Saturday, January 26, 2008

PARABÉNS A VOCÊ x462!!

Happy birthday to you city of Santos, Brasil!!!

The city is celebrating today its 462nd anniversary!

It was founded by a Portuguese man called Bráz Cubas!

Way to go!

On What Non-Economists Have Never Wanted to Accept and Economists Were Always Afraid to Tell

Freud and Marx


I like Freud a lot. I have read some books of him. He is so witty, deep, intuitive and revealing. Each paragraph by him I read, it is a little piece of truth that becomes revealed. And it is not just some truth: it is the truth about human behavior.

But then... my psychologist friends tell me: Freud was not scientific enough, and this is not to say he was not scientific at all; he is totally outdated, “modern” psychology doesn’t need him; indeed, he was most of the times wrong. Finally, my psychologist friends say, he was totally limited by the prejudices of the epoque.

And how do I react to all these anti-Freudian assertions? I accept them, and I believe on them. Why? Well, because I am not a psychologist, I have never studied psychology, I have never attended a course of it. The arguments I can use to defend my prince would most probably be based more on my ignorance than on anything else.

Still, how wonderful it is to read Freud! Still, how incredibly real and truthful to me everything he wrote is! And still, how practical (yes, practical) those lessons are! Not to say how well written, how interesting and, of course, how spicy!

In the other direction, I have many friends and, (used to) see on the television, and I read everyday people that defend Marx, defend marxist ideas and defend ideas also defended by Marx, sometimes without knowing how Marx was important to diffuse them and to make them live till our time. And these people believe they understand economics because they have read Marx or, more often than not, have learnt or absorbed his ideas without ever reading him. And usually they act and demand from and criticize others, specially politicians, based on that belief.

It is then that I tell them that Marx was not scientific, he was actually much against the spirit of science (science as we see it nowadays), that what he wrote was going back to problems that had already been solved before him, that he was not only outdated in terms of ideas but also in terms of history and actual facts. (Actually, he was not that original either). Finally, that most of what he wrote was based on just wrong ideas and most of his conclusions (on the positive part of his writings) are hopelessly wrong. And that his normative assertions based on positive wrong conclusions couldn’t be but biased and counterproductive.

And how people react to this? They say that mainstream economics is a politically driven orthodoxy aiming at defending the capitalists, they say mainstream economics is a flawed science, they say it is not even a science as it uses too much mathematics for explaining the “chaos” of social interaction, they say it assumes people are rational and everybody knows nobody is rational, I am not rational, and so on.

And this behavior leaves me astonished! People might feel really interested by medical themes, people get a lot interested by politics, people might be fond of planets and stars, people might enjoy the history of the great battles, people might even have seen all American shows about lawyers, judges and have already pre-ordered all the present and future dvds of this district attorney Shark thing,... But in all these and other cases, people in general won’t say they are doctors and political scientists and astronomers or historians or lawyers or... unless they really are!

But when it comes to economics, everybody is a specialist and such a great specialist, the kind that is actually above that so-called thing of... what’s its name anyway? Ah! standard economic science.

Why is that? I mean, WHY? And why is that, thinking how difficult economics can be for the lay person when compared to the other social sciences. Well, I have some explanations.

The more or less evident explanation is that there is nothing so directly, immediately and, more importantly, always presently important to the real lives of real people than economics. Of course, there are health concerns, and concerns of the heart, but they don’t seem to be so all time, every instant present. Take health concerns: of course I am concerned about my health, but fortunately, for most of people, at least until a certain age, it is not an omnipresent concern. Heart matters: it is the same: for most people and for the most time, people are not concerned about that (and if they are it is because they’re teenagers, poets or maniacs...).

But now, economics: people wait for the day they get paid; people go spend their money and complain how prices are going up; people wait for the sales; people complain about taxes, health and education systems; (some) people get concerned about unemployment rates; people hate the perspective of low economic growth; people demand higher wages; people have an oppinion on immigration and foreign products; people get excited about stock market booms and crashes; people worry with their mortgage interest rates going up. And so on and on. Also, most themes discussed in newspapers are mainly economic or have economic content.

Economic matters are clearly omnipresent and they are as much or almost as sensitive as health and heart matters.

So, how come we don’t understand about the most common, most present and extreme sensitive matter of our lives? We’re all economists, of course! I accept I am not an historian. After all, the World War II was really far ago, not to mention World War I and, imagine!, the Peloponnesian War! What about being a doctor? Well, I don’t care much for being a doctor because people that care too much about their own health die young (and people who care too much about others’ health die younger). But don’t tell me I am not a specialist in MY money, don’t tell me I am not an expert on government matters because they only do what they do because of the taxes I (with a big “I”) pay. And don’t tell me about inflation and productivity and abstract things with which those academics not living in real world amuse themselves so much when it comes to the money I want and the money I deserve! Indeed, we are all economists.

Next to this explanation, there is the legitimacy argument. In democracies, people have the right to take part on the country’s decision making process. Some of the most important issues to be decided are mainly economic. And it would of course be antidemocratic to push away people from the democratic process because they are not specialists. But of course they aren’t (or of course they are, see the previous paragraph) but still sovereignty belongs to people.

Another interesting explanation is that ideology is a bit like religion, people choose it at their will (and the will of their parents and their circumstance) and economics is an extremely important part of ideology. Basically, ideologies incorporate opinions about economics that are not necessarily based on scientific economics, they can simply be based in, say, Marx or some other non-economist. And once someone adopts an ideology and learns how to defend its doctrine, that someone becomes expert in some economic opinions that might be, let’s put it simply, totally wrong. But since ideology is like religion, i.e., it is not a search for the truth, but only for the truth we like, a person that adopts an ideology doesn’t care much to check the scientific validity of its economic doctrine.

If someone chooses an ideology on ethic grounds or, say, on its appeal to justice, well, that’s already really nice in my opinion. But I believe most people might choose an ideology based on their selfish interests and aversion to risk (the more “social” a ideology is, the more based on selfish aversion to risk it is; and what is the origin of interests and risk aversion? is this origin so easy to locate?).

And in this case of selfish ideology choice, it is of course undesirable to know the truth: the truth will expose the selfishness, it will expose the utopy and the inoperability of an ideology. Thus, it is all better to keep true economists aside. Only OUR economic science can reveal the truth (otherwise, the truth of our interests will be revealed instead).

The fourth reason why people so much despise economic science and professional economists is that social sciences are fun whether one is a specialist or not. People talk and get interested about the subjects studied by them. And it is really irritating when our opinion is attacked not by a different opinion but by a self-proclaimed scientific law or truth. We feel we are playing in a lower league! And that’s what economists are so keen on doing.

For instance, in the case of historical matters or, specially, in political matters, even specialists will propose just their opinions, not a law of nature, much less the truth. The lack of mathematics and more importantly the lack of experimentation (and the inexistence of simulation techniques) in all social sciences but economics allow far more for the importance of the opinion. Now when it comes to economics, there are laws, there are stylized facts, there are theories that have been prooved right by many empirical studies for specific countries, then for groups of countries, then for groups of groups of countries and the world.

Thus, one gives his/her economic opinion and suddenly a all truthful theory is splashed against his/her forehead by a professional economist. One tells his/her mind, and gets a scientific definitive refutal. The discussion is closed. And it gets really irritating to talk about things when that happens. Economists cut short the pleasure of freely stating and defending our own opinions. And that is ultimately extremely boring (for the non-specialists).

And it is not only that. It is also that sometimes economics go against intuition and, what is even more irritating, economic truth goes against intuition in many of those sensitive matters where fairness plays the most important role. The classical example is house rent controls but so many others exist. Of course, the infamous infinitely hated example of the effect of minimum wages on unemployment rates. People have the greatest contempt for economists not only because they never have just opinions but always the truth itself but also because sometimes the truth hurts our deep intuition about how a fair world should be.

When one thinks about all of this, then psychology seems almost an inoffensive science. It is okay to say this or that great psychologist was right or wrong, after all, his or her ideas don’t touch my wallet. It is okay to accept we don’t have scientific legitimacy in psychology matters, after all it is not psychologists who decide to increase taxes.

However, just like the ones who really did read Marx, and have found him extremely appealing and, indeed, a fairly interesting writer and, because of that or also because of that, have become themselves marxists, I will keep enjoying reading my beloved Freud and feel very Freudean and imagine I might have something interesting to say about the matters of human behaviour.

And that might end up being not only interesting, but truthful.

Candles, Chocolate and Tea

And little dictionaries: they are all part of my little real white night life desk world.

Friday, January 25, 2008

PARABÉNS A VOCÊ x454!!!

Happy birthday to you city of São Paulo, Brasil!!!

The city is celebrating today its 454 anniversary!

It is the biggest city of the South hemisphere and it was founded by the Portuguese!

Way to go!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Italian Politics

The Prime Minister of Italy, Romano Prodi, has resigned yesterday, just after 18 months since he took cabinet.

Now Italians are facing again the usual dilemma: to vote for left-wingers, who steal Italians through the law and the administrative power; to vote for right-wingers, who steal Italians going out of the law and cirumventing administrative procedures.

If there was a third choice - voting for Mafia, Camorra or, why not, the 'Ndrangheta - nobody would see much of a difference when compared with the two present options.

Falar Sobre o Tempo

Porque é que eu gosto tanto de falar sobre o tempo? Será por falta de assunto? Não. A razão pela qual o tempo me interessa tanto é que o tempo tem uma influência gigantesca sobre as emoções. Suspeito que os efeitos variem de pessoa para pessoa, mas duvido que sejam menos do que gigantescos.

Por exemplo, este sol maravilhoso de Florença. Outro exemplo: o sol maravilho e o calor de Janeiro de Lisboa. Como pode este tempo provocar menos do que uma gigantesca motivação intelectual, e ou uma languidez inexorável, ou e uma reactivação vulcânica de todos os estratos das "pulsões da vida"?

Uma das características do amor é a empatia. A empatia é aquela coisa de sentirmos em nós as emoções de outra pessoa, tipo E.T. e Elliott, e, até, de desejarmos essas emoções, como sofrermos o sofrimento de quem gostamos (mas também deve haver um utilitarismo generoso nisto, do estilo se eu sofro o que a outra pessoa sofre estarei em melhor posição de ajudá-la, etc.).

Ora, que maneira mais básica para reforçar a empatia do que conhecer as condições climatéricas vividas em tempo real por aqueles que estão unidos a nós por correntes emocionais? O primeiro passo para eu sentir o que alguém sente é conhecer como está "o tempo, hoje" no local dessa pessoa. A partir daí, tento sentir o que esse tempo me faria sentir se o sentisse realmente. Mas é então que essa simulação imaginária se torna na realidade emocional e eu sinto não já os sentidos de alguém mas os seus próprios sentimentos.


Falemos sobre o tempo.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It Is The Middle of January, About the Middle of Winter, And It Is 22 C In Lisbon

And the Fed has cut reference interest rate down 75 points!

Monday, January 21, 2008

As Duas Grandes Injustiças da Arte Popular na Era da Globalização

(Ora digam lá se este não é um magnífico título-cliché para um post?)

No que diz respeito à arte popular globalizada [dois clichés juntinhos],
há duas coisas que muito fazem sofrer meu coração [cliché "romântico" tropicalista]:

o Rick Deckard, o Han Solo, o Indiana Jones, o Fugitivo e tantos outros magníficos [paráfrase para designar esse monstre sacré que é o Harrison Ford]
nunca ter ganho um Oscar

e é o não reconhecimento da qualidade artística elevada [isto é conversa de jornalista principiante de secção de sociedade a fazer-se a crítico de arte]
das excelentes telenovelas da Rede Globo.

(O texto deste post é tremendamente artifical mas os sentimentos nele expressos - "nele expressos" é outra daquelas expressões... - são por demais - "por demais" ïdem, idem, aspas, aspas" - genuínos.)

Masturbation Diaries - Chapter 1

I was eleven.

(Overture of Globo's 1989 excellent beautiful soap opera Tieta).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Questo Pomeriggio Mi Sento Così (xi)



Like his dad you know that he's had
Animal nitrate in mind
Oh in your council home he jumped on your bones
now you're taking it time after time

oh it turns you on, on, on, now he has gone
oh what turns you on, on, on, now your animal's gone?

Well he said he'd show you his bed
and the delights of his chemical smile
so in your broken home he broke all of your bones
now you're taking it time after time

oh it turns you on, on, on, now he has gone
oh what turns you on, on, on, now your animal's gone?

what does it take to turn you on, on
now he has gone?
now you're over 21?
now your animal's gone?
animal, he was animal, an animal

Suede - Animal Nitrate [1993]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

One Down, 1 + 1 To Go

Uma vitória já foi conseguida, faltam agora duas.

Hoje, parece que o Governo português, depois de muita casmurrice, tomou finalmente a decisão de construir o novo aeroporto de Lisboa não na Ota, a 60Km de Lisboa, mas em Alcochete. É a primeira vitória.

Faltam agora duas outras vitórias:

A segunda vitória é a de que o Governo não se decida pela desactivação do Aeroporto da Portela, o que seria uma decisão absolutamente louca. Seria literalmente deitar milhões de euros a uma fogueira, a fogueira da desonestidade mascarada de estupidez mascarada de loucura governativa.

A terceira vitória é a de que o Governo não se decida por construir um aeroporto em Alcochete monstruosamente grande mas sim que se decida por uma construção faseada que responda ao (eventual) crescimento observado da procura por serviços aeroportuários. A dimensão deve corresponder às necessidades e não a uma qualquer previsão megalómana e não fundamentada que serve apenas os interesses que vivem da prodigalização do dinheiro dos contribuintes.

The Meaning of Songs

Since internet, websites, Wikipedia and so on that a very new thing to me, who has never bought magazines about music, is possible: to read the autentic meanings, reasons and origins of songs and, more specifically, song lyrics.

I can discover what their authors really meant when writing those songs; I can research the story behind their lyrics; I can even dig in what the authors didn't want to say and which possible hypotetical meanings they object to.

However, all of these, eventhough satisfying my curiosity and, many times, my difficulty in textually and contextually understanding lyrics, is always painful.

Painful because very often the meaning is so trivial, so banal. Other times, it's just infamous, like writing a beautiful sad song that, after all, is just a complaint and or an attack directed to some ex-band member.

But even when the reason behind a song is pure and lovely, knowing its true meaning and reason is still painful: because it just destroys all our possible imagination. It prevents our appropriation of the song. It tells us that OUR meaning, its connection to our life, is in reality false. Knowing the true meaning, I have to face that the song was not created for me, because of my life, and inpired on my feelings and the feelings of those related to me through love links.

I cannot anymore tell the song is mine our ours!

Walt Disney's movies of Pinocchio, Snow White and so many others have pinned down the image of those characters. It is no longer possible to me to take part in the authorship of those stories, drawing with my imagination the aspect of those characters.

Websites with authentic meanings of songs do the same: they destroy our possible co-authorship of songs. We can no longer paint them.

I rather prefer books with no images.

Welcome 2008!

2008 is welcomed! Let 2008 welcome us!