Dictatorial and Democratic Systems have divergent degrees of Sociocultural Homeostasis

January 23rd, 2012 → 1:15 pm @

Life is inherently a very dynamic process and, therefore, a constant balancing act at the individual, small group and societal/country level. Consequently, for a country to prosper its systems and practices need to have the flexible capacity not only to support its overall national goals but also the individual needs of its people. It’s akin to the biological concept of homeostasis.

The term homeostasis is generally understood to signify the tendency of a biological entity to maintain its internal stability (such as body temperature and blood pressure, etc.), based on the coordinated responses of its components, to any situation or stimulus tending to disturb its normal condition or function. For higher level animals, such as humans, this also includes maintaining a state of psychological equilibrium attained when a tension or a drive has been reduced or satisfied.

Homeostasis, however, is a much more complex process than the definition above might suggest and involves not only every component of our physiological and psychological makeup but also extends beyond our bodies.  Therefore, from a country perspective we need to be cognizant of the fact that every individual in a given society is constantly instinctively seeking to maintain his/her homeostasis far beyond purely singular needs.

Additionally, in order to help us navigate our immediate environment more easily, the expanded capacity of the human brain has permitted us to develop all sorts of unique cultures. Essentially, cultures allow us to take care of our homeostatic requirements more broadly through the advancement of economic, political and medical systems. This is meant to help bring about homeostatic equilibrium not only at the individual but also at the societal levels. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio refers to this general progression as “sociocultural homeostasis.”

Also, we need to keep in mind that all our mental maps have values and feelings attached to them. Thus, how we react to our mental maps and images (real or imagined) depends more on the environmental context that we find ourselves in rather than by our “purely rational analysis” of a given situation.

Further, what has become increasingly evident by the latest research in neuroscience is that biological entities, including humans, cannot and should not be fully controlled. They are emergent and constantly evolving self-organizing systems. In fact, there is evidence now that attempts to control people stifle innovation and productivity.

Hence, for a country to fully prosper its people need to be immersed in flexible biophysically and socially supportive environments. Put another way, all members of a society should benefit “equitably” (not to be confused with equally) by being engaged in a well-balanced sociocultural homeostatic system that is maximally supportive of their life processes.

Obviously, Hitler and Stalin cared little to nothing about the welfare of individual members of their respective empires. Hence, the majority of people suffered immensely under their dictatorships because they were immersed in a sociocultural homeostatic environment that was completely out of whack.

Today there are still plenty of regimes, most notably North Korea, who function in a similar manner as did the Soviet Union and the Third Reich. So, my basic question is, “How well is the United States progressing from a sociocultural homeostatic perspective?” I suggest, that all of us need to periodically sit back and ask this question of ourselves if this country is to remain the most democratic and prosperous country on this planet.

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NATO Secretary General praises Estonia’s commitment to Smart Defence

January 23rd, 2012 → 12:38 pm @

19 Jan. 2012 – 20 Jan. 2012

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Estonia on 19-20 January 2012 and met with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet. The Secretary General also visited the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn and met with Minister of Defence Mart Laar.

During the visit, the Secretary General delivered a speech at the University of Talinn in which he praised Estonia’s approach in building defence while facing an economic crisis.

Mr Rasmussen stressed that maintaining an adequate level of defence speding remains essential for to show Allies stay serious about security in an age of austerity and uncertainty. That is why, he said, “I particularly value the Estonian government’s decision to increase its defence spending to 2 percent of GDP this year. This is a significant achievement, and a most welcome commitment. And it sets an excellent example.”

The Secretary General stressed that Estonia and its Baltic neighbours are taking innovative approaches and making valuable contributions to NATO.“You used the economic crisis as an opportunity to implement substantial defence reforms. By streamlining your military structures and making them more efficient, you were able to make substantial savings”, the Secretary General said. “You have used these savings to invest in higher priorities – in operational needs and in more useable capabilities. And that is one important lesson for the Alliance more widely.”

During the visit, the Secretary General also discussed preparations for the Alliance’s upcoming summit meeting in Chicago and thanked President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and his government for Estonia’s valuable contributions to the Alliance’s operations. One of the main issues at the Chicago summit will be the concept of Smart Defence, through which Allies increase the effectiveness of their defence spending by a greater emphasis on prioritisation, specialisation and cooperation.”The Baltic Allies show that if nations cannot spend more, they can spend better,” the Secretary General said, identifying Smart Defence as a future “guiding principle for our Alliance.”

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Estonian President Toomas Ilves’ New Year’s Message

January 18th, 2012 → 4:19 pm @

People of Estonia,

Tonight, at this hour – when one year becomes the next; when one thing fades as another takes form – it is fitting to recognise that now, in our 20th year of new freedom, we have truly come of age. First and foremost, this is related to what is around us.

Now we must become a part of a world that has come of age, too. We must do so wisely, striking a balance; with a respect for our achievements, and our worth. Let us remember that our freedom – that whitest of white ships we awaited for a full 700 and then another 50 years – is the freedom to go, and to go freely, wherever we wish.

We bear no guilt for the fact that we are free. We must not bow to the belief, to the bitterness of the slave mentality, that freedom has left us impoverished. If we are free, we are free to come and go as we please.

When you come of age, you realise that freedom is something you must also learn to cope with. And this knowledge is expressed in the conviction that we have truly coped better with something than we might otherwise have done.

But is that really the case? It can’t be! I don’t believe it! We laugh at our own; we pay good money to others to impart their ‘wisdom’. And we are wounded by every arrow of criticism that is fired at us – even those that are dipped in the poison of jealousy.

With seven hundred years of history on our backs – a burden we shoulder for no real reason – we doubt ourselves, as if expecting to be sent out into the fields to toil, with the meagre livelihood and ever-present threat of ‘whipping boy’ status such serfdom entails.

We are not free because of the clemency of others: we are free because we want to be. That is why we no longer need to erase the sins of the present with the myths of the past. And that is why those who put their fatherland up for sale today, one piece at a time, should not flaunt the fight for freedom of yesterday.

Fellow countrymen,

We go into this winter better prepared than in many other years. We must use that strength to cast aside all that is false. We must say to the liars and to the grifters: there is no place for you here.

We must use that strength to hold on to all that is right and constant – to our families; to our nation; to honesty, and to honour.

And we must realise that so far we have coped well. Not those who govern us, above all: we ourselves, since it was we who elected them.

This gives us the moral right to denounce those to whom we have entrusted the preservation of our values but who have come to view this as their own personal currency; all the more so when they have the conceit to peddle our shared values for their own gain. It is the role of the state to ensure, after all, that the value we accumulate in our lives is upheld and fostered.

Friends,

How should we approach the new and the unknown in a situation where we have no idea whether Europe, coveted by us for so long, will bring us salvation or vexation?

In my view we should rely on common sense with the equanimity that maturity brings, and on our experience as a nation. We should put away our childish things. We must stop bemoaning that the world does not understand us. We must stop excusing our mistakes with claims that we were not the only ones to make them. And we must understand that while no profession taints a person by default, certain professions must remain untainted.

It is within our own power to make our lives better, since we stand on solid ground. We should all, each of us, strive for this, starting with the simplest things:

Never do harm to others.
Never – never – drink and drive.
Anyone who uses a false name, or no name at all, to vilify others, is a reprobate.
Animosity and jealous hurt us, as a country and a nation, because we are all now free to choose a life where there is no hatred.
Trust empowers you to work for the good of the country – not for your own benefit.

People of Estonia,

The candles on the trees will soon go out and the sparks from the fireworks will soon fade in the sky, but the stars will remain – as will the light in our eyes, and in the eyes of those we love. I know of things that change, and I believe in things that will remain with me for the rest of my life. Let us recognise the beautiful moments within ourselves, and around us. We should value their importance, and hold them in our memories.

Love those who are important to you and who are dear to you. Look after one another – all of us!

Happy new year. Long live Estonia!

12.31.2011
www.president.ee

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Human Nature vs. Tyranny

January 11th, 2012 → 9:17 pm @

After you read Chapter 1, Peaceful Mountain, I hope you will begin to get a sense why autocratic systems eventually collapse. Such structures fail because they function counter to human nature which, by design, finds ways around life’s obstacles. It’s all about finding the best ways to survive in a reasonable fashion.

Hence, the key to successfully administering any social entity, including a country, is to fully grasp what can and can’t be controlled when it comes to people. Very simply, administrative structures can be managed or adjusted but not the people who live and function within those artificially constructed environments. Put another way, you can physically restrain people but you can’t do that to their minds.

The reason for that is straight forward.  People’s mindsets and relationships are emergent and thus can’t be managed. That is, they can be influenced but not controlled. Unfortunately, that subtlety as to what can and can’t be controlled in a society is still hard to grasp for most people running countries, especially tyrants.

Accordingly, for a country to prosper, its citizens need to be immersed in a flexible and supportive social environment. Why? Because we are not machines.  We are organic self-organizing entities from our DNA molecules to our interactions with other people. Also we are not born with a blank slate for a mind. Instead, we arrive with all the basic rudiments of our mental circuitry in place ready to act in response to our immediate environment. At the same time, we are able to learn from our experiences.

Thus, humans are equipped not only with instincts, but also with much broader innate drives or predisposed genetic tendencies. These genetic predispositions fall into two fundamental categories: a set of selfish drives (e.g. concern for control, rank, status, territory, possessions) and a set of unselfish drives (e.g. concern for attachments, affiliation, altruism, care giving, care receiving, morality and empathy).

People function best in a social context where both categories of drives can be expressed in a balanced manner. Consequently, an environment consisting of individuals who express a mix of moderate self-interest and outward-reaching altruism invariably outperforms all other social arrangements in the long-run.

So, how much have we learned from the past? I’m afraid very little as one looks around the world. That’s one of the main reasons I wrote Coming Home. Periodically, we need to sit back and contemplate where we have been and what direction our society needs to take to remain on a fair and humane track. We in the United States are no exception to the need for occasional serious reflections.

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History

November 30th, 2011 → 11:26 am @

History is a legacy of every family. Thus, it should be recorded as best as possible so that it can be passed on to the present and future generations. The main problem with family history is that someone has to take the time and effort to record it. That task is seldom easy. Work and other family matters take precedence leaving little time for anything else.

Much of Coming Home deals with a significant part of my extended family’s history. However, that was not my primary intent when I first took a stab at writing it almost 30 years ago. At that time Estonia was still occupied by Soviet troops and run by a very repressive Moscow lead communist government. In addition, Estonia and the other two former independent Baltic republics, Latvia and Lithuania, had been forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union. That meant they no longer were even considered to be separate countries as was not the case with the other occupied nations behind The Iron Curtain.

Therefore, my foremost goal was to bring as much world attention as possible to the plight of the Estonians and its Baltic neighbors. Considering that most people are not fond of reading history per se, I thought it best to use my extended family as a focal point to the narrative. I assumed by doing so it would make the book more interesting and palatable.

Having been quite naïve about the book publishing industry, I was taken completely by surprise what little chance, if any, I had as a “no name” author in having my work accepted for publication. As a result, the manuscript lay on the self for years before a close friend of mine offered to print it so that at least I could give it to our children and grandchildren as Christmas presents.

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