Archive for July, 2006

AFK

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

There will be no new posts for a few weeks for I will be in an area with limited internet access, which will be until around the middle of August.

Until then, peace and love.

-Rick

KILL YOUR TELEVISION

Monday, July 24th, 2006

The average user spends about four hours a day watching the tube. The more time spent exposed to television, the more influence it has. While television may never tell us the effects it has on us, it is still in our interest to find out what impact it has.

Anyone who watches television gets influenced, both consciously and subconsciously, by what they see and hear. Anyone who sees an advertisement gets influenced in a similar fashion. Therefore, excepting those who watch DVR’s (that can record shows and skip ads) or commercial-free programming, anyone who watches television gets influenced both consciously and subconsciously by advertisements.

So what does TV do? The old wives tale is that TV will rot your brain, and if we were to observe the physical effects of TV – sitting on a couch like a zombie, eyes glazed over, mouth slacked open – one could easily conclude that a television is an electrical device that emits lights and noise in order to induce a catatonic state in humans.

But thats only looking at the outside. Inside, our minds are working hard… there is a lot of stimulus to be processed. Television turns us into zombies, not because it is mind-rotting and under-stimulating, but because it is overstimulating. Similar to how a deer can get frozen in headlights, or a chicken can get hypnotized by tracing a line in front of its face, the bombardment of stimulus overwhelms us.

And while we are bombarded with info, we never get time to reflect, for there is always a constant influx of new information. We get to view and analyze what happens, but before we really reflect on what we see, new stuff happens and we view and analyze the new stuff, and then over and over again. Never do we engage in deep thought, for we aren’t given the opportunity.

Television makes us be passive thought processors. Someone else will put the time and effort and thought into what we see, and all we have to do is sit back, enjoy and absorb. Easy. The brain, like any other muscle, gets toned to whatever it is used for. As the years go by, long-term exposure to television atrophies the ability to form independent thought… turning us into chronically passive thinkers.

And as a bonus, the more we watch TV and the more advertisements we see, the more we will become what ad producers want us to be – passive consumers. Then we will have no choice but to do what we are told… work harder and harder at our jobs, taking any drugs we need to keep us going, be it caffeine, nicotine, Prozac, or anything else that alleviates the symptoms of a high stress work world. Then, go out and spend money on all the meaningless shit they assign worth to… big houses, fancy cars, toys, status symbols, and bling. But you can’t just buy the all the stuff. No… you have to want it all soooo fucking bad that you are willing to let your world get overrun with pollution and greed and violence and suffering as long as you get that kick-ass 72 inch plasma screen with surround sound to entertain you when you’re not sucking down gasoline and polluting the atmosphere in your tank of a vehicle.

Don’t just kill your TV because of all the shit it makes you want and pursue and live and die for. Television is a distraction from reality. A distraction that makes us idle our lives away, viewing the world through a lens and someone else’s viewpoint instead of seeing it for ourselves. A distraction that makes it easy for us to shirk the responsibility we have to the earth and all life on it, and more importantly, to ourselves.

Once we stop watching TV we can stop being passive observers. Then we can stop wasting our lives making corporations more powerful, and instead, spend our lives making the world a better place for ourselves and for those to come.

While I do agree that materialism fills a need in all of us – the desire for power – we should recognize that the pursuit of happiness via material acquisition is fleeting. Encoded in our genes is part of human nature – permanent insatiability- which makes it so that no matter how much we gain, it can never be enough for we will always come to want more.

But that doesn’t mean we can not be happy. In fact, here’s something that no one on television who is selling you something (apart from self-help books) will ever let you know… you already have everything you need to be happy. That’s right… even in today’s fast-paced world, it is possible, with a little effort, for us to combat our perpetual dissatisfaction and be happy with what we already have. Happiness cannot be bought, but it can be found within each of us. All it takes is the inclination to look, and the time to find it.

Bush & Diplomacy

Friday, July 21st, 2006

Maybe this is why Bush isn’t a fan of diplomacy. (Press the play button to view the movie clip)

“Smooooooth, see, it’s what you gotta be.” -Homer Simpson

Choice, liberty and freedom

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

The concepts of free choice and free will are integral parts of liberty and freedom. It is part of our social consciousness to value free choice, but are we really free to choose?

Yes, within the limited scope of our independent thought, we can make choices that will affect the future… our own future and the future of those around us. We can choose from day to day what we do, how we act and so forth. But humans are a highly suggestible species that rely heavily on mimicry, making our daily choices less independent than we may like to admit.

Furthermore, the everyday decisions we make depends on who we are at the instant of making the choice. Who we are at any given instant depends on the everyday decisions we have previously made. The decisions we previously made were a result of who we were at the the instant we made the choice, and who we were at that instant is the result of previously made decisions. If we follow this recursive pattern backwards, we end up to a point where we had absolutely no choice at all.

We never chose our genes, our parents, our upbringing… all important factors in affecting who we become (apart from the metaphysical possibility of being able to choose one’s own birth). We had absolutely no choice from birth until the time that we developed our first independent thoughts, say around two years old. Since then, we’ve only been able to make choices based on who we are at any given instant. Our lives may be the result of a lifetime’s worth of decisions based on who we are at any given moment, but the range of possibilities for us to be has always been predetermined.

Every one of us is stuck in the life we must live.

Still, everyone of us can choose the direction our lives head towards. We can choose to make our own lives better, and to self-improve and self-love and think positively and work towards a better world for ourselves.

More importantly, every single one of us can choose the kind of life those in the future get stuck into. We can choose to use what little free choice we have to make a better life for our children, and all of the world’s children to be.

Uranusocracy

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

The elections are a charade. Elections and politicians are in place in order to give Americans the illusion that they have freedom of choice. – George Carlin

In some dictatorships, elections are held where the same person runs against themselves, giving the people only 1 person to choose vote for, essentially making a farce of the election process. Since they go through the motions of an election, one could call this democracy, but it is really fascism.

In the US, a candidate from 1 of 2 parties (Republican or Democrat) gets elected to the highest seat in the office. Both parties are full of politicians whose primary concern is maintaining and gaining power. Both parties rely on contributions from powerful organizations for their campaigns. Since they go through the motions of an election, one could call this democracy, but it is really a plutocracy.

Extreme wealth and considerable status has always been a prerequisite to be a serious contender for the Presidency. This means that the average US citizen has a choice between 2 virtually identical candidates. Either a rich white dude who will profess to want to help the average guy and who might do a little to help, or a rich white dude who will profess to want to help the average guy, but who does nothing to help.

America is killing innocents in wars all over the world, supposedly to protect American freedoms and to spread democracy, when in reality, the focus of such efforts should start at home, fixing their own corrupt political system

The End of an Empire

Thursday, July 13th, 2006

History shows us that all empires eventually collapse. The Romans, The Mayans, France, Britain, to name a few. The United States has been an empire for a few hundred years, and the signs of its inevitable collapse are becoming clear.

In an interesting article by Kirkpatrick Sale, entitled Collapse of the American Empire, Sale mentions four key reasons for the collapse of empires: environmental degradation, economic meltdown, military overstretch, and domestic dissent and upheaval.

Signs of the deterioration of the world’s ecosystem are everywhere. The Bush administration is not helping… its “Clear Skies Act” legitimizes air pollution, and its “Healthy Forests Act” supports clear-cut logging. But really, we are all to blame for the environmental impacts of our lifestyle choices.

The US Economy is on the brink of collapse… with a whopping 8 TRILLION dollar debt. As new politicians take the reigns, they can do nothing about the debt they inherit. Rather, they simply keep on keeping on, adding to the debt, making it bigger. Soon, the US will be unable to pay off the interest, let alone pay down the debt. (Heres an excellent page about the US National Debt.)

The US military is overstretched, with a presence in over 100 countries, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Columbia. With an exhausted supply of fresh recruits, the reserves are forced into service again and again. The inability of the US military to effectively control even a weak and impoverished nation like Iraq shows how fragile the US war-machine can be.

As for the final reason for collapse – domestic dissent and upheaval – a significant percentage of the US population remains oblivious to any wrong doings of America the Great. But with more wealth and power being stripped from the US majority and given to a tiny minority everyday, animosity is brewing. The increased tension is already being felt, and it is resulting in an increased police state. And for as long as those in control of the US empire do not gain totalitarian control, the US population will only increase their dissent.

If and when the collapse of the US empire occurs, hopefully it will fizzle out rather than go out with a bang.

One other reason I can think of why empires fail is because of the way mistakes can be institutionalized. As empires continue to expand over hundreds of years, new policies and new legislation can only be built upon previous policies and previous legislation. This leads to a more and more bureaucratic entity where existing mistakes are not removed, and instead, they can only get compounded as new mistakes get piled on top (the US national debt is one glaring example of this).

Apocalypse Nowhere

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

We have a problem: members from two doomsday cults – groups that believe the end of days is upon us – have infiltrated their way into powerful governments, and now have significant influence in world affairs. These people believe in the end of the world and pose a big threat to the rest of the world, for they make decisions that impact us all.

Pessimism can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, since someone who doesn’t believe that the world can improve will not work towards improving the world, making a better world less likely to happen. If these cultists expect the end of the world, they will do little to prevent the apocalypse, and may even work towards it, willing it into existence. They may make rash decisions, for their only consideration is their own perceived position in the next life.

Living as if the end is near means only focusing on the short term, taking long term considerations right off the table. Things like ending extreme poverty and avoiding environmental disasters are long-term issues, and take long-term vision to find solutions. Doomsday cultists are less than ideal leaders, even if they do not wish to bring about the manifestation of the apocalypse, because of their short-sighted belief systems.

When we think positively about the future of the world – believing that things can and will improve and that today’s problems are solvable – we are able to work towards achieving a better world. The world has indeed improved over the past few hundred years, and will continue to do so as long as we believe in a better world and work towards it.

BTW, the two aforementioned cults are also called religions, and are branches of Islam and Christianity, both of whom teach their followers of the impending rapture/return of the messiah. Sadly, those who are taught about the coming end never realize that those who teach this belief also believed it themselves…even though it never came true for them. So it’s more like an endless cycle of fear-mongering used to maintain control and preserve power.

Extreme Economics, Dude!

Friday, July 7th, 2006

In just the last two years, we have added an astonishing 215 new names to the ranks of the world’s billionaires. In 2003 we found 476 billionaires. Today it’s a record 691. Their aggregate net worth has grown from $1.4 trillion to $2.2 trillion. The average net worth has also jumped, from $2.9 billion to $3.2 billion. – Forbes.com

215 new billionaires in the last 2 years, making just about 700 in the world. Is that a sign of our world getting richer? Depending on who we go to for information, we can get two opposite viewpoints.

The capitalist/economist side will tell us that extreme wealth is a good thing because it creates jobs and means the world has created new wealth, and they will have plenty of graphs and specialized words and mathematical data to back up their point of view.

The socialist/liberal side will tell us that extreme wealth is a bad thing because it means that wealth and power has been shifted from the hands of the many to the hands of the few, leaving a tiny elite who profit while all others suffer.

I cannot say for sure what is true and what isn’t. The world economy is a complex beast. 215 new billionaires probably means a combination of new wealth and old-fashioned exploitation.

One thing I know is that we have about 1/6 of our world’s population living in extreme poverty – around 2 Billion humans – struggling to survive day to day with no long term security. To me, the math proving extreme wealth and extreme poverty are intertwined seems very simple:

A few humans with a billion times more than enough equals a few billion humans without enough.

Bus Rider

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

Living in a metropolitan area, I see daily the love affair that western societies have with personal automobiles. In every city, in every industrialized country, all over the world (as far as I know), people drive cars. And the trend shows that this will only increase, as new countries jump on the Own-A-Car bandwagon (like India and China).

Public transportation (PT) is an effective way to move a large number of people around. Cheap and efficient, PT is a viable alternative to having everyone commute in their own vehicles. PT does have its perceived downsides, as well. It often takes longer and requires us to follow their schedule, so it is less convenient than driving. Also, it requires us to share space with other people… strangers… sometimes even disheveled peoples *gasp*.

It is socially acceptable for us to drive ourselves around… rarely are we encouraged to consider the consequences of our selfish habits. But some of the costs of us choosing convenience and comfort are increased traffic congestion, consumption of nonrenewable resources, and pollution of the environment (which leads to smog locally, as well as to global climate change).

And I feel like the effects go beyond the immediate impacts to our wallets and the earth. The mainstream use of personal vehicles has deeper societal impacts.

Personal vehicles provide another shelter from the world… and another way to become further detached from society. We travel from the bubble of our homes, to the bubble of our cars, to the bubble of our work (or mall, or wherever), but never really expose ourselves to the world. Instead, we all live inside our own Tupperware containers, never mixing with anyone outside of our own social circles. Like a skittish mouse trapped in a room, we scurry along the wall, rushing to our next hiding spot, never looking at the world except through a lens or a window.

By avoiding public transport, we avoid contact with strangers, and avoid the opportunity to meet new people. Perhaps, as the cost of gas continues to rise, and the repercussions of our consumption becomes part of our societal consciousness, we will have to rely on PT more and more. And we may find that we are a little less detached from the world because of it.

News Flash: News Media Causes Societal Amnesia

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

“11,000 people died from starvation today”
“Thousands were slaughtered in Darfur in the last 24 hours”
“Over 20,000 people died from Malaria this week”

Stories like these rarely make the news, even though they happen every single day. Stories like these are depressing… all the human misery and suffering. Rarely do our news stations ever discuss world issues like these… the one’s where humans are dying daily for long periods of time.

That’s probably because the news people want to shelter us from the bleak and depressing reality of the world, right? Fuck no. Look at the sensationalist trash they feed us every single night… murders, accidents, acts of violence, and all the other crap that fills out society with fear. If that isn’t depressing, then I don’t know what is.

No… the News Media doesn’t cover the persistent issues of the world for if they did, people would be more inclined to do something about it. If everyday, we were presented with a top 10 list of all the causes of death in the world… our society would be more inclined to openly discuss these issues daily. And discussion would lead to solutions as more people decided to do something about it.

So instead of risking a society that openly discusses real issues, the news media changes the focus of the news every day. Real issues, like starvation and preventable disease, are bumped aside for the news of the day… keeping a society that jumps from one issue to the next, but never addresses anything of real substance.