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America the Violent

America is a violent country.

Murders, killings, loss of life, manslaughter, homicide.  The words we have to describe the extinguishing of life seem as numerous in our culture as the Inuit have words to describe snow.  That another murder will occur today in our largest cities is as sure and expected as the sun is to rise in the east.  

Murder in the USA is not simply common but it is also celebrated.  This is painfully and horribly obvious in the movies, television shows music and just about every other media venue available today which the population of the USA happily and greedily consume without moderation.  Many will point out that these macabre art forms are not real, they are just for pleasure!

Then one will turn on Fox news at the start of a war and feel a rush of exhilaration as their entertainment and blood lust cross over into reality.  Greedy eyes scan the screen for an updated and real time body count which as it mounts, 100, 120, 150 almost becomes similar to sexual arousal as the faintest glint of morality gives way to our innate and violent animal urges which evolution has not had long enough to shed.  

Evolution has given us however, a larger brain which we use to try and process, try to explain and reason out these primal thoughts.  When a murder has taken place we almost always have a need, a great desire to know why.  There simply must be a logical reason: insanity, the righting of a wrong, uncontrollable anger, terrorist, protecting freedom.  One reason that we will simply not allow any room for is simply that the urge to kill was necessary for millions of years in our evolution.  As I read history it seems the furthest we can go back to some sort of civilization is only 10 thousand years or so where one can reasonably expect people began to realize that murder is not a good thing.

Ten thousand years is a very short time in terms of the evolution of mankind.  The amount of time is even shorter when a rule was made “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” that seem to spread rather quickly (2000 years) as humankind forced their particular religious brand among the people through the extremely effective method known as war and a persuasion where the only other option was death.  

However, many cultures have matured and after many orgies of great destruction have, for the moment, pacified their blood lust.  The United States is not among these.

As our culture is awash in violence there are periodic outbursts which seem to be a culmination, an apex which like an exploding volcano releasing a bit of pressure.  We are shocked by the tragic results, reflect a little then go back to the status-quo.

This is quite unfortunate but what is truly shocking to me is that we are unable to use our brains and logic to correct this.  Changing an entire culture is not something that can be done just by making a new rule.  

Instead, it is like the alcoholic that must enter an AA program and take specific steps to rid himself of the affliction.  

Step 1:  Admit you have a problem

In the USA we cannot get to step one.  Admitting we have a violent culture is not something that has entered our collective consciousness.

Why?

Because it has been drilled into our brains that America is the best.  Admitting that we have a culture of violence is not compatible with the view we have of ourselves.  America is the protector of freedom, it is the country that wins the most Olympic gold medals, America invented the car, the airplane, the computer and just about every good thing that has been invented since America was founded!  

In fact, if America was a man, then it is obvious that second to “Uncle Sam” America would be represented as, well, Captain America!  When a culture has an image of themselves as the “doer of right” there is no room for a problem.  If there is a problem then just like the alcoholic it must be hidden away, or there must be an explanation.  

“I drink so much because you make me this way!”  

I have not come to this conclusion simply on a whim or by daydreaming.  It is presented to me on a daily basis by that grand sociological experiment known as Facebook.  This is the medium where once taboo subjects, those issues which usually call for a bit of decorum are now laid bare like an overweight Brit sunbathing on a beach in Spain.  It is simply shocking yet as the pasty Brits continue to flock to Spain, so do people in my network post their naked and untempered opinions.  

On a continual basis something occurs in our society which gets everyone very worked up and people take to the social networks.  If I were to take all of these posts personally then in the past week I have been:

1. Threatened with an unfriending if I did not agree or dissented 
2. Pleaded with to “simply understand” that their opinion is correct
3. Told that I am flat out wrong

These were not directed at me personally but instead were just random posts.  I do not use social media as a soundboard to persuade or threaten my friends.  To me, this is best left to those who allow their emotions and animalistic selves to overtake their rational, thinking side.  

Now, as is characteristic of this blog and where I do let emotion and my opinions rush forth, let me dive completely in.  

The USA has just had the absolute worst incident of violence it has ever had.  Adults are killed all the time in our culture, it is expected.  But children at school at their desks is the worst thing I can possibly imagine.  There can be no worse example and for the first time in a long time I am so severely affected that I cannot and do not want to read the news about this.  I think about them, I think about their souls and where they are now in the afterlife.  I think about their parents and how I do not think I could bare it.  I think that if something like this happened to my child I just might prefer to shoot myself.  I am not afraid of death but I am afraid of the pain these parents are experiencing.  I cannot dwell on this too much or it will drag me down so low it will take a while to come back out of it.  

Instead, let me tell you how disgusted I am with the reactions we have had in our culture.  On the social networks this has been said in various ways but can be summed up and accurately represented by this.

I am sad but…….

What came after the “but” was a selfish proclamation, a gauntlet thrown down (to all their friends!) that no situation, no matter how utterly unthinkable would affect their ability to own something.  

That something is a gun.  The blood was not yet dry from murdered small children and here we have half of the population defending their right to own an item that’s singular purpose is to kill or at least severely wound.

Thinking of this triggers another innate human reaction deep in my gut.  The reaction is in the face of something so terribly incomprehensible and sad I chuckle at such blatant idiocy.

I can think of no situation better suited for those who enjoy possessing firearms to keep their mouth shut.  

But no no, this is America where an individuals right to do whatever the fuck they want trumps everything else.  There is no “we” in the USA anymore, it is simply “I.”  It might do well to take “We the people” out of the constitution!  It should be replaced by “I the individual!”  

Hell, now that I think about it “We the people” sounds so Communist!!!!  There you go Fox News, I just gave you a GREAT argument for your stupid viewership.  

Even if one does not like the idea of getting rid of guns completely, then perhaps a rule could be set down that if one is able to kill X number of humans in Y seconds then it could possibly not be a great thing to have on the market?  

You see, if you have an urge to kill then you should really use a knife.  Using a knife takes COMMITMENT!!  You have to get up close and personal with the victim and really DIG INTO IT!   

With a gun murder is so impersonal.  You can just close your eyes and squeeze the trigger.  It takes absolutely no effort and you don’t even need to get your hands dirty.  

I’ve heard people say that criminals don’t follow laws so banning guns wouldn’t work.  We also have so many guns laying around already so what would a ban really do?  

Again, we go back to my argument about the alcoholic.  There is no one simple solution, no pill America can pop to simply make things better.  However, limiting the amount of alcohol might be a good first step!  Or if we need to step down slowly how about just having him drink beer and stopping sales of the 50 proof?  

Or hell, how about slapping a 5000% tax on the 50 proof?  

But no, America cannot take the first step.  America doesn’t want to take any steps at all!  Those that scream about their right to own guns, and all types of guns offer no solutions.  At least the anti-gun folks want to do something.  

As for my personal opinion, I’m not against hand gun ownership.  I am against assault rifle ownership.  In our society we are having too many instances of mass shootings by one individual.  I am against guns that can kill X number of people in Y minutes.  I think there should be a limit or at least a very very large tax.  

Finally and to reiterate, I am shocked by how uncivil our society has become.  For the record more people in my social network did not comment about gun rights after this tragedy.  It was mostly the Fox news viewers and they remain in a perpetual state of rage no matter the circumstances.  

As Romney said, 47% of the population can be written off for the Republicans.  Well, 100% of the Fox News viewership can be written off as they are not intelligent, thinking people.  

Right now the society of the USA needs to take a concrete step in the right direction.  I do not know what steps those are but I would hate to see this society fall further than it already has.  

 

 

 

 

Heathcare – A Global Citizen Perspective

In honor of the Supreme Court decision today I thought a quick post was necessary.

As you readers know I rarely fall into the same old boring talking points of the right or the left but try my best to give you something unique, something from a global traveler perspective.  Well, I’m pleased to let you know I won’t fail you with this post.

Healthcare?

I tell you the truth I had never really thought about it.  I was a young healthy adult and planned to stay that way.

After I graduated college and was out on my own I first went to Japan.  I didn’t think about  healthcare in Japan.  The only time I had to go to the doctor was when it was required to work out in the gym at Waseda University.

Yep, you heard me right, I had to go get a health check before I could work out in the weight room at Waseda.  So, I made my appointment and went to the doctor.  He told me I was healthy, I got my note and was able to workout in the gym.  I don’t even remember how I payed for it.

Actually, I think I was required to go to the doctor one more time in Japan although I forget for what.  Good news is I had already been paying into their national healthcare so I just got to see the doctor and leave.  Again, I didn’t think anything about healthcare.

After Japan I went to live in Vietnam.  As half of America knows Vietnam is Communist.  Did I think about healthcare in a communist country?

Nope.

If I was going to think about healthcare, this would probably have been the best place in the world to think about it!  You see, there isn’t much to do in Saigon except go to the bar and, um, other things.  If you’re a local you’ll hop on your motorbike after the bar and drive home.

Do you see the problem here?

Yes, sometimes people drink to much and crash.  Back in 2004 helmets were not yet required in Saigon and the expat community lost about 1 or 2 members a year to heads hitting the pavement.  For those that did survive they got air lifted to Thailand at the cost of about $40,000 dollars because Vietnam really does not have the ability to deal with such head trauma.

I don’t mean to get into the extremes here, I just wanted to point out that if I were to ever have healthcare, I probably would have wanted it in Vietnam.  I did not.

So what did I do?  Well, I just payed upfront because it really wasn’t that expensive.  Every expatriate is going to have to visit the doctor sometime or another due to various issues.  One of those issues is diarrhea that does not stop.  If you spend any amount of time in Vietnam you’re going to get some strange bugs in your intestines and they do not just go away.  So you have to go to your doctor and pick up a dose of your best friend Cipro.

I met my doctor through a mutual Vietnamese friend.  The doctors name was Mark, but our Vietnamese friend always called him “Mark Doctor.”  So, from then on he was Mark Doctor to me.

I would just call Mark Doctor up and say “Hey Mark Doctor, I got the shits!”  I’d go down and see Mark Doctor who would write me up a prescription for Cipro, I payed about $20 and off I went on my merry way.  Other times you will get strange fevers and rashes.  I’m not sure what I had one time but it totally knocked me on my ass.  Again, what did I do?  “Hey Mark Doctor, I FEEL like shit!”  I popped down to see Mark Doctor and he fixed me up with a nice prescription for another $20.

I think those were the only times I saw the doctor in Vietnam for medical issues.

Sooooooooooo, I then come back to the United States and healthcare seems to be the most important issue in a century.  Having access to healthcare almost seemed even more important than having food or shelter!  The overriding thought seemed to be that if you do not have healthcare YOU WILL DIE!

I really couldn’t understand why everyone was making such a big deal about it.  I think it had something to do with politicians and the political shows getting everyone all worked up.

Well, I quickly found out what the fuss was about when I went for a routine teeth cleaning.  The first thing they asked me was if I had insurance.  I said no and I swear the receptionist looked as though the world was going to end.  I realized this and told her I would just pay out of pocket, all I needed was a simple cleaning.  The receptionist made me feel like some kind of leper and I knew then, I was an outsider, an outsider due to no insurance!

I started to get my cleaning and before I knew it the dentist was telling me about all the special services they provide such as whitening and other various cosmetic treatments.

Hell Doctor, I didn’t ask for a sales pitch, I just wanted to get my teeth cleaned!

I declined and we wrapped up the cleaning.  I payed about $120 and was quite shocked about how expensive the USA is.  It was at this point that I started to think a little about healthcare.

With my first job I was given some healthcare cards, a bunch of reading materials and e-mails about three times a week telling me that something or other with my healthcare plan had changed.

I exaggerate you not, these e-mails came at least once, if not three times a week telling me to review my plan and the changes that had been made.  I thought that these must be some lawyer tinkering with this word or that and so out of hundreds of “updates” that I believe I had received, I looked at a total of none of them.

Then Obama comes around and gets elected.  The healthcare debate REALLY heats up then!

****** Warning***** About to get into the good stuff*************

Now we have the Right bitching and moaning while the Left is celebrating.  Everyone is talking costs, constitutionality, individual rights and other things.  For me though I just see the following.

A rather large portion of Americas are fat and unhealthy.  Just take a quick look at the CDC statistics.  Why?  Well, we have a culture whose main reason for existence is to make money.  Sell the people more food, sell them more drugs to combat the obesity, sell them more insurance to cover the costs when they need to go see the doctor for being unhealthy.

‘Unhealthyness’ is a bonanza for many many industries who have a vested interest in keeping people unhealthy.

So they go to the doctors and if the doctors do not do everything perfectly then there are the lawyers who also make money on people being unhealthy and the doctors making mistakes.  Now we have litigation which also drive up premiums because the doctors now have to run many many unnecessary tests just to cover themselves from being sued.

In fact, the number of doctors running their own practice has been severely decreasing!  Now they much join a big consortium such as Kaiser just so they can practice and not losing everything to lawsuits!

So why are costs increasing?  Is it Obama and Socialism?

No, it is America has a LOT of unhealthy people AND this culture is programmed to believe something is always wrong with them but then this can be fixed by purchasing something.

Something is wrong with you, you better go see a doctor and you better get some drugs to fix your problem.  Don’t have a problem?  Come’on, I’m sure there is something not quite right that the latest pretty little pill can fix!

America is sick alright.

Now we have Obama trying to provide insurance for everyone, but the other half have been convinced to vote against something that is probably in their best interest!

I really hate it when they throw out the word “socialist” so readily.  These people have no idea what socialism actually is!  I mean they certainly haven’t lived in a socialist country and most likely have never been out of the United States!  So how would they know what Socialism is?  I’ll tell you how.  They watched Fox News and Fox told them so.  They also told them that Socialism is bad.

As for me, I really don’t want to think anymore about healthcare.  If there was a big problem we are fortunate enough that we could always pop back to Japan and be taken care of.

Wait, that was my old thinking.  The Supreme Court just ruled that we can indeed have something close to national healthcare!  Wow.

The people against this really baffle me.  Let me get quickly and succinctly to my point.  I have a choice of nations in which to live and can fit into many of them easily.

Here in the USA you must do the following

1. Pay taxes which already include Medicare / Medicate which is kind of like healthcare
2. Go to war if required.
3. Serve at Court if summoned

We have to do these three basic things but when the government wants to offer something that actually benefits us (healthcare) people get upset?

It is at this point that international people would say that Americans are stupid.  Well friends, I’m happy to inform you that it is only half of them that are stupid.  The other half has it right.

Half advocate war, pollution, racism, outsourcing of jobs.

The other half advocate the opposite.

And yes, this is very simplistic.  I still like Ron Paul for his anti-war stance.  I just can’t stand the Republicans who are just so…………….  off putting!

To wrap it all up, I’m very glad the Supreme Court did good today.

And to put it in perspective, many people have a choice of which passports to hold.  If you were given the choice would you not take a look at the advantages of citizenship in each country?

If Republicans had their way you would have the ‘advantage’ of

1. Going to war
2. Breathing plenty of pollution
3. Not being gay as they don’t like them
4. Having your papers checked daily
5. Praying to Jesus because as everyone knows, Jesus didn’t like immigrants (or gays) and only performed miracles on those with a good healthcare plan
6. Not being assured of healthcare, because only those that know how to make profits are worth anything to them.

But luckily, the Republicans lost today.

As Ice Cube says, “It Was a Good Day.”

American Empire

Recently, while watching an episode of Rome on HBO I thought to myself how neat it would be to spend a day in the Roman Empire.  Just to walk through the markets, see the soldiers with their helmets and swords and partake a bit of wine (although I’m sure it would not even come close to my Napa Valley favorites)

The thought then occurred to me, that I do live in an empire.  Pondering a bit further, I tried to imagine what a person 2000 years from now might read about the United States of America.  How are historians going to portray this Empire?

I then thought it might be fun to write my thoughts down for these future readers should this blog survive 2000 years.  I know I would enjoy reading a post from a normal Roman citizen about their take on their empire!  All we have are academic books and scripts left over from their leaders.  If anyone knows of any scrolls that have survived, written by a normal citizen of Rome, please let me know!

Before I get started, here is what I have been watching concerning Rome:

 

Now, to use the word “Empire” to describe the United States of America is quite taboo.  We like to think of ourselves as “walking softly while carrying a big stick,” but as of recent we seem to be stomping loudly while sending drones but we still think of ourselves as peacemakers.  (Don’t worry far Right, I’ll give you a fair shake).  I should probably check to see how “Empire” is defined since it is a controversial description.

Empire:  “The term empire derives from the Latin imperium. Politically, an empire is a geographically extensive group of states and peoples (ethnic groups) united and ruled either by a monarch (emperor, empress) or an oligarchy”

Well, the USA is a geographically extensive group of states and peoples but since we disposed of the monarch I’ll have to define oligarchy.

Oligarchy:  “a political system governed by a few people; “one of his cardinal convictions was that Britain was not run as a democracy but as an oligarchy”; “the big cities were notoriously in the hands of the oligarchy of local businessmen

It looks like the shoe fits!  After all we had Bush I and Bush II as well as Clinton I and Clinton Secretary of State.  Further, it would seem that our government is run by career politicians as well as their sons and daughters so I suppose we can define the USA as an Empire.  I GET TO LIVE IN AN EMPIRE!

Now that I have realized this and am satisfied with referring to the USA as an Empire, I’ve taken the first step.  The goal is to see my own country as one in the far future might see it and how it will be described.  Further, I write this as not an academic but simply a citizen who does his best to stay informed by the information available.  I’ll call myself Citizen 8742 which are (not) the last four digits of my Social Security number.  In the USA we are all assigned a number and this will be mine.  Now let’s get down to the details.

I.  War

It used to be that an Empire was a collection of countries governed by a mother country such as Great Britain.  However, colonialism went away and people became aware that conquering other countries and peoples was not very nice.  Further, Britain could not hold on to her possessions so even though Empires take a lot of time and energy, it would seem that independence is going to be gained by the natives sooner or later anyway so we no longer do that.

Yet, we still have wars, what is the ultimate goal of these wars?

a.) Communism

Currently, our politicians tells us that war is for abstract reasons such as “stopping Communism” or “Protecting our Freedoms.”  Half of the population believes this.  Now when I was a college student, I could vaguely understand this “stopping Communism” reason.  The USSR was quite powerful and gaining influence around the world.  As the USA was Capitalist/A Democracy it would make sense to try and stop the “spread of Communism.”  That was the mentality of the time.

What gets me is that most citizens do not know the details of the various wars the United States has been involved in.  The average citizen would say WW2 – Vietnam – Iraq/Afghanistan and that’s it!

All of the wars are too numerous to list here so I’ll just provide the Wikipedia link

Wars the USA has been involved in

So, I’ll give the whole “fight against communism” a pass.  Sure a lot of terrible things happened but it was two giants (the USA and USSR) playing tug of war.  Right or wrong, this is what Empires do.  Empires do not just sit back and let things happen, they actively participate and try to influence the outcome.  The Empire of the USA believes it is correct just as the Empire of the USSR believed they are correct.  All the awful things that happen while these two pursue their aims are footnotes, it is the outcome of this great tug of war that is important.

But, this “fight against Communism” is before my time.  I am 33 and only started to pay attention in college so I would say that my understanding began with the first Iraq war.

Now that the USSR has been defeated, let us just take a quick look at how many military bases and soldiers the USA has around the world should there be any doubt that the USA is an “Empire.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

b.) Protecting Freedoms

As an Empire, the USA is quite concerned about what is happening in the rest of the world.  When Iraq invaded Kuwait the normal citizen really had no qualms about going to war with Iraq.  For the average guy, we were concerned about oil (gas for our cars) and Saddam was definitely was in the wrong so why not flex a little muscle?

Then 9-11 happened and I was in Japan.  I came back to see flags flying and a tremendous national pride.  After all, a couple of guys just knocked down two buildings in New York which shook everyone up and we were looking for the government to do something.  As an Empire, the leaders cannot just sit there and there was going to be retaliation.

The problem was, the enemy was not clearly defined and the leaders had to tell the population something.  So the word “terrorist” seemed to work pretty well and it was explained that the USA had to attack Afghanistan to “stop the terrorists.”

The USA had never been attacked like that before so when the leaders explained that it was “terrorists” nobody really had a problem with it.

If you live in another country and cannot understand this, let me explain it to you.  America is quite large and Americans really do not travel much to other countries.  We do not have a large understanding of what is going on outside our own states let alone what happens in other countries.  The national media gives us updates but it is always from an American point of view and most explanations superficial.  Plus, we used to trust our leaders so if they tell us we have to go to Country X to stop “the terrorist” and these people just knocked down two buildings in New York we really do not question it.

It is not that complicated really.  Buildings knocked down = attack something.  One question we really did not concern ourselves much with was “Why were the buildings knocked down?”  Even if we had this curiosity, two buildings knocked down trump any explanation anyway.

Then, things start to get a bit crazy.  It is explained to us that the USA must also attack Iraq because there are “Weapons of Mass Destruction” there and they could target the USA.  In retrospect I think most Americans do think Iraq was a big mistake since no WMDs were found and the Iraqis do not enjoy “freedom” as much as we thought they would.

This all seems quite simple and naive doesn’t it?  Well, if you’re going to convince a nation to go to war, you have to keep the explanations simple as most of us are enjoying the good life in an Empire and really do not have interest in the outside world.  Again, we still trusted our leaders but a split is starting to appear as this faith erodes.

So, you name the operation something like “Desert Storm” and put up banners that say “Mission Accomplished” and everyone gets to feel good.  But, the war does not stop and our fairytale ending does not come to pass.  We wonder when the leaders will tell us it is over and that day never seems to arrive.  The Democrats start to push for ending the war and the Republicans tell us we might be there for 100 years.  One half says “Ok, stop now,” while the other side screams “The USA can do anything!”  Further, the President wins and election partly by promising to end the war.  Of course ending it does not happen so easily so Barack Obama pulls a trick invented by George W. Bush which is to just tell the population something that isn’t true.

“Combat Operations Have Ended.”

If we look more closely, there are still 50,000 troops in Iraq but this was sold to the public as ending the war.  So we would then have to employ a trick by Bill Clinton and question what the meaning of “ended” is.

II. Politics

We are now divided into two camps, with various divisions within those two camps. Let’s keep things simple here.

1. Liberals / Progressives

Liberals would be the ones who apologize for all the wars America has been involved in recently.  They are a bit more sophisticated and if WMDs had been found then the Liberals would be pretty quiet concerning Iraq.  Since they were not they demand a reason for the war and if the reason turns out to be false they are going to be quite upset.  The explanations of the leaders do not seem to make sense and this group questions it.

2. Conservatives

- Conservatives (far right) are the ones who will not apologize for war and take tremendous pride in the strength of the USA.  They believe the USA can do no wrong.  They see the Liberals as a bunch of winers who do not appreciate the lives afforded them by the strength of the US military.  This group will not rest until “victory is accomplished” because anything less would be unbecoming of the USA and they simply will not have it.

 

So now, we have our “Mission Accomplished” for the Right AND our “End of Combat Operations” for the Left.  Yet, the war continues.

3. Empiricist

This group does not exist but since this blog is about Empire I think we should have a third group.  Empiricist see the world as it is, not as politicians would lead them to believe.  They are not persuaded by sound bites of politicians and would prefer a thought out debate and respectful argument.  They would not agree with the “America is always right” of the conservatives and would be annoyed by the apologists of the left.

That is my definition, let us see how it is properly defined.

Empiricism:  (philosophy) the doctrine that knowledge derives from experience.

As I mentioned, this group does not exist.  Americans prefer to keep things simple and if they get complicated then interest is quickly lost.  But I, Citizen 8742 have decided to create and join this group.  All I know is the knowledge that I have derived from my experiences.  Let me write down what I think I know.

So for fun, I am going to debate myself.

a.  War – America must maintain it’s leverage in the world and keep the military fit and ready for action.  Otherwise, the USA would become weak.  Therefore, an enemy is always needed.  When the Cold War ended the USA was struggling to find an enemy but when two buildings were knocked down an enemy was easy to create.

Point: An enemy is necessary

b. Terrorists:  Since terrorists are now the enemy it would do well to understand what this means.  For the general population, it must be kept simple and so the USA singles out a  target “Osama bin Laden.”  He is the main bugaboo of this organization called Al Qaeda.

Now, let us ask the question, “Why does Al Qaeda want to attack us?”  This is the question that we should be asking ourselves.  It would seem that the USA is simply stirring up the pot by trying to kill all the “terrorists,” so if we were smart, would it not be beneficial to debate the reasons why?

The politicians tell us that they “Hate our Freedoms.”  Well, for the Empiricist, that is a bunch of nonsense.  Thinking simply, this means to the average citizen that a poor villager woke up one day and decided he really didn’t like this thing called “Freedom” that the Americans seem to be enjoying so decides to strap on a bomb and go blow something up.  As most Americans do not know anything about other countries, this explanation is enough and it would be fair to send a drone and dispense with this poor villager before he bombs something.

Then, we think more deeply.

Perhaps what they mean is some countries with dictators also need an enemy and the USA fits that role well.  So, “Protecting Freedoms” means that Saddam and Ahmadinejad do not want their citizens to envy the “freedoms” America has and thus vilifies the USA to help them retain power?

Then we should ask the question, why does America even care?  Just ignore Saddam and Ahmadinejad since they are way over there in the Middle East and really do not bother us.

We then realize that as an Empire, we have certain interests in the Middle East such as oil and for the citizens to maintain their level of living and enjoyment of Empire, the USA simply cannot sit back and do nothing.

The USA needs oil and oil happens to be in the Middle East.  But, being an average citizen, I really do not know anything about the complexities, or ulterior motives the USA may have for attacking Saddam or anywhere else in the Middle East so I would just be content with “protecting freedoms” and “they are bad” as a reason.

But, an Empiricist is not an average citizen, we need a reason, otherwise the USA would be in the wrong.  So one of the main reasons this “Empiricist” can come up with is Israel.  The reason many in the Middle East hate America is due to it’s defense of Israel.

So, we should ask the question, “Why does the USA protect Israel?”  I would guess that it is due to the intense power of the Israeli lobby in the USA and that this Empire’s citizens align themselves more closely with Israelis than with any Islamic country.  This provides a shield for Israel to do what they want and should any leader of the USA turn away from Israel there will be an outcry.

Do regular American citizens know anything about Israel?

No.

But should Israel be in trouble, the USA has to go to their defense due to the Israeli lobby here as well as the kinship America feels with Israel.

If America were able to just walk away from Israel and end all involvement in the Middle East I’m sure the terrorists would go away?

But this is not possible and leaving Israel to the wind would not be a good thing either.  Perhaps the USA could persuade Israel to stop building settlements and quit pissing off the Palestinians?  No, Israel has their own nationalists to contend with so unless the population has a change of heart and honestly tries to make peace with the Palestinians then we are not going to get anywhere.

Even if Israel stopped building, would that stop the rockets?  No, Palestine has their own “far right” and many want to erase Israel off the map.  So, what is an Empire to do?

Further, I only know what I have read in the media.  I have not opened any books that delve more deeply into the subject so perhaps I should do that?

As an ignorant man once said, “There are Known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.”  Perhaps if I read more books then I could limit the latter two categories?

Yet, from my experience I realize that I would have to read it in English, or Spanish or Japanese and none of these are Arabic.  I cannot get into the mind of those in the Middle East unless I speak Arabic and anything in English will only get me partially the way there which is not as good and all encompassing as a book in the native language.

أنا لا أتكلم العربية

Even if I did learn Arabic, I would have to choose a very good author who can honestly debate both sides and give them both a fair shake.  But this author is only one (or a group) of people and they would have known unknowns and unknown unknowns as well so I would probably have to read 100s of books but be careful that they are all from very intelligent and fair people!

Perhaps it is much easier just to listen to Fox News who will tell me that America is right and that war is to “Defend my freedoms,” and the explanation only lasts 5 minutes.  Or perhaps Beck could just draw something on a chalk board.

Or I could turn on the Left and they will just use sarcasm to make fun of the conservatives.

Yet, neither side has given me a long, complex reason nor solved any of my questions.

Now where the hell was I with this point?

Oh yes, terrorists.

Conclusion about terrorists:  I don’t know, I just live in this Empire and read what appears on my screen.  I’ve never been to Israel or Palestine, or Iraq or Iran so all I have to go on is what they tell me.  In this Empire we have a LOT of media news channels…….. and they all say the same things…. from two different sides.   :(

But as an Empiricist, I do know that all of these explanations do not leave me satisfied and treat me as though I’m a simpleton.  Even if I read something complicated the bias of the author is in it so how do I know what author to trust?

Well, I repeat, I don’t know the answer.

* Final Point

- We should probably bring the draft back so that all citizens would have to participate in wars the USA decides to involve itself in.  I’m not sure, but haven’t other Empires fallen when the citizenry no longer have to sacrifice during wartime?  The military for most, seems like an organization that does all the work but is rarely thanked.  Some think that it would stop the leaders from going to war so easily as their own children would have to go.

I do not buy that as it is very easy for elites to skirt the rules.  But perhaps the citizens would think twice about war if their own children would have to go?

I don’t buy that either.  For many, any explanation would do and I do not think it would affect the decision to go to war one way or another, people still wouldn’t know anything about other countries and if the leaders tell their kids to go, they would probably send them off without question.

III.  Economics

We live in an Empire which no longer really needs to grow by obtaining land.  Now, the game has turned to Economics.

Just as with land, the economy must always go up.  It cannot go sideways, or God forbid, go down, it must always go up.

There used to be a saying “What goes up must come down,” but it seems that we do not like this saying very much.

In an Empire, we must continually expand, and grow.  The entire system is built upon it.  As we are currently finding out with the credit crisis, it is not much fun when the economy goes down.  We as citizens leverage our lifestyle on debt otherwise we could not buy the big things such as a house and car.  But to repay, we need to have a job.  Actually, we need the income stream simply to live in the house as we have to pay water, electricity, gas and so on.

So we take on more debt.  Further, we have large corporations whose bottom line must also go continually up.  They convince us to buy more and more as well as to take on more debt.  If we go back to our saying “What goes up must come down,” well, things have surely come down recently and people are losing their housing, cars and so on.  The companies have learned to squeeze more work out of less workers and are hording all the cash.

Who can blame them?  The system is on profits going up, not how many jobs can be created.  So, wealth is continually concentrated at the top and citizens are starting to realize that they can be replaced.  This does not bode well for the politicians who are elected by these people.  But if the system is geared toward profits and these profits can be made with less workers then it looks like we have a lot of gridlock ahead.

Now let’s come back to our Empircism and debate ourselves again.

1. Capitalism

- Our system functions by profits continually going up.  These profits can be gained with less workers.

Some workers are complaining that the Government is turning “Socialist.”

Do they know what Socialism means or that many European countries are “Socialist?”

No.

But it seems bad and the news tells them so.

Yet, many are clamoring for “jobs” to be given.  Is this not socialist?

I would say yes and no.

We all have to work within the economic structure designed by our Empire.  Not everyone has the skills to go out and create a business so we look for jobs.  We believe it is not socialist because we have learned certain skills to be used in a job, we are not asking for a handout.  In other words, we have become more specialized and if the system does not require our speciality anymore then we are out of luck.

I bring forth this point in my old post “Institutionalized“, but do not relate it really to economics.  The point is that we all have to work within the economic structure on which our Empire functions.  I touch on the economic aspects a bit more in my post “We’re all Socialists.”

So as an “Empiricist,” I would say we are both

- We are socialists because we’ve become very specialized in terms of knowledge but the world is changing rapidly and our skills become obsolete.  We need the Empire to create jobs so we can use the skills we’ve gained.

- We are not socialists because “handouts” are anathema to most Americans.  They spent a lot of time learning a specific discipline and must work within the economic structure.  If the structure no longer requires their skills, then times are hard.  Handouts are detested but it is hard to difficult to find “new cheese” and so we just turn to the leaders and hope things will get better.

IV. Entertainment

a.) Just like the Coliseums of old, the citizenry of this Empire need to be entertained.  We too have grand Coliseums now called “stadiums” in which we wear our respective colors, berate the opponents and these teams become part of our identity.

I for one have never been able to understand why people identify so readily with these teams.  It is not just a team but it is a reflection of them!  If your team wins, you personally win!

I explained before a bit of the history behind this.  In Europe, you have very old towns and villages and many towns used to have their hometown Knight.  This Knight wore the town colors and went to battle.  Thus, he was the pride and joy of the town.  Time goes on and these Knights become sports teams, Soccer (football) being the most relevant.

In the USA however, we broke from our patron (The British) and had to start from scratch.  The USA created grand universities which were a reflection of the town and this continues to this day.  I can understand the affiliation with college sports as it is a reflection of the community.

What I cannot understand is pro sports.  These teams are businesses and can just pick up and leave (which they often do).  Further, the players will also go to where they will make more money.  This betrayal has happened many times but I guess I can the team would loosely be a reflection of the community even though they can leave you.

So, grown men wear jerseys with other mens names on the back and it becomes part of their identity.  If that player does well then the “jersey wearer” can rejoice because he “likes” him.  For the jersey wearer, the player and team overall is part of his identity and he will jump and scream when things go well or bad.

I for one, do not get it.

b.) TV

- We have something called the “Boob Tube.”  You turn it on, stare at it and are entertained.  Unfortunately, most television shows are not informative and create sensationalist, some say, “bottom of the barrel” shows to entertain people.  You can sit in front of it and not think for a while.

This is just fine as we all need to be entertained from time to time, but what I find interesting is we have turned politics into entertainment

Think “Sesame Street meets Larry King.”  Put a sock puppet on your hand and speak about real issues that affect real people.  What you get is Fox News as well as plenty of shows on the Left as well.

The people of the empire do not have time to think deeply about the issues but instead desire to be entertained.

To tie everything together you get Entertainment which works for the bottom line of the corporation to increase profits.  They continue simplifying everything with the preferred method (Fox News) to put an attractive yet very angry woman on screen who then berates all the men on the Left while agreeing with all the men on the Right.  How titillating!!!  It’s like a dominatrix.

Hell, if we continue down this path, I would not be surprised to see the nightly news anchor wear all leather and a nice big cross whipping anyone who does not agree with her!

But this is entertainment, and people are taking it as real news!  The formula is:

1. Keep it simple
2. There is always an easily solution
3. Brought to you by a sexy angry woman

Yay!

But anywho, that is our entertainment in our current Empire.  The only way to inform yourself is to learn another language, travel to another country OR, if you cannot do that, at least subscribe to an “intelligent” magazine.

I like the Economist.

Conclusion:

So here I sit, living a wonderful life afforded to me by the Empire in which I currently live.  I only know what the media tells me and all of that has consolidated to a point that I can learn the exact same thing from 100 different sources.

Sure, I’m technologically savvy and could subscribe to only the blogs/news to which I usually agree.  But then, I would be filtering out quite a bit of information and am therefore have become a self-censor.  Then, how can I see the whole picture?

It really doesn’t get any better in other languages.  I do read Le Monde, El Pais, and try to understand Japanese.  But what do I get??    I get the same news in different languages.  Booooooooo

Living in an Empire isn’t that bad.  It is just a shame that most people do not realize the USA is an Empire so we cannot celebrate it as such.  If I was transported back to Roman times, then I could say “Hey, I’m in the Roman EMPIRE!”  But that is taboo here in the USA, AND they do not tell us very much about what is going on outside the empire unless it is entertaining and will add dollars to the bottom line of the media corporations.

So here I sit, in my ignorance.  I am glad that I have the ability to go to a nice supermarket, drive a decent car and OPULENCE, I HAS IT, all due to the Empire.

But then I start to think.

At what price has this opulence been attained?  What do I not know?  What do I think I know that could be wrong?  Should I be a Conservative and defend everything the USA does?  Or should I be a Liberal and apologize for everything?  Could a party known at Empiricist be created?  I’m quite sure they wouldn’t win any elections but how about just for fun?

Are we like the Romans?  Have we become too disengaged as citizens from military operations and thus simply do not care anymore?  Has our political system disintegrated to the point where we can no longer progress as a nation?  Is our economy broken?  Will we consolidate economically to the point where very few workers are needed and in the name of efficiency simply create more profit for the rich while not benefiting the population?

Have I not read the right books?  Is the media simply filled with noise that does not benefit me?  Does my vote even matter now that we have been broken into blocks called “gerrymandering?”  Were any of the wars since WWII just?

Citizen 8472 is confused and perhaps it would be easier to just turn on CNN and have them tell me what to think.

Fahrenheit 451 anyone?

Only critical thought is not outlawed, it is actively ignored by a great majority of the empire.

Perhaps I should not even care.  I should just enjoy this empire, disengage from any and all things political and go watch the gladiator fights er,,, American football.

 

Things America should adopt from foreign cultures

Today I was reminiscing on the things I really missed in foreign countries that I just cannot find in America.  There were things I really missed about America when I was abroad, but I have been back awhile and am now taking them for granted.  So, my mind longs for these things and in case there are any who can bring them about let me list them here.  Please feel free to add comments if you can think of any others.

I.  From Japan

1. Techno Toilets

-  The toilets in Japan are far superior to those in the USA which basically have not changed in the past 100 years.

These toilets have:

a.  Heated seats
b. Bidet – Water to wash and can control the stream – Why don’t we have this!!!  This is so civilized!!
c. Running water sound when you sit- This is so people cannot hear you do your business!
d.  Half flush/Full flush – Water conservation

2. Take shoes OFF!!! (genkan)

- In Japan everyone takes their shoes off when entering a home.  I have never understood why we do not do this in America.  We walk around all day long outside but then walk on our beautiful carpets with our shoes that have stepped on who knows what outside.  Ever since I came back from Japan I simply cannot wear my shoes inside the house.

3. Public Transportation

- In Tokyo, for the most part, I simply needed my green Suica Card nestled inside my wallet and I would tap my wallet on the sensor to enter the metro (or bus) and again on the way out.  I didn’t need any complex agreements with any bank or financing agency either.  To recharge I simply stuck it in the machine, added money and the transaction was finished!

Contrast that with my first experience in San Francisco.  The Muni requires exact change and bus operators do not give change.  Therefore, you need to have exactly $1.50 to ride the bus!!  This was very frustrating as from my time abroad I had it built up in my mind that the USA was the most technologically superior country on the planet.  The muni experience crushed that fantasy pretty quick.

4. CoCo Ichibanya

- This is the best curry restaurant in the world.  Someone please start a franchise here in the USA and I will be your biggest patron.

II. Spain

1.) Siesta

- In America we do not have a siesta.  This is one aspect we really should have borrowed from southern Europe in that one gets to take a nap in the middle of the day!  We start out as kids in Kindergarten with nap time but unfortunately this privilege is soon ripped away from us.

I once had a debate with some business people (late 90′s) and they were telling me that Europe was falling behind because they weren’t working hard enough.  My argument was “falling behind on what??”  From our puritan English roots the American life has always been to work harder.  I have nothing against working hard but I have to admit I’m partial to working smarter, not necessarily “harder.”

Anyway, we work hard to get money to buy stuff.  Until recently the plan was simply to buy as much “stuff” as possible then retire.  I thoroughly believe that the path to happiness is not in how much stuff is acquired but rather how enjoyable life is through experiences, friends and family.  I’m also pretty certain that many people like sleep and what better way to refresh yourself and take care of your health than by taking a nice stress-free nap in the middle of the day!

If we think about “stuff” vs. sleep let us also consider the enjoyment we obtain from spending our time doing these activities.  If we accumulate a massive amount of stuff, we have to devote time to using the items we have purchased.  Now, if we ask ourselves if doing these activities are more enjoyable than sleep I think we might not be able to come to an easy conclusion.

2.) Neighborhood Cafés

- By this, I do not mean a sterile Starbucks.  Starbucks sells a cup of sugary syrup and everyone is a stranger in Starbucks.  I’m talking about a European style café where you can order a wonderful, plain espresso and actually meet with your neighbors to discuss the issues of the day.  Starbucks is killing this tradition even in Europe and I find that a shame.

III. Vietnam

1.) Company Outings

- I highly doubt we would be able to replicate this in America.  Not that we cannot replicate a company outing mind you, but rather the sheer enthusiasm and joy I found among the young workforce during their outings.  These young people were so happy to be able to go on a vacation on the company dime that I saw nothing but smiles from just about all of them.

At least once a year Vietnamese companies organize an outing to fun places like the beach.  They all pile in a bus, wear the same caps and shirts and even sing songs on the way there!  I had the privilege to participate in one of these and they asked us to get up in front of the bus and sing a song.  Unfortunately, not being used to these things I couldn’t think of a single song I knew by heart!!  I guess I was just a bit stunned at the request because surely I could have pulled out “Puff the Magic Dragon” or at least some other kid’s song but my mind was a blank.  Even if I had mangled the lyrics I’m sure nobody would have noticed but I had nothing.

These young people were just so happy to be going with their company on a trip it really warmed my heart.  Back here in America I just really think this could not be replicated.  And that’s all I have to say about that.

2.) Joy of life

- This may sound a bit corny but I have to say that I visited some VERY MEAGER homes in small villages during my time there.  In every case, the inhabitants always welcomed me with a smile and offered me something to drink.  These people have been through SO MUCH in the past couple decades and I could not understand what made them so cheerful!

- In the USA I think our focus has been too much on obtaining money.  We get the money, buy a new toy and then realize there are others who have more money and more toys.  So we obtain more money and more toys but then look up again and see we still do not have enough.  It’s an endless cycle.

Perhaps we should all take a lesson from these people in their villages and ask them why they smile so much?  Again, I don’t mean to sound cheesy about all this but this is something that really impressed me and is what I took away from my visits to their villages and that is that.

IV. Mexico

1. Family

- I found in Mexico that extended family is still very important.  In the USA we have our small nuclear families, many of which remain close.  However, in Mexico I found that the family bond is much greater and still a source of security.  There are hugs, kisses and a general sense of closeness I really admired.  Even outsiders really feel welcome when visiting a Mexican family if they understand the culture well enough.

The following is a bit of an exaggeration but gets the point across well enough (And yes, this family is Greek, not Mexican but it is close enough)

To further illustrate the point, there is a quote in this movie in which the Greek father uses an analogy to describe the American grooms parents.

“There like toast. My daughter is engagged to a person with parents that are toast. No honey No jam just toast, dry toast.”

This is a cultural aspect one can find in Greece, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Philippines and now that I think about it, just about every hot country near the equator.  I guess we are just a bit more formal in the USA.

*As a side note, on the other end of the spectrum we would find Japan.  I asked my wife what she would do when her mother comes out from the airport after not seeing her for a year.  The dialogue went like this:

Me: So are you going to give your mother a hug?
Wife: No
Me:  Really, that is sooooo weird!!!
Wife:  *shrugs*
Me:  But you’re excited right?
Wife:  Oh yes!
Me: So are you just going to bow a lot with a big smile??
Wife:  *Realizes the cultural difference and laughs until tears come out.

V. Britain

1. Tea Time

- In the USA we have breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Where I ask, in the history of the USA did we drop TEA TIME?

To be honest, I was never a fan of tea until I dropped into a Chinese tea shop in SF Chinatown.  I had more than a few samples and when I came out I was FLYING HIGH!!  I honestly didn’t know tea could do that and have switched from a morning coffee to a morning tea.

I remember there was a scene in The Lord of the Rings which alluded to this cultural difference in that Aragon (Viggo Mortensen) must not be an Englishman as he doesn’t know what “second breakfast is.”

Again, an exaggeration but I ask you in all seriousness, would we not all be better off with a second breakfast or at least Tea Time?

VI.  France

1. One month of vacation

- Yes, I understand we in the USA are hyper-capitaliste but would it not benefit us all to take one month of vacation?  Last time I checked, I had one week.

Well, that is all I can think of for now.  Be sure to add your comments if there is anything you may miss from your experiences abroad.

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