Author Archives: Ali

About Ali

Bibliophile, philosopher, history lover, political enthusiast, purest form of social animal, loves laughing and make people go laughing. Keeping the dream alive!

Ukraine: Struggle for stability

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The protests in  EuroMaidan in the capital of Ukraine, Kiev, in 2013-14 lasted for 6 months. These protests led to the then President absconding and a subsequent change in regime. The following regime led to the emergence of a Ukraine with different but not necessarily better politics, accompanied with a clique of young leaders. One such newcomer is Mustafa Nayyem, now a parliamentarian who interestingly belongs to Afghani ethnicity. He is also an ally to the President Petro Peroshenko’s bloc. Before being elected as a parliamentarian, Mustafa worked as a journalist; he is also the founder of the Global Office, an organisation which brings volunteers from around the world to teach English and other European languages to children in Ukraine. He believes this is an important step towards integration into the EU. For this initiative, his organisation has amassed a large support base from the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine to the UNV.

This summer, I volunteered to teach the English language to school going children in Ukraine. My school was situated in the Eastern city of Kryvyi Rih, a city known to be 126 km long and for its steel plant byArcellor Mittal which employs around 50,000 people from the city. This also got me a lot of recognition for sharing the same ethnicity as the largest employer of the city. However, my intention was also to understand the post-protest sentiment of the people, which led me to travel to 4 cities in Ukraine, covering all directions. Surprisingly, the people of Ukraine are quick to share their thoughts about the protests, the incumbent government, annexation of Crimea, regional demands for autonomy, Russia and most importantly the divide between the East and the West in Ukraine.

There is a common angst amongst the people relating to the wearing down of its economy after the protests. Although all the people I met had a strong bitterness towards the corrupt actions of the previous president, they are unsatisfied with the incumbent as well. Mr. Porshenko has been a close associate of the ‘president on the run’, and shows similar traits. For instance, he owns the widely popular and omnipresent candies and chocolate brand in Ukraine called Roshen (India= spices, Ukraine = sweets). Interestingly, Roshen had one of its production plants in Lipetsk, Russia, which is a widely known fact in the enlightened quarters of Ukraine.

Ukraine is also dealing with a fight with its history, where renaming of roads, universities and public places is commonplace. Soviet structures have been raised down in most cases, inscriptions about Lenin have been erased and statues removed. Regardless of this rewriting of its Soviet past, there are also people who still romanticise with their Soviet past, where the economy was stable and borders were unthreatened. These people can be more commonly found in the eastern part, which is also a predominantly Russian-speaking region. The eastern part is also where the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk are located. Donetsk has declared itself an autonomous region. A person from the region I met claimed that they wish to secede from Ukraine and have independent control over their affairs. The majority of Ukrainians believe that this is due to cultural alignments towards Russia.

Ukraine is clearly a State dealing with several challenges, from its identity to border threats. The Crimean region now under Russian control was once the getaway destination for the people of Ukraine, and the appropriation of their relaxing sanctuary has left them angry. More than 10,000 people have lost their lives in the conflict and the relentlessness of the people can be best showcased by their contribution towards the resistance against the rebels occupying part of their eastern region. I was astounded to see civilian SUVs and ambulances camouflaged for military use. There is also a high rate of people volunteering to serve in the military and participate in the anti-terrorist operation (that’s how they call it). Young Ukrainians are fighting a battle on one more front, which is the battle for a stable future. After the complete shutdown of Russian-owned businesses, there are more people without jobs. Ukraine’s previously corrupt regime didn’t build a strong economic foundation to function independently, this, in turn, has caused the maximum damage to the civilian population. The sense of frustration amongst the younger population is visible, there is a high rate of immigration and increasing cases of drug abuse.  Nonetheless, like the effervescent human spirit which is central to everyone’s nature, people in Ukraine are initiating discourses on drug policy and employment opportunities in the hope for a  better and independent future.

How Europe Conquered the World

How Europe Conquered the World

The Spoils of a Single-Minded Focus on War

Between 1492 and 1914, Europeans conquered 84 percent of the globe, establishing colonies and spreading their influence across every inhabited continent. This was not inevitable. In fact, for decades, historians, social scientists, and biologists have wondered: Why and how did Europe rise to the top, even when societies in Asia and the Middle East were far more advanced?

So far, satisfactory answers have been elusive. But this question is of the utmost importance given that Europe’s power determined everything from who ran theslave trade to who grew rich or remained mired in poverty.

One might think the reasons for Europe’s dominance obvious: the Europeans were the first to industrialize, and they were immune to the diseases, such as smallpox, that devastated indigenous populations. But the latter reason alone cannot explain the conquest of the Americas, since many young Native American warriors survived the epidemics. And it fails to explain Europe’s colonization of India, since the Indians had similar immunity. Industrialization also falls short as an explanation: the Europeans had taken control of more than 35 percent of the planet even before they began to industrialize. Of course, the lead Europeans took in developing the technology of guns, armed ships, and fortifications was critical. But all the other major civilizations in Asia had the same gunpowder technology, and many of them also fought with guns.

So what did contribute to Europe’s success? Mostly, it derived from the incentives that political leaders faced in Europe—incentives that drove them not just to make war, but also to spend huge sums on it. Yes, the European monarchs built palaces, but even the huge Chateau at Versailles cost King Louis XIV less than two percent of his tax revenue. The rest went to fighting wars. He and the other kings in Europe had been raised since childhood to pursue glory on the battlefield, yet they bore none of the costs involved—not even the risk of losing their thrones after a defeat. Leaders elsewhere faced radically different incentives,, which kept many of them militarily weak. In China, for example, emperors were encouraged to keep taxes low and to attend to people’s livelihoods rather than to pursue the sort of military glory that obsessed European kings.

British Empire in India

A painting—Suppression of the Indian Revolt by the English, by Vasily Vereshchagin c. 1884—depicting the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

For this and a variety of other reasons, leaders outside of Europe could not match Europe’s innovations in warfare innovation. The huge sums of money showered on fighting in Europe gave military leaders the flexibility to buy new weapons and battleships and try out new tactics, fortifications, and methods of supply. In the process, they learned from their mistakes and improved their technologies. And because European countries were small and geographically close, they could easily learn from their rivals’ errors and copy their improvements. When the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus constructed one of the earliest two-decked gunships in 1628, for example, it sank shortly after setting sail. But the Swedish navy and other navies across Europe swiftly learned from this failure, and by the eighteenth century they were building warships with two or more gun decks that were not only stable, but also had a longer range and were more maneuverable than seventeenth-century warships.

Without a single-minded focus on war and the extraordinary ability to tax, there may never have been any European empires.

Outside of Europe, political and military conditions kept war innovations, particularly new gunpowder technology, from being advanced at the same relentless pace. China, for instance, had far less tax revenue to spend on the military than the Europeans did. In the late eighteenth century, per-capita taxes were 15 times higher in France than in China, and 40 times higher in England, and much of the tax money China did collect went not toward new forms of fighting but to aid archers on horseback, who were far more effective than musketeers in fighting the nomads who had long been China’s major enemy. What’s more, China was often the dominant power in East Asia, so fewer rivals dared to challenge it, which meant it had little incentive to spend heavily on its military. As a result, there was simply less use for gunpowder weapons in East Asia.

Europe, by contrast, had no such dominant power. And once the Western Europeans took the lead in pushing gunpowder technology forward, it was hard for China to catch up; the center of progress was a continent away.

Europe’s military lead continued into the nineteenth century. Tax revenues rose as Europe industrialized, and the innovations from the Industrial Revolution—applied science and engineering—made it possible for Europeans to improve their technology not just by waging war, but also by conducting research, which magnified what the Europeans learned on the battlefield.

By 1914, Europe had not only achieved global military dominance, it also had powerful states that could raise huge sums of tax revenue to fund wars. In Franceand Germany, real per-capita tax revenue had increased 15 fold or more over the previous two centuries. That enormous capacity to tax went well beyond what can be explained by the higher per capita incomes that industrialization brought to Europe. It was the result of the same kind of learning  that advanced the gunpowder technology. The only difference was that here the learning involved economics rather than military technology, and the rewards went to political leaders who successfully bargained with the elites to boost tax revenues. The leaders then used the added tax revenue to expand and equip their armies and navies.

Map of European Empires

A map of world empires and colonies in 1920.

Europe’s ability to tax was no small achievement. China could not raise equivalent tax revenues, even in the nineteenth century. And countries in sub-Saharan Africa today still lack the basic capacity to tax, which keeps them from providing security and other basic public goods to their citizens.

So what did contribute to Europe’s success? Mostly, it derived from the incentives that political leaders faced in Europe—incentives that drove them not just to make war, but also to spend huge sums on it.

Europe had yet another advantage as well: its entrepreneurs were free to use gunpowder technology to mount expeditions of conquest, colonization, and militarized trade. Although they usually needed official permission to launch a voyage, entrepreneurs were often encouraged by authorities eager to find riches abroad. And they had no trouble acquiring weapons or finding battle-hardened veterans to train military novices who joined their undertakings. By the seventeenth century, such private expeditions had spawned gigantic enterprises that raised huge sums on Europe’s burgeoning capital markets to finance ventures abroad, enterprises such as the Dutch East India Company, which was not only a private arm of Dutch foreign policy, but also the first business to issue tradable shares of stock.

A final difference between Europe and the rest of the world lies in political history. From 221 B.C. onward, China, more often than not, was unified in a large empire. The Chinese empire soon developed a centralized bureaucracy that drew local elites into government service and gave them a stake in the empire’s survival. The rewards of government service helped hold the empire together, and as long as the empire was strong and unified, other East Asian powers hesitated to attack it. This meant that China had little incentive to seek out new enemies or opportunities.

Western Europe, by contrast, experienced no such lasting unification after the collapse of the Roman Empire. What it endured instead were centuries of warfare by bands of warriors whose leaders resembled modern-day warlords. The incessant fighting groomed leaders who were victorious in war. The conflict also generated enduring enmities between leaders and their followers, enmities that eventually hardened into lasting political borders. It was such ill will—and not Europe’s physical geography—that kept any single leader from ever uniting Western Europe in the sort of durable empire that prevailed for centuries in China. In the long run, the winners in Western Europe were the military leaders who learned how to impose heavy taxes to fund their fighting, and as a result, Europe ended up with kings who spent pharaonic sums on warfare and who had, in the words of Machiavelli, “no object, thought, or profession but war.”

Without a single-minded focus on war and the extraordinary ability to tax, there may never have been any European empires. The wars and the taxes lavished on them gave the Europeans an enormous lead in military technology. This enabled their conquests, and allowed them to keep native populations under control without stationing large numbers of European troops abroad. Without such advantages, the Europeans might have grown rich anyway—and perhaps even industrialized early—but they would not have dominated the world in 1914.

Source: Foreign affairs ( https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/europe/2015-10-07/how-europe-conquered-world)

Theories of Motivation

Overview

At a simple level, it seems obvious that people do things, such as go to work, in order to get stuff they want and to avoid stuff they don’t want.

Why exactly they want what they do and don’t want what they don’t is still something a mystery. It’s a black box and it hasn’t been fully penetrated.

Overall, the basic perspective on motivation looks something like this:

In other words, you have certain needs or wants (these terms will be used interchangeably), and this causes you to do certain things (behavior), which satisfy those needs (satisfaction), and this can then change which needs/wants are primary (either intensifying certain ones, or allowing you to move on to other ones).

A variation on this model, particularly appropriate from an experimenter’s or manager’s point of view, would be to add a box labeled “reward” between “behavior” and “satisfaction”. So that subjects (or employees), who have certain needs do certain things (behavior), which then get them rewards set up by the experimenter or manager (such as raises or bonuses), which satisfy the needs, and so on.

Classifying Needs

People seem to have different wants. This is fortunate, because in markets this creates the very desirable situation where, because you value stuff that I have but you don’t, and I value stuff that you have that I don’t, we can trade in such a way that we are both happier as a result.

But it also means we need to try to get a handle on the whole variety of needs and who has them in order to begin to understand how to design organizations that maximize productivity.

Part of what a theory of motivation tries to do is explain and predict who has which wants. This turns out to be exceedingly difficult.

Many theories posit a hierarchy of needs, in which the needs at the bottom are the most urgent and need to be satisfied before attention can be paid to the others.

Maslow

Maslow’s hierarchy of need categories is the most famous example:

self-actualization
esteem
belongingness
safety
physiological

Specific examples of these types are given below, in both the work and home context. (Some of the instances, like “education” are actually satisfiers of the need.)

Need Home Job
self-actualization education, religion, hobbies, personal growth training, advancement, growth, creativity
esteem approval of family, friends, community recognition, high status, responsibilities
belongingness family, friends, clubs teams, depts, coworkers, clients, supervisors, subordinates
safety freedom from war, poison, violence work safety, job security, health insurance
physiological food water sex Heat, air, base salary

According to Maslow, lower needs take priority. They must be fulfilled before the others are activated. There is some basic common sense here — it’s pointless to worry about whether a given color looks good on you when you are dying of starvation, or being threatened with your life. There are some basic things that take precedence over all else.

Or at least logically should, if people were rational. But is that a safe assumption? According to the theory, if you are hungry and have inadequate shelter, you won’t go to church. Can’t do the higher things until you have the lower things. But the poor tend to be more religious than the rich. Both within a given culture, and across nations. So the theory makes the wrong prediction here.

Or take education: how often do you hear “I can’t go to class today, I haven’t had sex in three days!”?  Do all physiological needs including sex have to be satisfied before “higher” needs?  (Besides, wouldn’t the authors of the Kama Sutra argue that sex was a kind of self-expression more like art than a physiological need? that would put it in the self-actualization box). Again, the theory doesn’t seem to predict correctly.

Cultural critique: Does Maslow’s classification really reflect the order in which needs are satisfied, or is it more about classifying needs from a kind of “tastefulness” perspective, with lofty goals like personal growth and creativity at the top, and “base” instincts like sex and hunger at the bottom? And is self-actualization actually a fundamental need? Or just something that can be done if you have the leisure time?

Alderfer’s ERG theory

Alderfer classifies needs into three categories, also ordered hierarchically:

  • growth needs (development of competence and realization of potential)
  • relatedness needs (satisfactory relations with others)
  • existence needs (physical well-being)

This is very similar to Maslow — can be seen as just collapsing into three tiers. But maybe a bit more rational. For example, in Alderfer’s model, sex does not need to be in the bottom category as it is in Maslow’s model, since it is not crucial to (the individual’s) existence. (Remember, this about individual motivation, not species’ survival.) So by moving sex, this theory does not predict that people have to have sex before they can think about going to school, like Maslow’s theory does.

Alderfer believed that as you start satisfying higher needs, they become more intense (e.g., the power you get the more you want power), like an addiction.

Do any of these theories have anything useful to say for managing businesses? Well, if true, they suggest that

  • Not everyone is motivated by the same things. It depends where you are in the hierarchy (think of it as a kind of personal development scale)
  • The needs hierarchy probably mirrors the organizational hierarchy to a certain extent: top managers are more likely to motivated by self-actualization/growth needs than existence needs. (but try telling Bill Clinton that top executives are not motivated by sex and cheeseburgers…)

Acquired Needs Theory (mcclellan)

Some needs are acquired as a result of life experiences

  • need for achievement, accomplish something difficult. as kids encouraged to do things for themselves.
  • need for affiliation, form close personal relationships. as kids rewarded for making friends.
  • need for power, control others. as kids, able to get what they want through controlling others.

Again similar to maslow and alderfer.

These needs can be measured using the TAT (thematic apperception test), which is a projection-style test based on interpreting stories that people tell about a set of pictures.

Cognitive Evaluation Theory

This theory suggests that there are actually two motivation systems: intrinsic and extrinsic that correspond to two kinds of motivators:

  • intrinsic motivators:  Achievement, responsibility and competence. motivators that come from the actual performance of the task or job — the intrinsic interest of the work.
  • extrinsic:  pay, promotion, feedback, working conditions — things that come from a person’s environment, controlled by others.

One or the other of these may be a more powerful motivator for a given individual.

Intrinsically motivated individuals perform for their own achievement and satisfaction. If they come to believe that they are doing some job because of the pay or the working conditions or some other extrinsic reason, they begin to lose motivation.

The belief is that the presence of powerful extrinsic motivators can actually reduce a person’s intrinsic motivation, particularly if the extrinsic motivators are perceived by the person to be controlled by people. In other words, a boss who is always dangling this reward or that stick will turn off the intrinsically motivated people.

Note that the intrinsic motivators tend to be higher on the Maslow hierarchy.

Two Factor theory (Herzberg)

According to Herzberg, two kinds of factors affect motivation, and they do it in different ways:

  • hygiene factors. These are factors whose absence motivates, but whose presence has no perceived effect. They are things that when you take them away, people become dissatisfied and act to get them back. A very good example is heroin to a heroin addict. Long term addicts do not shoot up to get high; they shoot up to stop being sick — to get normal.  Other examples include decent working conditions, security, pay, benefits (like health insurance), company policies, interpersonal relationships. In general, these are extrinsic items low in the Maslow/Alderfer hierarchy.
  • motivators. These are factors whose presence motivates. Their absence does not cause any particular dissatisfaction, it just fails to motivate. Examples are all the things at the top of the Maslow hierarchy, and the intrinsic motivators.

So hygiene factors determine dissatisfaction, and motivators determine satisfaction. The two scales are independent, and you can be high on both.

If you think back to the class discussion on power, we talked about a baseline point on the well-being scale. Power involved a threat to reduce your well-being, causing dissatisfaction. Hence, power basically works by threatening to withhold hygiene factors. Influence was said to fundamentally be about promising improvements in well-being — when you are influenced to do something, it is because you want to, not because you were threatened. Influence basically works by offering to provide motivators (in Herzberg’s terms).

Equity Theory

Suppose employee A gets a 20% raise and employee B gets a 10% raise. Will both be motivated as a result? Will  A be twice as motivated? Will be B be negatively motivated?

Equity theory says that it is not the actual reward that motivates, but the perception, and the perception is based not on the reward in isolation, but in comparison with the efforts that went into getting it, and the rewards and efforts of others. If everyone got a 5% raise, B is likely to feel quite pleased with her raise, even if she worked harder than everyone else. But if A got an even higher raise, B perceives that she worked just as hard as A, she will be unhappy.

In other words, people’s motivation results from a ratio of ratios:  a person compares the ratio of reward to effort with the comparable ratio of reward to effort that they think others are getting.

Of course, in terms of actually predicting how a person will react to a given motivator, this will get pretty complicated:

  1. People do not have complete information about how others are rewarded. So they are going on perceptions, rumors, inferences.
  2. Some people are more sensitive to equity issues than others
  3. Some people are willing to ignore short-term inequities as long as they expect things to work out in the long-term.

Reinforcement Theory

Operant Conditioning is the term used by B.F. Skinner to describe the effects of the consequences of a particular behavior on the future occurrence of that behavior. There are four types of Operant Conditioning: Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, Punishment, and Extinction. Both Positive and Negative Reinforcement strengthen behavior while both Punishment and Extinction weaken behavior.

  • Positive reinforcement.  Strengthening a behavior. This is the process of getting goodies as a consequence of a behavior. You make a sale, you get a commission. You do a good job, you get a bonus & a promotion.
  • Negative reinforcement. Strengthening a behavior. This is the process of having a stressor taken away as a  consequence of a behavior. Long-term sanctions are removed from countries when their human rights records improve. (you see how successful that is!). Low status as geek at Salomon Brothers is removed when you make first big sale.
  • Extinction. Weakening a behavior. This is the process of getting no goodies when do a behavior. So if person does extra effort, but gets no thanks for it, they stop doing it.
  • Punishment. Weakening a behavior. This is the process of getting a punishment as a consequence of a behavior. Example: having your pay docked for lateness.
Apply Withhold
Reward positive reinforcement (raise above baseline) negative reinforcement (raise up to baseline)
Stressor punishment (bring down below baseline) extinction (stay at baseline)

Reinforcement schedules.

The traditional reinforcement schedule is called a continuous reinforcement schedule. Each time the correct behavior is performed it gets reinforced.

Then there is what we call an intermittent reinforcement schedule. There are fixed and variable categories.

The Fixed Interval Schedule is where reinforcement is only given after a certain amount of time has elapsed. So, if you decided on a 5 second interval then each reinforcement would occur at the fixed time of every 5 seconds.

The Fixed Ratio Schedule is where the reinforcement is given only after a predetermined number of responses. This is often seen in behavior chains where a number of behaviors have to occur for reinforcement to occur.

The Variable Interval Schedule is where the reinforcement is given after varying amounts of time between each reinforcement.

The Variable Ratio Schedule is where the reinforcement is given after a varying number of correct responses.

Fluctuating combinations of primary and secondary reinforcers fall under other terms in the variable ratio schedule; For example, Reinforcers delivered Intermittently in a Randomized Order (RIR) or Variable Ratio with Reinforcement Variety (VRRV).

Fixed Variable
Interval give reward after first proper response following a specified time period(yearly raise)

[short term]

give reward after a certain amt of time w/ the amt changing before the next reward(unexpected bonus based on merit)

Ratio punishment (subtract from baseline)(commissions or piecework pay)

give reward after a number of responses, w/ that no. changing before the next reward(team-based bonus)

[long term]

Expectancy Theory (Vroom)

This theory is meant to bring together many of the elements of previous theories. It combines the perceptual aspects of equity theory with the behavioral aspects of the other theories. Basically, it comes down to this “equation”:

M = E*I*V

or

motivation = expectancy * instrumentality * valence

M (motivation) is the amount a person will be motivated by the situation they find themselves in. It is a function of the following.

E (expectancy) = The person’s perception that effort will result in performance. In other words, the person’s assessment of the degree to which effort actually correlates with performance.

I (instrumentality) = The person’s perception that performance will be rewarded/punished. I.e., the person’s assessment of how well the amount of reward correlates with the quality of performance. (Note here that the model is phrased in terms of extrinsic motivation, in that it asks ‘what are the chances I’m going to get rewarded if I do good job?’. But for intrinsic situations, we can think of this as asking ‘how good will I feel if I can pull this off?’).

V(valence) = The perceived strength of the reward or punishment that will result from the performance. If the reward is small, the motivation will be small, even if expectancy and instrumentality are both perfect (high).

15 Big Life Insights I Wish I Knew at 18

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1) True pleasure and results come from mastery

In this internet age, there are many of Jack of all trades: people who know a bit about MANY things, but have not mastered any one thing. This is unfortunate. Immense pleasure is derived from being absolutely badass at something.

The solution:

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.” – Swami Vivekananda

2) The best practices are those you discover for yourself

The downside of having so much information available online is that it’s easy to get lost in spiral of trying out other people’s methods while never attempting to create on of your own. You’re missing a lot of context when simply subscribing to some internet guru’s meditation technique. This is akin to buying an iPhone and thinking you know how to manufacture a phone.

Instead, try a method that you think would feel good for you. Continually make modifications until you have a practice that is uniquely your own. Feel free to take inspiration from others, but be sure the final product is finely tailored to who you are.

3) Reality is highly subjective

Even science is subjective. The more deeply you realize this truth, the better you will get along with your fellow man. Our thoughts and beliefs shape our realities in a greater capacity than we can fully understand. This is has major take-aways:

1) Accept the seemingly absurd views of others as a logical result of them looking through an entirely different lens.

2) Realize that you are in control of the lens you look through. Carefully mold your beliefs towards the kind of world you wish to live in. The sky is the limit.

4) You can only be truly angry at yourself

If something bothers you, it must also dwell inside of you. For example, if your friend’s selfish behavior pisses you off, then you are actually frustrated by your own selfish tendencies. I know, this one is difficult to swallow at first. Take a long hard introspective look inside the next time you’re angered. It’s a great way to learn more about yourself and increase your control of your emotions.

5) Re-apply your own principles routinely

Lessons need to be learned over and over. It’s easy to ride the wave of your past learned experiences and fool yourself into think you’re still acting upon them. Keep a note somewhere of your big life lessons and go through them routinely to make sure you’re still on track.

6) Stating intentions out loud can reduce their power

The opposite is also true, but this side of the polarity is rarely talked about.

There is something powerful about concealing a secret mission to accomplish X rather than sharing it with the world. I’m having trouble iterating exactly why this is, but please do try it out for yourself.

7) My broken record: pyschedelics are an insanely powerful tool for introspection

I’ve advocated the responsible use of psychedelics for personal growth on HE more times than I can mention. They have been essential to my own growth, and to the existence of this very website. Read this article for more info if you’re a first-timer.

8) Your morning routine is everything

Start your day with a structure that empowers you for the rest of the day.

For me, the most important part is getting up at a set time, even if that time isn’t very early. In this case, consistency trumps efficiency (within reason).

When you’re awake, do what makes you feel ALIVE! It doesn’t need to be meditation or journaling. Do what makes you amped for the rest of the day.

9) Seriously, remember people’s names

I’m still horrible at this. I like to blame it on the sheer number of people who contact me on a daily basis, which has trained me to think that I can’t keep track, but that’s just an excuse.

Remembering someone’s name is the first step towards seeing the divinity in each person you meet.

10) Embrace what is innate in yourself

For a while I battled with my anti-social nature. On an average night, I much prefer to stay in and work/create than go out with other people. In the past I felt bad for not wanting to be social, placing selfish accusations on myself. But more recently I’ve realized this is just me. Self-improvement books and popular culture have taught me that it’s not good to live out that side of me. But it feels good. So fuck it.

11) Repetition is key

Unless you’re a savant, you need to read/learn/experience things multiple times for them to stick. If come across something that hits home with you, be sure to revisit it again and again until it’s engrained in you.

Re-read books, write down your lessons, use Anki Cards for memorization, etc. And repeat 🙂

12) FOCUS! / Learn to say NO

I know this because I’m still recovering from the lesson. My time is split between HE, Valhalla Movement, RaveNectar and some super-secret side-projects. My results would be much more powerful if I poured all of my time into 1-2 projects maximum.

Just because something is inline with your bliss does not mean it has a place in your life. Place a priority on having priorities 😉

13) Down with extremes

Self-improvement freaks have a tendency to try out extreme habits, eg. no meat, working out every day, no drinking, etc. These short-lived experiments generally end with a binge on the other end of the spectrum. Instead, aim for a healthy balance from the start.

14) Follow the path of least resistance

When you’re in full acceptance of the path laid before you, life flows. You don’t need to force anything.

If you’re pursuing something and life is throwing a ridiculous amount of hurdles at you, re-consider whether or not this is the right path for you. Are you forcing it?

It may seem difficult to discern between needing to work hard and the Universe saying ‘STOP!’, but you’ll gain that ability with time.

15) You can do anything

Every single amazing person you’ve ever heard of started off as a zero. Great feats come through sweat and tears, not innate talent. Decide what your greatness should be and go pursue it relentlessly. The only person standing in your way is you.

20 Lessons you will learn in your 20’s !

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Believing in your self is the only thing worth believing in. We spend a great deal of time trying to analyse what life is and what it has in it’s kitty for us, but only after few time bound experiences we  conclude with the answers we are looking for.

1. Failure is an achievement, the de facto principle you will learn by now is, that failing is glorious, instead of not making a move.

2. Relationships may hold you down and sever your growth.

3. Life is unfair and you will learn to live with it.

4. Certificate courses don’t tantamount to job opportunities.

5. Living for a a passion is worth living.

6. Money is hard to earn and slips easily.

7. The “fear of the unknown” needs to be dealt with.

8. Travelling opens your mind like religion closes.

9. Everybody has a different path to follow, you just need to look for your own.

10. Your opinion about a lot of things must have changed, clubbing every weekend does not excites you anymore.

11. You wish to have developed a lot of habits in your teens that would have been helpful to you now, like reading books or not smoking.

12. You don’t need to convince everyone of what you are all about.

13. A skill is important better get that before you turn 30.

14. You are a manifestation of your surroundings, if you don’t have good one, keep to your books, they will prove to be  a prolific company.play you need both to sustain the long race called life.

15. Risk is important and you know how to take the plunge.

16. Your school friends cling on to you longer than most the people you meet.

17. You don’t necessarily need someones company all the time, you know how to manage alone

18. Emotions are good but they hold you, and you wont be this ebullient and industrious again, so time to .

19. The path of obstacles is the path to glory.

20. Life after 30 is largely a result of what you do in your 20’s, so it is important to strike the right balance between hard work and play, you will need to both to sustain the journey called life.

Keep the dream alive !

No, Israel Does Not Have the Right to Self-Defense In International Law Against Occupied Palestinian Territory

 Smoke and fire from an Israeli bomb rises into the air ove Gaza City

On the fourth day of Israel’s most recent onslaught against Gaza’s Palestinian population, President Barack Obama declared, “No country on Earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.” In an echo of Israeli officials, he sought to frame Israel’s aerial missile strikes against the 360-square kilometer Strip as the just use of armed force against a foreign country. Israel’s ability to frame its assault against territory it occupies as a right of self-defense turns international law on its head. 

A state cannot simultaneously exercise control over territory it occupies and militarily attack that territory on the claim that it is “foreign” and poses an exogenous national security threat. In doing precisely that, Israel is asserting rights that may be consistent with colonial domination but simply do not exist under international law. 

Admittedly, the enforceability of international law largely depends on voluntary state consent and compliance. Absent the political will to make state behavior comport with the law, violations are the norm rather than the exception. Nevertheless, examining what international law says with regard to an occupant’s right to use force is worthwhile in light of Israel’s deliberate attempts since 1967 to reinterpret and transform the laws applicable to occupied territory. These efforts have expanded significantly since the eruption of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, and if successful, Israel’s reinterpretation would cast the law as an instrument that protects colonial authority at the expense of the rights of civilian non-combatants.  

Israel Has A Duty To Protect Palestinians Living Under Occupation 

Military occupation is a recognized status under international law and since 1967, the international community has designated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as militarily occupied. As long as the occupation continues, Israel has the right to protect itself and its citizens from attacks by Palestinians who reside in the occupied territories. However, Israel also has a duty to maintain law and order, also known as “normal life,” within territory it occupies. This obligation includes not only ensuring but prioritizing the security and well-being of the occupied population. That responsibility and those duties are enumerated inOccupation Law

Occupation Law is part of the laws of armed conflict; it contemplates military occupation as an outcome of war and enumerates the duties of an occupying power until the peace is restored and the occupation ends. To fulfill its duties, the occupying power is afforded the right to use police powers, or the force permissible for law enforcement purposes. As put by the U.S. Military Tribunal during the Hostages Trial (The United States of America vs. Wilhelm List, et al.)

International Law places the responsibility upon the commanding general of preserving order, punishing crime, and protecting lives and property within the occupied territory. His power in accomplishing these ends is as great as his responsibility. 

The extent and breadth of force constitutes the distinction between the right to self-defense and the right to police. Police authority is restricted to the least amount of force necessary to restore order and subdue violence. In such a context, the use of lethal force is legitimate only as a measure of last resort. Even where military force is considered necessary to maintain law and order, such force is circumscribed by concern for the civilian non-combatant population. The law of self-defense, invoked by states against other states, however, affords a broader spectrum of military force. Both are legitimate pursuant to the law of armed conflict and therefore distinguished from the peacetime legal regime regulated by human rights law. 


When It Is Just to Begin to Fight 

The laws of armed conflict are found primarily in the Hague Regulations of 1907, the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and their Additional Protocols I and II of 1977. This body of law is based on a crude balance between humanitarian concerns on the one hand and military advantage and necessity on the other. The post-World War II Nuremberg trials defined military exigency as permission to expend “any amount and kind of force to compel the complete submission of the enemy…” so long as the destruction of life and property is not done for revenge or a lust to kill. Thus, the permissible use of force during war, while expansive, is not unlimited. 

In international law, self-defense is the legal justification for a state to initiate the use of armed force and to declare war. This is referred to as jus ad bellum—meaning “when it is just to begin to fight.” The right to fight in self-defense is distinguished from jus in bello, the principles and laws regulating the means and methods of warfare itself. Jus ad bellum aims to limit the initiation of the use of armed force in accordance with United Nations Charter Article 2(4); its sole justification, found in Article 51, is in response to an armed attack (or an imminent threat of one in accordance with customary law on the matter). The only other lawful way to begin a war, according to Article 51, is with Security Council sanction, an option reserved—in principle, at least—for the defense or restoration of international peace and security.

Once armed conflict is initiated, and irrespective of the reason or legitimacy of such conflict, the jus in bellolegal framework is triggered. Therefore, where an occupation already is in place, the right to initiate militarized force in response to an armed attack, as opposed to police force to restore order, is not a remedy available to the occupying state. The beginning of a military occupation marks the triumph of one belligerent over another. In the case of Israel, its occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai in 1967 marked a military victory against Arab belligerents. 

Occupation Law prohibits an occupying power from initiating armed force against its occupied territory. By mere virtue of the existence of military occupation, an armed attack, including one consistent with the UN Charter, has already occurred and been concluded. Therefore the right of self-defense in international law is, by definition since 1967, not available to Israel with respect to its dealings with real or perceived threats emanating from the West Bank and Gaza Strip population. To achieve its security goals, Israel can resort to no more than the police powers, or the exceptional use of militarized force, vested in it by IHL. This is not to say that Israel cannot defend itself—but those defensive measures can neither take the form of warfare nor be justified as self-defense in international law. As explained by Ian Scobbie:  

To equate the two is simply to confuse the legal with the linguistic denotation of the term ”defense.“ Just as ”negligence,“ in law, does not mean ”carelessness” but, rather, refers to an elaborate doctrinal structure, so ”self-defense” refers to a complex doctrine that has a much more restricted scope than ordinary notions of ”defense.“ 

To argue that Israel is employing legitimate “self-defense” when it militarily attacks Gaza affords the occupying power the right to use both police and military force in occupied territory. An occupying power cannot justify military force as self-defense in territory for which it is responsible as the occupant. The problem is that Israel has never regulated its own behavior in the West Bank and Gaza as in accordance with Occupation Law. 
 

Israel’s Attempts To Change International Law 

Since the beginning of its occupation in 1967, Israel has rebuffed the applicability of international humanitarian law to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Despite imposing military rule over the West Bank and Gaza, Israel denied the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (the cornerstone of Occupation Law). Israel argued because the territories neither constituted a sovereign state nor were sovereign territories of the displaced states at the time of conquest, that it simply administered the territories and did not occupy them within the meaning of international law. The UN Security Council, the International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly, as well as the Israeli High Court of Justice have roundly rejected the Israeli government’s position. Significantly, the HCJ recognizes the entirety of the Hague Regulations and provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions that pertain to military occupation as customary international law

Israel’s refusal to recognize the occupied status of the territory, bolstered by the US’ resilient and intransigent opposition to international accountability within the UN Security Council, has resulted in the condition that exists today: prolonged military occupation. Whereas the remedy to occupation is its cessation, such recourse will not suffice to remedy prolonged military occupation. By virtue of its decades of military rule, Israel has characterized all Palestinians as a security threat and Jewish nationals as their potential victims, thereby justifying the differential, and violent, treatment of Palestinians. In its 2012 session, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination described current conditions following decades of occupation and attendant repression as tantamount to Apartheid

In complete disregard for international law, and its institutional findings, Israel continues to treat the Occupied Territory as colonial possessions. Since the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, Israel has advanced the notion that it is engaged in an international armed conflict short of war in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Accordingly, it argues that it can 1) invoke self-defense, pursuant to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and 2) use force beyond that permissible during law enforcement, even where an occupation exists
 

The Gaza Strip Is Not the World Trade Center

To justify its use of force in the OPT as consistent with the right of self-defense, Israel has cited UN Security Council Resolution 1368 (2001) and UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001).  These two resolutions were passed in direct response to the Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001. They affirm that those terrorist acts amount to threats to international peace and security and therefore trigger Article 51 of the UN Charter permitting the use of force in self-defense. Israel has therefore deliberately characterized all acts of Palestinian violence – including those directed exclusively at legitimate military targets – as terrorist acts. Secondly it frames those acts as amounting to armed attacks that trigger the right of self-defense under Article 51 irrespective of the West Bank and Gaza’s status as Occupied Territory. 

The Israeli Government stated its position clearly in the 2006 HCJ case challenging the legality of the policy of targeted killing (Public Committee against Torture in Israel et al v. Government of Israel). The State argued that, notwithstanding existing legal debate, “there can be no doubt that the assault of terrorism against Israel fits the definition of an armed attack,” effectively permitting Israel to use military force against those entities. Therefore, Israeli officials claim that the laws of war can apply to “both occupied territory and to territory which is not occupied, as long as armed conflict is taking place on it” and that the permissible use of force is not limited to law enforcement operations.  The HCJ has affirmed this argument in at least three of its decisions:Public Committee Against Torture in Israel et al v. Government of Israel, Hamdan v. Southern Military Commander, and Physicians for Human Rights v. The IDF Commander in Gaza. These rulings sanction the government’s position that it is engaged in an international armed conflict and, therefore, that its use of force is not restricted by the laws of occupation. The Israeli judiciary effectively authorizes the State to use police force to control the lives of Palestinians (e.g., through ongoing arrests, prosecutions, checkpoints) and military force to pummel their resistance to occupation. 

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) dealt with these questions in its assessment of the permissible use of force in the Occupied West Bank in its 2004 Advisory Opinion, Legal Consequences on the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The ICJ reasoned that Article 51 contemplates an armed attack by one state against another state and “Israel does not claim that the attacks against it are imputable to a foreign state.” Moreover, the ICJ held that because the threat to Israel “originates within, and not outside” the Occupied West Bank, 

the situation is thus different from that contemplated by Security Council resolutions 1368 (2001) and 1373 (2001), and therefore Israel could not in any event invoke those resolutions in support of its claim to be exercising a right of self-defense. Consequently, the Court concludes that Article 51 of the Charter has no relevance in this case. 

Despite the ICJ’s decision, Israel continues to insist that it is exercising its legal right to self-defense in its execution of military operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since 2005, Israel slightly changed its position towards the Gaza Strip. The government insists that as a result of its unilateral disengagement in 2005, its occupation has come to an end. In 2007, the government declared the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity” and waged war upon the territory over which it continues to exercise effective control as an Occupying Power.  Lisa Hajjar expounds on these issues here.

In effect, Israel is distorting/reinterpreting international law to justify its use of militarized force in order to protect its colonial authority. Although it rebuffs the de jure application of Occupation Law, Israel exercises effective control over the West Bank and Gaza and therefore has recourse to police powers. It uses those police powers to continue its colonial expansion and apartheid rule and then in defiance of international law cites its right to self-defense in international law to wage war against the population, which it has a duty to protect. The invocation of law to protect its colonial presence makes the Palestinian civilian population doubly vulnerable. Specifically in the case of Gaza,

It forces the people of the Gaza Strip to face one of the most powerful militaries in the world without the benefit either of its own military, or of any realistic means to acquire the means todefend itself. 

More broadly, Israel is slowly pushing the boundaries of existing law in an explicit attempt to reshape it. This is an affront to the international humanitarian legal order, which is intended to protect civilians in times of war by minimizing their suffering. Israel’s attempts have proven successful in the realm of public relations, as evidenced by President Obama’s uncritical support of Israel’s recent onslaughts of Gaza as an exercise in the right of self-defense. Since international law lacks a hierarchal enforcement authority, its meaning and scope is highly contingent on the prerogative of states, especially the most powerful ones. The implications of this shift are therefore palpable and dangerous. 

Failure to uphold the law would allow states to behave according to their own whim in furtherance of their national interest, even in cases where that is detrimental to civilian non-combatants and to the international legal order. For better or worse, the onus to resist this shift and to preserve protection for civilians rests upon the shoulders of citizens, organizations, and mass movements who can influence their governments enforce international law. There is no alternative to political mobilization to shape state behavior.

source: www.jadaliyya.com

Russia-Ukraine-Crimea Conflict (2014): Why is Russia invading Ukraine?

Russian President Putin looks on during a news conference following EU-Russia summit in Brussels
Once upon a time there was Mr. Russia. He had many girlfriends-Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Ukraine sisters ( west and east) and many more. They all lived happily in a polygamous relationship and called themselves USSR.

Over time their differences grew and the girlfriends were like “this relationship ain’t workin’ for us honey..we gotta be single for a while and figure out our shit”. So they all broke up with Mr. Russia.

Mr. Russia was sad.

Meanwhile Russia’s rival, Mr. USA , was rubbing his hands in glee and gloating at Russia’s misfortune because, earlier that year, Russia (and his girlfriends) had been in a ‘low temperature'(cold ?) war with USA for a while.

Russia drank a lot of vodka, stopped shaving and became weak and generally forgotten by everyone.

*Fast forward 50 years later.*

Russia has picked himself up. Started working out again, eating healthy and looking nice in general. He had also convinced one or two of his old girlfriends to come back to him (albeit after a bit of lover’s tiff). But he missed The Ukrainian sisters the most. Cause they were the hottest (in his eyes). But he was hesitant about making the move on them.

Then one day he saw that USA was hitting on them. A lot. Plus he heard that USA had invited the Ukrainian sisters to party at a club that he (USA) owned (called NATO or something..not sure). Now Russia knew that one of the sisters still loved him- East. (Infact she even kept some of his stuff (such as the Black Sea Fleet) in her backyard because she missed him.)

So Russia decided that one girlfriend in hand was worth two in (George) bush… er USA’s hand and forcefully eloped with East Ukraine. (this also caused an irreparable rift between the previously super close sisters)

USA and the other guys on the street were outraged and threatened to beat up Russia while Russia was like “fuck y’all… imma marry East Ukraine and drink vodka”.

Meanwhile Mr. India also , kinda, supported Russia cause they had always been bitchin’ friends plus Russia always gave awesomely advanced toy planes and and other stuff to India to play with when the other guys (such as Mr. USA) refused to share with India.

And now everyone is waiting to see what will happen next. Will Russia marry East Ukraine and consummate their marriage ? Will the guys gang up and beat Mr. Russia ? Tune in next week to find out folks !

*credits roll*

The End