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The size of the (reported) world, a matter of scale & compassion

Monday, February 5th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — sadly but explicably unable to fall in love with the world population ]
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I’ve been thinking about the appropriate scale of the world as it appears in different styles of reporting. The issue here is what happens when you zoom down from the abstract, group, to the individual, personal level.


Ava Olsen, perceived at the appropriate scale at which to view the world as a whole

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My tweet:

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My tweet explained — I hope!

A lot of journos take the wide-angle or “30,000 feet” view, dealing with a group or preferably larger community’s situation, eg “The Middle East after ISIS“, it's abstract and much smaller than the world – when you focus on one 7 yer old (eg Ava Olsen) you capture the actual size of the world, albeit only a tiny fraction of it — but with the appropriate level of compassionate response.

This is important becaus at full size, ie at the individual level, your writings elicit the appropriate compassionate response, which is key to our humanity, while at the more abstract and removed (“30,000 feet”) scale, both Ava herself and the appropriate compassion go missing.

And we desperately need the full appropriate compassion to be elicited, for the individual but for the individual at the group level!

I suspect, FWIW, that this is also, essentially, a quantity vs quality issue.

So 100 to 1 abstract, high level reporting will show the world, but garner only 1% of the appropriate compassion in readers (I know, it’ll do better than that, but only by a little), whereas 100 to 1 personal level reporting will garner the full compassionate impact — even with only 10% of the reportage, still the equivalent of 10 times the reportage at the abstract level — which then needs to be multiplied up to the abstract level.

image borrowed from one of a few dozen sites, then altered

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So we need a preponderance of individual focus, but also an individual to group zoom — even when the group is humanity as a whole.

The best news: We can improve our capacity for compassion

QED

What’s the distance between inside, and within — and politics?

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — eerie distances between thus and so, this and that — and Trump, Wolff ]
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Speaking practically: switching between the delicate details of the North Korean situation, and those of the Iranian situation, each of which involves a potential nuclear adversary and some deterrent balance, and each of which contains the other as a subset — what’s the mental distance between those two mindsets? How fast can a sharp mind switch betweeen them. Or, for that matter, between foreign affairs and domestic politics? Or between dealing with House and Senate? Or between treating with Democrat and Republican?

Is there a zoom at work here, between these difficult distances?

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I’d been wondering recently about some mental distances that illustrate the difference betweeen qualitative and quantitative realms, subjective and objective realities..

I’ve been asking myself, what’s the distance between inside and within, between x-ray and insight, or sky and heaven?


Wm Blake, Newton (left); Angel (right).

And what scale should we use to peer into such questions? — the compass Blake’s Newton uses to parcel out earth is purely terrestrial, purely rational, and Blake’s own blazing angels would have no place in it. Should we perhaps use Taleb‘s Wittgenstein‘s ruler?

Unless you have confidence in the ruler’s reliability, if you use a ruler to measure a table you may also be using the table to measure the ruler.

Here, the distance between the measurer and the measured is itself in flux.

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Back to politics.

How do those whose entire lives have been concerned with the largely substantial, ascertainable or verifiable facts of focus groups, polls, votes, election results, majorities, minorities, policies and so forth — with no time for Rilke‘s “angels’ hierarchies” — function when weighing the “mental stability” or “very stable genius” of a President with that same President’s policy with regard to — gasp — Kim Jong-Un?

Who has his own issues of “very stable genius” or “mental stability”?

And who doesn’t even have a semi-reliable chronicler like Wolff to illuminate the swathe he is cutting through ideology, dogma, doctrine, advisors, generals, and.. Juche?

How many minds do we have among the generals, among the punditry, who can roam at all scales of the relevant realms, psychological and political, blatant and nuanced, knowable and profoundly unknown?

And you know something’s happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

Monday, August 28th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — gulf water temperatures 2° above average fuel winds, flooding in TX ]

Furthermore,

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These frank admissions that we have gone beyond the known signal a qualitative shift in the situation.

You don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

It’s altogether a hard rain falling..

Quant and qualit in regards to “al wala’ wal bara'”

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — score one for quantitative, links-based analysis ]
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It’s not so surprising that JM Berger‘s exploration of concepts in IS propaganda notes first that the title of al-Mujahir‘s speech which he will be digging into in greater detail — “Be Patient, For Indeed the Promise of God is Truth” — is a Quranic reference, then turns to the same root concepts — first tawhid, and then al wala’ wal bara’

The first is tawhid, or monotheism, a belief in the indivisible oneness of God, which can be extrapolated into a “rejection of legal, class, social, political, racial, national, territorial, genetic, and economic distinctions” and general political unity among Muslims. Importantly, this concept provides a divine mandate linking the Eligible InGroup to the Extremist In-Group.

The second concept is wala and bara (loyalty and enmity), which functions “as a tool of ‘in-group’ control”, which is broadly interpreted by jihadists to mean that Muslims are required to stand together loyally (wala) and fight outsider and outside influences (bara), across spiritual, emotional and physical dimensions.

— that Joas Wagemaker and others have found cento jihadist thought:

Notably, the concept of al-wala’wal-bara’ was taken a step further by a Hanbali scholar, Hamd ibn ‘Ali ibn ‘Atiq (d. 1883), who, as Joas Wagemakers perceptively observed, connected al-wala’ wal-bara’ with the concept that can be seen as the very basis of Islam, the unity of God (tawhid). In other words, a Muslim cannot profess his belief in tawhid, and by extension Islam, if he does not demonstrate his enmity toward non-Muslims. Moreover, ibn ‘Atiq used Qur’anic verses, in particular Surat 60:4, to uphold the necessity of expressing bara’. The trend that ‘Atiq established by binding al-wala’ wal-bara’ to the foundation of Islam continued into the twentieth century, where it was taken up in Saudi Arabia by religious scholars who supported or opposed the Saudi rulers.

Robert Rabil, Salafism in Lebanon: From Apoliticism to Transnational Jihadism

Wagemakers ties this conjunction of tawhid with al-wala’ wal-bara’ to Juhayman al-‘Utaybi, and thence back to al-Faraj and forward again to al-Maqdisi. Al-‘Utaybi’s Mahdist occupation of the Grand Mosque in Mecca on the first day of the current Islamic century should be viewed as the founding moment for the movement of Salafist jihad leading directly to ISIS’ proclamation of the caliphate.

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It is when the quantitative, “linkage-based” conceptual analysis kicks in —

— that the power of the digital approach makes itself clear.

Here we have dozens of phrases linked to beliefs, traits, and practices, which are susceptible of manipulation for counter-messaging — in a way which picks on the weak points in existing jihadist propaganda. This JM achieves by comparing al-Mujahir’s recent speech with al Adnani‘s 2011 “The Islamic State Will Remain Safe”.

In al-Adnani, grandiose predictions; in al-Mujahir, more realistic appraisal, six years later. In the gap, potential for illustrating IS’ failure to live up to its promises over that six year period.

JM’s approach, utilizing the prior work of his ICCT colleagues Haroro Ingram, gets into the weeds, into the detail, in a way that theologically-minded scholars have not.

For the Quant side, a distinct win.

Stunning Dillard solar ratio

Monday, August 14th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — mathematics and metaphor, a ratio of the irrational ]
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A total solar eclipse in Svalbard, Longyearbyen, Norway, on March 20, 2015 — Jon Olav Nesvold

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From Annie Dillard’s Classic Essay: ‘Total Eclipse’:

Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him.

Annie Dillard is one of our great stylists, so it’s perhaps not surprising she came up with this jaw-dropping piece of mathematics, or should I call it logic? It’s a ratio, anyhow:

Seeing a partial eclipse : seeing a total eclipse :: kissing a man : marrying him

By common consent, ratios are usually applied to quantifiables — but there’s really no quantifying seeing, kissing, or marrying.

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I don’t think I’ll be able to make the eclipse, but if any of you can, please do. No less an authority than Annie Dillard — she wrote Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek and Holy the Firm — strongly advises it.


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