Active Thinking Topic 38 -  Not Quite Perfect Individuals & Cultures - Flaws In The Glass

Tuesday 16 August 2022, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: ZOOM online

Focus Questions

1. What would make a perfect human being? Does the question make sense?

2. What imperfections do you feel that you can tolerate in the people around you? Where do you draw the line?

3. All cultures have strengths and resilience. Othwise they would not survive. However each culture, like each individual, also has weaknesses. Suggest some examples of such weaknesses.

4. In your own personality there may be qualities which you consider to be desirable or even likeable, but which run counter to common values or cultural patterns. If so, what are they? How do you defend them?

5. Do you feel that the social and political environment is becoming more tolerant or less tolerant? What's the evidence?

6. How often are individuals (partners, friends) attracted less by admired qualities than by shared 'vices', weaknesses, fears or feelings or insecurity? If this is a pattern, what are the consequences?

7. People, individually and in groups, have an extraordinary capacity for self delusion. Sometimes this delusion is manipulated professionally, as in propaganda. Sometimes it comes from an unwillingness to face unpleasant truths. Compare Australia to another society for similarities and differences in the levels of self delusion.

8. Some regions like Iraq and Saudi Arabia have become deserts or near deserts in recorded history after being covered in lush vegitation. A large part of that decline was due to human activity. In that sense, you could say that those cultures were flawed. What are some modern equivalents of those tragedies?

9. What lessons globally has the Covid-19 pandemic shown about the strengths and weaknesses of particular cultures?

10. Germany and Japan, the main agressors and losers in World War !!, were left devastated in 1945. Their societies were crushed. Yet within a generation both countries rebuilt into two of the world's richest nations. What cultural flaws led them into disaster? What cultural qualities allowed them to regenerate with such speed and success?


Extra Reading

Sherryn Groch [July 24, 2022] "This neuroscientist accidentally discovered he was a psychopath. - How can you pick them? - People are often happy to diagnose their “psycho” boss or “sociopathic” in-laws but what do these conditions actually mean? How are they detected? And what’s it like to live with them?". The Age @  [Thor, comment: This is one of the best explanations of psychopathology I've seen. ... and yes, they do nail Putin as a clinical psychopath]

Andrew Roth (30 July 2022) "‘People are turning off’: Muscovites put the war aside and enjoy summer - Many of Moscow’s citizens are taking a break from their worries and the backlash that discussing the war on Ukraine can bring". The Guardian @ 

Thor May (2015) "Probing the limits of tolerance? - Can we reconcile “live and let live” with “drawing a line in the sand”?". The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "In those dull places where no demagogue offers permission to hate the neighbours, we might do our best not to draw lines in the sand, not to warn off intruders with a threat. Sooner or later though some threshold, hidden even to our conscious selves, will surely be crossed. We lose our temper, act impulsively, do something we regret in cooler moments, but it is already too late."]

Thor May (2015) "The Unexpected Power of Stupidity". The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "Stupidity turns out to be complicated. Stupidity in its many guises does more damage on a daily basis than generations of clever ideas have ever been able to cope with. Human stupidity ranges all the way from planetary destruction to self mutilation by vengeful individuals cutting off their own nose to spite their face. Given the scale of stupidity’s ravages, it is a matter of wonder that it attracts so little systematic public research under its own name".]

Thor May (2015) "So You Love Humanity But Can't Stand People?" The Passionate Skeptic website @  [The explicit idea of a social contract between the collective interests of a political body, such as a nation state, and particular citizens is fairly new in much of the world. It is scarcely considered in those terms by a large part of the world’s population, and treated with frank cynicism by many of those who have seized power and act in the name of the state. However, in spite of ongoing gross violations of both individual and collective interests, there has been a persistent spread of the idea of “human rights”. It is a rare leader nowadays who talks openly about “the divine right of kings”, as an English sovereign could a mere few centuries ago. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (  ) is an explicit and now widely known expression of the minimal acceptable relationship between individuals with their interests and the superordinate collective claims of nation states.]

=> Thor, comment: As preparation for this Active Thinkers topic "Not Quite Perfect Individuals - Flaws in the Glass", I read the entirety of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (  ). It seems that we live in a world of not quite perfect countries. I cannot think of a single state which meets the conditions of the declaration, now or at its 1948 inception. As an aspiration rather than a description of lived reality, the aims of the declaration are therefore treated routinely with contempt or hypocrisy by a large fragment of humanity, especially those characters who seek to dominate those around them

Thor May (2014) "Multicultures – communities of familiar strangers". The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "When a stranger asks “what do you do”, as he fishes for the right stereotype to pin on my chest as a mark of admiration or secret contempt, I am at a loss to answer. That is, I am a man of my age, a chameleon creature accustomed to slipping amongst a kaleidoscope of roles. This plurality of role plays does not mean that I am "values free". I don't care if you wear a hijab or burn incense in a Buddhist temple. I do care for a marker such as "above all, do no harm" - not always achievable perhaps, but at least a navigation beacon. It is of central importance to the discussion in this article that my way is not everyone’s way. We all make sense of the world as best we can, then have a habit of projecting our understanding as universal truths. The article attempts is explicit about the writer's own experience, but tries also to establish a context for other, more various ways in which multicultures have been interpreted, especially in Australia."]

Thor May (2012) "Déjà Vu and Wicked Stories" The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "This story is just a grumble about living in a world of predictable villainy and occasional charm. As pretty as snowflakes piling up on a bleak field, I've accumulated a passable knowledge of world history and international affairs (especially Asian). Yet snow is snow, while the seven deadly sins don't really change their cloaks regardless of the weather. No matter where I look and no matter at what time in history, the same underlying stories play out. Good ideas/ideals get subverted by the bad guys (in fact, one-time good guys are apt to be bought out and enlisted in the Evil Empire of the age), wealth funnels to the few, classes are entrenched, sex is exploited, trust evaporates ... If you are young enough, you KNOW that this sorry tale was yesterday: NOW the possibilities are different, right? Why else would we tune into the story again each morning? The grumpy elder speaks: in truth, NOW the possibilities are worse, but only because the number of players (world population) is destructively larger and the tools of oppression chillingly more efficient. The Muse sooths us: just to keep things ticking over, "Good", whatever that is, always fights back and the whole cycle of heroism and romance starts over."]

Thor May (2010) "Cultural Operating Systems - Thoughts on Designing Cultures". Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "To those who wish to keep their "cultural operating systems", like the Korean or Russian or Thai or French, "pure", closed, proprietary, without outside influence, I say you are in great danger. Maybe your closed cultural system was elegant and refined. Maybe it has a glorious past history. But it ultimately comes from an earlier human civilization of small, savage tribal groups. Now we humans are many, crowded on a small planet, and communicating with everyone instantly. We need a different design, and that has to be an Open System"].

Thor May (2010) "Somebody Else's Problem". Thor's New China Diary @  [Quote: "The Peoples Republic of China has many faces, and its inhabitants come in every imaginable shade of character. The seven deadly sins are richly represented, and a healthy bouquet of virtues can be found as well. There are however some constants in public life. Whoever the PRC belongs to, it is not Joe Wang and Molly Liu on Jiefang Lu in any of the 700 cities or countless thousands of villages. It probably isn’t the old men in Zhongnan Hai either, or even the Black Hands that shadow every lucrative trade. Perhaps, in the tradition captured so well by Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy , the place is really owned by some prissy field mice wheeling a UFO above the Yellow River plains. In any case, it is totally predictable in every imaginable situation that in China nobody traceable is responsible for anything, ever"].

Thor May (2008) "The End of Capitalism is Announced" Thor's New China Diary @ /ChinaDiary2/the-end-of-capitalism-is-announced [Quote: "The Decider (George Bush) announces the end of triumphalist capitalism. Whose zoo do these simians belong in now? ... So the crookedest brains in Moscow, Beijing and Washington didn’t want to make a system that worked for you or me. Has anyone managed to do it? Well, yes, more or less, for brief moments in history. Virtue, like vice, is a temporary affair with unpredictable outcomes...." ]

Thor May (2007) "Managing Downward Spirals - Getting from Here to There". The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "Hey, will you be here tomorrow? Seg back twenty years and all the news was of a planet overrun by recklessly breeding humans. Today in the media of rich nations, the slightly hysterical whisper is that liberated women are on a baby strike and we’ll all be doomed to robot care in our old age. This downward spiral of fertility is an almost sedate affair in the grand scheme of things. Compare it to the supposed disappearance of dinosaurs after the nuclear winter from earth's traffic accident with a giant meteor. People though, count for more than dinosaurs, don't they..."]

Sarah Knapton (July 31, 2022) "Women better in driverless cars than men". The Age @  [Quote: "..when it comes to driverless cars, a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports has found that women are better at taking back control of the vehicle when required, exhibiting significantly faster reaction times, more stable wheel control and fewer hasty manoeuvres"]

Thor May (2020) "Reflections on Turning 75". The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "I want a big, red reset button. The world I met ain’t like what I was told about.. (Yes, you are different. You charmingly met an alternate world and will disagree with everything to follow")].

Jewel Topsfield (August 6, 2022) "The autism advantage - why businesses are hiring autistic people". The Age @  [Quote: "When Chris Varney was in Year 2 he presented his teacher with an incredibly detailed visual chart of the royal families of Europe from the 14th to the 19th century. “I just felt I had found a new way of seeing the last millennium. No wonder we have so many revolutions and conflict, these families were way too connected, small community, completely out of touch,” he quips during his TED talk Autism: How my unstoppable mother proved the experts wrong. Chris Varney believes there is a need for a positive rethink of autism. His teacher said: “Oh goodness, Chris, doesn’t this chart look interesting. But darling, our assignment is on winter.” Seven-year-old Varney thought: “I’ve just done a PhD on the whole last millennium. And you want me to draw clouds and rain?”" ]

Vikram Bhalla (28 November 2017) "There are eleven different humour types, which one are you?". Times of India @ 



Not Quite Perfect Individuals & Cultures - Flaws In The Glas   (c) Thor May 2022

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