Environmental Hedging: Perspective (PART I)
My time spent in the nations of Italy, Hungary, Croatia, Finland, Sweden, England, and Greece over the last 90 days have taught me a lot about myself, where I come from, and what the future may hold for me. This “around the world” trip partly arises from a wager I made with Matt & Tim Justice. That, and a desire to gain perspective, experience new people and places, and learn as much as I can in this phase of my life. Therefore, every region I visit during this year-long debacle will be subject to analysis, wherein I will attempt to articulate what I learned. The videos posted are not designed to show-off and rub adventure in one’s face. I make them to show you that the world is one big beautiful pile of sacred dirt chalk full of incredible people and places worth experiencing. And… as far as the blogs go… well, those are examples of me talking to myself in written form. Most are about investing, others not so much. This week we are going to do an exercise in “Deep Thought, with Bob Shannon.” In short, we will discuss some perspectives cleaved from my time in Europe.
Now, Europe as a whole was disturbingly on target. The most impactful lesson I took away were lessons on perspective… Bear with me here:
On one level, perspective is nothing more than: “the drawing of solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point.” In this context, perspective is a precise effort by a person to recreate something measurable. For example, a surreal, life-like painting of an apple that was so good you at first thought it was a photo rather than a drawing. This was as abundantly clear to me with a particular painting viewed in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. Indeed, the painting was not itself an apple, but since the job was so well done most people’s initial reaction Sistine Chapel is that it is, in fact, an apple… Well, a photo of an apple at least. Which for some people is as real as an actual apple.
Although an artist can sometimes more accurately represent reality than reality itself, he or she also has the ability to blur reality through distortion if he or she so chooses to. At the end of the day it is merely an image, right? And it is the artist that is in control of creating said image, right? This is most strikingly clear in the creation of perspective via the use of language. Most of us understand this version of perspective as “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view” if you will. Perspective in this context can basically be whatever you want it to be… I am sure you have heard the term: “truth is in the eye of beholder” once or twice before? Indeed, we all have. But first, let’s remember what perspective fundamentally is — it is a representation of something measurable and ultimately real… But at the end of the day, it is still just a representation of that apple, a mere image, correct? Thus, all is a representation but some representations give “the right impression,” while others do not. Which is why some paintings of apples look like apples and other paintings look like paintings…
What often happens in language is that images become muddled representations before they ever have had their day in court. And sometimes images which are destructive in nature win out over images based on the “right impressions of things”. Maybe it’s because they are not articulated eloquently, or maybe because people are simply incapable of measuring a situation or concept wisely, who knows… But no matter what, perspective is still dependent on whether what is being represented is fundamentally real or not. There are things out there that are factual, and there are things that are fictional. So, I ask the people who believe truth is in the eye of the beholder: what if “the eye of the beholder” is a 300lb white adult male at a bar in the Atlanta airport yelling racial slurs at a in-uniform American soldier that had just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, drinking Chardonnay at 8 in the A.M.? … Is that somebody you’re willing to get behind? Do you think he has the “right impression of things?” Is what he’s saying, factual? I sure hope not…
Deep Thinking Principle #1 — There are Good and Bad Perspectives:
It is reasonable to say that there are some people that should and cannot be authorities of perspective. My point is: when you read the news and absorb information through the variety of mediums available, do so with research to boot — in other words, look into the journalist, look into ownership of medium, and maybe back-check the subject matter with information published by a “university press” organization — that’s real information (check out Jstor). Something as simple as those three basic efforts will, at a minimum, inform you if you are gaining perspective from the guy at the airport bar or not.
The fact of the matter is that there are perspectives that have the right impression of things and there are those that do not. Stop buying into B.S., stop buying into conspiracies, and compare what you are seeing take place before you with history, with philosophy, and academic ventures on the subject-matter. Expand perspective, it bears answers and wisdom. The worst thing one can do is to create that preverbal one-sided diet.
The Masquerading of Freedom
Now, modern industrial culture tells us daily that we can do whatever we want, create our own world according to our personal tastes, and become whatever self that pleases us: all this on the grounds that we are fundamentally different from other life. We have been led to think that the true self is largely free from biology — from “determinism” — as though our biology is in itself a kind of tranny that we can afford to deny. Once again, there are things that are factual and things that are fictional. Some things are in sync with the natural world, some behaviors are not.
In this day and age, I am seeing a crisis in perspective taking root. Like that guy in the airport bar some people are just flat-out wrong and so far flung from the natural order that I am not sure if it is even possible to bring them back to planet Earth. Indeed, periods of such swagger come and go, but none have resulted in the magnitude of social polarization that we are seeing here and now. This was a common conversation I had with Europeans: many were curious as to why America is so polarized, so angry, and in love with the idea that Alex Jones, social-media, and third-party websites are the best sources of perspective.
According to Dr. David Lovekin what’s taking place is that “the freedom of information is becoming the masquerading of freedom”… And adding my own purview there is an awful lot of 8 A.M. Chardonnay drinking being done on top of that. People are evermore entrenched in fantastical propaganda, myth-making, and political disinformation… As a result, there seems to a lot of strange and rather disconcerting hate out there, more than usual. It seems that everyday people are falling into these social media traps and political conspiracies that are designed to manufacture consumptive choices, whether that be politics or products, or better yet, both…
Richard Thaler, the father of behavioral economics, would define these concerted efforts as a form of “socio-economic nudging”. To “nudge”, in his purview, is merely to apply small changes in “choice architecture” — in other words, the way in which choices are presented to consumers. Thaler goes on to explain that there are “good” nudges as well as “bad” nudges; wherein the “good” would be in the best interest of the consumer, whereas a “bad” nudge would be in favor of the corporation or producer’s best interest. For example, a company may “nudge” the idea of health food because they are in the health food industry. They do not feel bad about “nudging” because healthy food choices are in the best interest of the consumer. Therefore, that’s a good “nudge” in Thaler’s perspective.
Whereas a paradigm example of “bad nudging” would be, let’s say, the 2017 N.R.A. commercial: “Fists of Truth”, (which you can find on YouTube). That is “choice architecture” which is not in the best interest of the consumer. What is concerning about those sort of nudges it that they use political appendages the sell a product or purport an specific idea. In this particular example, the buying of more guns as preparation for civil war… For Thaler when nudging accompanies political identity or conflict what is produced is best defined as a sort of economic propaganda, if you will. But it us the kind of propaganda which not only leaves the consumer with a sense of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’, like pure political propaganda does…it as well ends with the consumer buying into something physical via the use of an image or idea — in this example, the buying into a larger supply of guns and ammo.
Now, to poke the bear, the good nudging example assuredly bears its own political bite. Maybe the health food company as well markets its products in a political and socioeconomic way. Well, in that case the health food nut quickly takes on the form of a pompous costal-elitist, man-bun and all. Which, may very well be the type of guy that drives that 2nd amendment guy absolutely insane, so much in fact he is inclined to buy more guns…What is silly about nudging in this regard is that it is just an attempt to recreate the sociopolitical environment typically found in the American High School. For example, where I went to high school cowboys drank Pepsi and skaters / snowboarders drank Coke, and all else followed from there. Why?… Well, certain Pepsi commercials had cowboys in them and some Coke commercials illustrated extreme sports. It was fairly basic in that respect. I suppose what was strange about it was that Coke and Pepsi represented political and cultural bite. They weren’t exactly just drinks to certain classmates of mine. For them the brand was itself a social image of place — a perspective, “a way of viewing things”…or worse yet, the easiest means of defining oneself. It was the power of imagery at its finest.
American Identity Politics is no different. Their slogans are the tell-all… Some say Coke, others say Pepsi.