#6 THE MEANING OF “MACHIAVELLISM”

To describe someone as Machiavellic is in no way a compliment! Machiavellism is a term that originates from the Renaissance era and has since been used extensively in a negative way, especially in politics.

Below are some interesting elements about the history of the word and its author :

  • Machiavelism according to the online dictionary Meriam-Webster is the political theory of Niccolò Machiavelli.
  • Niccolò Machiavelli himself was an Italian writer, diplomat, and politician of the Renaissance era.
  • The theory is of view that politics is amoral and any means however unscrupulous can justifiably be used in achieving political power.
  • Nicolo Machiavelli has had a lot of influence in political thinking and some consider him the father of modern political science.
  • The most notable work of Nicolo Machiavelli “the prince” (written in the 1500’s) is highly controversial, some even consider it evil.
  • “The prince” seems to endorse immoral behavior, such as dishonesty and killing innocents, as being normal and effective in politics. The writer himself seems to be of opinion that it is okay to deceive, manipulate and kill the innocents, friends and enemies alike if it helps secure power.
  • At its core, Machiavelism is about deception, manipulation, and self-survival. One extract is as follows “Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.”

In the present, the term seems to have found firm footing in psychology as well. Machiavellism made its entry in psychology in the 1970’s when two psychologists (Richard Christie and Florence L. Geis) developed what they called “the Machiavellianism Scale”. The test, later on, became known as the Mach-IV test. Those that score high on the text are likely to believe that in order to achieve success, one must be deceptive. They are likely to prioritize power over love and connection, they don’t believe that humankind is by nature good. They are unlikely to trust people, a behavior they might often see as naive.

A study published in 2013, found that those who identified strongly with Machiavellism were also very likely to suffer from depression.

Machiavellism also became one of the three personality traits to define Dark Triad and one of the four personality traits to define Dark Tetrad. A dark triad is an individual who scores high on Machiavellism, psychopathy, and narcissism. Dark tetrad takes the concept one step further and adds sadism to it. One advice: stay away from a dark triad or a dark tetrad, they only bring trouble.

And just like that, a politician, through his actions and his book earned one of the most notorious eponyms in history.

 

 

 

Let’s talk online security

These past few days two major alarms were set off. One by Mathy Vanhoef who demonstrated how basically every wifi-enabled device could be compromised and second one concerns Adobe’s infamous flash software. A bit earlier this year we had the infamous WannaCry ransomware attack.

But these are just the tip of the iceberg, the ones that are visible. We have a lot more malware, threats or vulnerabilities being exploited every single day. Cybercrime is serious and can do a lot of damage as well as cost a lot of money to both an individual or an organization. According to the Guardian, 1 out of every 10 people in England and Wales are victims of cybercrime. Juniper Research reports that by 2019, losses due to cybercrime is projected to be as high as $2 billion.

Now, not all system are equal and not all system are similarly exposed, though at some level every system is vulnerable, even the mighty Linux. The most exposed are the Internet of Things devices followed by the very fragmented Android ecosystem (most of the devices do not run the latest version nor gets the latest updates). If you have any of the two, exert some caution. Using a simple and accessible search engine like shodan.io, a person can identify vulnerable IoT devices connected to the internet.

Linux systems have a strong community ready to provide support; Microsoft and Apple treat security seriously and provides with patches and updates at a fair pace. Remember what I said though, no system is fully secure and anything connected to the internet will be vulnerable at some point, which leads us to the following: “What can I do to minimise the risk of compromising the privacy/security at an individual level or for my organization?”

Here are a few practical steps I recommend:

Use a VPN

A virtual private network is common to those familiar with security. A VPN will allow you to surf the web in more privacy(think of it like a private tunnel of communication). VPN has been gaining traction over the years with many firms now offering it as a service. Most VPNs will cost you some money. NordVPN and PUREVPN are among a few that PCMag recommends in 2017.  However, If you are an individual and you want to try a VPN but do not want to spend some cash then download Opera Mini. Opera Mini comes with its own integrated free VPN that is easy to use.

Look out for HTTPS

Using HTTPS-enabled website means that the information you type and send through the website is encrypted. NEVER EVER input any password or sensitive information if you do not see https. I also recommend the installation of an extension called HTTPS everywhere.

No online transaction over unknown or public wifi

Avoid using anything that involves money over Public wifi or any wifi that is not yours for that matter! Instead, I would recommend you to use Mobile data next time that you have to access PayPal or eBay or MCBJuice. I advise against accessing those over public wifi that you find at Caudan or the University of Mauritius.

Unknown USB & Email attachments

Exert caution over unknown USB drives and unsolicited email attachments. Do not connect any USB you find on your main machine that contains precious information. The same advice also extends to email attachments.

Please please pleeease don’t be dumb with passwords

Don’t use common passwords such as the one in the following list. Do not use the same password everywhere, instead use complex and different ones. It can be difficult at the beginning  I know but it is possible, I assure you that much. Lastly, if your name is Jack and you were born on the second of April, do not use predictable passwords like Jack24 or Jack0204 or Jack_02_04 (you get the idea).

That’s it for me and hope you enjoyed the information. Feel free to contribute further and add some of your best practices if I missed.

The visiting butterfly

A Saturday morning, I woke to find a butterfly in my room. Strangely the windows were still closed so I assume the butterfly spent the night in my room itself. Initially, I took a few pictures and then opened the window because clearly our little friend was pressing himself against the glass and flapping its wings (making me feel guilty). After opening the window and bringing our tiny little friend to it though, turns out it was in no rush to leave. Maybe it was the wind that caused it to take shelter inside, whatever the case, I was happy by the visit. Take a peak in the life of our little ephemeral friend through this short movie.

#5 The origins of Salary (through salt)

The history of Salt and salary are intertwined. In present day, we make extensive use the term salary. But what is a salary? where did this word come from? 

Salary originated from “sal” and “Salarium”. Here are some interesting facts both about salt and salary:

  • Salt is precious and necessary for life
  • Humans need salt to keep their cells inflated
  • Humans need salt to regulate blood pressure
  • Humans need salt in order for electrical nerve impulses to function properly
  • An average of 6 grammes of Sodium Chloride is recommended for a day
  • Foods such as animals and plants contain natural salt
  • Salt is also harvested
  • Salt was also used to preserve food or hide odour in meat
  • Salt was at one point was treated as a currency
  • Due to its popularity and preciousness, it is said that during the era soldiers were given sal/salarium as allowance to purchase salt or paid in salt (historians still debate which one)
  • From there on, originated the expressions such as “being worth one’s salt”
  • Or the Hindi version “Maine aapka namak khaaya hai”, literally translated to “I have eaten your salt” which means being dependent on the person for a living
  • Salt was also referred to as the “White Gold”

Another word that the roman gave us through salt is “Salad”. It was custom for the romans to add salt to their green leaves and from there on you know the rest of the story. It’s amazing how something like salt gave us words like Saliferous, Salinise. Salad and Salary.

 

Wandering birds

After an endless wandering, the birds finally found what they were searching

The tree was barren but “it would do”, they said to themselves

At last, they will be free from the shadows of the previous tree

Away from all the commotion…

Away from all the worries…

Away from the constant noise…

 

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My ranting about this imperfect world

Why am I sharing this? Well just to make a point. Not everything makes sense in this world. Not everything which is fair is legal and vice versa. Not everything is being done for the betterment of “us” as a whole. Some decisions are deliberately taken to benefit only a few at the detriment of the mass.

We are high on consumerism! what we seem to reward most are narcissistic and psychopathic traits. Think of all those glorified CEOs and top executives and their mission for more profits. The consequence is only one, more disparity. We seem to privilege that grandiose lifestyle to the point of even putting it on a pedestal.

 

Social Welfare, morality, justice, equality are only secondary. There is always a discrimination in how laws and rules are applied. We are teaching ourselves and our generations on how to become more ruthless, more self and profit oriented. ( and I haven’t even touched about politics yet).

There is always this double standard in our societies. We glorify all the large corporations that are here to make more and more profits even if nothing good comes out of it. We judge people, based on their bank account and the suits they wear. “Oh that’s an expensive tie so automatically he’s got such great taste. Oh, he has the most lavish house and a sports car, automatically he must be doing a great great job!”

He’s got a great job, who cares if he’s ripping people off while putting the person through an endless loop of paperwork.

“Oh, him? I never paid much attention! Maybe he is a nurse or something I think. He has hard work and shifts at night etc and chances that he will become a millionaire is very slim so do not pay much attention to him and ughh their work are gory. He is a nobody! forget him. Just like that guy that works in the field in all that dirt. I wonder how people choose to live with them.”

Right? Because success is money nowadays! Who cares who is making your food or tending to the health of people or educating children or protecting the environment.  You can look down to those people because in any case, you have more money right?

Let me put it in an equation:

Selfish hypocrite Society = Man in Suit & Tie > Farmer/teacher etc…

We have made normal become  boring.

Normal is boring and ugly… we are taught that! The shows are all about glamor, the emphasis is all about looks and money. There are so many stories are about rich princes, princesses, heirs, and heiress of large fortunes. Ah, how convenient!

How will we love common people when all that we are fed are the idea and unrealistic images of actors and actresses with perfect figures and no blemishes! Natural marks are digitally wiped. Thanks to technology and makeup, the overall subliminal message is” life is easy when you look pretty”.

We seem to be totally okay now with growing disparity as long as we can be sold false dreams of better prospects and the illusion of choices.

Maybe not all of us are like this, but I think it is fair to say that a lot of us are and the figure will continue on rising… I often ask myself, “We supposedly the smartest of all the species on this planet, how did we arrive at such a place? Or are we more predatory, hypocritical and selfish than intelligent?”

Still unconvinced? Here’s an example of inequality in our ‘civilized’ and ‘modern’ world.

I genuinely think the point of life is not to have lived and died rich but rather to live well. To live a meaningful life that has purpose and is contributing to more than just our own self. To spend your time on things you believe in and enjoy. Because in the end, money is just a currency that we created in order to exchange our time against so that we can then exchange money against goods or experiences.

#4 The meaning of “Kafkaesque”

Franz Kafka’s stories all shared a particular characteristic  “the main character is aloof, kind of a prisoner of his circular reasoning. Procedures are bewilderingly long, complex and the laws and rules governing the procedures are confusing/unknown/unclear. This particular characteristic is what gave birth to the term “Kafkaesque”.

Below are some interesting elements about the history of the word and its author :

  1. Franz Kafka worked in an insurance company in Prague, which is where he saw how pointless and time-consuming too much of beaurocracy becomes.
  2. Many of his protagonists were office workers, who in order to achieve their goals, had to go through the Kafkaesque ordeal which often made success pointless in the end.
  3. His most popular works include “The Trial” and “The Metamorphosis”.
  4. He apparently asked his friend to burn his works but the latter published it anyway after his death.
  5. As it can be seen from his works, he was very meticulous in his decriptions while writing.
  6. He is believed to have been detached and has preferred a solitary lifestyle since most of his main characters seem to be this way.
  7. The works of Haruki Murakami, one of the critically acclaimed contemporary author, are often “Kafkaesque”.
  8. Haruki Murakami admits that Franz Kafka’s work has had much influence over him as he grew. “The Castle”, one of kafka’s work is on the list of top 5 books that Haruki recommends reading.

So when you go to the hospital in order to find out what you have in order to feel better and you get tossed all around, waiting in those queues, filling those papers which won’t be used or will get lost and be explaining to somebody who tells you to explain to another. Where in the end, you get to a doctor who prescribes things but is unclear and you still have no clue what you have and instead of feeling better you’re feeling worse due to all that stress and activities. I guess that is Kafkaesque.