Here Thar Be Monsters!

From the other side of the argument to the other side of the planet, read in over 149 countries and 17 languages. We bring you news and opinion with an IndoTex® flavor. Be sure to check out Radio Far Side. Send thoughts and comments to luap.jkt at gmail, and tell all your friends. Sampai jumpa, y'all.

29.6.13

Mr. Taoiseach Take Note

Happy weekend and Happy Midsummer.  Thank God for the Irish!  I've requested an interview with Clare Daly for Radio Far Side.  Her words need to get out to the world.  By the way, she directly accuses the taoiseach, which is the Irish Gaelic word for Prime Minister...just so you understand who she is addressing.

28.6.13

Living With The F-Word

One of our on-going themes around here is traveling vs. touring.  The former is changing yourself to meet the world, and the latter is changing the world to meet your expectations.  In other words, a traveler will eat live monkey brains in Nagapattinam, India, while a tourist won't even make it to that city because there's no McDonald's or Best Western.

Most of what keeps people from being travelers is fear: fear of the unknown, fear or getting lost, fear of being outside of one's comfort zone.  Other people hate the bother of going somewhere, what with all the packing and planning.

Frankly, I hate packing and planning myself.  I prefer to throw a few items in a carry-on, buy a ticket to somewhere and go.  As for the planning, well...I'll get around to that when I get back.

I remember when I set off on my first big voyage.  I left Texas heading East and returned from the West.  I was freshly 18, and hopelessly naive.  I began in Dublin, Ireland, and when I had finished, I had lived in three countries and visited more than 30 across four continents.  Took about two years and my luggage consisted of a backpack.

While living in Dublin, I saved up and bought the pack, a tent, sleeping bag, a stove, and a few necessities.  In the evenings and on weekends, I would practice packing and unpacking, setting up camp and tearing down, and hiking all over the local area with my pack to get in shape.  That pack became a part of me.  I could set up and tear down in the dark, which came in handy many times.  By the time I got back home, the pack weighed better than 50 pounds (23 kilos) and I was in the best shape I've ever been in from lugging it.

I had no idea where I was going.  I had a Eurail card that got me 3 months of unlimited train travel around Western Europe.  I knew I wanted to see Paris and Rome, but other than that I had no plan.  I had heard about youth hostels and international camping sites, but had no experience with them.  And I had a couple hundred dollars in my pocket.

First stop after Dublin was Liverpool at 3am, with no where to go and no contacts.  I ended up napping behind a pint of beer in the corner of a seaman's pub that reminded me of something out of a Hemingway novel or John Huston film.  I was utterly on my own, never having set foot this far outside my comfort zone.

Keep in mind this was before cell phones and instant messages and portable tablets with WiFi.  A trans-Atlantic phone call involved reservations at the local telegraph office and cramped phone booths with a meter over the phone ticking off the milliseconds of homesick conversations with the folks back home who sounded like they were talking into a 5,000-mile-long pipe.

There is a Zen koan that says, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  It is so true.

From that first night in Liverpool, shivering from the cold, terrified of the grizzled creatures all around me, and sucking down as much liquid courage as I could afford, a great adventure was born.

A day of travel teaches one more than a month of school.  You are not likely to slurp live monkey brains, snack on Madagaskar singing roaches or raise a toast with cobra blood sitting in the Des Moines Holiday Inn and shopping for refrigerator magnets at Mall of the Americas.  Maybe you think, "Good!  Who wants to do all that anyway?"  But that's just your fear talking.

You haven't lived until you've dug parasites out of your skin, or nearly died (or wanted to) from dysentery, or awakened in an opium den two days after your last memory.  But it's not all hard-bit.  There's dinner at Maxim's in Paris or snuff and beer with the boys in Fuessen, or tropical coral reefs in Indonesia, or Mayan temples in the jungles of Guatemala.  Or how about driving down the highway between two warring armies, or getting shot at on the Afghan border, or slogging through a blizzard at the Kremlin wall?

I imagine the afterlife as being something like Valhalla.  Souls sit around reclining on deer skin sedans, quaffing chalices of mead and ripping roasted lamb flesh off the bone.  Those souls with the best stories are given seats at the table.  The rest must stand like wallflowers and ponder the life they wasted amassing possessions that they no longer have while picking at the leftovers of more adventurous souls.

Tourists jostle and panic with mobs of humans through the peculiar form of torture called airlines.  Travelers know about the jump seats on air freighters and the best toilet stalls to sleep in and how to trade stories for free room and board.

Tourists worry about reservations and late arrivals and skycaps to shuffle their copious bags.  Travelers can carry their belongings with one hand and know where they are going when they get there.  Tourists are afraid of travelers because when they look into a traveler's eyes, they realize just how far they are from home and how they are just one cancellation away from having an adventure.  And that's what tourists fear the most: adventure.

We have developed a tourist culture.  We want it all to slide by unnoticed and unexperienced, with guides and skycaps to handle our dirty work.  We want to recline our seats and shut our eyes and wake up when we get to the next comfortable part.  We want reality to be convenient and clean.  We want experiences to be enjoyable and repeatable.  Most of all, we don't want to be afraid of anything.  Just swallow the pill and all the gritty parts go away.

And this is why aging tourists start to lament and panic.  They reach a point in their lives and realize they have no stories to tell.  Everything about their life has been mass produced and everyone they know has had the same trip and they have a 'mid-life' crisis coming to terms with the fact that they have never lived a life that is almost finished.

Tourists reach a point where they look around and realize that all they have for a lifetime of effort is a McMansion, 1.6 kids, 2.4 cars, 1.1 dogs and debt up to their eyeballs.  Their only recollections of adventure come from the NatGeo channel and the deepest emotion they've ever experienced was when the home team won the pennant back in 19 and something.  Their education consisted of an alcohol and drug-induced fog, and most of their friends (if not all) are just superficial acquaintances stamped from the same mold.

They panic.  They take cruises and go to resorts and try desperately to feel something other than fear.  They buy sports cars and motorbikes and figure that's hanging their ass over the edge, only to realize that they are in traffic jams of people doing the same thing.

Finally, they slump into a Prozac dream wishing that they had done something more with their lives than chase up careers ladders and shuffle paper and worry whether the A/C unit is sufficiently rated for the size McMansion they rent from the bank.  They vaguely remember the imaginariums they built as kids, full of monsters and adventures that they were going to meet, all of which evaporated at some point they can no longer recall.

What the tourists never realize is that it's never too late to become a traveler.

If you're reading this and thinking that you'd really like to become a traveler, then the first thing you need to know is that it's very simple and doesn't cost a thing.  You need no equipment or special clothing.  There's no training or guidebooks.

If you find yourself in a crowd of people all heading in a certain direction, go the opposite way.  If you are doing something that has a lot of rules, like getting on an airplane, pick one of the rules and deliberately ignore it.  If faced with the choice between two roads, pick the smaller of the two.  And don't worry about the consequences.  That's the adventure part.

Once you get the hang of it, then comes the Big Challenge.  Whenever you are faced with a choice, pick the one that causes you the most fear.  When you start doing that, then you know you are a seasoned traveler and tourism is far behind you.

Our culture has locked us into a tourist mindset, and I daresay that one thing is most responsible for the mess in which we find ourselves.  The dreams we follow have been manufactured for us by those who profit from our compliance.

The more we desire repeatable experiences, the more will be manufactured for us.  The more we follow rules, the more will be made for us.  The more we demand to know the outcome, the more the outcome will be predictable.  And most importantly, the more fear we feel, the more fear will used against us.

The difference between traveling and touring is nothing more than a simple choice.  There's a reason we call certain experiences "tourist traps".  That's exactly what they are.  And once trapped, we are nothing more than amusements for those who set them.

Tomorrow, get an early start and take an entirely different route to work.  It may change your life.

27.6.13

Permission To Be Free

The SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the US) struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which said that marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman only.  Well, that got a lot of people jumping up and down on both sides of the issue.  Naturally, we here and the Far Side have a slightly different take on things.

Here's the problem: when people turn to government to define something as intensely personal as who you can call 'spouse', then you get what you get.  Either you have the Defense of Marriage Act, which said that same-sex couples can't be married, or you don't have it, which means government can define marriage any way it wants to.  In other words, when you accept that government can 'license' marriage and say who gets insurance and pension benefits, then believe me, the issue will become a political one with the scum class (politicians) falling all over themselves to define marriage whichever way gets them the most money and votes.

As proof, just look at old Bill Clinton (don't you miss him about now?).  He signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law back in the 90s, because it was politically expedient at the time.  Yesterday, when SCOTUS cut it down, old Billy was jumping up and down praising the court's decision.  Excuse me?  Doesn't that sound like playing both hands of a two-handed poker game?

As it stands now, folks can marry their cattle or pet dog or whatever the government will issue a 'license' for.  It's the government's decision, since the people allow it the power to decide. The court's decision is a victory for the Mormans, at any rate, since they can now have multiple wives.  After all, marriage is not limited to one man/one woman, right?  Not that it's really all that shocking.  I know lots of folks here with multiple wives (at the same time).

Here's where everything is bass-ackwards.  My spouse and I should be the ones who determine the definition of marriage, and we shouldn't need a license from government, we should just tell them who we married, if we damn well feel like it.  Marriage is, at most, a religious issue, but at minimum a ritual between two (or more) people who declare themselves married in front of their friends and family.  The government should be giving the benefits to whomever I tell them to, not telling me.

Even more to the point, government shouldn't be handing out benefits to anyone.  I should be making my own retirement and insurance decisions for my family and leaving whatever is left to whomever I decide is my family when I shed this mortal coil.

If you are Muslim in Indonesia, you just show up to a mosque, get the imam to mumble a few words and sign the register.  POOF, you're married.  You can do that up to four times (simultaneously), but then no one really keeps track, so you can have a dozen wives if you want.

Of course, if you are a member of any of the other three 'official' religions (those recognized by the Constitution - Christian, Hindu and Buddhist), you need a license and have to jump through a bunch of bureaucratic hoops to register your marriage.  Oh yeah, and mixed-faith marriages are not allowed, so God help you if your intended spouse is a tree-worshipper.  Nothing like equal rights, eh?  Whether the law discriminates on the basis of gender or faith of the couple, it's all the same in the end.

The point is, government has no right being involved in anyone's personal life under any circumstances.  Since when did the government become an intermediary with God?  After all, don't we say, "Whatever God has joined together, let no man put assunder"?  Apparently, God requires licenses to join people together.

Frankly, I don't give a damn who you or anyone else calls "spouse".  If you're happy, then good on ya.  If that means the third baboon from the left at the local zoo, fine.  Just don't invite me to afternoon tea because I don't think your baboon can make a decent cucumber sandwich.

I also happen to think that one wife is more than enough trouble.  Why would any sane man need more than that?  But if you want (and can afford) seven wives, then get busy, boy.  You've got a lot of work to support that many credit cards.

The problem here is not just defining marriage.  It is that people turn to government to do it.  The way it's supposed to work is that people tell government what they want, and the government's job is to protect those decisions.  How people come to those decisions is called the democratic process, which is itself a function of culture.

Once people turn to government to define what they believe, well...all bets are off.  You end up with the peculiar flavor of fascism that is currently sweeping the US and Europe.  These kinds of issues are for each community to define.  If I don't like the way my community defines something, then I can move somewhere more amenable.

More precisely, families should determine who will be allowed into their fold, not government.  After all, under the Defense of Marriage Act, how would the government deal with an hermaphrodite marrying my son?  Technically, the hermaphrodite is neither male nor female, and both at the same time.  Does that fit under the one man/one woman definition?  It should be my decision to bless the marriage or not, but certainly not the government's decision in any case.  In fact, marrying an hermaphrodite would make one a polygamist, homosexual and traditionalist all at the same time.  Hmmm...interesting.

What entertains me the most is that a lot of the folks getting steamed over the 'traditional' marriage issue are the same ones getting all lathered up about government snooping and curtailing liberty.  If you are one of them, then perhaps you need to do some intense meditation on what you consider liberty and freedom.  Allowing government to define who I can marry is both snooping (entering my bedroom) and curtailing liberty (telling how I can pursue Happiness).

Come to think of it, SCOTUS needs to get its proverbial shit together, as well, since on the one hand, they take away liberty with decisions about warrantless searches and no right to remain silent, and on the other hand get all worked up about people being free to marry whomever they want.  That's more of less defining freedom as having the choice between two brands of mustard when you only like mayonnaise.

When it comes to liberty and freedom, I don't have to like your choices, but I have to support your right to make them so that you will support mine.  In any case, the government doesn't belong anywhere in the equation, except as arbiter in disputes.

The next time you think, "There oughtta be a law," remember that someone else is thinking the same thing about your liberty.

26.6.13

Resistance Is Futile

There are so many things going on right now that it's hard to focus on any given issue.  Of course, the US o' A is all over the news, barking orders and whatnot.  Certainly giving Putin plenty of room to show off.  The more I see of him, the more respect I have for him, though I wouldn't trust him with my wallet.

As for the whole Snowden thing, every single day just brings confirmation that we are being treated to a slight of hand.

For one thing, he says he smuggled all the docs out of the CIA (or NSA or whatever is was he was doing) on a thumb-drive.  Don't know if you've ever worked for a paranoid multi-national corporation, but if you stick a thumb-drive into any computer, it is automatically encrypted and will not work in any computer outside the company.  Even if the drive is formatted, the encryption remains.  Nope, don't buy it.

Now Snowden is being cast as Tom Hanks in The Terminal.  Yes, that's right, Ed is holed up in the transit area of the Moscow airport.  Can't leave, can't jump the next flight out.  He's in diplomatic limbo.  I suppose now he'll start building fountains or programming the Russian air traffic control grid or something.  I hope they've improved that airport.  When I was there 30 years ago, I didn't want to spend more time than I absolutely had to in there.  The least he could have done is flee to Singapore.  The airport there is like a 5-star hotel, it's right next door to Hong Kong and it has lots of cool places to hide out.

For that matter, he could have run to the transit area of the Ronald Reagan airport outside Washington D.C., and had all the benefits of being in diplomatic limbo there, as well.  So I don't buy that one either.

In fact, the whole story smacks of a movie plot in which the bad-guy whistleblower exposes the security grid allowing a bunch of cave dwellers from Afghanistan (or would it be Syria now) to blow up the Statue of Liberty (wouldn't that be poetic) and then the whole thing can be blamed on the Borg drone who developed self identity and didn't support the hive.  Moral of the story?  Get back in line, slave.  See what happens when you don't follow the rules?

All this talk of Fascism leads me to another funny story.  "Dengue Scare Sweeps Southeast Asia"  Hahahahahahahahaha!  Gag.  Gasp!  Coff!  That's one of the richest bits of fear-mongering I've heard since Alex Jones glommed onto the Ed Snowden story.

Now, if you didn't live in Southeast Asia, as I do, you might read this story and think that we are all dropping dead of dengue over here.  Well, I live right in the heart of SE Asia, in the largest and richest member nation of ASEAN, and I'm here to tell ya not one single person I know has mentioned the word 'dengue' in months.

The story focuses on Singapore, which if you don't know, is the most powerful Asian fascist nation, despite being nothing more than an insignificant island off the coast of Malaysia.  Like all fascist nations (read US/UK here), it thrives on its citizens living in fear.  After all, when good little slaves get scared, they always run to Uncle Sugar for protection from the mean, nasty world.

The fact is, I just spent the last five days with folks from all over SE Asia, and not one mentioned dengue fever.  The article says that June 15th was "Dengue Day" to raise awareness all over SE Asia about the virus.  That was news to me, as not one single media outlet in Indonesia said a single word about 'dengue awareness'.

Finally, dengue fever is a fact of life around these parts, just like earthquakes and volcanoes.  Everyone I know, except me (knock on wood) has had it at least once.  And there are many cures for it, which is why everyone runs to the hospital to get it - unless you are me and then you chew guava leaves and drink guava juice, which is what folks around here have been doing for centuries to prevent and cure dengue.

It helps if you spray for mosquitoes before going to bed, too - though I'm not sure which is worse...dengue or horfing insecticide.

I have certainly not heard about "war rooms" and "free cans of bug spray" and all the other fearful crap in this article.  It is true that this year's monsoon has been longer and wetter than most, but that is part of a cycle that goes around every five years or so, according to the locals, so even the bit about 'climate change' in the article is complete bullshit, though I admit that the extra rain has probably aided and abetted the mosquito breeding efforts.

These two stories are why I try not to expose myself to MainStreamMedia.  It is all bullshit and fear-mongoring.  It serves only one purpose, and that is to make people afraid and run to Uncle Sugar.  The conditioning evident in these two items is so obvious as to be laughable, except that so many people buy into it.

I've said it a thousand times before, but it bears repeating - TURN OFF THE F**KING TEEVEE!

The only thing it is good for is turning your higher reasoning center to mush.  And that goes for movies, too.  Doesn't anyone else see that all these superhero movies are to condition us to be passive victims and wait for Uncle Sugar (Superman, Batman, Spiderman, the Avengers, et al.) to come to our rescue?  Complete, utter, without exception, B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T.

If you have to watch a movie, go download David Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983).  That should put the proper conditioning in your head.

I have found over the years, after a long and glorious career producing propaganda, that the less media you consume, the better.  You'd be amazed at how little you miss.  The really important stories will get through, and the rest of it becomes nothing but noise after a while.  In fact, you'll start feeling like Kevin McCarthy in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) we he learns the awful truth and sees his friends and neighbors in a completely different light.

As for the moment, you are Borg and you need to jack back into the Collective before you start thinking again.  Hurry!  Your programming needs updating or you'll turn into...GASP!...an individual!

One thing is absolutely certain.  If you are told to be afraid of something by the media, ignore it completely.  That is not what you should be afraid of.  The things you really need to worry about are the things they won't talk about, or even worse, the stuff they go out of their way to get you to ignore.  That's why I think the whole Snowden thing is a send-up, since they are casting so much light on it.

Make no mistake, the media work for the gummint, or more precisely, the corporate interests that own the gummint.

Like I always say, the reason they put so much effort into telling you cigarettes are bad is because the nicotine protects you from hypnotic suggestion.

So, get back to your puffing, slave!

Oh, and the petition to rescind Obama's Nobel "Peace" Prize?  Faithful reader Linda sent us the link.  Thanks Linda!

UPDATE: Linda popped up right on cue after I hit print with one possible reason that dengue is in the headlines: money!

If you really want a good laugh, Sanofi Dengue Building is the latest development here in our township. Sanofi has a large  pharaceutical plant here and when I read your story this morning I had to get this off to you.A whole new building especially for a cure for dengue.

24.6.13

Participating In Your Own Demise

A THOUGHT: How about a mass movement to rescind Obama's Peace Prize?  Might send a pretty loud message!  Something to consider...

Back in my idealistic youth, when I used to think it was worth fighting 'the system', I was arrested a lot for exercising my right to travel.  Didn't matter, since I always won in court, but it did give me quite an insight into the world of the police state.

Back then, in the early 1990s, I was being transported from one jail to another (just to give the lazy bastards something to do).  The cop drove most of the way at 90+ miles per hour down city streets, and at a red light that he couldn't run, he spotted an attractive young woman in the car next to us.  He delayed a bit at the green light and typed her license plate into his on-board computer, getting her vital stats and home address, among other things.

Supposedly, this type of thing was supposed to be illegal.  But so was careening at high speed down city streets when there was no emergency.  He did it because he could.  He had power, and who was going to do anything about it?  His colleagues who were doing the same thing?

You see, that's the thing about having power - the temptation to use it is overwhelming.  Especially when the only people who can stop you are doing the same thing.

When the NSA was given the power to spy on everyone, foreign and domestic, all that did was legally sanction what they had been doing for decades.  Snooping on people's private lives is what the CIA and NSA were designed to do from the get-go.  The FBI was doing it on American citizens since it was founded.  That agency was used by presidents to keep tabs on various critics and J. Edgar Hoover's files have been 'discovered' many times over the years.

It all started with drivers' licenses.  That one item allowed state governments to build databases of photos, vital stats, home addresses, and signatures.  Those files were appended with any notes and records the state cared to keep on you.  Then a law back in the 80s authorized the states to share that information with each other and the feral gummint in the name of catching 'deadbeat dads'.

They always couch these things in terms of a greater good: licensed drivers (safe roads), deadbeat dads (The Children), mass shootings (gun control), terrorism (snooping).  And it doesn't matter the original intent.  It only matters that they have the information and can use it with impunity for any purpose.

What's more, the NSA and its ilk have all the latest high-tech stuff, including super-computers and massive backbone internet lines.  If Goldman Sachs has the ability to front-run stock market trades, then you can bet the NSA has it.  In fact, it was probably developed for the government's crash prevention efforts, but with that kind of power lying around, who needs Iran-Contra to fund your black projects?  Just play the market for a day or two and *POOF*, you have tons of money to fund coups, secret incursions and any other hobbies you have picked up over the years.

Just like the cop I saw illegally getting information on a private citizen just because he took a liking to her, being able to manipulate markets for personal and departmental profit, not to mention just for the hell of it, would be a rather tough temptation to resist.  If you could push a button and make the stocks in your 401(k) skyrocket, would you think to yourself, "No, that wouldn't be ethical, even though all my co-workers are doing it and getting rich."

The fact is that ANY power in the hands of government is destined to be abused, as history shows.  Things as innocuous as census questionnaires and passports are being used to delve into people's personal lives and track/control their movements.  No amount of power is without the risk of abuse by government, any more than it is safe in the hands of individuals.  All power is subject to abuse, and greater power is subject to greater abuse, to paraphrase Baron Acton.  The most frightening abuses come when power is centralized, as it has been over the past century in the US.

The only solution is the complete dissolution of large, centralized governments, but that hardly seems likely.  Concerted efforts on the part of people to regain their power and rights might work for a time, but governments thus denuded will begin almost immediately retaking the same ground.  A neo-Luddite solution is also doomed to fail, as folks like their gee-gaws.

The only realistic solution is for people to stop participating in their own enslavement.  Let you driver's license expire and don't renew it.  Stop using taxpayer numbers for any reason.  Stop filling out the census questionnaires.  Don't use real names or data on any social media or electronic devices.  Try using hushmail.com or following some of these suggestions.

Whatever you do, spend at least some part of each day throwing as many monkey wrenches into the works as you can.  It is our civic and spiritual duty to start unraveling this mess.  After all, we are at least partly responsible for allowing it to happen.

As a vast number of people are starting to realize, freedom is something that is earned each day and in each generation.  We can not trust ANY government to protect our rights, no matter how benign it may seem or how many flowery words are written into the law.  All governments are enemies of peace and freedom by their very natures.  Don't they enforce their existence with guns?  It is the threat of violence that keeps people in line, so what's to stop them from taking more and more power from the same people at whom they point guns?

Governments are like unruly chidren: they will continue to misbehave until they find the limits of tolerance.  As long as we allow government to ride rough-shod over us, it will continue to increase the abuse until we finally put a stop to it.

The problem is, once genies are out of the bottle, they can be awful difficult to stuff back in.

22.6.13

Suicide By Avarice

Greed is such a pernicious and fatalistic thing.  It is the ultimate denial of the future and of hope.  Greed is the determination that our wants (not needs) today far outweigh those of anyone else tomorrow, or even years from now.  In fact, greed is a kind of suicide and it is killing our species as surely as poison.

In the 1950s, Japanese - and to lesser extent European - demand for wood for lumber led to the near denuding of Kalimantan (Borneo).  Huge swaths of the island were mowed down because a few people wanted to make some fast money.  And they did, becoming fabulously rich in the process.

Later, it was the coal rush.  Demand for fuel across Asia once again caused a handful of people to lay waste to large parts of the jungle in Kalimantan, opening enormous pits to extract coal and then abandoning them once the financial wealth had been extracted.  This has left massive scars full of reeking runoff water across the island.  The fertile soil lost and the usefulness of the land for future generations destroyed.

But, a small number of
people got fabulously rich.

Today, it's palm oil plantations.  Across Sumatera, large areas of jungle are being leveled and burned in order to make way for palm oil growers who are getting quite rich off the product.  In the wake of the plantations are large swaths of land where ancient forests and habitats have vanished, and who knows what hidden treasures along with them.

A great number of medical discoveries were made in Indonesia's forests.  A bacteria in the soil of Kalimantan led to the development of a new class of antibiotics that includes Vancomicin.  However, greed on the part of the pharmaceutical companies has led to overuse of antibiotics, which has given the world incredibly strong infectious agents.  But a few people became fabulously rich.

Greed is the overwhelming feeling that your desires outweigh those of any future people at any time, and the willingness to destroy anything to get what you want.  The gross accumulation of wealth for its own sake is such a pointless and wasteful exercise, yet the desire affects most of us at some time or another.  For some, it becomes a way of life.

I have seen it destroy so many lives - people hell-bent on accumulating wealth to the point that they cease to care about anyone or anything but themselves.  They are willing to destroy vast areas of natural beauty, endure the animosity and disrespect of family and friends, and forego any enjoyment of their own lives in order to add more zeros to their bank accounts.

I met one Indonesian woman in Texas 30 years ago, the wife of a friend of mine.  At the time, she was a pleasant and decent human being, though she spent an inordinate amount of time fretting over the family's money.  One day, she got the idea to come back here and go into the coal trading business.  Today, she is fabulously wealthy.  If she quit today and spent a million dollars a year, her fortune would likely outlast her.  Still, she works night and day, ignoring or at least being bothered by family concerns.  She has become a sour, empty person who suspects everyone around her is after her money.  If her mining operations make any effort to be "green", it is nothing more than a PR stunt.  She has no concern for the lives or land she destroys in the pursuit of wealth.

I know an Indonesian man who illegally imports and sells nutritional supplements at a fabulous profit.  He owns a massive house, has hot and cold running servants and 15 cars all for a family of four.  He treats his employees only slightly better than slaves, working them long hours for virtually no pay.  When they outperform expectations, he doesn't offer bonuses, even when contractually bound to do so.  He spends inordinate amounts of his life running from revenuers and police, hiding his office location, changing his phone number constantly and suspecting everyone around him will steal him blind at the first opportunity.

Neither of these people has a life as most of us would define it.  They don't enjoy anything, are always suspicious and paranoid, and can't take the time to enjoy simple pleasures like children or grandchildren, or a relaxing week in the country.  For them, a vacation is hiding from the life they have created for themselves, rather than an extended rest.

For all their wealth, they have no peace.  Both of them spend their lives counting pennies and worrying that someone will steal them blind.  They have no qualms about throwing others in front of them to avoid losing their precious money.  They expend tremendous amounts of energy accumulating their pile of goodies and everything, including their own families, are expendable in the battle to keep their goods.

On the other hand, some of the happiest people I know have nothing that we would consider valuable.  In my own life, the times when I felt most free and unburdened were when I had nothing.  The year I spent in a monastery, I had no property and never had a penny in my pocket, and I felt completely free.  When one of my wives twisted off and took the family fortune to presumably trade up, I was left completely free to change the course of my life without worrying about someone else or protecting/disposing of property to do it.  In fact, my move to Indonesia was just such a time when I had nothing to protect, nothing to lose and an entire world of choices to consider.

Real freedom, as the Buddha and the Christ taught, is owning nothing and wanting nothing.  You can not be controlled if there is nothing you want or possess.  The whole world operates on a small group creating demand for useless gee-gaws and then controlling us through them, and all to feed their insatiable desire for more zeros in their bank accounts.

If you stand far enough back and look at the global situation, it all seems so petty and useless.  People climbing over each other, destroying our planet, fighting and hating all for more zeros.  It couldn't be more absurd, really.  All the evil we can muster for, literally, nothing.  The worst part is that there seems to be no solution to it, since the human animal seems so fixated on sparkly things.

What's worse is that things seem to be devolving, rather than improving.  As a species, we don't appear to be moving away from feeding our base desires, but rather becoming even more callous in their acquisition.  All the religion, morals, ethics, philosophy and experience have done nothing to quell the hunger.  Instead, the more humans there are, the more we are willing to dispose of to get just a little further ahead that the rest.

Our consumer culture has not lived up to the promises of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Back then, we were to be living lives of leisure with machines performing our most mundane tasks.  When I was a kid, the World Book encyclopaedia said that we would all be zipping around in flying cars.  Science fiction writers speculated that humans would be living and working in space and on other planets.  Only the Huxleys and Orwells and Kafkas saw humanity living in prisons of greed and avarice at the mercy of an elite whose boundless desire for wealth would enslave the world.

Do you ever consider how many people suffer horrible lives so that you can enjoy Nike shoes or iPads?  When you turn on the light, do you think about what amount of natural beauty was destroyed to bring it to you?    When you eat a fruit or vegetable, does it ever occur to you that it was likely harvested by itinerant laborers on subsistence wages?  How many people suffer and die to bring you the useless gee-gaws you consider as status items?  How much of the pain and suffering in your life is the cost of the comforts and status of those above you?

If the ends do not justify the means, then can all the suffering and death in the world be justified by the comfort and convenience of the next layer of humans?

The culture we live under now is only a couple of hundred years old, yet it has caused more death and destruction than all of human history before it.  Our consumer society is wasteful and dangerous to most humans on the planet and most of us tend to forget what actually went into giving us our pittance.  All we concern ourselves with is what indignation we suffer to make the next layer up more comfortable, and because we suffer for an elite, we have no problem with making the next layer down suffer for us.  Kind of like hazing...we had to go through it, so the next class does to, in order to justify our humiliation.

An entire civilization built on suffering and destruction can't last long.  Two hundred years may seem like a long time in the context of a lifetime, but in the Grand Scheme of Things, it is hardly a blip.  Eventually, all of it will end.  Nature will only tolerate so much of it and then She kicks back, and humans are products of that Nature.

Greed, like a poker game, only lasts until one player has all the chips, then the other players gang up and take them away by hook or crook.  Then the process repeats until enough folks wise up to the that there is no winning in the end.  Greed is a self-defeating trap.  The more you have, the more you suffer to keep it.  Just take a close look at the faces of billionaires.  Look hard at their eyes.  All the toothy grins can't hide the hollow, hunted look deep in their souls.

It is axiomatic that money can't buy you happiness, but neither can it buy you freedom.  It is a prison of paranoia that increasingly narrows the people you trust and the places you go until there is no one and nowhere suitable for a person of your wealth and possessions.  Ultimately, all those zeros is exactly what you have, and as a civilization, we are well on our way to have plenty of nothing.

The last remaining Big Question is, what will it take for us to realize this as a species?  The answer is rather unsettling.

21.6.13

Report From Big Mountain

It's been one helluva month around the Far Side Sub-Headquarters here on the flanks of Gunung Gede (Big Mountain - yes, it's a real place, you think we would lie to you?).

The big news is that we had our first month over 12,000 hits, thanks in part to rense.com and henrymakow.com, who both posted some of our articles.  We are also closing in on a quarter-million pages served since we started this bit of personal madness back in May of 2010.  Very exciting stuff for a one-man operation deep in the jungles of Borneo.

The aware reader may have noticed that we replaced the PayPal donate button with a BitCoin one.  Well...seems we were up to some suspicious activities.  One generous reader made a significant donation after our interview with Drs. Farrell and de Hart, so I passed some of it on to those two gents.  According to PayPal, that was enough to suspend our account and demand that we send several pieces of identity papers.

Being the ornery cusses that we are, we told them to get stuffed and took up with more liberty-minded folks over at BitCoin.  Sorry, but to our mind, cross-donating a few bux to a couple of Oxford dons does not constitute subversive activity.  Message to PayPal?  Go screw yourselves!  Our privacy is not a commodity to be traded around.

Next of all, we noticed on a couple of web stat sites that the value of our little operation was going up due to all the traffic we've been getting.  That raised a couple of alarm flags, since it was increasingly valuable to own our name (augenguy, a handle we invented in the early 1990s when the internet was still a novelty).  So we immediately locked up augenguy.com/net/org.  Those links are now hot and (for the moment) point back to this blogsite.  Eventually, they will become entities unto themselves, once we figure out what to do with them.

Our efforts have been greatly aided by our generous donors.  Their support has made a lot of things possible around here that may not be entirely obvious, but nonetheless are helping us grow to serve our audience.

Our goal is create a place that is both entertaining and informative, while being sufficiently unique in style and substance from all the other sites out there.  We don't want to be a news amalgamator, and there are plenty of folks offering op-ed material in the mainstream.  Instead, we want to offer stories that are a little larger in scope than just current headlines, while seasoning everything with a little IndoTex wisdom.  It would seem, from the traffic flow, that people are responding to this rather unique blend.

So, our point?  To give a Big Texas thanks to all the good folks who have been faithful readers and donors over the past three years.  Also, thanks and welcome to all the new readers who are discovering our little effort to change things

We also want to make sure everyone knows about our new domain: AUGENGUY.COM, maybe visit and join our various social media outlets, such as the Radio Far Side FB page, @RadioFarSide twit page, the Vimeo and YouTube channels, and the mirror blog at WordPress, if that's more to your liking.  All the links are in the sidebar.

Keep an eye out over the next couple of months as we start to launch the new Far Side look and feel.  We'll be adding features, redesigning the interface and generally overhauling the whole concept.  We're also nailing down some really BIG interviews with truly global movers and shakers.  We want to bring the very best information to our readers.

Just so y'all know, half of our audience is in Asia and South America.  The other half is from the US, Canada and Europe.  We have a truly global gathering happening here and we aim to keep it that way.

Thanks for your support, dear reader, and please let your friends know about us.  Together, we can make the Far Side a place for unique views and experiences.

So head on down to the kaki lima, order up a serving of nasi kuning with durien for dessert, and get ready for the next phase of your favorite Far Side diversion.

Sampai jumpa! (until we meet again!)
The Far Side staff

19.6.13

Weapnized Rights: An Agenda

John Locke
For decades now, we have heard from dozens of 'minorities' demanding 'equal rights'.  Folks have been jumping up and down wanting rights for homosexuals and racial groups, genders and religions, in fact every minute segment of the population has had its spokespeople bullhorning the world about their 'rights'.  Invariably, they all want 'civil rights'.  But if we look closely at all this non-sense, can discern a deeper agenda?  Perhaps one not concerned with real, Natural Rights?

Let's begin with defining some terms.  Since the Enlightenment, western philosophy has recognized something called Natural Rights.  Perhaps Thomas Jefferson defined this concept succinctly than most: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  Beginning with John Locke, these concepts have been endlessly tossed around, but suffice it to say that there are Natural Right endowed in each human being that supersede all human forms of governance: they are granted by a/the Creator.

Let's turn now to 'civil rights'.  First, look at the adjective 'civil'.  This is defined as something having to do with citizens and the life of citizens in society.  A 'citizen' is defined as a natural-born or naturalized member of a political entity, such as a country.  In other words, these rights are granted as part of citizenship, and citizenship is conferred by a political entity, i.e. government.

Immediately, one should be able to perceive the profound differences between Natural Rights and civil rights (upper-case letters notwithstanding).  Natural Rights are 'endowed' by a Creator, which exists above all human control or authority.  Civil rights are granted by governments as part of a 'benefit package' for citizens.  Think of them like employee packages offered by companies as part of your compensation.

What this implies is that Natural Rights are immutable.  They are unalienable (un-a-LIEN-able - no lien may be placed on them).  They are not subject to whims and fancy.  They exist above and beyond the control of political and governmental agencies.

Civil rights, on the other hand, like employee benefit packages, can be given, withdrawn or modified at any time.  They are granted by government and can be taken away by government.  They are, in fact, mere ghosts of Natural Rights and are not endowed on all people, only those who are citizens of a certain political division, just as my benefit package is only for people who work in my company.  Yours may, and probably does, vary.

Frankly, if I were agitating for rights, I would chose to enforce those I was born with and which cannot be taken away, rather than begging government to grant me privileges that could just as easily be taken back tomorrow.

When we clarify the terms, we can begin to see the outline of an agenda, one which is subversive and dangerous to humanity.  While on the surface it may seem all warm and fuzzy to grant this group or that their civil rights, in fact what we are doing is weaking our Natural Rights by reducing them to benefit packages.

Let's say the sales and marking group at a company want to split because the marketing people want special benefits.  The company splits the group and gives them what they want.  Now the collective power of the original, single group is cut in half and dissension is introduced by making one of the new groups 'more special' than the other.  Later, when the marketing group wants a raise, they go to the sales group to support their efforts, but the folks in sales resent the marketers, so they back off.  The company, knowing that the marketing group doesn't have the support, is able to 'outsource' their function and cuts most of the positions in that department.  Thus, the original plan to get better benefits actually worked against the marketers in the end.

Granted, this is a somewhat simplistic example, but it sums up the net effect.  Under the Natural Rights program, all human beings everywhere have the same benefit package, no matter what company they work for, or even if they are self-employed.  If they change jobs or companies, they carry with them the same benefits they have enjoyed since birth.

Looked at in this way, we can define the agenda behind abortion rights or gay rights or minority rights.  These are not efforts to gain special status (though they may appear so from a certain perspective), they are fractionalizing humanity and making it far easier to take rights away in the long run.

Thus, the Natural Right to Life can be whittled down to how many days of gestation, or how much of the body has emerged from the mother, or other nit-picky details.  It also allows nefarious people to claim that 'tissue' which does not match the criteria of 'life' can be used for research and even patented as 'product' or 'property'.

Let's take another example.  Let's say the green people are demanding their civil rights from the purple people.  Automatically, this places the purple people in a superior position, able to 'grant' rights to other groups.  Furthermore, it creates strife among the green and the blue people, because the blue people don't yet have those civil rights.  Where before, we had 50% of the people in the purple class, and 50% in the blue and green classes, we now have 50% purples, 25% greens and 25% blues, with the blues and the greens no longer working together.  With the stroke of a pen, the purples have cut their opposition in half, while doubling their strength because they are not only in the position to grant rights, but they have got the opposition fighting among themselves and leaving the purples alone.

If we purples keep this ruse going, we can eventually subdivide the greens against each other, with long hairs on one side having special rights, while the short hairs on the other side have yet to receive the new civil rights.  Opposition is cut again, and on it goes.

Under the Natural Rights system, there is no need to fractionalize our collective power.  All humans everywhere at all times have the same rights: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  We are all human at conception and thus have the right to be born and to live as Nature or Destiny intends.  We all can go about those lives without hindrance by social or political forces.  And we may enjoy our privacy and self-rule within the boundaries of reason and concern for others' rights, so that the rewards and responsibilities of our life choices are ours alone.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are very broad categories, and Jefferson noted that these three were only some of a larger group.

Frankly, I would rather have unalienable, Natural Rights.  But, that brings up one last thing to look at: the term unalienable.

Unalienable is NOT the same as inalienable, no matter what the dictionaries say.  It is composed of un-, a-, lien (the root word), and -able.  The prefix un- simply means "not".  The prefix a- means "in", "on" or "into". The root word lien means "to put a claim on a person or property for payment of a debt".  And finally, the suffix -able, which of course is the ability to do something.  Thus, unalienable means "not able to place into a claim for debt", or simply, cannot be taken away for any reason.

I think most people would rather have unalienable Natural Rights given as part of our existence and heritage as human beings by an unassailable Creator, than a mish-mash of civil rights that can be handed out and taken away willy-nilly by governments and politicians with agendas that don't necessarily have our best interests at heart.

It's time we change the context of our argument.  We don't want civil rights.  We want Natural Rights, and we want them to be recognized, not granted, and defended not codified.  Human life is not a product or intellectual property to be owned.  Liberty is not being able to choose between New Zealand and Mexican strawberries.  The Pursuit of Happiness is not bigger plasma TeeVees and iPoops.  These are fundamental parts of our beings, just as a heart or lungs might be.

As an example, a woman's and man's choice is limited to whether or not to have sex.  Once their gametes have met, the resulting zygote is imbued with the human genome and those cells now have, as part of their heritage, the Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness (among others), just as every other human being.  To argue any other point is to open the debate of Natural Rights to the possibility of civil rights, and once that happens, all bets are off.

Natural Rights are not a matter of convenience or expediency.  They are immutable parts of the Universal Order of things, whether we call that Creator, God or some other name.  No government, group or entity has the right to abridge or a-lien those rights and to do so is a crime under the Natural Law.

It's time to redefine our terms in the public discourse.  We no longer want civil rights granted to us, we want to exercise the Natural Rights with which we were conceived.  Anything less is a crime against Nature herself.

18.6.13

Dark Pots And Black Kettles

"Rogue state is a controversial term applied by some international theorists to states they consider threatening to the world's peace. This means meeting certain criteria, such as being ruled by authoritarian regimes that severely restrict human rights, sponsor terrorism, and seek to proliferate weapons of mass destruction.[4] The term is used most by the United States, though the US State Department officially quit using the term in 2000.[5] However, it has been applied by other countries as well.[6]"

As the old saying goes, "If the shoe fits, wear it."

One assumes that the US "officially" stopped using the term 'rogue state' because it was becoming a bit obvious that the definition was a bit too close to home.  One tends to look a bit silly when one is a leper condemning lepers.  The tactic works for a while: pointing the finger at others to keep folks from looking at you.  Eventually, though, the ruse wears thin and people stop looking the other way.

The definition says that a 'rogue state' is characterized by an authoritarian regime.  We not that an online dictionary defines 'authoritarian' as:

au·thor·i·tar·i·an  [uh-thawr-i-tair-ee-uhn, uh-thor-]  adjective1.  favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom: authoritarian principles; authoritarian attitudes.
2.  of or pertaining to a governmental or political system, principle, or practice in which individual freedom is held as completely subordinate to the power or authority of the state, centered either in one person or a small group that is not constitutionally accountable to the people.
3.  exercising complete or almost complete control over the will of another or of others: an authoritarian parent.

Favoring complete obedience or subjection?  Might that include federal agents raiding marijuana vendors in states where the laws clearly state that the practice is legal?  Or how about warrantless searches, tasering citizens for looking cross-eyed at police, or indefinite detention without trial or access to legal defense?  Perhaps the idea that personal freedom is subject to law at all, rather than a gift and state of Nature?

Certainly, having TSA, FBI, CIA, NSA, IRS, marshals, and any of a couple dozen other armed extralegal agencies running around subjugating the population using various means would seem to fit the definition of 'authoritarian' quite readily.

So how about sponsoring terrorism?  This is a tricky one because terrorism depends heavily on who is defining the term.  The founders of the US could easily be called terrorists by the British.  The North American native peoples might have thought of the US cavalry as terrorists.  Clearly, the Assad government considers the rebels to be terrorists, and they are openly supported by the US.  The long, sad history of CIA involvement in political coups, assassinations and other nefarious acts would qualify that agency as a terrorist group.

We can't forget the US-led blockades against multiple nations.  The denial of basic food, medicine and energy to entire nations, civilian and military alike, easily falls under the definition of 'terrorism', since the desired effect is to frighten the citizenry into predefined actions, such as overturning legitimately seated governments.  The US itself has considered blockades (British, Confederate, etc.) as acts of 'terrorism' and war against itself.  'No-fly zones' might be included here, as they deny the basic right of humans to defend themselves against attack.

It would seem that from the point of view of a great number of people, the US sponsors terrorism.

How about seeking to proliferate weapons of mass destruction?  Again, we turn to our online dictionary to check the definition of 'proliferate':

pro·lif·er·ate  [pruh-lif-uh-reyt]  verb (used without object), verb1.  to grow or produce by multiplication of parts, as in budding or cell division, or by procreation.
2.  to increase in number or spread rapidly and often excessively.

By most accounts (Nazi research aside), the US invented both the uranium and hydrogen bombs, easily the most destructive devices ever conceived by Man.  The US, as far as we know, is also the only country to have used them in warfare.  The US has designed and/or developed a great number of chemical and biological weapons, such as ricin, anthrax, LSD, and many others, and performs research, manufacturing and storage of these weapons.

As for the US Army's willingness to use them, we need look no further than the infamous smallpox blankets distributed to native Americans and the Army's refusal to provide vaccines to stop the epidemic.  While that is only the best documented event, there is substantial evidence that the US has deployed chemical and biological agents on numerous other occasions.  Among them is the use of psychotropic chemicals by the CIA when researching various forms of psychological warfare.

We also know that the US has the stated goal, if not the ability at this point, to weaponize weather, which may be considered mass destruction.  The document AF 2025 Final Report is widely available online.  There is a large body of research that points to the HAARP device and a related network of arrays across North America are used in active research, at the very least, and actual weather modification, at the most extreme.

Finally, the US and its military-industrial complex are the largest producers of military hardware on the planet.  Together, they also constitute the largest arms dealer on said planet.  The weapons manufactured and sold by this consortium include both 'smart' (highly targeted) and mass weapons.

We come now to the final part of the 'rogue state' definition: 'considered threatening to world peace'.

The US has military bases and/or personnel on active duty in at least 130 countries around the world, according to Ron Paul.  There are just over 200 recognized, sovereign states in the world.  That's about 65% of the world actively occupied by the US military.  Only Germany, as far as any credible information goes, has a reciprocal base in North America.

The US is also actively involved in nearly all of the major conflicts on Earth at this time.  Whether it is Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, or South/Central America, the US has a significant role in ongoing military situations there.

Combined, these facts would seem to strongly imply that the US is a major threat to world peace.  All euphemistic terms, obfuscations and excuses aside, the production and distribution of arms, the occupation of more than half of the world's nations, and active research into weapon technology, both smart and mass, as well as a history of willingness to use all of the above to subdue people, both foreign and domestic, defines a threat to world peace.

Regardless of whether the US has 'officially' abandoned the term 'rogue state', it did at one time actively use the term and had a significant role in defining it.  The ongoing revelations of egregious violations of individual liberties by the US against its own people, much less those of other countries, is the hallmark of despotism.  The use of multiple government agencies to subdue and forcefully rule people is the very definition of authoritarian.

History teaches us that these kinds of states end badly for all concerned.  From Rome to the Soviet Union, authoritarianism contains its own destruction by denying people their most basic desires of freedom, peace and privacy.  Eventually, whether from within, outside or a combination of the two, these types of regimes are dismantled.  It is a fact with many examples throughout world history.

In the extant case, history must serve as a cautionary tale to both the leaders and population of the US.  While these types of regimes may exist and even prosper for a time, at some point an equal and opposite force will arise.  It is one of the fundamental laws of Nature.  The historical models also tell us that the fall of these regimes is very painful for many, especially the innocent caught both by surprise and in the middle of the conflict.

It is therefore incumbent on the American people to check the unbridled expansion of the current paradigm, for it is the American people who will suffer the most should the worst-case scenario occur.  Authoritarian regimes often end with the occupation and forceful dismantling of the state's apparatus.  It is better that the American people handle this themselves, obviously, to preserve some order and ensure a way of life to their liking.

One of the hardest things to admit is that your own country is neither moral nor ethical.  We all like to think that we are a force for good in the world.  But we must look at these things objectively and examine the results obtained by those acting in our name.  It is a common fallacy to say that the ends justify the means.  Peace is not achieved through war, and order is not drawn from chaos without without an incredible amount of energy being put into the equation.

None of this is to say that the US is the only rogue state, but it is the largest and most threatening.  No political structure has ever been conceived that is so good that it must be foisted on the rest of the world by force.  One catches far more flies with honey than with salt.

The American people have many peaceful, even passive, tools at their disposal to change the direction their leaders have chosen for them.  Violence is not an answer, for it only begets more violence.  Nor is this to say that unenlightened anarchy is an answer.  It can be as simple as an overwhelming majority openly and actively refusing to participate in elections.  There can be not claim to legitimacy in a democracy if a large majority of the electorate refuse to participate on moral and ethical grounds.

Though only one example, the reader is more than able to discern a dozen other such actions that would have immediate effect on both the existence and perception of a rogue state.  The key here is that rogue states are geared to absorb and expel violence.  By approaching the problem this way is to invite certain defeat.  They are, however, incapable of understanding peaceful initiatives.  To them, all the world is a nail for which they only conceive of hammers.

Only when the people stop participating in their own subjugation will things change.

14.6.13

Give Us A Sign!

Our recent article on language and culture appears to have struck a chord with a number of readers, including our good and faithful correspondent Guy, who also inhabits jungles.  He forwarded the article to a friend whose response, in part, was:
Interesting article and very true about how powerful languages are! In some countries in Africa women have developed their own "secret languages" to express special contexts their husbands or man in general would not understand.

Wondering how precise people can talk in sign languages to express the words and contexts? Origin of language and its development is for sure very interesting.

 A very interesting question, and one which I've had occasion to study.  I have worked and socialized with a number of deaf people over the years, all of whom were profoundly deaf from birth.  Thus, they had never directly experienced spoken language.  They were also from different countries and regions of the US.

What I learned from the experience is that sign language is just as rich and subtle as any spoken language.  It has dialects and accents.  A signer from Germany would have as much problem understanding an American signer as any speaker would.  It's really a fascinating topic to research.

For example, a former boss of mine, whose name began with the letter "G", was a rather strange bird.  The deaf woman who worked in our department had a nickname for him: it was the sign for the letter "G" combined with the sign for "weird", which is a bobbing motion with the hand in front of the mouth in American Sign.

In fact, this is a common means for sign language to express subtle or complex ideas.  Different signs are combined in certain ways (there are rules of grammar) to express connotation and subtext.  The signs are combined with facial expressions, which is why signing is done at the chest and face level.  The reader must be able to see the face to get all of the deeper meanings and context.

In effect, this is no different than spoken languages.  Perhaps you've noticed that reading, writing or talking on the phone require additional effort to convey certain subtext, because the facial expressions are not available.

Few people stop to consider how important the face is in communicating.  It is why actors rehearse their roles in front of mirrors to get just the right face and body language into a line.  It is also why stage actors and clowns (no comment) use exaggerated makeup so that expressions can be read at a distance or for comedic effect.

Perhaps you've had occasion to speak with a stroke victim in your experience, especially one with severe paralysis of one half of the face.  You may have noticed, or at least felt, the strange sensation of trying to understand what they are saying because the facial clues were so distorted.  This is true of people with facial tics or other similar phenomena.  A signer who is unable to use their face is similarly handicapped when trying to convey information.

Most of us are so accustomed to taking language for granted that we never think about all the complex functions involved in using it.  The ability to speak or sign is only a small fraction of the tools used to communicate.  This is part of what makes film and TeeVee so powerful, when compared to radio or print.  Our ability to see the speaker vastly expands the information we receive, and how fast we receive it.

I haven't even touched on voice inflection here, which has it's own box of communication tools.  Even signers have inflections.  One can sign peacefully, or angrily, or confusedly.  If you become adept enough at the language, you can tell what part of a country someone is from by their signing "dialect".  If a Spanish signer learns English Sign, they will 'speak' with an accent.  It is a very curious and fascinating phenomenon.

Next time you meet a signer, ask them to show you the signs for "father", "mother" and "thank you".  If you are able to do this with signers from different countries, you'll come to appreciate just how subtle the languages are.  In English, the three signs will offer some interesting insight into subtext and connotation.  The sign for "father" can be combined with the letter "G" to express "God the Father" all in one motion.  I'll leave you to discern all the various emotional baggage that goes with that concept.  Also, giving signs on the left, right or mid-line of the body changes the tone.

Language is a powerful tool, and humans have devised myriad ways to express the subtlety and richness of the human experience.  That the alphabet or medium changes does not in any way affect the ability of the user to convey their thoughts and emotions.

Where the problem lies is in the templates that language imposes (or are imposed) on our thinking.  If we are not aware of the limits and do not consciously try to expand beyond them, then we are trapped in a limited world of experience, unable to perceive or communicate experiences which fall outside the range of our language.  Those experiences are the things that inhabit the realms of fear and religion (but I repeat myself).

Do yourself and the world a favor.  Go out and enroll in a language class today.  Expand your horizons in a month or so with that one simple act.

Pretty soon, those places on the map of consciousness emblazoned with the words, "Here thar be monsters!", will get smaller and smaller until they disappear altogether.

13.6.13

You're Watching The Wrong Hand

I hate to piss in everyone's Wheaties here, but I'm just not buying the whole Edward Snowden thing.

Back in the Stone Age, when I didn't mind working 18-hour days, sleeping on a bus and using a calendar instead of a map to figure where I was, I toured with a magician named Doug Henning.  While working on that gig, I learned a thing or two about misdirection.  People's eyes will automatically look at something flashy, allowing other things to pass unnoticed if they are subtle enough.

Sure, this Snowden guy is in the grand tradition of Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange, but something just doesn't smell right here.  A 29-year-old man with top secret credentials who worked at the CIA and the NSA and once applied to the Special Forces runs off to Hong Kong before dropping a paper bomb on his former employers.  Nope, don't buy it.  Either his conditioning didn't take, or he was 'allowed' to do what he did, which we remember is blowing the lid off of the most massive and sophisticated spy and surveillance operation in history.

And here I thought they had machines to read people's minds and manipulate their dreams.  Yet, Snowden waltzed out the door with a pile of top secret papers, which we assume he copied and didn't take the originals.

Oh sure, I'm overjoyed that the spooks had their pants yanked down.  Way too much power piled up in one place, as far as I'm concerned.  But my spidey-sense is tingling.  I feel like I do when I watch great magicians - suspicious of what I just saw, or thought I did.

There's an agenda at play here, and not just that of a hero exposing the evil government sneaking into our lives.  It feels like some level higher even than government has put a plan into play.  That it happened at the same time as the Bilderberger meeting only further tweaks my hackles.  There's a bigger picture here.

Some questions: What are the Chinese allowing him to stay in Hong Kong?  Why did the Russians so quickly offer asylum when they couldn't have bothered with Assange?  And why Hong Kong?  I know places in Wyoming where even satellites, bloodhounds and the LA police couldn't find him.  Yet, he runs to one of the most densely populated islands in the world while his photo is being plastered all over global TeeVee?

As Assange noted, I hope he has a backup plan, because so far he's looking a little sloppy.

All of this adds up to side-show to distract the rubes while the real trick is taking place.  After all, why is anyone surprised?  Didn't they read the Patriot Act?  Didn't they read the NDAA?  Didn't they know that spying on citizens was authorized?  Stands to reason, since killing citizens without trial was authorized.  Spying is quite a bit lower on that totem pole.

Even more to the point, doesn't anyone read history - even fairly recent history?  What about J. Edgar Hoover?  What about Nixon's enemies list?  Did we already forget about that?  And what about the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798?  Or Lincoln's General Order 100 or the suspension of Writ of Habeas Corpus?  In fact, Lincoln did more to undermine the Constitution than any president since, and he's a HERO!

So all this hubbub and surprise is really unwarranted.  None of this is new or even surprising.  Both the spying and the laws that authorized it have been around for a while.  Bush and Obama have both said that they would do as much and trotted out their Attorneys General to read off the justifications to bleary eyed press and public.

All this commotion over Snowden can only be distraction.  There is no other explanation.  We should all be looking in every direction but Snowden trying to find the 'trick', because I guarantee while we've been watching him, something has changed that is far more important and subversive.

Now's our chance to start the shunning campaign I have long advocated.  We should all completely ignore the whole Snowden matter, turn off the babbling heads and start digging deep into whatever the other hand was doing while all this went on.  If we refuse to be led down the path by manufactured news stories such as this and doggedly keep looking the other way, it will have a devastating effect on those who deign to rule us. By following this story, we only feed into the insanity which is the uberklassen.

Turn off the TeeVee.  Don't click on any Snowden stories.  Avoid the topic of domestic spying altogether.  And for God's sake, make Congress do some work instead of sitting around like a bunch of nellies gasping and feigning for the cameras (that includes Rand Paul).

This is a great chance for we the people to set the agenda and take that role back from the "press" and the "pols".  It's the perfect issue, the perfect time and the perfect demonstration of our collective power to change things.

I'm all googly and giddy for Snowden, but don't let the messenger steal the message.  You have work to do. You have laws to repeal, pols to throw in jail and a country to take back.  Sounds like your plate is rather full.

So why are you still sitting there?

By the way, have you noticed that every single photo of Snowden is from the left side?  Doesn't that strike you as a bit odd?  Even famous movie stars can't control things that much.

12.6.13

Simple Choices

I'll never go back to toilet paper.

Look at it this way.  Either you can have a simple spray nozzle delivering a gentle stream of cleansing water to tidy up, or you can erect massive factories, mow down forests, use noxious chemicals and spend millions on researching plies and softness to produce toilet paper.

Not to mention the former is so much more effective than the latter.

I'm willing to bet that Obama is such a lousy president and the US is crumbling because of toilet paper.  Sort of a paraphrase of the "for want of a nail the kingdom was lost" parable.

Obama knows what I'm talking about.  He lived in Indonesia for five years.  I'll bet he's forgotten the lesson and has failed to install spray nozzles on the White House thrones.  That's why he's so distracted and glum.  He doesn't have the so-clean feeling all over!

There's something to be learned from every culture, and one clear thing I have learned in Indonesia is that water beats the living crap out of paper any day (pun intended).  Furthermore, having bathrooms that are completely tiled with a drain in the corner just makes so much damn sense!  Instead of buying tubs and curtains and stalls, just tile the damn room floor to ceiling and stick in a drain.  Then you can slosh and splash to your heart's content and go merrily about your business.

I suspect, and the reader is invited to disagree if he likes, that the US is crashing because of its infernal and hell-bent desire to bend Nature to its will.  History, though, would teach us that such an attitude will do little to promote the general welfare.

Egypt's golden age of dynasties centered around the flooding of the Nile.  There were no live news feeds tallying up the insurance costs or wailing about lost productivity.  Folks knew it was going to happen and they built their culture around the annual event.  Their culture lasted for millennia.  The US has barely broken two centuries.

In the US, people erect trailer home parks in Tornado Alley, or sprawling cities on river deltas in the direct route of hurricanes.  They build wood-frame houses where termites live and mold flourishes.  They seal their houses against the wind and rain, and install billions of dollars worth of machines to regulate every aspect of their lives.  Then, standing like some Shakespearian tragedian, they defy Nature to take its course.

Naturally, there is a lot of wailing and gnashing and beating of breasts when the inevitable happens.

It's as if the US has fostered an entire population of masochists.  Begging for pain and suffering, the American people do all they can to stand in the path of destruction while placing as much valuable labor and equipment in front of them so that they can absorb the brunt of Nature's power and scream in delighted pain.

Americans are strange beasts indeed.

To be fair, it's really a hemispheric problem.

Many Easterners revere a man who became god by sitting peacefully meditating under a tree for 20 years until he figured it all out.  He then taught the process to his followers and then died quietly in his sleep at a time and place of his choosing.

Westerns worship a god who became man to teach a message of peace and love.  He was then tortured by the most horrific methods available and nailed to a tree until he died.

Which philosophy do you think is more in tune with Nature and the way of things?

Perhaps the key to solving all the problems in the West just now is a radical change of mind.  Perhaps rethinking the very foundations of Western society and culture is in order.  Maybe simplifying and shifting priorities would eliminate so many things perceived as obstacles.

After all, does it make much sense to rally and praise whistleblowers and then sit passively as their lives are destroyed by the very organizations which they ratted out?  Where's the logic in that?  There may be a lot more whistleblowers if they thought that people would actually protect and defend them for speaking up, rather than watching in feigned horror as they are destroyed and then forgotten when the next victim comes along.

Not to mention how much it would help if things actually changed for their efforts.

It all comes down to paper or water.  Simple choices have big effects.  Building houses that acknowledge the elements and work with them ripples through huge industries and saves lives.  Protecting the messengers who bring us vital information encourages more of the same.  Very simple choices.  Very big effects.

As for me, I'll never go back to toilet paper.

11.6.13

Word War One

How important is language?

No, the title of this piece is not a typo.  Bear with me.

I recently read a paper by social anthropologist Mary Douglas, published in 1966, called, "Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo."  It is an absolutely fascinating study of the limits of human thinking and society based on language.  It got me to thinking.

For further context, the aware reader will want to absorb Margaret Wertheim's exceptional piece for Aeon Magazine called, "Physics's Pangolin."

Part of Douglas' thesis is that those things we can not classify in our language get ignored, possibly become taboo and even get relegated to religious objects and subjects.

It is an interesting idea, and certainly one worth exploring.  Having learned all or part of 17 languages, I have become acutely aware of how language and culture go hand-in-hand.  What is especially intriguing are the things which other languages can or can not express compared to English (my mother tongue).  One simple example is my ongoing battle with the gardener at the Far Side Global Headquarters.  In Indonesian, rumput can mean 'weed' and 'grass'.  As a result, he is hell-bent on destroying my lawn (such as it is) because the thing I call 'grass' is nothing more than a nuisance plant to him.  As a consequence, he can not comprehend why I get so hopping mad when he paves over my grass, nor when I jack-hammer it up and replace the grass.

It's a simple example, but a telling one.

German is a fascinating language.  It is classified as 'glutenous' by linguists because it has a limited base vocabulary that is recombined to make new words.  Its grammar leads to a certain amount of clarity and precision in thinking by its native speakers.  For instance, to create the concept of submarine, one need only join the words unter, wasser and boot to create 'under-water-boat'.  Very clear and concise meaning.

To get the same clarity and conciseness from English, you must have a good understanding of Latin, Greek, French, and of course, German (the base language of English).  Only then could you tease out the meaning sub (under), mare (sea), and the suffix -ine meaning "of or related to."  Nowhere in the dissection of the word submarine does one find the meaning "boat", so it is an imprecise word.

Of course, German does have its drawbacks.  One can end up with job titles like "Rhinefarhtsgesellschaftkapitan," but there is no ambiguity about "goes on the Rhine joined vessel captain."

As a consequence of its language, German society is clear and precise.  No one can argue that the country is spotlessly clean, or that the Germans are not precision-driven.  Just take a look at some of their biggest corporations, like Siemens or Zeiss.

On the other hand, English is perfectly adapted to being an international language.  It easily assimilates words and grammar from other languages.  Its syntax is flexible enough to allow a wide variety of dialects.  And English is very good at classifying and categorizing things, which is what Douglas says is the key to the language/culture connection.

It behooves us to expand our language as far as we can to push back the boundaries of fear and superstition.  That which we can categorize can not hurt us and can be dealt with clearly.  Reading and learning a new word every day will dispel darkness.  Learning new languages further expands those horizons and adds concepts not available in our native tongues.  Witness German words like gemuetlicheit or the Indonesian selamat.  You might also learn that the Thai greeting sawasdeekra is the root of swastika, and find old ghosts expelled in such a way.

How important is language?  Imagine someone without a name.  How would you call them?  How would you refer to them?  Recall when the singer (I won't use the word artist) Prince changed his name to a graphic with no sounds attached?  His career quickly tanked and he became irrelevant because no one could talk about him.  There was no hook on which to hang ideas.

In Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four, people often gloss over one of the most important warnings of the book. The power and control of Big Brother was the manipulation of language.  Words were constantly being redefined or disappeared.  The Newspeak dictionary grew thinner with each edition.  People were incapable of having subversive thoughts because they no longer had names for them, and so feared and reviled those subjects which could not be articulated.

Words bring light to the darkness.

Look at old maps and notice that dire warnings and monsters populated those regions where no one had hung titles.  Look at modern cosmology.  Fear and quasi-religious trappings gird the unknown, such as the first second of time after the supposed Big Bang.  Even the term Big Bang conjures violence and destruction, thus fear, in the very act of creation.  How can we make sense of a Universe in which creation is a violently destructive act?  And what does that say about moral relativism when we can point to the moment of creation and say that good came from bad, so the ends justify the means?

Language is the most vital weapon we have against authoritarianism and fascism.  There is a reason why the ruling class always attack language.  The first casualty of war is truth, and truth is expressed with language.  Without it, we are helplessly ensnared by those who would dominate for personal gain.

They know it.  And so should we.

Look at our current situation.  All the scandals involving leaks and surveillance have one thing in common: the control of language.  Some future historian may well record this time as Word War One.  If the ruling class is so afraid of language, then we must use that fear to our advantage.

The Bible clearly states in the opening lines that all of Creation began with a Word.  If words are so powerful as to create Universes, then take heed!  It is axiomatic that knowledge is power, and knowledge is predicated on language.  Clear, concise and unsullied language is the key to creating the world in which we want to live.  Adam's first act was to name the world.

When we allow others to control the words by which we think, then we allow them to implant templates in our minds, outside of which we can not stray.  Word War One will not be fought with guns and swords, but with words and definitions.  Like they used to say in the 60s (and so readily forgot), question everything.

To that I would add: and guard your answers.

9.6.13

The Jungle Judgeth Not

DATELINE - Deep in the Jungles of Borneo - It is still before dawn here in the jungle.  The silence is palpable and crushing.  I can hear the leaves turning eastward in anticipation of the sun's appearance.  The darkness is so thick I break of a piece and stash it in my pack for shade at midday.  The tribe is still asleep.  Monkey dreams stir minds and catch the breath.

I am the only electron junkie in the village.  I am not yet ready to cut my ties with the unbalanced world.  I tell myself that I need to track the storm front, but in knowing where it is, it knows where I am.  It is a curse.  The vegetable drapes and vegetable walls of my enclosure flicker with the dangers of toying around in the slime pits of civilization.

A blip on the radar: Singapore will start registering and licensing blogs critical of the government.  I update my lexicon so that all mentions of Singapore will be replaced with the word "Spaghetti", "law" will be replaced with "sausage" and "fascism" will become "sauce".  Problem averted...at least until 'spaghetti' becomes hate speach against Italians.  Until then, looks like Spaghetti's sausage is spreading the sauce again.

I perform the classic mental exercise: am I paranoid if they really are out to get me?

And who, exactly, is "they"?

The answers to those questions will solve the world's energy crisis.  Except there is no energy crisis here in the jungle.  All is fine.  Life is sweet and melts like cotton candy in a rain storm.  There are no problems in the jungle.  I drop my last handful of coins in the satellite uplink vending machine.

Pale pink corpuscles of light begin to stream across the sky.  Soon, another day of heavy leisure will be upon us.  I brace myself.

The top of the volcano explodes with Moses fire while the rest of the world lies in edible night.  A bird starts reporting the night's events, then another and another.  Soon my reverie is taken down with a full Nelson to the count of monkey snorts.  One more day in paradise, damn it!

The problem with government is that it creates a need and then steps in to fill it.  Here in the jungle, the law is expediency.  There is no need to regulate paint when there are no stripes on the road, nor road to stripe.  They will tell us we need hospitals but everyone is healthy until the civilization tsunami crashes on our heads.  Neuroses are created, not made.

The cat stalks dream vapors as they slide through the underbrush in search of beetle eggs in which to gestate.  Time here does not pass, it eddies like a child's finger through warm chocolate batter.  The cracking of tree bones is deafening as they strain to drink the warm starlight creeping down the mountainside.  The birds cacophonate as they await the conductor to finish his 3-minute egg and tea.

The world of sickness seems so far away from this place.  Here in the living world, it is as hard to find suffering as it is to find concrete, and just as much use for it.  Hurry is watching the snails race down at the river.  Stress is finding the right bamboo shoot to chew.

The darkness is receding fast now.  It is only pools among the trees, like drying puddles after a storm.  I check my pack to ensure my dark is still there before it is gone completely.  The Moses fire has spread from the mountain top to the tree tops and is slithering down the trunks toward the dream commuters.  Soon the train will arrive and the crowds disembark.  My silence will be broken but not irreparable.  The monkey music has begun.

That other world has lost its magic, and with it goes sanity.  Here in the living world, all is magic, and magic is the only cure for madness.

The day has begun.