Saturday, August 30, 2014

Day 589: Your Pets are Destroying the Environment

Are our pets good for the environment? The answer appears to be more emphatically no than many environmentally-conscious pet owners might care to acknowledge. There are 61 million dogs and 76.5 million cats in the United States of America, all of which power an industry worth $55.7 billion, everything from plastic toys to kitty litter to custom clothing. The food required to feed the pets of America has the same environmental impact as “the combined populations of Cuba and Haiti“, and American pets are as obese as their humans. A dog’s carbon footprint may be equivalent to that of an SUV. Domesticated cats kill more than 26 billion birds and mammals each year. - Salon

Yes, blame the animals for our actions born from greed and ignorance. Only we are capable of this kind of gross distortion of reality. We, who are slowly killing all life on earth. We, who have made money more important than basic rights to life. We, who torture and kill for profit.

How can we blame animals for our creation of the "pet industry". We determine what they eat, what they eat out of, how often and how much they eat, what they do or don't wear, where they do and don't go - we absolutely dominate their lives - and now we decide to blame them for that? We build the factories, we drive the industry - we are responsible. We are the ones who are "bad for the environment".

Everything we do, the way we live, the way we produce, extract and consume resources is bad for the environment. We are producing all sorts of products that end up simply being trash, with no real practical purpose. We are designing our products to break after a certain time period in an attempt to keep our economy going - an economy that we created and keep in existence of our own free will. We are the ones who refuse to consider alternatives to what we are doing now. We are the ones who create corporations and make profit more important than health or even our continued existence.

I am absolutely flabbergasted at the sheer gall and stupidity of the human race. I am ashamed of my species. Instead of discussing and investigating sustainable solutions that ensure not only the survival of the beings with whom we share the earth but also ourselves, we talk about how we could shift the responsibility away from us and onto some other party like pets.

The simplest solution for this entire debacle is to stop turning everything into an industry with the main goal of making as much profit as possible. Products and services should be of the highest quality and produced with consideration for our collective future. Life is not an industry, we are not supposed to be trying to buy as much as possible and make as much money as possible - we should be creating the infrastructure and support to give all life on earth the space, respect and dignity to live happily and in peace.

If we continue blaming everything around us we will not solve any of the problems we are facing or that we may face in the future. We keep placing the focus on irrelevant parts of the picture, mostly the symptoms of the problem, without investigating what the root cause is. Continuing in this manner will mean that we will most likely never address the actual causes of problems and therefore continue experiencing the problems. Chances are that the problems will continue escalating and we will end up dead or dying, all thanks to - Oh wow, what a surprise! Us!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day 588: See Yourself Reflected in a Horse

It is not required for context, but if you want to read my previous post about horses then here's the link.

A funny thing about horses is that they will reflect back to you points about yourself and almost force you to face them. Working with such a large animal is quite daunting, but while you are learning about them you can see most clearly what a horse can show you about yourself. As you gain more skill it is not quite as 'in your face' as when you are new at everything.

So what I have seen is that a horse will change certain behaviours according to the specific person working with it. I have seen a few times how a horse will challenge someone to face a point they resist, a point like 'authority' (like taking a leadership role) - this point is quite common as it seems that it is the nature of most people to follow rather than to lead. What will happen is that when you are not clear in taking your position as leader, the horse takes over and becomes the leader, essentially challenging you in your resistance to take on your position. I don't mean that a horse will challenge you in an aggressive way, I mean that the horse would be less likely to listen to you and more likely to do whatever it wants to do. In those moments that you do not fully embrace your role of leadership, the horse will simply take over.

Leadership is the most common point that a horse will challenge a person on simply because the nature of the horse requires that there always be an established leader who is 'looking out for danger'.

Another common point for a horse to challenge you on is your consistency and follow through. A horse will often test to see how serious you are about asking something from them and if they find that if they push the point just so that they can get away with not having to do it. Sometimes they will do something half hearted, but most of the time we are oblivious to this fact and accept their unenthusiastic effort. This leads to the horse putting in less and less effort and generally becoming less pleasant to work with. All of this could be avoided with consistency and observation. With a horse you must always be very clear about what you are asking for, but also very particular about it. Most of us seem to lack this will to be consistent and persistent, we tend to give up after so many tries, which leads us to miss opportunities.

The second point, follow through, is about meaning what you say. If you ask a horse for something but don't follow through until you get an acceptable result then they don't respect you and essentially regard you as unreliable, because from their perspective one minute you're saying this and the next it's that - so they just don't bother.

All of the above can be applied to some degree with dogs and children - if you do not embrace your position of leadership fully and live it, others will not be confident to follow you. If you are not consistent in your actions then others will regard you as unreliable and changeable, maybe even as untrustworthy. If you do not follow through on your actions then others will regard you as unreliable, timid and possibly even as weak.

When you're working with a horse all of these aspects are magnified 10 times simply because of the sheer size of the horse - their every movement seems huge, when they step into your space you will definitely feel their presence. These things may not be so easy for everyone to recognise when dealing with their day-to-day lives, the awareness of these points simply does not exist in most people. Obviously you don't have to work with a horse to learn things about yourself - a bit of awareness in your daily living will tell you everything about yourself and about how others see you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Day 587: Learning About Your Mind with the Help of a Horse

I noticed an interesting thing a while back, but let me give some context first.

I did horse riding lessons as a child, I learned how to make a horse do things while on its back, but never more than that. I was not taught anything that gave me any real understanding of the nature or behaviour of a horse. Now when I was in a position to take on a horse of my own a few years ago, I leaped toward the opportunity and ended up meeting a horse and a lady on the same day that would change everything I though I knew about horses and horsemanship.

The lady started telling me about how a horse communicates and processes information, about how they focus on body language to have a conversation and that if you learn the body language then you can join in on the conversation. I was immediately attracted to the ideals that she was sharing, I had never heard of any of it before but i knew that it was 100 times better than anything I had learned before. I jumped right in and started learning as much as I could from her with the big chestnut horse who eventually came to the farm.

One of the things that I learned is that any behaviour, be it constructive or destructive, starts with the smallest of things: in our case it's a thought and in a horse's case it is a movement. So you may find yourself in a position where your horse has developed a "bad habit", but it's likely that the habit started developing a long, long time before you notice it. A pushy horse will start off by moving just one hoof just one centimeter forward without you noticing (and obviously without you asking for it) - that one centimeter becomes 2 and then 3 and then 4 and then a whole step and then 2 steps until eventually you have a horse who can't stand still and who's on top of you all the time and has no issue with barging through you when it gets spooked. I had to learn how to look for that one centimeter and to ever, ever allow it - and this post is about how our thoughts can be regarded in exactly the same manner.

If you allow just one fleeting thought, just one moment, the next one won't be far behind. Allowing one makes it that much easier to let the next one slide, and eventually you end up with a cascade of thoughts and emotions inside yourself that you feel you have no control over, as if it's all just too much and you don't know how to stop it. Obviously it's much more difficult to stop a habit once it reaches those proportions, but the same approach can be applied to big and small patterns: stop the thought. Stop each and every thought - do not allow even one. Sure, you'll miss a few, especially in the beginning, what's important is that you pick yourself up and carry on with no less will or determination to get to where your going, which is a life without being controlled by inner experiences that overwhelm you (and that eventually become outer experiences).

Interestingly enough, this same principle can be applied in other situations as well. Raising a child, training a dog - whatever. The key is to teach yourself to recognise the very beginning of a pattern: see the thought and then correct the thought. Depending on the situation and who / what you are dealing with, stopping the thought can be something as simple as saying "no" and redirecting their attention. When stopping that first movement with a horse, like a foot stepping one centimeter out of place, the correction is to place the foot back where it was, 100 times if necessary. Some horses you deal with test you to see how consistent you are, to see if they can get away with moving themselves in some situations. If they see that you are inconsistent then the behaviour will escalate - it doesn't help only correcting it some of the time, just like with a thought. There is no use in stopping a thought sometimes and allowing it the rest of the time, you will end up with that same escalation of experiences within you.

My relationship with a horse is not about DOMINATION or trying to control the horse, it is about establishing a basis of communication where I will place myself in a position of leadership - or maybe it is better to say I must earn the position of leadership. It is the same when working with your mind - you cannot try to dominate your mind, you will just end up living in a perpetual power struggle, you must become the directive principle and direct your mind to function and support you in a way that will be what is best for you and everyone around you - in this way you develop a partnership.

Another interesting point I would like to open up in a future post is how one horse will behave completely differently with different people, according to their specific "nature" and things like what issues they may be working through.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day 586: Reality Vs Fantasy: Relationships

I came across this image on Facebook this evening and decided to make it my topic of discussion for my blog post today:

In this day and age of high divorce rates and generally delusional people going around looking for their fairy tale happily ever after, it seems like people just don't know how to communicate with each other anymore. We're all mesmerised by what we see on TV, in movies and in magazines that we have "forgotten" how to really be open and intimate with someone. Instead, we look for passion, romance, the "perfect partner", without fully understanding what that means or where our desire for these ideas comes from. It's all about physical appearance and superficial charms and wit now - there is very little honesty in our social world.

So when everyone has a fantasy about what relationships should be like, what happens when they experience the difference of what it's really like? Most of the time people will move on to the next "flame" looking for excitement and passion, not bothering too much about changing their expectations. Sometimes people commit to long term relationships which end up being unsustainable simply due to the lack of open communication between the partners. It's actually a really sad situation - something as empowering and supportive as a lifelong partner to support you has been turned into just another fast-food, instant gratification industry, leeching off of human ignorance.

How does this problem manifest in a person's life? Firstly, the lack of communication would trigger conflict when the 2 partners are not on the same page, often misinterpreting each other and misunderstanding each other, which often leads one or both partners to take things personally and then create an emotional reaction to the other, which builds over time and eventually becomes a big ball of resentment, rage, hurt, blame, guilt and so on. This could be avoided by having open discussions to clarify points for each other, clearly explaining each partner's perspective, starting point and understanding of the topic so that both know exactly what the other person means. This also requires that both parties practice discipline over their emotions so that the conversation does not escalate into a shouting match, but remains a "rational" and open discussion that's goal is mutual understanding and does not involve any judgement or blame.

As simple as that sounds, it's often a little more difficult to put into practice because, as we all know, sometimes our emotions overwhelm us. But, like so many other things in life, practice makes perfect and the will to move through a point is just as beneficial to the relationships as remaining calm and patient with each other. Beating yourself up or blaming your partner when you hit a hurdle will not help your situation, the better course of action would be to take a deep breath and start again. Obviously there are 2 further important ingredients here: forgiveness and humbleness. You must be willing to forgive yourself and your partner to really give your relationship (and yourself) the best opportunity to develop into something you will enjoy and benefit from; and just as importantly you must be willing to recognise when you have made a mistake and take responsibility for it by apologising to your partner.

This is just one dimension of relationships, but it is a big one and a good place to start if you have found a person you want to commit to.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Day 585: Trolls Reveal Our Secret Thoughts

A young poet, enough of a rising star to be profiled in the New York Times Magazine, posts a poem called “The Rape Joke.” It begins, “The rape joke is that you were 19 years old. The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend.” It is about as intense and intimate as an online post can get. In the magazine article, the poet’s mother reads the poem, but it is the comment thread that makes the mother cry. “Do you see what these people were saying about you?” her mother asked. “Mom, it’s O.K.,” the writer, Patricia Lockwood, said. “It’s just the Internet.”
Internet cruelty is nothing new. It might only surprise children and the uninitiated, who dip into the public sphere for the first time and are shocked by what comes back at them. But Lockwood’s response reveals a generational shift. Her mother calls the commentators “people.” Lockwood identifies them as “the Internet,” a strange hybrid of human and computer, innately vicious but also ubiquitous, phenomena to be ignored.
Others have a more difficult time ignoring it. After reaching out to her father’s mourning fans, Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda became a target of sadistic trolls — piling trauma upon trauma. She closed her Instagram account and shut down her Twitter feed. A budding journalist who had just had one of her first stories posted on her university newspaper’s website was so stunned by the comments that she decided to find another line of work. A young writer in New York City who was photographed trying to make ends meet by hauling his typewriter to the High Line and busking stories was savaged online. (He ended up writing an article about his ordeal called “I Am an Object of Internet Ridicule, Ask Me Anything.”) Journalist Amanda Hess, who wrote one of the most talked-about stories of this year on women and the Internet, relates getting this comment to one of her pieces: “Amanda, I’ll fucking rape you. How does that feel?” - Salon

You may think that so-called internet "trolls" are a minority of people who finally have a medium through which to express their innermost thoughts and feelings, but if you take a close look at your own thoughts, you will recognise the occasional cruel thought swimming in a pool of thoughts in your mind.

Internet trolls are showing us the extent of the problem we are facing within ourselves - the extent to which we lack respect and compassion for each other, the extent to which things like discrimination still exist. It is safe to say that most people have at least one thing to which they would behave in this manner, be it bad drivers, an ethnic or racial group, or even the government. The reality is that those foul thoughts exist within you, whether you feel that they are justified or not, you are allowing this cruelty to exist simply because you feel justified. Everyone who allows a cruel though believes themselves to be justified in allowing it - it is that belief in your own rightness that contributes to the massive problem we are facing in human nature now.

We allow everyone the right to their own opinions, even when those opinions amount to discrimination or downright cruelty. We allow it in others in order to validate our own participation in these thoughts. Twisted, yes, but a clever trick that lets us do whatever we want without feeling too guilty about it.

Don't be so quick to judge the trolls on the internet, take a good hard look at yourself to see where you may be having similar words going through your mind. Being willing to be honest with yourself is the first step to changing yourself into the person you want to be and live according to principles of integrity.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Day 584: Hate the Life You Chose

Do you want to "get away" from your life, from your partner, kids, job, whatever? Do you wake up in the morning and dread the day ahead? Are you stuck in a habit of resenting your partner and/or kids? Do you wish you had a different life?

You chose this life, even when you felt like you had no choice. So now you hate the life that you chose for yourself - what the hell happens next?

To a degree, many people do not have many opportunities and/or options in life, this is most often because of not having enough money to buy those opportunities. So you may be one of these people with limited choices and opportunities - chances are that you are.

Chances also are that you, like so many other people, do not have very good communication skills. You most probably tend to try to interpret all the people in your life through your own understanding and opinions about the world, looking at everything as if yours is the only view that counts. This type of thinking will not help improve you relationships - good communication is based on a willingness and effort to understand other peoples' perspectives. Unfortunately most of us are brought up to think only about ourselves, making it difficult to empathise with other people.

You may be one of those numbers in the "bad marriage" or "soon to be divorced" statistics - where you just can't find a way to fix your relationship with your long term partner. The problem is that over the years two people may have arguments or hurt each other and not know how to, or be willing to, eat humble pie and apologise. Thinking that you are right and the other person is wrong will not get you anywhere. You need to be able to have a calm and open discussion with another person to find out what the other is feeling and thinking, in order to get a fuller understanding of each other. Taking the time to do this will lead to a more fulfilling relationship with less conflict.

So many people resent and become spiteful towards their partners, reaching a point where they have had their feelings hurt and ego deflated so many times that they refuse to share themselves. This sharing requires a certain vulnerability and shedding of ego - if you are not willing to do this then you can expect to remain in the cycle of bitterness and spite.

As people grow older, sometimes they become more crazy, because of the things that happened to them in their lives. When considering this, you should consider whether every single person in this world isn't crazy. How can we be the way we are and still have gotten to where we are without self destructing, I don't know.

We are a petty and small minded lot, driven by greed and jealousy. We are quick to anger and think only of ourselves. We have a tendency to keep ourselves in the same destructive patterns and focusing on everything that's "wrong" instead of pushing ourselves to find solutions and from that improve our lives. Even with all this there is potential to overcome our apparent nature and transform ourselves into beings of integrity.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Day 583: And God Created...

God created wonders and horrors alike - depending on your perspective.

When you look at nature, the beauty and interdependency of it all can be awe-inspiring, but if you look a little closer, you see all the little horrors that lurk beneath the pretty picture. Nature is a harsh thing, everything must devour something else to survive.

Then you get the design flaws that make you question the nature of this so-called "God". Did you know that as a horse ages, it's teeth are constantly erupting in order to keep up with the wear from eating 18 hours a day. The problem is that when the horse gets to a certain point in its life, their teeth become less capable of grinding down the food and the horse eventually starves to death.

Did you know that a kangaroo's molars slowly move to the front of its mouth to replace the front teeth, new molars do grow to replace the old ones, but eventually those too will wear down and fall out, causing the kangaroo to starve to death (if it is (un)lucky enough to survive that long in the first place).

Having cared for horses for a few years now, I have learned that it's not all sunshine and roses like you see in the photos. There are a myriad of health issues that can arise, most commonly from one (or both) of 2 causes: human intervention (forcing the horse into a lifestyle to which it is not well suited) or just bad design. What kind of God would inflict upon a horse, that spends most of its waking hours eating, the bad genetic code of having an overbite, causing it to have difficulty doing that which it was designed to do?

This is a cruel world. Nature is cruel. Animals are cruel. It's not that it is the intention of nature or of animals to be cruel, it is simply a matter of survival. Survival is always the most important thing for any thing in this world, and the way everything has been designed means that in order to survive, everything has to eat something else. You may remark at the beauty of certain plants and animals adapting to support each other, but this was done out of self-survival, not from a point of compassion for the other life form. It was simply a mutually beneficial endeavor.

Imagine if we were to develop the capability to alter the nature of life on earth from being all about survival to being all about co-habitation and co-existence - not only in our own species - but in all species. Imagine if we were to create that opportunity for each life form to live it's life without fear and without the drive to survive overruling all other potentially enjoyable parts of life. How? I don't know - what I do know is that if we were to even be able to find out if it were possible we would have to divert a whole hell of a lot of our attention, skills and resources towards investigating this path. Obviously these resources would have to diverted away from "essential" things like conflict, fashion, stuff, politics, profit, extracting fuels and other resources from the earth and so on.

Doing this would also require that humanity recognises that there is not controlling force in this life other than us. God is just a fantasy. We are the reality, our choices and actions have real consequences that effect this entire ecosystem on earth. If anything is going to change life on earth, it's going to be us.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Day 582: You Better be Rich if You Want a Good Job

When the Harvey Weinstein Co. auctioned off an internship for at least $26,000 earlier this week (valued at $50,000), news outlets like the Guardian and Deadline took enthusiastic notice. Since the proceeds go to charities, everyone involved can feel a little better about the fact that kids are boosting their résumés with cold, hard cash instead of hard work. Sure, it’s a great way to raise money for charity (who knew someone would be willing to pay $610,000 for coffee with Apple CEO Tim Cook in 2013?). But once again, the message for broke millennials is: You can get a job, if you’re already rich. - Salon

Even if you discount the auctioning of internships, education is expensive and these days a really good education still won't guarantee that you will find the kind of job you planned for. When you are deciding what to study, the main consideration revolves around what kind of job you want and/or what kind of pay you'll get. Your plan is not to work in a supermarket after you complete your doctorate, and yet this is what's happening to an increasing number of young adults. You no longer have the luxury of doing what you love - now it's all about survival and (hopefully) a little extra.

So, what happens when you're fresh out of university with huge loans against your name and now you can't get a job in your area of expertise? What do you do next? It's likely that your parents are living close to the breadline like so many others, so you have to do something to make money to survive. If you're in this position for long enough you will not turn down a job at a fast food restaurant.

There are a lot of people these days with really dismal employment prospects whether they are educated or not - and it's only getting worse. Countries keep increasing the retirement age, forcing people to keep their jobs for longer which prevents new employees from coming in and taking those positions. Somehow, every measure that is taken to ease the pressure on the citizens is just increasing it - you would think that at some point someone would try a different approach?

Imagine a world where your survival is guaranteed, whether you are educated or not. Imagine a world where you don't have to work an underpaid job just to pay the bills and buy food. Imagine a world where you can find out what you enjoy doing and create a career for yourself that will give you a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Imagine a world where every person has the opportunity to do what they love without money dictating what it is they can or cannot do.

Sounds nice, doesn't it? You may be skeptical, but it is certainly within our power and ability to redesign the world and live like this. Obviously we would have to address other matters along the way like poverty, wars, discrimination and so on, but once again I will say that this too is achievable.

We need to start by changing the way we think from focusing on all the problems and everything that is wrong, to focusing on how we can improve what is in front of us. We need to stop catastrophising the little things and develop a common ground for working together to improve all of our lives. Most importantly, we need to stop thinking about "how can I make my life better?" to "How can I make everyone's lives better?".

What do we have to lose? 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Day 581: Is This Where We Are Going?

Fifteen Million Merits
A satire on entertainment shows and our insatiable thirst for distraction set in a sarcastic version of a future reality. In this world, everyone must cycle on exercise bikes, arranged in cells, in order to power their surroundings and generate currency for themselves called Merits. Everyone is dressed in a grey tracksuit and has a "doppel", a virtual avatar that people can customise with clothes, for a fee of merits. Everyday activities are constantly interrupted by advertisements that cannot be skipped or ignored without financial penalty. Obese people are considered to be second-class citizens, and either work as cleaners around the machines (where they receive verbal abuse) or are humiliated on game shows.
Bingham "Bing" Madsen (Daniel Kaluuya) is a citizen of the facility who has inherited over 12,000,000 merits and has the luxury of skipping advertisements. In the toilet he overhears Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay), a woman whose voice he finds beautiful, singing a song from before the facility. He encourages her to enter into the X-Factor style game show Hot Shots, which offers a chance for people to get out of the slave-like world around them. Abi however does not wish to do this as she hasn't enough merits and feels she would be unable to perform under the pressure. Bing persuades her and, feeling there is nothing "real" worth buying, purchases the ticket for her, which had been raised from 12 to 15 million merits.
When she enters the competition, the judges (played by Rupert Everett, Julia Davis and Ashley Thomas) and the crowd enjoy her singing, but they state there is no room for an 'Above Average Singer' and instead give her the chance to become an adult actress on the pornographic TV Show 'Wraith Babes', or else return to the bike machines. After goading from the judges and the crowd, and drugged on a substance called "Cuppliance" (compliance in a cup), Abi reluctantly agrees and Bing is heartbroken.
Bing returns to his cell without Abi and without any merits. When a showing for Wraith Babes appears on the screen, he is unable to skip it as he doesn't have enough merits and is forced to watch Abi perform a sexual act, even unable to close his eyes due to the cell emitting a piercing tone until he watches again. He desperately tries to escape his cell, ramming the door until the glass breaks. He hides a shard of glass under his bed and starts to earn another 15,000,000 merits to enter the competition. He stops buying food (eating the leftovers the other citizens leave behind), watches all advertisements and pedals for months until he has enough to buy another ticket. He stands in the Hot Shots waiting room every day without any expression until he's eventually called to compete.
As he approaches the stage he is required to take a dosage of Cuppliance, as Abi did, but he then presents the empty carton he preserved from Abi's performance, avoiding taking the drug. When he is put on the stage he begins to dance but interrupts his performance, draws the shard of glass and threatens to kill himself live on the show. He tearfully rants about how unfair the system is and expresses his anger for how the judges took away the only thing he found in the facility that felt real. The judges, instead of taking his words into consideration, are impressed by his 'performance' and offer him his own show, where he can rant about the system all he likes.
Under a similar pressure as the one placed on Abi earlier, he accepts, and he is shown finishing one of his streams in his penthouse, putting his shard away in a silk box. Bing stands staring out of the penthouse windows over a vast green forest stretching to the horizon. It is unclear whether this vista is real, and it is left up to the viewer to decide if by selling out all Bing has managed to do is find himself in a larger cell.

Obviously it is unlikely that our future would turn out to be exactly like this, but it may be hauntingly similar. There are a few aspects that we are already doing now and if we were to continue giving those parts of our society attention then we may end up with a world like the one imagined above.

Let's look at some parallels between the "extreme" imagined world from the Black Mirror episode and compare it to what the world is like now:
  • Spending your day on an exercise bike, powering your surroundings to earn points that you then use to buy stuff VS working in a job you have to buy things you like to keep the world spinning round and round.
  • People spend their hard-earned points to buy stuff they don't need (like a new hat for their virtual avatar) VS Peoplespend their hard-earned money to buy all sorts of stuff they don't need (fashion, trends, gadgets that will break after 6 months, etc).
  • Everyone wears the same tracksuit and expresses their identity through a virtual avatar VS everyone wearing a mask of who they want everyone else to think they are, creating persona's according to the company they are in, creating virtual identities on the internet.
  • Everyday activities constantly interrupted by advertisements VS look around you...
  • Obese people treated as second class citizens VS poor, obese, coloured, religious etc people treated as second class citizens, depending on where in the world you are. 
  • Everyone wants to escape their slave-like lives and be famous and exceptional VS Everyone wants to escape their slave-like lives and be famous and exceptional.
As you can see, we're part ways there already. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Day 580: Global Warming - The Big Bad Wolf

You may have missed the news that this past Monday in Detroit was one for the record books: The city was hit by an unprecedented deluge of rainfall — 4.57 inches, coming just behind the all-time record set back in 1925 — resulting in catastrophic flash flooding that swamped basements, destroyed cars and killed at least one person.
But you definitely didn’t miss the soggy weather if you’re living in Raleigh, Washington and Baltimore, or  Long Island and New Jersey, all of which got their share of unusually heavy rainfall (and if you’re in New England, you’re next).
This kind of weather is being described as unprecedented. But it isn’t unanticipated. In fact, according to the National Climate Assessment, “extreme” rainfall events — the kind that reach the 99th percentile of intensity — have markedly increased since the mid 20th-century, particularly in the Northeast: - Salon

Most stories and articles you read about climate change finger "global warming" as the responsible party. You understand on an intellectual level that this is not the case - that humans are responsible - but the choice of words that you see all around you create a false sense that you are not responsible for all these catastrophes, global warming is. This is all taking place on a subconscious level, on the information processing level, the level of your awareness that you're not actually aware of.

So what does this mean? How does it affect your life?

First and foremost, it creates a kind of timid acceptance of what is happening, a lack of will to fix it. It doesn't mean that people aren't talking about it and saying that it's an important matter, it's just that there are only a few people who are actually prepared to take the relatively extreme steps to stop doing the things that are harming this planet and environment. Look around your life, your community, your country. Do you see the leaders taking the first steps to really change our lifestyles, and not just talking about it? That is unlikely. Do you see many businesses and leaders doing anything more than making token gestures? Not likely. Most people do not even comprehend what it would mean, in this day and age, to actually change the entire structure of the way everyone lives enough to give nature a chance to heal. There are very few big news and media agencies that educate the public on the facts without twisting the words to cause different effects like the one mentioned above that causes most people to kind of zone out on the gravity of the problem and where the problem originated.

Secondly, and what sometimes seems to be more important to people than the continued survival of the human race and all other life on Earth, is the fact that the media is screwing with your head and you don't even know it. Chances are that you are blissfully ignorant of the extent to which your thoughts and feelings are gently nudged in one direction or another. This may lead you to ask yourself how much of who you think you are is actually you? How much of you has been engineered by different forces in society/the world?

If things carry on going the way that they are going, there is a good chance that life on earth will become increasingly filled with tragedy and catastrophe. We must all ask ourselves: how far will we let this go? How much is enough? Because, whether we realise and accept it or not, we are entirely responsible, and nothing will change without us being the ones moving the change forward.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Day 579: The Dichotomy of Man

Robin Williams was not the first person to take his own life, nor was he the first comedian to do so. It is not often that you can take something at face value in this world, especially where people are involved. The face we show to the world is often not our real face, which seems in itself to be a tragedy.

There are a myriad of reasons why we are the way we are, but it basically boils down to the fact that we just don't know ourselves that well. We don't take the time to find out why we are the way we are, but rather make ourselves out to be the victims of our nature.

What is depression? It is the presence of certain kinds of thoughts and moods (or feelings) that seem to be out of the control of the person having them. I have been fortunate enough to have had the life I have had and to have known the people I have known - this has led me to this point where I can say that we are capable of changing ourselves, including our thoughts and feelings. I have seen and experienced that it is possible to be the master of yourself, to make the choice to not participate in a thought and then to follow through with that choice until the thought no longer has power over you. A thought can only have power over you if you give it that power - if you believe that it has that power over you.

It's a funny thing. It's a sad thing. We do not know ourselves. It's not our fault and yet we are still responsible for changing the nature of our minds. Our parents did not teach us how our minds work because their parents did not teach them, and their parents did not teach them and on and on. Whatever self awareness our ancestors had has been lost in the glitz and glamour of modern day living where every picture on every surface tells you what to think and who to be. Obviously if you do not have to tools to remain aware and in control of yourself then bits and pieces of the world will seep into your mind and change a little bit of who you are.

Are you in control of your own mind? Do you decide who you are in every moment? Is your every word and action a deliberate and fully considered choice that you make? Did you even know that it was possible to live this way?

How does depression work? You have to firstly participate in certain types of thoughts, primarily negative and oriented in the direction of "what's the point?", "my life sucks", "I suck", "the world sucks" etc. Those thoughts also need to generate a specific experience within you, also primarily negative. Obviously it's not as simple as saying that depression exists because of a lack of self discipline - but it also is that simple. Those thoughts exist within you because you allow them to, you are a willing participant and the more you think them the more power you are giving to them. The rub is that these thoughts are not some evil separate entity - they are YOU. It is a vicious cycle which you perpetuate.

Unfortunately every so called "expert" is telling you that you are the victim of some disease, which immediately disempowers you and puts you in a position where you now believe even more firmly that you have no control over these thoughts. Rehabilitation centers give you lots and lots of time to sit and do nothing, which makes it even easier to fall back into the habit of depressive thoughts. Another factor that is not often discussed is that poor people are more likely to have mental disorders. They are under more psychological stress and are not likely to be any more aware of themselves than any other person in the world, which immediately places them in a position of being more likely to go a little nutty. No one should have to live like that.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Day 578: One Year On

One year ago today my dad died.

I stopped to ponder now and then during the day, I pondered on how fast this year has passed and how slow it has gone. I pondered at how little life has changed and how much we have grown. I pondered at the meaning of it all. I pondered at what life might have been like if Bernard was still alive. I pondered at what we might have done differently. I pondered whether I would be the same.

I miss him. I miss the security he gave me and everyone around him. His presence would soothe and comfort you in the worst moments. His directness would give you clarity. The absence of judgement was an experience that you seldom have in this life.

A full year has come and gone. I am still here. We are still here. Slowly but surely we have been developing our own skills and ideals, deciding who we want to be and how we want to live. Slowly but surely we have been developing our independence, our collective as well as individual drive in this task we have taken on. Slowly but surely we are giving ourselves the things that Bernard stood as. There is no way to say what may or may not have been, we only have what is here.

The resolve and commitment that I have seen in the people around me gives me the proof that humanity can change, that we are all capable of making choices that do not only benefit us personally, but of making choices that benefit the whole. We are capable of stopping a thought and changing our behaviour. We are capable of questioning that which we believed to be true without question. I am honoured to stand with such a group, a group who honour the principles that honour life.

It would be false to say that Bernard developed these principles, for they were already here. He took the best of what was already here and lived it. It would be false to say that he changed any person's life - what he did was give you the opportunity to change yourself with things as simple as a direct question.

I am proud to see how far we have come, how much we have overcome within ourselves. We have stood by the principles and tools that we have seen for ourselves work. We have overcome our reactions, thoughts, beliefs, fears, judgements and everything in between.

In order for us to really grow we had to step out from under the protection that Bernard gave us. It may not have been his intention to shelter us, but he did nonetheless. He would weather a storm if it meant another wouldn't have to. We got too comfortable in the safety and guidance he naturally gave out, we did not move ourselves. The only way that we could really stand up on our own was for him to die - we were not doing it on our own.

We have come a long way. I am grateful for the support of all the people around me. I am honoured to walk with so many who care so much about this life. If ever there was a group of people who will make a difference in this world it's this group. We have stood through the worst of times together and supported each other. There is still a ways to go and more to learn - I know that we can move ourselves through whatever comes and still stand by the principles that are best for all life.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Day 577: Over the Horizon

“Even if a small fraction of the Arctic carbon were released to the atmosphere, we’re fucked,” he told me. What alarmed him was that ”the methane bubbles were reaching the surface. That was something new in my survey of methane bubbles,” he said.
“The conventional thought is that the bubbles would be dissolved before they reached the surface and that microorganisms would consume that methane, and that’s normal,” Box went on. But if the plumes are making it to the surface, that’s a brand new source of heat-trapping gases that we need to worry about.

Researchers are out with the first-ever global measurements of marine mercury, putting a number on pollution’s impact. It’s a big one: since the start of the Industrial Revolution, they found, surface mercury levels have more than tripled.
The international team spent eight years collecting water samples from the Atlantic, Pacific, Southern, and Arctic oceans, measuring mercury concentrations and then figuring out how much of it was put there by humans (gotta love that gold mining and coal burning). Science Magazine reports on their findings:
The calculations suggest that the ocean contains about 60,000 to 80,000 tons of mercury from pollution, with almost two-thirds residing in water shallower than a thousand meters, the team reports online today in Nature. Mercury concentration in waters shallower than 100 meters has tripled compared with preindustrial times, they found, whereas mercury levels in intermediate waters have increased by 1.5 times. Higher mercury concentrations in shallower waters could increase the amount of toxin accumulating in food fish, exposing humans to greater risk of mercury poisoning, [Carl Lamborg, a marine geochemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and one of the study's authors] says. Countries ringing the North Atlantic Ocean, where the mercury concentration is among the highest recorded in the study, may be particularly vulnerable.

Does the world really need another book about the Great Barrier Reef? It already accounts for a small library’s worth of excellent volumes, from coffee table books to natural histories probing its unique ecology. With The Reef: A Passionate History, however, Iain McCalman has produced something important and utterly new: a detailed and engaging account of human interactions with the largest coral reef on the planet.
Stretching 1,250 miles along the eastern coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef (actually a collection of more than 2,500 separate reefs) is home to thousands of species of corals, fish, whales, crustaceans, sea turtles, sponges, and countless smaller but ecologically vital creatures. In what could best be described as an unnatural history, McCalman, a research professor of history at the University of Sydney, chronicles the slow discovery and quick unraveling of this unique ecosystem by humans who have viewed the reef primarily through the distorting prisms of fear, greed, and ignorance for more than two centuries.

Predictably, inevitably, we are headed toward a set of events that will determine the future of life on earth. It would be entirely accurate to say that we are almost certainly responsible for the most of this, but in truth we don't really know to what extent. Given the rapid deterioration of the planet's various life-sustaining systems, I am confident in saying that we are entirely responsible.

It has taken a few thousand years, but finally, we have destroyed everything that we have touched. What little beauty we have brought into this world has been swiftly squashed be countless cruelties, large and small.

The discussion about climate change and pollution is everywhere, and yet it is nowhere. World leaders, industry leaders, news agencies, magazines, the entertainment industry - parts of all of these industries are talking about it, about how it is a problem, and yet no one is talking about what needs to be done to really make a difference and create a future in which we can live in harmony with the planet and all of creation. The reason for this is that the changes to our lifestyles would have to be drastic - every industry in the world would have to shift their primary goal from making profit to making life good and ensuring that we have a future. When you put it that way it sounds like a no-brainer - unfortunately our long term survival falls under a category in our cognitive functioning that is called "DANGEROUS THOUGHTS - SUPPRESS HERE". Dangerous thoughts why? Essentially because those thoughts would lead to us to change ourselves, to change our programming - deleting the outdated software and installing new updates - and the old software doesn't want to be deleted.

Change is perceived to be a scary thing, mostly because we fear that whatever changes will not be as good as it was before. It doesn't even matter if what we have now isn't so great - we know it well and that gives us comfort.

When you think of the whole scenario it all seems so silly. We destroy the world because we won't make the effort to change the way we live - consequently leading to our own demise. Maybe we have the death wish, thanatos. Maybe we see some kind of twisted romantic appeal in doing things that we know will end badly - only until things start going wrong, then it's all snot and tears and "why me?!?"'s.

Yup... That's humanity for you.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Day 576: The Lesser of Two Evils?

Ah, Beijing, the smog-filled capital of the new world. The possibility! Breathe it in! Akkkkggghhh– wait, actually don’t just yet.
China’s capital has officially announced that it is taking action against its extreme pollution by banning the use of coal by the end of 2020, with the intention of prioritizing electricity and natural gas. This move comes in response to mounting international pressure for the country to clean up its pollution.
According to China’s official news agency, coal comprised about 25 percent of Beijing’s energy consumption in 2012 and 22 percent of the particles floating in the city’s air. Coal has been largely responsible for China’s economic growth, providing three-quarters of the country’s primary energy supply and burning more than the rest of the world combined each year. But the smog in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou is responsible for around 250,000 deaths every year.
Still, banning coal in one city will likely not have much of an impact on the country’s distinction as the largest emitter of carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases.
In the past year, the Chinese government has made it a priority to fight pollution, and its first step has been to move away from coal. According to Quartz, Beijing’s coal will be replaced with synthetic natural gas, or syngas converted from coal, which isn’t much better.
Quartz’s Gwynn Guilford explains:
Created by burning natural gas developed from coal, this form of energy creates a fraction of the pollutants spewed out by coal-fired power plants. But it also emits up to 82% more carbon dioxide and guzzles huge amounts of water.
Cleaning up air pollution is clearly the priority. The rapid growth in demand for syngas will see the government accelerate the approval of new projects, according to the forum, aiming for 2015 production of between 15 billion and 18 billion cubic meters a year (530-636 billion cubic feet). “With the present rapidly developing coal-to-gas projects, there is a high enthusiasm for coal natural gas projects everywhere,” said Zhang Fang, associate dean of the China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Planning Institute, at the coal forum. “By 2020, China coal natural gas production will reach 60 billion cubic meters.”

It cannot be said that this is the only occurrence of this nature - the history of humanity is riddled with "just good enough" and "as long as it fixes my current problem" solutions. The very nature of our problem solving process follows the probability of settling for "good enough", even when it's not actually good enough, as is the case in the scenario above along with countless others.

Developing the best solution to a problem often requires more work than the average person is willing to put in - the evidence of this is all around us. We are far more likely to take a shortcut if there is some kind of reward in it for us - even if that shortcut is potentially dangerous. We tend to live by the motto of "it's not my problem" when it comes to these kinds of things. We comfort ourselves by telling ourselves that we are protecting our own interests and some poor schmuck potentially paying the price of that is a small enough price. This sounds rather pessimistic I know, but it is unfortunately an accurate reflection of the way many people in the world think.

A very popular example of this would be the Titanic: Shortcuts were taken when the ship was being built, which led to it being less able to avoid and/or weather things like icebergs, as well as get help and get to safety in the case of emergency. Obviously there are some things in life that you just don't know could happen until they do, but there are many more things that can be avoided altogether with careful planning and work. Another popular example of a tragedy that could have been averted is the sinking of the MV Sewol ferry earlier this year in which 300 people died.

We seem to only learn from our mistakes after tragedy strikes, even when we are fully aware beforehand that a tragedy is entirely possible due to whatever shortcuts we take. When you take this into consideration you will see how so many things in history and in your own life could have been avoided entirely by taking the time and making the effort to thoroughly plan and consider the path ahead. It seems like we are still learning this lesson, somehow still believing that everything will be ok (this is called the Optimism Bias and is being studied in psychology) even though we know that the plan we have set in motion is not the best plan available to us, it is just good enough.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Day 575: The Apartheid of Our Time

The condominiums of Riverside South, a dull glass comb along the Hudson River in Manhattan, have hardly made an interesting contribution to New York’s architectural profile. But the development has made an impact on the global lexicon, thanks to a new building’s two entrances: one for buyers of market-rate apartments and one for tenants of subsidized units.
By now you’ve surely heard about Extell Development’s “poor door,” approved last week for 40 Riverside Drive, talk of which has reverberated unfavorably from Park Slope to Paris. It’s easy to see why the concept hits that rare sweet spot for viral architecture. The poor door opens on the tensions of the times — the housing shortage, the divergence of the rich and poor, the sense of threadbare social fabric.
It’s not an isolated case. New York has a number of mixed-income developments where facilities like pools and gyms are restricted to residents who have paid the full price. London, which has adopted a similar strategy for creating affordable housing, also has a raft of poor doors. “Even bicycle storage spaces, rubbish disposal facilities and postal deliveries are being separated,” the Guardian reports. - Salon

I live in South Africa. The wounds of the racial apartheid can still be felt, not completely healed. I have seen the results of the horrors that man unleashed upon man - even from things as seemingly passive or benign as the denying of education or comfortable housing. Being told that you are not worth as much as someone else because of some arbitrary and inescapable fact can become soul crushing, because eventually that is what you start to believe about yourself.

What is the difference between discriminating against someone because of the colour of their skin and discriminating against them because of their social/economic situation? There is no difference. In both cases you are using an irrelevant and arbitrary form of measurement to determine the intrinsic worth of another person. I say irrelevant because wealth, social status and skin colour do not make you who you are. Of course, they are factors that play a role in your life, contributing to shaping your personality - but they are not the determining characteristics that define you or determine who you are.

There is no denying that your life will be different if you are born in different situations (like skin colour, culture, social status, etc) - but these things can be changed by using your free will and choosing to walk in a particular direction - to a degree of course, I am not suggesting that you alter your physical appearance, that is something for you to make peace with and realise that it does not define you or determine your worth. It is because of how we choose to participate in the world that things like skin colour, beauty, wealth and so on are seen as being important when you're working within a social setting.

Now we stand at a point of deciding whether we want to usher in a new Economic Apartheid and determine that those who have more wealth are worth more than those who have less or no wealth. Unfortunately whilst most people agree that this concept is immoral and unacceptable, most will do nothing to stop it from manifesting. This is a tendency in human nature, to step back and disconnect from situations that "do not concern us" and rather wait "for someone else to fix it". So while these buildings are going up, it is quite likely that if you were in a position of needing a place to say and this building suited your needs, you would probably ignore that icky feeling in your gut and move in, even though you don't agree with what has been done.

In essence, where your own interests are concerned, you are far more likely to allow an abusive situation to continue simply because you do not want to lose whatever stake you have. Most people do not want to admit this to themselves, but this is the reality of how things like the Holocaust happened - people are afraid of losing what they have and so they go along with whatever the norm is.

Will we allow another era of discrimination? Will the Economic Apartheid take hold? Only we can determine the outcome.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Day 574: Even More Shocking

Dog catchers are instructed to catch and kill pathetic mutts and special breeds alike. Well-fed canines who appear to have owners are shown little clemency. “If any dog owners protest … it is their fault,” Pastika said. “They should keep their dogs at home.”
This policy may explain why that now-viral culling video is so shocking. These dogs don’t bear the typical signs of street life: exposed ribs, flesh eaten by insects and disease. Their fur appears silky. The breeds are pedigree. They look fresh out of the pet shop.
The mass culling amounts to “inhumane slaughter,” according to People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (or PETA). The animal rights group also predicted that “many compassionate people worldwide will avoid traveling to Bali” because of the practice.
Loose dogs caught by the state, of course, face euthanasia all over the world — including in the US. But the scale of Bali’s extermination campaign is remarkable.
Bali’s population is roughly 4 million. That’s comparable to the population of Los Angeles, a city that kills roughly 8,000 dogs per year. Bali, during heavy euthanasia campaigns, has killed an estimated 100,000 dogs in the span of 12 months. - Salon

Before I go on to the absolute horror that people bring down onto so many helpless creatures in the world, I must ask a questions based on what is implied in the article extract above: Is the life of a purebred dog more important than that of a stray?

This question could be superimposed over humanity's own homeless people "problem", where the homeless and poor are treated as having less worth than a person of means and monetary value. This links into how we value things in life. We use money in most cases, but we also use beauty/aesthetic value (cute animals are valued more highly than not cute animals), personal connection (we love what is OURS more than what we don't know / love), and of course cultural/religious beliefs (some cultures value certain animals highly and others regard certain animals as "unclean", "the devil's creature" etc).

So if we are talking about YOUR dog, or something that you love, you will be incredibly passionate about protecting it, but when it comes to people/animals/things that you don't have an emotional bond with then you may only feel some sadness and then go on to shrug your shoulders and bemoan the cruel state of the world. My question is: What is the difference? You could love anything in this world, so why do you not fight for every thing as if you loved it completely? Where is the passion for those nameless, faceless beings who suffer?

I suppose if you don't have to see these terrible things happening and experience them first hand then it's easy to not think about them happening to other beings. You have no personal stake in it (apparently) so you do not act with the conviction that you would have if there was some stake in it. This to me is one of the saddest things in this life. There is so much potential for all of us (people, animals, plants etc) to live in harmony and support each other and regard each other with respect and value - yet we make our worlds only as big as the things we personally love and value. We are limited because we choose to be so, we choose to live inside our little boxes of "the things I like", the rest of the world be damned. This way of living is not sustainable, we must develop a global awareness and consideration for everything on this planet, to create a true network of support and understanding.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Day 573: Do You Know God's Will?

On Tuesday, Alabama state officials said they had a right to their state’s coal supply because God had given it to them. On Tuesday and Wednesday, religious leaders spoke out on the opposite end of the spectrum: Carbon pollution is actually an “affront to God.”
In a meeting with three administrators from the Environmental Protection Agency, David Kepley, an elder and deacon at the Providence Presbyterian Church, quoted a passage from Leviticus that promotes environmental stewardship and responsibility: “God said ‘the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land.”
Kepley interpreted the passage: “To me this means that to be wasteful of the land’s bounty or to despoil it with substances that are harmful to people or other life forms is not just unproductive, but is an affront to God. In my view, the EPA has identified one of those areas where we humans have ignored our role as good stewards of the Creation.” - Salon

This is only one of many, many examples of people believing that they are the only ones who know the will of god. The very fact that there is more than one religion proclaiming that god is one way and that life should be one way should give you pause, because what you really have here is a collection of people divided into different groups, all believing that they are in the right. So much of the world has been structured in this way like politics, economy, education and so on. Everyone believes that they are in the right but no one seems to be taking what's really important into consideration: giving each being the best life possible.

Take the bible for instance, it was written centuries after the events described within it, bringing to question the validity of the events that so many people believe happened. Certainly, there are stories in the bible that teach principles that would improve the world if every person were to live them, but it also promotes inequality and revenge - principles that we have proven again and again over the ages to not be of benefit to anyone or anything.

When there are so many faiths believing in so many deities then you must ask the questions: is god merely a figment of our imagination? Did some person just think up the concept and run with it? How does the belief in god benefit our society in any way? Sure, there are some principles that are to be commended and lived (like do unto another as you would like to be done unto you; love thy neighbour as thyself; etc) but as a whole, religion takes our sense of responsibility to ourselves, each other and the world out of our hands and places it firmly in "god's" lap. It is not for us to forgive, only for god. With this mentality we have abdicated our own wills - our will to create a world that everyone can enjoy and be supported by. We have used the will of god in vain, justifying our actions that do not otherwise make any real sense.

It is of course very convenient that god has not showed up to defend him/her/itself in any way - we are free to have god be whatever way we need god to be in order to validate whatever it is that we need validated. It seems we lack the self determination to direct the world in such a way that we can be proud of what we create. It seems that god gives us the reason we need to justify why we shouldn't be ashamed of this world, our creation in actual fact. God has not touched this place - only we have. We have created a war-torn and toxic planet that will soon collapse under our immense weight and lack of foresight and consideration. God had nothing to do with it. Our choices led us here.