Monday, April 29, 2013

Day 358: Greece Digs its Grave Deeper

Athens, Greece (CNN) -- Greek lawmakers on Sunday agreed to cut thousands of government workers to secure another 8.8 billion euros ($11.5 billion) in bailout funds.
The vote clears the way for 15,000 civil servants to be fired by the end of 2014, the first time Greece's cash-strapped government has said it will cut its workforce of about 700,000.
The right to a permanent position once hired by the public sector had been protected by the Greek constitution before Sunday, and about one in four Greeks is on the public payroll. Cutting that figure is part of the loan agreement between the government and its creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
But the layoffs will be coming when unemployment has skyrocketed to more than 27%. Previous austerity measures have cut pay for public workers as much as 30% and reduced pension benefits.
Sunday's 168-123 vote came after heated debate in parliament and with protesters gathered outside. The civil servants union ADEDY said the measure will signify the end of the country's welfare state, but the three parties that make up the country's ruling coalition supported the layoff bill.
"We are going through a very difficult path, but this is going to be a success story," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told reporters after the vote.
EU and IMF officials said earlier this month that Greece is on track to reach its bailout targets. But each round of austerity measures has fueled sometimes-violent demonstrations, and critics argue the tax increases and spending cuts imposed by struggling eurozone economies have driven up unemployment without spurring growth.

So, your country is in economic crisis. You will not look at any radical options that would uplift the country for good. You will only consider options that are within currently accepted global norms. You may or may not be taking orders from some other person/organisation/whatever. Unemployment keeps going up (or should I say down?). People hate you. People hate the government. People hate pretty much any and every large corporation. People are super aggro. Small family businesses are closing for insufficient turnover. The world thinks you're stupid. No one can understand how the hell you let it get this bad. You don't really understand either. You're pretty sure that someone understands, and they're laughing their ass off at you right now. You can't sleep at night. You're considering leaving the country. What do you do next?

The answer comes to you in a dream. It seems so obvious - how did you not think of it before? This  is what you do:
  1. Cut a bunch of jobs to save money to get a bailout
  2. Cut welfare and certain other services provided by the state
  3. Get the bailout
  4. Pay some debts
  5. Get charged interest
  6. Realise that you're now in more debt than you were in before
  7. Watch people living on the streets
  8. Watch the crisis deepen
  9. Note the decrease in GDP and GDI 
  10. Get less tax cos there are less emplyed people able to pay tax
  11. Note the increase in welfare applications
  12. Hear stories about women selling their babies for money
  13. Start drinking again
  14. Resolve to do something to better the situation
  15. Cut some more jobs to get a bailout
  16. Cut more benefits provided by state
  17. Get the bailout
  18. Pay some debts
  19. Get charged more interest than before
  20. Realise you're in even more debt than before
  21. Watch houses and shops get boarded up
  22. Watch people move from inside houses to outside houses in the streets
  23. Get really drunk
  24. Cycle continues into eternity
I dunno about you, but something is not quite adding up in this situation... Generally when more people lose their jobs then that is a bad thing, why would it ever be good?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Day 357: Can there be Only One Source of Authority?

In the structure of many governments and businesses, there is one central point of authority - be it the executive, the constitution, the judiciary, the CEO, the board of directors, the legislation, the military or the shareholders. Everywhere we look, everything we have done, reflects the same ideology: a central point of supreme authority. There may be some systems that are not based on this principle, but they are obviously not the norm for I cannot think of even one.

The entire premise of a central point of authority is flawed - it leaves open the potential for abuse and exploitation from that one central point. The really flawed part about it is that no one dares to challenge the authority, for the holder of authority has the power to crush all who stand in its path.

Unfortunately that is the idea we have created and continue to participate within: authority is power. Is this all authority is? Is it what authority should be? Let's face it, authority does not make a person act in a way that is best for everyone - it is normally a case of a person being ruthless enough to fight their way to a position of authority - do we really want the people who are supposed to be guiding and caring for humanity and the planet to be in the positions they are in because of their willingness to be ruthless?

Some believe that communism as it has existed in the past and as it exists now is a system devoid of authority. This is not true: consider China, North Korea, the Soviet Union - each of these had/have a ruling class that dominates the masses.

I cannot see where the way that we live authority is beneficial to the majority of life on Earth. Sure, I can easily see how this form of authority benefits the minority - but are we all living our lives to serve those few, regardless of the misery it causes to us and to others? That is what we are doing, regardless of whether we realise it or not. Whether our designated authority holder vows to protect and serve or not, the ones who benefit most from the implementation of this definition of authority are those who hold positions of authority. How often does one see a poor king or president living in a shack and rich citizens all living in mansions?

Is there not another way to live authority? Is there not another way to implement that which is good about authority? Authority can also mean that one is experienced and able to assist/teach others regarding a particular thing. We live as if authority is all about power - what if we lived like authority is all about acting in a way that honours life? It is possible to live and work together as equals, without one (or more) taking the position of authority (in terms of power). It is possible to come together as a group of equals to plan and work together, each giving whatever input they have to offer, and from those many perspectives it can be decided and determined which of the possible choices will benefit everyone involved without causing any harm. It is possible to work out differences as a group of individuals if each participant is willing and able to take part without resorting to any emotional outbursts or manipulation - if each participates from a starting point of sharing and a desire to forgive and let go.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Day 356: Working Conditions and Human Rights

Bangladeshi rescue workers are continuing their increasingly desperate for survivors in a collapsed clothes factory building where workers made cheap clothes for Primark.
Hundreds were killed when the eight-storey Rana Plaza in Savar on the outskirts of Dhakar collapsed yesterday, the day after cracks were seen in its walls. The death toll continues to rise and currently stands at more than 230. Forty people have been pulled alive from the rubble today.
There were agonising scenes of grief as relatives lined up to identify corpses laid outside a local school building. One woman screamed in anguish as she reached out to her mother, pulled dead from the heartbreaking scene of destruction.
Others wept and threw themselves onto the still dust-covered bodies of their dead loved ones, who worked for companies that say their customers also include retail giants such as WalMart.
Many of those working in the building at the time were young women, while some of those killed and injured are bound to be children as the building also housed a crèche.
Hundreds of rescuers, some crawling through the maze of rubble in search of survivors and corpses, have worked through the night amid the cries of the trapped and the wails of workers' relatives gathered outside.
Around 2,000 people have so far been pulled out alive. Doctors at local hospitals said they were unable to cope with the number of victims arriving from the disaster site.
This afternoon workers still trapped could be heard crying out for help as firefighters and soldiers using drilling machines and cranes struggled to reach them.
'Save us brother. I beg you brother. I want to live,' moaned Mohammad Altab, a garment worker pinned tightly between two concrete slabs and next to two corpses.
'It's so painful here ... I have two little children,' Altab said, his voice weak from exhaustion. Another survivor, whose voice could be heard from deep in the rubble, wept as he called for help.
'We want to live brother, it's hard to remain alive here. It would have been better to die than enduring such pain to live on. We want to live, please save us,' the man cried. - MailOnline

Do we relinquish our Rights when we are forced to take a certain kind of job in order to survive? Are those who are providing us with this certain kind of job knowingly depriving us of our rights? Should our employment contract reflect this suspension of Human Rights so that if there is some horrible "accident", it's acceptable because there is a belief that there will be collateral damage in the striving for profit and survival? If a point of safety within the workplace is deliberately ignored and/or covered up in the name of saving money or maximising profit, is it a violation of Rights?

At what point do we determine that the collateral damage incurred in the name of profit is too much? Would we even be willing to recognise such a point?

In terms of those manufacturers that make safety equipment, but in an inferior quality, should they be held accountable for the subsequent deaths and injuries? Should they be charged with violating Human Rights?

If profit maximisation is more important than protecting and fulfilling the Human Rights of every person, can we still believe ourselves to be essentially good? If we ignore the violation of Rights of another, are we in fact partaking in the act of violation itself?

Should the owner of a company that violates the Rights of its employees be given more/greater Rights than his/her employees because of his/her economic status? Is this why it is never the CEO's who die in workplace accidents?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day 355: Chemical Warfare and Human Rights

(CNN) -- The United States has evidence that the chemical weapon sarin has been used in Syria on a small scale, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.
But numerous questions remain about the origins of the chemicals and what impact their apparent use could have on the ongoing Syrian civil war and international involvement in it.
When asked if the intelligence community's conclusion pushed the situation across President Barack Obama's "red line" that could potentially trigger more U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war, Hagel said U.S. officials are still assessing the situation and need all the facts.
In a letter to lawmakers, the White House cautioned that given "the stakes involved and what we have learned from our own recent experience, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient. Only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision making."
The letter, sent to U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain, said that intelligence analysts have concluded "with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin."
Hagel said that U.S. officials have not been able to confirm the origins of the sarin, but that they believe it originated with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has been battling a rebellion for more than two years.
"The chain of custody is not clear, so we cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and under what conditions," the White House said in the letter.

What rights remain to those who live in conflict zones? Their rights have been placed under martial law, which means that they are subject to whatever restrictions the military (rebels, whatever) wishes to impose in order to achieve their objectives. Can we then say that the coup against the right to life is justified? How does one determine which side is more justified in their commandeering of rights? How does one determine which action taken by a military/rebel/whatever group is justified and which is not? 

And what of the children born into conflict - what of their rights? How does one justify the permanent scarring of a child - emotionally, physically or both - because of conflicts that they were unlucky enough to be born into? Shall we blame the parents for allowing the pregnancy to come to term - even if there is no option to abort? What do we tell these lost children of war - how do we give voice to the reasons for their torn lives? 

Some of us in comfortably safe countries may feel guilty enough to donate funds to some charity proclaiming to be acting to stop some conflict somewhere. How, exactly, do these charities stop conflict? Oh right, they don't. 

I am curious as to the shape our lives will take in the future, after we have poisoned the Earth past its saturation point. Chemical warfare will mean nothing. Rights will mean nothing. Survival will mean nothing. We will be living in permanent chemical warfare environments, but it won't be a simple conflict of interests between peoples, oh no, it will be our past catching up to us. It will be every choice we made, every choice we didn't make, every declaration and proclamation that money and profit is more important than life rights.

How do we restore the Life Rights to those who have been raped, pillaged, beaten and broken by conflict? How do we end conflicts forever more so that there is no chance for such conflict to rob even one living being of their Equal Life Rights? How do we teach our brothers and sisters to live in harmony and acceptance? Is such a thing even possible? If it is - what is holding us back from achieving it? Are we really investigating our own natures enought to be able to even answer that question? Are we aware enough

of the way that our economic and societal system functions to be able to make any significant changes?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 354: Province Loses Track of... Buildings?

The province's department of infrastructure development has been given a tongue-lashing in a quarterly oversight report because it could account for only 9800 of the 29000 properties under its supervision. The department is responsible for constructing and maintaining government buildings.
The department is already racing against the clock to clean up a massive backlog of dodgy leases held by businesses and government officials.
Yesterday, Thulasizwe Simelane, the department's spokesman, acknowledged the mess and said an experienced company was being appointed to help the department.
The report, compiled by infrastructure development portfolio committee chairman Joggie Boers, blasted the department's inability to fix its asset register, despite previously appointing consultants to help it to do so.
"[This] is unacceptable. There are many registers as government continuously issues tenders to look for service providers who can assist in terms of [verifying] public property."
In one of several examples last year, The Star reported that the department's property portfolio was in such a mess it had bought a R12-million building in the Johannesburg CBD next to ANC headquarters, Luthuli House, and demolished it, leaving the empty piece of land for the ruling party to use as parking.
The infrastructure department said at the time it was not aware the ANC was using the property illegally. - Times LIVE

It is useless to wonder how such a thing could happen - that is how corrupt and inefficient our government is. Even if there was some answer, there is a tacit acceptance of the abuse that is being perpetrated. Every person you speak to will go only so far as to throw their hands in the air and state that "this is just the way it is - there is nothing to be done about it". Too bad that everyone thinks this and therefore it is a self fulfilling prophecy, since no one will actually do anything.

I suppose some do try, some are honourable, some want what is best - but some doesn't seem to be enough, for the flames they kindle stutter and die before making any real changes. Maybe they are labelled as "extremists", or as "communists" - and because of this they lose whatever credibility they may have had. Maybe they died, from whatever cause. Maybe they were taken over to the dark side. Maybe they just don't know how to make a change - this is one of the main problems in every cause taken up: no one knows how to think any way other than the way they have always thought, which is in itself the product of this broken system of ours.

Every cause is tainted by our stubbornness and by our small mindedness. We try to put out a fire by following the instructions that were given to us, even though this action has no effect on the flames. How can we hope to make the world better if we refuse to even acknowledge that there is another way to view our social problems? How can we hope to find solutions when we will not even consider that we must think in a way that is contrary to the thinking we were taught?

If we continue to look at the world and our live through a red lens, how will we ever see the other colours that constribute to the entire picture? We refuse to see or investigate what it is, exactly, that is causing our societal issues. It seems like we don't really want to know. All of our actions and our words are indications of the simple fact that we just don't want to know.

We don't want to know about the practices that enable our economic system to be semi-functional. We don't want to hear that the people who are killing rhinos by carving their horns off of their faces while they are still alive are doing it to survive, so that they can feed their families. We don't want to know that the owner of a series of factories that has indentured/slave workers doesn't mind what he is doing, because it enables him to be rich and live a comfortable life. We don't want to know that the deforestation and burning of native animals with fire is done in order to provide us with the luxury and frivolous products we have become addicted to. We don't want to know the true price of the lives we are leading.

If we felt and witnessed the pain of each animal, insect and plant that was destroyed in order for the palm tree to grow which provides the palm oil in a bar of soap, then we would no longer use soap. That's what we'd like to believe anyway. The truth is that we do know, we just don't think about it, which helps us to continue believing and trusting in our apparent innocence.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day 353: Protesters Demand Jobs[_id]=98924

CHAOS broke out near Sobantu, Pietermaritzburg, yesterday as residents stoned police, burnt tyres and blockaded roads, demanding jobs at the new Illovo sugar factory.
Illovo Sugar, which is yet to open for business, is near the entrance of the township on the corner of Old Bishopstowe and Royston roads.
The protesters also demanded that jobs be reserved for Sobantu residents only.
Police used stun grenades and rubber bullets to bring the situation under control.
Workers in nearby factories could not get to their jobs and the blockade caused massive disruptions to early morning traffic.
Intrepid Printers managing director Trevor Cape said: “Some of our shifts start at five in the morning. Only 30 [of the workers] managed to be at work instead of 140.”
He said the company was considering moving out of the area.
Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business CEO Melanie Veness said such protests harmed the the city’s prospects of attracting investors.
Illovo Sugar marketing manager Darrel Dewet said he was given to understand that the protest was not about his company.
He said he would meet the area councillor and community members today.
Sources said the protest had less to do with jobs and more to do with some residents in Sobantu wanting to oust ward councillor Thandi Matiwane.
Matiwane confirmed that she had been threatened.
“We were in negotiations with Illovo to employ our community members. At this stage, the factory has not yet opened and they only hired 10 temporary people to work for this week to clean the yard.
“The community complained about this and I don’t understand why, as we are still negotiating with the company for them to hire people permanently once they open their doors.”
Matiwane added that the protesters had threatened to burn her car and house.
A protester, Qiniso Phungula, told The Witness that the residents did not want people from outside Sobantu to work in nearby factories.
“All these companies should give priority to the community next to them. We were promised that we will get jobs in this factory, but now they employed outsiders, leaving us here,” he said.
Nelly Hlabisa said they were not happy with Matiwane.
“The councillor does not work with the branch executive committee, but with her own people. As a result, the community is frustrated. She is the main cause of this.”
The protesters demanded the presence of Mayor Chris Ndlela and when he tried to tell them this was not the way to behave, they heckled him.
Three schools in Sobantu were closed as teachers and pupils could not get to school.
Education Department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said it was unfortunate pupils had missed classes.
- The Witness

What would you be willing to do to be able to survive and support your family? Most people would say "anything", so is it so unbelievable that a group of frustrated people would protest at what they see as (because it is) unfair treatment? A huge number of people in South Africa have never had, nor will they ever have, a good education. South Africa's education system is absolutely pathetic, and not free, so some people cannot afford it while on the other hand the majority of students simply drop out because they were never given a real opportunity to learn. They suffered through bad teachers and terrible curriculum's, only to fail over and over and eventually, give up. These children have a 99% chance of never experiencing the good life, since they have feeble reading and arithmetic skills. Most of these children will become semi-alcoholics in their teens and have babies at a young age. These kids don't dream of going to Paris for the summer, they dream of having a simple, comfortable life and of being valued by society.

If you live in a shack house and no one seems to care, you will not feel loved or valued by your fellow man. You will probably resent your "fellow man" and hold on to that resentment, until it turns into hate which may then turn into a blind rage. The rage is not really directed towards people who are financially better off, but toward the unfairness of life and the uncaring gaze of society.

The leaders you elect (or who are elected by their wealthy friends) do not fulfill their promises, nor do they act in a way that benefits you and those who live similarly to you. When you see your "elected" official, you see someone driving in a fancy car and throwing lavish parties while you don't even have plumbing enough to have a toilet or bath.

The only jobs you can get are low paying - so low that you are probably better off staying on the measly welfare that the state provides. Having more children doesn't help, but it happens. The current monthly state support for a child in South Africa is around R290, which is just over US$30. R290 can buy you 10kg rice, 10kg sugar beans, 2,5kg sugar, and 2kg frozen chicken portions - if it's on special. This obviously means that there is no way to buy clothing, medicine, pay school fees, buy school stationery, buy school uniforms...

What would you give for the chance to give your children a better life than you ever had? Everything. Unless you're a drunk and are way past caring about anything but yourself.

What other option is there? Voting doesn't seem to help - the government is corrupt. Getting a job doesn't help, because even if you can find one it doesn't pay enough to life your entire family out of poverty. Welfare doesn't help, it's not even enough to survive. What else can you do? You have no computer, and even if you did you don't have the literacy skills required to do anything significant. You know the school you're sending your kids to is a farce, but there is no other choice.

What do you do?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Day 352: One in Boston, One Thousand Everywhere Else

One bomb attack in Boston...

Brings "the world" to it's knees in tears.

One bomb in Afghanistan...

Gets a courtesy news article.

Two rockets land in Isreal...

The world calls it inevitable.

Four blasts in Iraq...

The world blames Bush.

These are the front page news stories on CNN. He who controls the press controls the masses, it seems. Boston's bomb gets headline status for days, promoting the event and demanding justice, but the bomb and explosive attacks in other countries which happen at a much higher frequency get minimal coverage. Yes, the readers also determine the stories that are highlighted - and the readers have indicated that the conflicts in any place that's not USA or EU are plain old boring, since those savages have and always will be tearing out each others' throats.

If the conflicts in other parts of the world received half as much attention and outrage as the attacks made on USA, then we could safely assume that far greater measures would have been taken in order to minimize and prevent further conflicts. The world's leaders must, of course, give the people what they want in order to remain in favour.

There are attacks in some parts of the world almost every day. What is done about this? Nothing substantial - only token support is shown in order to placate the guilt-ridden middle classes. Why is America so much more important than the Congo, or Iraq? Why is the life of one citizen valued differently to another? Why is one attack seen as more horrific than another?

Imagine if America had some catastrophic event that had casualties similar to the crisis in Syria - would the global community's reaction be identical to the reaction to Syria's crisis?

What do you suppose will happen now? How will USA react? Perhaps it will come one step closer to instituting martial law. Who benefits from these attacks? There will always be someone who benefits. What happens with the state of mind of the American and global citizens? How will their state of mind influence how they live?

There are some hard questions that must be asked if we are to understand the way our society is actually functioning - so that we can stop the abuse and implement solutions that will benefit all life forms.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day 351: Coming soon: Franken Meats and Fish!

The first genetically modified meat and fish could be approved this summer.
Authorities in the US are expected to grant approval to Aquabounty salmon, which has been modified to grow twice as fast as normal salmon.
And experts trying to combat world hunger are calling on the British Government to back the use of GM farm animals on the dinner table here.
The push into GM meat could see the production of giant pigs, hens that have only female chicks and cattle made disease resistant using genes from baboons.
But the move will alarm critics of the use of GM technology who are still battling to block the expansion of genetically modified crops.
The US is expected to approve Aquabounty salmon in the next few weeks. It is produced by inserting a growth hormone gene and another gene taken from the eel-like ocean pout. The fish would be sterile and raised in vast tanks on land rather than in sea cages. Bruce Whitelaw, professor of animal biotechnology at Roslin, said the main priorities of animal breeding companies are to create disease-resistant animals and manipulate the gender of offspring.
But Chinese scientists are also working on creating bigger, faster-growing food animals, he said.
Dr Helen Wallace of GeneWatch, which campaigns to ensure any use of GM is in the public interest, warned: ‘GM fish escapes could pose a serious threat to wild salmon populations.’ An EU move to allow the use of GM animals and insects modified to help destroy crop pests ‘amounts to engineering whole ecosystems, and no one knows the consequences of this,’ she said.
Pete Riley, of the GM Freeze campaign, said: ‘We can see no advantages from GM animals in either food production, pest control or disease control.
‘We know from in-breeding using conventional methods that this causes huge genetic problems which impact on the health and welfare of farmed animals.’ - Mail Online

We do many things to which we cannot know what the consequences might be. Genetically modified foods is one of these things. Yes, it may be hugely beneficial at least some of the time, but what if some of it is hugely detrimental? This is a debate that could rage on and on - but no one has asked the question of: What is the best solution for all involved?

There have been some stories of small animals being fed GM food and then getting all sorts of weird growths and illnesses - but with the scientific reports we, the public, see, there is no way to know for sure what is actually going on. Scientists need to make a living too, so whatever they say could be influenced by their need to survive. This is something that must be investigated fully: if there is a direct correlation between GM food and tumours/illness, then it is not what is best for all.

One thing that we don't realise is that most of the fruits and vegetables we eat have been genetically modified in some way - maybe not as extensively as what Monsanto is doing, but it is still modification. When buying fruit trees from a nursery, you will see that the bottom half and top half of the tree has likely been glued and/or taped together because many fruit trees have inferior root systems (for example) and so the bottom half of a tree with superior root systems is attached to the fruit tree after making a cutting of it. This will then influence the appearance, yield, content and taste of the fruits produced by this tree. Talk to the older generations: ask them if fruits and vegetables tasted the same when they were young as they do now. Their answers will be no. Fruits and veg taste a lot better these days, thanks to a little gene improvement (no matter how crude).

Would you not agree that any kind of human influence in the natural order or progression of a plant or animal is, in fact, genetic modification? Would poodles, Siamese, bulldogs, granny smith apples or champion race horses have existed at all without human interference? No. We have genetically modified much of the plant and animal life on the planet. Where do we draw the line?

If the modification would improve the life of a being (after being researched in an impartial manner) by preventing disease - then is that not what is best? But, if modifications focus solely on the exploitation of a being, by making them grow faster, or more likely to breed certain gender offspring - then how is that at all in the interest of that being? The GM that we are undertaking is for completely selfish and short-sighted reasons. There are alternative solutions that involve better lives for humans, animals and plants - but these solutions offer no profit for the humans, so they are rejected immediately.

GM is all about profit when it should be about improving lives. So what price will we pay for our profit-driven actions? We have no idea what the results will be in 10 or 20 years' time - and we seem to have very limited interest in finding out - which is, again, linked to profits. We are the Frankensteins in this equation. We are distorting life and making it into a grotesque mockery of what it is supposed to be. I suspect the punishment shall be harsh for our crimes against life and what we claim to be our humanity.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Day 350: Shadows of War

(CNN) -- One of the longest-lasting effects of conflict is one that is all too often hidden away, breaking down social fabric and affecting those it touches for the rest of their lives. Rape and sexual violence are easy to overlook -- private tragedies with public stigmas. According to a new report from Save the Children, children bear the brunt of this unseen crisis, enduring the unthinkable when they are most vulnerable.
And sexual violence against children is more common than we dare to think. More than half of the victims of sexual violence are children, according to our report. In places of active or past conflict, from Liberia to Colombia to Afghanistan, children -- both boys and girls -- have been afflicted by this horrendous crime. One study cited in the report shows that in post-conflict Liberia, a staggering 80% of victims of sexual violence were children, and the majority of those had been raped.

Where there are humans, there is war. Is this statement accurate? I suppose it is one of those topics that could be debated over for hours, days, weeks or more. One hopes that, regardless of one's opinion, it is at least agreed upon that war should not exist. If we all agree that war should not exist, then why does it?

Our nature has been relatively stable in one aspect across the ages: cruelty. Rape is something that has always been around. Maybe some cultures did not have it - I cannot say as I was not there. What I do know is that this culture that is spreading around the world - some call it westernization, others call it modernization - so whatever you want to call it, it brings with it an increased occurrence of cruelty and abuse. The stories on the news in this day and age are horrific - the incidences of unimaginable acts of cruelty are increasing in frequency and severity. Is it then accurate to call the expression of these acts of violence human nature? Is this cruelty a thing that is innate, or was it imprinted upon an innocent mind to warp and twist the thoughts within it?

Is war inevitable? Will we all die screaming? Will our leaders inevitably lead us all to early, shallow graves? Will there be nuclear war? Will North Korea bomb the shit out of everything? Will USA nuke North Korea? Why the hell do nuclear weapons even exist? Why don't we change how we live even after we have been shown and can see so clearly that we are poisoning the Earth? Do we acknowledge that simply be allowing wars to exist we are also allowing children to be raped? Is this truly how we have chosen to live our lives: believing and acting as if we are helpless to change anything within ourselves or within the world?

Wars do not simply happen, they are the products of active participation by a very large number of people. They continue to happen because we continue to participate in allowing them, whether actively or tacitly. There may be some who oppose it, but it is not enough for a small part of the population to wave placards around - the majority must participate in actively changing human nature, since it is our apparent human nature that got us in this mess in the first place. This is also the reason why no form of single cause activism will work - every part of this world that is ugly and cruel is connected to what we accept and allow as human nature.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 349: Burstin' Bubbles

Bitcoins were down to $61.11 as of 9 a.m. ET Friday. Prices reached as high as $266 per Bitcoin around 7:30 a.m. ET Wednesday. But the price started to fall through the rest of day and Thursday morning.

At about 10 a.m. ET Thursday, trading was halted on Mt.Gox, a Japan-based exchange that claims to handle 80% of Bitcoin trade worldwide. The price at that time was already at about $123, down more than 50% from the peak.
Mt.Gox issued a statement Friday attributing both the pre-halt price fall and the halt in trading to the rush of new customers trying to trade in the electronic currency.
"The rather astonishing amount of new accounts opened in the last few days...made a huge impact on the overall system that started to lag," the exchange said. "As expected in such situations, people started to panic, started to sell Bitcoin in mass...resulting in an increase of trade that ultimately froze the trade engine."
The exchange said the shutdown was different from the cyber attacks that hit it and other Bitcoin sites earlier this month. 
During the Mt.Gox trading halt, trading continued on some smaller Bitcoin markets, and the price fell sharply. When trading resumed on Mt.Gox about 10 p.m. ET, the price quickly plunged as low as $69.45, ricocheted back up to $135.69, then started to fall again. All the new volume flooding back to Mt.Gox caused another 2-hour halt in trading.
When trading resumed again, it started a less volatile sell-off to the $61.11 price.
Societe Generale currency analyst Sebastien Galy said that even if the bubble has burst for Bitcoins, it doesn't mean it won't have additional rallies in the future.
"Its trading is typical of a bubble," he said. "But there are still people who believe in it. You can't say we're going to zero tomorrow. Even assets that have no underlying value have people willing to trade in it." - CNN

Our economy depends on the whims and panic attacks of investors. We try to think that the investors are some outside, independent force over which we have no control - as if the investors are some aliens sitting on clouds, directing the flow of monetary traffic on planet Earth. Here's some news for you: we are the investors. We are the ones who have chosen to live according to whims, opinions, rumours and bubbles - causing the values of those things that we deem to be valuable to go up and down depending on our mood. This, obviously causes much suffering for many and much celebration for a few; as most of the smaller investors will lose out on this roller coaster while a few will emerge richer than ever with big, fat smiles on their faces.

How many times has the stock market crashed simply because investors "lose faith" or become "nervous" and so pull their funds? How does this then affect the economy in general? How many people will lose a part of their income? How many people will lose their savings, or retirement funds?

What does some investor's confidence have to do with the value of food or any other basic requirement to live well? Why should our lives be subject to the whims and instability of the economy? Our needs do not change - why then should our means to satisfy our needs change?

This economy is a strange one. I do not understand why we have made it so complicated and non-committal - as if a stock market crashing does not influence millions of lives drastically. Why do we not implement a system that will remain stable and committed to providing the good life to all? Maybe we enjoy the torture, the uncertainty of it all - well I don't, but maybe others do. "Oh, we may lose all of our money and then have to live in a shack next month with no food! How exciting!" Yeah right.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 348: STOP! In the Name of Money!

Britain's winters are getting colder because of melting Artic ice changing global weather patterns, the Met Office has claimed.
Forecasters are concerned that high levels of ice melt in the Arctic in recent years could be behind Britain’s increasingly bitter and longer winters.
The organisation’s leading climate change expert, Dr Julia Slingo, is to convene experts from around the world to establish whether this explains why Britain has been experiencing the coldest temperatures for almost 100 years.
Figures released yesterday revealed that the temperature in Aberdeenshire fell to -11.2 degrees Celsius on April 2 – this is the lowest recorded April temperature for almost 100 years.
The news comes just after it was revealed that Britain also experienced the coldest March since 1962.
Dr Slingo is concerned that shrinking sea ice in the Arctic could be responsible.
‘If this is how climate change could manifest itself, then we need to understand that as a matter of urgency,’ she told ITV News.
There are a number of theories as to how melting Arctic ice could affect British weather.
One view is that the warming of the Arctic has the effect of reducing the jet stream – the fast-moving river of warm air which controls our weather patterns – and that this could cause Britain to be subjected to longer periods of unmoving weather, such as the cold weather that has recently affected the country. - Mail Online

What good will carbon taxes do to the ever increasing pollution in our world? We throw money at all of our problems, as if its mere inclusion implies certain victory. A company is sued for negligence that results in someone dying, so they pay a fine. BP damn near destroys a big chunk of our oceans and pay a fine for their error.

We think that the bigger a fine is, the more sorry we are or the more serious the crime was - but what will that fine do to actually reverse the harm caused and prevent it from ever happening again? Not a whole lot. We have summits and conventions "in an attempt to lessen the damage we are doing" - but we hardly ever end up deciding on policies that will actually make a difference, and even if one such policy is tabled, most of the big boy representatives will refuse it. There is only one reason for this refusal: money. It will simply cost too much to implement changes that will really make a difference. As if destroying our planet is the cheap alternative.

You know what will make a difference?
  • Stopping all of the industries that create products and services that we don't actually need to live comfortably. Why should we have factories that are churning our plastic toys that break after a month?
  • Everyone not having to drive to work every day. 
  • Letting go of our belief that aesthetics and beauty is important
  • Making products properly so that they don't break as soon as the warranty runs out.
  • Not worrying about the cost of implementing the safest and least harmful possible options in every aspect of our production processes and lives. 
  • If every aspect of our lives was driven by 2 factors: doing what is required in order to live comfortably and sustainably, and enjoying life - instead of by money and survival. 
  • If our food was actually healthy - no more "junk food" like McDonald's which is based on "good prices" and time efficiency for the hurried human trying to survive the world. 
We live like teenagers, as if we will never die and as if there are no consequences for our actions. We act like spoiled brats, as if money will make our problems go away while at the same time not being willing to commit the money toward preventative measures. What will happen to our fancy lives if an ice age comes? Maybe we can pay it to go away.

Make no mistake, life does not turn out like in the movies, where some heroes save the day. There will be no drilling into the Earth to set it to spin again if we screw it up.