Hats off to the Egyptians

Hats off to the protesters. They have been by and large peaceful. They have withstood attempts from looters and pro-Mubarak crowds to generate chaos. Christians and Muslims have worked together.

Hats off to the military. They have been restrained and for the most part neutral. They have kept things from escalating. And now it seems they are stepping in giving guarantees that reform processes toward full democracy will go forward.

Hats NOT off to Mubarak. He seems to have completely misread the voice of the people and the seriousness of the situation. He has tried one trick after another to try and placate the protesters and has failed. His speech was just confusing. Is he stepping down or not? He could have been more forthright and clear.

but still …

Hats off to Mubarak. I believe he does want to keep Egypt from degenerating into chaos. I believe he does want to prevent Egypt from developing into a radical Muslim state in which the people would be worse off than they are now.

And now …

But what happens now? Interesting days and months are ahead.

Will the reforms really go through?

Will the Military take over? They certainly must be considering the fact that a democratic Egypt could move in a direction which would cause the U.S. and others to reduce their subventions of the Egyptian military.

What will become of the Arab-Israeli peace accords? Egypt has been a cornerstone of the fragile peach which has prevailed over the last 30 years. If a future Egypt scraps this, what will transpire? This is especially probably if the Muslim Brother has a strong voice. But is this true? I’ve read reports that the Muslim Brotherhood is largely secular and then other reports which deny this. The times they are a changin’.

And lastly …

How shall we judge the effects of Bush’s invasion of Iraq to the mood in the Arab world? One of Bush’s justifications for the war, number 5 – I believe ;), was that he wanted to bring democracy to the region. Things certainly didn’t go as he planned. Off course there are a many factors causing the protests in the Arab world but I think it would be dishonest to discount the influence the the Iraqi-Invasion has had on the region.

The Orthotomeo Project

I have begun a project which deals with theology, hermeneutics and issues of interpretation. In 2011 a website for viewing and querying theological argumentation will be created. Currently it is in development, however, I have a related blog for presenting and discussion the concepts involved.

Here are a few excerpts from the website …

… The Orthotomeo Project is the culmination of several years of orthotomeo project logocontemplation on my part about theological hermeneutics and theology in general. I believe the orthotomeo project can revolutionize the way that theology is practiced. I envision a website which, in its field of application, will rival informational websites such as Wikipedia. The revolution, however, does not lie in vast internet exposure, rather in its approach to theological and biblical interpretation. In short, I believe the orthotomeo project will facilitate dialog within all facets of theological argumentation in a way which has never been done before …

… The Orthotomeo Project endeavors to portray theological systems in a graphical manner (please see the examples.) and subsequently enable a variety of queries and analysis, which would otherwise not be possible …

Browser Ping Pong

I have just transitioned into the next round of browser ping pong. I am an openSUSE Linux user. For years, I had been an avid Firefox user. Even as people were ranting and raving about Google-Chrome I remained true to Firefox for quite some time.

But then out of curiosity in the summer of 2010 I gave Google-Chrome a try and to my surprise was greatly impressed. My Firefox had become slow (perhaps because to many add-ons were installed). Google-Chrome was fast, very fast. Also, the installation of add-ons was very nice. Searching for add-ons and installing them can’t get much better than in Google-Chrome. Firefox still persists in forcing a restart after the installation of add-ons. It is reminiscent of the Windows OS, which seems to believe that the ultimate purpose of an OS is to reboot. As a Linux user I am accustomed to making major changes to the installation and using them immediately without the need of an interim reboot.

Anyway, back to the Browser tale. Google-Chrome was impressive on many fronts. A few things had been bugging me but I was willing to live with them. One thing I missed was the quick ability to switch search engines that one has in Firefox. Another was the lack of a sidebar. Normally, that is not a big deal but the Delicious add-on for Firefox is very nice and makes good use of the sidebar. Another thing that is bothersome with Google-Chrome is that it crashes whenever I try to upload an Image from disk. This is a well documented bug. The routine of watching Google-Chrome disappear, switching to Firefox to upload a file and then return to Google-Crome, becomes old very quickly.

Another thing that happened just today is that Google-Chrome decided to start displaying links with a red background. This is not a bug in WordPress. It happens an many different websites and I cannot figure out why.

So I then upgraded Chrome from version 7.x to 8.0 hoping that this would solve those two problems. Well, it didn’t. So that was the last straw. Looks like I’ll be Firefox user for a while until Google comes out with another release. It’s nice that the two of them keep fighting it out. It improves the product. In this process I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that xMarks is back in business. So syncing my browser bookmarks is once again simplified.

The tyranny of the perlocution

When trying to understand the statements and actions of others we often misinterpret their intentions. Depending on the subject matter, such misinterpretations can lead to heated accusations flying in both directions and end up in a situation resembling WWI style trench warfare. I believe we should be aware of two key elements in the communication process which can aid in reducing the amount of trench warfare and improve our dialog with people holding disparate ideas.

Element #1: The Perlocution

When people make statements and assertions, part of what they say is external and accessible to all: e.g. sentences, words, text layout, body language and gestures etc. Another part of what they’re saying is unspoken and internal: e.g. their specific understanding of the terms and signs being used, the connotations of the phrases, the motivation for and the purpose of the statement etc. This is an important point to recognize. Every time you interpret the statements and actions of another person, part of the work involved is in essence guess work. The meaning you associate with their statements is based in part on your ability to adequately ascertain the speakers internal understandings, motivations and views. The term perlocution stems from the speech-act theory of J. L. Austin. What I am referring to with the term (which may not be 100% congruent with Austin’s usage) are the goals and motivations of a speaker, pertinent to a speech act, which do to their subjective nature are only truly knowable by the speaker him- or herself. Even if one does not hold to Austin’s speech-act theory, I think one must concede that something exists similar to what I have described, regardless of the use of the perlocution moniker.

Element #2: Worldviews

Wikipedia defines a worldview as a “fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing natural philosophy; fundamental existential and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.” When we think about how things work in the world, what the cause and effect relationship is, the ethical evaluation of specific activities and a host of other issues, the judgments we make are related to our worldview. When a boy on the school playground through speech and action is aggressive and assertive, some may judge this behavior as “bullying” and others may view it as a demonstration of “a healthy ego.” One person sees the use of military force as a proper response to a specific threat. Another person views the same use of military force as unwarranted and even as a cause rather than solution to problems. I.e. the same activity is judged differently by different people. This is because the people in question hold different worldviews about how people should relate to one another and what role military force plays in the world.

The tyranny of the perlocution occurs when these two elements of human nature (perlocution and worldview) are inappropriately combined. Unfortunately, this appears to be the standard procedure among human beings. We combine the outward expressions from others with our personal worldview in order to deduce the related perlocutions of the other. This often results in misunderstanding and hostility. Because the communication process necessarily involves a degree of speculation about the the motives and goals of the speaker, we are forced to fill the void (the missing perlocutionary qualities) with something. The most natural source is our own worldview. When someone makes a statement, we instinctively ask ourselves, “why are they saying this?” or “what do they hope to gain from this?” The most natural answer comes from our own experience. We imagine ourselves making such a statement and deduce the perlocutionary qualities that would accompany such a statement. We then ascribe these deduced perlocutionary qualities to be those of the speaker. The problem arises when the the speaker and the hearer subscribe to differing worldviews. The actual perlocutionary qualities of the speaker may be quite different than those ascribed to him or her.

Two examples

Many people view the world through the lens of making money. Not that they themselves are greedy but they conclude that the desire for money is the primary motivation for personal sacrifice. For them this is how people tick. However, there are people in the world who view speak and act from other motivations. Perhaps they desire to order their world based on aesthetics. Others may be motivated by the belief and hope for tolerance and peaceful coexistence among people. I have repeatedly observed situations similar to the following: when someone from the “money makes the world go around” worldview hears a statement from a person who holds a different worldview, they interpret the statement based on their own worldview, which states that most things are money driven. How many times have you heard something like “everything he says is just show, all he really wants to do is make a buck.”

In the political arena in the U.S.A. the left and the right regularly condemn one another by ascribing motives that IMO are often false. The right accuses the left of negative socialist goals because this is the only explanation of the left’s activities based on the worldview of the right. The left accuses the right of desires for totalitarian and regressive control because this is the only sensible explanation of the activities of the right based on the worldview of the left. Could it not be that the left has a noble goal, for example combating oppression? Could it also not be that the right is simply acting on moral conviction about what they believe to be right and wrong? Would it not be better if the left and the right attempted to understand the worldview and presuppositions of each other before resorting to a childish demonizing of the opponent?

In short people normally interpret the statements and others by using their own worldview and often come to incorrect conclusions. My suggestion would be that we try to make a correct judgment about the motives of the other. This, however, is not always an easy task. It entails two things which often go against our nature: 1.) we must realize that everyone does not think like I do, i.e. they have a different worldview, and 2.) we must be humble and consider the possibility that my worldview may be incorrect, i.e. just because I have an understanding of how the world functions, it may not be correct.

Conversion from Drupal to WordPress

I’ve changed my website software. I’ve converted my Drupal website to use WordPress. Over time the nature of my website turned out basically to be a blog and Drupal seemed to be overkill. IMO WordPress is much easier to manage for a simple blog site.

Many kudos to Scott Anderson at room34 for an excellent SQL script for doing the conversion.