Commentary

What worked for him may not work for you

There is a tendency for people to believe that whatever worked for them (according to them) would definitely work for others.

This is the premise of self-help, religion, politics, and even common core math in the US.

I came across examples of the new US match teaching method, common core. It dictated the one and only true way to come to the solution to a math problem, and it was insane.

math

It told me that if I want to add 3 and 5, I should imagine that there is a 3 in the three and a three in the five, that would give me 6, but there is an extra two in the five, so that makes 8.

So let’s assume that the method worked for Mrs. X. It doesn’t mean that I would do it the same way.

What if I’m the quirky child and for me 3 is two less than 5. So what I see when I look at the 3+5 problem is that there is a full 5 and another five that is 2 short. 5+5 would make 10, but I am 2 short so it’s an 8.

Teaching the path – not just a method – to come to conclusions may show some kids what math is all bout – but stifles others who already know and have to memorize The One And Only Way as well as actual mathematics.

It may sound like nitpicking but the problem gets worse as the math examples get more difficult. They are literally teaching kids not just the right answer but how they are supposed to arrive at it. And that there is only one way. That is the implicit message many derive.

Or take a self-help guru. He had a bad habit that he could not shrug until he came up with this brilliant method – and he is ready to sell it to you. If it (allegedly) worked for him, it will also work for you! (Or not.)

Say, he (allegedly) lost weight by intermittent fasting. And he is so thrilled by his results that he is ready to sell it to you at a price you find negligible compared to the weight loss you hope it brings. It is a perfectly decent business model – but the burden of not falling for it is on you.

Because even if he did the fasting method and lost weight, it may not have been the only thing he did.

People usually change more than one things in their lives at once. It is usually follows a surge of motivation. For instance, they get humiliated for their weight and they embark upon a series of changes, all at once. Which is fine if you are desperate and determined – but an awful method for science. And when you are trying things out, you are basically experimenting on yourself – and changing multiple variables at once is bad science.

If you wish to conduct an experiment on how something works on you, you should do it ceteris paribus, i.e. with all other conditions unchanged. But if you start fasting, exercising, taking vitamin supplements, sleeping better and watching what you east – all at the same time – you will never know which one worked. For you, that is. Because the same thing does not necessarily working on others.

That does not stop self-help gurus from selling solutions to how to work less, how to be happier, how to screw more females, etc. That pick-up artist, for instance, is likely to have changed the way he dresses as well as coming up with imaginative lies to tell the females that would hopefully make them spread their legs. And he also changed his old habit of not daring to talk to them in the first place – which was probably the biggest change of all. He did not check his premises of what kind of interaction he is engaging in, whether getting laid is the same thing as a relationship and whether the same strategy works for both. Which will be the ultimate problem for anyone who takes his gameified advice in the pursuit of finding a partner. It will be like using a shotgun to befriend a deer.

Seeing things in a new light may have given me a new perspective – but telling you what conclusion I arrived at would not be helpful. You would not understand it (even though you would understand the words) until you arrived at the same conclusion yourself, in your own way, through your own path.

We all learn our lessons through our own experiences. On the abstract level these lessons are all the same. Sometimes we have to trust people. Sometimes we must not. (How to tell the difference?) Sometimes teamwork prevails. Sometimes I have to do things myself. Sometimes people steal our credit. Sometimes we steal others’. Sometimes we have to be independent. Sometimes not. We all struggle with other people’s opinions and how to ignore them if they are not constructive. Sometimes hard work pays off. Sometimes sitting it out does. Sometimes we better take care of things immediately. Sometimes it pays to wait and learn. The lessons we learn also depend on what previous lessons we internalized. Lessons only have a meaning vis-à-vis our previous set of assumptions.

Pushing what worked for me onto others may be inevitable in education and it may be the bread and butter of self-help gurus inside the church and outside of it. That is a problem of the victims and they have to sort out what works for them and what doesn’t.

But when it comes to politics, the problem becomes tragically apparent. Trying to explain math to a kid by telling him how you do it is fine. But making your way of thinking compulsory is evil because that means that the kid could do math and still fail at the exam because he hasn’t learned your way of solving a problem as well as solving the problem.

If you tell me how to do something, that it fine. If you punish me for not doing it the same way – we have a problem.

In politics, the punishment for disobedience is the default because the state has a little more power than a teacher – or even a priest. And when the method as well as the result is subject to evaluation, we have a problem.

This is what went through my mind as I was reading a new book about Orbán’s football obsession, Győzelmi kényszer (roughly translated: Coercion to triumph) by Pál Dániel Rényi. The journalist researched Orbán’s history with football, his youthful ambitions to be a player – but really a football manager and strategist – and how he explicitly says from time to time that football is the only way to learn life. Or whatever it is he had learned about life.

No one should ever get into the position to impose his obsession over others. It is nauseating when a boss does that to employees. It is dangerous when the person gets hold of the power of the state – and still doesn’t know how to take back from his mania and let others be different and do differently – when they are not hurting anyone.

Not only does Orbán deploy whatever life lessons he happened to derive from football – and not something else. He is also diverting monstrous amounts of taxpayer money and corporate taxes into football and builds massive stadiums – while neglecting other budgetary items, such as healthcare or education altogether. He participates in the works of opaque and corrupt international sport organizations with gusto. And finally, he also uses football fans in his politics.

In April 2006, Orbán has lost an election again. He refused to accept the results. By October, he fought back. Fidesz strategically leaked a closed-door speech by the then prime minister who admitted to having been lying about the deficit and the national debt and implored his party to man up and start governing properly. The speech was recorded over the summer, but Orbán waited until the right moment to leak it. After his party won big at the municipal elections in October, he decided it was time to challenge the election results. Come October 23, the 50th anniversary of the 1956 revolution, his people were on the streets – and so were the hardcore, violence-seeking football enthusiast of both big Hungarian clubs.

This article is an excerpt from the book, recalling the events that led to the 2006 riots. How Orbán courted football clubs on both sides, how he condoned their behavior, how he pulled a Trump by egging them on and watching them besieging the TV headquarters and setting fire to it. (And just like in the case of Trump, there can be nothing concrete enough to evidence incitement.)

He also wanted to join the rioters with his party, but his party lieutenants resisted him for once. Although Orbán has never been challenged as the leader of his party, this time he came close. The brave men in his party almost said no to him. Almost. According to this account, they may even told him that they would vote no confidence if Orbán pushed to join the rioting thugs.

Poor rioters have felt let down ever since. They may have nothing to do with Orbán – but they expected him to join and approve of them nonetheless. Weird.

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