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Weekly Wisdom

Hell is Other People—Weekly Wisdom

Also, the failure of foreign aid, the role of luck in success, the warped reality of beautiful people, unnecessary evils and how humans are bad at probability.

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This was a long break. I have been busy for the past 2 weeks with a bunch of projects. Plus some minor health problems. I plan to be regular from now till November.


📺Somethings to Watch

Foreign Aid, like carbon offsets, doesn’t work. This video is a mini documentary on a failure of foreign aid regime in various African countries to improve health and agricultural output. It involved failure of selection of crops and dead donkeys, without improving much for the subjects. Regimes such as these are orientalist in nature will always fail.

I recently finished Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness, a book about how humans are bad at probability and randomness. This video is unrelated but can serve as a great summary for the book.

📕Something to read

  • George Orwell’s Review of Mein Kampf: It is very easy to classify Hitler as a cartoonish evil person that everyone hated in his time. However, besides the people who followed his cult of personality, there were those who saw him as a necessary evil. Orwell’s review here was written right when the War was in full swing and the tide was turning. We still have people who are going to bat for ‘necessary evils’. The have the unfortunate misnomer of ‘realists’. History tells us they are not.
  • Quota Quickies: A short piece on how protectionism saved the British film industry.

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🗣Some Quotes and Notes

Hell is Other People

Human beings are vain. We see ourselves as the main character. Our needs, our desires, and our thoughts are the only one that matter. It is very hard for us to deal with humanity of other people. We expect that we are too special to be subject to gossip & backbiting. Tim Kreider, writing for NYT, explores this topic.

I’ve often thought that the single most devastating cyberattack a diabolical and anarchic mind could design would not be on the military or financial sector but simply to simultaneously make every e-mail and text ever sent universally public. It would be like suddenly subtracting the strong nuclear force from the universe; the fabric of society would instantly evaporate, every marriage, friendship and business partnership dissolved. Civilization, which is held together by a fragile web of tactful phrasing, polite omissions and white lies, would collapse in an apocalypse of bitter recriminations and weeping, breakups and fistfights, divorces and bankruptcies, scandals and resignations, blood feuds, litigation, wholesale slaughter in the streets and lingering ill will.

It is simply not pleasant to be objectively observed — it’s like seeing a candid photo of yourself online, not smiling or posing, but simply looking the way you apparently always do, oblivious and mush-faced with your mouth open. It’s proof that we are visible to others, that we are seen, in all our naked silliness and stupidity.

— Tim Kreider, I Know What You Think of Me

Roll the Dice

You can do everything right and still fail, and you can fall ass-backwards into success. Yet there is a huge market for insights by successful people. Jakob Greenfield writes about how pointless they are.

Many people that truly accomplished amazing things, when asked for the key to their success come up with some framework or playbook that they, in fact, never used themselves.

This happens completely without bad intentions.

It’s just that people love to say things that make them look good.

Offering a step-by-step playbook or framework makes you look so much smarter than saying “I don’t know”, “I got lucky”, or explaining what you really did, including all the dirty little secrets.

— Jakob Greenfield, No more Insight Porn

Warped Reality

Pretty people live on a different planet. A great essay from Saeid Fard.

I suspect these people live in an entirely different reality. A lifetime of receiving attention and adoration must create certain expectations of other people. They are accustomed to admirers they’ve never met. They love to travel, because strangers from around the world adorn them with attention. Dating is a matter of simply saying yes, not learning through repeated heartbreaking rejections the subtleties of chasing or being chased.

— Saeid Fard, The Greatest Privilege We Never Talk About: Beauty


Thank you for joining me this week. If you know some who might enjoy this, please forward this email to them. See you next week.

Mudassir Chapra

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