Pervasive prejudice — Confused Confucius answers his own question #29

It is easy for a saying to masquerade as a question. Answers are much harder to extract from the ether… but it must be done.

Question #29 Why is prejudice so pervasive?

Imagine growing up in a remote highland village in Papua New Guinea, a challenge certainly because not many of us have. One thing is that you would not have tasted the delights of salted caramel ice cream. Other wonders would have crossed your palate including many that induced cravings galore but none of them would be ice cream.

Now suppose a helicopter lands in your village and a strange man falls out of the cockpit clutching a large plastic box. There is the sound like bellbirds playing and in the box peculiar goo that the man encourages you to taste.

Elders hover around with scowls on their faces. They too have not witnessed the ice cream man before and are wary. They do know that loggers also arrive in metal birds and that the outcome is never good. They step in with flat hands scattering you and all your friends.

Instinct tells those older and wiser not to trust what is strange, especially anything as strange as goo arriving in a helicopter with a white man who everyone knows are shifty.

No goo for you.

You don’t need to be from the PNG highlands to be prejudiced. It is in us all. Sometimes trendily supressed and at other times allowed free expression, we are all wary of the unfamiliar. How else would we have survived this long?

Which 15 year old girl is most likely to live on. The one that says “Oooh, look a slithery, shiny thing that keeps poking its tongue out. I must pick it up.” Or the one who screams “Yeoow, creepy thing. Hit it with a stick, hit it.”

Prejudice is an unfortunate consequence of the need to survive and compete in an uncertain environment and explains much of the behaviour seen in teenagers.

Travel well,

The confused one


Tax — Confused Confucius answers his own question #20

CCQ#20It is easy for a saying to masquerade as a question. Answers are much harder to extract from the ether… but it must be done.

Question #20 It is a rule everywhere that the more tax you pay the more money you earn, so why are we obsessed with paying less tax?


This one is a true puzzle even for a sweeper of the leaves.

Ask anyone, even those en route to the mountaintop, if they would like to double their salary for nothing more than joining a higher tax bracket and they would all say yes.

A few would say you were kidding. One or two would just tell you to dream on and there will be one who just smirks at you.

But they would all accept the upgrade if it were true. The extra tax is easily compensated by the greater net income.

And there is all the stuff you get from tax: education, medicine, roads, law enforcement, politicians… It is a lengthy list that even the most recalcitrant must agree is worth something.

Now suppose we ask the same folk on their way up the mountain if they would accept half their usual pay for what they do knowing that they would move to a lower pay bracket and so pay less tax.

Now you are kidding.

Travel well,

The confused one


Science — Confused Confucius answers his own question #16

It is easy for a saying to masquerade as a question. Answers are much harder to extract from the ether… but it must be done.

Question #16 How can science have all the answers?

Nothing in the hours of broom work has opened any portals to this one — #16 How can science have all the answers?

The diligent setting and testing of hypotheses, ideally with experiments fully randomised and controlled, is what generates our knowledge. This is the scientific method and it generates most of what we know, the knowns. We then wield these knowns along with our problem solving and entrepreneurial skills and in a blink there is a plasma television. It is amazing.

There are many things that knowing provides that have made life so much easier — a petrol blower instead of a broom springs to mind — and the future knowns will solve any number of challenges.

But there remain many known unknowns, things that we know are there but cannot predict. What will happen to 7 billion souls in need of sustenance when 40% of the arable soil that grows food for them is degraded? That kind of unknown.

And there is a so much we just don’t know, the Rumsfeldesque unknown unknowns. And yes, some of this we will never discover because the scientific method is not enough. There are things that even Mr Spock could not logic into existence.

So amazing as it is, science will not provide all the answers, not even for the technocrats. There are just too many unexplainable quirks, chances and randoms to contend with.

And then with the broom in hand, worn smoother than seems possible, the wood speaks. It says that no matter how much determinism leaks from the human psyche the universe will always know that there is more.

Take that all you science nerds.






In the now — Confused Confucius answers his own question #28

It is easy for a saying to masquerade as a question. Answers are hard to extract from the ether… but it must be done for the sake of the now.


Be in the now and all will be well. There is no need to fear the future or regret the past for they are not here. They only exist in our mind and so do not exist at all anywhere but in imagination. Ignore the future, forget the past and be here now.


The human brain is a supercomputer of unrelenting power and capacity without an off switch. It will think for its owner whether they want it to or not, thank goodness. Thoughtlessness would see us in the now under a bus.

No we have to think humongous, all the time and with bells on. And if we had to think about what to think our heads would explode from frustration waiting for a topic.

Fortunately there is a simple solution.

We set our brains on autopilot. In this mode we think about the past, catalogue all the events and regurgitate them as worry for the future. This perfectly engages the brain in a gargantuan task that consumes almost all of its staggering capacity.

And in the now, with the brain engaged in regret and worry, we are free to play Candy Crush.

Travel well

Confused Confucius