Thoughts

On the automation of surveillance

We are seeing an increased use of surveillance at every level of our lives (on the street, at work, online, on our phones, etc.), and we see increased use of automation (simple, algorithmic and AI) to sort through all our activities. It’s a worrisome trend. We should be asking questions such as:

  • Who’s surveilling us and why? It’s easy to answer this with two terms: government and big tech, but the answers can be and should be much more granulated.
  • Who’s keeping track of that data? Exactly who are the players who have access to our data, who are running analysis on it and who are storing it, backing it up, etc.
  • How long is our data kept and where?
  • When algorithms decide our human fate, is that just? Should we tolerate it?
  • Who wrote the algorithms and are they skewed in some way? Given the recent censorship issues on Facebook and Twitter, I think algorithms are clearly written with an agenda in mind and they can be easily skewed to fit the needs and wants of the companies who apply them.
  • And many more questions like this…

I’d first like to point out the following: we live in a human world, and we’re meant to relate to each other in human ways; it doesn’t work well otherwise.

However, as I’ve pointed out in past posts, the world is too full of humans, and there are many complications that arise from that. Chief among them is this: an unusually large proportion of them aren’t relating to their fellow humans in human (or humane) ways and they are engaging in violence, murder, kidnappings, rape, pedophilia and other perversions, vandalism, theft, looting, corruption at all levels, drugs, road rage, terrorism, con schemes, etc.

That’s when law enforcement and governments, unable to keep track of every one of these so-called “humans” with existing personnel, turns to computers, mass surveillance, facial recognition, algorithms that identify suspicious behavior, etc., in an effort to sort through the mass influx of human faces, some of which are engaged in criminal/inhuman activities. The issue of why personnel cannot be ramped up in these institutions so that humans can sort through and keep track of these activities is up for debate, but I think we can all agree that when surveillance and automation are used to flag and identify the activities listed above, so that humans can sort through them, it is probably okay, and it is probably to be expected.

It is not okay when automation of surveillance is used to:

  • Spy on our private activities simply for the purpose of keeping track of everything we do, “just in case” we do something wrong,
  • Restrict freedom of speech, such as when social media algorithms simply won’t allow us to post certain links or words on our accounts, or will outright censor certain subjects or people,
  • Dig through our online activities and disqualify us from obtaining a job simply for having posted something questionable in the past, or to destroy our lives altogether, as today’s cancel culture and supposed race inequality movement is actively trying to do to so many people,
  • Monitor all our communications, such as our messages, emails and telephone calls, in the name of national security,
  • And the list can probably go on and on…

Here’s my understanding of the direction of this trend so far: as long as humans will continue to grow in number and to present a very complex environment where it’s thoroughly difficult or outright impossible for a limited number of people involved in law enforcement to keep track of illegal activities, the arguments for the use of automation in surveillance (to the point where artificial intelligence will handle a large part of it) will continue to mount. Also, as long as hidden agendas will continue to be tolerated in government, in the media and in academia, hidden surveillance will continue, for various nefarious purposes, such as persecution, extortion, a building up of arguments to support certain policies, etc.

The solution as I see it is to decrease the world population till we stop being numbers and countless faces and we become communities once more, where we know everyone who lives around us, where we are not one nameless face in a mass, in a ridiculously large throng of people, but a meaningful, contributing member of a neighborhood, a village or a town. That’s when surveillance and its automation will no longer matter. It won’t even be an issue anymore. We’ve got to stop multiplying like rabbits. We’ve got to stop focusing on large numbers. We’ve got to focus on quality, not quantity. We’ve got to focus on meaningful human interactions and meaningful numbers when it comes to our communities and our towns. To those of you who live in smaller communities, what I’ve just said is obvious, but to those who still prefer to live in large cities, I think my words will sound quite strange. And for them and because of them, mass surveillance and the automation of surveillance will continue…

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Thoughts

A pandemic of laziness

The rhythm of life in a temperate climate with four seasons is, understandably, cyclic. Spring is when nature thaws and outside work begins. Summer is when the work goes on in earnest, with a view of the cold seasons to come. Building work, for example, requires the summer heat for foundations, masonry, painting, etc. Agricultural work is spread out through the three warmer seasons. Autumn is when nature begins to wind down and withdraw into itself, and people tend to do the same. The focus of the work shifts to gathering and getting ready for the winter that is almost in sight. The coming freeze is made inescapably clear by the cold, frosty mornings of autumn. The signs are all there and no one can deny them.

As I worked on our NGO’s charitable projects last year, which involved a lot of landscape and building work, I saw certain signs as well. By the end of the summer and in the fall, it was undeniable to me. Wherever I went, people just didn’t want to work. The concept of an honest day’s work got lost on most people. Somehow, it’d become esoteric to them. I have already attempted to exorcise it back into something known and unmysterious, through a post I wrote on the very subject.

Then, winter came and with it came a certain time when we all had to put… time… aside for reflection (or drivel, as the case may be). We all call that time now “the coronavirus pandemic”. It stretched on and on through spring and just as summer came round the corner, we were free (almost) once again to resume our work. The pace did indeed become frenetic, given the prolonged pause we were all forced to partake, but to my dismay, most people did not choose to engage in productive work, re-confirming last year’s observations.

I would have thought that economic activity would begin with a fury, with people wanting to make up for lost time, especially given the dim prospects of facing more waves of restrictions and economic troubles in the fall and winter but no, the frenetic pace was set mainly by people trying to organize parties and barbeques, to find places to vacation and by those eager to protest and vandalize anything and everything under the sun. I think I can best describe this frenetic post-quarantine activity with one phrase: no rhyme or reason whatsoever — wild flailing of arms and tongues, mad goings to and fro, but ultimately meaningless.

As I pointed out in a previous post, pent-up frustrations will out, and perhaps I’ll write a future post on the anarchic, asinine, “bite the hand that feeds you and shit your own bed” tendencies of the current post-modern ideologies that are driving these protests, or rather driving the people brainwashed into believing them into utter chaos and certain disaster, but for now I’d like to focus on an epidemic of much larger proportions than the coronavirus epidemic: rampant, universal laziness. At some point, this might have been called endemic, but we can safely call it epidemic, and we could even go so far as to call it a pandemic: a global pandemic of laziness. Many more people are infected with it than COVID-19 and with no cure in sight, many will die from it as well.

When I look at the generations of today that are of working age, what I mostly see is a blithe indifference to the inescapable, undeniable fact that life must contain a certain proportion of work. I’m talking about real work, hard work, an honest day’s work, backbreaking work, drudgery, sweaty bits and bobs, wet back, red neck kind of work. It simply must. Our mammalian bodies need this physical work in order to stay in condition. Going to the gym for an hour or so a few times a week is a poor substitute for proper physical work. Life requires work. Achievements require work. Even the pleasurable bits of life consist of physical labor, as horny teenage boys with sweaty palms will surely attest, several times a day.

And yet, once the people of today reach working age, they begin to assume, wrongly, that life can somehow function without work. Never mind us working, the robots will do our work and the government will pay us a universal basic income that will free us from the torture of work and allow us to focus on our creative sides, such as scratching our balls and asses as we watch television, or liking absolutely inconsequential posts on Facebook or Instagram. Let’s just do a bit of shopping with that free government money, let’s throw in a bit of work on the car, like upgrading the subwoofers or mufflers (for the completely tasteless), maybe get a little tattoo here and there, a bite or ten of fast food, and life is good and complete for probably 90-95% of people.

While this kind of stuff may allow various societies to slide by for a number of years, coasting on the hard work of a few motivated individuals, things will inevitably slip from existence to subsistence, and that is where the civilized world is headed if people don’t start doing some proper work.

Nobody wants to do physical labor anymore. Everyone wants to click around on a computer screen all day for greater pay. Most of the “white collar” work has become a joke, with everyone pretending to work but actually doing as little of it as possible, and very few people willing to do “blue collar” work, which is actually what builds and maintains civilizations. I’m not saying that blue collar work builds the arts and humanities or the sciences, but our physical world requires blue collar work in order to build and maintain the infrastructure that supports the higher endeavors. Let me put it to you this way: someone’s gotta lay the internet cables, build the routers and assemble the phones and tablets that you use to faff around all day while pretending to work. How about the obsession of modern man with food, which must be stuffed into their mouths at all times, in all sorts of forms? Out of the population of any civilized country, the percentage of people engaged in agriculture is ridiculously tiny, and in my view, it’s not because of agri-giants, it’s because no one wants to do the back-breaking work of tending to the lands and the farms. Thank goodness there’s farm machinery available that allows fewer people to still do all of the farmwork that’s needed to keep all those office workers well-fed to the point of morbid obesity, because we’d all be in for a seriously rude wake-up call otherwise.

I look around me and I see so few people willing to work hard, willing to put in an honest day’s work. I don’t care what their excuses are. Even if it’s just for a crummy, humdrum job, someone with a backbone will want to put in some good work so they can sleep well at night. Apparently, a lot of people have lost their backbones, because most of them aren’t doing good work. Look around you. Out of your circle of friends and acquaintances, how many of them put in an honest day’s work? Don’t tell me, just figure it out for yourself. Isn’t it worrisome once you do the math? Heck, look at yourself and be honest, you don’t have to tell me, you just have to admit it to yourself: have you been putting in an honest day’s work, day in and day out, in recent years? Please don’t post a comment to brag about how much work you’re doing. Just do a bit of self-assessment and be brave enough to admit to yourself where you stand.

I’m not saying we should be working to the point of breaking down our bodies, day in and day out. We should have a balance. Those of us who predominantly do office work should have 1-2 full days of proper physical labor each week, in order to keep things in balance. Those of us who predominantly do physical labor should have 1-2 full days of restful work each week, once again in order to keep things in balance. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s what weekends are good for? Office workers should, for their own health and personal satisfaction, engage in serious physical labor during the weekends, around their houses or in volunteer work with various organizations in their communities. Factory workers and those who do mainly physical labor should, for their own health and personal satisfaction, spend their weekends educating their minds by reading or watching documentaries on various subjects, meeting with friends and having meaningful conversations (not getting drunk and stuffing their stomachs).

I for one am having such a hard time finding people to help us with our physical work. About the only people who are willing to work, from my experience, are the older generations who’ve grown up under very different circumstances than today’s working youth and adults, and active or ex-military folks, who’ve served and know what it means to work hard. All the rest of them are just fluff. They simply can’t handle a full day of physical work. Most people I’ve seen are ready to fall down after a half hour of serious work, and that’s so problematic, in so many ways. The youth are the worst: they’re pampered little simps who parade in and out of coffee shops, instagramming their meaningless, unproductive lives, unable to read or write properly, subject to every whimsy of their “influencers”. I have seen so few of them that know the value of work. If I were to estimate, I think less than half a percent would be a fairly accurate figure. Everyone’s trying to make a fast buck without the work. It simply doesn’t bode well for the future of work and for our future as the human race. If things keep going this way, I truly hope that robots will become advanced enough and affordable enough so they can do the hard work, because everyone will simply be too old, too fat or too frail and out of practice to do anything worthwhile.

PS. I realize the youth critique is historically repetitive, and that virtually every older generation decries the state of their youth, yet I look at how much the older generations have accomplished and I am in awe. With every passing generation, we are accomplishing less and less, and we’d be in seriously bad shape if leaps in productivity, invention, automation and mass production didn’t offset the gradual and certain loss in elbow grease. Less and less people are doing the work that carries our civilization forward. Most are sitting back and benefitting, without having contributed. I look at what the young generations are accomplishing right now (triggered SJWs, influencers flogging shit left and right, carpentry faffers on YouTube more concerned with sucking up the dust in their workshops than doing any substantive woodwork, etc. ad nauseam), and I shudder.

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Thoughts

On current overreactions and pent-up frustrations

Rather than expound on these subjects in detail, because there’s a tremendous amount that can be said, I’d like to point out a few things and let you think about them.

The current demonstrations against police brutality in the US are laudable in principle, but they should’ve happened years ago. The fact that they’re happening now shows they’re more of a vent for pent-up frustrations against the coronavirus quarantine and against social distancing than against acts of police brutality. Let’s face it, the global quarantine was an unprecedented event that generated a lot of fear, stress and financial difficulties for people, and going out into the streets right now is an act of reassurance for them, more than anything else. Who could protest against a public health emergency? No one (well, almost no one). But who can get behind a commendable protest against race inequality? Everyone, even if that’s not really what motivates them to protest.

The coming together of these enormous numbers of people, even if some are wearing masks (most aren’t), is quite likely going to increase, not decrease, the numbers of infections and casualties from the virus, leading to its possible mutations into more lethal forms and another possible quarantine, which is exactly what those people don’t need. There is a high degree of irresponsibility in the behavior of these people in the streets, but just try telling them that…

Countries where police violence isn’t an issue in modern times, such as Germany, are overreacting with both mass demonstrations and legislative changes. Then again, Germany is still feeling very guilty for its past, so overreaction motivated by feelings of guilt is a predictable reaction for them. It’s also ridiculous, particularly for a country where there is so much disrespect, violence and hatred directed toward its law-abiding citizens from incoming immigrants.

The onus for the current situation can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the current political leadership of both parties in the US, because they’ve engaged in divisive, polarizing strategies for quite some time. The problematic behavior of police forces can be traced directly up the chain of command to the tone set by the president and other top political figures in their speeches and other communications. Even so, I’d encourage you to not be so naive to think that a simple switch of the presidency from one party to another can dramatically change the situation. This divisive rhetoric has existed at the top levels of politics even during president Obama’s two terms (not that he engaged in that sort of thing, but plenty of people on both sides of the isle in Congress and elsewhere did). And I believe that no matter what political party is in charge, that party can appoint good people to positions of leadership and ensure that the proper tone is set and publicly communicated at all levels of government, right down to the policemen patrolling the streets.

Whether you want to admit it or not, and whether you think it’s right or not, the brutality seen nowadays on the streets is the result of the frustration and anger of many conservative people in the US who’ve felt disenfranchised, under-represented and pushed aside by overtly liberal policies and laws passed in recent decades. I’ve written about this on my site before and I would point you to the exact post, but I can’t find it now. Certain societal changes must happen slowly, because they involve re-defining important concepts that have been in place for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Yet in the last two decades, we’ve seen huge pushes to over-liberalize views on so many subjects, and even more so, it became a crime (punished by law, censure or ostracization) to speak against these changes. This was bound to polarize and anger a lot of people, and what’s happening now is a long-overdue reaction that’s been building up to a boiling point. What you’re really seeing now is a clash between ways of thinking. Don’t think for a moment that just by condemning police brutality you’re going to make this long-standing anger go away. This kind of a complex situation can only be calmed down by at least a decade of completely open dialogue between all sides, where you have to let people say exactly what they think, on all sides. If that means a series of televised debates between community representatives in every major city, so be it, but the air needs to be cleared, over and over and over, until all concerns have been aired, all frustrations vented, on all sides of the issues. You have to let everyone voice their opinions without repercussions, without judgment, without categorizing them as racists, as discriminators, as “behind the times”, etc. But this isn’t happening. Instead, liberal agendas are being pushed through everywhere as fast and as forcibly as possible, so this deep-felt anger is going to continue to bubble up and reach boiling points.

If you look at videos of the demonstrators being aggressed by the police, you can see in a lot of cases how they’re either getting right up into these policemen’s faces and screaming at them, or they’re keeping some distance but still screaming at the policemen. If you’re going out to protest, do your protesting toward the cameras, toward government officials (if they’re present), but keep your distance and leave the policemen alone. They’re not there to act as a “screaming wall” for you or to judge your causes. They’re under tremendous pressure to do their jobs. Why do those people think it’s okay to scream at someone for hours on end, to call them names, to even bait them, and then expect them not to retaliate when they get the chance? Go out, have your say if you must, scream your heart out at the world, but keep your distance from the authorities, don’t be physically or verbally threatening, don’t throw things, and you’ll likely go home unharmed. But in a lot of these cases where demonstrators got hurt, the police were provoked in one way or another, probably not by the people who got hurt, but by people in and around that area. I’m not saying what happened was right or was justified, but it was in some way provoked, and when tensions run high, you don’t need to do too much before violence kicks in on both sides.

There is talk of defunding and disbanding police forces, and putting that money into social workers, community organizers, etc. Other than a few urban areas in the US, the truth of the matter is that police forces are typically underfunded and understaffed. And most policemen are good people with good intentions. But let’s let those cities that want to engage in police defunding experiments do it, and we’ll see what happens when social workers and community organizers are confronted with violent gang members, looters, muggers, rapists and various nefarious individuals who don’t respond to logic and reasoning.

On the other hand, and I speak from my experience of living in the US and in Romania, quite a few policemen (not the majority, but enough of them) can be described by at least one of these adjectives: lazy, incompetent, rude, corrupt, bullies. Those who qualify deserve whatever’s coming their way. While that sort of behavior might be marginally tolerated in civilian jobs, it cannot be tolerated from policemen, who ought to be held to a higher standard, exactly because it’s their job to uphold the law.

An inescapable truth that can be seen quite clearly in these demonstrations is that while people are out in the streets, “demonstrating”, they aren’t working. Worse than that, they’re not letting others work. Businesses who would now be working and contributing to a sorely abused economy cannot work because they’re disrupted by the demonstrations or they’ve been looted, especially where they were needed the most, such as in poorer neighborhoods. All this comes on top of a quarantine and countless missed payments on mortgages, car loans and other promissory notes. The very people shouting for justice right now are going to get a big dose of injustice as looming foreclosures and evictions finally occur. It isn’t going to be pretty if this situation drags on. People need to get back to work, businesses need to reopen, mortgages and other loans need to get paid, etc., or the economy is going to get even worse.

Should things get worse and should police forces get defunded in key urban areas in the US, those people are setting themselves up for severe problems in the near future. Those who haven’t witnessed what late 1970s and early 1980s New York was like, are about to experience it in their own cities and neighborhoods, if things continue along the same path.

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Thoughts

Post-quarantine thoughts

The quarantine period, while financially problematic, was a welcome respite for a world too numerous and too burdensome to bear; it was a world so caught up with itself that it practically screamed out for an intervention. Cities were cleaner and quieter. There were much fewer people to be seen everywhere and much less traffic. Days could be used for work and for lovely, quiet pauses where one could hear and commune with nature, and the nights could be used for sleep and quiet reflection, which is as it should be. It was a lovely time.

As the shelter-in-place rules were lifted here in Romania on the 15th of May, the filthy underbelly of society began to show itself again. Dirty, ugly, loud people began to crowd outside again, gathering in bunches like fleas on a mangy dog, standing close together and gossiping, making up conspiracy theories, littering everywhere once more. Their misbegotten progenitures began once again to rev their cars and turn up their subwoofers, getting in their cars just to speed up and down the street, blaring their horribly loud music throughout the neighborhoods, only to stop here and there so they could grunt at their like-minded “pack animals”. Others put their speakers in their yards once again, and turned them up for everyone to “enjoy” (a time-honored “tradition” among village morons everywhere) with no regard whatsoever for other people or for the laws regarding public disturbances of the peace. Just last night, rowdy, uncouth youth (not wearing masks) were walking up and down our street, yelling at each other about some party in the neighborhood. Music was blaring a few hundred yards away while suspect smells were wafting in the air, what seemed to me to smell suspiciously like burning plastic that would mask the odors of other illicit substances being consumed. (I was cleaning our yard and got a bit nauseous from the smell.) Countries in Europe are still supposed to be “on alert” and gatherings with many people are still illegal, and yet one was happening last night, and it wasn’t the only one I’ve heard of recently.

Whereas during the quarantine police forces were joined by the military and by the gendarmes, and there was a real push from above to enforce all of the laws, particularly the ones regarding quarantine, now things are “back to normal”. Police forces are once again slow to hand out fines or warnings in order to keep in check the noise violations and other illegal activities of certain problem individuals and ne’er-do-wells. I find the mere existence of these individuals to be a double danger for civilized society and I’ve written about them before: on the one hand they get free money from the taxes collected from working, law-abiding citizens and on the other hand, they are habitual violators of the laws in place; they don’t work, don’t contribute to society and spend their days drunk and/or violent, watching TV and stuffing their mouths while living in their own squalor and filth. They are the dregs, the refuse of any civilized society, and they’re more than a stain on that society, they’re parasites that degrade the quality of life for all other law-abiding, decent folks.

And so I’m left to conclude that this time, that could have been used for reflection, for learning, for a turning inward and a thorough examination of one’s life, for resolving to lead a better life, was wasted by most people in their typical pursuits of ways to fill their bellies and dull their minds. Now they want to pick up right where they left off, keeping on their parasitic behaviors, taking and taking and taking from the Earth and leaving only garbage and destruction behind.

You see, the real test of a society is not how it behaves during a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic. It’s easy to pull together and to obey the law when you don’t have a choice. You know the old saying, “there are no atheists in a foxhole.” The real test comes after the crisis. It’s when people can be themselves again that we see the real worth, the real weight of that society. And it’s much easier to see it then because we’ve got the benefit of contrast. We can see how they behaved when there were strict rules in place and they were being watched, and we can also see how they’re behaving now that the rules have been relaxed and they’re left to their own devices, more or less.

So if nothing was learned from this time that could have been used so productively by many, if nothing was gained by them, then I’m left to wonder why they’re still around. Many politicians promised solemnly that “every life matters” and that they’ll “do everything in their power to make sure”, etc. Was all that effort really necessary? Was it so important to save everyone, or would we, the human race in general, have been better off if we had shed off the excess weight? We all have scales at home and as we get older, we step on them and we shake our heads and say things like, “I’ve got to shed off some pounds, time to go on a diet.” I wonder, if the human population as a whole was put on a scale and weighed by a higher authority, what would be the result? Quite probably this: mene mene tekel upharsin. I do hope corrective action is taken sooner rather than later.

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Apricot blossoms
Thoughts

Good things happening because of the coronavirus pandemic

Amidst all of the scary news reports and shelter-in-place rules everywhere, there are good things going on, caused by the very same situation. I thought I’d list several of them here:

  • We’ve all slowed down or stopped our activities and are spending more time at home, with our families. The frenetic pace of the world, chugging on all of the time for no apparent reason, has slowed down quite a bit. We now have time, time that we didn’t have before, to be with ourselves, to sit and ponder, to read a good book, to wake up and look around, to assess our lives, to think about our goals and projects. We have time to connect with those we love, even if it is only through video chats, but it’s more than we had before.
  • The world is a much quieter, more orderly place. Have you noticed how much quieter it is when you go outside? The chaotic movements of throngs of people, crowding our field of view, the constant din of the world pounding in our ears, is no more. Isn’t it lovely? All of the hustle and bustle and sirens and traffic and noise have now disappeared. The idiots who’d rev up their cars and turn their subwoofers up are now indoors, and good riddance to them. They’re keeping quiet and if they’re not, I encourage you all to call the police on them. Now we can actually hear the chirping of the birds in our cities. We can hear the breeze blowing through the trees and by our houses. We can take the time to see it caress the fresh blades of grass that are just coming up. We can actually take the time to smell the flowers.
  • Pollution and carbon emission levels are down everywhere. A tiny little virus has accomplished what decades of talks between high-level world leaders couldn’t accomplish. The planet has a chance for a proper spring, with fresh, clean air and water. This is a massive accomplishment.
  • Cities are cleaner. Not only are some of them actively scrubbing and disinfecting their streets, but they’re cleaner because all of the people who would be mindlessly littering them are now shut in. Each city’s street cleaning crews now have a chance to see the results of their work from one day to the next, instead of seeing idiots throwing garbage on the streets right next to them, as they’re cleaning.
  • The hygiene and public behavior parts of the new social distancing rules are a godsend. More people are finally washing their hands (and hopefully showering more often too). Knobs and handles in public places are finally getting disinfected. People are finally keeping their distance in stores and markets, instead of breathing down your neck in a queue. People are finally covering their mouths when they sneeze or cough. For years and years, I’ve gotten mean looks and veiled threats from people when I’ve told them to keep their distance from me, that I wasn’t comfortable having them so close to me. Now it’s finally happening by itself. For years and years, I was disgusted with the men who went to the bathroom and didn’t wash their hands, and then expected to shake hands with me. No more hand shaking now!
  • Telecommuting is now a must, whereas before it was regarded as a nice perk. I’ve been advocating for telecommuting for a long time (since 2006). I’m glad to see that companies are now making telecommuting arrangements wherever possible.
  • Travel has come to a screeching halt and thank goodness for that. Mindless, idiotic travel had become the norm all over the world. It had gotten so bad that it was normal for young people to fly from one corner to another of the various continents on weekend booze and drug trips, or for sexual miscreants to take “sex trips” to certain countries. And then of course we had the throngs of people, wave after wave after wave, who’d hit the major tourist hot spots in an endless assault on historic monuments, crowding out everyone including themselves. This was wrong. Travel is a good thing, a very good thing, but only when done mindfully, politely, considerately, taking in the sights, taking the time for reflection, taking the time to learn about the cultures you’re visiting, slowly proceeding from one place to the next, being careful not to intrude, not to litter, not to abuse. I truly hope that in the future, when travel bans are lifted, some sort of rules are put into place to ensure people never travel idiotically.
  • Governments all over the world have hopefully come to realize that they must put most (almost all) of their transactions with people online. In other words, as a tax-paying citizen of a country, you should be able to conduct most of your business with the government of that country (be it national, county or local) via the internet, instead of being forced to go to some office and waste your time in a queue. This crisis should speed things along in that direction.

Clearly there are costs for all of this free time that most of us have gotten. Let’s hope that they are mostly temporary, and that they won’t be too much of a burden for us all to bear. It’s easy to let thoughts of “what might tomorrow bring” get you down, but it’s vitally important that during this time, this unusual respite from the daily grind, that we take the time to breathe, literally and figuratively.

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Thoughts

On the ridiculousness of photographers needing to also be videographers

I’d like you to look around and take a mental poll of all the famous photographers you know. Off the top of your head, how did you find out about them?

Chances are you found videos they made, where they talked about some aspect of photography or some other thing, and showed you some of their photographs, or at the very least, had links in the video description or on-screen to their portfolios or websites. What likely didn’t happen is you didn’t see one of their photographs in a publication somewhere, then you looked them up online, found their website, read their bio and looked at their portfolio.

When you step back and look at this whole cockamamie situation, and by that I mean that you get a bit of historical perspective on it, you begin to see how bonkers things have become. You can blame it on social media, you can blame it on the newer generations who grow up mugging for the camera almost every moment of the day, whining about this and that, publishing private thoughts out on the internet for anyone to see (whereas those things were confined to the privacy of their journals in years past), you can blame it on a loosening of the underpinnings of society as a whole… I don’t know what to blame it on, and yet I see how ridiculous things have become for those of us who are passionate about photography.

It used to be that if you got your photos published, you were an established photographer. People got to know you through your photographs and that was enough. Maybe they met you at an art gallery or at a seminar, but by and large, your contact with the public was limited. If you were really famous, there might be the odd TV interview with you that could be seen here or there, but mostly, there were your photographs, that could be enjoyed in magazines, books, prints and maybe postcards, and that was enough, and it was right, because it should be about the photographs.

Nowadays, getting your photos published means absolutely nothing in the eyes of the “public”. As a matter of fact, good luck trying to sell a book of your photographs, even if you’re a good photographer. No, what matters today is whether you (who are typically behind the camera), stick a camera in your face and you mug at it as often as possible, gesticulating and yelling about some thing related to photography, trying to look cool while begging people to subscribe to your video channel and to like your videos and to give you money on Patreon.

I find the whole situation repulsive. It’s not only because you’re forced to make videos about your photography, and you’re forced to brag, directly or indirectly, about your photography, and you’re forced to beg for likes and shares and other crap online currency — but also because so many of the “photographers” that are well known today aren’t really good at photography. What they’re good at is running their mouth off in front of the camera, often as close as possible to the lens, so they’re right in your face as you watch the video, with cameras behind them or in their hands, because they have to appear to be photographers. More often than not, they’re ridiculously young, too young to be expert photographers, yet they have no problem posing as experts and selling the “public” courses on photography or presets or some other shit product that copies what everyone else is doing. These ninnies have no problems modifying the integrity of their images to make them more pallatable to the “public”, to the point where replacing entire skies has become common place. Sure, let’s “add a moon”, “add some stars here and there”, let’s “add some more trees”, let’s “take out this building and add a lawn instead”, let’s “take out these people because they’re ruining the composition”, let’s “replace this whole sunset with another one” because why not, software makes it easy, let’s smooth out this woman’s skin to the point where it looks artificial, let’s take out all the wrinkles, change the color of her eyes, maker her thinner, never mind that it barely looks like her anymore, etc. This is no longer photography. Go ahead, look up the definition of “photography” in the dictionary! Whatever happened to proper composition, to taking the time to set up an important shot, to waiting to press the shutter button until the moment is just right? Whatever happened to capturing the image in-camera, as it is presented to the lens, honestly, realistically, but artistically?

It’s so ridiculous that a photographer would need to spend more time in front of the camera, making videos, instead of making photographs, just to keep up with these times, because that’s what’s expected of him or her. You’re not even safe out in nature, where you go to be by yourself, to eliminate everything but your focus on photography. You’re expected to bring back how-to videos and vlogs and making-of videos and jeebus… this crap just goes on and on, doesn’t it? It’s no longer about the photographs! It’s no longer about the art, about capturing that fleeting moment that moves you, it’s about mugging for the camera! It’d be pretty safe to call this new generation of video-photographers “muggers”, in the real sense of the word, because they’re stealing the focus from what matters, from the photographs, and they’re keeping it instead on their mugs, while they blather on and on, throwing a link here and there to some course or a set of presets for you to buy.

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My vision for the towns and villages of the future

As I hinted in my previous post, I’ve been meaning to write about this subject for some time, and I hope to do it justice. If what I write here seems scattered, it’s because I haven’t been keeping notes on my ideas, though I’ve had many, so this is more or less ex tempore.

Even though I’ve made my thoughts on overpopulation pretty clear in previous posts (here is one of them), it’s important to state once again that I don’t believe the natural world can support as many humans as there are in the world for much longer, and something will happen to cut our numbers down. Nature will either do it for us, through the use of a blunt instrument such as a nasty disease or a series of natural catastrophes, or we can do it ourselves, by limiting the number of children we have. I have written previously that I believe one child per family would provide an immediate and constant decrease in population for the foreseeable future, and the ideal way to do it is for each family to commit to this by themselves, or we may get into a situation in the future where it will be mandated upon us.

In many ways, we are living in the best of times, and I’ve written about this in the past as well. It would be a great pity and a great loss if catastrophic events cut down the world population indiscriminately, reducing our civilization and technology back to medieval times, but that may well happen if we don’t take action ourselves. The best way to go about this is to ensure that we decrease the world population while we maintain and continue to develop the comforts that make modern life so worth it. I’m talking about modern plumbing, modern surgery, modern dentistry, modern electricity installations, modern computing, etc. Losing these would set us back hundreds of years, but that’s just what will happen through some sort of cataclysmic events if we don’t reduce our numbers proactively.

There are population controls built into nature for every species. I don’t think I need to say more on this. Nature documentaries abound, and you can see for yourselves that every species is subject to either natural predators or natural diseases that limit its numbers. When those fail, food supplies become limited and numbers once again fall. But we as humans have managed to evade our predators and our diseases, and we’ve also managed to pump up the production of our foods, to the point where there are much too many of us around. We are literally eating everything in sight and we’re consuming everything we can get our hands on. This cannot go on. Something will happen. It sounds ominous, I know, but just look around you. Everything in nature is governed by natural laws. We have been stepping all over those laws. How much longer do you think this planet upon which we’re so dependent will tolerate our numbers and our crimes against nature?

At this point you might be asking what this has to do with the towns and cities of the future. Well, this was the preamble that now allows me to say that these settlements of the future will have greatly reduced populations (one way or another), yet if we have been proactive, they will have maintained all of the modern comforts and will also provide gainful employment for people from all sorts of trades and occupations. That will be the hat trick.

Let’s look at population density. Clearly, lower population density is going to be a natural result of less population, but how about some numbers? There are many studies on this and I could link to a few, but I’d like you to do your own research on this. What feels comfortable to you? What feels overpopulated to you? For example, my house sits on a plot of land that’s about 1200 square meters in a small town in Southern Transilvania. The plots for the houses around me vary in size but I would say on average, they’re about 1000 square meters. This is enough space for a good-sized house, a driveway, a courtyard and a garden, plus some nicely-sized trees. I find this to be a good size for a plot of land in a town. Any smaller and it would feel cramped. Any bigger and it would of course be better 🙂. As for apartment buildings, that’s a different story. I would say about 100 square meters is the minimum for up to two people, but more importantly, and this is something I rarely found in apartments, there should be a minimum ceiling height, and it shouldn’t be 2.4 or 2.6 meters, but more like 2.8 or 3 meters. A small room is much more bearable when the ceilings are higher.

How about in the countryside, in a village? There, a decent plot of land that would allow you run a moderately self-sufficient household would have to be at least 3000 square meters, though that’s a bit small by my account. Let’s go with a number that’s easier to remember: 5000 square meters. That would allow you to have a bigger courtyard where you could round up your animals, keep a tractor or two, have a good-sized garden in the back to grow vegetables, etc, and you’d still have space for a good-sized house, a barn and various annexes such as stables, hen houses, etc. And you’d need some additional farmland outside the village, but since I’m not a farmer, I can’t speak to the size of those plots of land.

So 1000 square meters in towns and 5000 square meters in villages sounds good to me. And in order to meet the demands of farmland in-between settlements, we’d need to ensure a good distance between them. I can speak to the distance, because I’ve been doing a fair bit of driving. In order for these distances to be enjoyable and for the cars to be run properly, so the engines to have a chance to heat up during each drive, 10 minutes would have to be the minimum, with a 20 minute relative max, otherwise the drive gets a bit tedious, especially if you have to do it often.

How about the size of towns and villages? What numbers should we be looking at? Once again, I’ll speak to what I know. My town has about 47,000 inhabitants. By most standards, it’s a small town. But as it turns out, 47,000 people are too many for its infrastructure. The streets can get crowded during rush hour, partly because they were built for a much smaller town and partly because there are simply too many people crowded into the edges of the town, into neighborhoods full of apartment buildings built during communist times. When all those people get into their cars or into trolleys and start going through a medieval town that was built for about 10,000 people, it’s too much. So if we’re going to try to preserve the existing infrastructure, and I think we should, our town could probably handle somewhere between 20,000 – 30,000 people, and of course these numbers would be different for each town or city. Some people would be much more comfortable living in larger cities, but even there, I would caution against encouraging ridiculous growth. I could look at one city where I grew up, and that’s Cluj-Napoca. It’s one of the most prosperous cities in Romania right now, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s become unlivable. It’s much too big, much too crowded, much too stretched out, much too expensive and it’s chaos to try and get through it during the day. I wouldn’t want to live there.

As long as I’m on the subject of density, I’d like you to think about another number. When you walk through your town or city, count the people around you and think about what feels comfortable to you and what feels overcrowded. To me, more than 1 person per 10 square meters feels overcrowded. 10 square meters may sound like a lot, but it’s not. It’s about 3 meters by 3 meters, roughly. Given that our personal space is roughly about 1 square meter, we’d need at least 1-2 meters of space around us which could be navigated by other people without impinging on our personal space (keep in mind they may be carrying bags as well), and you’re already at 9 square meters (1 sq m + 2 sq m in each direction). Add another square meter to the total for a little more buffer and you’re at 10 square meters. I guess at peak times we could go as low as 1 person per 5 square meters, but anything lower than that would be overcrowding and even though you may not realize it, your body would feel the effects. Your heart rate would go up, your stress levels would go up, you may get a headache, etc.

Let’s talk about transport and roads. There are huge costs associated with building and maintaining roads and highways. There are also so many vehicles on the roads. Should the population levels come down, this wouldn’t be so much of an issue, but we’d still have this ongoing debate about pollution and consumption of natural resources and so on and so forth. I for one love cars and furthermore, I love old cars. While I enjoy the convenience and reliability of modern cars, I love the way old cars look, inside and out, and I love their fantastic, cushioned ride quality that’s so easy on the back, especially during long drives. If there were a way to combine the advantages of new and old cars, I’d be all for that. Some people say electric cars are the future. I’m not so sure, not unless we invent batteries with much higher capacities and whose raw materials aren’t as toxic and difficult to obtain from the ground. A number of years ago, I had a rough idea about a car that might be able to harness the gravitational force of the Earth and turn it into propulsion and possibly even levitation, but it’s something that has so far stayed in the realm of scifi. Beyond a wild hunch that this might be doable, I don’t have the scientific knowhow to even begin planning a prototype. The advantage of such a (scifi) vehicle would be that it wouldn’t pollute and it wouldn’t need the tremendous expenditure of paved roads, since it would be able to float just off the ground. Back to reality though: I’d be happy with cars that pollute less, last longer and look better, and by better I mean they should look more like the old cars, with organic curves and endearing appeal.

Let’s talk about buildings and architecture. I think most buildings in existence today are copy-paste jobs and have little to no originality that would make them worth saving when they start breaking down, and that’s a great pity. In terms of environmental impact, getting a house or a larger structure built takes a tremendous amount of natural resources and manual labor, and if you’re just building some nondescript box with cheap materials, you’re guilty of not only using up natural resources, but also for using them improperly, for a structure that will eventually be torn down. Furthemore, if you’re gilding that same crappy architecture with expensive finishings that you then tear down every decade in a stupid effort to keep up with fashion, you’re guilty a third time. There’s an old saying with a clear message that goes, “three strikes and you’re out”.

I think all structures built should have a planned lifespan of at least 100 years. Given the age of so many of the historic buildings in Europe, I think we could successfully plan for building lifespans of 500 years and we could and we should be building structures that could make it to 1,000 years. We owe it to ourselves (to our collective civilization and advancement) and we owe it to the planet, to build structures that last as long as possible, so that once we’ve used up valuable natural resources, we’ve put those resources to very good use. And there should be real, concerted effort from governments everywhere to conserve and restore historic buildings with time-proven methods, using high quality, traditional, natural materials and workmanship.

I’ll give you one pertinent example: in Southern Transilvania, we have many Saxon villages and fortified churches whose architecture was shaped by the industrious people that built them and whose architecture further shaped the land and created an integral artistic and historic whole that is unique in Europe and in the entire world. Nowadays, most of those churches are falling down and the houses are occupied by people who no longer see their historic significance or even appreciate their aesthetic appeal. Historic facades are being mangled. Historic reliefs, sills, cornices, socles, thrusts, pilasters, frontons, gables, porticos, brackets and other ornamental shapes are being stripped away and the bare walls are being covered with styrofoam insulation, with no regard for what was once there or for what will happen to a breathing brick wall once it’s sealed up. We have villages where the churches no longer exist, so even if the houses may still be historically accurate, the village has lost its focal point, or where the churches still stand, but they’re out of place, being surrounded by houses which have entirely lost their shape and are now some ugly, non-descript boxes for the so-called living, painted in garish colors. Ideally, the historic sections of these villages would be declared historic monuments and the whole ensemble (fortifications, church, schoolhouse, village center and village houses) would be conserved and restored accordingly.

Let’s talk about law enforcement, or as I sometimes call it, pruning one’s garden. I’d really like our collective societies to have stricter rules around what is and is not acceptable behavior in public, around public order and noise levels, and about gainful participation in society through work or other involvement such as volunteering, and about the consequences of not doing so. I’d like our towns and village to be quiet, peaceful places where we can do our work and live our lives undisturbed and without disturbing others.

I’d love to see noise violations punished more severely — and this is much more important, with frequency and constancy. I’d love to see people who play loud music get serious fines, now and in the future, and it doesn’t matter whether they do it at home or in their cars. I for one have had it with people whose loud speakers blare and boom up and down our streets and I’d like this kind of behavior stamped out completely. I’d love to see bad behaviors in public punished instantly, even if it means having policemen beating down offenders with sticks on the spot, like they used to do not so long ago.

I am all for people having rights under the law, and I am very glad for the equitable treatment we now espouse for people of different races and particularly for the equitable treatment of women. These advances are humane, they make sense, and they should have happened earlier. But there is a flip side to this: some of these rights should not be inalienable; they should be based on behavior. In the future (and also in the present), participation in society should afford you the same rights as anyone else who participates in that society, but if you’re just a parasite who portends to be part of a society but does not contribute to it through work or other proper involvement, you should, by rights, lose some of your rights. Let me give you some present-day examples.

Those who continually shirk work should not get aid from the government, and those who abuse society’s aid mechanisms by having multiple children just so they can get extra money, should also have their aid cut off, and they should be put to work. But there are currently no legal mechanisms in the EU through which someone can forcibly be put to work, so what we have now, although not many countries talk about it openly, is a certain percentage of the people in those countries who know they can’t be forced to work and who actively choose not to work and live on aid all of the time. This needs to stop in the future. It’s not sustainable and it’s not tolerable.

There are also no legal mechanisms through which policemen can adequately defend themselves and arrest people, should they be attacked. I don’t know if this is the case throughout Europe, but I know, directly from policemen, that it’s what’s going on right now in Romania. Should a policeman pull out his gun and defend himself in Romania right now, it would most certainly mean jail time for him. Should they want to arrest someone, they’d have no jail to take them to, because most, if not all police stations have no holding cells. You can’t put someone in county jail without due process, and you can’t leave someone violent or too drunk on the streets, so what do you do? Right now there’s nothing to do, so policemen will sometimes take these people for a ride to the station, hoping they’ll cool off. This needs to change in the future.

There are also no legal mechanisms to force someone to pay police fines. Ridiculously enough, if they have a job, they can be forced to do it, but if they don’t, if they’re parasites, they can go to court and argue they have no job to pay the fine with, or they can go to their local mayor and get a written excuse from the fine. These local yokel mayors are only too happy to give them these written excuses, because they’re desperate for cheap votes and don’t want to put in the work that wins real votes. Lots of nasty characters take advantage of these loopholes in the current laws and they go on offending, knowing there won’t be serious consequences. So we literally have people in Romania who’ve been violent toward their families or toward the police, or have committed other illegalities, who are staying at home on government aid because they don’t want to work, who are not paying their fines because they have no jobs, and who are also making more children so they can get more government aid. That’s a trifecta of crime and it goes on, unpunished. This needs to stop in the future, which I’m hoping will be much more orderly and disciplined. I’m all for rights, but in a logical and rational world, there are also consequences to one’s actions.

These are the things that come to my mind when I think of the future of cities, towns and villages. Thanks for reading!

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My vision for Transilvania

What follows here is a subjective, ideal scenario for my native region of the world, so if it doesn’t sit well with you, read this first sentence again.

I was born in a Saxon town in Transilvania called Medwesch. Its name in Romanian is MediaČ™ and in German, it’s Mediasch. However, its name originates from the Hungarian word “meggy” which means “sour cherry”. It’s entirely possible that the Medias region was known for its sour cherry trees. (Its name is spelled Medgyes in Hungarian). It recently celebrated its 750th anniversary, having been first mentioned in written documents on the 3rd of June, 1267.

Quick aside: as it turns out, I am half-Hungarian and I have sour cherry trees in our courtyard and garden. I love sour cherries and we make sour cherry liquor and sour cherry jam every autumn. Some of the trees here at home are almost as old as I am (over four decades) and one of them is possibly even older. This post has to do in large part with trees — not just sour cherry trees though.

My city is even older than its 750 documented years. Archeological findings in the area point to settlements that go back to the middle Neolithic period, certainly long before the Romans conquered what was previously known as Dacia and called its most beautiful region Transilvania, which means “through the forest” or “beyond the forest”. And here’s where we get to the crux of this post. Those neolithic people got to experience Transilvania in its most bountiful days, with old growth forests that stretched as far as the eye could see, with rivers and streams overflowing with pure water, with fertile fields set among rolling hills and mountains filled to the brim with precious metals and salt (which was more expensive than gold at certain times in history). That was an unpolluted, wild Transilvania with few settlements and long distances between them — the kind of world that made you seek and cherish human connections instead of being overwhelmed by overpopulation and left searching for quiet and solitude.

While some of the things that once were can’t be restored (such as the many, many thousands of tons of precious metals taken from our mountains), it is my dream that we roll back some of the damage that humans have done to this beautiful place and we restore some of the conditions that existed before there were too many of us around and we started messing about irresponsibly.

Here’s where the trees come in (the ones I mentioned a couple of paragraphs back). I’d like to see a massive reforestation effort take place in Transilvania, one where every available piece of land that’s not being used for agriculture is peppered with fast-growth and slow-growth trees. It should even be mandated that groupings of trees be planted in fields used for agriculture, for example one rectangular spot of 4m x 60m on every hectare of land, at a minimum.

I’d like to see common sense and clearly enforced measures in place when it comes to felling trees. What is clear is that we need wood for construction materials and for firewood, but what is also abundantly clear is that Romania has been cutting a great deal of wood illegally (about two thirds of the wood being cut in Romania per annum is cut illegally), so that needs to stop, even if it means armed forces will patrol the forests and shoot tree thieves on sight, be they regular people or employees of corporations.

Massive reforestation efforts, coupled with proper measures to check and control tree felling, would go a long way toward restoring Transilvania’s historic forests. And no tree cutting of any sort should be allowed in certain old-growth forests. We need to restore some semblance of the wild Transilvania in ancient woodlands and allow those old trees to stick around for a few hundred years more. Trees are more majestic and have more dignity in them than most people I see on a daily basis, yet dimwits with chainsaws think nothing of felling them illegally. I think that cruel sentiment should be mirrored back to them, and that’s why I am in favor of armed forces patrolling forests and shooting offenders on sight, without due process.

Together with the reforestation efforts, I’d like to see massive cleanups take place along all of the roadways in Transilvania. I’d like to see video cameras that work with mobile SIM cards and recharge from mini solar panels, mounted in hidden locations along the roads, and those people dumping construction debris or other garbage along the roads, identified, fined very serious amounts of money, and forced to clean up their own messes.

Furthermore, I’d like to see river and stream cleanups take place everywhere, with dredging where necessary to get the garbage and overgrown vegetation out and to restore proper water flow. We should have people in charge of the waters who are constantly maintaining the shorelines and keeping our waters clean. The harvesting of sand from the riverbeds should be done responsibly and only in select areas, after consultation with committees of geologists and archeologists, because the way it’s being done now absolutely destroys the riverbeds and the flow of the rivers.

When it comes to agriculture, I’d like to see more sensible, organic agriculture that employs crop rotations and allows certain plots of land to rest every seven years or so. I’m fed up with the ridiculous amounts of fertilizers and pesticides being dumped on our lands every year — much more than the recommended dosage from the manufacturer is sadly the norm when it comes to peasant farmers here. I’d like to see grazing lands used properly, by rotating the sheep and the goats and the cows so they don’t overgraze. The size of one’s herd or flock ought to be determined by the size of the land available to it, not by the projected year-end revenues, pumped up by extra tens or hundreds of head of cattle that have overgrazed the land and have needed extra hay to be trucked in from who-knows-where in order to support their feeding needs.

How about all the garbage left behind by the herders and shepherds every year? The hills are practically strewn with plastic bags and bottles of all kinds, and no one holds them accountable for it. How about the excessive use of communal water to feed thirsty crops in dry years, to the point where a village’s water supply runs dry and the water levels in people’s wells go down to the bedrock? That’s thoroughly irresponsible and heavy fines ought to be in place for those who water their crops excessively.

If you’re a regular reader, then you know my opinion on overpopulation already, but I think I’ll write about my thoughts on the ideal population density in the towns, cities and the countryside in a later post.

For now, I’d like you to close your eyes, like I do every once in a while, and try to imagine a Transilvania full of tall forests every which way you look, where cool breezes sway the tops of these beautiful trees and cool down the valleys below, where happy little streams that started as springs deep in the forests, flow unobstructed toward the bigger rivers, alongside scenic country roads that are clean and well-maintained. Should you drive on those roads, you’ll enter a village or a town every once in a while, places where people are productive and work the land or work in the crafts or run a shop or a business, or perhaps tend herds of cows and sheep, but everyone sees to their work and to their household and makes a solid contribution to their community and society. That’s what I’d like to see in my Transilvania.

And it starts with the trees. We need to get the trees growing back in the forests.

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On voting rights

Yesterday’s presidential elections in Romania have prompted me to write about something that’s been on my mind for some time: voting rights in a so-called “democratic” country.

I’m concerned about the quality of the electorate and their capability to make objective decisions for the good of the country, not just for their own good. I’ve seen the average comprehension and literacy levels of adults drop across the board, on both sides of the pond. It’s a scary prospect, to be faced with a general electorate that can understand less and less of what you, as a legitimate candidate, are trying to communicate. If this keeps up, our future presidential candidates will need to yell, “Me, give food! Me, give shelter!”, wait for the grunts of approval to subside, then add “Press red button for me! No press red button, no food!”

Pandering to the lowest common denominator leads to short-sighted political decisions, to skeezy populism, to electoral promises/lies, and to a wanton disregard for the kind of leadership that is needed in a world increasingly screwed up by people — the kind of world where governments need to start making long-term, tough, redressive decisions and abide by them through regime changes.

We can look at the origins of democracy (Greece, Rome) in order to see how they handled voting rights, and the main takeaway in those cultures was to not let anyone vote who didn’t have “skin in the game”. By that the Greeks meant well-to-do men who’d also served in the military and the Romans meant men who came from good families (aristocratic) and were well-educated. Women weren’t allowed to vote, and neither were immigrants.

Here’s my proposal:

  • First we need to start thinking of the act of voting as a privilege, not as a right. It’s rightfully a privilege that can be lost if one screws up.
  • We won’t take away any of the hard-won voting privileges that exist in current democratic countries. Clearly women’s voting rights will stay. Clearly naturalized citizens will be able to continue to vote. But we’ll add some requirements; more specifically, the ones below.
  • You must be actively employed or own an active business entity, and you must have done so for at least 1 year prior to voting. In other words, you must be a contributing member of society who’s been working productively, or employing people productively, and paying taxes to that society. This is the crux of my proposal: if you want to have a say in how a society is currently run (which is the definition of a vote), you must currently contribute to it.
  • This means that certain groups of people will not get a vote: the retired and the unemployed. These are the two classes of people who’ve been skewing elections in the wrong direction in Romania for decades, and who almost sabotaged the current presidential election. Criminals will also lose their voting privileges, and rightly so.

I have nothing against retired people; they’ve put in a lifetime of work and they deserve their pensions, but they always vote for the people who will promise them $10-20 more in their monthly pension checks, regardless of what horrible things those people have done and will do to the country. And it’s a lot harder for them to vote objectively. A lot of them vote subjectively, particularly through the lens of nostalgia. This has to stop if a country is to move forward.

I have nothing against someone who’s temporarily unemployed and is looking for a job, but we have a huge problem in Romania with people who game the unemployment system and collect checks while they’re working here and there on the gray and black markets. They’re sucking up aid from the government any way they can, including by making babies for the sole purpose of getting more money per month from the government, while they contribute nothing. And their political allegiance is to any party and/or group of politicians that will bribe them off ahead of the elections and will promise to keep their aid coming. These people are uneducated, morally bankrupt shirkers whose only cares are whether they have enough cheap crap to stuff into their mouths and working television sets. They produce nothing except body odor, and they contribute nothing except body waste. They are the biggest threat to a country’s fiscal stability, particularly in the face of a decreasing work force, because they start barking and getting violent as soon as you tear them away from the teats on which they’ve been suckling. No politician wants to touch them, but they’re a problem that has to be addressed.

Thankfully, anyone excluded from voting under the rules I’ve proposed above can quickly remedy the situation by getting a job or starting a small business and contributing to the society in which they’re living. Then they’ll have earned the privilege to vote.

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On governmental stimuli for child-rearing

As the rate of population growth in developed or developing countries decreases, governments interested in managing their financial risk for social programs quite often offer one short-sighted solution: financial stimuli for making more children. The idea is to increase the future tax base and cover the costs of running a country’s social programs. It’s what just happened in Romania earlier this year, as the monthly allocation for each child was increased. This is the wrong approach.

Contrary to unfortunately popular beliefs and populist politicians, a nation’s decreasing population is a good thing. It’s an educated, informed, working population’s natural response to overpopulation, to the state of the world and the world’s resources, and its preference for quality over quantity. They prefer to have less children, often just one, and to ensure that that child gets the best education and upbringing that each family’s money can buy. Gone are the days when a family would have several children, knowing that a few would be lost during childhood and also knowing the ones who’d reach teenhood and adulthood would be good help on the homestead. Also gone are the days when a country’s population growth was seen as a nationally strategic decision and encouraged against reason and odds.

Still, financial stimuly for child-rearing are a popular topic with voters. What are a country’s leaders to do as they try to shift their country’s focus from quantity to quality, on all levels of life? Here’s a thought: do what the educated parents do. Lavish proper financial stimuli on a family’s first child. I would increase the amount of aid offered by the government by quite a bit, but only for the first child. After that first child, the aid would stop. Each family should be completely on its own if they want to have additional children.

This could be taken one step further in order to fully address a country’s population growth: governments could institute a higher income tax on those families who choose to have more than one child. Whatever name gets attached to it, in those countries where population growth must be curbed, there should be a tax — perhaps even a tax that grows exponentially — for each additional child.

In a world that is well past the mark of overpopulation, each family that chooses to have additional children should ensure they have the proper resources to take care of them instead of being a burden on society. The making of children purely for the purpose of obtaining financial aid from the government (which is a thing in Romania among certain people) would no longer be a problem. The problem of uncontrolled population growth would be fully addressed.

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