“There is nothing more dangerous than a fool with initiative.”
The world that is left behind boasted of its specialization, its rationalism and its objectivity. The universal religion was Science – in fact, religious or mystical beliefs were viewed with particular disdain – and the only certainty was what could be seen and scientifically proven. It has been advantageous to forget all the scientific truths that were later denied by new scientific truths, and the link of the great discoveries – and often of their discoverers – with the mystical schools and their millennial teachings has rarely been recognized. It has also been forgotten that, in ancient times, the great personalities were polymaths – what we know more recently as Renaissance men, thinking of a Leonardo Da Vinci, for example – who mastered both the sciences and the arts, and used cross-knowledge to achieve their works and discoveries. In many cultures, it was usual for a great warrior also to be a sublime poet, or a religious authority who was also a medical doctor, and thus a long etcetera.
Just as the handwriting of physicians is famously unintelligible – except for pharmacists, who for sure take some decryption course – many teachings or truths about the nature of things and the universe have been hidden by ancient mystical schools with sibylline language, incomprehensible to the uninitiated, to safeguard the teachings against those who would not know how to use it, or would harm themselves by it, have they accessed this knowledge. Today we live in the age of Google, where knowledge becomes universal at breakneck speed. Although not everyone understands everything they read or see, -and also do not recognize it- there is more and more sophistication and technology for deception -the latest being the “deep fakes” which allow you to produce videos in which you can make anyone do or say anything you want a person to do or say – you can no longer believe even your own eyes and ears! Just as naivety and credulity are old human traits, dishonesty and fraud are not a new invention, only now they have higher technological capacity. Truth must not be confused with the distortion of truth, nor be denied because it does not fit our prejudices.
This era of pure and straightforward rationalism, with its emphasis on specialization, produced very useful beings to operate an assembly line – either real or virtual – where each one behaves like a cog in the great economic-social machinery; it also produced too many unethical technicians, soulless financiers, myopic politicians, but also unrecognized artists- those who did it for the love of art – since the dimension of the right cerebral hemisphere and the pineal gland had almost no value in the industrial society. In this era of “herd immunity”, -which is acquiring other pejorative connotations- these linear beings not only lack an ethical notion or a comprehensive vision, but they also lack the intellectual defences to understand how to discriminate the truth from falsehood, since their ability to differentiate what is possible from what is right has been nullified.
“Don’t believe everything you read while navigating on the Internet.”
Well, that was surely not said by the Admiral of the Ocean Sea, but it proves the popular adage. Goebbels, the propaganda head for the Nazi regime, famously said: “Lie, lie, lie, that something will remain. The bigger a lie, the more people will believe it.” And with that in mind and that enormous capacity to manipulate, it was the main cog in one of the most heinous political machines of the 20th century. Unfortunately, Goebbels was neither the first nor the last great mass manipulator.
The powerful emotional strings used by political manipulators come from the scammers school. Once a police officer told me that there are three types of incorrigible criminals: serial killers, serial rapists, and scammers. Neither three, kill, rape or scam for the act itself, they do it for the pleasure derived from the feeling of power that comes from killing, subduing or deceiving others and that will of pleasure is never satiated. He also told me that, when interrogating a famous scammer, the guy confessed: “As long as people are afraid or greedy, I have business.” How many great manipulators of today use lies, fear, and greed to make us do and say what they want?
In hunting and fishing – as in all human activities – there are good arts and bad arts, or ways of doing any action. One of the bad techniques in fishing is when fishers throw dynamite sticks into the river, so the shock wave from the explosions kills the fish and, with it, they emerge inert to float on the water surface, from where they are collected without much effort, by these bad gear fishers. In hunting, meanwhile, the most extreme form of these bad arts occurs when poachers set fire to one part of the forest and lurk at the other end of it; by survival instinct, animals flee terrified from the fire, but towards the weapons and traps of the hunters. Needless to say, in addition to the unsportsmanlike nature of these practices, that the level of destruction of the habitat and of all the life it contains, is brutal and at the same time suicidal for human beings. As a suicidal attitude, it is thus an additional proof of the folly of people.
“Foolishness is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.”
Albert Einstein (or maybe Mark Twain or perhaps Benjamin Franklin)
On the foolishness of peoples -or their leaders-, there is a wonderful work by Barbara W. Tuchman called “The March of Folly”, where she narrates four historical events (the acceptance of the Trojan Horse; the Renaissance popes dismissal of the reformation demands; the inept British policies that led to the independence of the United States and finally the Vietnam War) as examples of decisions made although knowing they would be detrimental to those who made them, to their peoples or their cause, but foolishly carried on with them anyway. The Greeks called this attitude “hubris”, and today the Hubris Syndrome is studied in psychology.
When I see how certain social conflicts erupt virulently in prosperous or well-governed countries or regions, or how countries of impoverished populations but of great natural wealth catch fire in civil wars; when I see the destruction of the socioeconomic framework of some countries and the depopulation of fertile or mineral-rich areas of others; when I see the inexorable rise to power of demagogues after the mediatic destruction of the moderate and prudent leadership; when I see how low the prices of capital goods fall in formerly well-managed countries or regions; when I see the migratory pressure towards countries whose demographics require more labor and more cheap raw materials; when I see how soon we are offered remedies for diseases that we did not know we had – but that now terrify us – and so many other things that inexorably shape our reality, I cannot help but wonder if everything is as it seems, if the scientific evidence is such, if the right thing is being done or we are shortchanged with just the possible one; if we are aware of what we are deciding and if we do foresee its consequences, or if we are just letting ourselves be carried away by our fears and our greed towards our own downfall.
After all, we can conclude that there is something more dangerous than a fool with initiative: It is a fool with initiative, and perseverance.
Milton Cohen-Henriquez Sasso