What is your work ethic?

Would you work for a company that produces weapons? You’re there assembling guns and rifles, that will be used in wars to kill soldiers but probably also many civilians, and many kids. The salary is good and the workplace comfortable though.

work-ethic-frontMaybe no, but would you work for that company just as an accountant instead? You’re not there assembling guns physically, but working on a computer in one of their offices, with excel files and stuff like that. Your labor still contributes to the cause of a company that kills people for business, but you never touch the weapons personally.

Still no? Ok, then what about cigarettes? Would you work for a company that produces cigarettes? They also offer you a good salary and a comfortable workplace. You’re still working for a company that kills people for business: just very very slowly, and in a way which is socially accepted. Maybe it’s not the creative job you dreamed about… but if the salary is good… maybe you wouldn’t mind, would you?

What about gambling? Would you accept a job where you produce video poker machines? This is much easier to say yes to: your company is not even damaging anyone’s health in this case, it’s just taking advantage of people who are unaware of how the statistics of those machines works. Would a good salary make you be OK with providing your labor to such a company?

Next: would you say yes to a job in the public administration? Here you would work in a typical lazy government office: the job is very stable and a good salary is always granted, whether you work hard or barely. Occasionally you may even have the impression that you’re being productive, but most of the time you realize that your entire office is not doing anything for the society (other than keeping a dozen of employees busy shuffling papers).

The penultimate proposal is working for a restaurant that serves high quality food: tasty, healthy and produced sustainably. You’re back to the private sector, but this time not only your company is not harmful or unproductive, it’s even producing some value for the society (the high quality food). In this case however the salary is only mediocre, and you have to work a lot. How do you feel about this proposal? Does it attract you more or less than the previous ones?

And final question: would you work for a nonprofit organization for no salary? No salary means that probably you have to use your extra time to generate income some other way. The organization helps people in need and the environment, but for you individually this means hard work and plenty of difficult situations to face.

Individual action VS global action

As you examined the previous proposals, considering which jobs you would or wouldn’t accept, you noticed that I formulated the questions in a specific way: I didn’t mention only the individual work that you would do (e.g. assembling guns) or the individual conditions that you would get (e.g. good salary), I also remarked the global action that your company would do in the society, thanks also to the contribution of your labor.

This is an important point of view that is rarely considered. When it comes to evaluating a job, often we are educated to adopt a restricted perspective: we only look at the office we are in, and at the colleagues we have around. And if in this small bubble our personal conditions (salary, workplace) are good, then the job is “good”. But we rarely include in our evaluations the entire entity: the company we work for. If we give our labor to it… what are we helping it doing? What kind of impact does our company have in the world?

I’m sure that many of us would be averse if proposed directly to assemble guns (especially knowing that they will be used to kill kids), however my impression is that at the same time we’re often in a situation that is similar to the situation of the accountant: we are in a work environment that apparently is professional and inoffensive, so we don’t realize that indirectly we’re helping some larger entity have a negative impact in the world.

Broadening the perspective and considering the larger entity is necessary to determine our work ethic, because it’s the starting point to decide how much we are willing to compromise in order to maintain personal benefits.

Personally, as an example, my work ethic tells me not to give my labor to companies whose global action results in the production of unconsciousness. Interestingly, this principle wipes out most of the jobs that exist today, that in my opinion lower both the individual consciousness of the worker and the global consciousness of the environment.

My work ethic also tells me not to give my labor to companies that are unproductive and inefficient, the type of companies that would make me work many hours to produce very little. Knowing how many resources the universe employed for me to be here (food, education… and of course millions of years of evolution 🙂 ) I would feel very bad to use them doing nothing in a lazy office. This second principle wipes out another large number of modern jobs, that seem to me definitely unproductive.

Few examples of jobs that I would very hardly accept because misaligned with these principles would be working for: a bank (parasitic institution that adds zero value to the society), a fast food restaurant (I wouldn’t want to contribute to make people sick), a pharmacy (I prefer to educate people to avoid disease, rather than curing the disease once people have it), a retail store like Zara and H&M (too much focus on appearance, and I really dislike the egotistical attitude that their models wear in the ads), a football stadium (sports like football tend to become mass magnets for unconsciousness), the news on television (propaganda).

And of course I would not work for companies that produce weapons, cigarettes, video poker machines, and I would rather stay away from unproductive government jobs. I may accept one of these jobs only if desperately in need… or maybe if they offered me such a huge salary that I’d feel I could use that salary to contrast these companies more than I would help them with my labor.

Even if definitely a minority, fortunately still many “survivor” jobs exist that pass the test of my work ethic. For example I am generally OK with jobs related to housekeeping, gardening, personal care, farming, tourism, education and art (hopefully at condition that these jobs don’t serve unconsciousness-producing entities as well). Actually I even do some of these jobs occasionally, even if I prefer to focus on other jobs that are my forte AND that produce passive income.

Unethical jobs

I find it rather amusing that today, when someone says that he doesn’t eat meat for ethical reasons, people understand it and are fine with it, but when I say that I don’t have a job for ethical reasons, people look at me weird.

But that’s really one of my main reasons: I would feel really bad having one of the many jobs that are common in the job market today, because no matter how stable the position and how comfortable the workplace, at higher level most of these jobs serve entities like banks, governments, corporations, and these entities create many problems for the society. I don’t want to contribute to create problems.

Even with commerce in general, a large sector that employs the labor of many people, I tend to feel resistance. In my view most shops that exist (physically in the streets, or virtually on internet) sell an impressive amount of unnecessary objects, so working in any of those shops would mean participating to their “bad” cause: materialism. And I really see materialism, a.k.a. the excessive focus on possessing objects, as a big source of unhappiness for people and unconsciousness in general.

Your ethic VS the ethic of your colleagues

A popular Jim Rohn quote is: you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. It makes a lot of sense to me.

If you spend many hours per week in a workplace, can you recognize that you are inevitably influenced by your colleagues? And if your colleagues have -on average- a very different ethic from yours, what are the consequences on you?

I personally experienced a lot of struggle in a previous corporate job for this. It took me awhile to realize that there was a problematic difference between the values that typically circulated in that work environment and my own values. For example, in the relationships with customers, managers and peers, I frequently used to detect a lack of authenticity that bothered me.

Especially in meetings, people were hardly saying what they were really thinking, and lies were a standard practice, for example to avoid admitting responsibilities with delays in completing projects. In those situations, sometimes I would “rebel” and say what I was really thinking anyway, but most times I would get carried in the flow and tell many lies too, to avoid constant arguing. Unfortunately this was influencing also my personal life, in fact I recognized that the number of lies that I was telling in my private sphere was increasing as well, because I was getting used to it.

I think that in general it’s very difficult to maintain integrity and stay loyal to your principles if in your workplace if you see everybody around constantly going against those principles. For example, again in the specific case of authenticity, you can try to be as authentic as you want in your work, but the problem is at the higher level: the type of job itself, the sector in which you are. Some workplaces are inevitably doomed to be pervaded by inauthenticity because they belong to an estabilishment that is inherently based on a lie.

That’s the case, for example, of the entire banking estabilishment, that sits on the lie that paper money is backed up by anything. This lie at the root inevitably reaches all the levels of the estabilishment, from the meetings at the top of the elite bankers, to the relationships among “simple” bank employees at lower levels: in general they will all be more prone to lie than, for example, people who work in farming.

Similarities exist in other sectors: politics (sits on the lie that most politicians work to serve the citizens instead of themselves), mass media news (sits on the lie that they’re produced to inform the audience), advertising (lies are the foundation of the whole business), and so on.

Some sectors in general have a bad karma, so if you work in those sectors -at any level- you put yourself in a situation where your values are constantly challenged. How are you supposed to maintain a strong work ethic there? Wouldn’t it be easier to just migrate to another sector with better karma?

Last questions

I want to end this article just as I started it, with some questions.

What are you available to do for a salary?

If you do have a job, whether you’re working as an employee or as an entrepreneur, what does your company do? What kind of impact does it have in the world: positive, negative, irrelevant? Does your company promote materialism and consumerism, making society more miserable? Does it promote science and art, making society happier?

In which direction is your company pushing, and so in which direction are you also pushing by giving your labor to it? If you’re working inside a comfortable bubble but that bubble is included in a larger bad bubble, is that OK for you? Is it in line with your work ethic?

Does your company add value to the world, subtract value from the world, or maybe it’s not doing anything significant, so whether you and your colleagues go to work each day or not… the outside society wouldn’t even notice the difference?

And those people who accept challenging jobs for nonprofit organizations -without even getting paid-, what is their motivation?

Related: The function of labor, How to earn money without working, What is the utility of the bank?

5 Cool ideas for entrepreneurs

1. Tiny house to rent out. Having a property to rent out for short periods to non-residents (tourists, business travelers…) is great to produce passive income. Today there are many online platforms specialized on short term rentals, like the famous Airbnb. However real estate is expensive. Owning a traditional property to rent, in an area that has enough demand from travelers, usually requires a big upfront investment.

ideas-for-entrepreneurs-tiny-house-to-rent-out-tTiny houses can be a brilliant solution. They’re very small houses that respond to a minimalist philosophy, very attractive for people with a “green” mindset and into alternative lifestyles. You can buy a tiny house, they’re way cheaper than traditional houses, or even build one yourself and create a unique architectural jewel, and with a very small budget have an active listing on Airbnb already.

This is a great idea, the main challenge is where to place your tiny house: usually you can’t place it right in the center of a city, or you would violate local regulations, but at the same time you don’t want to place it too far from the center, in the countryside, or probably there won’t be enough demand from travelers. If you can buy (or rent) a piece of land just in the proximity of a city, finding that sweet spot which is not too near and not too far, that’s perfect!

2. Petting zoo. In case you haven’t noticed, entertainment for kids is a hot niche. Parents are constantly searching for activities for their kids that are entertertaining, safe, and possibly educational. But while today there is a huge offer of virtual entertainment (videogames, tv…), many parents struggle to find exciting activities for their kids in real life, especially those who live in cities. A cool idea is to create a petting zoo for these families.

ideas-for-entrepreneurs-petting-zoo-tA petting zoo doesn’t need to have exotic or expensive animals: most kids who live in cities never see or touch any real animal at all, so they’ll be super happy to just pet common animals like chickens, rabbits, goats, turtles. It’s a real happiness-producing business: few things can be as therapeutic -also for grown ups- as connecting with a pet! I admit that I am very partial in saying that this is a cool idea: I love nature and I’d love to create a business like this in the future (I may end up doing it).

A smart move is to introduce in your petting zoo also simple learning activities, for example showing sprouted seeds, teaching how chickens make egss, giving some basic nutrition education, etc… This “educational factor” will probably please also the parents, and will make your zoo even more attractive. Note that the main challenge with this idea is again location: you have to find some land at the periphery of a city to build your petting zoo, easy for the families to reach with a short trip.

3. Mini vending machines. At the moment I write this, basically all the vending machines that are sold on the market are big, cumbersome, as they are tailored for bars/restaurants and public buildings. The very few existing ones that are small enough to be placed on a countertop are ridiculously overpriced, and they only sell a very limited range of products, like coffee and sodas, or are just slightly more than toys that sell candies.

tiny-vending-machine-tBut as more and more people rent their homes on platforms like Airbnb, more and more people will be interested in installing mini vending machines to propose to their guests a range of products like touristic souvenirs, books, snacks. They don’t have enough room for a giant machine 4 or 5 feet tall, but if they can find a small one for their kitchen they’ll be very interested to buy it.

The great and obvious benefit of vending machines is that they generate passive income. Of course: a mini vending machine in a small space like a private home will only generate a mini passive income, maybe like 10-20 dollars a month, but since the income is so much passive, many people will still be interested to have it. Would you have fun producing mini vending machines? Really consider the idea, I feel that they would sell very well.

4. Escape room. Another idea for a business that can be a lot of fun and requires just a small investment: it’s again real life entertainment, but this time for grown ups. Who doesn’t like to play the detective and solve misteries? Escape rooms are rooms where the participants are “trapped”, as the doors are locked or maybe don’t exist at all apparently, and they have to find an escape within a certain amount of time, like 1 hour.

ideas-for-entrepreneurs-escape-room-tThe room can have a countless number of styles: from a normal house room, to an office, to a castle, to a jungle, to a futuristic scenario. It will challenge its prisoners with a series of riddles, and only by solving these riddles the prisoners will find the key to escape in time and reach “safety”.

There is huge room for your creativity here: the riddles may involve cooperation among the participants but also competition, one of the participants could even be your accomplice and mess out with the group, the key could be a physical key, hidden somewhere, or a secret word to be pronounced, the way out could be a regular door, a hole hidden under a sofa, or you could make the walls of the room fall down as a grand finale when the prisoners solve the last puzzle.

Fantasy is the most important ingredient for success here. You can totally start small and create an escape room on a minimal budget, as long its riddles will be fun and intriguing for the participants, then later you can buy more expensive decoration and special effects, and of course replicate the process and build a second… third… fourth… escape room with different themes.

5. Unusual furniture. Producing and/or selling furniture is a smart business idea for several reasons, a notable one is that furniture doesn’t expire. It’ something that once you have produced it, it requires basically zero maintenance, it can sit in a shop forever until it’s sold. Consider how little work it requires, for example, compared to a grocery store that constantly needs to replace perished foods.

ideas-for-entrepreneurs-unusual-furniture-tIf you step into the furniture market you’ll face competition from giants like IKEA, but no need to get scared: they only produce “standard” and rather boring furniture in large amounts, while you can create weird and imaginative pieces, targeting the luxury niche. There are always rich people hunting for something different and special.

If you like manual work you may actually enjoy creating the furniture yourself, maybe you can start by making small sized forniture in a workshop, and then gradually move to more ambitious and large furniture (to sell at higher prices). In any case consider that also just selling furniture in a shop, made by someone else, is a good move: the furniture sits there and takes care of itself, you will occasionally deal with customers when they come in, for the rest you can just work on something else on a computer at the back of the shop.

Notes: I often have more business ideas than I can realize myself. I decided to share these good ones that I had in the last period, since I know that many friends and acquantainces would like to quit their jobs as employees and start their own business.

Related: How to earn money without working

Dreams and riddles

Maybe you are already familiar with lucid dreams. It’s those dreams in which maybe you’re busy running away from a monster who is chasing you, or you are flying over a city, or maybe you’re simply traveling in the car with the family, but at a certain point you become aware that the situation is not real. Suddenly, a detail seems exaggerated to you, out of place, and that’s the trigger: you acquire lucidity and understand that you are inside a dream, instead of inside real life.

At this point two things can happen: the first is that you wake up immediately. And this is definitely the one that happens more frequently. In the moment you acquire lucidity the scenario crumbles and you leave the dream, returning to this world.

The second thing that can happen is that you don’t wake up, at least not immediately. Not waking up once you acquire lucidity is extremely difficult, but there is a huge prize for those who succeed: the possibility of exploring and especially manipulating the dream.

The nice thing about not waking up

I find it highly desirable not to wake up as soon as I acquire lucidity inside my dreams, and I definitely don’t think I’m the only one. In the world there is a number of people dedicated to oneironautics, who try to have lucid dreams more or less regularly, traveling inside of them and manipulating them at their will.

It’s not difficult to understand the motivation for this desire: inside a lucid dream you can make everything happen according to your will, really everything: from floating in the space, to chatting with a pharaoh of ancient Egypt, to casting lightnings from the hands. The limits of this world disappear, and yet at the same moment you “feel” things in an extremely vivid way: just like if they were real, even if you are aware that they’re not, since you are in a state of lucidity.

If as lucid you have flown in the sky, not constrained anymore by gravity that anchors you to the ground, or if you strolled freely under the seas, not forced anymore to have to breathe air, then you know well how wonderful the sensations that are felt are. And this is why probably you are enjoying it so much that the last thing you want to do is to wake up.

As for me, when I become lucid inside of a dream of mine I almost always rush to modify it and create a situation to have sex, which says a lot about how “highly spiritual” my deepest desires are. But when it happens, I always do it with some anxiety: I know that I could wake up in any second and lose all the fun.

I always tell myself: “keep calm, don’t agitate, don’t wake up”, but at the end I wake up typically within very few seconds, rather disappointed. The longest of my explorations/manipulations of dreams lasted maybe 10 or 15 seconds.

Having lucid dreams is difficult

The dimension of lucid dreams is extremely fascinating to explore, but still the problem of staying inside of them for more than just few seconds is already a successive problem. The main problem is having lucid dreams, in the first place. In fact usually only a minimal percentage of the dreams we have are lucid dreams.

In my case, I have good memories of the percentage of my dreams in which I acquired lucidity. For example, I remember clearly a dream I had some time ago in which I was running away chased by a monster, very scared, and there at a certain point I stopped thinking “ehi what the heck do I worry about? This monster can’t exist, this is clearly just a dream.”, so I relaxed and woke up, shortly after.

Unfortunately I rarely have this type of realization. Most of the times, inside my dreams, I’m so busy interacting with absurd characters or participating to the craziest adventures, that I really don’t notice that “something is wrong”. And when at the end of the sleep I wake up back in my bed, I am almost upset with myself: how couldn’t I notice that the situation was not credible!

What if dreams are meant to test us?

Many people, included me, wondered often why we dream.

It’s fascinating to think that dreams are a test that is given to us each night, that we pass only by realizing that we are dreaming, therefore entering in a different state of consciousness in which we have access to huge powers. And it’s fascinating to think that someone, or something, projects each night an illusion in our mind, leaving as clues some details out of place, and that it’s our task to notice those details to realize that we are being fooled.

It’s fascinating to think that dreams are not meant to make us sleep, but to make us wake up. But not necessarily wake up to return immediately to this world, but to wake up inside the dreams themselves, so that we can learn to use the power of creation that we have.

In fact, a possibility is that normal dreams, the non lucid ones, for us human beings are nothing else but the anteroom to a “training” field, the one of lucid dreams, in which we can practice our ability to create scenarios, people, creatures, situations according to our will.

Sounds familiar?

If you know what today is known as the law of attraction, maybe the parallel already came to your mind at this point. The law of attraction is the principle according to which we human beings create the reality that surrounds us with our thoughts. The world we have around is nothing else but the reflection of our inner world, and the job we have, the people we meet, the situations we encounter daily, they’re consequence of the thoughts that occupy our mind.

The law of attraction is very very popular, and today it has a huge number of fans, even if I have the impression that few people get results.

The reson in my opinion is that even if many say they believe it with words, almost trying to convince themselves, the truth is that deeply inside of them they don’t. And this is partially valid also for me: I believe in the law of attraction probably much more that the average of people, but still I am aware that I don’t believe it 100%, not yet at least.

For example, I believe to be strongly responsible for which people are present in my social life, and I believe that I have a huge decisional power on the amount of money I earn, and in general I believe that my life is in many ways wonderful exactly because I decided that I wanted it this way. But I still don’t believe that I can make matter apper with my thoughts. I could say that I believe it with words, and in a certain way I feel that “I’d better” believe it, but it would not correspond to what I feel inside. That are still some constraints in this world that seem to me still totally out of my control.

And yet I know well that inside my lucid dreams instead I can do everything, included materializing people and objects, and in fact I do it (having a lot of fun). So who knows, could lucid dreams actually be a demonstration? A demonstration that it’s possible to do practically everything, and that suggests the idea that we can follow a similar process also in this world, using the law of attraction.

What if also this world is meant to test us?

To the idea that two levels exist, the internal one of the dreams that we can successfully manipulate by becoming lucid, and the external one of this world that we can successfully manipulate by using our beliefs, naturally follows the idea to extend the structure and think that n levels could exist: others more internal to the one of dreams, and others more external to the one of this world.

dream-levelsThat levels internal to the level of dreams exist, we actually already know this: they’re embedded dreams, those we experience when we wake up from a dream and we find ourselves still inside a dream. So we were dreaming of dreaming. Also of these, technically called false awakenings, I had experience. And this is also the theme around which the movie Inception is developed, which is based on a very original idea, even if in my opinion it has been realized in a very confusional way.

That levels external to the level of this world exist, instead, we don’t know it well. And yet the idea that this world could also be a dream, a sort of illusion, has already been suggested by many authors in many ways. The first ones that come to my mind: the book The little prince (what is essential is invisible to the eye), the books of Peter Kingsley (what isn’t there, in front of our eyes, is usually more real than what is), the movie The matrix (in which what many know are “reality” is instead a projection created by machines), the movie The Truman show (in which what the main character knows as “reality” is instead a projection created by other people).

If the idea with which these and many other works flirt is true, and therefore this world that we’re used to consider absolutely “real” instead is also just a sort of dream, the consequence is that the life we live inside of it can be seen in every aspect as a test, an enigma to solve, a riddle. And the first step to get to the solution is to see the illusion: to acquire lucidity here too.

Life as a riddle

Naturally, of the fact that life represents a giant riddle and that therefore our task is to solve it, this riddle, there is no evidence. And there is no evidence that this world that we perceive with our senses is only partial, and that there are external levels. It’s a fascinating speculation.

Choosing to believe that in life there is nothing to become aware of, or choosing to believe that in life there is something to become aware of: this is an absolutely personal decision, that all of us take more or less consciously, based exclusively on our intuition. No one will be able to give us a guarantee that we made the right or the wrong choice.

However take into account that this choice has an enormous impact on the life that we end up living. Because in the first case it will be a series of events, people, images, that follow one the other without any particular reason, until we die. In the second case we are collecting clues. When events or people enter our life, we tend to wonder if they entered it to make us realize something. Are they there to make us understand that we’re letting ourselves be distracted by illusions? Are they there because we materialized them?

When we decide that in life there is something to discover (that we can wake up, that we can strongly manipulate the external world) we change a lot. Antennas grow inside of ourselves and they make us more able to notice coincidences, the so called synchronicities, the deja vus. And we tend to question things more, without accepting as fact that reality “is reality” and that’s it.

My personal riddle

I tend to choose the second approach: I believe that I am alive because I have something to learn, something to do. And I feel that there’s something to understand in all this story, even if it’s not necessarily clear what thing.

The reason for this choice is simple: it’s my intuition that tells me so, and in addition it’s also the more exciting option.

Since no one can estabilish with certainty if it’s true or not that life is a sort of dream, in which we actually have to wake up from something, I decide that it is so. It seems to me that this is the decision that makes more sense since it fills life with a special magic, a magic that I’ve been lucky to experience several times already.

I woke up from a series of illusions that kept me distracted for years in the past, for example the importance of money, and this was the starting point from which magical things really started to appear -or multiply-. The sunsets of indescribable beauty, the travel adventures and the explorations in hidden places, all for me, the people who made me feel understood and loved, completely new scenarios and atmospheres, they entered my life only after I became lucid, after I freed myself from some ridiculous illusions inside of which I was moving and agitating before, unconscious.

I think I woke up from a certain number of illusions, and in some ways I think I’m living in this world in a state of lucidity, but probably this is a partial awakening. Probably there are still many other illusions that keep me distracted and asleep, but I still can’t see those. Who knows what they are and how many they are.

In fact, I wonder to what degree it is possible to wake up in this world. Is it possible to notice enough clues to reach a sort of full awakening? Is it possible to acquire such a level of lucidity to be able to effectively apply the law of attraction, and manipulate 100% matter and events?

It’s fascinating to wonder if someone ever succeeded at it in the course of history, and if yes how many. And what happened to them after? They are still in this level, busy modeling the universe, or they woke up in a successive level, busy with another bigger dream?

Who knows how many dreams there are in total in the onion structure? Who knows how many riddles there are to solve?

Notes: I wrote that in my lucid dreams “I can do everything”, and it’s true, but I want to add that often I experience a sort of inertia in manipulating my dreams. When I become lucid, if for example I try to materialize people, these usually don’t appear immediately well defined, but their shapes form slowly, with some labor, and in the effort of clarifying their looks often I wake up. I wonder if it depends on my little practice.


The direction of this blog

Those who keep an eye at this blog surely noticed that lately I publish less frequently, and that the posts have become longer and more “serious”. This change of direction is not casual, but it’s a consequence of a series of evaluations that I made on what I want that this blog is, and on the strategy that I want to follow to spread its contents.

To delete or not to delete?

If I take a look and what I was publishing until just a little time ago, I admit that I feel my skin crawling. And not only here on the blog, but in general on internet: I wrote and said a lot of stupid, superficial or meaningless things, I commented on articles/videos of other people with hate, racism, sarcasm, ego. I went through all the stages of stupidity -I didn’t miss a single one- and now I recognize them in all those stupid things that I published in the past.

The first that comes to my mind is a video on Youtube where I discussed the nonsense of the schooling system in Italy, in which the main point was that in my opinion they make the students study for too many hours, and also often they make them memorize too many useless notions. I still agree with many of the points that I made in that video, but in a portion of it I included, among the “useless” subjects, philosophy. And this today seems crazy to me, because now I consider philosophy as one of the most important things to teach to the students.

In a similar way, I changed my mind on many other things, and the temptation of deleting many of the stupid things published in the past is strong, but I still resist. After all, where to place the bar above which “it’s good”? Which articles and videos that I published are good enough to be left on the internet, and which ones are under the threshold of tolerance? Making this cleaning would give me too much the temptation to leave online only very few things that I consider “high level”, and would be dangerous because it would feed my perfectionism.

In addition, I re-read the stupid and superficial things that I published in the past with some affection, because they remind me the journey I had to get here.

Often I listen to and read the ideas of many people who produce contents on internet, people that I like and follow, and they seem so damn wise, intelligent and full of love to me, that I really can’t imagine that those people have ever gone through all this stupidity to get to that stage of “evolution”. I almost tend to think that they have always been, more or less, like this.

But I haven’t. Not that now I consider myself particularly wise, intelligent or full of love, but at least it seems to me that I am much more mature than I was until few years ago. I changed a lot in these last years, a change that definitely has not been painless, but I’m quite proud of it. And yet it happened making all the possible and imaginable mistakes, none excluded.

There’s still room for mistakes and stupid things

Obviously, there’s nothing to worry about: I’ll probably keep on producing tons of mistakes and stupid things. I imagine that in the future I will read the things that I write in this period and I will think “how couldn’t I see that it was stupid!” or “how did the hell came to my mind to publish that idiocy!”.

And I don’t even have the intention of banning every superficial topic from the blog, and write only about deep and serious topics, it sounds quite boring. The ability to span from topics like spirituality and economy, to topics like The human centipede and Two girls one cup*, that’s one of the things that I appreciate more about my personality. I tried to explain this trait of my character in the post Inseparable emotions. In addition, often the superficial topics are great base material to develop funny posts or videos, that make people laugh. And laughing and make people laugh is definitely one of the missions of my life.

However, there’s the fact that I decided to change the approach to what I publish (and how I publish it) here on the blog and on the various internet sites that are related, as soon as I clarified in my head some things. First of all:

What I want that this blog is

Understanding what I wanted this blog to be has been a very gradual process, that required a lot of time. That I wanted a space to give voice to all my “theories”, those I punctually stalk my friends and relatives with, this was obvious already many years ago. Just like it was obvious that the main theme of the blog is exactly me: my ideas, my opinions, my vision of the world. So it was immediately evident that the domain name to use was my own name: Paolo

Another couple of aspects, instead, became clear only after much more time, but today finally I’m quite sure about these too.

First of all, I want that this blog is a tool to produce beauty. To deliver interesting, original, useful ideas, that can improve the life of people. And this is the motivation why I spend hours to write articles and to produce videos on topics that I consider “important”, making an effort to describe the ideas with clarity and simplicity.

I also want that this blog is a personal journal, in which I can write, alternating them to the articles of general interest, the experiences of my own life. What happens to me, the people I meet, the places I explore, the situations I am in during my days, and what I think I learn from all of this. I like to keep on the blog a record of my personal development journey.

And I want that this blog is something that really corresponds to me. I want to open it and find myself in a space that really feels like me: from the graphic design, to the articles, the videos, the music: something that is original, authentic, talented, tormented, comic. It’s easier written than done, obviously, but this is the goal at least.

The strategy

Finally there’s the theme of what strategy to follow, that explains why in the last period the posts are rather infrequent, but pretty long.

The reason is simple: I don’t want to dilute the contents. Until little time ago I thought that there was nothing wrong in publishing both serious posts, coming from a lot of thinking, and also casual updates about the latest news, or superficial things, just for fun. And in fact that’s what I was doing.

But then I realized that by doing this I dilute the effectiveness of the messages that I include in those serious posts, those that come from a lot of thinking. And considered that today the internet is flooded daily with contents of little value -every day millions of new articles, video, news appear on the web, for the vast majority meaningless- it doesn’t make any sense to try to keep the pace and publish contents with high frequency as well just “to retain the interest”. Competing on quantity, it doesn’t seem to make too much sense anymore.

My consideration is that now the mass of contents produced by the humanity is enormous, I would almost say excessive, and this can be seen both in the internet, where most of the meaningless contents are published and ignored, falling in the oblivion of internet and basically “disappearing” from the search engines, but also in the real world, for example in the book stores, where new books appear on the shelves with very fast rhythms, often just to sell few copies and then disappear for the sight as well.

The best strategy is still, in my opinion, to compete on quality. This still makes a lot of sense. Even if I publish new articles and videos more rarely, it their contents are “strong”, people will search for them and reach them. And I want people to know that when they reach my blog, they will find high quality contents inside, without having to skim through other meaningless posts published just to publish something.

Of course, from time to time I still feel like writing thoughts about superficial topics or commenting the latest news, and fortunately there are the social networks for this. When I want to publish something of little value, or share non original contents -so produced by other people- I can simply do that on the social networks. People on social networks don’t want to absorb ideas or contents anyway, but they just go there to browse “easy” contents in a quick and superficial way, contents that don’t provoke any thought.

This blog instead is the best destination for those that I consider my best ideas. It seems obvious now, but I had to publish a certain amount of stupid posts on it before understanding this.

So until the next evaluation, the strategy will be this: keep the contexts separated, and pay more attention to quality than on quantity.

Notes: * in case you never heard about them, they are two quite popular movies with the same lead actor: human feces.


Manipulation techniques in the media

Many people are convinced that they have their own opinions: about politics, the economy, the latest news, sports, and so on. But instead very often their opinions are not theirs: they are born, grown, and orientated, under the astute guidance of newspaper columnists, or television news producers. The opinions of people fall into a furrow that has already been plowed previously.

media-manipulation-techniques-frontIn this article I decided to collect some of the manipulation techniques that the media use to influence the masses, among those that I’m able to see, and among those that impress me the most for how sneaky and damn effective they are. These techniques are used by the media more or less always for the same purposes:

  • get attention (and therefore get money through advertisements)
  • promote the agenda of some political party or corporation

Of course the people who are influenced by the media are never aware of it -they think they have “personal” and “free” opinions- so I hope that, if you are victim of one of these manipulation techniques, this article will be useful for you to realize it. So let’s start with an all time classic:

1. Keeping figures who don’t count much constantly under the spotlight

media-manipulation-techniques-spotlight-for-irrelevant-figuresA fundamental pillar of media manipulation is to keep at the center of the stage, constantly, figures who don’t count much. Often they are figures who are likely to make “hard” declarations, racist, sexist, that easily generate indignation in the public. These figures are typically unpopular and the media are perfectly aware of it, they keep on interviewing them frequently, and their nonsenses are immediatly broadcasted in all the news generating “flames” among people, i.e. fierce arguments.

From their side, these figures who don’t count much are often pleased for the attention received, and they’re not aware themselves of being puppets that are playing in a much bigger game, a game that has the real goal of keeping behind the scenes, far from the spotlight and unknown to the mass, the faces and the names of the figures that really count a lot: bankers, lobbyists, leaders of corporations, and these certainly are much less visible in the news.

It works perfectly: people channel all their hate and insults on irrelevant figures, without realizing that the practical life they have every day (alarm – coffee – rush out of the house – traffic – office – grocery…) depends instead very very much upon the decisions of completely different figures, who are far from the spotlight, and who can use their power undisturbed.

Maybe, sometimes, even these other figures have racist or sexist thoughts, but they certainly don’t make the error of vocalising them on television: they’re smart enough not to make any declaration that could negatively impact their public image, and they are very careful not to overexpose themselves. They prefer to leave the puppets at the center of the stage.

2. Keeping places that don’t count much constantly under the spotlight

media-manipulation-techniques-spotlight-on-parliamentDo you really believe that the parliament is the place where the important decisions are taken? Rarely. The important decisions by now are taken in completely different places: in private villas, on bar tables, in restaurants. And they are taken right by those figures that are unknown to the mass, who discuss contracts worth billions without the interference of tv cameras.

In the meanwhile there’s plenty of media coverage for what happens inside the parliament: the voting sessions, the declarations of the politicians, the bagarres in the main room when the opposition gets upset, the squabbles on marginal issues, and so on.

Let’s clarify: in theory in would make a lot of sense to keep the attention on the parliament… if the parliament really was the place where the laws are made. Unfortunately in practice, and this is true for many governments, the parliament in its entirety is a machine of monstrous inefficiency, that produces a law every once in awhile. It’s not a matter of right, left, center or opposition: it’s the whole parliament that is an unproductive organ.

And in the few cases in which they really get to produce a law, often the process is not very democratic. In fact there isn’t any dialogue between the parts: each politician gets up, takes the microphone, makes his declarations that the opposers barely listen to, and sits down. The scene is repeated with reversed roles. Then everybody votes following indications arrived from the top, from the leaders of the two factions, that often are not even sitting in the parliament, or are not even part of it at all (lobbyists, bankers, etc).

So in a similar way to the previous case, a second manipulation technique by the media -very effective- consists in putting the spotlight on the parliament, suggesting the idea that that in the center of the action, leaving instead that on the tables of a bar, few blocks away, someone else is deciding the fate of the country in front of a coffee.

3. Flooding blogs and online news with trolls

media-manipulation-techniques-internet-trollsIn case you’re not familiar with the slang of internet, in the context of blogs and online news websites, a troll is is someone who comments an article with specific purposes: create divisions in the community, ridicule the author, insinuate doubts between the readers, dampen the enthusiasm.

The estabilishment understood one thing: it’s easy to manipulate people through old monodirectional media, like television. With television the propaganda is delivered to the audience, and the audience can’t do much more than absorb it. But it’s a lot more difficult to keep internet under control. Non only there is a huge variety of opposition sites that spread “inconvenient” contents, but those same opposition sites allow a bidirectional exchange: the users can comment the articles, discuss among themselves, share contacts. And all of this is extremely dangerous for those who keep the power.

So the most effective technique they found to manipulate people -also on internet- is to flood these sites with trolls. Trolls who, as soon as a new article with potentially “dangerous” contents is published, get to work and fill it with comments loaded with skepticism, pessimism, sarcasm, or simply insult the other real users creating flames, so that, if nothing else works, at least they divert the attention away from the original theme that was discussed in the article.

Trolls are difficult to identify, especially because thanks to the anonymity typical of internet they can appear with different names, and seem numerically many more than how many they actually are. The effectiveness of their work stands on the fact that many people have a natural tendency to let their opinions align with the collective opinion (or at least that they perceive as the collective opinion).

In spite of this, with a little training you’ll develop enough sense to be able to unmask them with ease, and at that point you will also realize which are the sites that do real opposition to the estabilishment, because usually they’re exactly those where the troll infestation is more severe.

4. Distracting people with the rights

media-manipulation-techniques-pinkwashingMedia use different strategies to distract the audience, taking the general attention away from important themes and repositioning it on minor themes. A good example is the great relevance that they give to the “rights”, and of these a very popular case are the rights of women and homosexuals.

A word that explain this technique extremely well is pinkwashing, or in other terms “pink” brain washing, that is realized on people by governments and corporations. Media are full of examples of pinkwashing: food products that sponsor the research against breast cancer, interviews to politicians who repeat like a mantra the importance of having gay marriages, countries that promote LGBT tourism and encourage events like the gay pride.

All great causes obviously… if it wasn’t that these governments and corporations often are so friendly with women and homosexuals for convenience more than anything else (after all it’s a strategy that doesn’t cost much and brings great results in terms of reputation), but even more if it wasn’t that while as facade they are so sensible to the problems of these categories, behind the scenes they use horrible practices, that range from “not very ethical” to “criminal”.

In fact, from one side a food corporation remarks the importance of prevention in women’s health, on the other side behind the scenes they fill their snacks with chemical additives that cause addiction (often even carcinogenic…) and use marketing models that are destructive for the environment. From one side a government broadcasts frequent pro-gay spots on television and in the name of equality, on the other side behind the scenes they colonize foreign territories and practice racial segregation. And so on.

There’s a strong emotional component, that of women and homosexuals, that is exploited to manipulate the public. Among the people who belong to these categories, that often historically have been disadvantaged, and that more often have been victims of abuses, there’s a strong desire for validation. And those who control the media understood this well: they provide this validation by pushing constantly the button of their rights, so that then they can trample on the rights of many other categories without too many interferences.

5. Distracting people with meaningless problems

media-manipulation-techniques-meaningless-problemsA second technique that the media use to distract people is to discuss meaningless problems, and among these a case that I like to mention often is the case of dog abandonment.

In my country, Italy, it’s a great classic which is re-proposed every summer (probably each country has its own peculiar case). Looking at the coverage given to this “problem” in the national news, it would seem like every year the roads of the country are invaded by thousands of cruel people, who drive back and forth searching for a street pole at which they can tie their animal. The idea is ridiculous, but unfortunately it works very well because it takes advantage of the emotional component of many people who are passionate of domestic animals.

Obviously, we all agree that abandoning a domestic animal is a terrible practice, but giving so much coverage to this theme, that is numerically irrelevant, means to take room away fron the possibility of showing real problems, much more impactful for the life of people.

Unfortunately the method works, and the result is tragic and comic at the same time: while the parasitic banking system causes unemployment and debt, while in the middle east thousands of people are brutally tortured and killed, while there’s an epidemic of problems linked to the lifestyle, like depression and food intolerances… the news viewers and the readers of newspapers get angry and emotional for the abandonement of pets.

6. Demonizing the real opposition

media-manipulation-techniques-demonizing-real-oppositionThe estabilishment uses the mainstream media to neutralize the real opposers, those who reveal the abuses and start to gain enough consensus to represent a serious threat, with a simple but centainly effective strategy: they give them little coverage, and when they give them coverage, they sling mud at them.

It doesn’t matter that a politician, activist, journalist, philosopher, has a flawless past. If he’s identified by the establishment as a target, there are a thousand different ways to depict him in the media to make him appear as extremist, dishonest, immoral, crazy.

All they have to do is to take a long speech given by the opposer, maybe hours long, and from that speech extract a single phrase that can be misunderstood, and then publish it everywhere in the news. And simply in terms of images, the opposer can participate to a public event and talk almost always with a relaxed expression, but from the recordings of that intervention the media can extract anyway a single frame in which the oppositor had a scowling face, or was frowning, and place that on the first page with an insinuating title.

Obviously, if the person we’re talking about doesn’t have a flawless past everything becomes easier. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to discover that some governments, or various groups of power, have created entire offices dedicated to search for fiscal errors of the opposers, to try to tap them on the phone, and in general to dig trying to find their mistakes. If they made the minimal error, almost certainly it will be exposed sooner or later and will be published everywhere in the media.

7. Giving coverage to the fake opposition

media-manipulation-techniques-coverage-fake-oppositionThose who control the media know well that there is the need for opposition, at least one.

Many people “in the mass” often are not able to see the main causes of many of their problems (i.e. the parasitic nature of the banking system, the corporations that encourage consumerism, the government that works for itself and the lobbies rather than for the citizens), but this doesn’t eliminate the fact that they can feel the pain consequent to these causes: the frustration due to the lack of free time, the boredom/stress due to meaningless jobs, the unhappiness due to too many objects and too few human relationships.

The elite that holds the power understands well that this negative feeling needs a vent valve, otherwise there would really be a revolution that would change the system. And so they provide it, but setting up a fake opposition.

And it really doesn’t require a lot of work: there are many figures that spontaneously fit well the role of the fake opposers, it’s enough to keep them frequently under the tv cameras. Politicians who, in the interviews, declare their contrariness to the actions of the government (and then behind the scenes make agreements with it) or politicians who are really contrary to the actions of the government, but have such bizarre personalities and ideas that they almost succeed in making the main party of the government appear like the “lesser evil”.

8. Giving positive names to crap

media-manipulation-techniques-language-gamesAnother classic manipulation technique, used a lot in the media, is all based on language: they use names to which people instinctively associate a “positive” connotation to call some big crap produced by the corporations and the government.

A simple example, easy to recognize, are the commercials on television (note, to understand if a product/service is garbage you can apply this simple but practically infallible criterion: if it’s advertised on television then it’s garbage). There’s an enormous variety of snacks full of colorants, preservatives, various toxic sludge, whose names contain the words special, happy, diet, light, natural.

But then there are other examples of higher level manipulation, like many actions taken by the government, that are not as evident to the general public. War missions in foreign countries and military occupancy become missions of peace. Tax increments are included in plans for the recovery or treaties for stability. In my country the institute for fiscal monitoring is called equitàlia (from equity). And above everything else there is it, the nonsense word that clogs the news and is repeated everywhere in the media like a mantra: growth.

Political leaders and leaders of corporations continue to repeat everywhere the importance of having economic growth, and people often don’t realize what’s really behind this message, just because often to the word growth they associate something good.

The reality is that pursuing infinite growth -of the economy, the production, the population- on a planet with finite resources is a nonsense and dangerous. It would make more sense, in my opinion, to talk about development, but this words is never used in the media. The reason why the leaders of politics and corporations insist instead with economic growth is that growth generates taxes, and taxes pay the salary to the politicians themselves (who then re-distribute in cascade the money to the corporation “friends”), and allow them to do what they want to do.

Let your opinions be really yours

Many other techniques can be discussed, but these that I described in this short list are definitely among those that I “feel” more, and against which I consider more useful to keep the attention bar high.

It seems to me that there are evident effects of the media manipulation in many people, who have the habit to talk regurgitating someone else’s opinion, rather than talk giving voice to their own opinion.

media-manipulation-techniques-regurgitate-someone-elses-opinionsThe best method to avoid to fall in this trick, and to avoid that your opinion falls in the pre-packaged, pre-plowed furrow of the media is to apply critical thinking. Don’t believe a story simply because everyone else believes it, or because the source is an authority. Become aware that most media are constantly hunting for attention (“attention whores“), and that consequently they intentionally publish many news that generate strong reactions -rage, indignation, excitement- exactly with the goal of capturing the audience.

And always ask yourself, each time you listen to the news or read the newspaper, if the intention of the person who is spreading that news is really to show unaltered facts to inform the public… or instead his intention is to manipulate the publis, at his own advantage.


Related: What is the “system”?, How to free yourself from the system