Sunday, September 14, 2014
"I think the problem is that we don't really understand what we are. In essence we're just a conceited, naked ape. But in our minds we're some sort of "divine legend", and we see ourselves as some sort of god. That we can walk around the earth deciding who will live and who will die and what will be destroyed and what will be saved. But the fact is we're just a bunch of primates out of control."
For reasons that are difficult to define at best, I have lacked just about all motivation to write anything whether it be my usual crappy and derivative fiction or some barely coherent political rant. This all consuming lethargy extends even to getting stuff done around the house or yard. Okay, that is nothing unusual for me, I find neither activity existentially redeeming. Nonetheless, I seem to be pushing the envelope on suburban slackerism with the domestic chores I am purposely and contemptuously ignoring .
There are a few plausible reasons for my condition. The first being the time of the year. The entire month of August and most of September in South Carolina are ungodly in their combination of excessive humidity and high temperatures. You spend anytime outdoors and you can feel those twin leeches sucking the life out of you. At least from the latter half of September cooler weather will begin to be the general rule. The second reason is that work is kicking my ass, I come home and pretty much collapse on the couch after eating breakfast. Not a pretty existence, but some have it far worse. The third possible reason is that when I watch the news, in an effort to be an informed citizen, it is a smorgasbord of potential and building global disasters.
Unfortunately unlike the first two there is no easy way come to grips with depressing nature of global affairs. I could ignore the news, but that would be push me closer to the, and I know this is a cruel opinion, the mindless masses who wander around these days and do stupid things like vote Republican. As a bit of backhanded olive branch to these people caught up in a semi-Orwellian bliss I will say that the major news outlets make it hard to stay informed. The world is on extremely shaky ground these days and they spend considerable time on stories best left to the likes of Entertainment Tonight, the National Enquirer or even worse, National Review magazine.
With my ubiquitous cultural and political insult out of the way I will say that during my morning downtime after I get off work and before I go to bed I have been indulging in an old habit of watching documentaries on Netflix. This is how I got a chance to see “Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson.”
I first heard of Paul Watson when the Animal Planet cable network aired the show “Whale Wars.” Captain Watson and the group he founded, Sea Shepard Conversation Society, have played hell with whaling ships, both illegal and those flying national flags for decades. When I first ran across the Whale Wars series I was instantly sympathetic to their cause even though Captain Watson didn't seem to have all the screws in his head properly tightened. In fact, and pardon another abused reference, but he often seemed like some alternate reality version of the insane Captain Ahab, just this time out to save the whales instead in killing them.
Before anyone explodes let me come out and say that after seeing Eco-Pirate I realize I had grossly misjudged Captain Watson. Eco-Pirate is both a biography of Captain Watson and a detailed explanation of the reasons why conservation groups like Greenpeace are woefully inadequate in facing the monstrous destruction of the oceans and the animals, including humans, that depend on it.
What really struck me hard was the story Captain Watson related during a failed attempt to prevent a Soviet whaling ship from harpooning a sperm whale back in the 1970's. Paraphrasing, Watson related how he was able to bring his small rubber boat right next the dying mammal. With the water turned red with blood, Watson looked into the cetacean's eye and somehow knew the creature understood that his group was trying to save it. Watson then went to relate how he realized that the Soviets were killing these remarkable and beautiful creatures for their oil that would be used as lubrication in nuclear missiles, which of course, would allow human to sterilize the planet. He said then that it was at the moment he knew humans were insane. Before anyone accuses me of overt favoritism, Eco-Pirate does let you know that Captain Watson is human with all the failings associated with that condition.
Despite his all to normal warts, Watson is just the shock to the dominate global system --capitalism-- of unrestrained exploitation of the oceans. Over the years I have seen how “Free Market Capitalism” can excuse all manner of crimes and destruction. For just a couple of quick examples, I clearly remember a blowhard on one of the American business news channel lamenting how polluting water could be justified as long as there were jobs and money involved. Everyone should also remember how back in 2007-2008 insane banking practices nearly sent the country and the world into another great depression. Now did these irresponsible bankers and investment types ever go to jail? The only time I can recall a capitalist ever going to prison was Bernie Madoff who made the mistake cheating far too many of his own kind. On a side note, throw in ever present excuse of nationalism and religious beliefs and you pretty much have set the human race on a course to extinction.
Getting back on topic, can Captain Paul Watson be an egotistical blowhard with hints of a latent messianic complex? Yeah, but being completely honest in the face of lying politicians and business types who I find far more similar to Nazi or religious cult types I would say we need at least a thousand more people just like Paul Watson who clearly care more about the planet than power or making a buck. In fact ten-thousand would be a far more ideal number. If you have the chance try and watch, Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson.
"We're now in the midst of a 3rd World War, but this time the enemy is ourselves, and the objective is to save the planet FROM ourselves. There's no hope for masses of humanity to do anything — they never have, they never will. All social change comes from the passion and intervention of individuals or small groups of individuals. Slavery wasn't ended by any government or any institution. Women got the right to vote not because of any government. The civil rights movement, the same thing. India with Mahatma Gandhi, South Africa with Nelson Mandela. Again, it's always individuals. You need those individuals with the passion and the energy to get involved. In fact, I don't know of any government or any institutions that are doing anything to solve any of these problems. All over the world, all I am seeing is individuals and non-government organizations that are passionately involved in protecting ecosystems and species, and that's where I see some optimism. That's where I see results are happening."
Saturday, September 6, 2014
Being that I normally work nights, I don't get to sleep with my wife during the workweek. It is only on Friday and Saturday nights that I am able to sleep like a normal person beside my wife. This has not hurt our relationship, we're both adults and realize we have to do it to keep the family financially afloat in these strange and difficult times. That being said, my absence has caused some strain with the two canine members of the family.
See my spouse, Dragonwife, lets the two dogs sleep with her during the week. Once again this isn't a problem except on the weekend when I rightfully reclaim my spot in our king's sized bed. Ideally, this shouldn't be an issue since the two dogs are rather small. However, anyone who lets their dogs sleep with them knows that just isn't the case.
With my sleeping habits screwed sixteen ways to Sunday because of my job I tend to call it quits early on Friday nights. When I write early I generally mean around nine o'clock, which would send shivers of indignation down the spine of my younger self. I have always been a bit of a night owl with the strange alternating tendency of getting up early in the morning. I guess I have to take this as evidence that my advancing age has exceeded my bodily rhythms. My wife and the dogs stay up a little later, so I am asleep when they finally come to bed. The newest dog, Dixie, immediately goes under the covers and takes a position at the foot between my wife and I. The other dog, Sparky, scoots close to me for a few hours before moving over to sleep next my wife.
Given the size of the bed there is room enough for everyone to be comfortable. The problem comes when I have to go to the bathroom or get some water during the night. As soon as I get up, the dogs decided to redraw the territorial map leaving me without any space. I then have the options of either retreating to the sofa or forcefully carving out some space. Needless to say, the easiest option is just to give up and go to the couch. After dealing with this situation for years, I finally decided to take a picture of this strange situation after discovering the cartoon above. I find a great deal of comfort knowing that apparently I am not the only one dealing with such a scenario. Below is a picture taken last Sunday morning, please note I had to get special clearance from Dragonwife because she had long forbid me from publishing any photographs of her on the internet.
Friday, August 29, 2014
(Author's note: This little experiment has been going on for a few months now. If interested here is Part One and Part Two.)
Someone back in the twentieth century once said that there were two absolutes in the universe, the first being death and the other taxes. While still relatively ignorant of the strange but technologically super advanced era I find myself now after spending thirty-three hundred years in suspended animation I know enough now to realize those absolutes had changed.
With sentient personalities existing in what I would call cyberspace, tiny memory cubes that can store the experiences and thoughts of an entire human lifetime, and grown on demand custom human bodies those cubes can be downloaded into death isn't the certainty it was back in my time. As far as the concept of taxes goes, I still had no real idea how the Earthers or the Rheans, or the rest of the settled solar system for that matter, fund the working of their civilizations because capitalism, except in a mild form is an extremely bad word.
What actually appeared to be a surprising universal absolute are courtrooms. The one I found myself in after the ship carrying Doa Criss arrived more of less looked just like every other one I had ever seen. It was clad in a sterile looking white but at the front of the room was a raised and extended podium where the seven member tribune was going to hear the case against me. The one visible inconsistency being they were all dressed in white robes. Directly in front of them were the two desks situated beside each other where the defendant, me, and the accuser, this Doa Criss, would sit. The only thing missing was the jury box, but that was where the tribunes came back into play because they were also serving that part as well.
Anni Missor, my only friend and a professor of ancient history at one of Rhea's universities assured me that civics classes were taken quite seriously on her moon and that I was going to get a fair trial. Anni and I had grown rather close since my arrival I was taking her word on the subject but I couldn't help but think back to my won high school years where I literally slept through my half-semester civics course. Even my teacher for that class, a tired man who had long given up on a flawed system, barely seemed awake himself.
Anni informed me, in an offhand manner, that historians had long agreed that sheer ignorance on the workings of government and the duties required by citizens were one of the elements that lead to the downfall of the United States and the establishment of the North American Corporate Authority, which then caused the creation of similar corporate states all across Earth. However, once all the corporate states were overthrown the newly reestablished nations made damn sure every citizen understood the working of government and the concept of the responsible citizen and his or her duty to the common good.
Taking everything into consideration I wasn't that worried, although there was the small matter that I had no legal representation. But Anni told me that on Rhea it was a given that every citizen had the ability to defend themselves or at least access one of the free artificial intelligence legal programs that would act in their behalf. The fact that expert legal consul was now just a routine piece of software and totally free sent me into a fit of hysterical laughter to the point Anni was worried I lost my mind. I had to figure that if there was some form of afterlife, still curiously enough and open question, all the hundreds of millions of attorneys that had ever lived and gotten rich for knowing how to play the legal system like some street prostitute were now writhing in eternal agony.
We were thirty minutes passed the time the hearing was supposed to start when Doa Criss finally showed up. I must admit I really didn't truly appreciate the nature of her war hero status until she walked in the room and the seventy to eighty people sitting in the audience at the rear of the room fell silent.
At first glance she looked familiar, almost like when you see someone and think you know them. I figured the possibility existed that she could have been a descendant of mine or someone else I knew but that was all. The fact that this Doa Criss answered my stare with one of her own back only unnerved be even more. Her appearance was of a normal Caucasian Earther with average height and build, along with long blonde hair, but she walked with a grace in the low gravity of Rhea that betrayed the fact it had probably been a long time since she set foot on the home planet. I did find a small amount of humor in the situation because she was wearing a brightly colored, skin tight one piece garment that looked like something from an early twenty-first century science fiction movie.
The second Doa sat down the chief tribune tapped a silver ball sitting on the podium in front of her with what looked to be a hammer, “This hearing will now come to order,” the chief tribune said, “everyone here is under oath to tell the complete truth and any deviation will be punished accordingly. Citizen Criss, I must admonish you for your tardiness, I am uncertain how things are ran on Triton but on Rhea our justice system does not look kindly on needless delays.”
“I apologize,” Doa replied to the Chief Tribune, “but new information has come to my attention that clears Citizen Thomas Morgan.”
This not only caused a stir with all seven tribunes but myself as well. In fact I figured my translator earpiece had begun to malfunction.”What do you mean clears Citizen Morgan?” The Chief Tribune asked. “It was your esteemed reputation as a war hero and insistence that the Earth Collective had in fact missed incriminating information about Thomas Morgan that lead us to confine him.”
Doa Criss casually took several seconds to think before answering by running her fingers through her blonde hair in manner that once again seemed weirdly familiar to me. “I'll have to blame the deficiencies and limitations of radio communication Tribune. I didn't receive all the information I asked for from the archives on Europa until a few hours ago. The fact remains, that Thomas Morgan was already in deep suspension when the North American Corporate Authority was formed. I have downloaded all relevant files clearing Citizen Morgan into the central Tribunal database.”
The Tribunes, clearly disturbed, all began accessing the new information through their preferred means of interfacing with the Rhean version of what I grew up to call the internet. It only took a few seconds when the Chief Tribune began to raise the small silver hammer with a clear intention of striking the metal ball in front of him.
Doa Criss, seeing this as well, jumped up from her chair. “Before the Tribunes dismiss these proceedings I beg that I have a private meeting with Citizen Morgan after the closing. I do have some information he will find quite astonishing.” She said looking over in my direction with a smile that actually frightened me to the core of my soul.
The Chief Tribune, who clearly had a similar look to countless judges from my time wanting nothing more than to get the hell out of the tiresome courtroom on onto a golf course or bar looked over in my direction. “Does Citizen Morgan object to meeting with Citizen Criss in the conference room?”
“No Tribune,” I answered back actually wondering what the equivalent here on Rhea was to the golf courses or bars were back on Earth in my time.
“Well now,” the Chief Tribune said while smiling, “I'm actually happy we can end this hearing on such good terms.” He then struck the metal ball on the table in front of him with the hammer and was out of the room in just a few seconds.
It was then that I looked over at Anni, who had been sitting beside me the entire time. Standing there in the courtroom, it was the weirdest time to come to an epiphany concerning the nature of being human. But during our long conversations back in the prison complex I learned from her that the normal yellow skin complexion and ultra bright blue eyes of Rheans came from direct genetic manipulation by the early colonists to adapt to living so far away from the sun. She explained that it took several centuries to construct the elaborate domes that now provided ample light for all living things on Rhea and that by the time they had her people had come to regard the adaption as part of their growing culture.
It made sense even though I was just a flawed American lost in time carrying with me all the ingrained baggage and stupid assumptions of my nationality when it came to matters of skin pigmentation. Back in the twenty-first century as much as Americans liked to delude themselves that they had moved beyond something as ignorant as judging the character of a person because of their skin color we all still played by some unspoken but yet insane rule of living our lives and dealing with each other based on it. Yes, I admit back before I went into suspended animation I based many of my business and personal decisions on appearance with skin color being one of the primary factors.
But as I stood there looking at Anni, I was somehow finally able to see beyond all that. Here I was now living in an era where my unrestrained capitalist history made me no better than a World War Two Nazi but yet this woman was able to see beyond that. What I saw in her alien but completely human face with concern and maybe a little fear.
“What's wrong?” I asked Anni.
She tried to smile but I knew it was just a brave effort. “Doa is from your time Thomas Morgan,” she said, “while considered a hero for her efforts at ending the corporate tyranny on Earth. I fear for you at what news she might bring from the past.”
The conference room was as unremarkable and ordinary as the courtroom with the one exception being the large window facing the surface of Rhea. Given our location all I could see from the window was a small portion of Saturn's rings but the sight was breathtaking. The conference table was large but there was enough space left in the room for a several large and comfortable chairs in one section.
Anni and I were sitting together when Doa Criss finally entered the room. She approached us with a confidence that seemed to radiate from her body like heat. “Well,” she said, “mystics use to talk about how the universe had a sense of humor and I now have to agree.”
As she approached, I instinctively stood and offered out my hand in greetings. “I sorry Citizen Criss,” I said, “but you've got me at a huge disadvantage.”
“Come now Tommy,” she said in American English with a coy smile enjoying my utter surprise, “little things like three millenniums and me inhabiting a new body shouldn't make us strangers, we were after all married once upon a time.”
Maybe it was the tone of her voice combined with the familiar body language but her suddenly identity hit me like a nuclear bomb. “Olivia!, “ I said realizing that somehow I was standing in front of the being that was once my second wife.
Back in the twenty-first century Americans of all social classes jealously clung to the accepted national myth that anyone in the land of the free and the home of the brave could be a success. While there were degrees of success, along with different visions of what it actually was, in truth unless a person was born into a family with certain advantages like money or influence most people would be condemned to spend out their lives at about the same place they were born or worse.
Oh there were exceptions, and luck had a lot to do with it along with above average intelligence or at least the possession of a certain feral guile to do what had to be done, no matter the moral or ethical cost. In truth, the latter was how I made my money, I was born into a working class family whose only readily available avenue to escape the illusion of the lower middle class lifestyle financed by revolving credit was by enlisting in the military. So I joined the army and on a whim signed up for all the college assistance offered.
Somehow I excelled in my business courses once I finished my enlistment but that in itself wouldn't have gotten much beyond being a department store manager. No, what shot me into the upper realms of success and power was a chance encounter at a small cafe just off campus with an investment manager who had given a recent guest lecture in one of my classes.
I introduced myself and told him I enjoyed his lecture, from then on took kind of bizarre interest in me and became my mentor. This was no example of human compassion, he made it clear that he was strictly conducting an experiment seeing as to whether anyone in the lower classes could be raised up, In fact after graduation I began working for him as his assistant and he did everything possible to make my life hell.
I learned a lot from the old bastard before I got tired of his shit and sold him out to the feds for his creative bookkeeping. The first being that the financial investment racket was one of the greatest scams in human history. In hindsight it was now clear to me that the entire investment management and banking industry had convinced most everyone that if you put a couple of dollars in a dark room they would begin to multiple like rabbits. In truth real capitalism had died sometime in the last years of the twentieth century and was replaced with a sick scheme that was both an elaborate shell game of deception and outright gambling.
The lady who become my second wife, Olivia Carter, entered my life around the time I had earned my first hundred million. She was a geneticist who wanted to start a company to capitalize on her breakthrough in gene therapy. At that time, we were a match made in heaven. We were both incredibly ambitious and recognized that together we could achieve our respective goals. After dumping both of our respective mates at that time we married and began working on making her company a major player. A few short years later we were billionaires and had grown tired of each other. We actually parted ways as the best of friends, not because of some residual affection, no nothing as simple as that, its just when sums of money equal to the worth of small countries are involved no on ever really burns a possible useful bridge. All that flashed through my head in the space of a couple of seconds as I looked at this Doa Criss/Olivia Carter resulting in me asking a most obvious question.
“Wait a damn minute Olivia,” I said, “you were just as much a leech on the rest of humanity as I, how in the hell did you become a hero to these people.?”
Doa/Olivia seemed to enjoy my confusion, “Poor Tommy, you never could truly grasp the big picture could you, but then of course you went into suspension before the world went to total shit. See, some of us capitalists actually understood the nature of how our societies were collapsing under the weight of the new privileged aristocracy. The trouble was that the vast majority of the poor somehow bought the idea some among our affluent group was selling that we had their best interests at heart and that if the rich had no restrictions and oversight our bubbling wealth would flow down to them.”
Doa/Olivia went on to explain that she and a very small band capitalists like her did their best to oppose the encroachment of corporate fascism. But the mixture of a tiny few with hundreds of billions to spend on propaganda and a vast and nearly illiterate underclass caught up in a combination of religious and societal fervor was just too powerful in the end. When the corporate elites finally just swept away the empty and decayed husks of the United States and Canada and formed the North American Corporate Authority she went underground and helped organize the resistance.
“Oh Tommy,” Doa/Olivia said a few hours later as Anni and I listened to her recounting the worst years of the Corporate War. “That last bimbo you married and her husband were especially good at leading those Texas fanatics. The corporate elites had always liked Michael Wilson and made sure when Texas broke up into four different states that he won one of the senate seats in the newly formed State of Panhandle. When the Authority was established and Texas was reformed, the Corporate Board in Washington liked how he lead the ground forces that squashed all the riots and ethnically cleansed southern Texas . They eventually made Michael a general in the Corporate Authority Army and had him lead the invasion of Mexico to stop all that nasty terrorism from crossing the border. That forth wife of yours, Debbie, flushed with power, played the loving and supportive spouse of General Wilson all the way down to Lima, Peru. The resistance eventually killed the two in their mansion outside of Bogota but not before close to three million Central and South Americans had died. It would have been more if the Brazilians hadn't been able to stop them from going any further south.”
Doa/Olivia explained that despite all the efforts of the Resistance, corporate states came into existence all over Earth. The governments of Russia, China, Korea, Argentina all fell in the space of two years with several others like Australia, Indonesia, and England soon following. All told, at the height of Corporate fascism fifty-six nation was under its control. What turned the tide was in part the finally realization by the poor that they would never receive any of the benefits from what the Elites called unrestricted capitalism and libertarian freedoms.
After the war Doa/Olivia played a major part in the reestablishing of the United States. As the years went on she seemed to have a hand in everything from pursuing war criminals to helping establish the planetary government. When the technology was perfected, she was one of the first to have her memories incorporated into a crystal archive because of her age. It was fascinating to hear her describe the feeling when her memory crystal was activated and she became a sentient personality living in an ethereal cyberspace wonderland viewing the real world much the same way people in the twentieth and twenty-first century watched television.
Doa/Olivia didn't dwell on why she had a new body created and her personality downloaded into it. She only explained that for physiological reasons it was considered best for those newly returned to the living that they assume a new identity.
“So Olivia,” I said using her original name, “what was the purpose of accusing me of being a war criminal, even after the Earth Collective had cleared me of any association with the Corporate Authority?”
Doa/Olivia at first seemed not to have an answer for my question. That lead me to think for a few seconds that maybe she harbored some sort of animosity towards me. “Sweetie,” she said in her original Georgia accent, “You've got to understand what it was like for me to hear that none other than one of my ex-husbands from the twenty-first century was pulled out of one of those primitive suspended animation chambers. One of the unforeseen issues with people like me is that no matter how well we are integrated with civilization and our new identities, we all long for some connection with our past lives.”
Her explanation made about as much sense as everything else I had encountered in this era. We continued to talk for a few more hours but it was clear our reunion was soon to end. Doa had family back on Triton and her ship was scheduled depart for Titan before heading back out to the farthest parts of the solar system.
Anni had never left my side during my unexpected and unlikely encounter with my past but had been almost totally quiet the entire time. So I was surprised in a different way when Doa looked over at her and asked, “Professor Missor, excuse my rudest but am I wrong to assume that your synod has pledged you to Tommy?”
“Yes,” she said rather sheepishly while gripping my left arm tightly, “but I hadn't as of yet explained anything of the ceremony to him.”
A look of shock and dismay appeared on Doa's face. “I am so sorry, for everything,” she said to Anni. “I hope I haven't disturbed the time table.”
“No,” Anni replied, “the starship that will take Thomas Morgan away will not be here for at least three years. I had hoped to spend much of that time getting him use to what will be required of him.”
Doa looked over at me and suddenly reached out for a hug, “Goodbye Tommy, I doubt we will ever see each other again so let me give you one vital piece of advice before I go, whatever you do don't screw this up. The Rheans are depending on you to fulfill a role I honestly don't think you will understand, just know it is the only reason you are alive now and not still deep underground on Earth stuck in amber.” With that she turned and walked out of the conference room leaving me with a lot of questions.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Six months after the birth of our son, Darth Spoilboy, my wife and I were playing with him on the floor of our den. It was early morning with various toys scattered about along with a couple of sippy cups that somehow could appear out of no where and then disappear again. What I remember most though was a casual but off the wall comment my wife made at the time.
“Well,” she said, “it's been six months and we haven't killed him yet.” Nuance being the key here what she meant was that as brand new and totally inexperienced parents neither of us had done anything stupid yet that could have harmed our son. I, of course, agreed especially since a couple of weeks before that I had seen a new dad actually drop his baby. I just happened to be looking in the right direction when this person placed his child into one of those baby carriers without properly securing him. When the father picked up the carrier the child slipped out and plopped on the grass an overly large and floppy doll.
Luckily, that baby was fine, although I think the dad probably came close to having a heart attack once he realized what happened. The incident scared me as well to the point I spent years making sure neither of my children ever had to suffer through a similar event because of some careless action on my part. It's has been eighteen years since then but I have now reached a point where I can't look after my oldest child.
Yesterday we loaded up his car and mine and along with Dragonwife and Darth Wiggles we followed him up to Clemson University to help him set up his new residence in one of the dorms. It was a simple chore compared to some of the other parents I saw there. They seemed to have brought along everything from home including the kitchen sink for their kids.
As we drove away leaving Spoilboy to begin his own life I couldn't help but remember that father who didn't have the baby carrier secured correctly for his child. All I can hope is that my wife and I have prepared him fully for this new phase in his life.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
(Author's notes: 1. As always excuse the typos. 2. If this rant bares any resemblance to reality you should be afraid, very afraid because I often feel I am simply nuts.)
Just a few short years after the demise of the Soviet Union I stumbled upon a magazine article with an uncharacteristically dark and dire view at that time of the coming decades. This article came out in the mid-1990's when the United States was awash in a soapy bath of pride and self-righteousness at being able to stand over the rotting corpse of its political and military enemy. Even among the other nations of the West the prevalent idea was that democracy and free enterprise had triumphed over Marxist-Leninism and that in time the whole world would fall in line with the winning team. In short, the general view among many was that we were seeing the “end of history.”
This troubling article I read, running absolutely opposite to the generally happy and optimistic view at that time, predicted not a world dominated by a benign and wise United States but a multipolar world filled with squabbling and dangerous nations all wanting their day as the global king of the mountain. However, with news like McDonald's opening its first fast food place in Moscow and the People's Republic of China going capitalistic faster than the fictional starship Enterprise can cross the distance between stars hardly anyone wanted to worry about possible wars.
Without a doubt the overly warm and fuzzy optimism of the post-Cold War, pre-Millennium era went straight to the proverbial dust bin of history after the 9/11 attacks. Well in truth, I've got to exempt all the proud and defiant Cold Warriors from that statement who were positively suicidal when it looked like world peace was breaking out all over the place. There was nothing more pitiful and more than slightly terrifying than hearing the intelligence briefing I got in my final days while in the active army from a newly minted Second Lieutenant who was convinced that crumbling of the Iron Curtain was an elaborate and clever deception. The arrival of a new and shadowy enemy was a godsend to those for whom peace and cooperation are bywords for stagnation and social decay.
Since then thing have gone from, and excuse the tired but awkwardly modified metaphor, from the fryer to the boiling cauldron of watery poop. Let's see where to begin, first and foremost I would be remiss if I did not mention the utter disaster of the Iraq War. If humanity survives for any length of time I am sure the Bush/Cheney Iraq War will go down in history as one of the stupidest strategic mistakes up there with the Athenian Expedition to Sicily during the Peloponnesian War.
While the American Army was not wiped out like the ancient Athenian force the combined deaths of Iraqi civilians and American military along with estimates of over a trillion dollars being spent on a war based on lies more than makes it an equal to that disastrous ancient Greek campaign. My main point being that the result of the war was not a free and democratic Iraq but a near complete destruction of the social and political fabric of not just that country but of the entire Middle East. Let's face the fact that Bush/Cheney twisted every piece of intelligence data in attempting to tie Saddam Hussein to 9/11 as well as create an illusion that he was some Arab version of Hitler just waiting for his chance plunge the world into war. In short, the Iraq War was a post-colonial conflict that flouted international laws and proper behavior to secure oil and a new section of the globe for the American Empire. Excuse me if I see the ghost of Thucydides shaking his head in disgust at the Iraq War while the one for Pericles looks a lot like Dick Cheney.
Since the nation of Iraq is an artificial construct merging three main groups who on the whole hate the others, disturbing this Frankenstein's Monster, even in the name of freedom, threatens a wider war that at least endangers hundreds of millions if not the entire planet. Of the three main Iraqi groups Sunni and Shiite hate each other, and the Kurds are just looking for a chance to declare independence. That these centuries-old religious and ethnic problems could drag Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey into a regional war which in turn could pull in the nuclear armed big boys should give any rational diplomat plenty of sleepless nights.
Throw in the brutal fighting between the Israelis and Palestinians where the innocent are suffering far worse than the warmongering monsters on both sides makes the regional birthplace of the three monotheistic religions, who each proclaim peace and love is the best way, a farce far more surreal than any piece of fiction a talented writer could create. If the world was still the technologically primitive and sparsely populated place it was for the majority of human existence these conflicts could continue without endangering the rest of humanity but we don't live in that era. The modern world is based on a complicated and highly interconnected existence. Seemingly small things like nuclear and possible genetically engineered biological weapons employed by any of these ancient enemies could pile our neatly crafted twenty-first lifestyle on top of the ashes of the Soviet Union in the historical dustbin.
Part of problem to me involves how all through human history we seem to have based the rules of behavior between political entities on some overarching imperial power whether it be malicious or benign. You could go all the way back to Sargon ofAkkad to our era in the possibly waning days of Pax Americana but basing international behavior on some imperial power is losing proposition for everyone. All empires weaken and eventually fall, when that happens there is always a period of chaos where largely the innocent suffer as a new order is established. Yeah, the handover from Pax Britannia to Americana seems smooth until you think about how the United States didn't really assume global authority until after the Second World War with Britain financially bankrupt and war weary.
Global flash points do exist outside the tortured Middle East, in eastern Europe Vlad Putin is attempting to emulate Hitler's demand for lebensraum by slicing off pieces of surrounding countries. His latest adventure in Ukraine is uncomfortably close to Hitler's actions in Sudetenland back in the 1930's. This is after spending years imposing a new authoritarian regime that stifles over most forms of dissent. Frankly, I find the years where he allowed someone else to keep the presidential chair warm after his first two terms only to retake it for his current stint as leader of Russia hilarious. More petty dictators with delusions of omnipotence need to be as observant to the rules of protocol and decorum.
In areas off the coast of mainland China the People's Republic is intimidating its neighbors by claiming large areas of open ocean. This is mainly for oil and mineral exploration. China's fishing fleets, as well as many other nations, already strip the oceans clean trolling with nets that stretch up to ten to twenty miles long.
Please don't think I am directing my ire just at just nation-states. Multinational corporations flaunt national laws and avoid taxes at will by searching for the best place to, at best, temporarily call home. Most attempts by national governments to get these huge businesses to support the infrastructure that allows them to make profits far greater than some countries usually results in them whining about being abused and then running off to some other place that will not disturb all their job creation.
Truthfully, I not exactly sure at the point I am trying to make other than humans need a far better way to manage and regulate issues that cross all political and geographic lines. There is far too many of us alive now crowded together on a planet whose resources are nearly exhausted if not dangerously polluted. It depresses me to no end that many people, especially here in the United States, desperately cling to the mindset the Earth's resources and its ability to absorb our waster is limitless. For Americans this is an easy concept for us to believe since we are still on top of the international power structure. For example, the fact that drinkable water is damn near nonexistent in some places around the globe, while we play in our own backyard swimming pools, a hard idea to accept. Exceptions in the form of rational and globally aware people exist but they are outweighed by idiots who tend to blame poverty and famine on local ignorance, laziness, and bad government.
Personally I can't seem to escape the idea that nation-states are outdated forms of government for all the reasons I have listed above. Nation-states love achieving global imperial status while abhorring any type of perceived imperial weakness which usually sends every nutcase into a power-grabbing feeding frenzy.
Some believe this is a good thing, that losers in our constant battle for global dominance are incorporated into larger societies where the winner develops a more effective government to stay in power longer thus promoting peace and prosperity. Yeah, but once again, all empires eventually weaken and fall prompting another round of fighting. Add nuclear and possible biological weapons and now going for the global brass ring of empire now might mean human extinction if not a sterilized planet.
So there we have it, while I feel an effective world government is out of the question for the foreseeable future I cannot see how we can continue our current level of technological civilization without strengthening our current global organizations. The problem, of course, is that even the best and most enlightened countries would sooner die than give up sovereignty while most national populations still fear the “outsider” or “alien” on an instinctive level even though we are all Homo sapiens.
You might be thinking why in the hell do I give a damn? Well because I am a parent with children who I want to grow up healthy and strong with every chance to make the most of their lives. Stealing a line from an old television drama I have suffered through various verbal slings and arrows for my strange beliefs, often being called a witless wonder for my ideas. But maybe it the quality of wits that matter instead of the quantity because even I know that in our world unless basic human rights ultimately apply to everyone and we develop the ability to look beyond things like nationalism, religious beliefs, and ethnic hate there will be no safe place for your children or mine.
Sunday, August 3, 2014
(Author's note: This is just a story, no statement on my beliefs are implied.)
Jacob Haas heard the cry of his infant daughter from the speakers of the baby monitor sitting on his nightstand. Being a caring and dedicated dad, Jacob instantly recognized the screams coming from his daughter were one of sheer terror, probably from a bad dream, as opposed to the ones associated with hunger or a dirty diaper.
“I'll get the baby,” Jacob's wife, Emily, said sleepily.
“No honey,” Jacob said leaning over to gently kiss his wife on the forehead, “you go back to sleep, I'll get the little munchkin.” If Jacob expected a response, he was sorely mistaken because his wife had already fallen back sleep the second he said he would take care of the baby.
Jacob carefully got out of bed and walked into the hallway hoping not to step on Archer, the family cat who often chose the strangest places in the house to sleep. A few weeks before Jacob had stepped on the cat in the darkness while going to the bathroom and instantly feared he had killed the poor creature. The resulting noise and confusion as the cat screeched and Jacob fell to the floor scared the baby all the way in her room and woke his wife up. Luckily, the cat escaped unscathed except for nursing a clearly visible grudge towards Jacob for a couple of months.
Jacob reached the baby's room without endangering the cat, who heard his approach and issued out a nasty warning growl from his position on one of the living room couch's armrest several feet away. “Let it go you damn cat,” Jacob whispered, “I said I was sorry.”
Archer the cat was unimpressed with Jacob's words and quickly went back to sleep. Feeling slightly rebuked Jacob opened the door to his daughter's room and went inside. The light from the tiny fairy lamp allowed Jacob to see his daughter standing up inside her crib. The tracks of tears running down her small face glistened in the weak light.
“What's upsetting you little one,” Jacob asked as he scooped his daughter into his arms. A quick check revealed a dry diaper and Little Kathy rejected the bottle her dad pulled from the refrigerator and warmed up in the microwave a couple of minutes later.
Little Kathy quickly went back to sleep in her daddy's arms as he sat in the rocky chair across from her crib. Jacob relished these moments knowing that the years would fly by with her eventually going to college and making her own life away from Emily and him. It was the combination of the nighttime stillness and Jacob's own wandering mind that brought back the memory of how his daughter got her name.
The morning Emily went into labor Jacob called his mom and dad as soon as his wife was checked in at the hospital. The result several hours later was an invasion by his extended family who took up residence in the labor and delivery waiting room. Nine hours later Jacob's daughter was born with his great-grandmother the first person to hold the baby.
“Well my goodness,” the ninety-two year old woman said, “it's Katherine.” Jacob and his family was both charmed and saddened by the old woman's statement. Katherine had been Jacob's older sister who had been killed three years before in a car accident. Jacob's great-grandmother took the loss extremely hard because as much as she refused to admit it, Katherine had been her favorite. Matters were made worse when the old woman began talking to the newborn infant as if she were the deceased Katherine.
When it came time for the nurse to take the baby for further checks the old woman had a fit and began screaming for Kathrine to the point she had to be restrained. The event was discounted as an example of her advancing dementia but both Emily and and Jacob thought it would be a fitting tribute to name their daughter after Katherine.
About an hour after Little Kathy awoke Jacob felt it was time to place her back in her crib. The maneuver went off without a hitch with the baby still asleep as Jacob placed her on the small mattress. It was when he attempted to close the door to her room that Little Kathy awoke and began screaming again. Jacob retrieved his daughter and again sat with her in the rocking chair. Obviously exhausted the infant went back to sleep but again awoke when he tried to close the door to her room. It was on the third attempt that Jacob left the door open with Little Kathy staying asleep this time.
“What's wrong with Kathy,” Emily asked as Jacob climbed into bed.
“I don't know,” he said while making himself comfortable, “it seems she is like my sister after all and just didn't want the door closed.” It was common family knowledge that during her childhood Katherine had demanded the door to her room be left open. In fact, years before while they both still lived with their parents, Jacob had played the occasional trick on his sister by shutting her door in the middle of the night. However, both Jacob and Emily knew it was not uncommon for some children to feel more comfortable with the door to their bedroom left open and thought nothing more of it.
From that night on Little Kathy refused to go sleep with the door to her room closed. If she fell asleep someplace else she was sure to wake up in her crib a couple of hours later screaming until someone opened the door. For a while the joke going up and down the family grapevine was that great-grandmother might have been onto something when she appeared to have suggested Little Kathy was the reincarnation of her late Aunt Katherine.
Within weeks though, the amusement surrounding Little Kathy's behavior evaporated completely and was forgotten when Jacob's great-grandmother passed away in her sleep. The following months were quiet and uneventful, and for Jacob and Emily happy ones as they watched their healthy daughter grow and thrive.
Little Kathy's first real words came early to her, they were simple things like the expected “Dada” and “Mama” but also important ones like “cookie” and “milk.” It was during this time of happiness and tranquility that great-grandmother's words came back to haunt Jacob.
It was a late Saturday morning while Jacob was on the floor of the living room playing with his daughter. Emily was on the couch relaxing both reading a magazine and watching her husband and daughter play when Archer the cat jumped in the middle of the two on the floor wanting attention. As cats go, Archer was quite fond of the baby and was known to sleep underneath her crib some nights.
Little Kathy was known to squeal in delight and say “kitty” whenever Archer decided to make an appearance but this time she clearly said, “Hello Mr. Twinkles.”
Emily immediately saw how her husband first looked confused in response to Little Kathy's words, which quickly changed into shock and maybe even a little fear as the seconds ticked by. “What's wrong Jacob,” she said growing very concerned as her husband began to back away from his daughter who was now playing with the cat.
Jacob looked at his wife still feeling like someone had stepped on his grave. “Little Kathy just called Archer by the name Mr. Twinkles.” He said while standing up and quickly walking to the kitchen.
Emily followed and found her husband leaning against the sink clearly scared. “What about it,” she asked.
Jacob's response scared her as well, “It took me a couple of seconds to remember because it was so long ago but when I was very young my sister Katherine had a cat she had named Mr. Twinkles.”
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Speaking from personal experience, unless a person knows those around him are like minded it is best to not say anything that might be perceived as critical about the United States or Americans. The best example I can give happened several years ago while I was hanging out with a couple of friends with a few others tagging along. It was a Saturday afternoon and we were all drinking beers while daydreaming we were on some tropical beach when I made a casual mention of someday permanently moving to Mexico. At that particular moment my desire to expatriate had more to do with finding some rustic beach shack on the Yucatan or Baja California coast and begin looking for the proverbial lost shaker of salt.
I made no mention of rancid and self destructive American politics nor the putrid nature of popular culture but the bother-in-law of one of my buddies was quite bothered by the idea of someone permanently leaving the United States. It would not be an exaggeration to say he considered it a form of treasonous behavior on par with the infamous Benedict Arnold.
“So the United States is not good enough for you?” This person asked with his voice betraying a heaping dose of righteous indignation. Since this event was taking place in the American South for several minutes there was the mandatory pissing contest between me and him that was only defused when my buddy explained the nuanced nature of my statement that also involved beautiful senoritas, ample supplies of tequila, along with cheap and easy living.
The explanation placated the overly patriotic brother-in-law and he apologized saying that he didn't like anyone who criticized America. He went on to mouth something along the lines that if a person didn't love America they should quickly leave it. To him, America was the freest, smartest, and greatest nation God in his infinite wisdom ever created on the planet. While not exact quotes I can say with near unquestioning certitude that my friend's brother-in-law's face took on this look which was a combination of total serenity and absolute fanaticism as he explained his fervent and devoted patriotism. I just stood there looking at him figuring similarly dedicated individuals gleefully burned heretics at the stake in the name of Jesus Christ during the Middle Ages.
Given the state of patriotism these days and how easy it is for people to be insulted I figure I should go ahead and say that there is nothing wrong with a person being proud of his or her country. The problem comes when patriotism is replaced with a fanatical certitude that their beloved homeland is not only perfection but deserved total and unquestioned obedience.
Yeah I know, such active proto-fascist dickheads have always existed in one form or the other but they have generally been offset by significant populations of thinking adults that while proud of the United States understood its flaws and took an active interest in trying to correct them. That seems to have changed, while exceptions exist with millions of good and intelligent Americans still working to make this a better country and improve the world, they seem overwhelmed with a stagnant and near moronic population preoccupied with trivial issues seemingly created just to distract from real problems.
There are more examples of this self destructive disinterest than I am frankly comfortable with or have time to discuss. I could mention the blatant disregard and utter lack of concern to the human suffering going on at the Mexican border with thousands of Central American children coming to this country. Entire towns of Anglos have been on the television news waving signs saying that they don't want any of those kids being kept there as our dysfunctional congress dithers over funds and a humanitarian way to solve this problem.
The bizarre nature of this xenophobia is that I'd guess that a majority of these nearly riotous red-blooded American defending their precious country from children just seeking a safe place away from drug gangs and stifling poverty is that they consider themselves Christians. This is where dear reader that you need to remember all the New Testament quotes from Christ on helping your fellow man.
I could carry on about our crumbling infrastructure and how expensive it is to continually patch roads and bridges that in all actuality have long exceeded their workable lifetime and need to be replaced. But that would requires some knowledge that our infrastructure is the vital backbone of our economic strength and that it might mean Mr. and Mrs. Joe Middle Class might have to pay more in taxes. No, the windmill I will attempt tilt today involves a subject the vast majority doesn't give a damn about and in fact, is always eager to increase.
Way back in those wonderful 1980's a movement swept the country to stop cuddling criminals, laws were enacted that required mandatory sentencing for some crimes as well as a simplistic idea where if a person was convicted three times they would spend the rest of their lives behind bars. This placated the frightful population concerned that some evil intruder would do them harm or steal their precious stuff. Now to be fair, like the late Richard Pryor once said, “thank God for penitentiaries,” because that is the best place for some people who are clear and present dangers to society.
The fly in the ever comfortable idea to sending someone into prison then throwing away the key comes with the nature of their crimes. Mandatory sentencing requirements and Draconian drug laws have caused the American prison population to explode until the freedom loving United States has 2.2 million under state and federal confinement while the commie People Republic of China has only 1.7 million. Now the mathematically challenged might think that we have only around a half a million more prisoners than the Chinese but when you take into consideration that the total population of China is well over 1.2 BILLION, by percentages it is the United States, with a population of only 313 million, that seems authoritarian. If you add up the numbers that means we incarcerate 716 people people per 100,000 of the national population, the highest in the world. And while we only make up 5 percent of the world's population we house 25 percent of the world's prisoners.
When you add to the mix that mandatory sentencing and drug laws hit African-American and Hispanics far harder than Caucasians you have a recipe for conspiratorial ideas that at the very least say if you are white, the scales of justice are weighed down in your favor. Because dear folks the best evidence that a person is going to found innocent in the United States is not facts pertaining to the case but the size of the defendant's wallet.
For me though the exploding embarrassment of our prison population says more about the simplistic and childish intellectual nature of Americans. Like I said some people need to be in prison but the nature of crime isn't black and white, when a person is born into poverty with no genuine opportunity for escape it is human nature to lash out whether in crime or through substance abuse.
Possibly the most insidious little fact about the American obsession to throw as many people in jail as we can is how there are companies whose sole purpose for existence is to make a profit running penitentiaries. Given that a few other highly sleazy facts exist about these businesses that should make any decent person's skin crawl I will defer to the John Oliver video below.
Another aspect of strange nature to the current state of dual American fanatical patriotism and abject apathy is the condition of the United States' nuclear arsenal. If there is one things many Americans are inherently proud of in a semi-psychotic and surreal way is the idea that the United States is the lone superpower in a world of piss ant nations. Now we do still give lip service to such accomplishments like the Apollo Project which put humans on the moon and war effort by the people who fought in the armed forces and worked in the factories during the Second World War but they pale in comparison to the current fixation on our ability to sterilize the planet.
The trouble is that while we Americans own way over four-thousand nuclear weapons, more than enough to render Earth unlivable except for cockroaches and Cheneys the management of these weapons is marked with sheer incompetence, lack of proper maintenance and upgrades, and the occasional accident that should send freezing cold chills down the spine of any sane person. Once again I defer to the John Oliver video below for a more thorough explanation.
In short, and I sincerely apologize if this offends anyone, but there is more to maintaining a coherent and great society that ignorant bluster and insane thinking that we are somehow special either through a direct condition with God or military might. History is littered with peoples and empires that had their time essentially ruling the world only to dissolve to dust overnight. With a willfully ignorant population that increasingly gets upset when some fault of the country is pointed out I'd say we are will on our way to joining the ranks of Babylonians, ancient Egyptians, and Roman Empires.