“political crap – well Cook-ed”

Scandals and no end … – still, there are some that deserve special attention. The Apple-tax avoidance policy is one of peculiar interest – for different reasons:
Think about the following:
I.
I pleaded on different occasions –  not least in connection with the data abuse by Facebook – for their socialisation: there seems to be little point in regulating monopolies – while at first glance tempering – it is a  no-go policy to break up monopolies that actually depend in their very functioning on being monopolies. Socialisation, e.g. state control, does not solve the problem but at least it puts it into a different regulatory perspective:
regulating private entities that are too big or securing democratic control over relevant political bodies, that is the question.
II.
Public control, then, is of course an issue that deserves …, not just special attention but a conceptualisation of the public itself that is serious about …, well , its public character. On this topic we read for instance:
public (adj.)
late 14c., “open to general observation,” from Old French public (c. 1300) and directly from Latin publicus “of the people; of the state; done for the state,” also “common, general, public; ordinary, vulgar,” and as a noun, “a commonwealth; public property,” altered (probably by influence of Latin pubes “adult population, adult”) from Old Latin poplicus “pertaining to the people,” from populus “people” (see people (n.)).
In any case, this is quite different from what we learn about the tax system in Europe and Ireland, reading in the mentioned article (my translation);
Instead, first Lienemeyer has to investigate and understand the Irish tax model as it is applied by Apple, that means first and foremost detective work.
Thus, adding value or or piracy-policies, that is another crucial question.
III.
There is the common saying about milking the cow to limits and it is commonly said that the pitcher goes often to the well, but is broken at last.
There is, in economics, so much talk about value chains – suggesting that the enterprise and country in which the enterprise is located gets a “fair share” – said in another way: as many products today – computers, phones, cars, fridges etc. – are produced in various places, with parts from different countries, the overall value of the product will be distributed between the countries, the contribution of each “valued proportionally”. One point to be considered here is that these value chains are, as Benjamin Selwyn points out, in actual fact poverty chains, the Apple-case clearly gives another good reason to question such concept.
Two passages from the said article in the SZ clearly show the contradiction:
At the time, Ireland replied in a letter to Brussels that Apple’s advanced technology, design and the intellectual property are exclusively rooted, developed and managed in the USA, thus making it impossible to attribute it to the Irish enterprises [enterprises  set up by Apple as mediators, solely dealing with sales]
However, a little later we read the following:
In the view of the head of the department at the EU-Commission it is fact that the Irish Apple-branches run their offices solely in Ireland, have their employees only there and are, thus, ordinary Irish companies. “Then the question is: who is generating the profit? A virtual headquarter or an industrial premise with real people working?” says Lienemeyer. As Apple maintains offices in the city of Cork. this is his conclusion, Apples global business is Irish. Consequently all profit has to be taxed in Ireland.
Ireland and Apple react by being shocked. In their understanding the global Apple-tree with its mature fruits always had its roots in California.
Both, Ireland and Apple see this a affront. At the end, the question is here:
eating the apples and rejecting the tree – is that a feasible option?
To be or not to be, that question needs urgently to be replaced: Who is allowed to define what being is – and who is allowed to determine the conditions of existence of others, of majorities?
Cook, Apple’s CEO, once spoke of ‘political crap’ coming from Brussels. Actually he may be not entirely wrong after all. Leaving the tax scandal aside, there are two fundamental issues that remain without consideration:
First, regulating sick and decaying systems, that are not only undermining like cancer the entire body but already replaced completely the entire body, is hardly enough as cure against the body snatchers.
Second, this requires not least to fundamentally overcome methodological nationalism: as long as we still think in competition between regions and nation states, global capitalism will unfold exponentially – paradoxically in niches of arrogant and sexist plutocracies.

 

Annunci

… revisiting tea leave readings …

Some time ago some musings had been published in this blog under the tile

science – new readings from the tea leaves

[www . freeastrology123.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/tealeafreading1.jpg]

Without any doubt, one gets easily caught, i.e. we all make easily some mistakes, follow simplifications and do so even without being aware of it; moreover: even circumspectly proceeding in our activities, we may end in some trap. Still, especially such general awareness should encourage being [self-] critical and it should also push our attention towards the roots.

This is important as such developments occur as a somewhat new methodological imperative – I talked about it during the third IsarKanalLecture, titled ‘Digitisation – Meta-Methodological Reflections‘. There I positioned besides methodological individualism and methodological nationalism the

Methodological Solutionismus as Strategy of Technizism, going hand in hand with permanent strategies of externalisation and relative downgrading of living standards.

Of course, there are two ways of looking at it:

  • the one is part of the wider process of infantilisation, seeing it as part of a phase that will soon get in a mature form on its feet, being well able to firmly walk and stand
  • we may call the other part of denialism – suggesting that such deviations are part of cultural and intellectual development – usually phases that are as short-lived as they are noisy for that period of time.

Sure, there is always some truth in the so-called country sayings – making weather predictions possible that are definitely correct – correct in 100 % of the cases. However, every country-person, doing some farming, knows that at some stage this is not enough, well formulated in the 11th thesis on Feuerbach,

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it

here adapted:

Every farmer will make some jokes while being at the cook-and-bull-story but will get serious when walking out on the field to get the work done.

Getting serious means at least the following – keep in mind that it is also some metaphorical talk:

  • It is about dealing with contradictions here and now, not even thinking about the beautiful world of harmony where everything’s and everybody’s wings are clipped, ready to be stored away
  • It is about the deep world, ‘measured’ by deep exploration – or as neighbour Andy, when I lived in Ireland, said: ‘All these measurements telling me about the chemical composition of the soil are grand – and still, I have to get the Wellies on, walk across the field and take a deep breath to know what exactly I have to do – in academia it is about reading books, engaging with complicate stuff instead of holding one of these fancy books in the hands, where looking at the title tells the entire content … – mushrooming, filling book stores, cash registers and too often emptying brains
  • it is about reduction of complexity not by way of simplification through wing-cutting but by exploring the path of El Cóndor Pasa – that means it is about actors and contradictions in daily life. Taking time to be solved while there is no time for any delay.

This [way of] presentation may also help to approach two rather fundamental flaws we witness in two disciplines – academic issues but relevant as it is not least by this thinking that we are disciplied in our daily life.

I.

Positive law and its extension into procedural law is always challenged by its own tendency to push aside questions that are concerned with right[eousness]. One point for the exploration is the thought that Gustav Radbruch formulated in his short ‘Fünf Minuten Rechtsphilosophie‘ in the following words:

Es gibt also Rechtsgrundsätze, die stärker sind als jede rechtliche Satzung, so daß ein Gesetz, das ihnen widerspricht, der Geltung bar ist. Man nennt diese Grundsätze das Naturrecht oder das Vernunftrecht. Gewiß sind sie im Einzelnen von manchem Zweifel umgeben, aber die Arbeit der Jahr- hunderte hat doch einen festen Bestand herausgearbeitet, und in den soge- nannten Erklärungen der Menschen- und Bürgerrechte mit so weitreichen- der Übereinstimmung gesammelt, daß in Hinsicht auf manche von ihnen nur noch gewollte Skepsis den Zweifel aufrechterhalten kann.

In translation:

There are therefore legal principles which are stronger than any legal statute, so that a law which contradicts them is not applicable. These principles are called natural law or the right to reason. Certainly they are surrounded by many doubts in detail, but the work of the centuries has worked out a solid existence, and in the so-called declarations of human and civil rights with such far-reaching agreement that in regard to some of them only deliberate scepticism can maintain the doubt.

II.

The other mechanism of disciplining is about economics: positive economics, equally focusing on procedural aspects, in this case dealing with exchange processes is caught in a similar vein, unable to deal with contradictions, – correctly, though not rightly – presuming equal exchange as core of the entire process determining value. However, here we are concerned with valuation – an individual issue: Everybody is allowed to highly value a palace and then pay for it – just a matter of personal choice, complementing the fact, pronouncedly highlighted by Anatole Frane:

La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain.

In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.

Individualisation, the reduction of a complex and contradictory social relationalities to individual, isolated acts, performed by isolated individuals that relate to each other only by way of individual contracts is the ultimate way to avoid talking about value as it is produced, defined as social value due to the fact that the process of production is itself by and large a social process, its market-defiition only ex-post used as tool for the calculation of what had been defined a long time earlier.

There is a lot of fight in a seemingly simple flight.

social policy … and the value of values

Hum, in general Augustine is classified as theologian and philosopher … – and in general one can suppose that people’s remarks are based at least to some extent on personal experience. If so, and thinking for example about extremely high fees students have to pay, university administrator’s incomes increasing more than that of lecturers, and then looking at the fancy dresses of many priests, I am wondering what to make out of the following:

[I]t was Augustine who proposed to found not only the Christian ‘brotherhood’ but all human relationships on charity. But this charity, though its wordlessness clearly corresponds to the general human experience of love, is at the same time clearly distinguished from it being something, which, like the world, is between men: ‘Even robbers have between them [inter se] what they call charity.’

(quoted from Hannah Arendt’s Human Condition, with reference to Augustine’s Contra Faustum Manichaeum)

self-degrading academia

I am wondering … – if I should be wondering … – on different occasions I used the blog to describe issues from the academic world, and to reflect upon it. A kind of ‘series” looked into writing references for students and the way universities acted as business: externalize work, disrespect interest of students in learning and look how they fit into prepared boxes – if I am not mistaken this is the latest, and there are several links from there to earlier musings. Well, may be THIS PRESENT one will be the latest, a mail I received – a joke, SPAM, sent by mistake …? In any case hugely disappointing suggesting that to “meet industry expectations” is the primary and outspoken goal of a supposedly academic institution. Annoying to see that they abuse colleagues’ references as point of departure for SPAM-campaigns, looking for support. To be clear, I supported a student’s application – I definitely did not support the university’s programme In actual fact I discussed in several cases with students their choice, trying to make them aware of their steps, Faustian dimension which is not changed by the devil’s new clothes: blank business interest.

Here SPAM letter:

Dear Peter,

 

Thank you very much for serving as a referee and sending us the reference form for one of our candidates who applied to the Master of Science in Business Analytics [MSc(BA)] programme at The University of Hong Kong this year.

We sincerely appreciate the time you spent and the comments you provided to support the candidate’s application, which are critical for us to evaluate and select students who can best fit our programme.

Our programme office will continue to fully support the programme with the aim to meet industry expectations, maximise our resources, and enhance students’ experience. We would greatly appreciate for your continued support to the MSc(BA) programme. If you know anyone who may be interested in postgraduate education in business analytics, you can ask them to reach out to our team or learn more about our programme at our official website.

Thank you again for your support to HKU Msc(BA) programme.

Best Regards,

HsiaoPHui Lee (Dr.)  Programme Director Master of Science in Business Analytics The University of Hong Kong

Copyright © 2017  School of Business, The University of Hong Kong

Our address is  Room 304, Block B, Cyberport 4, 100 Cyberport Road, Hong Kong, China

If you do not wish to receive future email, click here.

A disgrace, indeed ….

Approximately 4,600 miles

Early morning, walking through the countryside, the cityscape, the coastline – somewhere, does the location matter? A glance across fields, the well-known image, familiar from various paintings that can be admired in the museums across the world. Does it matter where it is?
I listen to Dostojevski’s novel The Idiot, the following passage standing out:

“Here’s another alternative for me,” said Nastasia, turning once more to the actress; “and he does it out of pure kindness of heart. I know him. I’ve found a benefactor. Perhaps, though, what they say about him may be true — that he’s an — we know what. And what shall you live on, if you are really so madly in love with Rogojin’s mistress, that you are ready to marry her — eh?”

“I take you as a good, honest woman, Nastasia Philipovna — not as Rogojin’s mistress.”

“Who? I? — good and honest?”

“Yes, you.”

“Oh, you get those ideas out of novels, you know. Times are changed now, dear prince; the world sees things as they really are. That’s all nonsense.

Images and stories, the real life condensed in them, moments … – realities, moments lived according to images and novels … — the old Platonic questions, in simple minds, ad common sense put as question about hen and egg.

But what are these moments, how can we understand them as matter of time?
The opening words of Rüdiger Safranski’s book about time what it does to us, hat we make out of it [Zeit, was sie mit uns macht und was wir aus ihr machen. Hanser, München 2015, ISBN 978-3-446-23653-0] are as follows:
Time, says the Marshall in Hofmannthal’s The Knight of the Rose is a peculiar thing/if we just thoughtlessly live it seems to be nothing/ but then, out of a sudden/ one doesn’t feel anything like it.
We can measure all of it: space, realities, time – the various devices may come to mind as the chronometer, and the means to measure physical existence, it’s chemical composition, magnetic and electronic oscillations … – But how  can we really grasp this …. – matter that is without matter and still completely determines everything that matters. I remember one question I asked the students in Changsha:
Three brothers are living in a house. They truly look different from each other, but if you want to distinguish one from the other, each is like the other two. The first is not there, he returns home. The second is not there, he already left. Only the third is there, the smallest of the three, because without him the other two would not be there. And yet there is the third one, with whom we are concerned, just because the first is transformed into the second. Since you want you look at him, you will always just see one of the other brothers. Now tell me? Are the three perhaps one and the same? Or there are only two of them? Or is it even none? And if you can you tell me their names, you will see three mighty rulers. Together they govern a mighty empire and they are a mighty empire themselves.” (own translation from Michael Ende: Momo; P.H.)
Time completely determines everything that matters … – some people come to my mind: colleagues, acquaintances, students – encounters, casual or not, enjoyed or not, controlled or not, remembered … and somewhat present, if missed or not … .
In this way at least it is probably true what we say:
老师 – lǎoshī – it is not just being a teacher, it is about a lifelong position, a …., a matter?
Lifelong presence in undefinable space, not clear when it comes to its materiality/imagined character. Mind, imagined has nothing to do with illusionary. Instead, it is about the power we all have, the necessity to acknowledge responsibility to resist. Of course, always determined, limited as
[m]en make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, ….
These the words used by Marx in the Eighteenth Brumaire.
***
The 8th of July 2018 …, a very concrete time and place and matter: in Changsha my laoshi of special kind, celebrate their graduation. 4,585.20 miles away from where I am now, and still close. It is about the students of the “first intake” at Bangor College China (2014), my students who also had been my teachers – there had been so much hard work, efforts, failures, illusions, deceptions … Illusions and disillusionments …. – and so many others involved: non-students, non-lǎoshī. And what really mattered over the years, matters  at this very moment …, and will matter in the future of all those who play(ed) on this stage is not this piece of paper, testifying for the students their achievements – with which they live, which make them saleable; testifying the staff in one way or another the money they gained or earned; and testifying for some the power they gained or failed to gain on the ranking vanity fair …. [some further reflections can be found in the contribution Challenges for Education in an International Setting; more is published here].
A flow of timespacematter merged, condensed in an event, graduation as celebration but perhaps also a distraction by eventialisation, … eventialisation … eventually they, we got here, eventually as concrete result, as the concrete which is the condensation of the many-multifold – Marx wrote about it in The Grundrisse
The concrete is concrete because it is the concentration of many determinations, hence unity of the diverse. It appears in the process of thinking, therefore, as a process of concentration, as a result, not as a point of departure, even though it is the point of departure in reality and hence also the point of departure for observation [Anschauung] and conception.

And it is also the condensation as the concrete on which the future can and will develop: concrete – also the concrete as matter, the firm ground which allows to stand and develop power, the pouvoir, the ability each of us, of them has … and will develop further as Foucault insists.

A large plain, timespacematter for each as individual, as personality … and still – it was a permanent topic when I was together with a friend of those days – a plain of gain only when it is walked on together: emerging as reality of lived life in real spaces when the different images and stories are put together like a jigsaw with different optional results, not as volens purum – and equally not resulting by way of nolens volens.

***

Early morning, walking through the countryside, the cityscape, the coastline – somewhere, does the location matter? A glance across fields, the well-known images, familiar from various paintings that can be admired in the museums across the world. Does it matter where it is? A novel … whatever it is, it will be about the best of our world, the Candide-world.
Images and stories, the real life condensed in them, moments … – realities, moments lived according to images and novels … — the old Platonic questions, in simple minds, ad common sense put as question about hen and egg.
Altro tempo. Non c’è più. Arrivato e fuggito. Rapidamente. Ma sempre soggiornare.

Dead Clowns

meaning, relevance, sense – questions people who live are too often compelled to leave them to philosophers …. – like issues of production as reproduction of real life are, on the other hand left to people while economists read in tea-leaves of heroic, even quasi-divine formulas that are distant from peoples’ and people’s life — just remaining meaningless and non-sensual.
Some time ago already – after I gave a presentation at the Symposium organised by the European Academy of Sciece and Arts – looking at
a later presenter was carried way by
Several month later, by accident, I was getting nicely aware of the misleading question of humanoid robots replacing humans, spotting by accident a clip showing
Baseline? There is no real danger of human beings becoming replaced – the danger is that some Kurzweil’ig ‘systems’ are brought forward by those sigularitarian minds in their Plutocratic caves [see Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else]. The danger is that some powerful forces succeed in reducing us to mindless clowns, caught in Platonian caves – the circle of virtuality emerging as vicious circle, its life depending on he fact that no needle will be used, by nobody.
Mind, all this is not really about  Humanoid toys – it is about comedians and actors like Beppe Grillo in Italian politics, natioal citizens attacking fellow citizens from other countries, narcissistic tyrants rethinking the liberty statue and overlookin the old rebukes
Skerbischs „Lichtschwert“ vor dem Opernhaus Graz
Von Marion Schneider & Christoph Aistleitner – Eigenes Werk, Gemeinfrei, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5016791
And yes, it is also about administer-infantilisation.
Overcoming humankind, if it then happens, won’t be much else then the
(EN)

« My makeup is dry and it clags on my chin
I’m drowning my sorrows in whisky and gin
The lion tamer’s whip doesn’t crack anymore
The lions they won’t fight and the tigers won’t roar »

(IT)

« Il mio trucco si è asciugato e cola sul mio mento
Sto affogando i miei dispiaceri nel whisky e nel gin
Il domatore di leoni non da più colpi di frusta
I leoni non si azzufferanno più tra loro e le tigri non ruggiranno »

 

 

Social Networks and Network Effect

Today these are keywords, snatch mechanisms and catch tools – firmly anchored in many lives, seemingly providing a second skin, solidified to an extent that the idea they could disappear one day, even attempts to a controlled use as outlined in the Cor Orans occurs as weird, absurd.
But what harm one may say – looking at the wikipedia-List of social networking websites is somewhat instructive: Many of the early ones had been about people ‘just meeting’ or joining for a specific purpose as ADVOGATO, defining itself as ‘the free software developer’s advocate’. – May then be that we should not worry about these networks, instead look at their use? But then again, isn’t another great hit ‘social capital’, community building, self-orgainsation and solidarity? Sure, terms could and should be twisted and turned, social networking – its structures and use – needs to be controlled. Finally all this is not least about social responsibility – the term nowadays so often discussed with the little extension ‘corporate’- Actually not at all a new topic. Milton Friedman – writing under the title

The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits

in The New York Times Magazine, September 13, 1970 contends:

When I hear businessmen speak eloquently about the “social responsibilities of business in a free-enterprise system,” I am reminded of the wonderful line about the Frenchman who discovered at the age of 70 that he had been speaking prose all his life. The businessmen believe that they are defending free en­terprise when they declaim that business is not concerned “merely” with profit but also with promoting desirable “social” ends; that business has a “social conscience” and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing em­ployment, eliminating discrimination, avoid­ing pollution and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of re­formers. In fact they are–or would be if they or anyone else took them seriously–preach­ing pure and unadulterated socialism. Busi­nessmen who talk this way are unwitting pup­pets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades.

A bit later this is followed by the statement

In a free-enterprise, private-property sys­tem, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct re­sponsibility to his employers. That responsi­bility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while con­forming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Isn’t it correct that

in his capacity as a corporate executive, the manager is the agent of the individuals who own the corporation or establish the eleemosynary institution, and his primary responsibility is to them.

Indeed, this had been already issued much earlier – namely by Thortstein Veblen who wrote in 1904

The motive of business is pecuniary gain, the method is essentially purchase and sale. The aim and usual outcome is an accumulation of wealth.[.] Men whose aim is not increase of possessions do not go into business, particularly not on an independent footing (Veblen, Thorstein, 1904: Theory of business Enterprise: New York: Charles Scribers: 20)

There is another general point to it: Economics is since David Ricardo obsessed by the idea of comparative advantage – though originally not focusing on individuals, it is of course still based in methodological individualism: individuals act as individuals, do what they are good at, and the aggregate is a ‘supposed social’.

A recent article in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung brought back to my mind that we also have to make sure that we do not forget any of these issues, and any of these Social Networks. The article, published on May, the 20th 2018, 09:51hrs, is titled
Aufsichtsräte. Deutschlands Netz der Macht/Board of Directors. Germany’s Net of Power.
And there are so many scandalous things mentioned … – these directorates: the chairs of the 30 DAX-enterprises get in average 408,000 Euro which seems to be a nice little top-up, commonly adding to incomes that are extremely high anyway. Just Bilderberg – like … ops: Bilderbuch [picture-book]-like incomes – yes ops, yes, there is this Bilderberg-conference, there is a World Economic Forum, there is the Club of Madrid, there is the  Mont Pèlerin Society … – well, in the case of these gatherings we may not have to talk about additional income …, perhaps … – the payment for giving a presentation …, peanuts … when it comes to money we are here talking about dimensions that are negligible – at some some stage, beyond a specific threshold, it is simply getting ridiculous and we should talk about the need of psychological control – of people and societies. Here it is surely about additional power.

Il denaro regola il mondo

Money governs the world

Pecuniam regit mundi

Geld reguleert de wereld

L’argent gouverne le monde

돈이 세상을 지배하다

At stake is, however, … a kind of oxymoron or paradox. There is the simple network effect: they know each other, communicate with each other … – it is a ‘manageable circle’, the borders so tight that even leaks aren’t able to emerge. The problem is of course not that they meet for probably extensively expensive dinners – instead it is about … – ‘corporate social responsibility’, the fact that these are interlaced social networks with a clear goal and strategy:
In fact it is this network effect that secures success, make it even possible. The point here is, however, there contradictory effect. Social networks are getting more powerful as more people are part of it – the simple example is the little joy to have the only telephone in the universe – you have the item but you cannot use it. If at least one other person has a phone, you can talk – getting a bit of joy out of it. If everybody has one, communication may become universal – and in some way communication is power: you are empowered to reach out, to speak, to develop things together with others … – or, of course, also to influence others. However, the networks that are looked at here, depend on their exclusivity: the smaller the group that executes the control over a huge pool of resources, as larger the power, the influence. We may speak of an inverse network effect. — Anything new?
Well, surely one thing: The ’new’ aspect is that we are now not least dealing with ‘controllers’ and ‘directors’ who are not immediately owning the means of production. At the same time, many of the owners – or better to say: the primitive accumulators, are actually in some way disappearing, for instance Gates as well as Soros showing up on the stage of humanitarian help and supposed world liberation respectively.
May we say in this light that, taking the perspective of national origin – possibly the most ’successful’, and equally most dangerous, are Ireland and Italy  – in the first case it is explicitly a U2-showman, claiming the role of a global politician, in the second case an even further step is made: a M5S-comedian, switching on five startling stars to enlighten a country that feels in many respects happy by maintaining the status of a sleeping beauty of a special kind.
— Again though: anything new?
As we know from Matthew 13: 11ff.

He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

Well, political and enforced self-control obviously included.