Monday, May 30, 2016

Bem Vindo, Brasil

This post will be short.  I am a bit stressed right now, having a computer programming assignment and a couple of reports I have to finish for school.  I am a lousy programmer.

But I recently checked my blog, and found that I had gotten a lot of traffic from Brazil.  To those of my readers who live there, I extend a hearty welcome.  Your country seems to be going through interesting times just now.  I know that Brazil, in collaboration with other countries, has been seeking to move away from the use of the American dollar in international trade.  (See this also.)  And I know that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is under intense political attack just now.  A coincidence?  (Hardly, I think.)  I wonder who is funding and orchestrating the attacks.  I also think that it would be premature to write Ms. Rousseff off as a casualty.

The nasty thing about an empire trying to overthrow foreign governments in order to protect its hegemony is that every time the empire tries such tricks, the foreign governments learn lessons from the experience, which they apply in defending themselves from being eaten by the empire.  Learning and applying those lessons to future overthrow attempts makes it harder for the empire to prevail in future attempts.  It's like going into the ring against a bully who knows only a few tricks and who repeats them over and over.  If the bully targets you, and if you have learned lessons from studying his past fights, you can befuddle him by thinking outside his box.  (One application of lessons learned is that American NGO's - including religious and missionary organizations - are being kicked out of an increasing number of countries.)

So stand strong, Brazil!  Don't let the United States eat you for lunch.  One thing the U.S. cannot do this time around is foment a "democratic resistance" in Brazil in an attempt to legitimize a government that is the thuggish tool of rich people, as they tried to do in Syria and the Ukraine.  Most Brazilians simply won't tolerate that sort of thing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pressed by Pressing Business

To regular readers of this blog, I extend a hearty welcome, and a hearty "Thank you."  However, I must also extend an apology.  School and work both have me so busy right now that I can't see straight.  So I will have to take a break from blogging for the next eight weeks, unless it's something that I can say quickly in a few sentences.  For those who want to leave comments, I will try to publish them as quickly as possible, but be forewarned - it might take a few days.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Unexpected Consequences Of An Under-Noticed Addiction

This post will be short.  I am almost choking to death on grad school and work, and today I am more than a little sleep-deprived.  But in keeping with one of the more recent themes of this blog - namely, the tracing of the outworkings of the moral consequences now being reaped by Western society - here is something for readers to chew on.

In previous posts (see here and here), I commented on the shrinkage of broadcast and cable television, and hinted at the possible emergence of a culture in the West which is no longer influenced by Western mass media.  I'd like to explore that thought in greater detail some other time.  But today, for those of you who are still plugged into the electronic beast known as mainstream media (including not only "news," but all other forms of mass entertainment), I've got some disturbing words to say.

First, I've recently discovered that neuroscientists over the last two decades have been pointing out a disturbing link between excessive consumption of electronic entertainment and the risk of Alzheimer's disease.  Here is an article from CBS (ironically!) which reports the findings of a study connecting excess TV watching in youth to cognitive declines as early as middle age.  Here also is a link to a Washington Post article which describes the same study.

And here is a link to an article which shows that as far back as 2001, American neuroscientists were aware of such a connection.  In that article, one of the researchers, Dr. Robert Friedland, is quoted as saying, "...[it is possible for television to be intellectually stimulating], but probably that is not what is happening most of the time, especially in America, where people watch an average of four hours a day.  I think it is bad for the brain to watch four hours of television a day.   The brain has been honed by evolutionary forces to be active, and learning is an important part of life. When you watch TV you can be in a semi-conscious state where you really are not doing any learning."

And it gets even better.  A study published by the Royal Society in 2015 linked excessive playing of video games to the onset of changes in brain structure that diminished grey matter in the hippocampus, leading to an increased likelihood of development of neurological or psychiatric disorders later in life.  One such likely neurological disorder is Alzheimer's.

I would also like to suggest a link between excess consumption of electronic entertainment and the unmistakable rise in the number and percentage of personality-disordered people in Western society.  (What?  You haven't noticed?!)  Finding proof of such a link is an exercise I will leave to you, the reader.  (Hint: How do you describe spending hours of time in voyeuristic spying on narcissistic, histrionic, and borderline personalities trying to wipe each other out week by week?  I call it "watching soap operas" or "watching 'reality' TV," or in extreme cases, "watching the U.S. Presidential election campaigns."  Watching lots of that stuff eventually rubs off on a person.)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Brussels Flappin' In The Wind

I have been so buried under school work that the alleged Muslim/Arab "terror attack" in Brussels has barely registered with me.  However, I have noticed not only the usual chorus of hysterical Anglo and European voices screaming about how Europe is being destroyed by immigration, but I have also noticed new, formerly seemingly trustworthy voices joining the chorus.  Some of these voices have been lately singing the praises of Donald Trump.  From now on, I deem all such voices to be suspect.  I believe I know the source of the angst of these voices: namely the realization that there is an inseparable link between the emergence of a multipolar world and the emergence of a multicultural and multiethnic society.  This means the inevitable erasure of unequal access to material resources, the end of special privileges for a dominant group, and the emergence of a world in which each person will have to treat his neighbors with respect and learn to share and take turns.

Hence the "terror" temper tantrums we see.  For the emergence of a world such as I have just described is an absolute horror to many people who have had everything their way for a long time, and who have been able to dominate all the other peoples of the earth.  In their horror, the world's privileged people are punching themselves in the face in order to provide a pretext for what they want to do to everyone else, in a desperate bid to hold onto their position of unjust wealth and privilege. 

It's a shame, really.  For the wealth and privilege of those who have exalted themselves by oppressing the poor will come to an end, sooner or later.  As for me, I am reminded of Psalm 146:3: "Do not put your trust in princes, each a son of man in whom there is no help."

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Feline Antidote

For those of you who regularly follow my blog, my apologies for the rather light posting over the last few weeks.  I have some serious writing to do regarding my graduate project and so my time will be taken for a few weeks more. 

But I noticed several days ago that some members of the supposed "alternative", non-mainstream, "non-Empire" blogosphere have been endorsing a particular Presidential candidate.  They have taken a few of his statements over the last several months - especially his statements regarding foreign policy - as some sign that this man is some sort of genuine alternative to the narcissism and imperialism that characterizes those who want to be the President of the United States.

I don't think so.  Consider the statements which this man made very early on in his campaign - statements directly threatening certain ethnic groups, Latin American nations, and adherents to a certain religion (namely, Islam) - and consider that he made such radical statements in order to gain popularity.  Consider also the kinds of people among whom he immediately became very popular.  One may say, "Well, he had to say such things in order to become noticed, but he really didn't mean them..."  For those who say that, consider Anton Chekhov, who is reputed to have said, "If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off..."

Consider also that some of those now endorsing this man previously advised us to " disrespect for [the] liturgical actions of..." those who currently run the electoral process.  To me, that includes disrespecting every last one of those who run things, because the only way to become prominent in American national politics nowadays is to have lots of money (and to be a fantastic liar).   So Donald Trump is supposed to be financing his own campaign.  So what?  Anyone with access to that kind of money is part of the system, even if he claims to be fighting the system.

So I don't buy those who - wittingly or unwittingly - have become sheep dogs for a wolf.  I hope I don't hurt anyone's feelings by saying this, because I hope rather to engender constructive dialogue.  But sometimes hard things must be said. 

If anyone wants to know whom I have endorsed for the Presidency, he or she can find out here.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Some Videos of People From Different Backgrounds Actually Getting Along With Each Other

I have some ideas for a few rather lengthy posts which I'd like to compose sometime in the near future.  But tonight, I'm trying to read a difficult mathematical text for school, and I haven't the time or brainpower for much of anything else.  So I'll just share a few YouTube videos of people from multiethnic backgrounds engaged in a fun, worthwhile cultural exchange.  Enjoy.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Killing A Predator - Nonviolently

Among the animals there are natural-born predators - animals who are specifically designed to live by eating other animals.  They are incapable of relating to certain other animals as anything but a food source - a fact which, no doubt, causes a great deal of stress in the animals who are regarded as food by the predators.  After all, nobody likes being eaten, or living under the constant threat of being eaten.  What if among humans, there are people who can't look at their fellow humans in any other way than as something that would look good between two pieces of bread?  How should the rest of humanity look at such human predators?

There are a few possible responses one could choose.  The first would be to be on the lookout for those in our midst who are natural predators, and who are incapable of being reformed, and to physically attack and destroy these people before they can make a meal out of you.  The trouble with this, however, is that some predators have used this justification for accusing and attacking people who were not a threat to them, in order to prey on them.  Or, we could let the predators run society so that they could shape society into the form most advantageous to them.  (This is the model adopted by the United States from 1776 until now.)

But what if you were bound by a moral code that prohibited you from doing violence to your fellow human beings, even if some of them were predators?  Would that mean that you had to passively offer yourself up to be eaten whenever you met a predator?  Surprisingly, opinions are divided on the answer to this question.

If you asked me what I thought, I would tell you that I am a Christian; therefore, I am prohibited from physically attacking those whom I recognize as human predators.  On this point, the New Testament is quite clear, if one is willing to take what it says at face value.  But where opinions diverge is on the question of whether we are obliged to keep constant company with predators, once we see that their fangs and claws have come out.  One school of thought would quote Luke 6:27-36: “But I tell you who hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you...", and would say that our duty is therefore to embrace every opportunity to do good deeds to abusive people, even going so far as to choose to remain in situations where we must endure long-term abuse, in order to have the opportunity to minister to abusive people.  This is how an acquaintance of mine counseled me after I told him of my recent decision to leave the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, after I had heard some statements from some of their clergy who tried to justify the many police shootings of unarmed African-Americans over the last few years.  The acquaintance told me that I should stay with the Lutherans in order to "minister" to them, in the hope that "the Holy Spirit might reach them."  I didn't take his advice.  But it is the sort of advice that tickles the ears of the sort of people who want some of us to be like the central character in Uncle Tom's Cabin.

For there is another school of thought which says that placing yourself in situations of long-term abuse is sometimes a codependent behavior, and is not a sign of health on your part, but rather of pathology.  For such a response on your part enables the abuser to continue with his dysfunctional behavior.  ("Enabling" can be defined as "removing the natural consequences to the addict of his or her own behavior.")  So while I do indeed submit to Luke 6:27-36, I am also guided by Matthew 10, where the Lord sent His disciples out to do good to a nation which He knew would not receive His message.  There He says, "Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves.  Therefore be wise (some translate this as "shrewd") as serpents, and harmless as doves.  But beware of men..."   Someone who is shrewd is smart or clever in a practical sort of way; he or she has an ability to understand things and make good judgments, and he or she possesses hard-headed acumen.  (In the original Greek, the word translated "wise" or "shrewd" is the Greek word φρόνιμος , or, "phronimos.")  In Matthew 10, the Lord also told His disciples that if their intended audience rejected the message of the good deeds done to them, the disciples were to leave them and move on to someone else.  And He said, "But when they persecute you in this city, flee into the next..."  (Emphasis added)  In other words, don't stick around.  

Things get even clearer when the abuser calls himself or herself a Christian.  For 1 Corinthians 5 says that we are not to associate with anyone who is called Christian if that person practices certain sins, among which are scheming to steal other people's stuff (which is a rough working definition of covetousness), or threatening other people in order to rob them (which is a rough working definition of extortion).  In other words, we are called to separate ourselves from those who are hell-bent on being abusive.  (That also applies on a certain level to abusive nations that call themselves "Christian".)

What if the abusers own the major institutions of society, and own the playing space in which the great game of economic advancement is played?  Then separation will not be without cost.  But those who do separate themselves will discover an amazing thing, namely, that they can indeed live outside of the system, if they are willing to stop wanting the things the system has to offer.  In other words, they discover that they don't need the things the system told them they needed.  1 Corinthians 7 commands us not to make full use of the world, since this world is passing away.  

So let's bring this to the realm of secular geopolitics.  The United States and Britain have, for the last sixty or so years, sought to refashion the world into their own personal possession, a united Anglo-American empire rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the British empire, on which "the sun never set."  They have imposed the dollar on the world as the world's reserve currency, the de facto currency of international trade.  They have enforced monetary policy via the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and have made the world into their oyster, an oyster which has only one choice, namely, to be eaten.  For they have made the pursuit of all other options impossibly painful for the oyster (or so they thought).  

But the oyster is now discovering that it does not have to be prey.  Syria (with a great deal of help from Russia) has just successfully resisted Anglo-American attempts to dismember it.  Iran recently announced that it will no longer conduct international trade with any other nation in dollars, but will trade in euros from now on.  China has announced that it will no longer peg its currency exclusively to the U.S. dollar, but rather to a basket of currencies.  (See this also.)  Russia and China are now trading with each other in Chinese yuan and not in U.S. dollars.  Other nations are also now ditching the dollar.  (See this also.)  And even inside the U.S. there is an increasing number of people who are unplugging from the system, financially and in other ways, by adopting simpler, more frugal lifestyles.  (One such development: note the swelling numbers of people who don't have a cable subscription, who don't even watch Netflix, and who don't have a TV.  Note also the very successful boycotts of year-end holiday shopping by African-Americans over the last two years.)  Such developments - not widely reported in Anglo-American media - must be giving a lot of hunger pangs to the predators who want to eat the oyster.

And this - the fear of starvation - is one big reason why predators start getting nervous when the prey begins to leave the pathological space created by the predators.  Just as no prey likes to be eaten, no predator wants to die of starvation.  The other reason why predators get nervous when their prey leave them has to do with the dynamic that emerges between predators once there are no longer any prey among them.  Along those lines, last week I was fascinated to hear a TED talk by Margaret Heffernan, author of Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore The Obvious At Our Peril.  In her talk, she described an experiment performed by William Muir of Purdue University, which involved two groups of chickens.  Chickens might prey on worms and bugs, but they normally don't prey on each other.  However, Muir took both groups of chickens through six generations of his experiment.  With one group (the control group), he did nothing but feed and care for them in the usual way.  However, in each generation of the second group, he separated out from them the best and most productive egg-layers (also known as the "super-chickens"), and used them as the breeding chickens for the following generation.  After six generations, the control group - the flock of mostly average chickens - was happy and thriving.  However, in the group which was subjected to selective breeding, by the sixth generation, only three of the "super-chickens" were alive.  The rest had pecked each other to death.