After the last election, the far-left in our society became a laughing stock. The social justice warriors, the progressives, the regressive left; whatever you want to call them, they became a joke after Trump was elected. And it wasn’t because they lost the election. It was because of how they reacted to losing. We all witnessed what amounted to a nationwide temper tantrum on November 9th. And in the weeks that followed, it became apparent that these people aren’t just childish. They are freaking insane.
However, it may surprise you to learn that these people aren’t just a joke in America. They are the laughing stock of the world. They are looked down upon, even in countries where they don’t have a significant presence.
In China for instance, they have a word for these people. They are called “baizuo” or the “white left” on social media. Which is interesting, because even though China has its fair share of socialists and communists, they don’t have a direct equivalent to our liberal snowflakes. Most of the Chinese are still fiercely nationalistic and anti-immigrant, regardless of political affiliation. That country just doesn’t have a large population of politically correct, affluent liberals (presumably, they were all killed off during the Great Leap Forward). So what does this term mean to the average Chinese citizen?
It might not be an easy task to define the term, for as a social media buzzword and very often an instrument for ad hominemattack, it could mean different things for different people. A thread on “why well-educated elites in the west are seen as naïve “white left” in China” on Zhihu, a question-and-answer website said to have a high percentage of active users who are professionals and intellectuals, might serve as a starting point.
The question has received more than 400 answers from Zhihu users, which include some of the most representative perceptions of the ‘white left’. Although the emphasis varies, baizuo is used generally to describe those who “only care about topics such as immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment” and “have no sense of real problems in the real world”; they are hypocritical humanitarians who advocate for peace and equality only to “satisfy their own feeling of moral superiority”; they are “obsessed with political correctness” to the extent that they “tolerate backwards Islamic values for the sake of multiculturalism”; they believe in the welfare state that “benefits only the idle and the free riders”; they are the “ignorant and arrogant westerners” who “pity the rest of the world and think they are saviours”.
Baizuo has basically become the go to word for Chinese social media users, who want to trash other people in online debates. It’s also frequently used to make light of what is viewed in China, as the inherent weakness of western democracies. So not only has the far-left made themselves into a joke, they’re making everyone else who supports Western civilization look bad all around the world.
It just goes to show, the people who speak the loudest in society often become the face of that society, even if most sane people aren’t taking them seriously anymore.
While it may not come as much of a surprise to doting dog owners the world over, a new study has suggested that man’s best friend can make us humans understand what they mean through their variety of barks and growls.
The new study, published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, has made a number of interesting findings. Researchers enlisted a group of 40 volunteers to listen to a variety of dog growls during numerous tasks.
A total of 18 different dogs were recorded guarding their food, playing a game of tug of war, and facing a threatening stranger. Participants were able to match the growl to the action 63 percent of the time, in what scientists say amounts to much more than just guesswork.
Scientists said that each growl was recognized above the level of chance, with listeners able to understand 81 percent of playful growls, but less adept at recognizing the others.
When it came to recognizing whether the dog was fearful, playful, or being threatening, “women and participants experienced with dogs scored higher,” Farago said.
In research published in January, scientists from the University of Lyon in Saint Étienne, France found that puppies responded better to women’s exaggerated, high-pitched, dog-directed speech, which may help them learn words, much like such talk does with human babies.
In this video, Melissa Dykes of TruthstreamMedia.com shows how the mainstream corporate news media hypnotizes their audiences and how certain “trigger words” are used to turn people into unthinking zombies so they can be easily controlled.
Senior Lecturer in Neuropsychology and Cognitive Psychology, Bangor University
May 4, 2017
Being caught talking to yourself, especially if using your own name in the conversation, is beyond embarrassing. And it’s no wonder – it makes you look like you are hallucinating. Clearly, this is because the entire purpose of talking aloud is to communicate with others. But given that so many of us do talk to ourselves, could it be normal after all – or perhaps even healthy?
We actually talk to ourselves silently all the time. I don’t just mean the odd “where are my keys?” comment – we actually often engage in deep, transcendental conversations at 3am with nobody else but our own thoughts to answer back. This inner talk is very healthy indeed, having a special role in keeping our minds fit. It helps us organise our thoughts, plan actions, consolidate memory and modulate emotions. In other words, it helps us control ourselves.
Talking out loud can be an extension of this silent inner talk, caused when a certain motor command is triggered involuntarily. The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget observed that toddlers begin to control their actions as soon as they start developing language. When approaching a hot surface, the toddler will typically say “hot, hot” out loud and move away. This kind of behaviour can continue into adulthood.
Non-human primates obviously don’t talk to themselves but have been found to control their actions by activating goals in a type of memory that is specific to the task. If the task is visual, such as matching bananas, a monkey activates a different area of the prefrontal cortex than when matching voices in an auditory task. But when humans are tested in a similar manner, they seem to activate the same areas regardless of the type of task.
In a fascinating study, researchers found that our brains can operate much like those of monkeys if we just stop talking to ourselves – whether it is silently or out loud. In the experiment, the researchers asked participants to repeat meaningless sounds out loud (“blah-blah-blah”) while performing visual and sound tasks. Because we cannot say two things at the same time, muttering these sounds made participants unable to tell themselves what to do in each task. Under these circumstances, humans behaved like monkeys do, activating separate visual and sound areas of the brain for each task.
This study elegantly showed that talking to ourselves is probably not the only way to control our behaviour, but it is the one that we prefer and use by default. But this doesn’t mean that we can always control what we say. Indeed, there are many situations in which our inner talk can become problematic. When talking to ourselves at 3am, we typically really try to stop thinking so we can go back to sleep. But telling yourself not to think only sends your mind wandering, activating all kinds of thoughts – including inner talk – in an almost random way.
This kind of mental activation is very difficult to control, but seems to be suppressed when we focus on something with a purpose. Reading a book, for example, should be able to suppress inner talk in a quite efficient way, making it a favourite activity to relax our minds before falling asleep.
But researchers have found that patients suffering from anxiety or depression activate these “random” thoughts even when they are trying to perform some unrelated task. Our mental health seems to depend on both our ability to activate thoughts relevant to the current task and to suppress the irrelevant ones – mental noise. Not surprisingly, several clinical techniques, such as mindfulness, aim to declutter the mind and reduce stress. When mind wandering becomes completely out of control, we enter a dreamlike state displaying incoherent and context-inappropriate talk that could be described as mental illness.
Loud vs silent chat
So your inner talk helps to organise your thoughts and flexibly adapt them to changing demands, but is there anything special about talking out loud? Why not just keep it to yourself, if there is nobody else to hear your words?
In a recent experiment in our laboratory at Bangor University, Alexander Kirkham and I demonstrated that talking out loud actually improves control over a task, above and beyond what is achieved by inner speech. We gave 28 participants a set of written instructions, and asked to read them either silently or out loud. We measured participants’ concentration and performance on the tasks, and both were improved when task instructions had been read aloud.
Much of this benefit appears to come from simply hearing oneself, as auditory commands seem to be better controllers of behaviour than written ones. Our results demonstrated that, even if we talk to ourselves to gain control during challenging tasks, performance substantially improves when we do it out loud.
This can probably help explain why so many sports professionals, such as tennis players, frequently talk to themselves during competitions, often at crucial points in a game, saying things like “Come on!” to help them stay focused. Our ability to generate explicit self instructions is actually one of the best tools we have for cognitive control, and it simply works better when said aloud.
So there you have it. Talking out loud, when the mind is not wandering, could actually be a sign of high cognitive functioning. Rather than being mentally ill, it can make you intellectually more competent. The stereotype of the mad scientist talking to themselves, lost in their own inner world, might reflect the reality of a genius who uses all the means at their disposal to increase their brain power.
“Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous ‘I don’t know.’”
By Maria Popova
“Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion,” the great painter Richard Diebenkorn counseled in his ten rules for beginning creative projects. “One doesn’t arrive — in words or in art — by necessarily knowing where one is going,” the artist Ann Hamilton wrote a generation later in her magnificent meditation on the generative power of not-knowing. “In every work of art something appears that does not previously exist, and so, by default, you work from what you know to what you don’t know.”
What is true of art is even truer of life, for a human life is the greatest work of art there is. (In my own life, looking back on my ten most important learnings from the first ten years of Brain Pickings, I placed the practice of the small, mighty phrase “I don’t know” at the very top.) But to live with the untrammeled openendedness of such fertile not-knowing is no easy task in a world where certitudes are hoarded as the bargaining chips for status and achievement — a world bedeviled, as Rebecca Solnit memorably put it, by “a desire to make certain what is uncertain, to know what is unknowable, to turn the flight across the sky into the roast upon the plate.”
That difficult feat of insurgency is what the great Polish poet Wisława Szymborska (July 2, 1923–February 1, 2012) explored in 1996 when she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for capturing the transcendent fragility of the human experience in masterpieces like “Life-While-You-Wait” and “Possibilities.”
It’s not that they’ve never known the blessing of this inner impulse. It’s just not easy to explain something to someone else that you don’t understand yourself.
Noting that she, too, tends to be rattled by the question, she offers her wieldiest answer:
Inspiration is not the exclusive privilege of poets or artists generally. There is, has been, and will always be a certain group of people whom inspiration visits. It’s made up of all those who’ve consciously chosen their calling and do their job with love and imagination. It may include doctors, teachers, gardeners — and I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it. Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem they solve. Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous “I don’t know.”
In a sentiment of chilling prescience today, as we witness tyrants drunk on certainty drain the world of its essential inspiration, Szymborska considers the destructive counterpoint to this generative not-knowing:
All sorts of torturers, dictators, fanatics, and demagogues struggling for power by way of a few loudly shouted slogans also enjoy their jobs, and they too perform their duties with inventive fervor. Well, yes, but they “know.” They know, and whatever they know is enough for them once and for all. They don’t want to find out about anything else, since that might diminish their arguments’ force. And any knowledge that doesn’t lead to new questions quickly dies out: it fails to maintain the temperature required for sustaining life. In the most extreme cases, cases well known from ancient and modern history, it even poses a lethal threat to society.
This is why I value that little phrase “I don’t know” so highly. It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself “I don’t know,” the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up and gobble them with gusto. Had my compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie never said to herself “I don’t know”, she probably would have wound up teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families, and would have ended her days performing this otherwise perfectly respectable job. But she kept on saying “I don’t know,” and these words led her, not just once but twice, to Stockholm, where restless, questing spirits are occasionally rewarded with the Nobel Prize.
Such surrender to not-knowing, Szymborska argues as she steps out into the cosmic perspective, is the seedbed of our capacity for astonishment, which in turn gives meaning to our existence:
The world — whatever we might think when terrified by its vastness and our own impotence, or embittered by its indifference to individual suffering, of people, animals, and perhaps even plants, for why are we so sure that plants feel no pain; whatever we might think of its expanses pierced by the rays of stars surrounded by planets we’ve just begun to discover, planets already dead? still dead? we just don’t know; whatever we might think of this measureless theater to which we’ve got reserved tickets, but tickets whose lifespan is laughably short, bounded as it is by two arbitrary dates; whatever else we might think of this world — it is astonishing.
But “astonishing” is an epithet concealing a logical trap. We’re astonished, after all, by things that deviate from some well-known and universally acknowledged norm, from an obviousness we’ve grown accustomed to. Now the point is, there is no such obvious world. Our astonishment exists per se and isn’t based on comparison with something else.
Granted, in daily speech, where we don’t stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like “the ordinary world,” “ordinary life,” “the ordinary course of events” … But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.
Twenty years before she received the Nobel Prize, Szymborska explored how our contracting compulsion for knowing can lead us astray in her sublime 1976 poem “Utopia,” found in her Map: Collected and Last Poems (public library):
Island where all becomes clear.
Solid ground beneath your feet.
The only roads are those that offer access.
Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.
The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here with branches disentangled since time immemorial.
The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple, sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.
The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista: the Valley of Obviously.
If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly.
Echoes stir unsummoned and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds.
On the right a cave where Meaning lies.
On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction. Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.
Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley. Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things.
For all its charms, the island is uninhabited, and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches turn without exception to the sea.
As if all you can do here is leave and plunge, never to return, into the depths.
Into unfathomable life.
Purely for the fun of it, I found myself drawing Szymborska’s poetic island in a map inspired by Thomas More’s Utopia:
Subliminal messages in advertising are but one tool available to public relations and propaganda professionals to manufacture consent, create unanimity, and encourage group-think. The use of formulas, scripts and rehearsals are also integral parts of the production process, and a look at how easily a formula can influence our perception of the information being presented shows us just how easy it is to be duped by well-presented nonsense.
TED Talks are ubiquitous on the Internet, and their comfortably predictable formula lends them instant credibility. The well-produced, important sounding speeches featuring seemingly ordinary people with “Big” ideas have become a source of wisdom and knowledge, as important to our culture as 24-hour news pundits and Snopes.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) produced a TED Talk parody video which hilariously exposes the formula that gives TED so much of its instant credibility, while showing how ‘thought leaders’ are created by the magic of media production.
Throughout modern media, mainstream news and television, well-groomed presenters, who are really actors, are trained to use language, pause, inflection, volume, suspense, drama, and emotion to instruct you how to receive a message. This is rehearsed and perfected so that you only see the final confident and authoritative performance.
Group-think doesn’t just happen. Conformity of thought and deed are cultural implants, brought into being by clever marketers, psychological change makers, and script writers. The TED formula works, and pretty much anyone can copy it; and in the era of fake news and intense propaganda, it’s no longer acceptable to take media at face value. Given the nature of the human mind, most people are unaware enough to separate the information being presented from the way in which it is intended to be received. Furthermore, much of what is presented to us as live broadcasting is actually well planned, well thought out, well rehearsed and well designed to not only plant ideas in our society, but to shape how we feel about those ideas.
Here, Luke Rudkowski of We Are Change offers insight into how this actually works in media organizations like The Huffington Post, telling of his invitation to a ‘live’ broadcast which turned out to be taped, rehearsed and well manicured before being presented to the public as if it were truly live.
And please, try to avoid words like “mother” and “father” unless you can say “mother and father” together. Yes, the article states that.
Gee, is there an order for this? Yes, there is. It better be random. Always saying mother first could get you in trouble. The article did not say but the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” clearly has to go.
According to the guide, Mrs. and Miss are considered offensive. Clearly, it’s best to avoid gender-identifying terms altogether.
What happens When these culturally-trained “snowflakes” hit the real world outside of their safe-space university?
Hmm. Am I allowed to use the word “snowflake” like that? Apologies offered for my unsportspersonslike conduct.