Many people write or speak to tell us what we should think. Some want to be believed because they are experts, or think they are. Some want to be believed because they claim to speak for us. Some have had revelations. Others want us to trust them because they communicate through prominent media outlets. Many tell us what we should think. I write to encourage my readers to think for themselves. I write to ask you to inquire. Question me. Have fun.

Comment of the Day
The Editorial Board should have no opinion

Jul 11, 2020

The WSJ Editorial Board expressed its opinion about the case of Michael Flynn. It does not matter what they said; in my book, the Editorial Board should have no opinion on any topic. Editorial boards’ job is not to lecture, but to facilitate views from individuals who can present valid arguments. The Editorial Board's job at the WSJ is to guarantee to me, a subscriber, that the different opinions presented are fact-checked. I pay a subscription for the WSJ because I do not have the time nor the means to fact-check whatever is written and posted on the internet. I do not pay for the subscription to be brainwashed by whatever the self-anointed authority of the Editorial Board believes is right. I can make my judgment based on the facts and their interpretation by other individuals.

More parenting is needed
Aug 01, 2019
Peter Gray in Psychology Today advises for less parenting. The problem is exactly the opposite: There is not enough parenting. In the past, when most of our ancestors lived in self-supporting households, often a farm, out of necessity, children were an integral part of whatever adults needed to do during their daily life, and they learned that way. Now, we do not need to do as much at home. Work is outside the home, food is brought in, heat is turned on and off, and mysteriously magical, colorful screens are the center of most activities. If we leave children free to explore what they find the most attractive, they will play video games. There might be some educational value in it, but one needs to learn much more. Hence, we need more effort in parenting, with parents doing more in the home than is otherwise required, and spending more time with children outside in order to introduce them to the real world. This realization hit home after I witnessed the surprise of a 7-year old seeing apples on my apple tree.
Less fight more work
Jul 30, 2017

The fight over Obamacare repeal is over, at least for now. The GOP can start to work on a new proposal that each of us can look at it, and then compare how my particular health care solution would play in it, as compared to Obamacare. In a television interview, HHS Secretary Tom Price said that Obamacare “may be working for Washington, it may be working for insurance companies, but it’s not working for patients.” Maybe it is time to consider patients’ involvement in the preparation of an Obamacare alternative? It could be that Obamacare repeal failed just because it has been prepared by Washington with consultation from insurance companies. Let us start with addressing 19 health care issues that politicians avoid talking about.

How to pay for the wall?
Apr 04, 2017

If you want to build the wall, pay for it with your own money. How much of your own money are you willing to donate? Trump received 62,979,879 votes. If each of Trump’s supporters voluntarily donates at least $1,000, which corresponds to about $42 per month for the next two years, and if we encourage those who are more affluent to double their donations, then Trump can have on hand about $100 billion, which may suffice for a substantial piece of the wall. Hence, all of you who are talking loudly about spending my money on building this wall, stay away from my wallet, but open your own wallet and send money to the “Build the Wall Fund.” Put your money where your mouth is.

What is wrong with Russia?
Dec 22, 2015

It appears that Russian leaders cannot free themselves from the medieval concept of regional influence, where weaker neighbors were subdued into becoming serf states. Is anyone capable of explaining to them that in these times of a global economy, any influence comes from economic strength? Russia, thanks to its size, natural resources and well-educated labor force, has everything that it takes to maintain a dominant position in the region, just by maintaining free trade with all its neighbors. It can do so without military interventions in Georgia and in Ukraine. Russia has everything that it takes to be a respected wealthier neighbor, to whom everyone in the region would turn for help when needed. Instead, it is a bully and a hooligan. It would take so little to change that. But it is so hard for Russia to do it. 

Closed mind for closed borders
Nov 19, 2015

Known to some as a libertarian, Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. speaks against open borders. His argument is that it is an infraction against private property. He misses the point that most people migrate just because Mr. Rockwell’s neighbors want them on their private property – for picking apples, washing the dishes or writing a computer code. Then, Mr. Rockwell wrongly laments that those foreigners invited by his neighbors violate his private property rights by loitering in the public spaces that he frequents. He wants the government to deny the rights of his neighbors to do on their private property whatever they wish, so he will not need to face immigrants in the public spaces. Mr. Rockwell left the train called “liberty” at the station called “xenophobia.”    

They do not know…
Sep 14, 2015

Mr. Trump says: “A lot of what I’m doing is by instinct.” I prefer that our President would make decisions based on systematic due diligence. The instinct that guides Mr. Trump in his professional life arrives from his vast experience, starting when he was growing up under the mentoring of his successful father, followed by a solid education and years of practice. Mr. Trump's confidence is misguiding, as it gives his supporters the illusion that someone who mastered real estate dealing can be equally skillful as President. It is similar to the illusion surrounding Dr. Carson, that he can be as good a President as he is a brain surgeon. If both gentlemen were humbler, they would realize that they qualify to be President equally as much as Mr. Trump qualifies to conduct brain surgeries and Dr. Carson to run Mr. Trump’s real estate empire. The problem is not that they do not know many things they should; the problem is that they do not realize that.

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Who is gaslighting whom?

© Farfotzle

In the past, we would talk about confusing, deluding, brainwashing, or messing with someone’s mind. Polish speakers would talk about making water out of someone’s brain. Today, the word for the same is “gaslighting.” In his essay: Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting*, Julio Vincent Gambuto warns us that it is coming. He believes that before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were gaslighted by “the multibillion-dollar advertising business,” which kept us under the delusion that whatever problem we might have, it could be resolved by buying whatever they offer.

Now, during the shutdown, when all nonessential businesses are closed, Mr. Gambuto realized that there is more in life than buying. As we all look forward to returning to normal, he warns us that “Billions of dollars will be spent on advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again.” He tells us that, longing for a return to normalcy, “we are, as a society, now vulnerable in a whole new way” to becoming victims of mindless consumerism.

Why the message of Mr. Gambuto is important even though he is wrong

When I looked the first time at the essay by Mr. Gambuto, I dismissed it as a meaningless sniveling by a person spoiled by the benefits of our advanced civilization. Then, Siobhan O’Connor, the leading editor at Medium, wrote in her newsletter that a few days after reading Mr. Gambuto’s article, she still could not quite shake it off. She added that this article has “been read by many millions of people, I think because it speaks to a thought many of us are having that we had yet to name.” According to Mr. Gambuto’s website, his “latest piece (…) went viral, with 19 million views around the world.” I checked on Medium again. Two weeks after the publication, with 164,000 claps and 870 comments, it is among the most popular articles on Medium ever. I read about 200 comments. The prevailing majority of them are enthusiastically supportive.

Mr. Gambuto put into words the thoughts that many of his readers had. The bewilderment I see in his manifesto represents the views of a meaningful part of our society. Mr. Gambuto had the talent and courage to write it down. Hence, it is not only about the confusion of Mr. Gambuto. It is about why so many among us are disoriented.

© Farfotzle

What normalcy is

Mr. Gambuto describes it as: “When the problem is practical and tactical, the solution is ‘as seen on TV’ and available at Home Depot.” In that vision of normalcy, Coca-Cola makes us happy, a Mercedes makes us successful, a Royal Caribbean cruise makes us special, and so on. According to Mr. Gambuto, we have been gaslighted this way for the last hundred years. Mr. Gambuto does not specify who was gaslighted, and he is wrong on the years as well.

I can agree that consumerism, as we know it now, gained momentum about one hundred years ago, but the Great Depression cut it down. During the long years of painful recovery, followed by the lean years of World War II, people had no money. Even if someone tried, there were very few vulnerable to gaslighting. Hence, the situation, as Mr. Gambuto sees it, has existed for no more than 70 years. And only for the affluent ones.

Almost all of us can afford Coca-Cola, so Mr. Gambuto can say that we drink it because advertisers have convinced us that it makes us happy. But regardless of how much sugar is in Coke, it leaves a bitter taste for people who sip it when looking over the pile of past-due bills, deliberating as to which one to postpone so they can buy in Home Depot batteries for the smoke detectors. For many, necessities such as those batteries might be the only reason that they are “gaslighted” to visit stores like Home Depot. For too many, this is normalcy in America.

Hence, I have no compassion for those buying Mercedes to feel successful, or taking Royal Caribbean cruises to feel special. I can only congratulate the advertisers who spotted the losers who needed to spend money to support their egos. 

Normalcy in New York is different than it is in most places around the world. Up to the late 1970s, starvation was the state of normalcy for about one-third of the population in China. Even today, most people around the world are naturally immune to gaslighting because they have no discretionary income. People in countries such as North Korea or Venezuela probably would gladly exchange their “paradise” for a little bit of the decadent capitalism so well denounced by Mr. Gambuto.

What represents licentious normalcy for Mr. Gambuto is a blessing for people like me. I was not much younger than Mr. Gambuto is now (I guess), when I left my native Poland. We had socialism in Poland then. To buy bread, I needed to get to the bakery around 2 a.m. when they were pulling bread out of the oven because an hour later, all of it had been sold. I kept in the drawer a collection of old screws and nails, solicitously straightened, because if I needed one, there were no stores so well-equipped as Home Depot. Buying almost anything was a struggle. But I was free from the brazen gaslighting by advertisers that, according to Mr. Gambuto, is the greatest danger for Americans. The only gaslighting came from the official propaganda that was shoveling at me those same arguments about the evils of consumerism that Mr. Gambuto is serving me now.

When in America, I am as annoyed as everybody else by the intrusive and omnipresent marketing. It takes a lot of time and effort to sort it out. But aware of my life objectives, knowing what I need and what I can afford, I manage it. At least, in a heartbeat, I prefer it to the alternative, which I experienced before.

© Farfotzle

The crisis has always been normal

For the past few decades, we have been blessed with relatively peaceful economic growth. Behind the logic of Mr. Gambuto’s reasoning, there is an assumption that this is normal. He is wrong. Comparing the Spanish Flu of 1918 to COVID-19, commentators noted the government at that time did almost nothing to help Americans in weathering the crisis. About a century ago, people saw their lives as strings of suffering and simply did not expect any help. This was normal. 

Up to recently, plagues such as the black death, cholera, or malaria decimated populations. There was no protection from flooding; there was no early warning of hurricanes. Fires, as in Chicago in 1871, were much more damaging than now. Earthquakes caused more harm than they do now. And if that was not enough, devastating wars were happening more often than now. There is a biblical story about seven ugly and gaunt cows that ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. Guided by the sagacity of this message, one knew if there was a period of peace and prosperity, it was time to get prepared for the next calamity.

Tremendous progress in medicine protects us from plagues, so frequent in the past. We are better prepared against floods, fires, earthquakes, and hurricanes. As a result, the illusion of the new normal has emerged that we are in full control. COVID-19 reminds us that we will never fully control our environment. Mr. Gambuto is right that as soon as the worst of COVID-19 is behind us, advertisers will lure us into buying like there is no tomorrow. It is their job to do that. My worry is whether we will have enough wisdom to prepare for future disasters.

They will come. Some are obvious. Science tells us that the next big earthquake in California is just about due. Also, as a society, we are now better protected against hurricanes, floods, and fires; hence, for many of us, the most devastating disasters are on a personal level. With advanced medicine, we can survive once deadly illnesses. We may stay alive but financially ruined by the cost of medical care. We may survive but handicapped, which might require extra mental strength and, more often than not, money. The swirls of technological progress can bring us a big win today and an even larger loss tomorrow. Lastly, the systemic dysfunctionality of our political system can explode into an economic crisis much more harmful than COVID-19.

In Mr. Gambuto’s essay, although not explicitly expressed, there is an assumption that we, as a society, should protect most of us from the misadventures we encounter. I have bad news for Mr. Gambuto: It is not sustainable. The prosperity of our society requires that the prevailing majority of us each can resolve our problems within our means. I can understand that marketers do not tell us this sobering truth; they want our money. Warning us against “business and government” banding “together to knock us unconscious again,” Mr. Gambuto gaslights us into the illusion that “if we just want to live a simpler life, we can make that happen.” 

© Farfotzle

Life is tough

Only the most affluent can enjoy the unbridled consumption that Mr. Gambuto criticizes so much. I doubt that those who bought a Mercedes to feel important had a revelation after reading Mr. Gambuto’s essay; they do not read Medium. His message resonated among those who, if they are lucky, get into Mercedes on an Uber ride. They supported the message from Mr. Gambuto not because it gave them a moral awakening. They endorsed it because it gave them consolation. It made them feel superior because they do not consume extensively. Simply, they cannot afford it.

By mentioning skies free from industrial pollution during a shutdown, Mr. Gambuto flattered numerous climate change advocates on Medium. He has no mercy in criticizing the American political reality, which is a trendy mantra on Medium as well. Then, in the same breath, with the zeal of the people’s tribune, he writes: “If we want our neighbors and friends to earn a dignified income, we can make that happen.” It did not occur to him that for anyone to have any income, we need to reopen all the polluting businesses and put back on the streets the smoking cars. Even if we want to have our air cleaner, to achieve it, for the time being, we need to deploy our fossil-fuel-powered economy to produce whatever is necessary to have an industry with less pollution. Mr. Gambuto is greedier than those who want to have their cake and eat it too. He wants to eat a cake before it is baked. Exploring the anti-business and anti-government sentiments of his audience, Mr. Gambuto gaslights big time.

We need a serious conversation

Deborah Hayden posted the best comment. She is concerned that trillions of dollars being spent on relief programs add to our already excessive national debt of $23 trillion. The ballast of this debt “will cause a depression unlike anything this country, and the world has ever experienced. All those marketing attempts at gaslighting us into buying like crazy again will be useless. People will not have money.”

Regardless of how much gaslighting comes from Mr. Gambuto or from the people he accuses of gaslighting us, there is no way of avoiding this reality. Paraphrasing the title of Mr. Gambuto’s essay, we should prepare for the “ultimate fall” of our economy, as Ms. Hayden warns us.

We need a serious conversation about the challenges we face as a nation and as humanity in general. Mr. Gambuto pointedly notes that our leaders are not up to the task. Sadly, his message mirrors intellectually what those leaders offer, only with a different ideological twist.

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About me

I was born in 1951 in Gdansk, Poland.
Since my high school years, I have interest in politics and love for writing. During my college years, I started writing to student papers and soon became freelance author to major Polish political magazines.

In 1980 I wrote a book “Czy w Polsce może być lepiej?” (“Could it be better in Poland?” – this book is available only in Polish) analyzing major problems in Poland at the time and outlining possible solutions.

I was among those Polish political writers who by their writings contributed to the peaceful system transformation that finally took place in 1989. Since 1985, I live in the Chicago area. I went through the hard times typical of many immigrants. Working in service business, I have seen the best and the worst places, I met the poorest and the richest. I have seen and experienced America not known to most of politicians, business people, and other political writers. For eleven years, I ran my own company. Presently, I am an independent consultant.

My political writing comes out of necessity. I write when I see that the prevailing voices on the political arena are misleading or erroneous. Abstract mathematics and control theory (of complex technological processes) strongly influenced my understanding of social phenomena. In the past, my opponents rebuked my mathematical mind as cold, soulless, and inhuman. On a few occasions I was prized for my engineer’s precision and logic.

I have a master’s degree in electronic engineering with a specialization in mathematical machines from Politechnika Gdańska (Technical University of Gdansk).

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