Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 550: Facebook Mood Manipulation

A new research paper has revealed two startling pieces of information. First, it disclosed that Facebook manipulated the News Feeds of nearly 700,000 English-speaking users in a research study on emotional states. Second, the study (found in PNAS) suggests that emotional contagion can happen without “direct interaction between people.”
The study is based on the idea that “emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness,” according to the abstract. (The abstract also states that the results of studies on this phenomena are controversial.)
In the experiment, researchers wanted to test whether emotional contagion was possible outside of in-person interaction. They did so by manipulating the emotional content of users’ News Feeds on Facebook. “When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred,” reads the abstract. Basically the study found that the transference of emotions documented in other real-world experiments, was also true of not face-to-face interaction. - Salon

Why do people get angry when they are shown just how easy it is to manipulate us all? As if adverts, music, TV shows, movies, magazines and more weren't proof enough, now that we are given some proof we go completely bonkers. A violation of privacy? A violation of your person? Why are you so angry at this experiment?

Why do you get defensive when someone challenges your beliefs or personality? Maybe you know somewhere inside yourself that it is possible to change, but if you were to admit it to yourself then you'd have to actually change. Everyone has a textbook case of denial when it comes to what they think is true or right, it is rare to find a person who is truly open to investigating different possibilities in every aspect of their lives.

What does it say about you that you don't know when your emotions are being manipulated, especially by those things that form such a big part of your life (like Facebook and TV)? Everyone seems to consider themselves as self aware, but in the moments when things like this experiment happen and you see exactly how unaware you are, the reality is just too much and the defense mechanisms go into overdrive.

Why is this information so hard to come by? Why don't experiments like these form part of every school curriculum to teach each person how to think and act objectively and with consideration? Well, if that were to happen then all the big companies making millions or billions off of emotion, thought and behaviour manipulation techniques would make quite a bit less. The funny thing is that the people who make up these big businesses are susceptible to exactly the same techniques as their customers (or should I say prey).

All of this also shows how people who surround themselves with "positivity" and happy thoughts seem to be in a happier mood. They block out all the terrible things in the world and focus on the good, creating a safe and happy cocoon for themselves where they don't have to feel the pain of seeing another being suffer.

You could say that "positivity begets positivity" and "negativity begets negativity". It may even give a better understanding into mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorders. It's actually no wonder that everyone isn't diagnosed with a mood disorder seeing as how much our moods are manipulated every single day without our awareness.

Don't be angry with Facebook for allowing an investigation into the reality of this world. Be angry that you were not aware of all of the people and techniques that try and influence how you feel every day of your life. Start asking the hard questions: Why is this allowed? How can we stop it and educate ourselves and each other? How can we teach our children to respect other people enough to not try to manipulate them?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 549: Begone, Homeless!

The best way to grapple with homelessness in Colorado Springs is to swap supportive services and affordable housing for a one-way bus ticket out of town, according to Councilwoman Helen Collins.
“A lot of the homeless, the best way to get rid of the homeless is to give them a bus ticket back to their families,” Collins said earlier this week during a discussion of the city’s plan for housing and homelessness programs. She criticized the city’s efforts to provide housing and stability for homeless people to get back on their feet by saying that those programs hurt other people. “They go into a low income housing area,” Collins said, according to The Gazette, and “drag it down and then they move on to the next new low income housing facility.”
A fellow council member pointed out that housing the homeless is proven to be the most cost-effective way of getting people off of the street, and added that “to give them a home is the first step” in a longer process designed to foster long-term stability and a gradual return to safe, sustainable, and independent living. The city’s proposal for spending federal grant money combating homelessness eventually passed on a 6-3 vote over Collins’ objections.
Such homelessness mitigation efforts have indeed begun to focus more on providing housing than on other forms of aid for the homeless. That is because it costs roughly one third as much to simply put a roof over someone’s head than it does to handle homelessness using the courts, jails, and hospitals. In the best situations, permanent housing for the homeless allows people to put down roots in a community, send their children to schools, and re-enter society after years on the margins. Sometimes even those success stories get sabotaged by policymaker disputes, as in the case of Atlanta’s Vine City neighborhood, where dozens of once-homeless residents are set to be forcibly uprooted to a new location on Friday due to a bureaucratic dispute.
The idea of shipping a city’s homeless population out of sight and out of mind isn’t new or unique to Helen Collins or Colorado Springs. Baton Rouge, Louisiana decided to dump its homeless on other cities by buying them one-way bus tickets last summer. (That program was originally called “Clean Sweep,” before its sponsors opted for the shinier “Homeless Outreach Prevention Efforts” or HOPE.) Nevada was sued by San Francisco after a state psychiatric hospital was found to be putting hundreds of indigent people with mental health issues onto buses bound for the bay area. In Hawaii, some lawmakers have even tried to buy plane tickets back to the mainland for homeless people who some public officials believe interfere with the state’s tourism industry.
There is a big difference between helping someone get back to family and friends and shipping someone across a jurisdictional line so they can be somebody else’s problem. As Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing at the National Coalition for the Homeless told ThinkProgress’ Scott Keyes last year, bus tickets can be a boon in certain situations “if it’s done for the right reasons and it’s voluntary and people are not being given a choice, ‘go to jail or we can give you a bus ticket.’” - Think Progress

Labels and name calling - this is how it begins. It's how it began in Nazi Germany. It's how it began in colonial America. It is how it began in Southern Africa. It is easier to dehumanize someone by giving them a derogatory label. Nowadays it's less about race or religion and more about income/social status.

The homeless are regarded as less than human by some people.

I wonder how that logic works. To believe that someone is "not quite as human as me - but they are human". It is a contradiction to say the least, a cruel hypocrisy. How is it possible to not quite be something while actually being it at the same time? Only the twisted mind of a human could put a spin on something like this - to degrade something and make ourselves separate from it while at the same time acknowledging our sameness with that very thing.

It is easier when you are talking about a "hobo" or a "beggar" - it is easier to separate yourself from it by making that distinction. When you think of people in that way you don't really see them as people, each having lived an entire life and still with some living left to you just like you, you see them as their labels.

The reality is that if you really saw each and every person in the world completely - the same way you see yourself - you would never allow some of the living conditions that people are forced to endure. If you looked into the face of every beggar and saw yourself you would want that person to have every opportunity and comfort you have and/or would want. Seeing people as their labels instead of as people makes it easier to accept the world the way it is. I have as yet discovered no justifiable reason why any person wants the world to be the way it is and yet here we are. We are all living in a life we don't really like or want, at least not entirely, but still we do nothing to change it. We are comfortable, and the concept of change is terrifying. Not that this is a good enough reason. There really is no reason good enough.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 548: Exposing Ag-Gag

Ag-gag is a term used for a variety of anti-whistleblower laws in the United States of America. In Utah and Iowa, the recording of undercover videos showing animal cruelty in farming practices is now illegal.[1] Reporters have noted that some of these laws (in particular, Pennsylvania's pending bill) could also be used to criminalize anti-fracking activists, or those who protest the drilling of shale oil and gas using hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" technique.[2] The term "ag gag" for the laws was coined by Mark Bittman in an April 2011 New York Times column.[3]

How beautiful of an example of the power of lobbying is this law and the evidence that the judicial system can be bought?

Whose rights are protected by it? The corporations.

Who are the primary lobbyists? The corporations.

The big guns with the big bucks. Those are the people who run the world. You think your rights are respected by anyone when there is money involved? You think your rights are respected at all? Soon we will be like the animals in labs and farms being fattened up for slaughter or poked and prodded for the advancement of "science" - and no one will be able to expose the abuse because it would violate the rights of the business.

Why is it that the very best people in this world, the most compassionate, are being targeted and called terrorists for demanding a better way of life for all of the life on this planet (and not just the rich and famous)? One thing you can pretty much count on in this world is that if you are trying to protest abuse or promote a good solution, you are going to be labeled as a fanatic of some sort.

The Ag-Gag shows you exactly where the priorities of the big corporations are (and therefore where the priorities of the governments are). Their priorities are not in openness and accountability, but in secrecy and cover ups. What they do in the name of profit is quite simply torture - and they are willing to destroy anyone or anything standing in their way.

Profit is GOD. Profit comes before decency. Profit comes before respect. Profit comes before basic rights to life. Profit comes before compassion. Profit comes before consideration. Profit comes before ALL in this world. Obviously this is something that needs to change. This world could be a creation that we could be proud of. Yes, there will be sacrifices - there are many things that we have grown accustomed to that are sources from abusive or immoral activities. A small price to pay for heaven on earth.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 547: Is Veganism Child Abuse?

In a case likely to kick up — yet again – the debate over parental responsibility regarding how children are fed, a Florida mother was arrested Tuesday for child neglect and her newborn was admitted to the hospital in a crisis that started over vegan beliefs.
Local news station WESH reports that Sarah Anne Markham’s pediatrician alerted authorities after the woman’s 12-day-old baby appeared dehydrated during a doctor visit. The doctor said that Markham refused the medical advice to admit the child to the hospital or take the medicine offered, on the grounds that “it contained ingredients that came from animals.” After police were summoned to her home, Markham reportedly told them that she’d purchased organic soy formula for the baby, and that “she wanted to pursue a religion-based treatment and she had contacted a ‘natural’ or vegan doctor, but police said she did not share any proof of this to them.” Police added that “They asked Markham if the product was confirmed with a doctor that it was safe to give the newborn, and she replied saying that since it was organic, it must be OK.” The baby remains in protective custody. - Salon

To answer the question in the title: No, veganism is not child abuse - but ignorance is. There are far too many people who believe everything they read. The reality is that there is very little truth in this world, especially when someone's profit is involved.

If someone is going to make the choice to be a vegan they should do the research to make sure they know exactly how to substitute what they will be cutting out of their diets. Any parent who is considering a vegan diet for their child needs to consider what is best for the child and make sure that the child with be sufficiently nourished - to impose veganism on an infant without proper research or without having the child's best interests as the starting point is child abuse. Imposing veganism on a child simply because it follows with the beliefs of the parents turns veganism into a religion and not a lifestyle.

Then, you have to ask the question if alternative food choices are really all that great. Many people who do not eat meat will replace it with soy, which mostly comes from what used to be a pretty big jungle with a diverse collection of plants, insects and animals. The soy industry is a big one - and it has not come without great cost. This could be compared to the palm oil industry where palm oil is now an ingredient in so many things we see and use on a daily basis - but those palm trees have replaced natural forests and jungles (and therefore killed all the wildlife, most of those animals starved to death).

And then there is the big "Natural" lie. Stick the word "Natural" on a label and it suddenly appears to imply that it is organic and from some picturesque setting where the farmer lives and works in harmony with nature. Yes, people still believe this even with a box of cereal. You cannot trust anything in this world where you cannot see for yourself exactly what goes into making it. Newsflash: people lie, and corporations are made up of people.

All of this information and more is freely available on the internet, so why do so many people still buy into the illusions? Any person wanting to give their child a well balanced diet has everything they need at their fingertips - obviously when I say "any person" in this instance I am only referring to those who actually would have access to the internet, which are generally the only kinds of people concerned with things like veganism and buying "natural" products.

Now don't get me wrong - there are so many people in this world who truly have no choice, they eat what they can, when they can. This is precisely why it is so ridiculous that those who are "privileged" spend so much time worrying about what they're eating and so little time considering that there is something horribly wrong with this world. Yes, the abuse of animals and the use of them for profit is unacceptable, but veganism is not an answer to that. The abuse of animals is a symptom, not the cause. If you really want to change the food industry then you need to start investigating the bigger picture, because everything in this system is connected - find the cause and you can stop ALL of the abuse and mistreatment for animals and people alike.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day 546: Gimme Gimme Gimme!

With season two of Netflix’s breakout hit Orange is the New Black now airing, I’m struck by a profound change in the psychological calculus of entertainment.  Netflix has changed the game, and I don’t just mean the game of how shows are served to hungry eyes. I mean the game going on behind our eyes – the dynamics of restraint and gratification that our brains have for decades been trained to tacitly obey.
In case you haven’t watched the show, or other shows original to Netflix (like House of Cards), let me briefly explain. Netflix films an entire season of the show and then—against every convention inscribed onto the holy tablets of television—releases the entire season…all at once.  When season two of Orange is the New Black aired on Friday, June 6, the whole season aired, front to back.
Hundreds of thousands if not millions of fans waiting for the new season were free to binge on every episode—and I’m willing to bet that by now a hefty percentage of those fans have re-binged, with many warming up for a third gorging.
Before Netflix introduced this format, we were still in the mode of weekly allotments of entertainment. HBO long ago christened Sunday nights as the time to receive our weekly dose of quality, commercial-free shows of choice, whether it’s The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Sex in the City, or more recently Game of Thrones (to name just a few of many legendary shows). All of the major cable and traditional networks offer something similar, but only the premium channels can offer the premium prize of hour-long, commercial free entertainment.
For all of those shows, we were (and largely still are) forced by the format to exercise delayed gratification. Even if you pirate episodes of the shows online, you are still, for the most part, restricted to imbibing only the shows that have already aired. Is that because HBO and Showtime and other networks are busy shooting the shows as the season rolls along?  No. With few exceptions, seasons of those shows have already been shot from start to finish.  The imposed restraint all of us viewers must obey is exactly that—imposed.- Forbes

Instant gratification. This is something that many of us have become accustomed to. We have grown to be very fond of convenience and the speed at which our lives move. While this may not be a bad thing, I would pose the question as to whether our practice of patience in our lives has diminished.

In this particular case there is nothing wrong with streamlining our lives, with developing technologies and processes that reduce the time we spend on doing certain things. Just imagine if we still had to travel by foot or horseback to every place - any opportunity to improve our quality of life should be taken and investigated. Certainly there may be side effects to progress such as the existence of car accidents - but the reality is that only some of those things are unavoidable, all of the rest are caused by "the human element" - take drunk driving as an example, or even manufacturer faults - most of the terrible things that happen in this world are man made, humans had an active part in bringing them about.

So, how do we turn instant gratification from something that improves our lives to something that makes us worse people? We start to think that every part of our lives should give us instant gratification. We want everything RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. Our lives become shaped around convenience, how convenient something is for us. It doesn't just change our conscious thoughts and choices, but also seeps into our very natures, every part of our lives gets evaluated according to how convenient it is, how soon we can experience rewards. Our rewards become everything and our lives become just one series of movements from one reward to the next, wanting to feel good now without consideration for how it may affect our futures or the lives of others. We start to ignore the plight of others, especially when their plight is a requirement for us to get our instant gratifications.

When I was young my dad would tease me whenever I nagged him for something, he's tell me how I had the "Gimme's" and would tease me until I was laughing with him. The thing is that if we get everything we want the moment we want it, we tend to develop a sense of entitlement because we have always gotten everything we wanted. I'm not saying that no one should get what they want, but the moment this changes you and your behaviour becomes entitled and demanding then you need to re evaluate yourself and decide if that's really who you want to be. Is that the example you want to set for other people? Not everything in life can be delivered instantly, some things take time and practice. Some things require discipline and commitment. If our love for convenience leads us to forget how to be patience or dedicated then we need to remind ourselves of who we want to be. We don't have to remove our conveniences, we only need to adjust the way we live our lives and make our choices.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day 545: Are You Managing Your Finances Practically?

This is something we do not learn in school. We do not learn how to draw up a budget and if we do, we find it difficult to stick to it. We find it difficult to determine what it is that we want versus what it is that we need and therefore spend our money more often on the things we want instead of the things we need. We do not have classes teaching us about how the tax system works and how it applies to us. We do not learn how to apply the mathematics we learn in school to our finances. We don't know how to say no to a salesperson who is selling something we can't actually afford. Most of the time we don't even realize that we won't be able to pay the bills until we get to the end of the month and realize that we don't have enough money.

It is easy to assume that this is rare, that it is only the uneducated who don't know how to manage their money. In reality it is rare for someone to teach you about money, about how to use it and how to plan for it. I was lucky enough to have my dad teach me how to use money from a young age, so it wasn't until recent years that I came to see how disturbingly lacking education about money really is. It's one of those things that people don't talk about because it is apparently rude to discuss your or anyone's finances in anything louder than a whisper.

Some people will spend money as soon as it enters their bank accounts and then try to squeeze through the rest of the month. Some people get way too much credit and spend years juggling repayments. 

It's really no wonder that we are having all of these financial crises - obviously ignoring the malformed implementation of the economic system. But that's another topic for another day.

Why do we not learn about managing our money in school? Why is this not mandatory? We get packed full of a whole lot of gloriously useless information and then drop kicked right out of school grounds. I wonder if there are some hidden spectators delighting in our hard landings in reality. Some people are lucky enough to have parents who bail them out of every financial pickle (alas, will they ever learn their lesson and learn how to manage their money effectively?), but most are not. They get a job, get a loan, get a car, get another loan, buy a bunch of furniture and clothing on credit, get a credit card (or 2) and then 6 months later they realize that they can't pay rent. What then? With no safety net there are few choices available to them.

This seems like an important thing to know, right? Why do so few people know how to do it then? I suppose it could be some grand conspiracy to keep people enslaved to debt while the fat cats roll around in their piles and piles of money in their mansions on their private islands. Maybe. Surely it's not just some simple oversight in the education planning committee? Surely whoever designed the education system thought that learning about Pi, sin, cos, velocity, geography, history, Macbeth and whatnot was far more important than learning how to survive in the world after leaving the comfort of your parents bosom. Right? Right.

Hmmm. This does seem like it was intentionally designed to keep the masses ignorant. But why? Who would do such a despicable thing? And how have we not noticed this going on? It can't be true! It just can't be!

Oh, really..?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day 544: Things That Surprise You

Today I saw something that surprised me: A young, attractive white man begging at an intersection that is better known for hosting black child beggars. Seeing this triggers the question "I wonder what he went through to end up there?" Now isn't it strange that you would never ask that question if you saw a black child begging there - you don't give a moment's notice or interest into what that child might have lived to end up begging at a busy intersection. You may even find that you feel pity for this attractive young man, especially if you're a woman. His face looks to you to be trustworthy, genuine and kind. He looks like the kind of man you would take home to meet your family. His particular situation of begging hardly detracts from this idea you have formed about him based simply on his appearance.

Seeing this man there makes you feel like he is out of place, like you would expect him to be working a decent job and being well on his way into starting a life for himself. Isn't it funny that all of this happens just because of the way a person looks? We see an attractive person and we assume that they are essentially "good". This has actually been verified in some studies, the results of which formed part of my education in obtaining my bachelor's degree in Psychology.

The same goes for wealthy people, we automatically assume that they are good, hard working people with no real evidence. This may be a large contributor to so many people getting ripped off over and over - we believe that we are dealing with people who care about us and will look after our interests with respect and consideration. The reality is that we don't know these people - we see a face or hear that someone is rich and we immediately believe we know everything there is to know about that person.

Here is an amusing example:

In a week that’s seen George Will dropped from a major outlet and Dov Charney canned from American Apparel, a week in which somebody finally called Dr. Oz on his BS and Scott Walker on his and the Redskins on theirs, one in which we became one state closer to sodomy for all, perhaps it was inevitable we’d be due for a cultural intellectual step backward. And his name is Jeremy Meeks.
To be fair, it’s not Jeremy Meeks’ fault. The 30-year-old California man was arrested Wednesday and is currently facing five weapons charges and one gang charge. He’s also now a viral star thanks to that SCORCHING HOT mug shot the Stockton Police Department posted Wednesday. It was supposed to be just an update on its Weston Ranch “Operation Ceasefire enforcement mission,” a notification of four felony arrests and four confiscated firearms. But come on. Look at those dreamy blue eyes. Those pillowy lips. That teardrop tattoo.  The whole Hey Girl tilt of his head. He’s everything you’d want in a in a convicted felon. Operation Ceasefire? More like Operation Panty Drop, MIRITE? Before long, the Stockton Police Facebook page was stampeded with traffic, and Meeks and his mug shot had joined the ranks of the Old Spice Man and Ridiculously Photogenic Guy in the sexiest meme Hall of Fame. - Salon

None of the women fawning over him know him - he is probably not a very nice person in reality, but because he has a pretty face every woman wants to bang him. Same thing with famous people - we look to these people as our shimmering idols to whom we must mold our own image and set of ideals. The reality often paints a much different picture.

Why do we continue to fall for these mind tricks? When will we realise that we are being played and that we are losing everything in the process. We are losing our individuality, our ability to think and investigate objectively and even our ability to think for ourselves.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Day 543: Man on Mars

NASA may not be planning to put a human on Mars until the 2030s, but the agency’s top scientist said colonizing the planet is a key part of its agenda – as well as its search for extraterrestrial life.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Guardian, NASA’s chief scientist Dr. Ellen Stofan emphasized that the quest to find alien life is focused primarily on our own solar system, where potential targets include Mars, Jupiter’s moon Europa, and Saturn’s moon Titan. In order to most effectively survey Mars for signs of life, though, Stofan said putting humans on the ground, and establishing a presence there, is a big priority. - RT

Apparently life on Earth is not worth the same attention as potential extra-terrestrial life, which is kind of odd since humans live on Earth and all scientists are human.

All humans have basic requirements to be able to live. All scientists are human, therefore all scientists have basic requirements to be able to live. This leads to the question of Why are scientists not focusing on improving our access to these basic living requirements?

Those requirements include food, water, shelter, non-toxic environment. You'd think that ensuring our continued survival on this planet would be more important than traversing the solar system looking to answer questions which may settle our curiosity, but that
essentially have no real effect on our lives.

I am not against exploring this world or any other. What I do not agree with is our focus of resources (including the brainpower of all those scientists) on things that do not improve life for all of us here on Earth. There are so many problems that need solving, problems that affect all of us in the long run, so why is so much of our focus turned toward things that are either useless or simply destructive?

Obviously the answer to the latter is Money, but the former question is not so clear cut. Yes I am sure that someone makes money from science - I am not naive in that I believe otherwise (just think how much money is pumped into NASA alone) but there is certainly an element of, let's call it "humanity", in the profession of science. The people who are doing the research are truly interested in the answer. Sure, sometimes someone gets a big ego and acts dishonestly and yes, most of them get paid substantially more than the average Joe, but there is still an impression of real passion.

Now imagine if every scientist had that passion for making this world a better place for everyone, but especially for the impoverished and neglected. Things would look much different I imagine. Imagine if scientists were more interested in human nature than in Mars. You may say that psychology and other medical and mental health professions put more than enough investigation into this aspect of our lives - I would then suggest that you investigate this belief objectively. Investigate how much the healthcare industry really knows about human nature and you may be surprised. The first thing you will notice is the use of certain key words like "theory", "assume", "propose", "maybe" and so on - because no one really knows for sure. There are a whole lot of theories which have all been studied and most have been found to be at least partially relevant. Then you get a few more theories that simply posit that all those other theories are at least partially correct. All these researchers and theorists are supposed to be objective and impartial, but they have all taken sides and proclaimed themselves to be of a certain opinion which throws impartiality out the window.

Those who are privileged enough to have received a "good" education and have access to things like psychologists and the internet have also been lulled into a passive acceptance of everything and a fierce protectiveness about their beliefs so that no one ever questions professions like psychology and the lunacy of how we live. It doesn't make sense to do the things we do - to go to space while children are dying because of a lack of clean drinking water, or to argue about which school of thought in psychology is better than another without realising that we don't actually know all that much.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Day 542: Who are You Living For

In my life I have cared for many animals, different shapes, sizes, living requirements and needs. The one point that is the same in each one of my experiences is that I have had to consider what is best for that particular being. I have had to make many hard choices on behalf of another living being, most of the time the choices are not what I want which makes it even more difficult. But still, the choice must be made according to what is best for the animal.

I have placed myself in the position before in my life where I was not properly prepared and/or equipped to give an animal the best life possible (within the restrictions of this "modern living"). Obviously the first point to realise is that this world no longer offers the best life possible for animals in their natural habitats because we are busy destroying those habitats and/or hunting down the animals. At this current time we must give an animal the best possible life we are able to within our lives - and by saying this I am specifically NOT including the scenario of not having the necessary financial support to give an animal what it needs. It is simple, if you do not have the funds to give an animal the basic requirements for it to live a comfortable life then you should not have that animal.

It is important that you be able to recognise if/when you are unable to give another being the quality of life it requires to be able to live a comfortable life (health & nutrition included). Recognising this reality is difficult, maybe at times even more difficult than actually making the choice to place the animal in a home or institution better equipped to meet its needs. At least when you are able to see that the animal you are taking care of is miserable or unhealthy it becomes easier to make that choice to give it a better life, no matter the personal cost to you.

The sad reality is that these animals are completely dependent on us as their caretakers. Many types of animals become emotionally dependent as well as relying on us for their survival (like dogs). There is nothing that they can do if we do not make the choice that is best for them - they have to suffer through it. The best we can do for them is to make sure that we are giving them what they need, physically and psychologically. This comes from investigation - having access to the internet means that you no longer have an excuse for your ignorance. The simplest things such as a good nutrition can make a huge difference in an animal's life - and within this point it is important to realise that many manufacturers of animal foods do not have the animals' best interests at heart.

A common belief in people is that "I know best" without any real investigation. I cannot imagine how much harm this belief causes to countless beings in this world. This is the belief that leads to abuse, whether it is intended as such or not - and not only in the lives of animals but also in the lives of people - simply because one person refuses to let go of their pride and ego and consider the possibility that they may be wrong.

There are so many ways we hurt each other and the beings we share our lives with. We exhibit the kind of actions that we would never want someone else to do to us. The worst part is that all of this cruelty is taking place because we are consciously choosing to participate in it - it's not like we are forced into it. We have the ability to change and treat all life with respect and consideration.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Day 541: Do Some Good with Your Bags of Money

Bill Gates has urged China's extraordinarily wealthy business elite to shed its aversion to philanthropy and donate to the poor, a potent message in one of the world's most economically divided societies.
"Only when we help poor people break away from destitution and illness can the whole world achieve sustainable development," Gates wrote in the People's Daily, a mouthpiece of the country's top leadership. "Investing in poor people requires the involvement of every social strata. I believe that the returns from investing in poor people are just as great as [returns] from investing in the business world, and have even more meaning."
China had 358 billionaires at the end of 2013 – a rise of 41 over the previous year and the second-most of any country in the world, after the US. Yet in terms of charitable giving, it ranks among the world's worst. According to the World Giving Index 2013, an annual survey by the NGO Charities Aid Foundation (pdf) , China ranked 115 among 135 countries for donating money and last for volunteering. - The Guardian

What is the best you can hope for for a charity? What is the most a charity can hope to achieve? Theoretically a charity can have the goal of ending poverty on a global scale, but how close could it actually get to achieving that goal? Feed a few thousand people? Even a few million? Teach a few towns in a few countries how to grow their own food sustainably? Maybe. If they get a huge amount of funding and only part of it is written off due to corruption and other malpractice related activities. Maybe.

It is safe to say that you are among the majority of people who can recognise that charities are not going to save the world. They may contribute in some small way, but it is unrealistic to expect more than that. Even if every charity were to get all the funding they needed, they all seem to miss the fundamental reason for the current state of affairs in the world. If all the charities in the world were to direct their efforts towards addressing the cause of all our problems then we may have a significantly higher chance of success. The risk in this approach may be losing the funding from the extremely wealthy people in the world, because a very realistic expectation of the success of this particular scenario is that there is no more inequality of wealth. This would mean no more mansions and ridiculous luxuries for the rich. This approach is essentially the same as telling someone with more money than anyone needs that giving money to a charity is equivalent to giving away all of their possessions and a large portion of their income. Hah. Hahaha.

Do you think that Mr Bill Gates would still support charities if they were truly effective and had a real chance of bringing about substantial change in the world? Maybe. Maybe not. One would assume that any person living in a mansion would be averse to such a course of events. Screw the poor.

But then again, there may be a few super rich who would willingly participate in bringing about real changes. I just wish they would start doing it now already. What the hell is everyone waiting for?

If the philanthropists of the world were to direct their charitable proceeds towards the investigation of real, sustainable solutions instead of band-aid (stop-gap) projects then maybe we'd actually be getting somewhere with some of these pesky global problems like poverty, slavery, malnutrition, illiteracy, inadequate healthcare and hygiene, et cetera, et cetera. 

There are movements in the world researching, developing and promoting solutions that could actually solve the cause of all our problems, but do you think these movements get any significant funding?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day 540: War is Good for the Economy, Right?

by James Corbett

June 18, 2014

The idea that the Great Depression was finally brought to an end by the onset of WWII has been a staple of history textbooks, documentaries and various war propaganda for decades. This myth continues to be perpetuated to the present day.
The idea that war is good for the economy is, needless to say, a fallacious argument which itself is based on incorrect economic data.
The idea that the economic activity surrounding militarization represents a net economic gain is called the “broken window fallacy.” This fallacy was named and identified by French economist Frédéric Bastiat in his 1850 essay, “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen,” in which he imagines the case of a shopkeeper whose careless son breaks a pane of glass in his shop window. In Bastiat’s example, ‘that which is seen’ is that the glazier comes, performs the task of fixing the window, and receives six francs for his effort. Onlookers to the scene believe that the economy has actually been bolstered by this act of destruction, since six francs have been spent into it that otherwise would not have been.
But Bastiat notes that what is important is not what is seen, but what is not seen: “It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.”
Similarly, production for war is the broken window fallacy writ large. Economic “gains” produced by government spending on munitions and vehicle manufacture and supplying and equipping the troops are not gains at all; money has merely been diverted to the pockets of the defense contractors via the political cronies in their back pocket.
So why is this important? Because sadly, this myth is being played on by the warmongering class to once again push the idea that war is good and even necessary for economic progress. This time it is not just manufacture of supplies or munitions that are being touted, but war’s ability to justify government spending on investment. No matter how unlikely the threat, or whether it is indeed completely made up, this warped thinking holds that such lies and exaggerations are the answer to our current economic problems.
Sadly, it is not just intellectual deficients like Paul Krugman making this case. In a new op-ed in the New York Times, Tyler Cowen of George Mason University argues that technological advances from nuclear research to rocketry to internet and robotics have all been spurred by defense spending, and thus war or threats of war are necessary to continue the advance of civilization.
Why these technologies are ends in themselves, or more valuable than the tens of millions of lives lost in the previous “great wars” is a question left unexamined. Perhaps more to the point, Cowen never addresses why such advances could not take place in the absence of war or without the motivation of advancing the methods of killing as their impetus.
What is most fundamentally upsetting about the mindset that justifies carnage in the name of “economic gain” is that economic gain is usually measured in abstract concepts like GDP growth or increasing equities markets that have no or even negative correlation with the livelihood of the poorest members of society. Income actually shrank by 0.7% for 99% of Americans during the supposed “recovery” of 2009-2011. For the top 1%, income grew 11.5%. This is the type of “help” that massive government spending on bank bailouts and other stimulus measures invariably creates. In times of war, the situation is even more perverse: money is created as debt owed to the banks, backed up by the average working taxpayer, to pay politically-connected defense contractors to create bombs to kill poor brown people on the other side of the planet. This is called economic progress.
Taken to its logical conclusion, there is only one more effective way of solving the problem of poverty. After all, if we are willing to believe the lie that sacrificing lives is good for the economy, why not go that one step further…

Oh man I enjoy articles that make sense. Too often the media and internet is saturated with propaganda and mud slinging, it's good to come across something that challenges your preconceptions and (especially) the things you were taught in school.

Anything can be justified and made to appear to be acceptable - *if* you don't ask any questions about it. In the mind of a rapist his (or her) act is justified. In the mind of a thief their act is justified. In the mind of a war criminal their act was justified. People get very good at believing their own lies, which makes it far easier for you to convince yourself that your actions are "right".

The problem only comes in if you reach a point where you are willing to recognise that you may be wrong, that your belief about who you are is flawed. Once you begin to question your thoughts and actions to determine if everything is the way you always thought that you realise that there is so much that you simply accepted as true without proper thought and consideration.

Take this article on the fallacy of justifying that war is good for economy. Up until you reach the point of being open to consider the information in this article objectively, you may have been of the opinion that wars really do boost the economy. Sure, you may have felt that wars are "bad" and "wrong", but still they didn't seem to be all bad because of the few things that seem good (like "war is good for the economy!").

There are so many things we take for granted as being true - the worst part is how absolutely willing we are to gloss over the details and rubber stamp everything that we come across. It is frighteningly rare to come across a person who challenges those social conventions and norms that are not what they seem to be, nor what we believe them to be.

Our tendency of blindly accepting whatever is put in front of us, in a manner of speaking, does us no good. While we are just going with the flow, the people who are leading us by the noses are heading towards a cliff and have no qualms about shoving the rest of us over the edge into oblivion. If we are to change our fate we must lead ourselves and be willing to question everything in this world so that we may, at the very least, determine what is actually good for us and what is not.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Day 539: The Power of Advertising

Advertising is a rather amusing invention. The amusing (and depressing) part is that it actually works very well.

How many people buy into the much loved "if you don't do this and that you WILL DIE!" shpeel? Funny how you never knew you needed whatever it is until someone tells you.

We are a gullible lot. We don't seem to know it though and the only people who do know it use that knowledge to their advantage. This is not limited to actual adverts, there are so many things that you can do to make someone believe you. Just think of every person who was ever a leader - they were all adept at selling themselves and whatever their message was.

Even doctors are all about selling their services while the willing patients go along, unquestioning. In this particular case we simply assume that a doctor would know what they're talking about and so will do every little thing they suggest - but if you were to look at statistics of how many people die or are compromised in some way because of a doctor's mistake then you may realise that our assumption is flawed.

It doesn't take much to be a good salesperson. You need to be able to convince your customer that what you are selling is what they NEED, even if they didn't even know it. You need to be likeable - people do not like buying things from people they don't like. It helps if you're attractive and/or have a "nice" voice (Yes, this has actually been validated in studies). You should be well dressed. You should be charismatic - make people feel that you truly enjoy their company and that you value them. Be skilled at reading body language and verbal cues, and then how to exploit this. You should be able to make your customer believe that they are making a good choice by buying what you're selling, even if it's only during the moment that you're making the sale.

Now for all of the suckers, first you need to realise that: even though you may believe that you know best, or that you know exactly what's going on in every moment (especially when it comes to the motives of other people), basically that you're not as smart as you think you are - then you can come back down to reality and start looking at situations objectively. What salespeople do is play on your emotions to influence you to want something, to lead you to believe that you need this thing and that it will improve your life in some way. One you are open to this reality you, in a way, free yourself from getting caught up in the sales pitch. It is safe to assume that, in most cases, every person you meet (especially when they are selling you something) has their own interests ranked as Number 1 in their lives and minds, so everything that they do will be for their own benefit. It is not a very nice truth, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Once you are not getting lost in the dazzling smile of every pretty picture or salesperson you can start seeing how all these things you're being propositioned for are not always what they initially appear to be. It also gives you the space to recognise that some things require more investigation before committing to them. All in all, you give yourself the opportunity to make informed decisions.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Day 538: Mob Mentality

KOLKATA, India (AP) - An angry mob of Indian workers wielding iron rods and stones beat the CEO of a jute factory to death in a dispute over increasing their working hours, police said Monday after arresting six workers.
The suspects — two detained Monday and four on Sunday — are expected to be charged with murder, vandalism and other crimes allegedly committed when the mob of about 200 workers stormed the office of 60-year-old H.K. Maheswari in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, according to Hooghly District Police Superintendent Sunil Chowdhury.
Maheswari had denied their earlier request to work and be paid for 40 hours a week at the North Brook Jute Mill, instead of the current norm of 25. He had also proposed shutting down the mill for three days a week to limit mounting financial losses, according to the factory's general manager, Kiranjit Singh.
"The mill workers suddenly resorted to stone pelting while we were busy in a meeting," Kiranjit Singh said. At one point during Sunday's meeting, Maheswari looked out the window at the growing crowd and was struck in the head by two stones. He collapsed, at which point a large group of workers stormed the office, Singh said. - Huffington Post

I'm sure you can empathize with disenfranchised workers across the globe and can understand why things like these happen. It is entirely possible that, if you were in their position you would be doing something similar. Unfortunately violence is never the solution to a problem - it normally just creates new problems.

There are countless people in this world who are being exploited and abused by other people who lack the respect to treat another with decency. It's really how the whole system is set up, really ambitious and ruthless people dominating a large group of more timid people. This kind of hierarchy is all over, in the workplace where one manager oversees a group of employees, in the government where the president is the "caretaker" of the state, in traditional family and community structures where certain members are given more respect (eg a father in a patriarchal family or an elder in a religious community).

Sometimes these systems function well, that's normally when everyone feels valued in whatever position they hold and are treated with respect by their peers and superiors. Unfortunately, human nature is not uniform. There are a lot of people in this world who are not nice, who do not treat other people with respect. It seems like most of the positions high up in our hierarchies have been taken by these not-so-nice folk, and now we have a not-so-nice set of situations all over the world.

So, if you were working a crap job for long hours and getting a crap wage with few to nil alternative opportunities, it would certainly be understandable if you were to get pretty fed up with your situation, especially if your boss was a total ass. For many people violence seems to be the only option, especially under the conviction that it may not change anything in their own lives, but at least it will send a message. I cannot claim that this mentality is due to a lack of education, because many educated people have thought exactly the same thing. I also cannot claim that they have very many alternatives - I may even go so far as to say that they are essentially powerless to improve their own lives. The reality remains the same though: violence is not a solution. So what are these people supposed to do to try and change their lives? They don't have computers or internet to educate themselves, they likely didn't finish school, they work long hours to make enough to be able to feed their family, they face violent retribution for any attempts to better their own lives or the lives of the people around them - what is there to do when you are in this situation?

A real solution must be implemented by those who are in a position to do so - that's you and me. We have more power than we know and can use it by investigating and promoting workable solutions like Living income Guaranteed. We must do this for those who cannot.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Day 537: Is a Factory Farm Really a Farm?

Today I pondered on the definition of the word "farm" as I drove by a collection of large buildings with chickens inside them (battery farms). It struck me as a contradiction of terms, as the actual definition of farming does not actually include the practices of factory farming. Factory farming may have the function of producing food, but the methods that they use cannot be described as farming.

Here is a basic definition of the verb "farm":

To use land for growing food or raising animals

If animals are kept in tiny cages inside massive buildings filled with thousands of animals, we can't really say that those animals are being "raised", as that would imply some kind of respect for the animal, in which these cases there is none. We can also not say that the land is being used, as that would imply that the animals would at least be on the land instead of inside cages.

Before this modern age of mass production, farming was done in the understanding that the farmer has a responsibility to the land and the animals, a responsibility to keep both healthy at the very least because an unhealthy animal or barren field is of no help to a farmer.

So what has changed in recent times that has caused the shift of the farmer no longer practicing respect for animals or for the earth?

What has certainly been a large contributor to this phenomenon is the fact that farmers just don't make that much money from what they are producing - in general. Factory farming is large scale in a small space - maximum income potential at a much lower cost.

Many farms have been bought out by the big food corporations and turned into factory farms just because the original farmers simply couldn't afford to continue doing what they do.

Natural disasters often are enough to destroy a farm's source of income during the season it is most desperately needed, causing the owner to sell.

In the end, the common denominator is money. The production of food has become all about the business and because of this there has been no consideration for the practical side. This is evidenced by the increasing cases of food-borne illnesses originating from unhealthy animals. The animals must be routinely given antibiotics simply because the conditions in which they are forced to survive are not fit for living. This contributes to the ever-increasing ineffectiveness of antibiotics due to the viruses adapting and evolving.So in general, factory farming may be cheap, but it's not good for anyone's long term health.

Another big consequence is that there are only a small handful of corporations controlling a huge chunk of the global food industry. We are literally at their mercy - they could do pretty much anything they want and get away with it because of their vast resources and connections. If they wanted to feed us rubber chicken then they could do it at the same time as convincing everyone that it's safe. That's what they're already doing anyway - it's called advertising.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Day 536: Take a Look in the Mirror

There are a lot of things in this world that I don't understand, human behaviour being at the top of the list. I don't understand violence, abuse, exploitation, greed... The funny thing is that I do understand these things, and I can confidently say that most people do. We all understand how you can hurt someone else or use them for your personal gain - there's a good reason the world is the way it is - and that is the fact that we are actually doing all these horrible things, it's all just different degrees of bad behaviour.

The world truly is a reflection of who we are.

Have you ever said something nasty to spite someone - and then justified your actions so that you can still feel good about yourself?

Have you ever kept something to yourself so that you didn't have to share it with anyone, just because you love it so much?

Have you ever used someone's feelings for you to get what you want from them, even though it may hurt them?

Have you ever justified low-wage jobs and rationalised that the people working these jobs are really bad with money cos they always seem to be running out of it?

Have you ever competed against someone for a job or prize?

Now, if you break down these small things into their basic parts, and then break down the seemingly more despicable actions of other people into their basic parts, you'll notice an interesting thing: You are doing exactly the same things as those "horrible people" you see in the news. Obviously it's all varying degrees, but the fact that we are actually doing these things too makes it that much easier for us to not demand change in others because (a) we don't want to look like hypocrites and (b) we kinda like doing these things.

The consequences of allowing these moments of abuse to exist within ourselves and within others is exactly what we see when we look at the world and the people in it. Take a good look, every blockbuster movie is promoting these principles of selfishness that essentially boil down to one thing "Do whatever it takes to get what you want, because whatever it is you want is your RIGHT and therefore you can never be WRONG"; every politician is going on about people's RIGHTs; in school you're taught to think a certain way and see the world in a certain light - all of this, unopposed, leads to the world being the way it is. Everybody is justifying everyone else's behaviour so that they don't have to stop being that way.

We have to BE the change we want to see in the world - we have to stop those moments of abuse we allow in our own lives. We have to live as examples for all to see what is really possible. We have to be willing to look at ourselves objectively and assess whether we really are who we want to be - we have to be willing to see where we need to change. We have to be willing to recognise our own mistakes. We must be humble and recognise that we are not as great as we thought we were. We have to be willing to recognise the part we play in making the world the way it is.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day 535: Where Does All the Pollution go?

In June 2013, Los Angeles began requiring oil and gas companies to disclose chemicals used in “unconventional operations.” Taking advantage of that push toward transparency, four environmental groups analyzed the collected data, shedding light on the often inscrutable activities of gas and oil companies drilling in California’s Monterey Shale.
Their report reveals that 44 toxic chemicals — 45 million pounds’ worth of them — were used in the Los Angeles area by the oil and gas industry last year.
The chemicals were pumped into the ground as part of the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and in the related processes of acidization and gravel packing, which are also used to extract oil and gas from wells. Southern California Public Radio reports on the chemicals, all of which become toxic — in some cases carcinogenic — when they escape into the air:
The top chemicals used during the past year include crystalline silica, methanol, hydrofluoric acid, and formaldehyde.
Crystalline silica is a cement additive also known as “frac sand.” It’s used to hold open cracks in underground rock formation so that gas and oil can travel into the well. While crystalline silica is naturally-occurring, respiration of the fine sand can cause silicosis, an incurable lung disease.
Methanol is a volatile gas, with wide-ranging health effects from exposure.
…In an e-mail, Colin Maynard with the Western States Petroleum Association said that oil and gas production has occurred in Southern California for close to a century. “That production takes place day in and day out in the most heavily regulated environment in the world, and it takes place without harm to the environment or communities,” he wrote. - Salon

Most cities have a veil of hazy smog laying over them. You're breathing it in while you're walking down the street, it clings to your clothes and seeps into your skin. The hundreds of cars that pass by you are each pumping out noxious fumes that could kill you if you are in a locked garage with just one car. The Earth is a big place - but it is not infinite. What happens when all the toxins we create become too much and nature's detox no longer works?

It doesn't take much to put together the bigger picture of how much crap we put into this planet. We have left more than one toxic wasteland - and most were intentional. We strip down the flesh of the planet and leave only mud and muck when we're done so that nothing can grow there again.

There is a lot of talk about sustainability these days, but when you take into account the sheer volume of toxic waste that we produce in our ventures for capital, you have to wonder if this kind of talk is even close to being enough to bring about substantial changes that would guarantee the safety of our future generations. Let's face it, safety is not just about war and violence anymore, safety now must include the degree of toxicity in the environments around us. Is that stream safe for children to play in? Is our drinking water clean? Will our soil cause our food to be toxic? Will the pastures nourish our livestock well enough for the livestock to nourish us? These are becoming increasingly relevant questions, but we have to wonder if they are being asked and answered fast enough to be able to prevent calamity.

So, what happens to all the toxic waste that is part of the unfortunate byproducts that our unfortunate habits produce? It's not like we can teleport the stuff to Mars or something - whatever we do with it we must do here on this planet that we live on. It is naive to think that if we bury it deep enough that it will never seep into our groundwater. It is criminal to believe and promote that toxins are harmless. It is criminal to act as if our actions will have no repercussions. It is criminal to be willing to put people in dangerous positions when they have no other choice for earning a living - that is extortion, plain and simple.

There are solutions being developed to counteract this destructive nature of humanity like the Living Income Guaranteed. The greatest challenge we face is us, we are the ones who continue to believe that "things will sort themselves out". We are the ones who act first for money and last out of a respect for basic human rights. We are the ones who have assassinated and then idolized leaders for their messages without actually living those messages. When Jesus said "love thy neighbour as thyself" he didn't mean that you should only do it when it is convenient to you or because it has become necessary for your survival. It's time to pony up and actuallybe the good people that we pretend to be.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Day 534: What is Self Awareness?

7. Living the Principle of Self Awareness – to be aware, to see, to recognize my own thoughts and Mind, to be self honest to the extent where I can take responsibility for when I see my thoughts / Mind is not what is best for me / others and commit to immediately take responsibility and change for myself and so for others

Today I am exploring this Principle from The Desteni of Living, how I have and do live it in my life.

What is maybe one of the most difficult things for you to do it to realise that what's going on in your head is NOT justifiable and not acceptable. We live our lives thinking that we're always right and that we HAVE THE RIGHT to our so-called 'opinions' - so it's not very often that we admit that we're wrong, or that we're being an ass. So what does Self Awareness have to do with this? Self Awareness is being willing to investigate the validity and origin of your own thoughts, words and actions.

Self Awareness is not living according to the belief that you know best. Since this pretty much goes against your programming it's a difficult thing to do - it takes practice and self will to look into every aspect of who you think you are. It requires a discipline and responsibility that has become rare in this world - the discipline to investigate why you are doing whatever it is that you are doing - why you're having this thought and that emotion. What contributes to it being so difficult is that you were most likely taught that you are not in control of yourself - that you can't control your thoughts, emotions or feelings. That sense of powerlessness is usually enough to stop most people from ever trying to change their nature.

Now that I have possibly made this sound like it's nearly impossible, let me tell you about how it really is entirely possible.

The first thing that you need to do, especially in the beginning of your journey to Self Awareness, is assume that you are always wrong - question EVERYTHING. Especially in those moments when you firmly believe that you are right - that feeling of dedication to the position you have taken is very often a defense mechanism that your mind uses to trick you into thinking you're right and not even considering any other possibility. So that's what I do, every time I believe that I'm right I stop and breathe. I re-evaluate my position - every aspect of it - to see if I've missed anything or if I'm trying to protect some belief I have which is now causing me to delude myself.

Whenever I feel the surge of an emotion within me, I flag it. I look at the point practically: where did it come from? Why am I experiencing it? Why have I allowed this experience to continue? I look at whether there is a pattern that this has come from, some sequence of events that triggered this experience.  I question whether the experience is beneficial in the bigger picture and if it is not then I flag the pattern for myself so that when it comes up again I can identify it immediately and stop.

Sure, there are moments where you get 'lost in the moment' - it happens. Don't beat yourself up about it, be practical about it, flag the experience for yourself so that you are better equipped to handle it in the future. The most important thing in this point that I have seen is your WILLINGNESS to walk through your experiences and to question them, to be open to investigate all possibilities to make sure that you are living what is best for everyone and not just trying to justify your personal opinions and experiences