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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 466: God did not Save America

A quick note before you begin the journey of reading this post: As I am currently studying for exams (Psychology), I have not been able to write my daily posts. This post was started a few days ago, before the "temporary solution" signed by the USA Congress to avoid defaulting on their loans. Idjits. 

http://rt.com/business/losing-faith-de-americanize-161/

A US debt default could hit on Thursday, and world leaders are second guessing the dominant role America plays in finance. Regardless of the final decision in Washington, confidence and credibility in the US has already eroded.
In an editorial published by the Chinese state-owned press agency Xinhua, a columnist says the US economy has ‘failed’ and put many countries who hold state assets in dollars, at risk.
“To that end, several corner stones should be laid to underpin a de-Americanized world,” the editorial read.
Last week China, the biggest US creditor, started to make preparations for a technical default on loans. The European Central Bank and the People’s Bank of China (PBC) have agreed to start supplying each other with their currencies, avoiding the dollar as an intermediary currency. The currency swap agreement will last for three years and provide a maximum of 350 billion Yuan ($56 billion) to the ECB and 45 billion euro ($60.8 billion) to the PBC.
In a further sign of growing distrust, China introduced a so-called “haircut”, or a discount, on the value of US Treasuries held as collateral against futures trades.
Developing and developed nations are equally concerned, and institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have issued several warnings.
Christine LaGarde, managing director of the IMF told the US they must uphold their financial promises to the international community and raise their debt ceiling. Failing to do so would put the world “at risk of tipping yet again into a recession,” LaGarde said in an interview on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’, which aired on October 13.
“You have to honor your signature, … give certainty to the rest of the world,” LaGarde urged the US, a strong supporter of the international lending tool.
The country that has long provided a sturdy backbone to the global economy is now teetering on a mass default. If US lawmakers don’t forge a solution to raising the debt ceiling by October 17, investors with US treasury bonds, one of the lowest-risk assets, could suffer. 
“It’s not just China that’s at the mercy of US lawmakers, its everybody in the world that is at the mercy of US lawmakers right now,” David Kuo, Investment Advisor, Motley Fool told RT .
“China is trying to diversify away from US Treasuries,” said Kuo, adding investors “cannot just assume an asset is 100 percent safe.”
China holds nearly $1.3 trillion in Treasuries, Japan has $1.14 trillion, and other big foreign creditors include Caribbean creditors, Brazil, Taiwan, Russia, and European nations.
Other creditors have decided to keep calm.
Russia, ranked the 11th on the list of the US top creditors with the estimated $132 billion in US Treasuries, plans to keep their Treasuries.
"I don't see the need for revising our reserve investment strategy in US Treasuries," Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said at a press conference on October 11 following a meeting of the G20 finance and Central Bank chiefs.
“What’s happening now, I hope, is a fairly short-term situation,” Siluanov told reporters, noting Russia’s investment plan is long-term.
If the US misses the debt ceiling deadline of October 17 and stops paying their creditors, it would be the first major Western government to do so since Nazi Germany under Hitler in 1933, which wasn’t able to pay their debts following World War I.
The US has a bank holiday today in honor of Columbus Day; however, after making little headway on solving the budget gap, both the Senate and the House will hold sessions on Monday.
For Republicans, Obamacare has been a major stumbling block in agreeing to raise the debt ceiling, as they see the legislation as antithetical to their ‘small government’ philosophy. - RT

Our economy is strange. We are a strange folk. I suppose that makes it a little easier to see why our economy is strange.

What the hell kind of a plan is it to base an economy on debt? There are so many things that happen in this world that we are not aware of, things that are actually the back-bone of our economy. Now everyone is blaming America for the "economic depression" - but don't you know that depression is a state of mind? Depression is a state created wholly by our participation and belief in a series of experiences, where we relive the same experiences over and over without recognizing that in order to stop the depression we must move ourselves out of this repetitive pattern we find ourselves in.

Everyone is in debt to everyone else.

Everybody owes somebody else.

Everyone is owned by the money they owe.

Everyone is a slave to the state of mind of the economy which is a figment of our imaginations.

Kind of makes you wanna scream, doesn't it?

What kind of reasoning must one have to bring an entire country to it's knees to try and avoid giving the citizens of said country decent healthcare without them having to sell their souls for it? But then what about the side effects of ObamaCare? This is most certainly not a win-win situation. This whole debacle only shows us that this is not the solution as the solution would be undeniable. Unfortunately the solution would remove the power from the hands of those few who hold majority power, and so the solution never quite gets popular. The solution goes against most of the things most people believe, because our beliefs have actively been shaped and influenced throughout our lives to maintain the power-structure as it is now.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Day 465: SimCity: All for the Money

SimCity is a game series where you build a city within specific boundaries and with a limited start-up budget. You basically create a city from the ground up, zoning residential, industrial and commercial buildings. You also need to provide your citizens and businesses with services like water, power, sewage treatment and so on. You earn money from taxes as well as eventually from trading, tourism, technological advancements, etc. This latest release of SimCity has the fans all feeling quite disappointed.

Firstly, you need to be constantly connected to the internet and logged on to the SimCity servers in order to play the game. When it was first released, the servers' capacity was so insufficient that practically no one could play the game at all.

Secondly, when the server problem was eventually resolved enough for people to start playing the game, all the weird glitches started coming out of the woodwork. Traffic was (and is) a major problem. The AI of the cars in-game was pathetic - cars would (and still do) sit at one traffic intersection for many game hours, not taking numerous opportunities to go through the intersection. Needless to say, when there are severe traffic problems then no one can get to where they need to go, such as delivery vehicles carrying goods you need to sell to be able to keep your city afloat, financially speaking; or school buses; or ambulances; or fire trucks - you get my meaning. This is one of the most prominent fundamental programming issues.

Thirdly, the space allotted to each city building area is tiny. There is no space for someone to be creative, you are absolutely confined to a square space and must be as efficient as possible, or else the city doesn't get/do what it needs to get/do.

Fourthly, another weird bug is that the numbers in the statistic board for your city don't add up. One minute your people complain that there are not enough commercial buildings but the next minute 4 commercial buildings close down due to insufficient shoppers. I am aware that there are various income brackets - so I did take that into consideration before coming to the conclusion that there is something off with the numbers. The numbers just don't add up.

Essentially, the game could have used another year (at least) in development before being released. It has received numerous patches, and this (large files needing to be downloaded), coupled with the still insufficient server power, leads to the game taking 2 and a half hours to install. A game should not be released if it's still got bugs that require fixes - it's like buying a shoe without the insole. Seriously.

Most people blame Electronic Arts for all the shenanigans. EA is notorious for it's profit-driven actions (like releasing games before they're ready). They are far more invested in the money they can make rather than creating good products that actually work.

Wouldn't it be great if every company actually had integrity and created good products worth having? Wouldn't it be great if companies like EA were focused on creating the best possible products instead of making the biggest possible profit? I know I am tired of being bitterly disappointed with half-finished games.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 464: It's Getting Hot in Here...

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/10/us/climate-change-study/index.html?hpt=hp_c3

(CNN) -- Average annual temperatures will start to consistently exceed the highest levels previously recorded in as little as seven years in tropical hotspots and within four decades for the majority of the globe if nothing is done to stop climate change, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Nature.
And by the end of the century, monthly average temperatures will be higher than at any time since at least 1860, according to the study, led by University of Hawaii geographer Camilo Mora.
The effects will be felt first in tropical climates, with the annual temperature range rising beyond the historical range in Manokwari, Indonesia, in 2020, according to a map that accompanies the study on the University of Hawaii website.
Mexico City's date is 2031. It's 2046 in Orlando, and a year later in Washington and New York, according to the group. Anchorage, Alaska, doesn't climb on board until 2071.
"The results shocked us. Regardless of the scenario, changes will be coming soon," Mora said in a statement posted by the university. "Within my generation, whatever climate we were used to will be a thing of the past."

http://www.corbettreport.com/global-warming-minute-why-is-the-ipcc-95-certain-that-climate-change-is-manmade/

In recent days, you’ve probably heard ad nauseum that the UN’s new IPCC report claims that it is “95% certain” that humans are causing climate change.
95% is a very specific number. So where does it come from?
The IPCC uses a “likelihood scale” that assigns percentages to various phrases, ranging from “exceptionally unlikely” (0-1% probability) to “virtually certain” (99-100% probability). This sounds like it is based on a precise scientific measurement or well-defined statistical process, but when it comes to deciding how likely it is that climate change is manmade, this is in fact a subjective decision that is made by the report’s authors.
According to the IPCC: “The approaches used in detection and attribution research […] cannot fully account for all uncertainties, and thus ultimately expert judgment is required to give a calibrated assessment of whether a specific cause is responsible for a given climate change.”
In other words, the “95% probability” that is making all of the headlines is nothing more than an arbitrary number decided on in closed door meetings between the report authors. Still, it serves an important propaganda purpose in giving a veneer of scientific credibility to the decision, one that a media that never bothers to explain these decisions to you thinks you will be too stupid to figure out for yourself: - The Corbett Report

What the hell is going on? No one actually know what the weather is doing, why it's doing it, nor what it plans to be doing in the future. Why are so many people presenting information as fact when it is actually more like a guesstimate? One thing we do know is that the weather has been going up and doing for as long as the Earth has been here. The other thing we know is that our actions most certainly do have negative consequences for the planet and atmosphere including, but not limited to air pollution, ground pollution and water pollution.

There is so much propaganda surrounding the state of the planet and the consequences of our actions that no one knows which information is actually relevant and which is just plain bullshit. Like everything we do and everything we scientifically research, there always ends up being more than one answer/result, all of which have the appropriate supporting data (ei evidence). They can't all be right. Even though this is presented to us clearly, we do not question things like why apples are good one month but bad the next.

There are very few people who actually know what is going on and how things actually work in this elaborate system we function within. The amount of time, effort and dedication it takes to unravel all the mysteries is enormous.

What should be self evident is that we are having a detrimental impact on the planet, animals, atmosphere - well, pretty much everything we touch. Orr look at. Or think about.

What needs to be realized is that if we continue living the way we live then we will be facing some unpleasant consequences down the road. We may understand this intellectually, but we seem to be nowhere near the actual living of this realization. We still live like we are invincible and like all the bad things that are happening are happening far away in some distant realm. Do we really need to wait for us to be personally affected before we take action?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 463: An Epic Failure

So I just watched this movie. As far as movies go, it was nothing special - the usual cliched story in the form of an animation. So in this movie, nature is depicted as a forest being held in a delicate balance of growth (good) and rot (evil) by the (good) queen. The evil king is the usual selfish character hell-bent on ruling the world with his really big army of thick-skulled, weird looking vermin-type things. The good queen is very beautiful, kind and brave. All the magical, miniature critters living in this enchanted realm have been given very human attributes and personalities (so that we can relate to them of course). The animals living in the forest with them have been given a submissive role, some catering to the needs of the magical critters while others simply ignore them. The magical critters are basically responsible for the continued survival of the forest.

This movie is aimed primarily at children and families. It is a fairytale. What do fairytales like this one teach to our younger generations? That animals are tools for humans and magical fairy folk to use? That there is always a state of good versus evil, that the two forces are constantly vying for supremacy? Sometimes, that animals are just like us and hold the same values we do? That good is beautiful and evil is ugly? That there is always a hero and that this hero is special in comparison to others? That there is always a happy ending?

Are these ideals valid in real life? No - and yet our children grow up desperately believing in and wishing for a magical, fairytale life. Kids grow up with the desire to be special, and the assumption that everything and everyone else on Earth is simply here to help them achieve their magical apex of amazingness.

Children also end up having a warped perspective of what animals need, want, like, dislike and generally what their basic nature is. Kids think that what animals want, need and enjoy is the same as what they want, need and enjoy. We end up not considering what the animal wants by placing ourselves "in their shoes", but rather by placing ourselves in our shoes and drawing ears and a tail onto our self-image.

We wonder why our childhood is the best time of our lives, but it should be plain to see: when we are children we are encouraged to live in a magical, imaginary realm; in school we are not taught very many real-world skills, rather a bundle of information that is not really useful (and tends to be forgotten the moment after we have written an exam on the subject material). We grow into adulthood, but the social transition is more like a shock - we are thrust into a world in which none of the things we observed or were taught are relevant. We suddenly have to navigate a snake pit armed only with a pretty lace ribbon and no boots.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day 462: Diamonds Taste Good... Real Good

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/08/world/asia/white-diamond-record/index.html?hpt=hp_mid

Hong Kong (CNN) -- A white diamond the size of a small egg has sold for $30.6 million at an auction in Hong Kong, smashing the world record for a jewel of its kind.
The flawless, 118-carat oval diamond was sold to an unidentified Asian collector, whose winning bid came at the lower end of the $28 million to $35 million estimate set by auction giant Sotheby's. It was the largest diamond ever sold at auction.
David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's Jewelry Division for Europe and the Middle East, told CNN that diamonds could be bought as an investment or simply for the love of a beautiful and rare object.
"Asia has rapidly in the past 20 years become our most important sector of the buying public. They account for more than a third (of buyers)."

Wow, that diamond must be able to do a whole lot of magical things for that price. Maybe it's like Jesus and can turn water into wine and rocks into bread or some such wonder. I mean, it must be able to do some kind of something - why else would it be valued so highly? Why else would this diamond be more important than, say, half the human population on the planet living in not-so-nice poverty/minimum wage? Why else would this even make it to the front page of one of the biggest news agencies in the world? Seriously, it's magical.

If there was some kind of food shortage or zombie apocalypse one day, this diamond could save us all. We could turn to the diamond and call upon it's magical powers to feed our hungry children and stop those pesky zombies from eating our brains and turning our friends and family into the walking dead right before our eyes. The diamond could help us. In fact, the diamond is so amazing and powerful that there never will be a food shortage or zombie apocalypse - the diamond will protect us from all bad things. What we don't realize is that even now, the diamond is protecting, feeding, clothing and homing all of us. We only think we're living in a world where poverty is around every corner, but it's not real. That is just some evil entity, like Satan, or Obama, trying to control our brain thoughts. We are actually just having a bad dream, because in reality, the diamond makes sure that we are all happy, well fed, well educated and taken care of. Bless you, diamond.

We should name the diamond. "Great White Diamond of Amazingness and Omnipotence" - that has a nice ring to it, don't you think? What about "Great White Protector of Life"? Ooooohhh, nice. How about "Sparkly Stone of Goodness"? Wow, so many great choices to choose from. The diamond deserves the very best for all it has done, and continues to do, for us. We are so grateful, we just want to show our thanks in any way we can.

This shows exactly where our values lie. We'll turn a rock into an item of worth, make it worth more than the lives of 30 million people. Have you ever known what it feels like to be absolutely worthless, to have no value at all? Do you know what it feels like to know that if you were to disappear off the face of the Earth, no one would even bat an eyelid? There of millions - billions - of people who know what this feels like. Millions of people who work themselves into an early grave just to be worthy of a daily scrap of bread. In the face of all of this, diamonds are apparently what really matter.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 461: I am the Master of my own Fate

The following is an extract from the book Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne.


Another fascinating question concerning attribution is this: Do we perceive the events in our own lives (and perhaps, in other people's lives, too) as stemming primarily from fate - forces outside our control that, in a sense, predetermine our destiny - or from our own actions - in which case, the outcomes we experience will depend on what we freely choose to do. This is a complex question, and in fact, although these two explanations for events might seem to be contradictory, research findings suggest that we actually accept both - we believe that both fate outside and our own actions shape our lives. However we don't give these two possible causes equal weight at all times. Rather, we tend to swing back and forth between them depending on what social psychologists describe as the level of construal - whether we think about such events abstractly or in more concrete terms (eg, Trope & Lieberman, 2003). Here's an example of what this means: Suppose you are asked to describe some past accomplishment from your own life (eg, you made it onto a team; you won a prize for some activity). You can think about this accomplishment abstractly - for instance, wondering why you sought that goal or what good came from attaining it. Or you can think about it more concretely, asking yourself: What did you have to do to attain that goal? What techniques or skills did you use to achieve it? As you can see, the first kind of thinking considers the ultimate meaning of your actions and various events, while the latter considers smaller details - how it occurred and not why it occurred. Two researchers (Burrus & Roese, 2006) have recently proposed that thinking in abstract terms (high levels of construals) leads us to emphasize the importance of fate as a factor in our lives while thinking in more concrete terms leads us to downplay the influence of fate. 

Is fate then wholly a figment of our imaginations? If our thinking influences the degree to which we believe fate directs our lives then is our belief in fate even valid in the first place? Did we just make up the concept of fate so as to make our lives seem more meaningful?

That is one thing we seem to ask often: "why are we here?" What is the meaning of life? Is there some great and powerful magic bean that thought us up and is controlling our lives with it's great and powerful magic bean Plan? Why do bad things happen to us? There is no way that our being here, that our being alive is just a random occurrence and that we direct our own existence. It's way better believing in a magic bean. This way the magic bean can take the fall for us. Just sayin'...

This goes to show how easily our opinions and perspectives can be manipulated - all you need to do is get us in the right frame of mind and we will bend to your will. We've already proven that we will believe pretty much anything.

The interesting thing about fate is that it removes our responsibility - it liberates us from being responsible for our actions and puts it all on some great force out there. The idea that there is some great force taking an interest in our lives makes us feel ever so special - it makes us feel like we have been touched by some Divine Intervention - but only if the intervention is good. If we get slapped in the face by a cruel twist of fate then we sigh and turn toward the sky, asking the question "why me?" To that God would respond "Well why the hell not you?"

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Day 460: Breathe In Two, Three and Out Two, Three

A few people throughout time have discovered that breathing is a multipurpose tool for many different situations one may find oneself in. Breathing is instrumental in many different activities such as yoga, meditation, singing, musical instruments, exercise, martial arts, horsemanship, performance arts - and those are only the things I can think of off the top of my head.

We take our breath for granted. There are only a few things we need to be able to be alive and breath is one of those things. With every breath we breathe in we are giving our bodies the ability to sustain our very life force. Without breath we die. Our hearts and breath move together in synchronicity, creating a constant rhythm within our bodies - the rhythm of life. The steady beating of our hearts matched to the in and out of the air that sustains us. How much of what our bodies are doing are we actually aware of? Very little. We do not think of all the processes happening in our bodies, processes without which we would not be alive. We do not think of our circulatory system, moving the blood all throughout our bodies, feeding our muscles, organs and brains. We do not think of our digestive systems, constantly breaking down and sorting through whatever we've chosen to put into our mouths. We don't think of the tensing and relaxing of our muscles, working together to enable us to do things like type, walk, speak and even breathe.

There is no way that we could know exactly what our bodies are capable of if we are not even aware of all of the processes that take place inside our own bodies. Then this naturally takes us to the next series of questions on what the connection is between mind, body and breath? To what degree are our minds and bodies connected? To what degree can our physical actions and state influence our minds? Most cannot answer these questions with any certainty, but many people feel comfortable enough to speculate. These things are not at all connected!  They are partly connected! They are not connected at all! These responses are rarely given with any real understanding.We find it very difficult to be objective about anything in our lives, everything is always dripping in some kind of personal experience, thought or feeling - it is quite easy for us to influence our own experiences and perceptions so that we can rarely trust even ourselves and our own conclusions.

Breathe in, two, three, four, and out, two, three, four.

And in, two, three, four, and out, two three four. 

Simple. Feel the air entering your mouth, airway and lungs. Be aware of the oxygen traveling throughout your body to feed your muscles, organs, tendons. Focus on your breathe. Stop for a moment within yourself, stop your thoughts and just breathe, slow and deep. When you feel yourself bubbling in anger, lost in sadness or grief, reeling in some power trip - breathe - just breathe. You will notice an interesting thing - that is, if you focus all of yourself on your breath and the nourishment of your body - you will notice that your anger subsides, you bring yourself out of the lostness, your thoughts slow and calm. Breath brings a clarity that we so often lack in our lives - a clarity of looking at ourselves or a situation calmly, without riding the waves of some emotion.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 459: The Price of Poverty

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

PART III
Article 6
1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.
2. The steps to be taken by a State Party to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include technical and vocational guidance and training programmes, policies and techniques to achieve steady economic, social and cultural development and full and productive employment under conditions safeguarding fundamental political and economic freedoms to the individual.

Countries with zero unemployment are rare. They are certainly the exception rather than the rule.

We all know what unemployment looks like these days. In the better-off countries it means living on government hand outs - meager, yes, but enough to sustain life. The inability to earn an income means certain death in other countries. Here in South Africa, being in the low income bracket gives one the average life expectancy of 40 - 45 years. In 4 years I have known of 10 deaths from only 2 local families. Most of those deaths were AIDS related and the victims were under 40.

You cannot know of the absolute hopelessness of being born into poverty if you have never witnessed it and truly placed yourself in the shoes of one who lives it. There are sides to poverty that one does not easily want to consider. There are facts that are easier to ignore than give attention to.

Many people in South Africa who live in poverty are regular drinkers of alcohol. There is no comprehension of the idea of saving money for emergencies or future investments, there is only a drive to blot out the ugly reality of now. Children often get sick and dies due to improper nutrition, housing and sanitation. It doesn't help that public hospitals are horribly inept and corrupt. Due to the malnourishment, the children's bodies and brains to not develop to their optimum capacity, they are stunted both mentally and physically. It also doesn't help that the public education system is a farce. Most students drop out by standard 8 due to consistently failing the grade - even with a minimum pass mark of as low as 35%.

A lot of people ask questions like "why don't those people do something to make their lives better?" Sure, some do. They put themselves through the correspondence university (UNISA), and sometimes they even pass - but the reality is that those people are in the minority. The rest simply do not know how to make their lives better, the need to survive and get through each day is all-consuming. There is a passive acceptance of their lot in life, they simply have not the will to initiate any kind of change.

Casual unprotected sex is common. Most of the impoverished are black, and the African cultures are generally patriarchal and some are even polygamous. Men generally feel and act as if they can do whatever they want to a woman and the woman must simply accept it.

You may ask yourself how people could be so oblivious to their potential to change their own lives. Poverty is a breeding ground for some of the darkest manifestations of human behaviour: raping babies in the belief that it will cure AIDS; raping 90 year old women (just because); using witchcraft that involves body parts taken from a murdered person (often a child). It doesn't help that the truly good parts of the African cultures were quashed by the whites decades ago. Poverty forces a person to think only of themselves and their own survival - there is no sense of community left.

I actually have personally witnessed fighting between 2 people for the absurd reason of them both having jobs at the same place. The jealousy and fighting progressed to such a state that one of the employees had to resign as she was fearing for her life. Yes, you read me correctly: they were fighting because they both had jobs. They were jealous of each other for having work. It defies any kind of common sense one develops in a more privileged life.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Day 458: Failed Country, Failed World

http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2013/10/01/is-america-a-failed-state/?hpt=hp_c2

NASA’s unmanned Voyager 2 spacecraft may have put it best when it “tweeted” from beyond the solar system: “Farewell, humans. Sort it out yourselves.”
Most employees at NASA are now among the million U.S. government employees on forced leave because congress has failed to pass a spending bill, forcing a shutdown.
The world is watching in seeming disbelief. So, is America a failed state?
Not quite, but the apparent failure of the American congress to govern certainly raises the question. If we were covering some of the far-flung failing states we often do, we’d know just how to put it.
“The capital’s rival clans find themselves at an impasse, unable to agree on a measure that will allow the American state to carry out its most basic functions. … The current crisis has raised questions in the international community about the regime’s ability to govern this complex nation of 300 million people.”
That, of course, was a satirical post; it appeared in the online magazine Slate, but it just about fits.
A small cabal of representatives in the House have blocked passage of a government spending bill, and are threatening to default on America’s debts, because they disagree with a bill, Obamacare, passed by congress three years ago.
At stake, unlike a “Banana Republic” is the world’s largest economy and the currency of global trade.
Not to mention those out of work, medical projects halted, and the lost revenue from tourists – Yosemite National Park, now shuttered, draws in $350 million a year to the local economy.
“I think the rest of the world thinks it’s so incredible they don’t believe it,” British broadcaster and publisher Andrew Neil told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. “We’re used to dysfunctional governments in Italy or Greece or some banana republic. But a basic function of government to set tax and spend and agree on a budget.”
The current crisis, the failure to pass a budget that forced a shutdown, is nothing next to the possibility that America would default on its debts.
“The U.S. bonds are by far the most important in the world – they’re the benchmark for the rest of our borrowing in the world,” Neil said. “If the America, of all countries, can’t service it, we are potentially into a financial crisis much bigger than the one sparked off by Lehman Brothers.”
It is a scary potential, but some House republicans seem all too willing to flirt with disaster – all in the name of defunding Obamacare and reducing spending. - CNN

What a surprise. What a fitting example of the absolute lunacy of this world.

An economy based on the dangerous relationship between (what should be) limited debt and (what should be) limitless growth.
Politicians elected for their smiles and ability to raise vast amounts of funds instead of their common sense.
Education systems that dull the natural curiosity and creativity of our children.
Universities that preach free thinking but reject anything outside the norm.
Healthcare systems that care more about money than they care about anyone's health.
Governments sworn to protect the interests of the people are the most corrupt institutions of all.

Some people say that the situation is more complicated than it appears to be. When it comes to doing what is best there is no complication - it is cut and dry. When you are doing what is best for the most people then there are no opinions involved - there is no debating - there is only the objective investigation into what solution will benefit the most people.

That is too much to ask for our "leaders". They would prefer, it seems, to tear apart the meager scraps that we desperately cling to for our survival and sanity. Why should they do good for people when there are so many different kinds of people, some of whom they simply don't like. Why should they stop bickering over technicalities when it makes them feel so good to believe in something, even if it is utterly illogical and downright abusive. Why should they ensure the equal rights to all when their friends with all the money pay them well for their privileges?

This is the extent of the moral compass of our leaders: piss off some powerful (and rich) people to make some real changes, or keep quite and allow those powerful people to dictate what the fate of millions will be. What is a non-toxic food supply in the face of pure, unadulterated greed?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Day 457: Some are Better than Others

I had an interesting conversation today with who may be one of the better people to grace this bruised and battered planet. She receives a pension from the state and does odd jobs - the odd jobs are so that she can continue to be able to pay her astronomical monthly medical insurance premium - so, she does not earn much and lives in a cottage on her son's property.

She lives in a city, which is something I have never done. She knows people from all walks of life, and today she told me a few stories of the different people she has met.

In South Africa, beggars are not an unusual sight. Most stand at traffic intersections with their scribbled please on cardboard sheets. It has become increasingly common to see white beggars, compared to the years closer to the end of Apartheid when it was unheard of. This lady knows some of the local white beggars, and one day asked a lady beggar if she wouldn't rather want to be a car guard. The lady beggar indignantly replied "no!", as if being a car guard was "beneath her". (Car guards are very common in SA) She then asked if she could earn R800 a day being a car guard, to which the answer was no. To earn R800 a day is quite unusual. That would mean that a beggar can earn R16000 a month by begging 5 days a week. That is more than most government employees (the ones who do the work, anyway), that is more than likely more than half of the population lives on per month. The minimum wage is more like R2000 (depending on where the employee is working - one earns less if one works in a rural area, for example). So a white beggar can earn 8 times more than the minimum wage, and a good deal more than many people earn.

This lady I spoke to has taken on feeding a poor family on occasion. She takes some food over to them on a weekly basis. The parents are unemployed and they have children. She said she could not stand spending money on herself when she could be feeding a couple of kids.

Maybe she was lying. Maybe she wasn't. Maybe she exaggerated her charitable actions. Maybe not. Regardless, if all people were to live this way then this world would immediately be a better place.

There is a common courtesy among people that has become far too uncommon. We treat and see each other as things to exploit, and this obviously leads us to assume that other people want to do the same to us. There is no respect for each other, there are no feelings of empathy or compassion. There is no willingness to work harder for the sake of another's happiness or livelihood. There is only this void of selfishness that sucks up our consideration for others. Now we can only think of ourselves. Where has the goodness in our society gone? Where has the willingness to help another cross the street without stealing their possessions afterward gone? Where has our desire for a better world gone?

It seems like we exist in a limbo of apathetic tendencies, not ever quite caring enough to make a real difference. Would it help if there were more better people in the world? Maybe. Even the best of us would have to be willing to give up everything we think we know.