Friday, March 11, 2005

Muscles Taut, But Can Not Teach

Interesting story in the Times today about prisoner abuse and interrogation tactics, and who exactly is to blame. It depicts, and very well too, how the United States Government (or a pre-school playground) works when something goes wrong. There are few things more repulsive than listening to pudgy politicians speaking about responsibility, and fault, and blame. There is an everpresent willingness to point a finger at someone, and, wagging it fiercely, insist on their guilt, and their shortcomings, as if the assignment of the wrong can make it go away, or somehow assuage the situation. The best thing about our bureaucracy is the staggering number of people it requires to run, a veritable field of scapegoats growing, like Cabbage Patch Kids, with their faces turned towards the sun.

Even better than the insistence on the guilt of the "other," is the oft-used "it's nobody's fault," "it's everybody's fault," or "there were so many people involved, it's difficult to place the blame."

It was pretty difficult for Hannibal to beat the crap out of Rome as long and as often as he did, but he managed somehow. But oh! There I am, comparing the impressive feats of great leaders of the past with the insipid and evasive wraiths of the present. Let us not go that route, for there be dragons there, and they would scoff at our maidens and knights alike.

One side yells collectively, "take responsibility! someone's to blame!" The other counters with a man of impressive bearing and a bunch of medals pinned to his chest, who cites investigations and committees and endless canyons of paper wherein all the answers are hidden. Meanwhile, the point of contention between the two sides goes unresolved, and the core of the problem, in this case the abused prisoner, continues his existence of abuse, very much unaware of what a hullabaloo he's causing merely by being. Does the assignment of guilt do anything? No. Someone gets reprimanded, someone goes to jail, a few bills get revised, some speeches are made, our collective conscience is wiped clean, and everything's ok until the next time it happens, at which point the cycle repeats and perpetuates itself. Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing again and again while expecting different results. Huh.

I had a friend from New Zealand whom I've mentioned before, named Skitz. I did something once, I don't remember what, and then I apologized for it. He said to me, "there's no need to apologize, just don't do it again."
Could that simple? Could it be that...there's no need for these theatrics, for our government of dramatic pauses and profound gestures? Could it really be so easy that, instead of changing laws and passing bills and blaming people and dragging everything on and on we could simply...not do it again? Could we just not abuse prisoners? Wouldn't that be the simplest solution? It wouldn't fit Einstein's definition of insanity, because it would be trying something new and expecting different results, which seems pretty rational; then again, they say that the insane man never doubts his sanity, so maybe it is a crazy and all-too-progressive idea. Well, all I can do is write my senator and suggest he form a committee to investigate it.

Probably, it would never work. I am an idealist and a dreamer, the top of the page says so and page headers seldom lie. Just look at the article, it says that "emotions run high," and I certainly am not about to advocate the eradication of emotion. I just wish we could direct our emotions to other areas, ones that would be beneficial to progress and propserity as oppsed to detrimental. When I read a story about abuse, or bankruptcy bills being passed that are going to make the poor the super-poor, or a refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol, or any number of things, my emotions flare up. We humans, we're all of us wonderful, endlessly interesting things. Imagine how bored we'd be without us? I hope that, come the rapture, I don't get called up. I mean, I don't think that I will, but if I do, I'll probably politely refuse the invitation. Things are just oo much fun here. And they could be so much better, if only we treated others more like friends and less like humans. But man will always be man, and he will forever follow his passions wherever they may lead. If he could just understand that his actions have consequences, that he is the pebble that starts the tsunami, and that his friends and family are on the shore waving to him...

Just remember: don't place blame, don't argue about the problem, just don't repeat it. Don't cause unnecessary problems. Does anyone profit from abuse? Or aggression? Do these things further our lives? Or do they just mire us down and force us to waste time that could have been better spent in a million other pursuits? Is it better to destroy a city, or to build one? To slaughter a population or to sire a new one? I would rather have a bevy of architectural masterpieces than a handful of radioactive dust, and I will always prefer sex to murder.

It really is pretty easy to be good, isn't it? I wonder why we have such a difficult time with it...

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Sake Vs. Snow

It is cold outside tonight, and I am drinking sake. There is a certain book that was given me today by none other than the International Man of Mystery himself, the esteemed Mr. Ray Brooks.
I read the entire text as I sat in the local library waiting for my appointment with the new boss. I am at present a purveyor of high end sunglasses, the likes of which I could never afford. But all of that is of little consequence. I have something to share with you all.

The book I received is by an author named Paulo Coelho, who also wrote one of my all time favorite books, The Alchemist. What I would like to share with you is from page twenty-one of the tome I was fortunate enough to be handed today, Warrior of the Light. It read as follows:

"Every Warrior of the Light has felt afraid of going into battle.

Every Warrior of the Light has, at some time in the past, lied or betrayed someone.

Every Warrior of the Light has trodden a path that was not his.

Every Warrior of the Lighthas suffered for the most trivial of reasons.

Every Warrior of the Light has, at least once, believed that he was not a Warrior of the Light.

Every warrior of the Light has failed in his spiritual duties.

Every Warrior of the Light has said "yes" when he wanted to say "no."

Every Warrior of the Light has hurt someone he loved.

That is why he is a Warrior of the Light, because he has been through all this and yet has never lost hope of being better than he is."

--Paulo Coelho

Buck up my friends. We are none of us what we are; we are all of us what we someday may be.

Medical waste of time

I once held a position at a Medical Laundry service located in the heart of my small and failing town. It was staffed primarily by Mexicans (some legal, some not) and old women. I worked in the soil sort room, which is basically where the foreign workers were kept, you know, out of sight. Our collective duty was to receive the incoming truckloads of dirty medical laundry, place it on conveyor belts, and as it passed by separate the different items, ie, sheets, labcoats, gowns, into their respective bins. We were told that if we chanced across any needles (and by god we did) to notify our supervisor. Everyone had to be vaccinated before working there. Everyone, that is, but those people who couldn't provide proof of legitimate residency. Hell of a world huh?

So during our breaks we would all go outside and smoke cigarettes. I had my choice of three social groups: Old women, racist small towners, or Mexicans. I naturally chose the Mexicans. First of all, anyone who wants a shot at economic opportunity so badly as to risk imprisonment or death while fleeing across a border, deserves it. Opportunity, that is. Second, can you imagine how it must be, to leave behind the country in which you were born and raised in favor of the great unknown? These poor people were chasing a promise of a dream, not even the dream itself. And where did they wind up? With me, sorting filthy hospital laundry in a room that smelled like urine and chlorine.

We got along famously those Mexicans and I did. I speak Spanish, and they did too obviously, so I took full advantage of that fact and shunned the racist inhabitants of my town as best I could. These Mexicans also spoke English, meaning they spoke two languages. Most of my fellow Americans only speak one, and that poorly.

Another similar incident: I was working in a summer camp one year, as the head of the theater department. The camp staff was composed of various nationalities. A wonderful environment composed of people from all over the world: England, Poland, Australia, new Zealand, Belarus, Slovenia, The Netherlands, Russia and on and on. I have always been partial to the former Soviet Bloc states, to Russia and central Asia. I enjoy the history, the culture, the attitude of the peoples living there. Mostly, I enjoy those peoples because they are almost all, without exception, incredibly well educated, open-minded, and determined to improve, if not the world, at least themselves. In this country you can ask someone on the street to name a famous author. They might well reply with Tom Clancy, or Stephen King, or a similar name. You may then ask them if they have read any works of the aforementioned author and they will say yes, one, or no, none. These wonderful people, my friends Anya and Vadzim, Kasha and Jitske and Petr, would list the famous authors from their respective countries and then go on to discuss their greatest works. Not just answer with "yes, I've read that one," but discuss! In English! Most of these people spoke at least, at least four languages. How many can you speak? I can speak two, only one fluently. I know phrases in maybe three others. But these incredible people? Nigh fluency my friends. Nigh fluency. One girl from Russia was writing a novel in English. I read two chapters. It was incredible. Such a keen depth and understanding of the language...I felt ashamed.

Do you know where all of these, the most (and I do not exaggerate) intelligent people working at that camp toiled away their hours? The Kitchen. Washing dishes. Serving food. Oh yes. Mopping floors. Bathrooms. Collecting garbage. Despicable. Absolutely.

Our eyes are so constantly focused on ourselves and our own petty affairs that we completely ignore what is going on around us. We are indoctrinated by thousands of years of "Know thyself" and "to thine own self be true," we suckle the teat of psychiatry that teaches us to find our inner selves and childs and emotions and so forth, we are caught up in the throes of rampant individualism, stand in the shadows and flick our cigarettes to the ground, hard eyes and tough mouths. We are ridiculous. Don't you think? I think that I'm pretty ridiculous. I bought into this dream once, in college. Wasted about three or four years of my life, moping around in a paltry existential battle with myself. Took the teachings of that august school and bastardized them, for rather than accept that there is no inherent meaning to life and then find joy in the things I do and create, I felt better wallowing and despairing. Playing the part of the individual crushed by the herd. I'm blushing right now just thinking about it. Excuse me a moment.

Ok, enough of that. I guess my basic moral, for today, is: we have no reason to be proud of ourselves. The rest of the world has not enjoyed the luxuries we have, has not enjoyed the ease of our lives. I know, it's hard being middle class and white, girlfriends dump you and sometimes you get bad grades; you don't fit in anywhere because you fit in anywhere, and so on. Enough. Just stop. It is not hard being middle class and white. It's hard growing up in a poor country where you have to work or starve. It's hard having a reactionary ruler who imprisons those that honor people fallen by Stalinist purges in Soviet times. it's hard learning several languages. it's hard going to a new country and deciding to stay there, where everyone treats you like dirt because you're not flawless when you speak the language. Where have you gone? What have you taught yourself? Could you get by on the other side of the world as you are now? Alright then.

Furthermore, if everyone just stopped working and filed for welfare, the government would have to halt military operations. I think there's a town somewhere in Colorado or Arizona peopled by religious fanatics who do this and call it "Bleeding the Beast." I'm not associated with them or any religion. I'm associated with Thoreau and anyone else who would rather see peace than the blatant squandering of our most precious resource, that resource being people. Oil fuels cars, people fuel civilizations, nations, futures. Which do you think is more important?

Ho-kay. Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Pallas, great hero...


I don't know if anyone is ever going to come and visit this blog thing that I've gotten myself into. Truth be told, I'm not really sure what a blog is, but with all of the recent controversy stirred up through their use, the term has come to my attention several times in the past few days; ergo, I have decided to blog.

I have a few questions then for anyone who has inadvertently chanced across this fledgling
e-mpire-- Firstly, can one blog? Is it a verb? And a noun? Is it more? Is it even anything?

Please excuse my blatant ignorance.

Now as I've said, I'm not really sure what this is or what I should do with it, but my understanding has it as some kind of an online journal where I can share thoughts and pictures and so on. Well that sounds dandy really. As I'm slowly learning the ropes and struggling through help pages I would certainly appreciate it if any one had a few thoughts to get the ball rolling. I, for my part, will offer up some information on myself: I am what you would call a malcontent, disappointed and disgusted with the way this fine country is being abused by both of its major political parties; The Republicans, who drag its name through the mud and make it a focal point of overseas animosity whilst telling us unassuming folks at home that it's someone else's fault we're not liked, like maybe France's; and of course The Democrats, those champions of justice and whatnot who cower when the Republicans bark and always seem to have a suspicion that something's awry but never the gusto to find out exactly what. I have a good many friends who are Democrats, Liberals, others -s' -ists and -isms; I prefer to think of myself as a free thinker and gladly embrace all that term applies (though it makes me frown more often than not since most everyone has some sort of party alliance); I can see the value and the appeal of Socialism, Communism, Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, etc. It all sounds like a good idea in some respects. After all, the Communist Party of Moldova is projected to surface as the recent election's big winner, so even though the past has been bleak for extreme leftism the future may see it reaching the top of the Billboards again. I'm not such a big fan of business and corporate interests and so Fascism (as in pure fascism, top down government with profits over people, big business running the state, not genocide and Hitler and all those things that have muddled the definition) has never really appealed to me. Generally the extreme right has always been a tad violent for my tastes, though I do fancy myself an excellent Ninja and peerless Knight. Basically what I'm getting at, I guess, is that I welcome any kinds of comments whatsoever, really. Things I agree with are fine, things I disagree with are fantastic, and right now my small and humble town is being swept away by a merciless blizzard. This means that I must end my first official blog (is a blog also something being posted on a blog? so confusing, truly) and shovel snow. I hope you've enjoyed our time together as much as I have and I look forward to meeting some of my new e-friends in this increasingly e'd world. Blog's your uncle!