[For the non-Japanese speaker: This is a tutorial on how to improve English reading skills using Internet resources to find content you’re actually interested in / can understand; it’s part of my Customised Interaction Approach]
Today I wanted to take a break, but I see this news on TV about a weapons show where they showcase the latest technology developed for an incredibly complex machine (a jet fighter) to destroy another incredibly complex machine (a tank).
Then, some expert comes on to say that the Asian countries are now very interested in purchasing these machines.
The weapons market is now heating up.
We are now talking about weapons in “market economy” terms.
This is one reason market capitalism is idiotic
(in its etymological sense idioumai “to appropriate to oneself”).
These weapons have a high value because people like killing each other.
Why do people like killing each other? Because they’re afraid. Because people are (evolutionary-speaking) cowards; they think “I’m going to buy this weapon and it will allow me to kill the Other and I will survive”.
Signals bouncing in slowed-up motion. You keep having dialogues into nothingness, and each reply takes longer and longer to reach you, each reply feels like the last reply you hear from your body, your mind, your memories…
Who knows how many dialogues are possible in the huge intervals when your brain grinds towards a never-reached halt?
Now, if during these (perception-wise) infinite intervals we had to live with the thought of having killed another person, that would be the most horrible thought one could dwell on.
You see, I believe that most of us have a dialogue with our selves.
If we accept the premise that we can understand each other (i.e., there are shared meanings), then, by extension, there must be some shared dialogues.
When I’m not staring into the water like Narcissus (the fellow who had a dialogue with his own face), I’m having a dialogue with the voice that happens to be echoing inside my head. I believe this kind of dialogue is probably echoed, from time to time, along the same lines, inside the heads of other people.
That’s what allows us to share meanings. That’s what allows us to understand each other.
Think about it like this:
Everybody at some point has some experience of going up or down some stairs or (more generally) using some things that other people have been using.
Accordingly, the dialogue that this person will have with this particular “climbing-the-stairs-self” is probably echoed to a certain degree, more or less, at one point, right?
“Okay, one more step, one more step, is this my floor?”
“Oh, I thought there was another step”
Boom! Tripping on the extra step that was not there.
That would be a shared experience, isn’t it?
Now, these dialogues can best be thought of as longer or shorter “tracks” or “loops”. These tracks are being played in a number of neural networks across the world, as we go about our daily business, which includes many common experiences (Having another sip from that cup of tea?).
Of course, there are many different combinations of these common experiences, and the timing might be very different, but there would be shared tracks to which we (=modern people) love to attach time labels. A ten-second reflection on the weather:
Everybody looks outside, at some point, and says
“Nice weather today” or
“Oh, crap, it’s raining” when you wanted to go to the beach, or hang out the laundry.
These short tracks (which are shared) give us the first clues as to the possibility of talking to each other and understanding each other; and they hint at the absolute necessity of a basic set of shared meanings.
Seeing. I look outside, I see something.
Moving. Going upstairs or downstairs. Something moves.
A concept of “I” which is shared, even if it is (of course) illusory.
These tracks play continuously in our heads, although we’re probably not perceiving them as “loops” as much as “commands” we’ve issued.
You see this self-delusion even in the language of neurocognitive science: “the executive function of the brain”. We have this terminology giving us the false impression that we’re always interacting from a privileged position: the small person at the back of my head, who’s pulling the strings that move my body in the way that it does. The Cartesian theatre illusion, which assumes that there is a mind and there is a body, and that the mind is conceived as the self.
Well, that’s not how it is, in reality, that’s not how it works.
It starts as a projection from a point, but there is no little I watching, detached, passive, what happens, because this I continuously changes with each projection, each time it gets back a reflection (i.e., feedback).
It’s a loop, it’s a track, that we’re playing. I would say there are two kinds of dialogues:
Conscious dialogues: the loudest voice in your head, the one that sounds real
Automatic Subconscious Procedures: former conscious dialogues which have become (as it were) second-nature
Accordingly, when you finish going down those stairs and the little thing inside your head that was probably playing an Automatic Subconscious Procedure which counted wrong and gave you an extra step, when that procedure runs and is contradicted by something in reality, that is when we have the first type of dialogue.
The conscious dialogue is another track that’s running but it was not executive-planned (either).
It was not foreseen; it was something which modified that projected thought and forced it to adapt.
So we are a series of projections which are looped back to us, in the form of dialogues, which up to a certain point allow us to share meanings and to understand each other.
An amateur’s perspective on the choice between simultaneous and consecutive interpreting
A few years ago I made an unexpected discovery in the context of my professional practice as an interpreter; I am not sure whether you are familiar with the distinction I made above, but basically it means the distinction between
talking over the original utterance (usually through microphone, headsets etc. or by whispering near the target audience) and
talking after the speaker is done presenting their argument (this is where you need to take good notes, although you get the benefit of more time to structure your rendering).
In my professional practice, I do both (Japanese-English) and for a long time I didn’t quite understand why I prefer simultaneous over consecutive in some contexts but not in others. After recording some interpreting sessions, it became apparent to me that
the more fluent the speaker is and the more structured their argument,
the harder it is to ‘find the time’ to keep up using simultaneous interpreting &
the easier it is to do consecutive interpreting because of better recall (and better notes, and better links between arguments etc.).
On the other hand,
the poorer the speaker and the more loose their argument,
the easier it is to ‘find time’ to insert (nearly) simultaneous renderings in between the lines &
the harder it is to do consecutive because of partial, disjointed recall (and worse notes, and no apparent links between arguments etc.).
I also experienced a thrill at (re)discovering power relations anchored to speaking time intervals: Those who we consider eligible to talk at length are usually higher placed in the social hierarchy: the politician in the forum, the lecturer in the auditorium, the teacher in the classroom, the husband at home (unfortunately still true in many countries).
On the other hand, whenever someone lower or on the same rung on the social hierarchy breaks the convention, we feel they’re ‘abusing our time’: The cab driver with the conspiracy theory, the work mate we asked ‘how are you?’ and he responded like it was a book, the child elaborating on every little detail of his day in school.
So the question is:
how much time do we give ourselves, and how much time do we allow others?
For years we’ve been told that people cannot afford to care about the natural world until they become rich; that only economic growth can save the biosphere, that civilisation marches towards enlightenment about our impacts on the living planet. The results suggest the opposite.
This is going to be on energy and energy conservation issues. You know how people are considering right now switching to LED lights to save some power because you use less Watts, right? You use some device which is able to project as much light as the others but using only a quarter or one tenth of the power.
Should we ask the question in terms of money-affordability?
If you can afford switching to LEDs, do you then do the cost analysis? Can you recoup your investment? Can you recover the money you put in? Maybe at some point, after a certain number of watt-hours. But that’s not the way, that’s not the question which should be faced because it leads us away from ourselves and into the realm of abstractions.
The question should be faced from the opposite end:
“How much power should we consume on a daily basis?”
If you live on this planet in a developed country, then you should cut down quite a lot. I would also guess you can afford switching to LEDs, but the money aspect should not be as important as the fact that we cannot continue to use as much energy (to power up LEDs, stoves, air-conditioners, etc.) as we use right now. Why is that not feasible?
Have you heard of the term sustainable development? Sustainable growth?
You have to think about this as a system, as an ecological system: If we have enough sources of energy then that organism can survive as a whole.
What happens when we dry out one source or another? We’ll probably switch, we’ll find ways.
What happens when we use up sources which are really critical? What do we mean by critical?
Consider the atmosphere. Is the atmosphere something we can afford to lose?
Can we keep putting carbon dioxide (and other stuff) in it?
We decided that aerosols are not good for this atmosphere and we managed to stop. Now we are trying to decide whether CO2 is bad also and then we discover that there are a lot of CO2 producers in the world and they’re a lot bigger, you know, volcanoes and so on. How about people? Think about the number of people who breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Do you remember that first lesson in anatomy? I hope you do. Lots of people, lots of animals.
Obviously, we cannot stop volcanoes and we cannot stop people or animals from breathing.
What else produces CO2? Burning, right? Oxygen on coal, yeah, Burning…
Where does all this CO2 go? In the atmosphere. So we’re adding some, and then more, and then some more. What happens with all this carbon dioxide? Well some of it gets sucked back in by all the plants.
The plants have been that source which has kept us alive by recovering enough of the carbon dioxide to allow us, higher life-forms, to prosper and live.
So what happens now with this large mass that has been photosynthesising, which has been refreshing our atmosphere for a couple billion years? Can we even mark how long ago this system achieved balance?
And what are we doing now? After millions of years of extended stability, starting at that point when the whole planet starts to work together like a huge living body: breathing in, breathing out.
We take in oxygen, the plants give out oxygen. We give out carbon dioxide, the plants take in carbon dioxide.
That’s Calling-the-Breath-Way. That’s how the planet has been breathing. There is a balance and we’ve been cutting down our partner, cutting at the knees, ripping off clothes.
You hear about these massive fires caused by intensive heat waves, or people who are careless with the barbecue or I don’t know what idiotic story like that. But it’s mainly up to us. It’s mainly because of us, all this burning.
You know they have this idea, in some countries, that we need to burn. The slash and burn culture is a culture which is suicidal beyond a certain point. How much more can we cut ? How much more can we burn? How much longer can we pretend that it’s just trees?
How about the ocean? The ocean also absorbs a lot. There is another partner we have. And we keep on burning.
So what should we do? We consume all this electricity and we’re wondering about the money? We should consume less power no matter what device we use because that power, that source of energy comes to you from the plants, ultimately. From the plants that we’re burning now. The plants that were there at the time of the dinosaurs have sunk into the ground in the meantime and have created massive deposits of various fossil fuels that we’re now burning.
FOSSIL fuels! Can we remember that fossil means something that was alive and breathing? And we’re burning it.
What results from burning it? Ashes and carbon dioxide.
Can we afford to lose the atmosphere? Can we afford to lose our partner?
This is a kaizen proposal for English language learning in Japan.
The sound recording is my (clumsy) Japanese interpretation of the following text
They (=people in general, in this place called Nippon = The Sun-Rooted Country) say
“We, Japanese people in general, cannot speak English”
Actually, not really.
Well, my answer to this is
“Welcome to the club. Many other people in the world don’t or cannot speak English, so stop worrying.”
Actually, stop thinking that it is a “only-in-Japan-thing”. English language education programs all over the world have not been providing the kind of efficiency we expect of our machines. If you take one class of 40 students anywhere around the world where English is taught as a foreign language, there is a very strong probability that 4 (or 8) years later only 10-20% of them would be able to communicate in English. Imagine somebody trying to sell you a machine for making sandwiches and he says
Well, from all the materials going into the machine, we expect a maximum of 20% to end up as sandwiches, the remaining 80% you’ll have to throw away and start with a new batch.
Would you buy this machine?
Why do we have this situation? First of all, notice that my production machine analogy above treats the input stuff (materials: bacon, cheese, bread, salad etc.) as having no possible role in helping you (the sandwich producer) to make more/better sandwiches.
This is why this is an apt metaphor for (English) language teaching, because that’s how students (the “materials”) are treated by teachers (the “producers”).
Of course, in the real world teachers quickly realize that you get better results the less you treat them like passive matter to be molded, so they adapt and try to support their students, help them identify their strong/weak points, encourage them to describe their learning styles, etc.
Notice how the teacher is still the agent, the person in charge of accomplishing the task of making you, the student (= passive subject) a “proficient user of English”.
Well, I have news for you students in Japan and across the world: It is YOU who are in charge of teaching yourself English, because (unless you’re really rich and can afford 10-15 hours of private language coaching every week) you simply cannot get enough time to communicate in English in Japan (or your country where English is a foreign language, ie. not heard on regular TV channels, the supermarket you shop at, not spoken by the taxi drivers, politicians or musicians in your society).
1, 2 or even 3 hours of English instruction (=lessons) a week will not make Japanese students more proficient in English; the only thing that can accomplish this with better efficiency is a
reform of the way Japanese students see themselves as learners of English.
Become a responsible learner, stop trying to find the perfect learning material, textbook and/or English conversation school. Start with the following procedure:
Ask yourself WHY you need English? If you cannot give a good, convincing answer to this, then you probably don’t really need English. End of the story. If you do have good reasons to get better at English, move to step 2 below.
Ask yourself HOW MUCH TIME can you spend each day interacting in English. This interacting should include 4 things: reading something you find A. interesting and B. understandable to you; listening to some spoken English (YouTube the kind of situations where you imagine yourself in a position where you need to use English); writing an email, a blog, your English grammar homework etc.; and, lastly, speaking in English (if, like most people, you cannot find somebody to practice with, I suggest shadowing which means you first listen to somebody speaking (slowly, at your level) in English and then repeat in a loud voice trying to imitate that speaker).
Keep an input (reading/listening) and output (writing/speaking) record of how much time you have spent each day (see this tutorial in Japanese about Customised Interaction Approach) and make sure to update it once a week.
Take whatever questions/problems you have in English to your teacher (if applicable) and get the feedback you need to improve your ACCURACY.
Use the Internet, because that’s where you can find all the material you’ll ever need and much, much more FOR FREE and, what is more important, because that’s the ONLY way to find the material you, personally, are interested in.
(optional) Check this blog for tips about language learning tips.
I know what you’re talking about: been there, sometimes still going there. Even if I am (now) aware of how self-defeating this is.
Bear in mind, though, that it’s part of a larger framework of typical young-male-drunk-on-testosterone behaviour.
(Inadvertently) hurting oneself (emotionally) is typically accompanied by wanting to hurt others (and objectifying them is the quickest shortcut). As an objective observer, it may be obvious to you that rationality flies (when it’s not downright thrown) out the window when you’re a twenty-something-year-old man blundering (on) your way towards adulthood.
It may be that young men need to be told about this irrational behaviour leading to regrettable consequences. It may be that only a mentor-like figure can reach these young men (which may explain why families-with-problems end up creating children who carry on this ‘family tradition’). Then again, if you look at the context in which we find ourselves in, what do you see?
Whenever you turn on the TV, browse the net or interact with any media?
What’s the projected image of men and women on these screens?
What physiological response is it set to trigger?
So this one is directed at this lady who wrote a post about college students Objectifying Women, if I understand right, and how this is self-defeating and, emotionally speaking, self-mutilating for young guys to consider women as objects. I suppose this was triggered by hearing guys talk about women and the woman body, I assume this would’ve been a conversation going like this: I really like that chick, she has nice boobs, ass, whatever.
This comment, by the way, is premised on the idea that
as a woman, you have different hormones operating in a different balance in your brain.
You may feel that you can simulate in your own mind what it would be like to have this hormone (testosterone), running in your brain. Of course, to some degree, you can.
But you do not understand how strongly it operates in men of college student age, men in their 20s.
Having been there myself and still shaking off the catastrophic results wrecked on my body, I can tell you that it doesn’t just involve chasing girls and talking about I-don’t-know-what chick that you managed to score with. It also involves some acts, some instances of insane behaviour: I climbed buildings just to show off, maybe to get some attention, some woman’s attention, I don’t even remember. To get anybody’s attention, up to a point; I believe that as a narcissist an extrovert you can relate to that.
Testosterone in men of this age drives us insane to a degree that is hard to explain. Probably the best analogy would be getting drunk (on alcohol) and acting all weird, obnoxious and in-your-face: Gulliver in Lilliput kind of guy.
However, with the drunkard we still have the hope that he might collapse in a stupor, pass out and not be the aggressive guy that punches everybody or gropes women.
Notice that the behaviour we see here is not something we blame absolutely; I mean you blame alcohol and we hold people responsible if they hurt other people while drunk, or when these guys hurt themselves, but you (and the courts) might consider alcohol to be attenuating circumstances.
That being said, we have a different attitude towards people drunk on testosterone.
Because this is what teenagers are, what men are, when they’re 20. They’re drunk on testosterone, for a long time; it takes a huge amount of effort just NOT to act your imagined behaviour of wanting to be with I-don’t-know-what female that you find attractive.
Let’s remember that in Islam they think that this is so strong they need to cover the women; other religions as well have these taboos placed on what menstruating women can do. Let’s remember that. Why?
Because people think that the behaviour of young men high on testosterone cannot be explained rationally, and cannot be controlled rationally.
Now, is this a valid position? I don’t know. Based on my experience, I understand the need for laying down rules [although I disagree about who the rules should apply to].
I have acted so irrationally when I was in my 20s that it is embarrassing just to realize that I had no good reason (which I would be able to explain to others). I probably still act irrationally sometimes. I still get drunk to the point of almost passing out, because I’m a man, I’m Eastern European and all that.
If you hear me talk and I sound fairly rational, you might think “This guy must be smart”. I am perhaps smart now, but if you put me in a group with three other guys and everybody is like “Yeah let’s get wasted!”, I might just join; the probability is up there. Hopefully I’ll find some really good excuse not to, since my body cannot take much more alcohol; but I might do it.
Now, imagine when I rewind the tape a couple of years and everybody’s like “Yeah let’s go chase skirt, check out that chick, she has awesome boobs and she’s wearing a T-back!” or whatever. Our fantasy is fuelled every day by whatever we see on TV, or on the Internet.
It’s hard to explain this male addiction of thinking about women in an objectifying manner, which (as you say) is emotionally self-mutilating.
I do not dispute your conclusion; I’m just talking about how realistic are your expectations that young men behave rationally.
It will definitely help if we could accelerate the process by which young guys reach maturity; this is why I commend you on what you’re saying. But would these guys have the time to read? Would they have some model figure around them that would educate them into developing healthily?
Did I have a model figure around me? Umm, not so much. I had to wait for aikido to come into my life, to make me understand more about myself and about what I wanted to be like. Many of your models (those you might think of as your models) would not be your models anymore when you reach maturity.
Maybe you saw the guy that was very popular and you wanted to be like him because he seemed to have lots of girls around him.
Maybe you saw the guy who could drink I don’t know how much alcohol and you wanted to be like him.
It could be that young men need to be told as soon as they’re able to listen that the irrational behaviour they’re likely to engage in at a certain age will have some consequences later on in life. Or even immediately.
I got lucky, I got lucky many times, and I suppose that most men get lucky (to survive this period); then, of course, you have the people falling through. I didn’t crash when I was riding a motorcycle at insane speeds, wearing a T-shirt. Why? Because I was lucky; you could say it’s also reflexes; yeah, maybe. No, allow me to be truthful: I was just lucky. Pure, blind luck.
How about in terms of my emotional development, and about objectifying women?
I now realise I can have a dialogue with myself on this topic, about my relationships, with my wife, of course, with women in general, ex-girlfriends and so on. And I also thought about the relationships you have with women you see on the street, total strangers you check out perhaps. Or not.
How do you react to all this extremely cosmeticised content that has been projected at you every day about what is desirable?
What about all these secrets of looking good, the perfect body weight for a young female? You see it on TV and you wonder: Can we still ask people to be rational?
Can we still have some figure explain to young men rationally the effects of framing women in the way that they are painted on TV, on the Internet, in movies, in commercials, in posters, in music, in magazines, and even in newspapers?
The framing of women by the mass media as objects (physical objects to be desired, certain shapes to be followed, certain patterns) has been going on for so long that just to expect young men to follow somebody’s rational advice about the implications of such framing is non-realistic. So we need to improve that (i.e., to educate men), but we also need to work on the mass media.
Because as long as those are the women (images) we see every day, as long as those images are photoshopped in such a way as to trigger nearly immediate unconscious responses from a physiological point of view (hormonal responses, right?), it is not sufficient to insist on having a rational dialogue with these young people.
We need to improve the other side as well, and the other side is the Mass-Media. How do we improve it?
Should we have censorship? What kind of censorship? How much censorship? How do we define our standards?
I suppose that at this point the conversation gets too complicated and this is why you didn’t touch on it. But it was a good post, made me think about my own experience and how I survived it, and with what damage I inflicted on myself (and inflicted on others, come to think of it) in those years, and how long it took me to recover from that.
So yeah, it was a good post. I suppose that’s why I’m leaving a comment.