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Dream as Reality, Reality as a Dream

At 36 years of age, I have come to a concrete realization that this world I live in is completely absurd.  

It is similar to a lucid dream, where the dreamer becomes aware of the improbability and often outright impossibility of his surroundings and thus realizes he is dreaming while inside of the dream.  

I have had the good fortune to travel the world, learn languages and delve deeply into the mindsets of other cultures.  These fortunes enabled me to escape from the fishbowl of a small environment and see the enclosure from the outside, as well as compare it to all the other enclosures I have been recently exploring through language study and travel.  Through these studies I found such a sense of freedom and excitement that I have never been able to stop or quell my desire for more information, more learning.  I found freedom from established traditions, mindsets, beliefs and biases.  I found great excitement for the unknown, the new, the exotic, the blasphemous, the feared and the heretical.

Recently however, time, money and obligations have limited my actual travel but in its place have come books, magazines and a need to devour more knowledge.  A great discovery I’ve recently made is Lapham’s Quarterly.  This publication pulls the golden nuggets out of history and complies them in a neat publication according to a central theme.  I have decided to pay much less attention to the daily noise of the news, the gossips and the outright stupid splashed along the T.V. screens.  Instead I have turned my focus to books, mostly historical nonfiction, and anything similar to Lapham’s Quarterly that really adds to my knowledge and gives me a greater understanding of this world I currently occupy.

Through these studies, travels and continual quest for more knowledge and in order to simply make sense of my surroundings, I’ve come to the conclusion that this world I live in is absurd.  Now that I’ve given my introduction let me put down some examples from the silly to that which has changed the course of the world.  

1.  High Heels


-   Once cannot venture outside without seeing multitudes of women wearing the most ridiculous form of footwear that while being extremely uncomfortable, also causes grotesque foot problems such as bunions.  The high heel was designed in 17th century Persia as a riding shoe so that the rider could stand up in the stirrups and maintain balance while shooting his arrows.  

After I learned this I can no longer look at women in high heels the same way.  I do not find them as an attractive addition but rather as an absurdity akin to one wearing over sized clown shoes.  

2. The suit and tie

We men did not escape this evolutionary comedy of the fashion trend either.  The origin of the tie is that it was essentially a bib worn to protect the shirt from stains.  The bib has just gotten smaller.  The suit on the other hand came out of military uniform fashion.  The military is regimented, disciplined and serious.  The businessman being formal in all his dealings must give an air of seriousness and formality and thus what a better fit than the military uniform without the military trappings?  So here we are, men running to our office to sit in our cubicles typing away in a modified military uniform and small bib.  

Once you know the origins of why things are the way they are life becomes completely bizarre.  

3. Wars 

I have recently been reading books on WWI and II as well as checking the facts on many historical wars through Wikipedia.  The conclusion I’ve come to is that war is absurd.  What is even more absurd is how quickly a leader can convince the people about the “just” reasons for the war.  

World War I is the most raw example of this.  In brief, a rather significant regional assassination happens and then due to country alliances we end up with millions dead.  It is as if monkeys wrote the framework of this play and gorillas carried it out.  We do not retain the right to consider ourselves separate from the animals.  The absurdity of the reasoning behind the war combined with the very real consequences are simply incomprehensible.  

As for the absurdity of reasoning for war, this has happened very recently in my country.  The slogan is “defending freedom.”  Now whenever war or soldiers are mentioned this is what a good portion of the population mindlessly blurts out.  Need to start a war?  Just have the leaders say we are “defending freedom.”  This slogan has had some wear and tear but still has at least another decade of durability before it is worn out. 

My conclusion is that humanity is still very primitive and that this period in our evolution will be looked upon millennia from now as just branching off from the animals.   For any reason, any reason what so ever millions and millions can still be convinced that extinguishing the life of another is the appropriate solution for whatever ideology, belief or passing issue of the day holds sway.  

It is as though we are not fully conscious.  For if we were fully conscious then the fibers of creation should tear apart while everyone screams in writhing agony for the atrocity, the unnatural, the unthinkable that has occurred.  

4.  Religion – Christianity

I hold no qualms with the overall spirituality and trying to connect ourselves with that which is unknown yet pervades everything including our own existence.  I also am inclined to give a bit of a pass to those that need religion, a set framework to tell them exactly what to do since the majority of adults are unable to discover a spiritual side on their own.  Most adults no longer advance mentally/intellectually and thus how could anyone expect them to make progress with that which cannot be seen, experienced directly or understood?  

To get straight to the point here, after all my travels, experiences, studies, meditations, reflections and so on, I can definitively say that Jesus was just a man.  I have extricated myself thoroughly from the fairy tale, the bedtime story that we use to sooth our fears about that which we do not know but which we pretend to hold every answer (unless it is a mystery of course *inside joke for those raised Catholic*).  

To stand up against 2000 years of history which has reshaped the world, billions of believers and an institution which has outlasted governments and call it nonsense is frightfully empowering as well as bewildering.  This belief, that a simple peasant is the son of the unknown which in our feeble minds we call God.  This God, the soothing blanket which keeps us warm and secure against that unknown void, that veil behind which nobody has seen yet everyone must go is a creation of our own imagination.  It is my opinion that we cannot even conceive of the true nature of the Great Spirit, الرحمن,  יהו   or whatever we have decided to call the unknown.  

I have been connecting the dots for some time now and the tapestry is complete.  Now, explaining exactly how I’ve arrived at this point would fill up a book which one day I may write but one can find clues in my previous posts from the past.  But let us just say that a good many things in the Bible have turned out to be fabrications, metaphors, or just plain wrong.  The world was not created in 7 days, humanity didn’t start with Adam and Eve, Jesus had brothers and was married and many of the miraculous acts happened in other cults/pagan beliefs long before Jesus.

If Christianity were a corporation it would have gone out of business a long time ago.  Anyone who puts their money and belief in a corporation that has been so wrong so often throughout history would be an investment opportunity for the slow witted.  

So why do so many people believe?  The reasons are as varied as the stars but I would say the main reasons are tradition, security and the need to believe there is something more than the disappointment that is often found here in this existence.  

The ship guiding my belief out of Christianity set sail a very long time ago and has visited many ports.  I recently read a book which seems to me as my final bill of lading summing up what I already knew and putting it in a well researched, organized intellectual format.  That book is called “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” by Reza Aslan.  

Jesus was just a man and I feel as though I’m in a dream when I see so many clinging to this fabricated story even though we have more universities and more learning than at any other time in the history of the world.  

The old religions die hard.  

5. Reality

Most people at this point will either have stopped reading or want to know what my own opinion on creation/reality may be.  People are so eager to know the opinions of those they disagree with not so they may consider the idea but rather to have the opportunity to defend their beliefs.  One cannot readily do this until they know the beliefs of the other.  

In any case, here is my belief.  

I have no idea where I am, what I am or where this environment came from.  All I know is that I have thoughts.  These thoughts come and go and I do my best to control them.  

This “I don’t know” is a very thought out, deep, reflected upon statement.  It is just as probable to me that we are in a computer program designed by a highly advanced civilization as it is that this universe is some advanced biology student’s creation and we sit upon a shelf in a small jar surrounded by millions of other universes in small jars.  The reader of this post may scoff but I have not said that I know we are in a small jar, I’ve said the opposite with a very clear “I don’t know.”  The jar example is one possibility out of infinite possibilities the majority of which I believe I cannot even comprehend.  

The book that really got me thinking about this was “Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story ” by Jim Holt.  He interviewed the brightest minds as well as researched the major philosophers in trying to discover the answer.  Obviously the book never comes to the supreme truth and Jim’s own opinion is hidden in an unrelated paragraph in just one sentence in the middle of the book that most people might miss.  

I enjoyed reading all of the theories but one of my major takeaways was the realization that I cannot comprehend these theories the way the men who created them can.  Any one of them would take me years of study and even then I know I do not have the raw intellectual fire power to get there.  

So all I can do is continue to explore and be completely fascinated as well as a little terrified at not having the answer.  All I know are what my senses, studies and inquiries have gathered.  Here we are, talking monkeys on a biological rock flying through space where only a fraction of us are trying to figure out what is going on while a good majority are quite certain they know the secrets of the universe, the divine and everything in between already.  

This dream began with my birth and will end with my death.  The longer the dream persists the more bizarre it becomes.  The best I can do is to be nice to my fellow dreamers, help those having a nightmare and try as hard as I can to fly.   

 

Christianity and its non-Christian Origins

I saw this post on Google + and it was so good I had to borrow it.  I have re-posted here so that I’ll always have it.  

Written by:  Yonatan Zunger – from Google +

Since I’ve heard that there’s some kind of religious festival going on this weekend, I thought it might be an interesting time to write something about the history of how Christianity came to have such a blend of non-Christian origins in it. There’s actually a very interesting history to this: in essence, it isn’t so much that Christianity absorbed external elements, as that through the tumult of the first six centuries CE, a bunch of European religions mixed and combined, and the Christianity we know today was the result of that — it got its name on the label, so to speak.

To realize how big the difference between what came out and what came in is, just pick up the Christian Bible and read through the discussions between Jesus and the Apostles. This was, originally, a Jewish reform movement, responding to the particular skews and corruptions that had shown up in the (Pharisaic) leadership, concerned with economic reform, (e.g. Luke 12) a hard shift away from ritual towards personal piety, (e.g. Matthew 15) and a serious mystical trend. (Largely cut out of the “canonical” texts, but very present in the Egyptian texts) The first radical change came with Paul, who was interested in converting outsiders — something that the earlier “followers of the Way,” as they called themselves, had very little interest in. But if you compare even Paul’s early churches with (say) medieval Christianity, or even most modern branches, you’ll see very little in common. How did this happen?

Let me start by setting up a few bits of history. We’re in the Classical Roman Empire, say around the year 100 CE. Rome is expanding everywhere; there’s a well-practiced routine when a new barbarian tribe is encountered. The Romans make offerings to the gods of that tribe, saying that they will build them a temple in Rome if they let this tribe be joined to the empire; then they go to war, win, and start to fold yet another tribe into the center. The erection of that temple isn’t something accidental: it’s part of what’s called the “Pax Deorum,” the peace of the gods, and what it really is is a public statement that these new people are being folded in to the society. These conquered barbarians aren’t at quite the same level as true Roman citizens, but they’re part of the Empire now, and light-years above those barbarians outside the gates. The physical mechanisms of the Empire are backed by a deep civic notion of “Romanitas;” to be a Roman is to be part of this great thing, to have a particular relationship to the outside world: we will conquer you and you will join us. And to be part of Romanitas is to have the weight of the Empire behind you.

And then it stopped working. Hadrian makes it halfway up Britain and builds a wall; and the Romans start to realize that they’re at the logistical endpoint of where they can conquer. A climate cycle drops food production down and leads to widespread famine and disease across Europe. Worse climate cycles to the east start to push nomadic tribes further out in search of resources, and they start to hit an already-weakening Empire. Without the constant influx of resources from conquered tribes, the underlying lack of planning in the Roman economy (and system of succession) starts to show; and from about 180 to 280, the Empire essentially collapses into an infinite sequence of famines, plagues, civil wars, and barbarian incursions. The last of these wars, the War of the Seven Emperors, is ended in 287 when Diocletian personally executes his last rival, and sets up a new regime. 

Diocletian’s empire was very different from Caesar’s in a lot of interesting ways, but the one I want to talk about today is that notion of “Romanitas.” Once, to be a Roman meant that you were ready to conquer everyone that you met; but the later Roman Empire was in no state to do such a thing. The central question of civic identity — of what it even meant to be a part of this empire — didn’t have a good answer, and with it, the whole question of what held the Empire together at all was up in the air as well.

Now switch over and look at the religion of the time. If we rewind back to the year 100, the Latin word religio had a very different meaning from what we think of today: it was the set of public rituals that the society participated in. These were tremendously important in a lot of ways. First of all, they were a key economic glue. Roman society didn’t have a notion of “taxation” in the modern sense; but instead, leading citizens were expected to regularly have sacrifices to the Gods to honor their good fortune in various things. At a sacrifice, animals would be killed, their first fruits given to the Gods with various prayers, and what followed is what we would today call a “big damned barbecue.” A Roman could expect to go to a sacrifice every week or so on the average, and this was the primary access that most Romans had to meat. (So when I say “key economic glue” I mean “a major part of how the society got access to food.”) Second, they were the way in which people defined their civic nature. Today, we define our nationality in terms of things we learn in school, what we read in the papers and discuss in the media — all things which didn’t exist in Rome. The expression of nationality was the common rituals that people went to. (And this, incidentally, is why the cult of the Emperor was so important: by sacrificing to the Emperor, you were indicating your loyalty to the Emperor and the Empire) Public actions were the main way that people communicated their thoughts.

One thing you may notice is missing from that list is anything which resembles our modern notion of “faith.” This wasn’t an unfamiliar concept, but it wasn’t considered to be part of “religio.” People had household gods with which they had a personal relationship, and actual priests had relationships with their gods, but nobody was generally expected to have a deep and abiding religious faith in each god that showed up through the gate. But the urge for deeper religious experiences was certainly there, and ever since the time of Alexander the Great (around 300BCE) one of the main ways this manifested was in “mystery cults.”

Mystery cults were the religious secret societies of the ancient world. You could join some of them by simply walking in the door, and for others you had to know someone, but what they all had in common was that you would be initiated, participate in secret rituals, gradually learn more and more of the secrets of this god. These cults often taught a combination of mysticism, philosophy, and theology; they offered a chance to see into the world beyond; and they offered a close confraternity among the members. And they were quite separate from “religio” proper, bearing it about the same relationship that gentlemen’s clubs in Victorian England bore to Parliament. 

There were a few categories of mystery cult which were becoming particularly popular in the first few centuries CE. The first was the cult of Magna Mater, which was basically the worship of Isis gradually transmuted into a pan-European religion. Consider that ancient Egyptian religion was already extremely, incomprehensibly ancient: the pyramids are a great work of the late Stone Age, as much older than the Romans as the Trojan War is older than us. The knowledge of hieroglyphs had already passed out of the world, but the infinite number of mummies and inscriptions and magical practices were still very much there. Add on to this that, even thousands of years earlier, Egyptian religion had highly favored spectacular, awe-inspiring temples where people went for rituals, healing, miracles, surrounded by fire, strange smokes, talking statues — and that this tradition was still very much alive — and you have a great factory of religious beliefs which were immensely popular in the Roman world.

Second was Mithraism, a religion that we still understand relatively little. Mithras was a warrior-god, of Persian origin; he has many similarities to similar warrior-gods spread across the Near East, not least the version of Yahweh worshipped in the western Levant which later became a core part of Judaism. In Rome, his worship became very popular among the army, starting with soldiers who had served in the east. The rituals were very secret, part of the brotherhood of joining the Roman Legions; underground caverns, secret dances, sacrifices, rituals that we know very little about today because they were actually fairly good at keeping their secrets, and quite deliberately didn’t write many things down. 

The third was ascetic monasticism, something which never really caught on in Europe but which was a huge deal in Egypt for hundreds of years. There was a tradition of hermits retreating off into the desert to pray, fast, and generally mortify themselves, and these hermits were considered to be avatars of purity itself, holy, powerful, capable of great magics, and mad as a bag of clams. (As a side note, The Book of the Fathers, a book on how to be a good monk written in fragments from the 4th through 10th centuries, has lots of examples of the stories of early monks, who were basically Christian Egyptian ascetics. Something like two thirds of these stories end with either “and then he/she starved to death” or “and then he/she died in a sandstorm.” These guys werehard-core.

And Christianity — Paul’s Christianity, the kind that wanted to spread — joined in to this mix. This early Pauline Christianity worshipped in secret, because it was defiantly anti-religio; this was honestly a holdover from its Jewish roots, with the Jews being rather famous for their (often violent) unwillingness to sacrifice to other gods. But it had many other familiar features: secret meetings in (literally) underground churches, intense personal faith, mystical healing, close confraternity between the followers. Unlike many of the other mystery cults, it was built fairly strongly around concepts of morality — another holdover both from its Jewish antecedents and from Jesus’ own focus on reforming Judaism towards personal religiosity. 

These religious traditions competed with each other pretty openly. If you read Apuleius’ The Golden Ass (arguably the first novel), you’ll see all these conflicts show up in people’s daily lives. Laws were passed banning Christians from serving in the army — it would destroy unit cohesion, you see, and the men might feel uncomfortable. (Le plus que ça change…) And they also combined: Christianity became popular in Egypt, and people combined it with both Egyptian asceticism (to form the seeds of monasticism) and Manichaeanism, another Persian import from which Christianity got its notions of the duality of God and the Devil. The healing magics of Magna Mater stayed popular across the board, and Christians found themselves doing basically the same things. 

(There’s a whole history here, too, of how these religions related to the earlier Roman political order.)

And around the year 300, these religious and political trends started to come together. The political order of the old religio made less and less sense: giant, formal, public rituals to the gods of old Rome didn’t pull people together the way they once did. But the underlying needs behind them, both civic and economic, were still there. By the time of the civil war that followed Diocletian’s retirement (a very interesting story in its own right), Mithraism was in a bit of a downturn, apparently not providing quite enough mysticism relative to simple brotherhood; Christianity had folded most of the magical elements of Magna Mater into itself, and had done a better job of conversion through its strategy of focusing on women, and soldiers, many of whose mothers had been converts, started to use it as their secret brotherhood ritual. Against this background, Constantine (one of the warring emperors) made it the quasi-official religion of his army, and soon after won control of the Empire. 

What happened here was that a religious trend of secret societies, previously illegal in many situations, which thus tended to forge close relationships among the practitioners, suddenly became an official Thing which people realized they could further their careers by converting to. Many is the Roman nobleman of this period who went to bed one night, a contented pagan, and woke up the next morning a bishop, and a few hundred thousand solidi poorer. (That was the going rate for a bishopric) But this new religious system had communal identity baked so deeply into it, and held people together well enough (after all, that’s one of the big things Constantine used it for!) that it started to become a substitute for this now-missing identity.

Several things happened over the next hundred years which reinforced this, but perhaps the most dramatic was the sack of Rome in 410. It’s hard to express how world-shaking this was: imagine if, on 9/11, rather than destroying the Twin Towers in New York, the Taliban had simply marched in to New York City andsacked it, and the government was powerless to do anything about it. That’s roughly what happened then. And yet: the Goths who sacked Rome left the churches untouched — they, too, were Christians. Augustine used this as the jumping-off point for his book, The City of God, which crystallized the ideas that had been building up over the years: Christianity united its believers in a sort of world-spanning empire. This notion of Christianity as a social identity, rather than as a religious faith, became the cornerstone of European society for the next thousand years.

This answered the question of “how do we deal with those barbarians?:” If they were Christians, then you could use this common language of Christianity to establish relations with them. If they weren’t, you could convert them or kill them — or point your own friendly barbarians their way. It also provided a new social glue for the society, so long as everyone came over and converted.

And what you might notice is missing, again, from this picture is the modern notion of “faith.” It was important that everyone be a Christian because that was part of being part of the Empire, but the details weren’t quite as important. So the common variety of “conversion” in the Late Antique Empire went something like this:

A priest shows up in a village. The village is generally having some kind of major problem or another, whether it be a failed local irrigation system, or a famine, or a plague. The priest calls people together in the name of his god, and fixes the problem: either by prayer, or by getting people together to fix the well, or by pulling in external resources. (Most of the time, incidentally, the priest didn’t successfully fix the problem, in which case he simply would move on to the next village and try again) On success, the village praises God and converts. They have to give up “pagan rituals” — i.e., they have to adopt the forms of Christianreligio rather than whatever they did locally. But the underlying importance of the sacrifices (economic, civic, etc) was still there, so what was important was to do them in a Christian way. Do them in a church, not a cemetery. Praise a saint rather than a god, and so forth.

And then the priest would move on to the next town, racking this up as yet another successful conversion. But nobody was left behind in this town who actually had a particularly deep understanding of Christian doctrine; and in fact, owing to how bad travel was in the Empire at this point, it was often 100 yearsuntil the next priest would reach a particular village! So Europe “Christianized” by adopting a shared set of practices and religious language, but not a shared religious faith in the modern sense of the word. 

The results of this weren’t fully appreciated until nearly a thousand years later, during the Counter-Reformation: in response to the rise of Protestantism, the Catholic Church started to try to root out “heresy” in its own world, and discovered (much to its shock) that the average Christian had absolutely no ideawhat the religion was supposed to mean. (A truly fascinating account of this can be found in The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, which studies the record of the heresy trial of some random schmuck who was grabbed by the Inquisition. The title comes from his attempt to explain just how the world was created.) 

So when we talk about a “Christian syncretism,” what was happening wasn’t that Christianity deliberately or accidentally took on bits of other religions. Rather, most of the conversion of Europe — and very similarly, most of the conversion of other parts of the world later on — happened very quickly, with groups of people agreeing to take on the structural forms of Christianity, praying to saints in churches and so on, but with very little emphasis on constructing a shared “faith” in the modern sense.

In fact, this modern notion of faith came largely out of the Protestant reformation. The Protestants started out with a notion that people should have a direct, personal familiarity with scriptures and a much more personal relationship with God: ideas which hadn’t really entered much into the Christianity of the preceding millenium. The Catholics, in response, tried to “purify” their own faith and make sure that everyone was on the same page, using much the same techniques which they had developed for ensuring that there were no secretly practising Muslims or Jews in Spain after the Reconquista. (Yes, I know. You were expecting that the Spanish Inquisition would show up in here at some point.) Several centuries of spectacular bloodshed later, it was a commonly accepted idea in all branches of Christianity that Christianity was, first and foremost, about individual faith, and a common understanding of doctrine was what bound Christians together. But this hadn’t actually been a feature of Christianity ever since the days of Paul, and the Christianity of the 19th century is a very different beast from that in too many ways to count. It was a new thing.

So today, when people tell you about how Christianity has “borrowed” ideas from non-Christian religions, or that this or that holiday is actually a pagan festival in disguise, your surprise isn’t coming from the fact that Christianity ever was really a common religious language rather than a unified faith: it’s coming from the fact that, over the past few hundred years, Christianity has deeply rewritten its creed, and largely forgotten its own history. These things aren’t alien to Christianity at all: they’re the deepest part of its origins.

For more information, some places to start:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybele
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithraic_mysteries
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_I_and_Christianity
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_God_(book)

The best sources of all on this subject are books. Peter Brown’s The Cult of the Saints or The Rise of Western Christendom give an excellent snapshot of the Late Antique transition and can get you started looking for other things. Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms is a great way to see what ground-level faith in the sixteenth century looked like.

The Missing Culprits

Do yourself a favor. Call me crazy now, before you read the rest of this story. That way, this can be gotten out of the way, because what I am about to tell you, most of the public will not believe.

On September 11, 2001, there were no terrorist involved, as reported by the U.S. Government, in the attacks on the World Trade Centers or the Pentagon.

For those of you who haven’t called me a bunch of four letter words ( amongst other things ), and clicked to another page, let me try to explain.

The false flag operation on September 11, 2001, was a made for corporate controlled mass media event, to shock the public into it’s place, in order to achieve several goals. It was so well planned and orchestrated, that intelligence agencies from around the world, picked up on it as the real deal, and tried to warn the U.S. Government about pending attacks.

After sifting through various information sources for years, trying to make sense of the shocking day, I was listening to the weekly broadcast of KPFA’s, “Guns and Butter”. This show discusses The Economics of Politics. On this particular day, they were featuring screen writer and producer Art Olivier, with his movie “Operation Terror: The 9/11 Story You Are Not Supposed To Know”. After only the first few minutes of the show, with all of the information I already had, I knew that finally a lot of the pieces to the puzzle, on what actually lead up to the events of 9/11, were going to fall into place. If you are looking to watch this video in regular theaters, rent it from the normal channels, or even watch it online: FORGET ABOUT IT. This movie was banned, because it got too close to the truth. Because I am so interested in the subject matter, because it effects so much of the world around me, I found that it was the one of the best $25 investments, I have ever made.

The key to seeing the truth, is the conditioning of the mind. I am never going to be able to counter the overpowering mass media, and the message’s they have to push, with my writings on this blog. It is up to the individual to take steps, to find out how the world they are a part of, really operates in the background. If someone asks me about a starting point, I would immediately direct them to L. Fletcher Prouty’s book, “The Secret Team”. Until one understands the foundation and rogue behavior of the CIA, several things will always be cloudy. And trust me, when I first started to read this book, I felt the author was off of his rocker, and set it down. But after encountering information over the next six months, that showed me that the author knew what he was talking about, I picked the book back up, and read it from cover to cover.

The intelligence community has a term for building a legend for someone. It is called “sheep dipping”. This is done, by taking a designated person who is an intelligence “asset”, and either sending him/her or their “double” to places of interest, on various tasks, to display a desired behavior, to influence the minds of the people they encounter. In a nutshell, they are building a legend for themselves. In the case of the “purported” 9/11 terrorist, one example of this, was the flight school training for commercial airliners. All of the so called terrorist, were intelligence assets, that got paraded around the United States, leaving the trail of a legend built, to tie up the story, in the aftermath of 9/11.

One important main asset that wasn’t paraded around the United States, but served as the figure head, was the very sick with ailing kidneys, Osama Bin-Laden. A very big CIA asset, from the days of the Cold War. This man was being kept alive, through dialysis treatment, at the American Hospital in Pakistan, so he could take the blame. Most likely, this chap has been dead for over a decade now, but that sure didn’t stop “doubles” and fake tapes from showing up, in order to chase him and his supporters, around the world.

Now at this moment, you may be asking yourself: If there were no terrorist, then who hijacked the planes. There was a “hijacking” of planes, but not as the “official” story presented it. The hijacking occurred electronically. Empty planes, that were modified to be controlled as “drones”, electronically “hijacked” the signature of actual flights, before being redirected. Two of the aluminum/fiberglass based planes hit the World Trade Centers, towers 1 and 2, which were built to survive this impact. As most know, these two tower ended up collapsing. This happened along with the collapse of WTC building 7, that had no impact, but contained records for certain sensitive investigations, that the powers to be would love see disappear. In comes nano thermite. A very fine thermite that burns super fast and super hot, that was found in the debris of the buildings. If you paint this stuff inside, along with attaching some remote detonators, then you have the making of a controlled demolition.

The other drone was used as cover before pulling up, for a cruise missile that penetrated the reinforced walls of the Pentagon, a lot better than a aluminum/fiberglass commercial airliner would.

The so called plane crash in Pennsylvania appears to be a prepared crater, where an actual airliner was shot down to provided the debris, but missed the mark. This is still a little fuzzy.

Now at this point, if you are ready to kick my teeth out, to teach me a lesson, please answer this question first: If this was really the work of terrorist, how did they coerce to United State into running about 46 military war games/disaster exercises around the same time, turning some of them “live” in the confusion of the day, in order to pull off the feat?

–Big Mike

Sources for information:

Book – Crossing the Rubicon, by Michael C. Ruppert
Book – The Secret Team, by L. Fletcher Prouty
Book – 9/11 Synthetic Terror, Made in USA, by Webster Griffin Tarpley
Movie – Operation Terror: The 9/11 Story You Are Not Supposed To Know. DVD $20 + $5 Shipping.
Radio – Guns and Butter: KPFA Wednesdays at 1:00pm. Show archives online at kpfa.org.

Consciousness and Emotional Intelligence

Once again, it has been a very long time without a post.  It is not that ideas have ceased to run through my head but rather, I feel that blogging has become more of a chore than something I really want to do.

Actually, that is not the case.  I think I have a complex in knowing that people will read it thus I must be careful with the words and ideas that are typed out onto this screen.  It would be much easier if I could just let the ideas flow and my fingers press the buttons.  Then I think too much and decide not to post.

Luckily, a perfect moment has arrived where I’m alone and I simply do not feel like doing anything else but writing.  I do not want to read, nor watch Netflix, nor play any games and I surely don’t want to venture onto any social networks.  I just want to venture into that familiar trance where the rest of the world slips away and I’m alone with my thoughts.

And speaking of thoughts, one of the main ideas that has been racing through my head is this idea of Consciousness.  I have come to the conclusion that we are not fully consciousness   It is like being only half awake or like walking in a fog.  How did I come to realize this?

I’ve found that there are short flickering moments where I look around and really appreciate the beauty of the world around me.  For a brief instant I understand the true value of friendships and the wonderful feelings that connecting with others truly brings.  It is as though I am in contact with the true essence of consciousness, of life, of mind and of all that surrounds me.

Perhaps, living in this beautiful town by the coast I experience these moments a bit more often than most.  Or perhaps, I have simply inundated my brain with so much wine, tea and then exercise that it has short circuited somewhere and thus redirects my focus to the joys of being alive a bit more than usual.

I believe we all have these moments and with a bit of practice such as with meditation can have them with more frequency.  It seems to me that this increased “consciousness” would be a major step forward in human evolution.

As I look around at the world today I do not see this.  I see people walking around in a fog.    They go about their daily routines as though they are programmed.  People live in a closed environment, and this environment is closed by their own choosing whether they realize it or not.  For all this talk of “going social” on the internet I find that most people are not inherently social at all.  If you simply say hello to a stranger these days it would seem more of a shock than a nice pleasantry deserving of a response.

Or perhaps I am more acutely aware of this because I am in the sales profession.  It is my job to connect with people and I’ve become very good at it.  I know how to say the right words, give the right facial expression and how to adjust to different personalities.  I can easily draw people out of their shell and get them to interact.

I think it is possible to develop one’s mind to a higher level of consciousness.  One exercise in which I do not have much experience is meditation and is something I’m very curious about.  I’ve found that I cannot rest my mind for more than 8 seconds before it wanders off onto some common topic or daily activity.  I actually tried to think of nothing many times today only to find myself thinking about certain things the day was going to bring.

And speaking of wandering I believe this post has done just that.  A higher level of consciousness happens when someone dies.  For a few hours or maybe even a few days we really appreciate our loved ones and recognize their value.  But sure enough, these feelings slowly melt away as we return to the daily monotony.

Standing on a mountain with a beautiful view and to realize that we are just organic, self aware beings living on a rock that is flying through space in a universe of perhaps infinite size is a grand thought indeed.  I wonder why we cannot hold onto these thoughts and use them to really appreciate being alive?  How is it that religion has distilled the magnificent into repetitive drudgery and simple fairy tale stories that 95% of the population easily accepts?

Yes, most of us are asleep and I feel that in this moment of time only a select few can make that leap forward.  They are those that can “think freely” and release themselves from all the mental programming they received in their early years.  To truly be a free thinker is a difficult and uncommon thing indeed!

In regards to emotional intelligence I’ve recently realized that most people are not good at this at all!  Perhaps I am being too harsh as it seems to be a skill and thus would take practice.  Being a sales person I have plenty of practice at this as I must do it daily.  But I do believe it is something I’ve always been relatively good at by the simple fact that I like people and I care about others.  Maybe I am just selfish in that by making others feel good I myself feel very good.

Briefly glancing at the definition I can confirm that put simply, Emotional Intelligence is simply being able to recognize the other persons emotions even if they show no obvious outward signs.  Or perhaps I am deluding myself as it is a combination of minute signals that betray the feelings inside.  In any case, I am glad I can read them.

Now for something I cannot understand.  The idea of murder, of killing, no matter the circumstances (war, freedom, whatever you want to call it) is so repulsive and horrible to me that I do not like to read about it, do not like to see it in the movies and sure as shit do not support it no matter what the government says.

Yet, I find that a very high percentage of my countrymen are readily willing to accept murder of others so long as the reason given is plausible.  The only conditions are that they take place far away and to people they have no connection to.

I think that if someone walked into their living room and shot the visiting neighbor in the head (even if they were a bona fide terrorist) than their willingness to accept murder might drastically change.

Yet, when it is far away and for “freedom” then all of a sudden everyone is for more missile strikes.

And this my friends is the reason I do not believe that most people have enough “consciousness” and almost no emotional intelligence.  They walk in a trance, willing to believe almost anything.  Even if that “thing” is the opposite of what the mainstream are believing.  It is as though people need to join others in their opinions and beliefs.  If people were to truly think freely then would it not follow there would be an almost limitless amount of opinions and beliefs in the world?

But no, we have liberal vs. conservative.  Catholic vs Protestant, vs Buddhist vs. Muslim.  And you know what?  My opinion and belief is the correct one while yours is wrong.  Yes, with all the education and seemingly endless list of colleges most of the arguments come down to our own belief being right.  And we KNOW it is right because it was what was taught to us.

How mundane, boring and completely stupid.  Consciousness?  We only receive flickers from time to time.  Emotional Intelligence?  It has been dashed against the rock of cable tv and a couple of generations that only understand two words.   I and me.

 

Romney, Republicans, Petraeus and Israel

Again, it has been a very long time since my last post.  The reason is laziness, pure and simple.

But tonight, as I glare into the never ending stream of news on my Iphone I find myself overwhelmed by the amount of stupid I am reading.  As I am still very much in lazy mode, I really do not feel like putting too much effort into this post.  I simply want to do a quick brain dump and get back to my magazines.  My blood is boiling though and I don’t think I’ll be able to rest until I get it out of my system.

A.  US Election

Obama wins the election and the Republicans throw a fit.  In their own words they tell us that Obama won due to the young, the minorities, the educated, the women and so on and so on.

So who voted for Romney then?  Well, let’s take a look at the map.  Do you see anything interesting here?  The states with a more intelligent population (California, New York, Washington etc) all voted for Obama.  The States with a massive amount of farmland and much less education (and the South, no surprise) voted for Romney.

This really isn’t rocket science – areas with more education voted blue and those with less voted red.  It is as simple as that.

Furthermore the Republicans cannot stop saying extremely idiotic things.  It does not matter who said what but let me just jot down a few things from memory.

1. Legitimate Rape – Female body has ways to shut the whole thing down
2. Too many black people were voting in areas that don’t have many black residents
3. Obama bought the votes of the young and the blacks.
4.  We want to secede from the United States!

It seems the Republicans have a complete monopoly on idiocy since all of the above have come from the Republican camp.  Perhaps it is akin to a young child throwing a tantrum when things do not go his way.  Little Johnny didn’t win the basketball game so he not only throws the ball into the neighbors yard but starts running in circles screaming incoherently.

So let’s sum this all up.
1.  The states with smarter populations (computers, finance, rocket science) voted blue.  The states with plenty of farms and the South voted Republican.  (No surprise from the South for obvious reasons.)

2.  Republicans cannot seem to stop saying very idiotic things.  One of the dumbest things said happens to come Mitt Romney who only a few weeks ago happened to be their champion and who they now cannot get far enough away from.

3.  More than a few would like to secede from the Union.  I say give Texas back to Mexico and let’s watch those idiots have a complete brain hemorrhage when they realize they are now surrounded by people who are NOT English speaking 45 year old white men.

B.  Petraeus

First let me say that in regards to his affair I wish the USA were a bit more like France.  Petraeus did turn a war around and by all accounts was a very good General.  I’m sure he can and did do a fine job at the CIA.  If he wants to have a little something on the side in his private life then it should stay private.  Unfortunately we are all still very much Puritans in this country and therefore we must expose these fornicators and publicly shame them!   (Then we can return to whatever sex themed sitcom happens to be our favorite which ironically glorifies a loose lifestyle.)

Regarding the Benghazi Attack – Petraeus is called to testify and says it was terrorism.  Here is a newsflash.  It was terrorism.  The Obama administration needed time to get the facts and even after they had them they did play down the fact that it was terrorism.  Why?  Because it would make them look weak on security and given the Republicans something to  use during the campaign.  Why is the US having a congressional committee on this?  Because the Republicans absolutely hate Obama and want to attack him in any way they can.  It is all political theater.

Hopefully, some leaders somewhere are actually doing the right thing and instead of playing politics are strengthening security no matter what the Republicans or Democrats say.

C. Israel and Gaza

Here we go again.  In this part of the post I am only speaking to those who are worldly and educated enough to just feel sad about this whole conflict.  Israel has a right to exist and defend themselves.  Unfortunately, in doing so they oppress, enslave and murder an entire group of people.  The oppressed become the oppressors.  There is no right answer here and I feel very sad for all of the death.

What I hate most of all is how in the West we will never read about any of the Israeli guilt in these conflicts.  The media will always fault the Palestinians.  Furthermore, I hate how we no longer just read about all of this, but now we have video so we can feed off the sorrow, the death and destruction for our own entertainment purposes.  This is our dark side.  We want to press the play button on the video, we want to see a missile strike and we want to see dead bodies.  This is something most people will not admit to themselves, they will suppress the modicum of guilt deep into their gut as they hit the play button and enjoy the adrenaline as they wait for the missile to strike and death to happen on their Iphone.

This type of media gets the population excited and thus it gets clicks which add to the bottom line.  I cannot think of anything more American than showing actual death, happening thousands of miles away in order to make a profit.  It is capitalism at its finest.  Cameras in place to stream the carnage by satellite directly to each and every device where we gain a rush, and a dark satisfaction from real live death, while in the corner of our eyes an advertisement for Coca Cola creeps into our subconscious.  Such a marriage of technology, death and profit is almost like a beautiful requiem, so much so that it almost brings a tear to my eye.

I should stop reading the news.

Embassy Attacks

I just wanted to write down a few thoughts about the embassy attacks that are occurring.

The first is that I find it completely despicable that Romney has used the events to score political points. That was a very stupid move which all the pundits pointed out the day after he made it. I just heard on the news this morning that some are starting to agree with him as the attacks continue to spread.

They say that the Obama policy has made America weak and these attacks are proof of that.

How completely idiotic can we get? The reason that the USA is unpopular in Muslim countries is due to the support of Israel and the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Those are the two principal reasons (bar none!) and even though they are 100% apparent it is something you will not hear much on the news here.

And guess who started the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

George W. Bush – Republican

Who has supported Israel? – Well every single administration has so no blame there. Obama has in fact taken steps to stand up to the Israeli lobby unlike most of his predecessors.

After reading the above, a Republican would think me an apologetic liberal. Keep reading and you will see this is not the case.

My second thought is how far the Muslim world has fallen from their days of glory with the Ottoman Empire and occupation of Spain. Spain is what I know and I know that the Muslims brought science, math and much learning to the rather uncivilized Christians of the time.

My how things have changed.

I try hard to come up with reasons for these attacks and can only guess that they may be related to the following.

1. Unstable Governments – These countries really have no or very rule of law at the moment
2. Thugs and terrorist groups have more leeway now that the dictators are gone and can run amok.
3. Due to the dictators, their societies have really not progressed in the past 40 years or so and have actually digressed.

On one hand I understand that a society needs time to adjust and terrorist groups would take advantage during time of weak government.

But in the end, these reasons and excuses have to stop. Much of the Muslim world needs to take a hard look at themselves and yank their societies into the 21st century.

To put this into very blunt perspective let us look at this example.

The most notable achievement of one society is that it has just put a robot on Mars to conduct scientific analysis.   The most notable achievement of a few other societies are that they go berserk at something offensive on the internet (imagine that!), burn buildings and kill people while screaming about God.

The people (young people especially) of those countries are going to have to fight their own terrorists in order to drag their societies into the 21st century.

The internet is full of offensive material. I can assure you it is not just Muslims for those of you who have never used the internet before.

Just had a thought pop into my head. I wonder if the TV reporter in Egypt was just being careless with this story and didn’t realize how much havoc it would create or if it was done on purpose.

——-

*9.29.2012 – Update – Well, had some issues with the blog and this post got erased.  Trying to put it back as it was but the story in Libya also keeps changing.  Apparently it was a terrorist attack by various religious zealots.  So, as of 9.29.2012 I only have two comments.

1.  It looks like regular Libyans are grateful to the USA for helping them get rid of Gaddafi.  I was highly encouraged by these two articles.

1.  Hundreds of Libyans hand over their weapons – USA Today
2. After Quaddafi – Foreign Affairs

And finally, I still find this extremely funny:

Following Cultural Awareness Class, Marines Burn Down Own Embassy

History is Alive

In my short 35 year life I have had the great fortune to travel a good portion of the world and experience a great many things. Most of these travels occurred during my twenties but it was not the travels alone that contributed to these fantastic experiences. It was the study of language that gave me very deep insights into the various cultures and changed me forever.

Find here the music which sets the tone for this post:

Once you have enjoyed the music you can find the historical reference here

These languages which changed my life were Spanish, French and Japanese. Spanish and French gave me unique insight into the history of Europe and gave me confidence. That is to say, I thought I actually new something after becoming proficient in these languages. Yet, it was the study of Japanese that really humbled me and taught me that the more I learn, the less I realize I actually know. With Spanish and French I had only learned about the European part of the world. With Japanese I made a small splash into a completely different and wonderful world known as Asia. I was amazed by the insights learning Japanese gave me. It was then I realized that language can really open up a different way of thinking and change how one views the world. I now knew four languages but out of the 6800 or so languages in the world I could only comprehend the mindset of very few.

Furthermore, I never felt as though I mastered any language other than my native English (and that is debatable as well!) No matter how good you think you are at a language, the natives are better.

This post however is not a biography on my experiences and discoveries. Rather, it is something that carries a bit of the same magic that one can experience in their own home without setting foot in another culture.

Almost.

There is nothing that will take the place of travel and learning other languages. One gains so much insight that it is near impossible to explain to others who have not had the same experience.

But, one can come close.

This post is about Netflix and the historical entertainment it offers us. Never in the history of mankind have we had such access to history portrayed as entertainment. Yes, yes, the plays and theatre of old are spectacular yet, those performances were never on demand, starting at the push of a button. Never have the masses as a whole had the access that they do now to rather accurate historical entertainment.

Unfortunately, even though such entertainment is now available, I wonder how many of the “unwashed masses” actually pay attention. There are so many other shows (of rather stupid subject) that history and historical fact now have to vie with the vulgar prancing around hoping to draw even more attention.

Forgive me, I continue to be extremely upset that even though we have more access to knowledge than ever before in the history of mankind, my brethren choose to entertain themselves with the equivalent of a Cockney lass with huge boobs who just happens to dance or sing surprisingly well. This cockney lass comes not from East London but from Jersey, the new one.

That was cruel. Some are actually very talented. My anger, nay, my disappointment stems from the seemingly endless support for current wars when most of the population do not understand history and choose not to educate themselves, preferring to watch henceforth mentioned Cockney Lass equivalent from Jersey, the new one.

Makes me upset. People are getting killed and the only people that could stop it choose to watch dancing and singing.

I digress. As you know I rarely stay on point and enjoy the frequent side-tangents. :)

Regarding Netflix, it has given me access to a lot of history that I can use to supplement my previous travels. In fact, it brings it alive!!

Yes, I know it is entertainment, but being a big fan of history, I use my Iphone to check the accuracy on Wikipedia.

*Sidebar – I wrote an argument Wikipedia Inaccurate? when many were calling it inaccurate back in 2006. Just wanted to give props to myself in that my judgement seems to stand the test of time in this case. :)

So I check Wikipedia and see that the historical truths match up pretty well with what I am seeing on Netflix.

So what am I watching on Netflix? Enough of my rambling already, lets get to the good stuff!!

The shows I’ve recently watched are the following. I thought a Youtube trailor might be able to give you a better impression than my simple explanations.

1. The Tudors

2. The Borgia

3. Rome

4. The Virgin Queen

I think four examples are enough to show how efficiently this new service called Netflix can really bring the past alive!!!

I would imagine there are two schools of thought on this. The first being those that prefer not to study at all and simply watch a show and believe they know something. A show is just a show and does not really confer any knowledge. Well, maybe a little knowledge but it really helps to read a quick biography and historical account about the show to really know what is going on

The second school would be the detractors. Those that believe they understand too much and will not give any standing to some theatrical performance infringing on their focus of study.

Not being an expert myself, I would imagine that the screen writers and movie studios employ enough financial firepower to employ those that do have expert knowledge in these historical matters and thus keep the story pretty accurate n’est pas?

So, for a plebeian such as myself, albeit a rather well traveled pleb and one who knows how to use his Iphone, I am inclined to believe these historical shows so long as they match up with what I read in Wikipedia.

What this does for me is absolutely brings the past alive!!!!!! The past was never brought alive for me in school as it entailed simple words on a page, ideas, places, people that meant nothing to me and were simply things that I must memorize to pass a test.

This changed of course when I actually visited such places.  However it was never brought alive as much as it has with Netflix!

It is now time for picture sharing.

Welcome to the Tower of London.  I did visit, I took the tour and I payed attention to everything my “Beefeater” guide said.  I also read my “Let’s Go” book to inform myself about the history.  Yet, the history of the place never came as alive as it did with the Tudors series and Elizabeth the Virgin Queen.  I could read a thousand historical books and I believe nothing would leave as deep an impression on me as these various TV (Netflix) series.

I think it was Ben Franklin, although I could be completely wrong, but one of the founders predicted that with the invention of the moving pictures books would no longer be necessary.  I have it in my head that it was Franklin but of course I could be completely stupid on this one.

My point is, I visited the tower of London, I tried to feel the ghosts there, I tried to feel the history.  I understood what happened and I tried to let it in.  I didn’t feel anything. It really didn’t come alive for me.

The only time I ever felt “ghosts” and the sense of history completely washing over me was in Toledo, Spain and I described the ghost part rather clearly in my post Ghosts.

So where else could I find “ghosts” and a real sense of history?

No, I didn’t feel anything in Rome.  I experienced neither Cesar nor the Borgias in Rome.  I just experiences ruins and various vagrants trying to seal my wallet. The glory of Rome has indeed vanished.

Actually, I did enjoy meeting a lot of young Italians at Piazza di Spagna but that was a rarity.  There were more opportunities for bad people to take my wallet than for me to meet the young vibrant youth of Rome at that time.  :(

Well, as you know my posts are never long and I grow tired after a few short paragraphs.  I guess the lesson for this post is that after watching so many shows about medieval Europe I can now more clearly understand the roots of Catholic vs Protestant, English vs France vs Spain and so on. By understanding the origins, I am able to much better understand the present.

***Quick mind dump ***

I grew up Catholic, a descendant of the Irish who were long oppressed by the English.  Why did I grow up this way?  Well my ancestors escaped the potato famine and came to the USA.  The English on the other hand used to be Catholic but Henry VIII decided to not be Catholic anymore because he wanted to marry another.  Throw in a bunch of politics and England didn’t want to be under the Pope anymore.  The Pope had gained his authority from an ancient “Cult of Christ” from long ago Rome that never really went away.  It was the religion that like the Duracell battery refused to die.  Since it was the only one that stood the test of time people took it as the truth.  And oh yea, it was the one that had the most military force behind it, so if you didn’t convert, bad things happened.  But even before bad things happened most were convinced bad things would happen after they die if they didn’t believe.

So anyway, our friend King Henry the VIII didn’t like the pope telling him what to do.  Some people agreed (Protestants)and over time these people eventually came to America.  These are the same folks that become our Presidents.  Well, except for JFK but he got shot.  After that we had more Protestants. Now we have Barack Obama who many believe is Muslim (lol).  The Republicans are still crazy incensed that he got elected and have now gone off the rails.  Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann?   For God’s sakes, all you supporters of them should never be allowed in a gentleman’s club again. Wait, the GOP is no longer a Gentleman’s club you say? It is full of idiotic hillbilly Jesus freaks you say? Boy, I really miss the old GOP. The heathens and unwashed are not only at the gate but have been invited in to sit down to dinner! >:(

I’m sorry, I’ve gone off the rails again.  I’m terrible.

I’m also tired and become tired of this post.  I really should write a book but am absolutely sure it would offend so many that it would stand no chance of being published.

No matter, I live in my own world and prefer to keep it that way.

I guess I’ll end this post with the truth that there is so much to learn. The trick is to keep it interesting which is something these shows and Netflix is very good at! They bring the past alive and make learning about history much more entertaining!

NEVER AGAIN – Concentration Camp

It’s late and I’m back from watching the ballet version of Don Quixote.

I had read the history of the performance and learned that it was first performed for the royalty of Russia.  So, taking this information I imagined myself a European royal attending the ballet.

What went through my mind?

Well, being a business person I understand that the ballet must sell tickets to keep their doors open.  They are a business.   In this same vain I realized that the CEO’s watching the ballet also must sell their goods so they can make enough to attend the ballet!

Finally I realized that the Royalty also must keep the CEO’s (Dukes, Lords whatever) happy or else they could also lose their positions (and heads!)

In short I realized everyone is accountable to someone no matter how powerful you are.  There is no top station where the stress stops and nobody needs to worry.

(Unless you are God, but even God needs believers otherwise he might just disappear into the history of human consciousness.)

So yea, that is what I thought about at the theater.

I come home and read a post on our FB page about concentration camps.  I’ve had some wine and the truth of the statement hit me smack in the forehead.

Recently in the media they made a big hubbaloo about Concentration Camps and “Never Again.”  Well, this “never again” continues in North Korea.

“Never Again” only applies to a certain group of people.  ”Never Again” is currently happening in North Korea but everyone is putting their heads in the sand.  After all, the Asians never really mattered to the Europeans.

Did I really say that?

I think I did.  Asians are a different group of people as far as Europeans are concerned so when “never again” is mentioned it is only meant for “Europeans.”

That is my theory anyway.

And what does my great country of the USA do?

**Patriotic Moment****  - We can’t friggin do everything to keep the world from screwing up now can we?  Europe or ,,,, even Asia taking some responsibility would be nice!!! ******

But no, the patriotic moment only lasts just that, a moment.  We still trade with North Korea’s much bigger older brother China.  This older brother protects their little evil, sadistic sibling and has great business relations with him to boot!

So yea, “Never Again,” is just another slogan that only pertains to a certain group of people.

Asians are not as human as Europeans as far as this whole “Never Again” phrase is concerned.

Oh, by the way, I did pay a visit to Dachau

So yea,  Never Again……………

Work won’t even set you free in North Korea!!!!

Japanese Protectionism, Latinos in the USA and The Age of Reason

I have to say, I love my Ipad.  Everyday I pick it up about 15 times and flick through the various news apps to take a quick pulse of what is happening in the world.  When I tire of the news I can quickly switch to my books or watch a documentary on Netflix.

I wonder, am I getting too much stimulation?  Am I learning too many things?  When I created this blog I desired to share all the wonderful things I learned while living and traveling overseas.  Now that I’m grounded here in California I’ve found I can escape to new worlds simply through my Ipad!

And so it has been for the past couple of days I ran across some great new insights as well as news articles that I’d like to add a bit more of an international perspective to.  I’ll number these learnings to keep things organized.

1.  Japanese Protectionism

I like my USA Today app on my Ipad.  It gives me a quick and easy digest of what is going on usually with colorful pictures.  Today, the article “Japan accused of protectionism in wake of tsunami” caught my eye.  As you know I lived there for three years, speak the language and have worked for a large Japanese company.  So I was curious to see what was going on.

Before I give you a summary and my take on it I have to say that although I like my USA Today, it never really gives you any insight.  It is just a quick view of what has happened, combined with a few quotes.  It is not in-depth and what I would consider to be news for the 8th grade level.

Now, as for Japanese protectionism, more than a few American companies are angry about not being selected to help build housing for the tsunami victims.  Basically, the Japanese simply chose Japanese companies to build the housing and even though they asked for American bids, the Americans never stood a chance.  Read the article if you like, but here are my interesting takeaways.

a.  Of course the foreigners would not be selected

- File this one under a crash course in Japanese culture.  Japan is so insular, so isolated and so homogeneous that they will never accept large amount of help from foreigners.  The reason the Japanese themselves give for this is that Japan is an island country and has always relied on itself.  In fact, if we look at history Japan would have preferred to remain isolated until Matthew Perry and his “Black Ships” forced Japan to open up.

Even though they were forced to open up the mentality remains the same.  There are Japanese and there are gaijin (gaijin = outside people = foreigners).  The gaijin will never be fully accepted in Japan and Japan will never change.  If you want to see an everyday example of Japanese isolation just try using an ATM and connect to your foreign bank.  Japanese ATM machines only work for banks in Japan even though in just about every country in the world you can draw from your own bank, you cannot do so in Japan.

Isolationism is the true mentality of Japan and the Japanese.  However, they will not tell you this directly.  The Japanese are very polite and do not like conflict.  Therefore, in an event as enormous as the tsunami it was obliged to ask for a bit of outside help.  Japan accepted only a trickle of the help that was offered because again they do not want to rely on foreigners too much.  So, when Takami Shinji-san who is the deputy director of the housing production division of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport & Tourism was asked point blank why none of the foreign bids were accepted his reason was “We were overwhelmed,” and “They all came in English!”

All the bids came in English???  

When I read that I just had to smile.  An entire government department is unable to function because of the English language.  I cannot think of a more perfect way to exclude any and all non Japanese.

Now, let’s back up a minute and set all languages on equal footing.  If American companies were really savvy they would have taken the time to have their bids translated into Japanese.  Then they may have gotten their foot in the door just a little bit.

In business school the professors like to throw out that word “global” a LOT!  It is always global this or global that but how many people can really function on a global scale?  It is always one nation, one company, or one individual hiring the locals to do business their way, in their style.  There is very little understanding, cross-cultural learnings going on.  People and companies are only “global” in that they may have once traveled to another country and accomplished a few transactions, but they never really morph into a “Global Citizen.”

For example, if you take a horse and throw it into the ocean it does not turn into a fish.  It does not even turn into a sea horse.  It is simply a horse that comes out of the water a bit wet.

This brings me to my image of a “Global Citizen.”  A Global Citizen is a horse that can turn into a fish when in the ocean but then change back to a horse on land.

So who would I fault in this Japanese bid case?  Well, from reading this Western article one would think it is the Japanese.  But no.  I would fault the Westerners for not being able to change into a fish, or even a sea horse and translate their bids into Japanese.  They should hire some Global Citizen’s and perhaps they would have stood a chance.

I also dock the Westerns quite a bit in this case due to the comments made by the owner of one of the American companies.  The following really stood out for me.

a.) “We didn’t care if we made money, so we were very disappointed to find that Japan wasn’t playing fair.”

- When I read this I had to suppress a very hearty laugh.  It appears that absurdity is matched by absurdity.  Yes, the Japanese government cannot read English and now we have American companies that do not care about profits!

This seems to contrast starkly with the current shenanigans in every aspect of the American economy.  Government = corrupt and wants more tax.  Wall Street is a casino.  Corporations and companies very existence is to make profit!

Sure I would like to believe that the owner of this American company would like to help out of the goodness of his heart.  But you’ll just have to excuse me as I’ve become rather jaded while coming of age in this period of L’hypercapitalisme Americain.  

b.) <The American business owner>who also criticizes U.S. government agencies for failing to support U.S. export business in an aggressive manner.

- I have to point out that the USA has done quite a bit in “supporting U.S. export business in an aggressive manner.”  If you look above I mentioned Matthew Perry and his black ships.  It would seem the USA was very aggressive, so aggressive in fact that they forced open an entire country.

The reason the USA is not exporting enough is that the Japanese completely whipped the USA in terms of quality product manufacturing.  (Anyone remember the FEMA trailors?  Apparently the USA didn’t do so well in housing victims of its own catastrophe.) In the beginning Japanese goods were considered on par with the Chinese goods of today.  That is to say, low quality, inferior product goods.  But they learned very quickly and eventually the American consumer preferred Japanese goods to American made items.  So it is not the government that is at fault here and if you would like to place blame, you’ll have to blame it squarely on your neighbor.

But that point is moot now since all our American products are now made in China which brings me back to American companies existing to make a profit.  I love it when things just tie together so neatly.  :)

 

2.  Latinos in the USA!

The Latinos are coming!  The Latinos are coming!  Check that, they are all ready here according to the Census report and this USA today article, “Census tracks 20 years of sweeping change.”

When I read an article like this I wonder how the Tea Partiers must feel.  I would imagine they would think that the identity of the USA is under assault.  From their policies such as building walls running citizenship reports and limiting immigration one would think they dislike foreigners very much.

On one hand I can understand that the USA has laws in place and these laws should be enforced.  Yet, I cannot support the Tea Party on this because I believe their stance comes from blatant racism.  They are afraid of all these brown people coming to the USA and fundamentally changing its identity.

Now as for my take, I also speak Spanish and spent time in Spain and Mexico.  I LIKE THE CULTURE!  The more Latinos the better in my opinion.

Why do I like them?  Well, I find the Latino culture to be much more laid back and friendly.  In Western culture we are much more, well, uptight.  For the Westerner reading this who has never been to Spain or Mexico it might be hard to understand this.  I don’t mean uptight in a derogatory way really but as you read this blog for international insights I’m just telling you how Latinos may see the “Western attitude.”  Let’s just say that Westerners are a bit more guarded.  We greet each other with a safe distance handshake and it would seem there is always some sort of wall between each other.  Yet, in Latino culture there is no wall.  You get a chance to really open up and if you get along well you may even get a kiss on the cheek!

Now, what really stood out to me in this article is the following.

“By 2050, Americans will look back at the controversies around immigration, controversies about diversity and wonder what the big deal was.”

That is a big fat slab of truth if I ever saw one.

Here we are in 2011 and quite a bit of the population is afraid of losing a white majority identity of the USA.  There is real fear there!  yet, by 2050 a lot of people will have mixed, the population will look much different and people will indeed look back at the current Tea Partiers as making much ado about nothing.  Again, our horse is turning into a sea horse but very very slowly and some people would prefer to remain a horse.

Enter completely unrelevant but entertaining video.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_PZPpWTRTU[/youtube]

Now time for quick cultural learnings

1. Spanish – In Spanish a “caballo” = a horse.  A caballero = a cow boy.  Funny if we look at it literally in Spanish it would be a “horse man” and in English a “cow man.”

2. Japanese – a quote from an old website about Japanese culture.

“The Japanese would perceive a Westerner who spoke Japanese in the same way as if they saw a horse that could do math.”

Ok, enough of the horse analogies.

3.  The Age of Reason

By “The Age of Reason,” I’m referring to a book written by one of America’s founding fathers Thomas Paine.  In it he thoroughly denounces religion as corrupting and oppressing institution.

Now, why do I find this so interesting?  Well, because the Republicans as of late have been harping on this concept of bringing back America to as the founders envisioned it.

a.) Keep out the foreigners – See above

b.)  Religion – They want the USA to be a Christian nation and believe the founding fathers believed as much.

But thanks to my Ipad and the massive amount of learning I’ve been doing it would seem that two of them ( I learned about just this past week) did not necessarily agree.

In fact, Thomas Paine, with his work The Age of Reason is completely against religion!  I for one agree with him on most of the points he is making but that is not what I’m concerned about with this post.

I just wanted to punch a hole in the argument that America should be Christian by referencing the founders.  But it is not just Thomas Paine.

I am also watching a documentary produced by PBS and Frontline on religion and it’s influence in shaping America.  God in America:  How Religious Liberty Shaped America.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0fTTIJrzaI[/youtube]

I’ve only made it through the first two episodes but what I found interesting is Thomas Jefferson’s support of the Baptists when the Baptist religion was extremely unpopular among the majority Anglicans.

Why?

Because the Anglican church created a lot of revenue for the political leaders and if they were losing members to the Baptist religion their profits were going way down.

Now, let us also not forget that the Anglicans simply became a religion because Henry VIII simply wanted to divorce his wife.  The Roman Catholic pope doesn’t let him so he just creates his own church and this is shipped to America.

Then, these Baptists create a sort of “countryside” religion where you do not need the structure anymore, can be “born again” and get all excited, jump around and cry when worshiping.

But who does Thomas Jefferson side with?  Well, the Baptists due to the founding notion of freedom of religion and all that good stuff.

Now fast forward to today.  Today, the Baptists are no longer the targets.  The Baptists today are the Muslims.  And what do the conservatives do?  Well, they tried to put on a Congressional Hearing targeting Muslims!

Of course we wrote about this when it was going on.  Seems to have died very quickly though.

Congressional Hearing on Muslim Americans

 

Yes yes, you know the cliché.

“Those that do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.” 

So if we are going to draw parallels let’s call the Republicans “The New Anglicans,” and we can call the Muslims “The New Baptists.”

Well, that is all I have learned in one week with my beloved Ipad.

Just as Thomas Paine’s book was banned perhaps it would do The current Republican Party well to start banning peoples Ipads.

The Economy: San Francisco, Japan, Ho Chi Minh City

I wanted to write a brief blurb on the state of the economy, the job situations specifically in the three cities I know best about.  

If you read the news you know that things are not going very well for people in their prime earning years (my age).  We all read the news and the continuous bad reports that come out.  I wanted to share with you what is going on out there in this terrible environment.  

1. San Francisco

I happen to be in an industry where it is my job to continually visit the biggest buildings downtown.  It could be said that I have a pulse on the city as the companies moving in and out of these skyscrapers brings sales, or lack thereof, for me.  

Everyday I walk the streets visiting these buildings and never in my short life have I seen so many companies disappear in such a short amount of time.  I watch the documentaries and the bad things companies do such as Countrywide Financial.  In fact, I walked past the local Countrywide financial office everyday. 

One day about a year or two ago I saw that there were people dressed in suits inside yet there was a sign on the door that said “closed.”  These people were gathered around a very somber looking gentleman who, which I can only guess, was giving them the bad news.  Then it was gone.  

The second financial company that I personally saw affected was Charles Schwab.  They used to keep their offices in the most fashionable part of the Financial District.  They downgraded to Post street, then after a year closed that office as well.  They are still here in San Francisco but with less traders and offices.  

I actually spoke to a stock trader at one of my local watering holes and he was being transferred to Denver.  It was either that or lose the job completely.  One would think that being a stock broker would be a very lucrative position but I guess not.  

The second high flying profession I saw get shaken up were the lawyers.  One firm occupied half the floors of a skyscraper I called on.  One day, they were gone too.  This left the building only 30% occupied and was right on the outskirts of the Financial District.  

Lucrative positions aside, I’ve seen many other types of businesses close as well.  The local movie rental store right across the street from my apartment went on a slow decline for about a year while the owner tried everything from movie night to selling insurance.  It didn’t work and the place was closed.  You can blame Netflix for that, and I must admit once I joined Netflix I too stopped renting movies from across the street.  

Another closure was Virgin Records.  They occupied a very large building which is still unoccupied.  Hello Itunes.  

So, as I look around, I wonder if there are any safe havens anymore.  I hear the tech industry is hiring but as I read today’s news Cisco is laying off 6,500 workers.  But, in general things are pretty bad in the city and it would seem that even with all the stimulus, the work situation remains on life support.  

I find it strange that when I look at the stock prices jumping and the hordes of cash that companies are holding onto one would think the jobs would increase.  This just isn’t happening.  

Welcome to the new economy I guess.  

2. Japan

Most of my friends in Japan either hold a steady “salaryman” job which are moderately paid but suck up all of their time.  In Japan it is company first and family second.  Those people are on the trains around 6:00am and usually do not return until 8 or 9 at night.  

The only way out is to become a “Freeter” (フリーター) which is a combination of the English word “Free” and the German word “Arbeit” which means work.  These people do not want to join the soul sucking world of the Salaryman so simply work a lot of part time jobs.  

One trick the Japanese (and Americans) are starting to employ is simply hiring workers on contracts.  This means they do not have to pay you the same salary and benefits a normal worker would get.  Every time you are offered a “contract” position, this just means the company wants to pay you less and does not consider you valuable enough to make a full time employee.  In other words, the work you do could easily be done by someone else should you decide to quit.  

So, in a nutshell, there is some work in Tokyo but the salaries are really not enough to live on your own and raise a family.  There is an issue especially with the women who forgo marriage and live at home.  This gives them a bit of spending money but does not really help them to advance in life.  These are called “Parasite Singles”  (パラサイトシングル) and can be used for men too but is usually in the press referring to the ladies.   See this artice:  ”Parasite Singles no longer can live on their own.” 

3.  Ho Chi Minh City.

This city is on the up and up.  I no longer live in Saigon but it would seem the jobs are plentiful in both Vietnamese companies and foreign ones.  The Vietnamese companies are learning the western ways of running a company but really haven’t gotten there yet.  

I remember being in Saigon 2004-2006 and some Vietnamese offices would actually close for a noontime siesta.  Life was good then.  But alas, the Western companies are moving in and have done away with this luxury.  Many of my friends there work for Western companies which offers some good experience but unfortunately the pay is not very great.  

Yet, the jobs are there which cannot be said for the Western world.  In this case, some would blame the offshoring of manual labor such as in the factories.  Having visited these places, I can tell you it is no picnic for the workers.  Those are jobs nobody should want to do willingly.   

Well, no real point tonight, I just wanted to get a few thoughts down in a post.  It seems like my generation is not only going to be less well off than our parents but not very well off at all.  

When I think of it this way, I really really want to blame someone.  Currently all the focus is on the political parties and what they have/haven’t done.  For me, I would really like to point the finger at what I would call the generational constipation that is the baby boomers. It as if this giant baby started out idealist, eating only small portions, then ate the entire buffet which it refuses to crap out.  

This is demonstrated quite nicely by the Tea Baggers which seem to be a very large grouping of retirees waving the American flag.  NOW they are concerned about the deficit and not spending money.  Very convenient to want to tone down Social Security, Medicare and other benefits they so conveniently enjoyed.  They have their nest eggs and just like a baby holding in its crap, do not want to let go of what they have already consumed.  

Bah Humbug.  

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