Saturday, 24 September 2016

Pale Blue Dot

Voyager 1, which had completed its primary mission and was leaving the Solar System, was commanded by NASA to turn its camera around and take one last photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space, at the request of astronomer and author Carl Sagan.

The Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of the Earth taken from the Voyager Space Craft in 1990 from 6 billion kilometres away. This iconic image was taken at the request of famous astronomer, Carl Sagan, as the engineers took one last look at their home planet, which appeared as a tiny dot against the vastness of space.

Carl Sagan opened our eyes to the meaning of this image and life on earth: On that dot “every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives.”

Seen from about 6 billion kilometers, Earth appears as a tiny dot (the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right) within the darkness of deep space. 

Now follow the link in the tweet below and play the video at the site:
Let us reflect on what Sagan says:

Sapientia et Doctrina ... 

Monday, 12 September 2016

Media Storms & rushing to conclusions

The title to this post could have read rushing to deductions, assumptions or inferences.

Consider an issue of local or global concern that consistently populates the headlines, or a news story break that creates a social media storm. Narrative/s take hold and everyone incl. bloggers, citizen journos on Facebook or Twitter alike are commenting on, and reporting in accordance with the prevailing theory of the moment, deductions are drawn consistent with the narrative, alas groupthink follows.
“The commentariat fell into a bubble and were reflecting what each other thought”
Said Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten, after nearly wrestling government from the Liberal Party in the recent election, he went on,
"A narrative caught hold and everyone started reporting it."
A politics example demonstrating how in this case, the prevailing consensus or narrative amongst political journalists shouted of a convincing win for the incumbents, as it turned out they only won by a whisker.

As Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Dom Cobb asks in the film Inception,
"What is the most resilient parasite? “A bacteria, a virus, an intestinal worm?"
None, it is an idea!

Narratives take hold and everyone follows suit and once this happens the prevailing theories are difficult to stamp out.

In relation to its basis and, likely motivations, citizen or guerrilla journos in particular, ought contemplate next time a major news story breaks. Think Orlando shootings or Nice terror attack, indeed it should also be contemplated in relation to any number of social issues e.g. Climate Change, Abortion, Birth Control, Capital Punishment, Equal Pay, Euthanasia, Gun Rights, Racism and Same Sex Marriage to name a few.

A more intelligent response would involve seeking information from a variety of news sources and employing rational reasoned thinking that balances all the known and unknown to arrive at a fluid response until all is known which mostly occurs sometime after the event. I would refer to this as sharp-witted critical thinking!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

A Notable Personal Introspection

Considering I was, and have been in varying extents silly, immature, anxious, cruel, reckless and impatient, egotistical, unprofessional, incompetent, irrational and simply bad most often. I refer to the age of 15 - 25 and, to a lesser though still significant extent, between the age of 25 – 35, and again to a lesser but still significant extent, between the age of 35 – 45, and yet again, to a lesser extent from the age of 45 onward .... I am now fantastically successful in my mid fifties.

As I reflect on this, I also realize that at core, I always knew where the “off” button was, I knew when to draw the line, I knew how to maintain the fundamentals right, e.g. marrying the right girl, buying a home, keeping a job, keeping my financials in order etc. I also knew how to maintain appearances and create righteous facades. Nonetheless, this does not diminish the fact that I was, at times very irresponsible, and came too close to outright sabotage and yet, given where I am at this time, being August 2016, in totality I am fantastically successful, in spite of my past foolish idiosyncrasies.

The other realization is that the first paragraph reveals improvement as I grew older, and this is the inspiring feature of my being, better late than never, constant and never-ending improvement to become the man, person, and “individual” I am today.

I am tempted to list the acts that constitute the “foolish idiosyncrasies” to which I refer, however this may not be a worthwhile exercise, more to the point, I feel it would be self-defeating. 

One way to make amends is to continue growing, becoming better and ultimately more successful still...

Friday, 17 June 2016

Audio - Guns, Religion, Islamic Extremism and Orlando Shootings

" ... Can I venture to suggest that it may be more accurate to ascribe the cause of Mateen's actions to extreme homophobia inspired by radical islamism? Gun availability in and of itself, was not the root cause ..."

" ... but aren't all religions hostile to gays?" ... " .... mostly yes, but this reason is superfluous and a lame form of moral equivalence ..."

If you would like the transcript of above audio please email me at:

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Radical to forms of liberal Islam – Is intrinsic change possible in a new country, Australia?

"... it is my belief that we can never discount the possibility that radical Muslims or simply those susceptible to elements of such will remain a threat to our way of life, not merely those from abroad but unfortunately and most alarmingly, the home grown variety ..."

Recent mumblings about the failure of multiculturalism coming out of Europe, in addition to the ongoing spats about race and immigration issues here in Australia, not to mention Islamic threats cultivated within our borders have left me wondering whether our terrorist fears stem from issues associated with integration, pure racism or actual terrorist threats. Let us be honest, we have problems associated with race or otherwise, anti-Muslim sentiments as demonstrated by recent findings that show, 1 in 10 Australians have “very problematic views on diversity and on ethnic difference". In a recent discussion with friends they seemed to justify their concern in terms of possible terror threats posed by those arriving on our shores illegally.

Is this concern valid? This is a question I posed several years ago when writing a short piece whilst at University where the topic was ‘change’. Specifically,  can those illegals who harbour radical elements of their faith change by abandoning such beliefs as they commune within their new society, moving away from considerations of the extreme or moderately fanatical elements of Islamic thought - moving therefore, from radical to forms of liberal Islam.

Upon reading it once again, I got thinking about how it might apply to personal change in relation to religious doctrine and beliefs, not just adaptation but rather, deep seated and cultural transformation among Muslims living for example, in the United States, Great Britain and Australia.

I refer to the tens of thousands of Muslims that form part of our communities and in particular, what proportion of them may harbour radical elements of their faith. Unfortunately, studies reveal that a small but significant segment not only sympathise with their radical colleagues but have a propensity to consider and carry out violent acts against westerners in spite of an entire lifetime living amongst and appearing to outwardly enjoy the benefits of the societies in which they reside. How could this be? I should add that the percentage of Islamists who pose a danger to their communities within for example, Australia would be very, very small, perhaps minuscule, but as we noted with the London bombings and the 9/11 attacks it does not take many to inflict harm on a massive scale.

It poses more questions, does ones external environment and the behavioural modifications and modes of personal conduct associated with such, lead to permanent change. I guess we need to consider the question of change as it relates to the common oxford definition, one that refers to a person 'making or becoming different', because of environmental factors. This obliges me to consider that age-old concept of modernism, in particular, the modernist concept of a 'true (constant) self'.

I am of the opinion that participation within our way of life does indeed involve being changed and changing oneself however, I do not feel that the change is intrinsic, and accordingly, the modernism concept of a 'true self' is compelling.

I do not wish to delve into comprehensive considerations about “concepts of self”, as one could write a thesis in this area alone; it is easier to restrict the discussion to the more discernible elements of Muslims within our social order.

All societies have unique characteristics that provoke different thoughts and subsequent actions amongst it participants. They also all have there own grand and historical elements that present a multifaceted culture both as a whole and within its parts. Even as there are various consistencies and diffusion amongst different groups, disciplines, and sub-cultures, a person (in this case Muslim) may at least, be influenced by a society’s ‘different norms and values’ … ‘patterns of power and authority’ … ‘different standards’ … [and] ‘modes of expression’ (Kolb, David, 1981 p.233). The influence of a society is exacted circuitously upon individuals through the processes and norms of its institutions and this represents but one way that a culture, exacts change (the accepted social order) upon partakers. Whether this influence inhibits or promotes real change toward westernisation, depends on the person’s disposition and worldview (the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world), and we know how much this can vary between different cultures and religions. At another level, the extent of change, obligatory or otherwise, will contrast amongst individuals again depending on their worldview, (which also includes their deep seated beliefs), but also made subjective by their education, specifically the disciplines one may study. Incidentally, education of even the highest standards does not; in itself guarantee to purge ones deep-seated and fundamental beliefs.

Of course one can also mount a plausible contrasting argument on the belief that any modifications of behaviour as a result of environmental factors are in fact indicative of real and lasting change, arguing that humans are ‘fragmented’, ‘fluid’ and ‘constructed’; that ones experiences lend to the construction of self – classic post modernism, (this is in contrast to modernism views expressed and defined with terms such as, 'fixed' and having a 'true', 'unified', and essential self). Uncertainties in relation to which concept of self applies arise when one acknowledges the difference in human modes of conduct, in differing life roles. We may be one self as a mother, sister, or brother, a different self as an employee and different again depending on our roles. The different contexts create a problem, thus we mistakenly confuse behavioural changes and environmentally induced responses with concepts of self, believing that they are more representative of Post Modernism thinking. Here I cannot agree, imagine if you will moving to a strictly Muslim nation, behaviorally you may present differently but can you really expect to discard all that you have been, all that has been indoctrinated into your being through socialisation and guardians over time within your home culture? Will your fundamental worldview shift at all, let alone profoundly?

Like all humans, Muslims aspire to certain universal attributes of character and whilst these may differ amongst them, the majority (like all of us) seek to be content, happy, and good as based around an established worldview (and self) that minimally takes into account race, gender, class, geography and present and past cultures that they, may have experienced. There is a lot to take into account hence, this needs to be considered as part of our attempt to understand the inner beliefs and ruminations of the radical Islamist and the depth of hatred toward anyone whose beliefs run contrary.

The process of being changed and changing as a person lends to the exploration of feelings of, and about life goals and purpose. Thus membership and participation in our, or indeed any society/culture facilitates and contributes to a process whereby, 'the meaning of … personal directions' is explored thus guiding the person toward that which is the essential, already constructed self, so as to move toward, ' … that self which one already is' (Rogers, Carl R. 1967). Therefore, it goes that in spite of all life experiences and the resulting outward change exhibited by Islamists, age-old questions linger. It is as if there is inherent within, a quest to move toward the 'true self'; that self which has always been. As Carl Roger's states, an ‘individual moves toward being, knowingly and acceptingly, the process which he inwardly and actually is … listening to the deepest recesses of his … being'. As an example, I vividly recall a conversation with a group of young (twenty something) Bosnian Serbs as we discussed news reports about Bosnian Serb soldiers systematically executing as many as 2,000 Muslim prisoners after taking the UN ''safe area'' of Srebrenica. To my disbelief, the young Australian born Serbs completely condoned the actions of their compatriots overseas. Probing for explanations one of them simply said, “I don’t know, I just feel it here,” pointing to the centre of his chest, added another, “It’s in the blood”.

Accordingly, it is my belief that we can never discount the possibility that radical Muslims or simply those susceptible to elements of such will remain a threat to our way of life, not merely those from aboard but unfortunately and most alarmingly, the home grown variety.

We humans have a central 'true self' that remains intact throughout our lives in spite of society’s dominant contemporary and historical permanence, its institutional processes, values, ideology, culture and sub-cultures.

If I am right, even partially so, what is the most constructive way to deal with our local Muslim populations? Wouldn't any attempt to indoctrinate them in terms of western values be an exercise in futility? Is acceptance and tolerance the answer? Perhaps as a way of teaching them the values of mutual respect for all cultures and race.

What do you think?


Rogers, Carl R. 1967, 'To be that self which one truly is': A therapist's view of personal goals', On Becoming a Person: A therapist's view of psychotherapy, Constable, London, pp. 163-182.

Kolb, David A. 1981, 'Learning styles and disciplinary differences' in Chickerine, Arthur W. & Associates, The Modern American College, Jossey Bass, San Francisco, pp. 232 - 235 and 251 - 252.

Copyright ©  2006 - 2016 Otto Marasco

Useful resource: Contemporary Philosophy – Postmodernism and Critical Theory

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Tech issues

" ... But those bookmark differences between Edge on PC and Edge on Lumia 950 persist ..."

Heard about sync settings on Windows 10 devices? It is a great feature that allows windows users to keep track of the settings you care about as it sets them for you on all your Windows 10 devices.

You can choose to sync such things as web browser settings, passwords, and color themes etc.

Thus when surfing on my Lumia 950 yesterday (which is packaged with Microsoft Edge), I was surprised to note some differences between my bookmarks on my phone and those for my PC back home. It appears that some changes I recently made on the PC's bookmarks have not synced to my Lumia.

A bookmark I have re-named “Present Interests" on my PC's Favourites Bar within Edge still has the old name on my Lumia. Furthermore on my PC it contains contains no less than 10 bookmarks/favourites however, this same bookmark on my phone contains only 4. I happen to add the additional six favourites some two weeks back - Surely enough time for them to have synchronized with my Lumia 950?

Before I am asked, I have turned sync on, on my PC via Start > Settings > Accounts > Sync your settings AND via Edge More (...) > Settings.

I have also turned on sync my Lumia 950 via Settings > Accounts > Sync your settings AND via the phones Edge browser (…) > Settings > Sync your content.

Finally, on my Lumia I also verified my identity.

Importantly to, I have signed in on all devices using the same MS account (I only have one account anyway).

All my system app on both Lumia and PC are up to date.

I have tried to manually sync Microsoft account on the phone: People > ... > Settings > tap and hold Outlook > sync

What else can one do to make this feature work as it should, does Microsoft OneDrive have anything to do with it?

I am liaising via twitter with the folks at @LumiaHelp who are trying to assist with this.

Update 1:
It seems sync does work for my calendar as I just added a new event on my PC and the new event appeared on my phone calender app within minutes ... But those bookmark differences between Edge on PC and Edge on Lumia 950 persist.
Update 2:
I have just noticed that if I create a reading list on my Lumia it syncs to my PC but conversely, if I create one on my PC it does not sync to my Lumia?
 Update 3:
I thought to turn my sync setting on and off on both PC and Lumia to see if it corrects problem, but no luck. 
Update 4:
The folks at @LumiaHelp (Twitter) have escalated the problem and requested personal contact details, vital Lumia information including IMEI, Phone OS System and Microsoft Edge version details. Hopefully some answers soon... 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Our Ideological Divides II - Personality and Values

This post serves as an extension of my April 5, 2016 post, ideological divides.

These days we can make somewhat precise predictions about people's values in relation to politics through various unconnected factors such as how they dress, where they live, the cars they own, how much orderliness there is in their lives and even, music and book preferences. Given that, our two main parties have well entrenched publically espoused values through their party platforms, they make for good targets for whatever political personality types.

Interestingly, our political parties have shaped their own values that in turn, influence people's lifestyle elements by creating diverging facts resulting in different beliefs about history (stolen generation real or not?), science and notably economics. How you ask? By way of example, the previous Labor government’s school curriculum over- emphasised the themes, Environment, Colonialism, Social history, Anti-modernism, Class and Minority groups and Multiculturalism while under-emphasising, Religion, Western Civilisation, Political History, and Economic growth and Technology. We also have no mention of the three pillars of Western Civilisation, instead replaced by what conservatives would refer to as, the three pillars of political correctness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia and Sustainability. Moreover, on the question of economic growth and technology one would think that the entrepreneurial spirit of the era would warrant a mention in the curriculum, but the word “entrepreneur” appears nowhere. More exactly, when the curriculum refers to wealth it only refers to the distribution of wealth, never the creation of wealth.

Let us now look at the interpretation of economics in terms of beliefs and values as associated with ideology. A centre-right Liberal party supporter or politician would have very different views to an ALP or Greens advocate about some contemporary economic issues of the day. Will abolishing the minimum wage increase unemployment or decrease it? Will it stimulate the economy or depress it? How is it best to deal with economic recessions, via stimulus or austerity? What about tightening the eligibility criteria or completely cutting unemployment benefits (dole), will it propel individuals to find employment or set them up for the scrap heap?

Given the differing personality types and personal values of LNP, ALP and Greens supporters it is nigh impossible to obtain an accurate and impartial answer to questions about ideological righteousness associated with economic policies since all participants are both consciously and unconsciously seeking arguments answers and facts, that are consistent with their personal values. Individuals begin their personal deliberations about what is right or wrong, true or untrue and then seek out supporting evidence that in all cases, is available. Hence, one can always find documented academic (even peer reviewed) documentation and opinion pieces arguing that removing the minimum wage will spur economic activity and increase employment just as one can find same for the opposing argument.

Asking what is truth or who is right becomes almost superfluous but not entirely so, for we should never stop asking, questioning and arguing. Argument is good and when related to consensus in politics, it should always precede it.

As a final point, we should also acknowledge that in terms of politics and ideology, human values, knowledge, convictions and even creeds are relative, elastic and fluid …

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Our Ideological Divides

Ideological Divides
Something struck me about the following lines that were on a flyer that landed in my letterbox some time ago:
“As a long standing member of the ALP, I appreciate the role councils play in providing quality services to the community” 
One could also envision the words, “The Greens” in place of ALP, but could you envision LNP in place of ALP? I dare say no. The innocuous lines imply that only the ALP establishment, in addition to others to the left of it, and their members and representatives can recognise, appreciate and deliver quality services to the community- the term being an integral word in the language and semantics of the left.

This conception is akin to an unwritten but contestable attribute of the progressive classes. Nonetheless, it belies the truth about the importance placed on community by their ideological opposites, that is, those on the right and including conservatives.

Truth is, those on the right also place importance on "community" they, like progressives and those of the left, have entirely similar moral foundations and act on their passions with the same vigour and conviction of righteousness however, they have different moral philosophies - defending, and recommending their concept/s of right and wrong conduct.

As a result of factors associated with the disciplines of Anthropology, Psychology and related cultural factors, individuals that engage in the political, either as active or passive participants, formulate passions from which they hypothesis, derive and construct partisan suppositions.

Accordingly, ideological divides result in wide gaps of opinion about political parties, their policies and, party leaders alike.

However, what of the legitimacy of each, who is right, who is wrong? 

As an appendage to the question I, being a conservative have come to accept as true, that the insights of all sides, the left and right, play a role for a nation to flourish. Not that this answers the legitimacy question I posed.

Once again, who is right, what is your view?

Monday, 4 April 2016

A simple thought about Progressives Vs Conservatives ...

A Progressive or those who champion collectivism the see a loafer, bum, panhandler or simply an incompetent family or individual leading a dissolute life and says/thinks:
“This is not your fault, society has done this to you, let me take you to the shelter and get you clothing, feed you, try to get you detoxed from whatever chemical dependency you may have. Afterwards, we’ll visit the local Centrelink office to ensure your getting all that you are entitled to and I will extending a hand for there is no limit to my compassion and caring" .... 
Progressives really live this; they have a natural unselfish propensity to give bread and fish instead of teaching one how to fish for themselves, they value a socialistic ethos of living. A Conservative or those that champion individualism sees the same and says/thinks:
“There is not doubt life has given you a bad cast of luck right now. Well, I am going to help you help yourself. I am not going to coddle you and feel sorry for you rather, I am going to impel you through tough love and show you how to get some self-esteem so that you can become a wealth earner and a resource to society instead of being a wealth-waster and a consumer of society's resources. I am going to give you this gut string and show you how to fish, cook the fish and never have to depend on anybody again for as long as you live"..... 
Conservatives are wired to be independent, isolationists, and fend for themselves. They value a capitalistic ethos and accordingly, do not understand the progressive way of responding. Granted, there are winners and losers in capitalism. If you want to win, you are likely to be honest, industrious, thoughtful, prudent, frugal, responsible, disciplined, efficient and a value a conservative ethos. Losers are lazy, imprudent, ignorant, extravagant, negligent, impractical, inefficient, and almost certainly value a socialist ethos.

Capitalism is the social system that rewards virtue and punishes vice; something that applies across all sectors and occupations whether it be doctors, business executives, or plumbers.

In the twentieth-century, collectivism has been thrust upon us in various guises and related theories that include, Socialism, Fascism, Nazism, Keynesianism, Majoritarianism and Communism to name but a few.

The only social system corresponding with individualism is laissez-faire capitalism. The great advances of the past 150 years in addition to, the astonishing level of material prosperity realized owes itself to the capitalist system. In view of this, I find it perplexing that our educational institutions, professors, many politicians, and those in journalism deride the principles of free enterprise while holding the moral high ground arguing that it is exploitative, dehumanizing, alienating, and ultimately enchaining regardless of the prosperity it continues to create.

We must revive and teach our young the virtues associated with being free and independent citizens and, notwithstanding the intellectuals questioning of capitalism, it is the moral and just social system. The system that unleashes the potential of the entrepreneur, the very individuals that gave us penicillin, the internal combustion engine, the airplane, radio, the incandescent light globe, air conditioning, computers, and medical vaccines.

What the capitalist values most is individual freedom, minimal government intervention, taxation and regulation. To great a reliance on welfare, and tariffs, and collective based IR conditions are immoral because they are coercive, inhibit individual pursuits, and contradict our right to exist as, not merely autonomous moral agents, but as a self-contained individual enterprises.

As we progress into the twenty-first century, the virtue of capitalism awaits its new advocates - those prepared to endorse the principle of individual rights as the basis for a free society.

Your comments are most welcomed ...

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Syria conflict explained

Syria, a quagmire of conflicting interests. It is difficult to understand what's going on; a civil war of great complexity. Within its borders Jihadis have built the best funded terrorist group ever, it is not that simple of course but what do we do? Do we try to turn it into Turkey, a modern moderate Muslim nation or for better or worse Iraq, which remains an unstable sectarian battlefield. This post is not about weighing up solutions, it is more about understanding the present. The sentiments below which I came across from one of my email subscriptions, tongue and cheek as they may be, might assist you me and others to understand.
President Assad (who is bad) is a nasty guy who got so nasty his people rebelled and the rebels (who are good) started winning (Hurrah!).

But then some of the rebels turned a bit nasty and are now called Islamic State (who are definitely bad!) and some continued to support democracy (who are still good).

So the Americans (who are good) started bombing Islamic State (who are bad) and giving arms to the Syrian rebels (who are good) so they could fight Assad (who is still bad), which was good.

There is a breakaway state in the north run by the Kurds who want to fight IS (which is a good thing) but the Turkish authorities think they are bad, so we have to say they are bad whilst secretly thinking they're good and giving them guns to fight IS (which is good), but that is another matter.

Getting back to Syria.

So President Putin (who is bad, because he invaded Crimea and the Ukraine and killed lots of folks including that nice Russian man in London with polonium poisoned sushi) has decided to back Assad (who is still bad) by attacking IS (who are also bad), which is sort of a good thing.

But Putin (still bad) thinks the Syrian rebels (who are good) are also bad, and so he bombs them too, much to the annoyance of the Americans (who are good) who are busy backing and arming the rebels (who are also good).

Iran (who used to be bad, but since they have agreed not to build any nuclear weapons and bomb Israel are now good) are going to provide ground troops to support Assad (still bad), as are the Russians (bad) who now have ground troops and aircraft in Syria.

So a Coalition of Assad (still bad), Putin (extra bad), and the Iranians (good, but in a bad sort of way) are going to attack IS (who are bad) which is a good thing, but also the Syrian rebels (who are good), which is bad.

Now the British (obviously good, except for that nice Mr Corbyn in the corduroy jacket, who is probably bad) and the Americans (also good) cannot attack Assad (still bad) for fear of upsetting Putin (bad) and Iran (good/bad), and now they have to accept that Assad might not be that bad after all compared to IS (who are super bad).

So Assad (bad) is now probably good, being better than IS (but let’s face it, drinking your own wee is better than IS so no real choice there), and since Putin and Iran are also fighting IS that may now make them good.  America (still good) will find it hard to arm a group of rebels being attacked by the Russians for fear of upsetting Mr Putin (now good) and that nice Ayatollah in Iran (also good), so they may be forced to say that the rebels are now bad, or at the very least abandon them to their fate.  This will lead most of them to flee to Turkey and on to Europe or join IS (still the only constantly bad group).

To Sunni Muslims, an attack by Shia Muslims (Assad and Iran), backed by Russians, will be seen as something of a Holy War, and the ranks of IS will now be seen by the Sunnis as the only Jihadis fighting in the Holy War, and hence many Muslims will now see IS as good (Doh!.)

Sunni Muslims will also see the lack of action by Britain and America in support of their Sunni rebel brothers as something of a betrayal (mmm….might have a point) and hence we will be seen as bad.

So now we have America (now bad) and Britain (also bad) providing limited support to Sunni rebels (bad), many of whom are looking to IS (good/bad) for support against Assad (now good) who, along with Iran (also good) and Putin (also now, unbelievably, good) are attempting to retake the country Assad used to run before all this started.
Got it now?