Thursday, January 31, 2013

Day 287: I Love You, Don't Touch Me

There are some very interesting people on the world - I say this with the utmost respect that can be afforded to those who just don't give a shit (which is none, obviously). There are people who will abuse others outright, like hurting them physically and saying things with the intention of harming. And then there are people who abuse in a more subtle manner, so that they don't appear to be abusers at first glance, or even second.

I find it quite odd that so many people who claim to live with love and light and rainbows and sunshine are so quick to anger in their discussions. On the internet especially, some of the most nasty comments I have read were from people claiming to be "spiritually enlightened", love-spreaders and light-shiners. Obviously the title of Rudest Assholes is not exclusive to them, but they are definitely title holders.

What is possibly the most interesting thing is that these enlightened love-lighters will actually use hate speech and defamation to defend their own beliefs, without even realising what it is they are partaking in. I have seen a person attack the reputation and integrity of another person (whom they had never even met), simply to deflect and keep the focus off of their own beliefs.

Since I am part of a relatively controversial group I have seen many attacks directed toward the group, or a specific member of the group. All of these attacks are based on misinformation and propaganda created by a few very dedicated beings (who are at least a little bit obsessed), who make it their task to twist words and meanings, make assumptions and make up stories all about the group. Now I'm not saying that people should never disagree, or should never question, but is nastiness and abuse really necessary?

Writing and saying things with the intention of causing harm is hate speech, no matter if you like the person or not. These people use fear and blind hatred to spread their toxic bile as far and as wide as they can - consider every race-based discriminatory system in our history - hate, fear and propaganda was used to create an unjustified and undeserving stigma about non-white people. Why haven't we learned from our mistakes? Why do we fall so easily into the trap of attacking the character of another? How many important parts of our history were born into atmospheres of hatred and fear?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Day 286: Our Depressive Economic Recession

This is a continuation of my previous 2 posts, The End Of Work? and Vanishing Jobs[_id]=94722

Though this country produces sufficient food for its population, skyrocketing prices prevent the poor - most of them urban households - from getting adequate nutrition .
The hungriest people are in Cape Town (80%) and Msunduzi, in KwaZulu-Natal (87%).
A five-year study by the University of Cape Town's African Food Security Unit Network has exposed a food crisis that constitutes a "death sentence" for many and which the government has labelled as "serious".
It found that, in Johannesburg, 43% of the poor faced starvation and malnutrition. Researchers believe the figure could be higher.
According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, 870 million people worldwide are chronically undernourished, 234million of them living in sub-Saharan Africa.
The plight of the hungry was highlighted in 2011 when four children, aged between two and nine, died in a farmer's field as they began an 18km walk in search of their mother and food in Verdwaal, North West. It was later discovered that they had not eaten for more than a week.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries last week revealed that 12million South Africans are "food insecure".
Food security refers to the ability to access adequate nutrition - food that is affordable, hygienic and culturally accepted.
Food Bank SA spokesman Keri Uys said yesterday: "South Africa is in dire straights. The entire country is affected. It is not just rural areas.
"Every day millions of people go to be bed hungry. There are children whose daily food is half a white-bread sandwich. How can you bring up a nation on this?"
"The implication is a death sentence." - Times Live

This story, currently circulating through South African news agencies, is all the proof I need to show that the way we allow our system to function is abusive, selfish and cruel. Somehow, there are actually people who think of this story and others like it as acceptable, for various superficial reasons, but the main one being that people do not want to give up everything about their own comfortable lives - at least that's what they believe will happen. So many people believe that any kind of global solution goes hand in hand with "not being able to live comfortably" anymore, since they are apparently not willing even to investigate the entirety of possible solutions, they prefer rather to gossip and tear down the efforts of those they see as threatening their self concept. Global solutions do not mean that we will all live in mud huts, true global solutions should ensure that everyone has their own space to live and thrive as they choose - just so long as it does not in any way abuse another being.

How can we continue to accept and allow a system which does not even provide for the most basic needs of every being? In any other part of our lives we will delete and rewrite a system which does not function effectively and efficiently - well, at least that's what we'd like to believe about ourselves and our natures. In reality, we develop and accept faulty systems on a daily basis - just think about all the different aspects of our lives: education, healthcare, nutrition, hobbies, community service, animal welfare, child welfare, elderly welfare, disabled welfare, employment, power supplies, the list goes on and on. Every part of our lives has been touched by this stain of greed, laziness and self interest. All of our little daily systems are designed with the intention of profiting a few elite, placating the in-betweens and downright exploiting everything else.

If there is enough food but millions are hungry and starving and malnourished, then we have a serious problem. We can make the system work for everyone instead of just for a few.

Obviously every country thinks its own needs are most desperate, but how does nationality make any difference to the capacity for feeling? How does religion affect one's ability to survive without food? How does culture make one person more important or less important than another? How does income status make one person more deserving than another, or than an innocent child? Why do we allow this discrimination to continue?

In order to change the world we must be willing to ask the hard questions and to step on a few toes - how else can we ensure that discrimination is ended so as to allow for a new era of equality and acceptance?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Day 285: Vanishing Jobs[_id]=94722

This is a continuation from my previous post: The End Of Jobs? Please read it for context & an introduction.

So, open up the first link above and take a look at the animation they've got going there, showing how a recession will cause job losses initially, but after a period of time employment rises and surpasses previous levels. This most recent economic depression (The Great Depression as they call it) has not shown a resurgence of employment - in fact, there are over 3,6 million jobs in the middle income bracket that have not been replaced during the "recovery" of the economy. The middle income bracket was hit hardest by the recession, with the most losses in all of the categories through all the recessions.

In my post yesterday, I was looking at how and why the current system is unsustainable, unjust, unfair, abusive and downright cruel in terms of people's jobs being replaced by technology, leaving countless families without their income (for example, a bunch of nerds are trying to make a car that drives itself which would squash all driving jobs). So today, I will look at our misguided and short sighted implementation of a capitalist economy without adhering to stringent principles (such as life is more important than money ALWAYS) and how we are now stuck with the massive wound that is unemployment and low income jobs that barely sustain life.

We currently believe that capitalism is all about continuous growth, and that new jobs will always be created to replace old once and that the market will essentially take care of itself. We believe that consumer demand will drive the creation of new products and services into infinity. Apparently we also believe that we will be able to find a few more suitable planets (close enough) to pillage within our lifetimes so as to prevent dying from nuclear and/or poison exposure. Or whatever.

This most recent economic depression is actually a huge sign with flashing lights and a blaring siren, screaming at us that we are really stupid and that there is no way that we can continue like this indefinitely. Or maybe it was something about us being stupid and not thinking things through properly. I really do wonder sometimes if people actually actively imagine themselves living in really big hazmad suits after the nuclear apocalypse, somehow magically being in possession of anything and everything a person could possibly need to survive the apocalypse comfortably. In reality, it would be more like tattered clothing, rotting teeth, constant hunger, constant nasuea (from radiation sickness), shit stuck to your legs cos you got really bad diarrhea (from the radiation sickness), scrounging for clean food and water and no TV's or iPads or anything. Cos, you know, the apocalypse is not really all that forgiving - or comfortable (I imagine, obviously I have never experienced one first hand and I would like to keep it that way).

How long can we go on reporting above the terribly difficult economic situation, without actually doing something to implement a solution? More to come tomorrow...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Day 284: The End Of Work?[_id]=94722 - Check this out for a very impact-filled visual display

THEY seem right out of a Hollywood fantasy and they are: cars that drive themselves have appeared in movies such as I Robot and the television show Knight Rider.
Now, three years after Google invented one, automated cars could be on their way to a freeway near you. In the U.S., California and other states are rewriting the rules of the road to make way for driverless cars.
Just one problem: what happens to the millions of people who make a living driving cars and trucks - jobs that have always seemed sheltered from the onslaught of technology?
"All those jobs are going to disappear in the next 25 years," predicts Moshe Vardi, a computer scientist at Rice University in Houston.
"Driving by people will look quaint. It will look like a horse and buggy." If automation can unseat bus drivers, urban delivery people, long-haul truckers, even taxis, is any job safe?
Vardi poses an equally scary question: "Are we prepared for an economy in which 50% of people aren't working?"

An Associated Press analysis of employment data from 20 countries found that millions of mid-skill, midpay jobs have already disappeared over the past five years, and they are the jobs that form the backbone of the middle class in developed countries.
That experience has left a growing number of technologists and economists wondering what lies ahead. Will middle-class jobs return when the global economy recovers, or are they lost forever because of the advance of technology? - The Witness

The 2 links above are for two different aspects of the same story, the story being how our economic system is unsustainable, unjust, unfair, abusive and downright cruel. The first link to The Witness article (the excerpt is taken from this article) considers the reality of technology taking over jobs - a lot of jobs. This may not be a problem in a perfect world which would then allow humans to work less and enjoy life more, but we have certainly not created the perfect work. What has happened in the past is that new discoveries and advancements opened up new 'opportunities' for the workforce. I suppose one's definition for the word opportunities is subject to one's own view of the economy: for the average middle class family, opportunities is generally a positive word implying more opportunities for employment, most of the time in better conditions. Unfortunately, the middle class is only a part of all people in the world and there is also something called the lower class (oops, I mean low income earners) and then the poverty-stricken scum class below them (oops, I mean the no income leeches of society). Things rarely get better for the lower and no income earners, especially in countries where human rights are only applicable to a certain class of people (most definitely not the low and no income classes). So a lot of these technological advancements come at a price of more people working in dangerous conditions for longer hours, trying to keep up with the demands of the middle and upper classes.

More recently though, these technological advancements have not been followed by a large surge in new opportunities - some, yes, but not on the same scale as in the past and most certainly not enough to recuperate the losses in jobs caused by the technological advancements in the first place. We have not considered the consequences for all our "progress" - how will we feed the families who have lost their incomes to some new "smart" machine? What our current path in technological advancement in this current system has indicated is that we have no real interest in improving our own or others' lives, all we want is the next new fad. How many times in one year will people lose their income because of some new and improved technology? What will we do for these people? Some say that they should keep up or fade away, but this statement is purely one coming from a delusional person who does not keep in regular contact with reality. All that is needed to realise that there simply is no choice for so many people is for us to take a look around, in the news, on TV, on the internet, on our streets, in the shopping centers and within our own accepted natures and allowances. What part of homelessness is acceptable? What part of children living on the streets is an acceptable part of our system? We have most certainly not considered the consequences of our current path, nor have we even considered solutions to ensure that those who lose their incomes to machines will be taken care of by the system. Our system should be one of support, not one of conviction and punishment.

I will continue tomorrow...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Day 283: What Is Your Virtue Worth?[_id]=94659

RATHER than face disciplinary action, an employee of the Umtshezi Municipality caught in a sex-for-grants scheme resigned from his job yesterday.
The man and a young woman were allegedly caught in flagrante delicto when an official alerted to the situation burst into the man’s office last week.
Municipal manager Nonhlanhla Njoko and Mayor Bongani Dlamini both denied any knowledge of the matter.
“I have not been informed of any such incident,” said Njoko.
However, Weekend Witness confirmed the incident with three sources, including one from the district municipality which incorporates Umtshezi. None would consent to being named.
They said the man and a young woman from the area were caught in the act by a senior municipal manager after being alerted by other staff.
A source in the municipality, who is not allowed to speak to the media, said the man was in charge of disbursing funds for a certain project undertaken by the Umtshezi council.
In terms of the project, amounts of about R3 000 are given to people who meet certain criteria.
It is alleged the man had on various occasions asked for and received sex from young women who applied to benefit from the project.
“This is not the first time he has done this. This time around, while he was busy with the girl, the staff there heard what was going on and they informed a manager that it was happening [they were having sex] at the ‘sex office’ as that office is now known.”
“These young girls come here [for help], only for them to be sexually exploited. It’s not even a big amount [that is disbursed by the council].”
“This happened in the most senior office in the area. It is the same as if the municipality has slept with this girl.”
Another senior official at the municipality confirmed that the official had been caught out.
“He was caught in a compromising position with a [young woman] by a municipal official.”
The sources said the man resigned from his job yesterday, before disciplinary action could be taken against him. - The Witness

I'm sure everyone has at least heard of the 'What if...?' game (eg. What if you were stranded on an island and you only had one pair of shoes, what would they be?). Well, some of us may also be familiar with a more sinister version of the game that asks how much would it cost for you to have relations with some arbitrary person. We all had a number we were willing to sell our bodies for, we may even be glad to do it for the relief the money would bring. What I find interesting is that anything under that particular number, we will consider as "disgusting, wrong, sinful, unacceptable etc". If you read the story above, these women were trading their bodies for what little sustenance and security it would give them. The source in the article is quoted as saying that the girls were selling their bodies for "not even a big amount" - as if it would have be acceptable if the amount was larger.

In this system, we all have a price - most of the time it's money, sometimes it's the fulfillment of some emotional desire. I wonder why it is that we accept living this way, as we would never want our child to feel the need, or even the desire to sell themselves for some external reward, especially when it is something like money. Yes, we want our loved ones to have money, but only because it affords one the luxuries in life and keeps some unpleasantness away.

Most of us feel unfulfilled in life, like we could be and do so much more - it's just that we don't have the resources to make it happen. A handful of people strike it lucky and live the lives they've always wanted, but for the rest of us that is simply an idyl dream, never to come true - if the system stays as it is now.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Day 282: Desperation Beneath The Shining Lights Of Capitalism[_id]=94597

FOR a mere R500, thieves almost caused the collapse of the main power feed from Eskom to Msunduzi, which would have resulted in a city-wide blackout that could have lasted days or even weeks.
The disaster was narrowly averted thanks to an alert citizen and the recent storm.
However, it will now cost the city more than a million rand to repair the damage.
Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma yesterday took journalists on a hair-raising ride along a roughly hewn path through Camps Drift to examine the leaning pylon and see at first hand the brazen action of the thieves.
On the way he related how the storm had saved the city.
Someone in the area had noticed that instead of standing upright, one of the pylons was leaning to one side. The electricity department was alerted and technicians were dispatched.
When they got to the site, they found that all the bolts in the lower half of the pylon and the steel cross-bars at the base had been removed.
Zuma said the massive structure would not have been able to balance in that manner for long before it toppled.
He believed that the recent storm had already nudged it into a tilt and the municipality was alerted to the pending disaster in time.

 Zuma said they had learnt that the steel crossbars would fetch just R500 at a scrap metal dealership.
The city hired a front-end loader at a cost of more than R50 000 to flatten a path to the pylon, and the reinstallation cost is estimated at over R1 million. 

“In this case, for R500 in someone’s pocket, the city and its residents will end up paying millions.” - The Witness

So, with no regard for the consequences, one or more individuals, in an act of what could only have been economic desperation, removed steel components from a main tower that provides electricity to an entire city. The parts that were stolen are worth only a few hundred Rand at a scrap metal yard (US$1 = almost R9, so it would be the equivalent of between $50 and $100 worth of steel). This paltry amount is way below the poverty line of R3000 per month - and even that figure is not enough to ensure a decent life, far from it.

What do incidences such as these show us? They show us that our society demands acts of abuse and injustice in order for us to survive and that anything less that persistent vigilance and willingness to defend ourselves will be met with outright extortion. People steal because they have no other options - they cannot afford to be considerate of others since they are consumed by their own survival. We all do what we must to ensure that our loved ones are taken care of - there is nothing different about thieves. We believe that it is in our nature to be abusive and exploitative - but it is simply what our society demands. If asked what the perfect life is, we will all always say something about peaceful and stress free life that we can enjoy - this is closer to our nature than manipulation and abuse is.

The funny thing is: the best thing we could ever do to ensure the wellbeing of our loved ones is to implement a new system that is based on valuing life instead of money. This system would require each of us to consciously change the ways we live and think, and while this may be difficult, it is certainly attainable. Instead of thinking only of our own interests, we must consider the best interests of all life. Instead of alternating between fighting and begging each other for survival, we must freely give it to each other. Instead of trying to get rich and live like kings, we must allow everyone comfortable lives. Will we be able to share so freely in this life? Maybe we are 'too far gone' - but I'll be damned if I don't try.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Day 281: Friends And Family - Where Corruption Is Born

Johannesburg - Consultants are costing the government billions, and both officials and the private sector should clean up.
That’s what emerged from a performance audit of government consultants released by the Auditor-General on Thursday.
The report is littered with examples of badly managed consultant contracts.
Fixing SAPS armoured vehicles for the 2010 World Cup cost more than double the planned price, and a fifth weren’t finished in time. The SAPS planned to spend R80 million refurbishing 200 armoured Nyalas, but costs hit R177m and 44 Nyalas were delivered late.
The Correctional Services Department hired consultants to manage other consultants, and paid an IT consultant R12m in 2009, but three years later, the project still wasn’t finished.
The Department of Defence had the expertise to maintain the Limpopo border fence, but paid a consultant R18m to do it.
Water Affairs signed 46 variation orders on 14 projects, adding up to R509m.
An SAPS IT contract for a firearm-control system was signed for R93m, but the contract was extended four times to finally cost R413m and, five years later, wasn’t finished.
Environmental Affairs had hired a consultant since 1999 in critical positions such as chief financial officer.
The same department spent R9m on a consultant to advise it on procurement for its new building, more than R5m higher than the next bidder, and the hired consultant didn’t have all the skills needed.
The report found that over three years, consultants have made R102 billion out of the government.
Of the R102bn, about a third (R33.5bn) was spent by national departments and two-thirds (R68.5bn) by provincial departments.
The report looked at 2008/9, 2009/10 and 2010/11 and focused in particular on payments by national departments. - iol News

Is it the nature of humans to award preference to friends and family, simply because they are friends and family? Is there some part of our genetic makeup that forces us to always choose to uplift only the people we care about personally? It seems as if nepotism makes the world go round. How many of us have had, or are in employment because a friend or family member recommended us? How many of us are actually not even best suited for the position that was delivered to us so dutifully and loyally by our dearest dear? Does the fact that there are personal feelings involved in this... transaction absolve the involved parties of wrongdoing?

I am certain that so called nepotism is a common occurrence in most human societies across the globe. I know for certain that South Africa is full to bursting. Why wouldn't there be nepotism, when there is so much to be profited? Just think of all those kickbacks, all that money that we don't have to declare to the tax collectors, and we certainly shan't forget to mention the high regard that these nepotismic actions afford us within our family/circle of friends. Truly, why not nepotism?

Consider this: how many people would be deprived of work and income if they were hired purely for their skill and suitability? Seriously, we simply cannot afford to stop it now - now that it is the grease and gas that fuels our economy (when I say our I mean of course the important people of the world, not the riff raff living in mud huts and tiny apartments) and keeps all the cogs (skilled workers who don't deserve good jobs because we don't like them, so now they work in McDonalds or whatever filthy manhole contributes to our incomes these days) running smoothly.

On to a more serious note: we think we are free. We think we are able to achieve whatever we set our minds to. We think the fairytales are applicable to every person in the world. We think we deserve to take whatever we want without consideration for the price we force others to pay. We think we rule the world. We think there is no such thing as an elite group of powerful people directing the path we take. We think that the people we care about are somehow more important than the people that other people care about. We think that magic is real and is going to save us.

What makes one child any more or less important, unique, innocent, brilliant or special than another? Or is it only we who perceive a difference where there is none.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Day 280: Celebrities Vs Poverty

Let me give you a hint... Celebrities wins.

She's supporting a charity who hope to end world hunger, but Rita Ora looked like she'd had more than enough to drink thanks to her choice of lip colour in the IF campaign shots.
The RIP singer's full pout was stained with a purplish berry colour, not dissimilar to the tint of a fine red wine.
Wearing a T-shirt and wristband with the campaign's name, Enough Food For Everyone, Rita joined a number of celebrities in raising awareness of IF and their fight to help those starving in the poorest countries.
A number of famous faces attended the charity's launch night at Somerset House on Wednesday night.
TV stars Keeley Hawes and Downton Abbey's Laura Carmichael arrived and eagerly signed their names on an inflatable canvas in support.
Keeping it casual both actresses wore jeans and black boots: Keeley of the American heeled variety, whilst Laura's lace-ups had a more military look. - MailOnline

In the war of Importance between Pretty Stuff and Real Stuff, it seems like Pretty Stuff always wins. This charity has used celebrities in an attempt to further the publicity of its cause - but all the people care about is what are they wearing? How did she do her hair? How did she do her makeup? The superficial appearances of the celebrities garners much more support, enthusiasm and emotional investment than the plight of starving children with weird big heads and crooked teeth.

There are so many poverty-oriented charities, organisations and campaigns - why aren't they making a difference? Hmmm.. Maybe because they do not address the cause of poverty? 

It's like those means on Facebook: a series of terrible images cause no reaction to the character in the cartoon, but an image of some celebrity stubbing their big toe is enough to evoke a river of tears.

We need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and decide if this is truly how we want to live - is this really the life we want for our children and grandchildren? How have we come to value fashion, celebrities and appearances over safety, education and nutrition?

When you look at a celebrity, do you see someone who does absolutely everything in their power to be a good role model for children and focusing their attention and efforts toward creating a better life and world for everyone - OR do you see a person who only cares for themselves, their own dreams, their own advancement and their own comfort?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Day 279: Final Words Of 12Yr-Old: Have A Nice Life Mum

A 12-year-old schoolboy who was excluded from school hanged himself just hours later, an inquest heard today.
Jordan Green,12, had hurled chairs round a room, sworn at staff and threatened them.
At first he was excluded from school for one day and when his behaviour worsened the ban was increased to five days before eventually the principal banned him permanently.
And when he told his mother Heidi of the ban he said: 'Have a nice life mum, I just feel like killing myself'.
Ms Green said she tried calling him later, adding: 'He wouldn’t answer his phone and I thought "he obviously doesn’t want to speak to me".'
The hairdresser said she returned to their home in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, after 8pm and told the inquest: 'I assumed that he wasn’t home.
'I thought he was playing with his friends.'
Medics believe he had been dead several hours when his body was found on June 27 last year.
Today, an inquest in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, heard how Jordan, whose mother was separated from his father, Kevin, had been disruptive even when he was at primary school.
Jordan had become increasingly disruptive in lessons since his grandmother died and his parents separated, Mrs Green told the hearing.
When he went to Harrogate High School, his behaviour became worse, causing him to be excluded from lessons on several occasions.
Vice principal Ann Francis said staff had had numerous meetings to decide how to help Jordan, who was academically adept but regularly disrupted classes and swore at teachers.
On occasions he would just start running round the 800-student school and hide from staff who were looking for him.
At one stage he was put in a special educational unit where his behaviour improved.
But last June the decision was finally made to exclude him from the school for good.
That morning he had left his home upset after he refused to get out of bed and go to school.
When he did get there he was put in a 'chill room' to calm down before he returned to normal lessons.- MailOnline (Follow the link above for the full story)

This child, and others like him, have absolutely no tools to help themselves out of turmoil like this - the fact that he experienced it in the first place is n indication of the lack of support he received from his environment (school, parents, media, etc). If a child is experiencing emotional turmoil, then it is the responsibility of the people around the child who have the necessary skills and experience to assist. This is why all potential (and current) parents should receive training so as to ensure that they are able to assist their child when and as needed.

There is no use in pointing fingers and trying to blame someone, or something, in this situation. The problem doesn't lie simply with the family, school or media - but with the system as a whole. "Problem children" are becoming more common, as well as more violent and aggressive - and we simply don't know what to do - we don't even know how we got into this mess in the first place. How can we hope to teach our children to be decent, independent people if we ourselves are not decent, independent people, but are in fact ignorant and greedy.

We have used the same excuse for our "mishaps" for a long, long time. Think back to the Crucifixion of Jesus, for example: we believe that Jesus begged with God to forgive humans because humans are ignorant and "know not what they do". How long can we keep saying "oops, I didn't think that would happen!", or "It's not my fault if I didn't know about it". In reality, this means that we are manifesting a world and a system filled with shoulder-shruggers and ball-scratchers, all saying "oops!".

There are so many children crying out for help, like this boy, who simply do not know how to help themselves. What do we do? Stuff them full of drugs and pop them in front of the TV. I half hope that I won't be alive to see the monsters these children turn into.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day 278: Prince Harry: Take A Life To Save A Life

Harry has been serving for four months as a co-pilot gunner (CPG) in southern Helmand province -- considered a Taliban heartland -- and flew on scores of missions with the trigger to rockets, missiles and a 30mm cannon at his fingertips.
No one is saying how many insurgents Harry might have killed but toward the end of his deployment, the 28-year-old, known to his comrades as Captain Wales, shared some of his feelings about combat with reporters while on duty in the massive military base known as Camp Bastion. He said it was sometimes justified to "take a life to save a life. That's what we revolve around, I suppose."
Harry explained how the roles of Apaches and CPGs have changed since his previous deployments in 2007 and 2008. "It used to be very much: front seat, you're firing the whole time.
"Now, yes we fire when we have to but essentially we're more of a deterrent than anything else.
"Our job out here is to make sure the guys are safe on the ground and if that means shooting someone who is shooting at them, then we will do it," said the prince, third in line to the British throne.
"It's not the reason I decided to do this job. The reason to do this job was to get back out here, and carry on with a job." - CNN

I don't know about you, but most of this quote above doesn't make any sense. How does "take a life to save a life" make any sense? Oh right, this is when we're looking at the world through our "love goggles", where only the things that I personally care about actually matter. Obviously that is how Prince Harry is looking at the world: some people matter and some don't. It's OK for some to die (because they don't matter) but not OK for others to die (because they do matter). There is a bit of a fuzzy line when you start to consider that most people have someone whom they matter to - but that will just hurt our brains, so we won't think about it. 

My next point of, let's call it "uncertainty", within the quote above is the part about why Harry is out there, killing people in Afghanistan. According to him, he is there to "carry on with a job" - that's not a very concise reason, so I'm going to have to try and connect the dots a little. He is there to do a job because it's there to be done..? He is there because he needs a job..? I give up. We'll never know. Oh, wait! I've got it! He is there to keep certain people from being shot by other people, and the way he does this is by raining bullets down from his perch in the sky. Because, you know, those people doing the initial shooting are the ones that don't matter. 

It's easy to fall into the trap of labeling people and then treating them according to those labels. When we think of people as "things" instead of as living, breathing, feeling beings who experience life very similarly to ourselves; who love and are loved; who feel hunger and pain; who have mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters; people who are trying their best to live as well as they know how. Granted, most people don't know how to live without resorting to abuse, but this is not immutable.

So while we are so busy calling each other names, we forget about the real parts of life that need attention: food for all, shelter for all, sanitation for all, clean water for all, education for all and so on. Our little realities of "the people that matter" are miniscule, and we refuse to consider any other people from outside our box of precious belongings.

There is an entire world filled with trillions of living beings who all want what we want: to live happily and in peace. We don't have to live like greedy a-holes who have no qualms about killing people according to their labels. Yes, it's for sure that we have made a huge mess andit's going to take time, patience and dedication to clean it up - but we can clean it up.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 277: Behold: Our Liberal Lives 

page 286 - The belief that we can make things happen through positive thoughts, by visualizing, by wanting them, by tapping into our inner strength, or by understanding that we are truly exceptional, is peddled to us by all aspects of the culture, from Oprah to the Christian Right. It is magical thinking. We can always make more money, meet new quotas, consume more products, and advance our careers. This magical thinking, this idea that human and personal progress is somehow inevitable, leads to political passivity. It permits societies to transfer their emotional allegiance to the absurd— whether embodied in professional sports or in celebrity culture—and ignore real problems. It exacerbates despair. It keeps us in a state of mass self-delusion.
Once we are drawn into this form of magical thinking, the purpose, structure and goals of the corporate state are not questioned. To question, to engage in criticism of the corporate collective, is to be seen as obstructive and negative. And these cultural illusions have grossly perverted the way we view ourselves, our nation, and the natural world. This magical thinking, coupled with its bizarre ideology of limitless progress holds out the promise of an impossible, unachievable happiness. It has turned whole nations, such as the United States, into self-consuming machines of death.
- Chris Hedges - Death Of The Liberal Class

What is the liberal class? Of who does this, and others, author speak when using the term "liberal class"? If you look at Wikipedia's definition, liberalism is all about freedom, fairness, liberty and so on - but, if we consider the world around us and how ideas of freedom, fairness and liberty are used by and dispersed among the people, then we will come up with a slightly different idea about liberalism. 

Consider the excerpt above: we have been fed this self concept that we are each special and unique and that we inherently and unequivocally deserve to live, no matter our actions. Those of us who have access to, either by our status or by our proximity to, a higher quality of life and lifestyle are only able to live the way we do because of money. Money has purchased our comfortable lifestyles. We have become liberal in our decadence and in our enjoyment, all because we have the means to do so. Money pays for our fairness. Money pays for our liberty. Money pays for our freedom. Without money, living in the world the way it is now, we would be less free. 

Is freedom really free if it was bought and paid for? Those of us who have the means to live comfortably are all living lives of liberty. We are the liberal class: we can afford to live with dignity, fairness, equality, liberty, etc. Our liberty is bought and paid for.

We claim to be liberals, fighting for liberty and freedom, but all we need to do is throw money at all those who need a little liberation and they can go on down to their local market and get a bushel of liberty. If one reads a little further into the book in the link above, the author describes the disintegration of our middle and upper class societies into a state of disconnection from reality, thinking that everything is perfect as long as my life is perfect. As long as we feel like we are able to be a hero, then we won't think about solutions to better the poverty in the world. As long as we feel like we are fulfilling our potential of being youthful, beautiful and desirable beings, then we won't give thought to the enrichment and upliftment of those who were not lucky enough to be born into liberal lives.