Outside the bubble

It was one of the Coursera Social Psychology professors that said something that stopped me dead in my tracks a few years ago. The essence of his message was that everything I would deem illogical is perfectly logically when approached from another perspective. From that moment on, I have always tried to understand situations coming from both perspectives which causes some frustration in some people close to me because I come up with counterarguments too often, simply as an exercise to encourage further thought.

The farmer welcomes the news of increasing produce prices and will take appropriate measures to take full advantage of that. I don’t have to spend much words trying to explain why a clerk living from paycheck to paycheck will not share the enthusiasm of the farmer.

In the end we all fight to survive. I’ve lived in countries where I’ve had the privilege of observing how economics drive decisions of individuals at a more primitive and basal level and I can not judge anyone for doing exactly the same thing that I am doing albeit in a somewhat different form. It’s about survival and we all owe it to ourselves to safeguard it.

People generally assume to understand the situation better than they really do, just like many of us consider ourselves better than average drivers, or many consider ourselves honest people while we share plenty of lies to cover our assess or seemingly “protect the feelings of others”. It’s one of the cognitive biases that have haunted us for at least as long as we have self-documented historic accounts.

I remind myself yet again, that my entire worldview, like everybody else’s is severely tainted by our surrounding influences and circumstances and though I may have a certain conviction in the ideals that I hold dear, I may grossly overestimate or underestimate their merits.

Just travel around the globe to enough countries and you’ll find a somewhat recurring pattern where blue collars claim to produce the wealth while it is consequently being spent in the places where the white collars dwell. The age-old struggle between the blue collared vs. white collared, the hardhats vs. the suit. With the current state of our segregated work ecosystems the blue collars and the white collars generally don’t interact enough to fully understand each other’s plights, let alone be emphatic towards members of the other group.

As a big-city software engineer who can make a decent living, I may not posses the proper background to truly empathize with the rural fishermen because of my detachment. I simply don’t live the fisherman’s live. Even if I believe to understand the numbers, Kahneman would point out that I may not be as skilled at performing statistical analysis as well as I, as human, may think I can and maybe he was exaggerating a bit.

It is in tiny subsets of the population in cities where you run into crowds that predominantly proclaim themselves “progressive” were we have assigned a tinge of negativity to the phrase “populistic” while we bear the crowns of proud democrats on our heads. I don’t think we mean any harm, we probably just forget that a true democracy honors the popular voice; which isn’t necessarily just our voice since we are vastly outnumbered in the “real” world.

We may know the statistics but still forget that the lives we live are nowhere near representative of the populace, therefore our favorite choices in terms of policy could potentially be detrimental to the majority of the individuals of a nation. Is there anything inherently good or evil about populism?

My friends are “big-city” dwellers, my social network is dominated by people that share my circumstances (jobs, college degrees, access to certain services or privileges) and since you are reading this post, there is a good chance that there is a significant common denominator between you and the group I’m talking about.

The other point-of-view wouldn’t find my viewfinder often enough, weren’t it for the fact that I still have family and friends living in less ideal circumstances. It’s because I know enough people on both sides of the line that I am negligibly more sensitive to the real mechanics behind our economies.

To me, Europe feels amazing. I can move about the continent without much hassle other than the occasional airport rituals. I can work for a variety of clients. There is some legislation in place that is somewhat beneficial to me in terms of travel, telecommunications and infrastructure.

I am also aware of certain perks of the EU that are less popular in my book. Compliance is annoying, but you wouldn’t know that if you’re just writing software1, making music or writing articles. The EU attempts to protect its its interests by laws that may deter entrepreneurs with less means, but the corporations can sure handle it. There is a reason why Brussels is lobby town. As ofter seen in government, there exists or occurs a disparity between the interests of the ruling classes and the working classes.

The Danes have an curious relationship with the union. The Swiss aren’t even part of the union. In fact they their longstanding application to join the union was withdrawn shortly before the Brits voted to breakup. The Icelandic folks had applied and withdrew as well which may have been related to the Icesave debacle, a ruling party change and a strong will to maintain sovereignty prior to the cancellation of their membership application. Neither the Swiss, the Danes or the Icelandic are doing particularly bad, in fact both are doing exceptionally well. So a healthy existence as a non-model member of the European continent is possible. Membership comes at a price such as everything else in this world, obviously. Adopting the [Acquis communautaire][], a corpus consisting of over 80000 pages that may take precedence over national law when in conflict, sacrifices the sovereignty of a state. If the lobbies are more successful than the people in influencing whatever makes it into this bundle of regulations and laws, one could ask how much the vote of a constituent of any member state is worth since those elections have a national scope and the elected officials are still subject to operate in compliance to the directives set from the governing union. The bigger question perhaps is how democratic Europe really is?

I enjoy the perks of the union, but I am aware of the sacrifices: the loss of control for individual member states, the corporate influence through the lobbies and some regulations that may be detrimental to certain industries. I don’t believe it’s completely democratic, in fact, I’m one of those guys who believe that the world is more oligarchic than democratic, but that is a topic to be discussed over a glass of your finest blend2.

PS.: I just spoke with my girlfriend about this matter again, because I love to bug her with political brain picking from to time and she seems a bit more favorable of the union than I do. Her arguments helped me understand a few things better. The EU is conceived as a means to unify a group of nations that have plenty of reasons to focus on their distinctions than their similarities. It’s somewhat poignant that the idea of being from the same planet, let alone the same continent isn’t enough to get a sense of solidarity grounded in the people. Perhaps Europe needs the EU to feel less fractured, but perhaps the EU should be more democratic still.

What do I know though… Let’s all just keep an open mind about the plight of others and the true merits of the institutes we sustain, for the end does not always justify the means, or does it?!?

In America the term “minority” will [change definition][minority-babies] soon enough. Populism suffers the same fate.

was one of the few who had to sit down to allow the gate personnel to gather residue samples from my hands and bags for drugs or other chemical substances. It happens all the time so I stopped being bothered about it, but I also am no longer naive enough to believe they’re completely random.

  1. It depending on what software you write.

  2. Actually, don’t waste your finest blend on me. I probably wouldn’t even taste the difference.