Pay Attention

“To the brain, information is its own reward, above and beyond whether it’s useful,” says Ming Hsu, a researcher at UC Berkeley, “and just as our brains like empty calories from junk food, they can overvalue information that makes us feel good but may not be useful.” Psychologists have long seen curiosity as an innate motivation that can spur actions by itself. For example, sports fans might check the odds on a game even if they have no intention of ever betting. Sometimes, we want to know something, just to know. Ming Hsu found that information activated the regions of the brain specifically known to be involved in valuation, which are the same dopamine-producing reward areas activated by food, money, and many drugs. This was the case whether the information was useful, and changed the person’s decisions, or not. While the research does not directly address overconsumption of digital information, the fact that information engages the brain’s reward system is a necessary condition for the addiction cycle. “The way our brains respond to the anticipation of a pleasurable reward is an important reason why people are susceptible to clickbait,” he says. “Just like junk food, this might be a situation where previously adaptive mechanisms get exploited now that we have unprecedented access to novel curiosities.” [Berkeley Haas, 2019]
For the average person, their consumption habits aren’t deliberate, their digital environment is on default, and there are a thousand things competing for their attention. Prolific creators, on the other hand, have gone out of their way to eliminate the competition for their attention and made deep work a big priority in their life. It takes continuous attention and intense focus to perform at an elite level. Without the ability to focus on something demanding for an extended period, you’re at a disadvantage. Your attention is worth a fortune. The founders of the major social networks, what author Tim Wu calls the “attention merchants”, have become billionaires by getting you addicted to their services and selling your attention to advertisers. It’s worth asking if the amount of your attention you’re spending on these digital things is getting you what you want. If you’re convinced that you should be spending your attention on more worthwhile pursuits, it’s not enough to implement a bunch of hacks because vague resolutions are not sufficient to tame the ability of new technologies to invade your cognitive landscape- the addictiveness of their design and strength of the cultural pressures supporting them are too strong for an ad hoc approach to succeed. In other words, all the solutions we use to deal with distractions are band-aids on bullet wounds. This is why the most effective way to become a digital minimalist is to just quit. Shallow work like checking email, updating your status or uploading pictures feels productive, but it’s not. Run them through this framework: 1 – Is this vital? 2 – Does this matter? 3 – What would happen if I didn’t do it? These things usually aren’t vital, don’t matter, and nothing would happen if you didn’t do them. I haven’t uploaded a picture to Instagram in weeks. Guess what? Nobody cared. [Srinivas Rao, 2019]
The quality of life you want for yourself ultimately comes down to how you spend your time and what you give your attention to. Time is the most valuable asset you have. It’s a non-renewable resource you can never get back. At my very first internship at a startup, the CFO asked me, “Why do you want to make a lot of money?” As a 20-year-old, I rattled off the list of luxuries I was imagining (Ferraris, McMansions, jets, etc). He said, “You’re wrong. What money buys is time. Time is what’s really valuable.”  Yet people wait to start a business, a project or pursue a dream as if they have all the time in the world. They waste time doing things they hate or suck at doing. They think there’s some mythical date in the future when the conditions will be perfect; the stars will align;, and they’ll have enough money in the bank or time to spend on their art. But the only thing that changes when you wait is that time passes. In order to use your life-fixed time effectively, you need to pay Attention. It determines the state of our lives, and is under constant assault from social media, inboxes, text messages, pings, pops and buzzes. Think of your attention as credit that you have every day after waking up and when you spend it on sources of distraction, you don’t have it anymore to yours other more meaningful pursuits. If you want to improve your attention span, start by reducing the competition for it. If it’s not relevant to the task at hand, remove it from your environment. Drown out the sound with some noise cancellation headphones. And design an environment that’s free of distractions. [Srinivas Rao, 2019]

Harrison Bergeron

“Harrison Bergeron” is a dystopian science-fiction short story by American writer Kurt Vonnegut, first published in October 1961. In the year 2081, the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution dictate that all Americans are fully equal and not allowed to be smarter, better-looking or more physically able than anyone else. The Handicapper General’s agents enforce the equality laws, forcing citizens to wear “handicaps”: masks for those who are too beautiful, loud radios that disrupt thoughts inside the ears of intelligent people and heavy weights for the strong or athletic.

White Privilege

The former head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Lord Macdonald, told BBC there was “a major problem in particular communities” of men viewing young White girls as trash and available for sex. The problem must be recognised “for what it is, which is profoundly racist crime,” he added. Twenty young women had given evidence covering a period from 2011 to 2014. A total of 17 men and one woman have now been convicted of, or have admitted, charges including rape, supplying drugs and inciting prostitution. Those prosecuted were from the Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish communities and mainly British-born, with most living in the West End of Newcastle. [Jon Sharman (2017), The Independent]
White children from poor or working-class backgrounds are falling behind their peers from other ethnic groups in educational achievement, and they face the worst prospects for economic advancement, experts told UK lawmakers. Efforts to raise educational standards tend to be aimed at minority students, dimming prospects for white children to catch up, according to reports sent to a parliamentary committee that is investigating issues faced by disadvantaged groups. The struggles of poor white children tend to be neglected because they are seen as “unfashionable” and “not worthy” of helping, the UK Daily Mail quoted Oxford University Professor Peter Edwards as saying. Raising such concerns is “taboo” in academia, he said. White children whose families are poor enough for them to receive free school meals are underperforming their peers academically and have only a one-in-10 chance of attending university, according to the UK’s Center for Education and Youth. By comparison, in the same low-income group, three in 10 children of Black Caribbean ethnic backgrounds and five in 10 of Bangladeshi ethnicity make it to college. Nearly seven in 10 ethnic Chinese children who receive free school meals attend university. Despite the plight of white students, government and private education programs target large cities with ethnically diverse populations and, in the case of some charities, require that beneficiaries be non-white. Working-class white boys, in particular, are at the bottom of the heap when it comes to educational assistance, Edwards told the Daily Mail. [RT, 2020]

Maior Que Portugal

Uma coisa positiva em torno do futebol é que no momento em que se baixaram as bandeiras todas, as pessoas deixaram de pertencer aos partidos, aos sindicatos, às igrejas, o futebol é o último reduto de pertença identitária. Além que é também um espaço de alguma irracionalidade num contexto em que quase tudo na nossa vida se foi racionalizando excessivamente e é por isso que o futebol apaixona e é importante. [O Futebol, segundo Pedro Adão e Silva., no programa Bloco Central, rádio TSF]

Nacionalismo Étnico Português

Sara Tavares em 2009, numa entrevista dada ao Correio da Manhã que entretanto deixou de estar disponível na internet, referiu que “tenho muito orgulho em ser lisboeta mas faço parte desse enorme grupo que são os pretogueses“. E acrescentou: “Já nasci em Portugal. Os meus pais é que são imigrantes mas eu não renego as minhas raízes. Tanto assim é que aos 15 anos fiz questão de aprender crioulo.”
Entretanto em 2019, Joacine Katar Moreira ganhou um mandato como deputada pelo círculo de Lisboa para entrar no parlamento de Portugal nas eleições legislativas. A deputada eleita pelo Livre festejou o seu feito junto à bandeira da Guiné-Bissau, sua terra natal, e sem nenhuma de Portugal, a sua terra de acolhimento, visível por perto. Como Alberto Gonçalves refere, “o êxito dela fez-se sobre critérios totalmente alheios aos que deviam influenciar a escolha dos deputados. E foi a própria Joacine a submeter esses critérios à avaliação do público, activa ou passivamente. Joacine declarou que as legislativas iriam medir a capacidade do eleitorado em aceitar uma mulher negra na Assembleia da República. Nos tempos que correm, o estatuto de vítima, real ou imaginária, é uma virtude. É uma virtude que não esclarece coisa nenhuma acerca do que Joacine pensa e, principalmente, do programa que defenderá na Assembleia.”
Na verdade, não restam muitas dúvidas quanto ao que Joacine Moreira irá defender na Assembleia. Como podemos deduzir das palavras de Pedro Barros Ferreira, candidato do CDS por Lisboa, ao descrever a sua participação num debate sob o tema Imigração. “Como parece convir nestas situações, retirando o CDS e o PSD, os representantes dos demais partidos eram mulheres negras (PS, Livre e Bloco), um imigrante (CDU) e um ex-emigrante (PAN). Quando se concluiu a primeira ronda de questões, constatou-se que o maior problema é o mau funcionamento das instituições, nomeadamente o SEF. Em resposta, disse que o problema do mau serviço é transversal na sociedade portuguesa, seja–se imigrante, ou não. Por incrível que possa parecer, começaram aqui os ataques ao CDS, e à minha pessoa. Porquê? Porque não referi a “verdadeira razão”, subjacente aos problemas: a raça.
“A candidata do Livre, Joacine Moreira, começou por se apresentar como: gaga, negra e mulher. Tal, na minha opinião, é criticável e serve para esconder uma postura intelectual altamente demagógica, sectária e eivada de ódio racial. Começou por afirmar que não se podem comparar as falhas nos serviços, porque existe um tratamento diferente para quem é de cor. Continuou dizendo peremptoriamente que os portugueses são racistas (porque ainda não nos libertámos do colonialismo) e que as leis portuguesas são racistas.” Convém referir que o Livre, partido criado por Rui Tavares, um homem Branco, em 2014, apresenta desde sempre uma linha ideológica de repressão contra os povos Brancos, mais concretamente, o povo Branco português. Num artigo de opinião de Janeiro de 2019 publicado no jornal Público, sempre apoiante dos movimentos étnicos Negros e contra o que nomeia como “branquitude”, Rui Tavares refere que “a nostalgia política de hoje é também uma nostalgia por esse tempo em que, como dizia Martin Luther King, o racismo explicava ao homem branco que, por muito complicada que fosse a sua vida, ele era hierarquicamente superior, porque era homem, e era branco. Boa parte das admoestações para que não defendamos tanto os refugiados ou os migrantes porque a classe trabalhadora branca não gosta e pode mudar de voto é o sucedâneo desse racismo em forma de análise política.” Rui Tavares é claro nesta análise: os povos Brancos não têm direito a reivindicações culturais, sociais e territoriais, pelo contrário, têm de aceitar a sua colonização territorial e civilizacional, utilizando o racismo histórico contra o Negro como chantagem psicológica.
Já em 2017, num artigo de opinião também publicado no Público, Joacine Katar Moreira abria o jogo e declarava o Branco como o inimigo: “O racismo implica uma expressão colectiva marcada pela história, pelo poder e pelo epistemicídio africano, o que faz com que mesmo quando é protagonizado por um só indivíduo, este fá-lo com base num contexto que sustenta e demarca historicamente o seu comportamento. Um negro pode discriminar e ser preconceituoso com um branco, mas não pode ser racista com ele, porque este último não tem estruturas (históricas, politicas, económicas e sociais) que o oprimam com base no seu fenótipo.” É a desumanização do Branco e a retirada de qualquer direito a reivindicações étnicas: se o Branco é discriminado é porque assim tem de ser, justificável do ponto de vista histórico e moral. Ao Branco apenas resta aceitar a discriminação que seja alvo por parte das instituições “politicas, económicas e sociais.” A implementação do racismo institucional contra o Branco é assim legitimado e desejado pelo nacionalismo étnico Africano, tal como na África do Sul do Apartheid o foi contra os Negros ou na Alemanha Nazi foi contra os Judeus.
Francisca Van Dunem é ministra da Justiça de Portugal desde 2015, uma posição de imenso poder institucional que já ocupa há 5 anos. No início de 2020, despiu as vestes de ministra da Justiça e falou de si na na Conferência Interseccional Encarceramento e Sociedade em Coimbra: “Cada um tem a sua fonte de aprendizagem e a minha radica num quotidiano de 64 anos, transportando duas qualidades que são intrínseca e irrevogavelmente minhas: sou negra. Sou mulher.” E acrescentou, “a questão do convívio interracial e interétnico em Portugal assume hoje uma dimensão crítica. Já não chega proclamar a inexistência de problemas raciais quando eles tendem para a radicalização. É, por isso, fundamental identificar políticas justas e inclusivas, que tenham em consideração a heterogeneidade dos grupos afetados pelas diferentes formas de discriminação. Essa é a grande reparação que devemos exigir da história.” Van Dunem assume a sua identidade Negra, mais uma manifestação de nacionalismo étnico Negro em Portugal. Poderemos assumir que as diferentes etnias em Portugal são representadas por uma mulher que se identifica com a sua etnia? E que defende uma justiça baseada na etnia de cada um, como forma de “reparação”? Mas interessantemente, a mesma Francisca Van Dunem, em Junho de 2020, defendeu a fixação de um “limite temporal” para a atribuição da nacionalidade portuguesa aos descendentes dos judeus sefarditas porque “não é sustentável uma reparação histórica eterna”. E o “limite poderia ser os dez anos da entrada em vigor da lei” que permitiu a reparação histórica, ou seja, 2025, admitiu Van Dunem, que também usou o argumento contra a “mercantilização” que é feita em vários países com a nacionalidade portuguesa, como Israel, dado que dá acesso a um passaporte europeu que não exige visto para os Estados Unidos. Em nome de uma “reabilitação ou reparação histórica”, o parlamento português aprovou, por unanimidade, em 2015 uma que concedia a nacionalidade portuguesa aos descendentes dos judeus expulsos da Península Ibérica pelo rei D. Manuel I, no século XV. Podemos especular que esta preocupação de Van Dunem poderá ser porque está a dar-se a nacionalidade portuguesa a outras etnias que não a sua, a Negra, e assim o seu projeto de “reparação da história” fica mais dificil devido à falta de maioria demográfica negra nas próximas décadas.
O significado de Joacine Katar Moreira, e Van Dunem, é, mais que individual, simbólico: é a chegada do Nacionalismo Étnico Negro ao Poder. O mesmo não é novo, é algo que existe em Portugal desde da chegada das primeiras comunidades Africanas em massa ao território após o 25 de Abril de 1974. É um pulsar normal de qualquer etnia, em qualquer parte do mundo. É preocupante para a etnia Branca em Portugal uma vez que serão os alvos do racismo deste nacionalismo, primeiro via quotas étnicas na Educação e Funcionalismo Público, de modo a os afastar da economia, educação, cultura e, por fim, da vida social. Os Brancos Portugueses, e Europeus em geral, desistiram da sua consciência étnica e entram nesta guerra cultural muito mal preparados, sem instituições ou grupos políticos e cívicos com consciência étnica Branca, de defesa e protecção da etnia contra movimentos étnicos nacionalistas contrários e das próprias instituições do Estado e sociedade civil.

Maiores e Misteriosos

Ah, os paquetes, os navios-carvoeiros, os navios de vela!
Vão rareando — ai de mim! — os navios de vela nos mares!
E eu, que amo a civilização moderna, eu que beijo com a alma as máquinas,
Eu o engenheiro, eu o civilizado, eu o educado no estrangeiro,
Gostaria de ter outra vez ao pé da minha vista só veleiros e barcos de madeira,
De não saber doutra vida marítima que a antiga vida dos mares!
Porque os mares antigos são a Distância Absoluta,
O Puro Longe, liberto do peso do Actual…
E ah, como aqui tudo me lembra essa vida melhor,
Esses mares, maiores, porque se navegava mais devagar.
Esses mares, misteriosos, porque se sabia menos deles.

ODE MARÍTIMA, Álvaro de Campos, Fernando Pessoa

The Start Trek Fantasy

Star Trek very much embodied what liberal American white males of the 1980s and 1990s thought the future would (or should) look like: secular, sexually liberated, humanistic, meritocratic, equitable, and technological. In this world, religion plays practically no role in public life. Problems are solved with diplomacy instead of violence. Money doesn’t exist, so there is no capitalism, greed, or want. People spend their lives bettering humanity and doing other such noble things like negotiating peace with aliens or exploring the universe in one of Starfleet’s advanced starships. Men do most of the work; they advance through meritocracy; and there is something akin to a fraternal culture, irrespective of the prevailing progressive ideology.
In the diverse world of Star Trek, the white writers imagined meritocracy would ensure whites like themselves would still have a position at the top of society despite soon becoming a minority in real life America. You’ll notice progressive humans are at the center of the Federation in Star Trek despite being a small minority in that fictional universe as well. That’s by design, conscious or not. You can tell the creators desperately wanted to believe this sweet little lie about diverse societies. I’m sure they imagined their tolerance would be reciprocated when they were on the receiving end; we now know that’s not true. Remember, this was the generation that famously cheered President Bill Clinton’s college commencement speech where he lauded the idea of America soon becoming majority minority. The primarily white crowd roared in approval. In this imagined future, white liberals would still get to feel morally superior to contemporary white conservatives, just as they often strive to in today’s world. This is accomplished through various means – cooperation with hostile aliens (demonstrating philosophical supremacy, superiority of intellect and temperament), bravery, tolerance of differences in others, multiculturalism (the show almost never celebrates an earth holiday like Christmas but often supports alien cultures, including breaking Starfleet’s rules of dress for aliens), standing up to corrupt superiors (usually white conservative caricatures).
Star Trek was very much a pre-Millennial liberal morality play whereby inspired characters (mostly white) would often stand up to authority figures (mostly white) in order to promote a general moral code among fellow whites. Basically, it was what white male liberals of the time hoped the future would be. “Threatening” minority characters would act safe and white, technology would trump superstition, and reason would prevail over emotionalism. The future would be a paradise where all problems had been solved and white men would still have a place at the table they created – it being governed by the same rules they originally put into place. But as America’s demographics have changed, so too has the ethos of the Star Trek franchise. –

Rome, the Civilisation State

In Beijing, we are making History. In Venice, they are selling history. Professor Zhao
A spectre is haunting the liberal West: the rise of the civilisation-state. As America’s political power wanes and its moral authority collapses, the rising challengers of Eurasia have adopted the model of the civilisation-state to distinguish themselves from a paralysed liberal order. Adrian Pabst observes that “in China and Russia the ruling classes reject Western liberalism. They define their countries as distinctive civilisations with their own unique cultural values and political institutions.” From China to India, Russia to Turkey, the great and middling powers of Eurasia are drawing ideological succour from empires which they claim descent, remoulding their non-democratic, statist political systems as a source of strength rather than weakness, and upturning the liberal-democratic triumphalism of the late 20th century. The Chinese political theorist Zhang Weiwei observed with pride that “China is now the only country in the world which has amalgamated the world’s longest continuous civilization with a huge modern state… Being the world’s longest continuous civilization has allowed China’s traditions to evolve, develop and adapt in virtually all branches of human knowledge and practices, such as political governance, economics, education, art, music, literature, architecture, military, sports, food and medicine. The original, continuous and endogenous nature of these traditions is indeed rare and unique in the world.” Unlike the ever-changing West, constantly searching after progress and reordering its societies to suit the intellectual fashions of the moment, Weiwei observes that “China draws on its ancient traditions and wisdoms.” It is in these hallowed traditions, of a centralised state with a 4000-year history, of an efficient bureaucratic class adhering to Confucian values, and of an emphasis on stability and social harmony over liberty, that Chinese theorists credit their civilisation-state’s rise, now “seemingly unstoppable and irreversible”. Surveying a West in decline and a Middle East mired in bloody chaos, Weiwei remarks with cool detachment that “if the ancient Roman empire had not disintegrated and been able to accomplish the transformation into a modern state, then today’s Europe could also be a medium-sized civilisational state; if the Islamic world today made up of dozens of countries could become unified under one modern governing regime, it could also be a civilisational state with more than a billion people, but the chance for all these scenarios has long gone.”
Yet the appeal of the civilisation-state model is not limited to China. Under Putin, the other great Eurasian empire, Russia, has publicly abandoned the Europe-focused liberalising projects of the 1990s — a period of dramatic economic and societal collapse driven by adherence to the policies of Western liberal theorists — for its own cultural sonderweg or special path of a uniquely Russian civilisation centred on an all-powerful state. In a 2013 address to the Valdai Club, Putin remarked that Russia “has always evolved as a state‑civilisation, reinforced by the Russian people, Russian language, Russian culture, Russian Orthodox Church and the country’s other traditional religions. It is precisely the state‑civilisation model that has shaped our state polity.”
This unresolved tension between East and West, Europe and Asia defines the political stance of Byzantium’s other successor state and Nato’s current problem child, Turkey. Like China, a great premodern empire eclipsed by the rise of the West to global dominance, Turkey under Erdogan now cloaks its revanchist desires in the sumptuous mantle of the Ottoman past. Trapped in the post-historical dreams of liberalism, many Western observers of Erdogan’s growing aggression had missed these symbolic cues, or dismissed them as empty rhetoric, a luxury not available to Turkey’s former subject peoples in the Balkans. When, in March, Turkey attempted to force Greece’s borders open with thousands of migrants assembled from the slums of Istanbul, the Bayraktar drone that hovered above the contested border fence bore the callsign 1453, the date of the fall of Constantinople, just as the drill-ships that constantly threaten to violate Greek and Cypriot sovereignty bear the names of the Ottoman admirals and corsairs who ravaged the coasts of Greece and Europe. In a speech at the same time as the Turkish navy threatened Greece with war, the interior minister Suleyman Soylu outlined Turkey’s intent: a civilisational vision of the new world order: “On this path,” he told the assembled audience of military dignitaries, “we’ll design by embracing the entire world with our civilisation, holding the West and East with one hand, the North and South in the other, the Middle East and the Balkans in one hand, the Caucasus and Europe in the other.”
In an overlooked speech last year to a gathering of France’s ambassadors, Macron mused that China, Russia and India were not merely economic rivals but “genuine civilisation states… which have not just disrupted our international order, assumed a key role in the economic order, but have also very forcefully reshaped the political order and the political thinking that goes with it, with a great deal more inspiration than we have.” Macron observed that “they have a lot more political inspiration than Europeans today. They take a logical approach to the world, they have a genuine philosophy, a resourcefulness that we have to a certain extent lost.” Warning his audience that “we know that civilisations are disappearing; countries as well. Europe will disappear.” The West, and Europe, struggle to define their own very natures, and place greater intellectual emphasis on deconstructing it than on defending it: an urge that is, like the impetus to deny the existence of civilisations as bounded entities, itself ironically a unique marker of our own civilisation. As Portugal’s former foreign minister Bruno Macaes observed in a perceptive recent essay, it is precisely the global aspirations of liberalism that have severed the West, and Europe particularly, from its own cultural roots. “Western societies have sacrificed their specific cultures for the sake of a universal project,” Macaes notes. “One can no longer find the old tapestry of traditions and customs or a vision of the good life in these societies.” Our naive faith that liberalism, derived from the political and cultural traditions of Northern Europe, would conquer the world has now been shattered for good. Instead, it is the defiantly non-liberal civilisation-states of Eurasia that threaten to swallow us whole. Where then, does that leave Europe, and what are we to do with liberalism? “Now that we have sacrificed our own cultural traditions to create a universal framework for the whole planet,” Macaes asks, “are we now supposed to be the only ones to adopt it?”