

There is another side to the medal of law-regulated protection from exploitation: this normally makes it possible for the protected “weak” persons to exploit the state that protects them, by drawing its welfare finances etc. without need, and without motivation to repay by working at ones maintainable capacity. We have such a free rider problem in the German welfare system, clearly. It simply means the waste of resources that are there: the workforce of unemployed but unmotivated workers etc.. (Note that the “free rider” designation is not applied here to the motivated unemployed – exactly those are what the state should be proud to protect from economic calamity by simply not finding a job.) So liberals are clearly right by saying that there is a free rider problem and that it has to be solved; but it does not get solved by the neo-liberal, laissez-faire, capitalist style of economy, as this effectively cancels also all the valuable protection of the weak just becaus of the free rider problem. Which is clearly an overreaction. But still, leftist people, Keynesian economists etc. need to find an answer for the free rider problem within their proposals – or their proposed system is not long-term maintainable. We should look at Scandinavic models for economy how this might be possible. If taxes would be guaranteed to be used efficiently (!) for the good of all (!), why not pay higher taxes? They would come back immediately or mediately (less crime, better educated employees etc.) to oneself. We have only a problem, therefore, in a state that is incompetent to use its tax money that way. See for a discussion of this and related problems: Wikipedia on the New Deal, and this ZEIT article.

It is a problem that humanity knows only very few facts about God for sure. Some things from natural theology, like that there must be a God. But even if we accept historical knowledge about Christianity as reliable enough to accept it as facts, there are not so many facts. Because one needs to keep away from non-sober, speculative interpretations of the Bible that are employed in most sermons; see also my post on that: “Get sober, Christian fellows“.

This situation is far away from both knowing something factually in detail (as in natural science) and from knowing somebody personally in detail (as in relationships). Not quite satisfying, huh?

Why is there no such thing as a Nobel Prize of Theology? It would be granted for major advancements in theology … .

The most prominent reason is probably that we have no well-accepted epistemology how to arrive at new knowledge in theology. People have different hypotheses (= different religions), claiming them to be true due to some revelation. But what we need is a way to test them against reality. Otherwise, theology would be about opinions only, and the war of opinions. Like flame wars in Internet forums, but nothing well-founded.

While it seems relatively simple to test, say, Hinduism and Paganism against our (Western) concept of reality (multiple millions of gods are prohibited by Occam’s razor) … how to test Christianity and Islam against reality?

Probably, history (as historical science) would help. But as with any non-empiric science, preconceptions are a great danger here. The historical-critical method of theology is full of them, and so are the interpretations of history and the Bible by believers. We would need a “sober”, scientific interpretation of history that excludes the influence of preconceptions by some sort of method …

In Third Way style, the way to approach Christianity would be this: accept the Gospel as a trustable message based in traceable history; but do not interpret reality based on this message except where there is no unvcertainty how to interpret reality; there are really few cases where there is no uncertainty, and among them those where God’s contemporary activity has been tracked by scientific and / or good journalistic methods, so that trustable reports are the result. Which is the focus of my Second Acts project.

For this, it is necessary to develop a interviewing and text analysis system for detecting “non-sober religious activities” like scams, self-deceit and mental illness. Even good parts of sermons belong to this non-sober interpreting of what’s happening in the world. And even good parts of Christian activism (like peace activism in the leftist scene) belongs here, because it has no chance to have a lasting, meaningful effect except by a miracle (which does not happen either). This kind of stuff is far too numerous among Christians, and has to be filtered out to get trustable reports. For example, this non-sober text shows what has to be filtered out: “Needing help in covered up murder of one of Jesus’ musician freaks–in California“. And, this kind of stuff discredits Christianity in the eyes of non-Christians.

The key is the insight that most of the “Christian culture” and “Christian lifestyle” today cannot be derived with good certainty from the Bible, and therefore is a non-sober religious interpretation of the Bible where it is claimed as biblical. It is simply not justified. Even the Christian notions of the personal “Bible time” and personal “community with God in prayer” seem to belong to this, as this cannot be found in the New Testament. (But I need to check again.)

What also has to be filtered out by these interviewing and analysis techniques is the “human component”: it is apparent that human motivation, human enthisiasm and the like makes up for a good part of what is necessary for Christian organizations to be operational. Whenever something like large meetings arises (for instance the “24-7 Euro Gathering”) it is a hint that some human motivation is at work, desiring greatness, magnificence, significance. There will be many other hints like that.