Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Transfat, life, and a whole lot of shaking going on

So I haven't been posting in several days, and I missed out on my promise to start posting my epic poem. While I have a legitimate excuse for the latter (the poem is located on a computer that lacks internet access or any easy means to remove files, and so it will take me some time to get the poem to the internet), I have no legitimate excuse for the latter. I apologize (to anyone who noticed, who might actually be simply one person and most importantly to myself). This session is itself not a real session, but I feel alright with that since it is addressing some important issues. This is actually an essay I'm doing for a Libretarian Newsletter I work on, The Invisible Hand (it will be out and around Rutgers (and possibly other campuses, especially if you out there print out some copies to distribute) relatively soon, check it out, it is also at the website (I'm not sure yet how to do links with myspace), and you should also check out the Rutgers Libretarian website, but hopefully you should enjoy it.

The Insidious Logic of Transfat
I have mixed feelings about healthy foods. On the one hand, I like to be careless about what I eat, I like my food casual and worrying about what's in it tends to deflate that casualness. On the other hand, I do want to loose some pounds. But if there's one thing that Libertarianism holds dear its that personal preferences should not dictate government policies. Thus I try to distance my analysis of health issues from my personal feelings on healthy foods, I know its impossible to do so completely, but it is certainly valuable to try. Thus I will try to keep my preference from transfat heavy foods from my opinions on government policy towards transfat, although it this case the two tend to coincide. The government really has no business dealing with transfat. Yes, it is bad for you, but people should be able to make their own lifestyle choices. I understand that most of those wanting to ban transfats act out of concern for their fellow human beings, and I appreciate that, but concern is not justification for forcing people to eat how you want them to. While I can understand the arguments of those arguing against transfat, one argument in particular I find incredibly frightening. That argument is that because the government pays some health care costs like emergency hospitalization and since transfat causes obesity which causes health care costs, government therefore has the right to ban transfat because of how much the medical care costs. This argument has also been used to attack smoking. I am frightened by it because it opens the door to a monstrous trend of limiting what people eat, what people do and possibly even what people think all because of the many fields that government has involved itself in. To say that if the government helps people out in a certain aspect of their life justifies the government controlling that aspect of life is an invitation for unlimited government control, and I find that truly terrifying.
Let us start out with the original argument, that since the government pays for certain health care costs, the government is justified in controlling activities like eating transfat. I do believe that transfat increases obesity somewhat and there is definitely a correlation between eating transfat and being unhealthy. Yet looking at that correlation alone would exaggerate the effects of transfats. Remember always that correlation is not causation. While transfat does have an effect, the greater reason for the correlation is that people who eat lots of transfat tend not to care about what they eat in general and this causes them to become obese. If then the government really wants to control health care costs it will have to go far beyond banning transfats. One of the biggest causes of obesity is red meat, the government would have to ban that or at least give it an extra tax. Candy also causes obesity, as does ultra-refined, empty of nutrient grains like cookies, so these too would need taxes or bans. To really cut down on obesity the government would have to invade every aspect of people's diets. I'd like to point out that this is fundamentally different from say making sure food manufactures do not put poisons in our food, in that case there is a deception on the part of the food manufactures, here there is no deception, any person who wants to face the truth will know most of the foods that are bad for them, and with a little research they will know all of them, anyone who wants to control their diet will need will power but they would be capable of eating well. That is not the issue, the issue is those that eat badly cost the health cares system money, even if they eat badly knowing fully well what the food does to them, and thus the government is justified in controlling their diets and their free choice in food. To say this opens the door to hundreds of taxes and bans, and to carry this logic further can lead to even more control of peoples life styles.
If the government is justified in controlling what people eat because of health care costs, why not other activities. After all, eating is something essential, while many other enjoyable behaviors which tax the health care system are not. Bungee jumping is dangerous and those injuries cost money, extreme sports can also cost money, and so they can be banned. Unhealthy food is usually justified by people because it gives enjoyment, so if it can be banned it makes sense that so can other enjoyable activities. Certain cars are less safe than others, so they can be banned. Convinces like drive-throughs cause less walking and therefore worsen obesity and so they can be banned. Throughout our lives we make choices between the safer or healthier course and the more enjoyable or convenient course, and to say that because of the costs to the health care system the government can force us to choose the healthier course would mean that the our lives would be removed from our control. Often we are defined by the choices we make, often those same choices between safer or more enjoyable, if we choose to engage in dangerous sports we can make ourselves the daredevil guy, if we choose to eat tasty but unhealthy food we can make ourselves food connoisseurs. Yet if we let the government make those choices for us then the government will define our lives. In fact, if they are justified in forcing us to choose the safer path in what we do, simply because it costs them, then they can stretch that justification to what we think.
If anything that costs the government money can be controlled, then our thoughts are not safe as well. Many have argued that certain video games cause violence, and violence costs money, so they can be banned. In fact, certain books might cause people to be more aggressive and violent so the government can control books. Ideas can be violent, many variants of Communism contain calls to violence, so they can be banned, and so can perhaps certain variants of Christianity. Some would argue Islam should be banned because they associate it with violence and it doesn't matter that that idea is ridiculous, if we argue that the government can ban things because it costs them money, well, keeping order costs them money, and if a majority of people then feel Islam is too violent, then they can pass laws against it because the floodgate was opened by this logic. So much of the thought-life of the nation can be construed as violent by different groups, and if those groups hold the majority, and if the government can ban anything which costs it money by threatening violence, then the thought-life of the nation will come to a standstill. In fact, the ideas themselves do not need to be violent, ideas that promote theft cost the government money because the government needs to investigate such thefts, ideas that prompt civil disobedience cost money because the government needs to deal with such civil disobedience, even ideas that upset people can cost the government money, because those people might become violent and that would need a costly response. To say that the government can legislate in any area that would cost it money is to say that the government can legislate anywhere in our lives, our thoughts, and our souls. To say this is to discard the very idea of freedom.
If the government can ban things that might cost it money, suddenly everything is open to a ban. We are the sum of the choices we make, what we choose to eat, what we choose to do, what we choose to think, if the government can dictate those choices it can control us. It doesn't matter if the government is right or wrong (although we should remember that even if the government is right at this moment, it might be wrong later), what matters is to give control up control of our lives would be to discard our fundamental humanity. We are humans because we think up our choices, we are human because we make mistakes, we are human because we have a soul that is free to choose right or wrong. If we discard our choices we reduce ourselves to animals, and no amount of money is worth that. Yes the government pays and extra price for our freedom, and yes that price is passed on to the general public through taxes, but there is no price tag on freedom, to make one is a crime against our very souls.

So that's about it for now, I might do another session later today. I'm not sure if I will I actually feel quite shitty (I'm putting sick for my mood, but that really isn't how I'm feeling, I'm more feeling, well, shitty, just irrationally overwelmingly shitty) (I wasn't sure if I'd do any session at all today, but well here we are). But anyways, take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bush and the reorientation of the world

So this is not the long poem promised in my last session, but that will come, probably later tonight. But George W. Bush is a big figure in international politics and I thought I'd give him a little analysis, because I do think of international politics a lot. Let me start out by saying, I'm not going to demonize Bush and I don't think he's an idiot, but I do think he's made some serious and sometimes catastropic mistakes (as well as a few good moves) and he has in many ways led to a collossal change in the world of international politics, but on the other hand I think a lot of the changes in international politics he has made are in many ways accelerations of already beginning trends.

Let's start with what his foreign policy intended to do. I think when he was first elected Bush was honestly an isolationist. He ran on an isolationist platform and his party was highly isolaitonist except for the neo-cons who were background at most. Granted he did appoint neo-cons, but he also had a lot of old-fashioned conservatives like Dick Cheney, who really only became a neo-con after 9/11. The neo-cons I think at the time were loved by the intellectuals in some circles of the conservative movement and I think that prompted this move. But we should also remember before 9/11 the focus of the neo-cons was not on Iraq but on China. Our first big foreign policy squabble was not in the Middle East but with China. Yes, I've heard that the neo-cons prepared battle senarios with Iraq before 9/11, but remember when Bush was elected it was 2 years since we had given Iraq a bombing (under Clinton in 1998 for not allowing UN inspectors in and for suspected WMDs, when I first heard Bush's WMD claims were bogus I wondered about the 1998 claims given no evidence of the disposal of the previous supposedly huge stockpiles of WMDs, but then I started hearing that Clinton's intelligence men (led by George "slam-dunk" Tenet) were just as prone to pressure to tell Iraq had WMDs as Bush's) and heck, I'd prepare contingency plans for potential wars even if the actual chances were pretty low.

That said, all the plans for his foreign policy that he had before 9/11 completely changed after 9/11. Afghanistan was a move that anyone would have made. Gore would have made it, Kerry would have made it, McCain would have made it. It was sheltering and helping to train a global organization that was actively at war with us, it had in short declared an alliance with someone we were at war with, this made them a fair target for invasion. I know that sounds very glib and does not perhaps treat war with the gravity it deserves. War is hell, and should only be declared in cases where we are attacked or perhaps when another country is attacked (depends on the identity of the country being invaded and the country invading, for example it would be ridiculous to defend the Khemer Rouge when it was invaded by Vietnam, yes Vietnam was a bad regime but the Khemer Rouge was one of the most monsterous governments in history, on the other hand when Iraq invaded Kuwait we were justified in defending it, Kuwait's king might have been a dictator, but he was a decent one (he has since become a relatively good dictator and has been leading important democratizing intiatives although his government is far from a democracy) while what Iraq was doing to the Kuwatis was absolutely horrible), but in this case we were attacked and thus we were justified in attacking a vital ally of our attacker. Some might link this to Iraq and say Bush only attacks countries with oil, but in addition to my point above I'd like to say 2 cases is not enough to draw conclusions.

And then Iraq was attacked. I don't think most powerful politicians are directly greedy (this is more of a case with smaller case politicians) (especially since most politicians could get far more better paying jobs with lobbyists or as corporation heads). But I think the influence of greedy friends, of old memories (like remembering your father being threatened), and of old rivalries tends to exert a big influence. I also think a lot of corruption stems from the idea to the victor belongs the spoils philosophy (government posts are distributed according how useful you were poltically and to old friends (this is how I think the FEMA director got his job)) and I think idealism can blind us. I think all of this played a role in Iraq, coupled with faulty intelligence (led by the idea that what the president wants in his intelligence he should get). (I'd like to point out although I do not think that politicians are immune to greed, I rather think their greed comes in the form of power hunger and legacy craving, after all they have taken positions of power, it makes sense that that is what they want, a lot their corruption isn't because their primary motivation is money (although occassionally in history and around the world and country and in certain offices it is different) but because they feel a certain something belongs to them because of their position of power (and occassionally because they feel that they're serving the public and not getting enough payment for it)). The current situation I think was not inevitable though even after the invasion if better steps had been taken and I think that if we had overthrown Saddam after 1991 the situation would be better but I'll save that for other sessions.

This is about international politics. The Iraq War badly polarized international politics (in addition to domestic politics), it provided a rally point for anti-Americanism. But too all those who blame Bush alone for anti-Americanism forget that anti-Americanism has been going on for a long, long, long time. Anti-Americanism in the Islamic world itself has been going on for a long, long time, remember that Bid Laden declared Jihad against the US in 1991, not in response to Palestine or in regards to George W. Bush but because US troops were on Saudi Arabian soil, which in his view tainted it. And why? Because the United States is a special sort of symbol. In many ways it is a symbol of liberalism, and by liberalism I mean it in the classical sense, free trade, capitalism and large amounts of civil rights. It doesn't matter if you consider the United States the leader in those fields, it is a symbol of those things and all the good and bad things that are associated it with those (like more sex, less religion, looser ethnic ties, etc.). To Islamic extremism liberalism is a deadly virus that is spreading throughout the world, like Communism to us it seems like something that is threatening to completely destroy all their ways of life. However, that is not to say US foreign policy hasn't played a role. But we should understand that traditionally US foreign policy has not been promoting liberalism but rather undermining it, under the belief that Muslims are too violent, fanatical and ignorant to handle freedom, and so if they want any progress they must be dragged forward by authoritarian regimes. And the Muslim world hates us for supporting these authoritarian regimes. If there's one thing that can unite Islamists (not necessarily extremists, I think it's valuable to make a distinction between moderate Islamists and extremists, an Islamist just being someone who wants Islam to play a large role in government) and liberals it is their hatred for authoritarianism. So don't think that supporting the Muslim tyrants of the world is going to win us points with Muslims, it won't.

So I didn't get to my grand thesis that I was planning to, well not yet, but I need to do other stuff (part of my problem before with posting regularly is I always wanted to complete incredibly lengthy trains of thought before ending my sessions), but I'll revisit the topic later. I think I still covered a lot of ground about Bush, and so this isn't quite a waste. Anyways, I plan to start posting stuff from my epic poem later, but for now, take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks!

Friday, February 23, 2007

You're on my mind all of the time, I know that's not enough

When you're in love, your love is always present in your mind, even if it is just in the background. One of the things I loved about being in love is that constant presence, a certain focus of the mind, I never had much focus in my life, and that seemed just amazing. But I don't have that now, and well, that's that. I'm just saying this because I was watching some anime music videos that go along with this song (if you don't recognize the lyrics (I actually forgot that these lyrics were in the song), this is Electrical Storm by U2) and so it has been stuck in my head.

I suppose I should apologize about not having any sessions for the last two days, not really to you guys, but to myself. I want this to be daily at the very least, and I want to have the discipline to maintain that schedule. I'd like to say I was too busy and that's somewhat true, but the more true answer is that I was filled with laziness/anxiety and so I didn't do it. But that doesn't excuse me from responsibility really in any way, shape or form and so I will just have to do better in the future. I have thought of something, however that might make things easier for me with perhaps even a boost in quality. My proudest accomplishment, or at least one of them, is my long poem (which I like to call epic, although a friend of mine pointed out that it doesn't obey most of the epic conventions), and I thought that I would serialize it on my blog on Saturdays and Sundays, giving a few chapters (I'm not sure if I would do a session in addition to this, maybe, maybe not), given that Saturdays and Sundays are usually days that I don't do sessions for various reasons (especially since my family tends to hog the two computers (yes we have two computers, but there are up to 10 people in our house normally on weekends (and these aren't guests), so things are busy), so this might help out with that. I also should probably start working on the poem again. As I envisioned it in high school, the poem would have 5 parts, the first two parts I finished (although I'm not that satisfied with the ending of the second part, and I might have to do some editing to both), and although I got deep into the third at some point I just stopped working on it. There are actually a lot of projects I would like to work on. In addition to several stories which are nearing final quality levels, I'm also thinking of starting a comic, working to improve my webpage, and finally launching the Knights of Mars. But with all these projects, they tend to be thought up but not implemented. Implementation is hard and takes time, and hard and consistent work has never been my forte, but I just have to do it.

I whine a lot about my problems, well maybe not that much, but in the end I just need to face them. I need to work on them and get over them, it's simply a matter of that being that. Well, maybe work on them is a bad phrase, because that puts the focus on my problems. I think that was a mistake I did in high school, I concentrated all my attention on dealing with my problems that I did nothing in the actual world, instead I just created romanticized battles with depression in my head. Yes problems must be dealt with, but they must be dealt with through working to actual do something, because honestly, I don't think my problems will ever go away, and even if my more severe mental problems go away, I'm still left with less severe normal problems, and so if I wait for everything in me to be perfected, I'll find myself waiting for the rest of my life. You want a lesson folks, there it is.

I think also all the attention I give to my problems keeps me in my head too much, probably a better approach would be think more about what I'm doing and the problems of those I care about which will keep me interacting with others (yes I know that this session and several others are dedicated to my problems, but I'm not denying the need for introspection, I'm just saying it shouldn't become an obsession and furthermore, I look at these sessions as work, that's why I take missed days seriously, and that's why I'm proud when I a session comes out well, and finally, I also try to do high concept sessions in addition to more personal ones (like the upcoming serialize long poem (I don't think I mentioned the name, it's called The Battle Upon the Universe)), and also I don't think you're one to judge, because you're a bum, you here me you out there in internet land, yeah I'm talking to you, bum!!!!, bum!!! I'm just messing with you, I love you guys, you know that, but you are bums, but hey so am I). Of course, I can't talk here much about the problems of those I care about except those broad categories of people I care about (such as the people of the world, America, etc.), but I can talk about ideas that exist not only within me but in the world at large as well.

But enough talking about my blog (if anyone can think of a better word than blog for this forum, and I don't want online journal, I will praise them profusely in a later session) and enough talking about my life and enough talking really. This whole session has gotten to a good length and I can't think of a good segway into another topic, so I think I'll end about here for right now. Anyways, take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Low-key and lazy

So my last few sessions have been pretty high concept and they have done pretty well, but I think I'm going with to intersplice a little low-keyness here or there into my sessions for a variety reasons including putting casualness back into this casual forum and tiredness, stemming from reorganizing my life, from the strain of writing, and the exhaustion from thinking up all these excuses (really hard work really). This tiredness could explain the lack of sessions for the last few days or it could be the busy-ness of the last few days and computer problems and there is always laziness, sweet, sweet laziness.

I've been realizing though that if I want to get done what I want to get done in life I'm going to have to curtail my laziness a little (just a little). My psycologist has encouraged me in this and said I should develop discipline which is pretty true, I've always been kind of low on discipline. So what's my newest spruce up my life plan? Scheduling, exercise, radio, part-time job, more social-ness, etc. And of course writing. But right now much of this is in the background to my current dilemma, what to do with my career options.

As some loyal readers of my sessions might know (and there is perhaps one loyal reader of my sessions, the rest of you are bums and losers (logically since I'm so great anyone who doesn't read my blog is a loser)) I've been aiming at becoming a teacher, but I've been questioning that goal for a while, and lately my questioning has become more intense. I really don't have a great impulse towards becoming a teacher is perhaps the biggest problem. It is secure, decently paying, and I would be able to help people and teach them stuff, but I'm not sure whether I want daily that sort of mass social interaction, whether I want the repetitiveness, or whether I have much of a liking to a job. My experiences at summer camp were so-so, it was basically like your average job, I recently volunteered with some third graders and while that was somewhat fun, I found the mass social interaction tiring. But neither of those are exact copies of the experience of say high school or college teaching, so I'm still unsure whether to completely drop the idea or to embrace it, it's up in the air right now.

I have several other options. I recently did some calculating and I've figured out that with three semesters of intense studying I can get a second major in virtually any subject. A second major would open up a lot of options and could let me explore more career options but it be a large amount of work, and if it's something I'm not interested in it could be a large amount of annoying work. The easiest double major would be with math and my father wants me to go in that direction, largely because he wants me to become a successful professional with a secure high-paying job. His main arguement is that someday I'm going to have a family and so I need to get a good job, but really I don't think I need to make any sacrifices for a family I will only have in maybe 10 years especially when I have no debts (although there is a point that I might have to give my family some money at some point). I'm young and I think this gives me enough time to take some risks with my life before I really settle down (honestly, if I ever am able to). But that's his point. He has also suggested I do something with computer science since that was my planned major upon entering college and again it would give me job security and well pay.

That said, I'm ansy about those options, while I like math and computer science, I really don't like them that much and many of the advanced classes would probably be in the end too much work for not enough interst. On the other hand the jobs that accompany these majors would probably only moderately interesting, with perhaps intriguing problems but not engaging by nature (the exceptions to this would probably be game design, artificial intelligence work, or possibly other research). In addition, this doesn't exactly fit the vision of the active, travelling life I've envisioned for myself, but such visions cannot be set in stone.

The option that has gotten me most interested recently is journalism. It would engage my interest in news, it would allow me to write, hopefully it would let me travel, and it would give me a very active life. However, if I actually wanted to get a journalism degree I'd need to take a whole lot of classes. In addition, my exposure to the world of journalism has been minimal so far, so I might be leaping to conclusions with my affection for it.

Then there is politics. There is always politics. What a career in politics means exactly, however, I'm not really sure, but there is a sort of charm to politics for me, if for no other reason than it promises to deliver the power I've lusted after all my life.

So what to do? Analysis, internships, weighing factors, etc. I hate making choices like this because it inevitably makes certain paths in life harder to follow if not closing them off altogether. Futhermore it brings me closer to actual responsibility, which is frightening. Finally, if I am to arrive at a firm conclusion about my options I'm going to have to work, do activities, meet with professors, go to career services, do internships, all things I am reluctant and or scared to do. However, if I am to be in any way satisfied with my life, such work must be done. In the end it takes discipline, determination, and not a little bit of glory (which your old friend Rand here has in abundance), and so it must be done. I must choose a path wisely, do it foolishly, or avoid doing it and end up shoved into a path, I think of all the options the first just might be the best, and so I've got to take care of business and work over time, work out.

Anyways, that was a lot of rambling, so I think I should wrap things up. Take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

On Passion: Love, Fury, Ambition, Fanaticism, Devotion and all the rest

Greetings to all those in internet land. I think every once and a while I should start out with a greeting instead of launching right into my main point. What is my main point today you might ask? (You might ask that although knowing you bums you probably won't.) My main point is a defense of religion that segways into a more general discussion of passion. Passion is a pretty essential part of the human condition and a while ago I wrote an essay on it. I actually have quite an archive of old writings and so I thought I'd pull this out and place it here. Now since it is old it lacks the polish of my recent gains in writing ability, on the other hand since it is an essay it is more polished than my average blog. Maybe I'll re-write this sometime and re-post it, but anyways without much further ado (or adoo-doo) let me give you my essay On Passion (with essays I like to go with On this or that because that's how all Cicero's stuff is titled in my old textbooks and well, Cicero rocks).

On Passion

Any student of history and human nature can read off examples of times where religion led to bloodshed or worse. Every religion has its share of madmen, but every religion also has its fair share of saints. The difference between the madmen and the saints is difficult to tell at times, and controversial as well. Some would call all religion a mass hysteria and thus anyone who follows it, no matter how saintly his behavior must then be, at least partially, insane. Their proof is the Crusades, the Jihads, and many other examples of religion gone wrong. Yet it should be noted that atheism has not a spotless record, the countless dead of the USSR and Communist China are the most prominent examples of this. Underneath all the slaughters mentioned is a common root. The Crusades were caused by religious passion, the Communist purges were caused by ideological passion, passion is the link. Passion is a powerful emotion, it can prompt a man to disregard his life and the lives of others, it can give people superhuman strength of will, and in certain people and in certain times, passion is massively contagious. And if all that powerful passion is misled, tragedy occurs. Ideologies, philosophies, religions, and all other forms of belief are based on a degree of passion, for all appeal to that very passionate center of the human soul, the search for the truth. Every belief-system offers the truth. The truth is the fundamental bedrock of a person?s existence, their view on the world, the way they act, these are simply ways of carrying out the truth. Accepting something as that important and that central to a person's life requires passion. And passion is powerful, immensely powerful, and so it can lead to some spectacular monstrosities.

Some believe that therefore all passion should be abandoned. Nothing should become centrally important, and nothing should be accepted as the truth. This belief has a certain appeal, a believer in this idea will never kill for the truth, nor will he die for the truth, nor will he feel the agonizing pain of losing what he thought was the truth. I can understand the appeal, but I cannot believe in this idea. Passion can cause horrors but it can also cause miracles. Passion is what drives people to great acts, and these acts can be both horrible and beautiful. Passion drove Mother Theresa to care for the poorest of the poor. Passion drove Patrick Henry to offer his life for liberty. Passion drove Mohandas Gandhi to demand that every man be treated with respect. Passion drove Horatio Nelson to die to save his country from Napoleon. Passion drove Shakespeare to craft his magnificent plays. Without passion no one can see anything as truly great or beautiful, for that requires a full-hearted, unconditional belief in the truth of beauty and greatness.

Greatness and monstrosity both hail from passion. The dual-nature of passion mirrors the dual-nature of the human soul. Human beings have the potential to acquire power and use it to do great deeds, human beings also have the potential to use power to destroy, corrupt, and annihilate. That is the nature of humanity. Thus while passion can be seen as the root of great evil it must not be abandoned or abolished. For to destroy passion would be to lose our capability for living a beautiful life, and when mankind loses that, we lose our humanity.

This discussion started with religion, and so before it ends we should return to that topic. Religion is an object of great passion, and this alone can explain what evil has been done in its name. Yet passion also explains the great good that has been accomplished by those driven by religion. It would be unfair to say that all good deeds are committed by religious people, but it would be just as unfair to say that religion has never driven anyone to do a good deed. Great deeds of virtue require a person to overcome their fears, their personal problems, and the problems of society, to overcome this a person needs passion, and religion can provide this for some. To the faithful religion has many other benefits, but at the very least it inspires. What religion inspires can be good or evil, but it can inspire the truest sort of greatness. -Rand

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Here's to Valentine's Day

My last somewhat whiny post talked a lot about how Valentine's day made me feel lonely, and it does, but I don't want you to think Valentine's Day is a bad holiday. It's a celebration of love and love is something absolutely wonderful. In celebration of that, I'm digging out a poem, or rather a song, which I wrote when I was in love. I couldn't really dig deeper into my love poetry since most of it is either crappy or on a computer at home, but this is something that was very special to me. That's about all I have to say about that. To all the women I've ever loved, I wish you a happy Valentine's Day. To all the women of the world I wish you a rich and happy life. And to all those in love today, well, congradulations.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks! Goodnight Folks! And Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

And the sole survivor watchs us all, he's got the eye of the tiger

I was tempted to just go with "Eye of the Tiger" for the name of this session, but I think that might sound too light and it sort of doesn't give the full feel of the song, which is sort of about the intensity of the drive to triumph (at least I think so), talking about the sole survivor I think more captures that and gives me a good tone to go with the session.

I'm tempted to say this session is about a part of me that people don't really understand, but that would be lame (I mean really, no one understands anyone else, and while that is at times sad, it also allows us to keep a part of ourselves private and solely ours), besides I think some people might understand this part of me, especially since I've explained it to them on occasion. I'm talking about my ambition, to be more negative, my lust for power. I was reading a review by Robert Ebert of the movie Amadeus (I recommend both the movie and Robert Ebert's reviews (thank you Jeff for pointing out how excellent they are, if not always correct (Usual Suspects is a good movie Ebert!!!))) and he talked about the jealousy of a man of normal talent who needs great effort to succeed towards a man of genius-level effortless talent (although I'd like to point out many genius level talents need to constantly practice). I understand that feeling even without personalizing it, but I can personalize it, I have felt that way. I thought about it and I realized I didn't feel that way towards other writers, I have from time to time felt some jealousy especially when reading particularly excellent works but never incredibly intense jealousy which was found in Amadeus (well, maybe a little in regards to incredibly weird works where I'm jealous of their unique creative vision, but that's not something that really sticks with me unlike what I'm about to talk about), in the end I am confident in the quality of my work and my potential as a writer. Who I am jealous about is the powerful, and that is because I am intensely ambitious. I want power, to some extent it makes me high, I wonder if there's a sexual component to it (based on my private fantasies, which I will NOT get into here, I suspect this may be the case), I want to shape the world. There is a somewhat altruistic component to the feeling, I want to change the world to make it a better place, but there is a more primal emotion within me that just wants power and influence, good, bad or whatever. I want to feel the nations of the world tremble before me. I am jealous of the powerful, of those who found ways to creep into power, of those for whom it was so easy to get power, for those who have genius in wielding power (I think there is a real skill and talent to wielding power, the best example of this is perhaps Lyndon Johnson, who lacked charisma but made up that deficit with an amazing ability to get things done even if at times his means were unethical and illegal).

Right now I feel powerless, and honestly I'm uncertain on how to acquire power or if it will ever be mine, at times I think I might have some ability to manage and acquire power, but my reality tend to deflate those feelings. I am a college student, I have no influence, I have no great strength, if I died tomorrow it would have an impact on those around me but it would not have a national impact nor a global one. At times I want power so badly it almost hurts, but I try to push that aside, I must live with my lust for power and I can perhaps take advantage of it, but I cannot let it rule me or destroy me. But it does drain me, feeling powerless I wonder what is the use of trying to succeed when my ambitions seem infinitely far away, often because they are in the end so great. I try to deflate them, to narrow them, and I can at times focus them on more short-term goals, but to truly dismiss my at times grandious ambitions seems for me impossible.

That said, I don't think this is a case where I need to be depressed without power. If I can feel that what I'm doing with my life is bringing me closer to power, I can derive some satisfaction from that fact, but I don't feel that way now. Primarily because I don't know the path to power, the plans I do have seem to ambitious and they are constrained by my old enemies fear and anxiety which in a little vicious circle feed off of my feelings of powerlessness. I need I think to find a way, a profession, something that can make feel like I'm making progress towards making an impact (spiritually, culturally, economically, politically, etc., I'm not that particular since I understand the importance of the various dimensions of power and I'm not a Marxian, man is not simply an economic beast), I need to overcome my fears and anxieties to do this, but I find it difficult, exhausting, especially since I'm trying to make progress towards making progress and so my ultimate goals still seem so far away.

So am I just ambition? No, I understand and prize the value of smaller things, of interactions between family and friends, of helping people on a smaller scale, of just finding joy in day to day things, but ultimately I find that is not enough. Maybe this is something I need to work harder on, but it's very difficult to find my life adequate without some quest for power. Except, except there is one other thing which I think can replace my lust for power. A woman I suppose (children too I guess but that's getting way to ahead of myself). I am at heart a hopeless romantic, and if I feel that I am working towards a romantic relationship I think I can derive a lot of satisfaction in life simply from that. That I suppose gets to the other type of people who I am intensely jealous of, people who have romantic relationships, people who acquired them effortlessly, naturally, in a way I can never hope to achieve. Maybe I can find romance in time, but it will never be easy, it will never be simple. As I have lived my life I have seen many of my relatives, siblings, and friends achieve such relationships and it makes me feel more and more emotionally retarded, and desperately jealous. The season undoubtably plays a role in this. It is nearing Valentine's Day and while I am saved from overexposure by my lack of TV, I still feel the day approaching (actually it is only 40 minutes away (I realize that the time of posting does not reflect that, but the time of posting only reflects when I started the session not when I actually posted it (yes it takes me that long to write a session, what of it want to fight (I actually think my love of fighting has partially to do with my ambition, although partially it has to do with the beauty of motion expressed in fighting, and part of it has to do with the intensity of the emotions present and depth of human nature expressed (I wonder if I started a fight club whether that would cheer me up, maybe but that is not a long term solution I imagine))).

But Valentine's Day, that is something isn't it, really, all my life I've wanted some girl to share that day with, but it's never happened, and perhaps it never will. Some people don't have romantic relationships, there are some who are not suited for them (the Bible actually addresses this although in today's culture we assume that everyone must eventually get married, ironically the feminist movement rejects this while often citing the Bible as anti-feminist, which it is at points, but my defense of the Bible (and I am preparing a strong and vigorous one) will have to await for another session)). But I want one, damn it! And I could use one. High school taught me, rather painfully not to depend on getting a woman to save you (I think perhaps I've overlearned the lesson of not depending on people, of course this also is part of my ambition thing, the more you depend on people, the less powerful you feel, generally, although I try to remind myself that that is only true when you're overdependent)), but having a romantic relationship I think would help to soothe my mind a little. Talking to a woman you care about gives you a sense of peace, not the kind of peace where you feel like you're taking a break from the world, but a sort of peace where you feel that you're still productive, still active, but at the same time completely satisfied with your life. It is another sort of high, but it's a semi-religious feeling (I think perhaps I over idolize the romantic relationship which will probably cause problems when or if I ever get involved in one). I felt that sometimes when I thought perhaps I had a girlfriend (an episode I'm unlikely to talk about here for at least many years after the fact to avoid talking about a person whom I still care deeply about behind their back). I'd like to feel that way again. I'd like to feel love, real man-woman romantic love, I'd really like to have that. But as Valentine's Day approaches, I must mark another year without that, or at least without a real relationship where the love is exchanged and not just a one sided obsession (although this last year did not really have that either, although there were girls I did like, the emotion did not rise to the level of love (I kept it that way by making sure to repress the temptation to overblow my feelings)). But what you going to do. Well, I could have done something today by going to a speed-dating event, but in the end I did not go. I probably should have, since now my only option is to approach my romantic prospects which I'm actually horrible at. This sucks, it really does, but it's life, and it's Valentine's day, so good luck to all those in love, I'm intensely and profoundly jealous of you, but I'm still the romantic and so I wish you good luck.

I should wrap this up, so to conclude, I've got a lust for power and I have no romance and both of those are fueling dissatisfaction in my life, and while I can work on that, my immediate prospects of solving these problems is not great and so, well, it sucks, but I'm going to have to get over it. I asked my psycologist if life ever gets easy to live after he told me to push past these negative emotions to get things done, and he says that if I keep pushing through the emotions it should get easier by repeated practice, maybe, but right now life's hard (and no I don't need to talk about it my friends, I've talked about my problems so many times I'm throughly tired of that, I understand you're there for me, but ultimately you can't solve my problems, you can help and maybe I should reach out for that help more, but really ultimately the problems are mine to solve). But like I said I should wrap things up, so well, take it to your heart, take it to your head, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!



When you justify your actions

it is not enough to say the right way is for saints

and I am not a saint.

If you say you're realistic

it means you want success

for you

for others

or maybe it just means you want to stretch out your life a few more years

but has no more to do with reality

than any other motivation

it has to do with you.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Season of the Witch

I used this title for another session but it was always intended for this session, for this session I will reveal my connection to a witch. Dun, dun, dun. But seriously folks I thought it might be interesting for you all to take a glimpse into a real mental breakdown of mine that happened last September. I used to have better documentation of it but I lost a lot of my papers last year so I'm only going to be able to put up part of it. Anyways with that build-up I should get to the meat of the matter (this is more the salad of the matter, maybe the appetizer or maybe just a palate-cleansing snack or something of the like).

Pardon the non-polish of this, but it is a historical record more than a publishable poem:

I give up my path to the moon
And I give my self to you
So that you might give me your heart

She was sarcastic, sardonic, dismissive, a little bit punk, a trouble-maker and of course a witch
Still she loved me enough to devout herself to me
I'm not sure if I love her
Or simply want to save her so badly it hurts
But I mourn because of a dream

She appeared first like a little sphere, like a those beads in anime, I think they're from some sort of Buddhist rosary
She was on her way to the moon
And I was standing there, thinking about something, maybe imagining some cows dancing in the sky
And for some reason there she devouted herself to me
And she helped me or saved me during a journey or task of some sort
And when she was done she became a sphere again
And disappeared
For she had given up her soul to stay on Earth
And now it was gone

I think it goes to some monster, the devourer of souls
But there has to be a way to save her

Somewhat strange stuff eh? But you might say, eh I've read stranger poems. But the thing is this isn't a poem, these are the thoughts I recorded one morning after a particularly disturbing dream (use disturbing in the literal sense) and I just naturally sort of formatted into a sort of poetic form as I was jotting them down. Maybe I should provide a little background to clarify.

By little background, I mean a little background. Well, last September some stuff happened which I'm not going to get into which led to the disturbing dream which led to those thoughts above. I can't get into the possible triggers, but let me talk about the dream and elaborate on those thoughts. The dream itself was adventure based. Me and a buddy were going on a quest, on our way a witch fell in love with me, decided to help me in my journey and at the end of the journey she was sent to the realm of Yoggoloth, devourer of souls. The reasoning was, witches apparently were beads of light on Earth who then as they matured travelled to the moon, but this particular witch, whose name, much to my chargin, I can't remember, let's call her M (for some reason it made sense to me then to call her M as a placeholder for her real name), well, M, in love with me for some reason (apparently I was acting particularly goofy and innocent at the time) decided to say something like the following:

I give up my path to the moon
And I give my self to you
So that you might give me your heart

And apparently this meant that she would be a companion on my journey and then give her soul to Yogolloth devourer of souls.

Now with my dreams often they will repeat over the same territory, ironing over some nonsensical points sometimes while adding other nonsensical points and changing plot-lines. Sometimes after all is said and done the repeat only vaguely resembles the original dream (By repeated dreams I mean within the same night, all of this was only during one night). But the dreams repeated and I became more and more focused on saving her. There were some strange varients on this, including one where I think I gave both our souls in exchange for eternal life, but without our souls we became decadent and moralless and eventually I gave her to Yogoloth anyways. Wierd, eh? But that is just the beginning.

The real season of the witch began the next day. When I woke up I was overwelmed by a feeling of intense sorrow and guilt over her loss. This was a dream and yet I was in mourning. Most likely it was related to things that had occured the days before the dream, but like I said I can't go into that, honestly it would be disrespectful to. But I was mourning for this dream and that is when I jotted down the thoughts about the witch in the poetic words above. And it wasn't simply me writing down a dream (although I do do that on occassion), I, or at least part of me, actually believed in her reality. And so the sorrow and guilt became real, as did my determination to save her, and none of this added to my mental stability. The next couple days were going to be rough.

And they were. It didn't help that I had to go back to Rutgers. But I occupied my time jotting down semi-fevered thoughts about the witch and the situation and about what I should do. I wish I still had the notebook with those thoughts but I've been losing notebooks around the campus (if anyone finds them please call (609) 240-6339, they're green-covered Steno-brand small notebooks). I became determined that perhaps the dream was a preminition that she was going to come to Earth because of me and that I had to act to save her soul. I had no idea how to do this, although I considered doing some research into magic. There was a certain air of excitement to this I had to say, a certain sense that finally something strange and magical was entering into my life but it was matched with sorrow, worry and guilt over her soul and its fate with Yogoloth. I perhaps overstate this matter a little because I was not really fully convinced about the reality of this witch, but rather my mind went back and forth over the matter, which honestly perhaps made it more disturbed than if I commited myself one way or the other.

Eventually, I tried thinking of her, searching for clues in the fragments of the dream and perhaps trying to invoke more dreams from wherever the first one came. Other than the preminition theory, I also debated the idea that perhaps this was a record of things that had come to past in an alternate dimension and that she and I had than travelled here to escape from Yogoloth and we were in some way reborn, but the gist of our story, including the death of her soul were doomed to repeat themselves unless I acted. Because of this I hoped if I could somehow access the memories of this alternate dimension maybe I'd understand something more about this. I also tried asking people about lucid dreaming, hoping again for some information, although I never really acted on this idea. This digging in my mind provoked some strange thoughts, and brought my mental turmoil to its peak.

The worst I got in this period was perhaps the second day after the dream. I was trying to get a better picture of her in my mind or perhaps get an idea of what her personality was like, perhaps so I could recognize her if she came into my life. Slowly I started thinking, what would she say now in this situation, and I started imagining it, and then I started imagining my response and then her response until I began to think that perhaps I was now somehow telepathically speaking to her. It was strange because I sort of understood that I was more or less imagining her character, but then again I thought if I could tap into my unconscious I could find her there. What kind of stuff did I here from her you might ask? Well, she told me to stop this, to stop thinking of her, she told me she wasn't real, and she made sometimes sarcastic sort of remarks which sort of fit her personality as I imagined it. She was what I thought of her, deeply concerned about me, but also a sarcstic, intensely cool girl who alternated between hiding her feelings and blurting them out. And so in my head I held dialogues and they continued for perhaps 1/2 a day, perhaps a whole day, and then I took a nap.

My mind was tired and I needed a break from these thoughts, and also I wanted to try to visit her through my dreams. There was a knock on the door (or perhaps on a nearby door) and I awoke. When I awoke the dialogue thoughts were gone, my mind felt strangely at peace. Even when I tried invoking the dialogue thoughts I could not find them. And then I thought perhaps this means she has come, and so I ran over to the door and opened it, to find absolutely nothing. The knock I heard was probably on someone else's door or perhaps an auditory illusion (I've had some of those). The worst was now over, although the whole of the matter was not.

I still was convinced she had come and so I thought I now had to scan the women I met to see if I could find her. What I remembered of her from my dreams was basically a composite of an anime character and a manga character so I suspected I did not know her actual appearance or perhaps she could change appearances. But I also I had to go to class. When I was running to class I saw a white pigeon, I mean pigeons are always white but this was an unusually bright white and next to it was a pretty red haired girl who very well could have been the witch, or so I thought at the time (one of the powers I assumed the witch had was some ability to manipulate animals), but I didn't stop to talk to her. That fact would haunt me for some months until this whole experience ended.

The rest of my time when I was obsessed with the witch idea was marked by small things like that. I would keep an eye out for girls who could be her and try to talk to more women. I kept trying to see the moon because it was when she was travelling to the moon in my dream she saw me and decided to stay on Earth (I pondered whether I should actually avoid the moon because if I did maybe she would actually go to the moon and never lose her soul, although in my imagination I developed the idea that the moon was actually a spiritual wasteland and she would lose her soul there or on Earth, but on Earth I could act to save her). I prayed every day for her. And I felt guilt and sorrow over her. The whole mess probably aggrevated my mental illness, but I kept on with it for about a semester, although like I said my mind would switch back and forth between belief and disbelief. Slowly I became more and more convinced that this idea of the witch was not real, and that it was just my imagination and probably due to the events of September (also I reasoned that if it was real, I would be forced to encounter her sooner or later, since in the dream she sought me out). My last gasp of this idea came at the end of the semester. There was a girl who occassionally I suspected was the witch and so I gathered up the courage to speak to her hoping to settle the matter. And so I did and while she turned out to be a nice young lady, she was far too cheery and easy-going to be the woman from my dreams (I did not explain to her my actual motivations for talking to her since honestly, this is a pretty insane idea). Finally I laid the idea to rest, and I moved on with my life (although I had a full-on mental breakdown a couple days later, it was actually more related to finals than to this matter, but in the process of beating my self down (during my breakdowns typically I will repeat to myself insults and accusations) I used this idea occassionally and probably the mental stress may have left me vunerable to this (although it could also be that without the sense of mission the quest to find the witch gave me I became more vunerable to the breakdown).

Still occassionally I wonder, what is reality? Is it so impossible for my dream to come true? Definitely according to the universe as I understand it now, but what if how I understand the universe now isn't all there is, what if there is more and what if the witch is waiting for me, out there somewhere? But that is just wondering and in the realm of wonder is where the witch will have to dwell, the woman who gave her soul to help me on my journey will have to just be a ghost of a dream. Perhaps someday I will make a story of all of this, but until then this will just be a strange episode of my life, burned in my memory, but no longer an obsession twisting my mind (seriously, I do not want any of my friends or family who read this convinced that this is how I am presently, or even typically thinking, this was an odd-ball freak occurance in my head that has ended and no longer is a problem, seriously, do not read too much into this). Still it is interesting and so I thought I would share my tale of the season of the witch.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Suspend reality (especially with sci-fi and fantasy)

Whenever my brother complains how unrealistic a tv show, book or movie is I tend to yell at him "Suspend reality, damn it!" And then I tend to call him a bum a couple times. But that might be a bit simplistic for understanding the unreal worlds in fantasy and sci-fi media (I'm going to concentrate on tv, but many of these points apply equally as well if not better to comics, books, movies, etc.). At times, certain works are supposed to be realistic. Battlestar Galactica prides itself on elements of realism (although you have to except the premises of the world they make) and if it becomes unrealistic (like when Adama encountered that crazy vetern who sends him through mental trama which he really shouldn't have experienced and then the vetern just is shoved into the fleet never to be seen again) then it loses some of the touch.

Yet other times you understand that a sci-fi and fantasy show might not act realistic even given the premises of the show. I was watching Gundam Wing and I realized, even given the space colonies and the presence of Gundanium, and Earth Alliance, etc., how did a guy like Treize become virtual ruler of the world, even if it is for but a moment. In the real world, real politics probably wouldn't of let this happen at least not as easily as it did. I also think that the abilities of the Gundams seem inconsistent at times, sometimes they are virtually invincible, sometimes they are very strong but still are not necessarily able to defeat all their enemies. But when it comes down to it, I realized that it doesn't matter. The inconsistencies, the unrealistic politics, the strange actions, they all serve to build a work of art which might not be realistic but is fantastic. It is like an abstract sculpture, it might not mimic a real object, but it can still be beautiful. The unreal elements help build the story, the characters, the setting, the ideas most of all, instead of detracting from them. It is what I would like to call, expressionistic tv. It doesn't really necessarily make sense, but that's ok, it appeals to the mind and summons up feelings that cover for that lack of sense.

I mean, it is nice sometimes to see realism in fantasy/sci-fi TV, I liked Mobile Suit Gundam 0083 in part because it was more realistic, but I've learned that I can appreciate the unreality, even the lack of sense. Serial Experiments Lain for example, although you can piece it all together, it doesn't really have to be all understood for you to get a sense of it, to get ideas from it, to empathize with the characters. It is a gestult, which means the parts build a greater whole and while the parts don't necessarily make sense (and some of the part of Serial Experiments Lain are completely insane and sometimes wildly tangental, only making sense through the deepest of analyses and some stretching of the show's main ideas), the whole does, and the whole is an excellent work of art.

So don't worry if the fantasy show doesn't show the reality of midevil warfare, or if the sci-fi show doesn't necessarily carry through all the implications of a technology, sometimes it's ok to miss that stuff as long as the whole you create is excellent. Creating that greater whole however, is incredibly difficult, but that my friends is a story for another day.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The alienable and the unalienable

I've been rather sporadic with my sessions lately, but that comes largely from my decision to cut down on the whining, which forces me to work more on presenting ideas and such, and well, ideas are hard things to articulate and such. They're such slippery rascals when you get down to it, at one point you think you grasp the idea and are ready to put it down on paper, but then oops it's gone and you feel like a complete and utter idiot. But I've got some ideas and even if they're slippery it's a worthwhile endevor I think to pin them down, cut them open, gut them, cook on them and then make them into a nice and tasty curry.

Let's start with an idea of human rights. Human rights has been a pretty popular concept, at least in the '90s when I was growing up. Of course, key matters has been interpretations, limitations and value. And now, especially a popular issue is cultural relevance. But Americans seem to think they are relevant, at least in regards to themselves, at least most of the time. The Bill of Rights is popular and that shows some appreciation of human rights, and nearly all Americans will applaud the sentiment "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (To my shame, although I could paraphrase it off the top of my head, the exact wording I had to get off the internet, but give me a break, it took me till 7th grade to memorize my parents phone numbers.) But when you think about it that core statement of the Declaration of Independence is very complex and has implications for today.

Part of the complexity comes from key words like "all men (now regarded as men in the figurative sense meaning all mankind, although I'm not sure it would be regarded as such back then (I'm really unsure of this because some of the Founding Fathers were rather feminist in their views of the rights of women))" and "unalienable." Let us compare this to recent criticisms of the war in Iraq as promoting a Western ideal of human rights. This critique impliciting would contradict the idea that the rights apply to all men, and despite the fact that this contradicts some of the loftiest ideals that founded this nation, a lot of people in the United States would be ok in abandoning those words. But the implication that human rights are Western also carries other implications, ones that threaten the word "unalienable."

I think we forget part of the complexity of the Declaration of Independence because everyone, especially Americans and to a lesser but still very large extent Europeans, have selective memories regarding history. We like to think that human rights are an integral part of Western culture, unseperable from it, something so key to Western culture that it can be traced to its oldest roots. We like to quote the Greeks and Romans in this regard, and we pick and choose a few other writers here and there. But like I said this is selective, very, very selective. Europe was never historically renown for human rights. Those good old Greeks relied on a massive system of slavery, even those much lauded Athenians. The Romans, well, the Romans, I like the Romans I really do, I like their culture, I like their contributions to law, literature, etc., I love their language and I want to be best buds with Cicero (it will happen, the time machine is in the works), but they are not a good example of human rights. Let's look at their foreign policy. Over the course of their republic and empire they conquered a massive amount of land and did so incredibly brutally. The conquest of Gaul is said to have killed a million and left a million slaves. The completely annihilated Carthagian civilization, despite the fact that after the Third Punic War Carthage was already crippled by the peace treaties of the two previous wars. The crushing of the Jewish rebellion by Titus in AD 70 killed probably a million Jews, maybe more, exiled most of the rest and destroyed the center of Jewish cultural life, the Temple. Let's get to the domestic policy. Massive, massive, massive slavery. Persecution of Christians (not as much as legend says, but still signifcant) and after the Romans became Christians perecution of other religions. Murder of political dissetents. Exile of offensive writers (poor Ovid). They didn't treat women or children very good either. Romans are very cool but not very nice. Those are the roots of Western Civilization, from there it just gets better right? Wrong. Midevil ages, oppression of serfs, persecution of heritics and non-Christians (yeah, Jews rule the world, that's why they've gotten the shaft consistantly for 2,000 years), brutal warfare (Christian Europe was renown for the brutality of its warfare), etc., etc. I'm taking up too much space with this section, so let me wrap up.

The Modern Era: Holocaust!!! Westerners committed the Holocaust!!! How can you say Western has human rights at its center when Westerners the Holocaust!!!

Other problems of the modern era caused by the Western world: Fascism, Communism, Imperialism, oppression of minorities, forced migration of minorities, oppression of dissetents, etc., etc.

Yeah, Western culture is not inherintly human rights centered, but I've discussed mostly European examples, maybe you can say human rights is at the center of American culture, well... I love the United States, I am a patriot through and through, when we said the pledge of allegience in class, I meant it, but I'm not a blind man and I am a historian. The United States has done some very, very bad, bad things. It has supported horrific regimes (Pol Pot was given US aid, as was Saddam Hussein (which was a mistake, turning against him in our opinion is not hypocracy, it is the correction of that mistake (although the Iraq War was not right though, but Saddam Hussein was still a horrible, horrible, horrible man, and much of the violence happening now has its roots in what he did)). And at home we've got slavery, decimation of Native Americans, discrimination (up till the '60s it still was crippling and there are still problems today although I think we've had a lot of progress), denial of women's rights, etc.

The human rights enshrined by the declaration of independence are not inherintly Western, because the West has historically ignored and abused human rights to horrific effect. It's not good, it's just not good. Human rights are popular now, but they weren't in the past, and who knows what the future may bring. Combine that with the idea that human rights are cultural and we get a very disturbing result. Cultures change, and since human rights in the West isn't inherint, then say culture changes so America doesn't value human rights anymore, say we don't even like the Bill of Rights (that has not happened yet, despite what some doom sayers have said, but there are some worrying signs that if trends continue it could happen later), well then we don't need human rights any more.

If human rights only matter if the culture supports it, then they are not inalienable. If we say we should only support human rights in a nation if their culture supports human rights, then in the future we might have to give up the fight for human rights in America. The same goes for democracy. Now don't get me wrong. I am not advocating invasion of every country that doesn't support human rights or democracy. I believe in a law between nations that states you do not use armed aggression to change other nations domestic policies. The only justifications for war are self-defense (not pre-emption, thank you very much neo-cons) and defense of another country (we should sometimes ignore this, but I'll get into my feelings on when to declare war in a later session). But I believe in organizations like Amnesty International, Freedom House, etc., private organizations that fight for human rights through organizations and such. I believe in using diplomatic, and when useful (key word) economic pressure (however, this is often useless and then becomes detrimental to innocents, but at times it is useful, see South Africa) to help change human rights. I understand that the way the world is we sometimes can't change human rights in a country and still need to work with it, but whenever we are able to do so we should challenge countries on human rights (I know this is inconsistent, but if we were being consistent we could never do anything on human rights because some human rights violators are too powerful and too vital for us to take on in a big fashion, although we can take on them in a small fashion with periodic rebukes and such). It doesn't matter what country it is, what culture that country has, whether its Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or any other (and there are other religions), human rights still matter and should still be fought for (if not by foreign militaries, except in cases where you're already going to war with a country, in which case you should try to change the government, although you can't always if the country's too strong). Why? Because human beings are beautiful and should not be abused. Because, well, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (thank you cut and paste.)

Well that's all I have to say on the matter, for now at least. So take it your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Women, the Cause of and Solution to All of Life's Problems

I wonder if anyone does start reading this blog regularly and then meets me after the fact what they will think of me. But it really doesn't matter that much, especially since I've written nothing too off-putting, just mildly embarassing at most. Well, perhaps the whining would be a little worrying, but hopefully if I cut down on that in the future and if I can build a large archieve of these to dilute the previous whining ones, it shouldn't be too much of a problem. So on to other things.

Let me talk about a subject near and dear to my heart, women. Ah, women, as the title of this session suggests, they are the cause of and solution to all of life's problems (paraphrasing a little something from the Simpsons (Homer vs. the Eighteenth Admendment)). While the phrase is remarkably catchy, I think it is also amazingly accurate. Women have an amazing ability to make men sweat, just by their very presence. Around women we stand up straighter, hold in our gut a little, clean up our jokes, etc. I wonder what men would be like without women. I know I for one would probably be bathing once every three days, brushing my teeth half as often, and I'd probably be twice as fat. I mean sure I like bathing, brushing, and keeping my body in not awful shape for personal reasons, but all that stuff takes up time and energy and I need to deal with rather akward anxieties surrounding them. My own purely personal motivations aren't enough to drive me to take care of my appearance, however, I know that women are all around me, so I know I have to spend at least some effort (although I don't really spend enough time maintaining my appearance). But back to my point, women make men sweat. And that does make them do good things, but it also can overwelm them with anxiety, it's the two sides of the same coin, women cause men to perform, and performance can be highly productive but it can also wrack nerves raw. And that's just the mere presence of a woman, once you start talking to her, well then, that's when things get interesting.

It's been my experience that women are potentially calming figures in general. With other men, even friends there's this underlying air of competition, in some way we are competing, trying to show ourselves off stronger and better than the others so we can impress some woman, add to this a tendancy among males to be naturally more ambitious and agressive (take good note of the word tendancy, I believe while men tend towards certain personality types, and women tend towards others, the tendencies are not overwelming nor are they cast in stone, I've met women more aggressive than me and men much, much more passive than women) and you get a sort of tension when men get together that's not present when a man meets a woman. Instead, once of course the whole man's anxiety over appearance and behavior settles down, a woman can have a positive effect. A lot of this I think has to do with the female aesthetic and it's influence on men. The looks of women make men happy. Men like the faces, curves, skin, etc. of women (as you should understand by now I'm talking about heterosexual men), even in a non-sexual sense. Women, in general, are beautiful. Perhaps this is my personal perspective because I have perhaps a wider perception of beauty in women than other men (I realize that might sound highly vain, but what the hell, I am Rand after all), but being around a woman is often like being around a work of art, your mood is soothed by the positive aesthetic.

Right now I have only skimmed the complex relationship between men and women who are not in a relationship, but I feel I should move on a little to the relationship. Here my personal history allows me to show how accurate the idea that women are the cause of and solution to all of life's problems is, however, if I were too specific, I might make embarrassing remarks and possibly give offense to other people so I'll talk in more general terms. In a good relationship, women are highly effective in moderating the destructive sides of the emotions of men. Durkheim showed that men who are married have far lower suicide rates. When a man is in a good relationship he's able to find a santuary from all of his problems in that relationship, he also becomes more invested in life because if he messes up he suddenly has something to lose other than himself, so he's less likely to take stupid chances. I think men tend (again this is only a tendency not a rule) to take more risks and tend to expose themselves to more danger and so a good relationship between a man and a woman tends to favor the former more than the latter though undoutably, if the relationship is actually healthy it should be beneficial to the woman as well. That said, the relationship is often the source of countless problems for men as well.

Good relationships help men, yes that's true, but finding a good relationship with a woman is often difficult and can spawn many annoying and/or serious and/or annoying problems. I mean it's not hard to imagine this, a man and a woman have to form a connection in a relationship where neither knows what the other's thinking. One interprets something this way, another interprets it another way, suddenly there is a conflict which can overwelm both their lives with misery. Two people can never know really what the other thinks. Much of what exists in our minds is inexpressible, and so we are left groping in the dark trying to do the right thing to build the relationship, and if we do the wrong thing we are struck with guilt, shame and sorrow. It's not easy. I'm not sure if men or women have the worse end of this situation, but it's hard on both sides. Many a good man and woman has been brought to destruction by the struggle to find a good relationship, but we keep on trying, it is in our nature.

Ok, with all of that having been said, I will admit that the title and phrase exaggerates things. Women are not the cause of and solution to all of life's problems. There are problems, indeed some of the most important ones, that have nothing to do with women. My toughest problems have usually to do with crises of the mind, and although women sometimes intertwine themselves in these, ultimately the problem lies in my head not in them. Still, I have had plenty a headache from women, and yet, well, there was one brief moment when I felt like I was in a relationship, and whenever I talked to the girl I felt a wave of peace come over me, it was an intoxicating feeling, on the other hand when my illusions about the relationship were finally dispelled my mood plummetted. Still even those feelings were intertwined with my cycles of mania and depression during that period. Perhaps it would be more accurate, although bulkier and less catchy to say women, the sometimes partial, sometimes full cause of and solution to many of life's serious problems, but that would be bulkier and less catchy. And if we took a grander view we could see that without women we would not have humanity, and without humanity we would not have life's problems or solutions.

So here's to women, the cause of and solution to all of life's problems.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Just put on a happy face

So if anyone has been reading my sessions consistantly they'll find out that I've been whining about my problems, and perhaps I was justified in that given that I was going through some very annoying stuff lately, but as I always say it does not go to wallow in your problems, so I'm going to aim for the next few sessions to only have a minimum to do with my mood. This session itself won't be anything much more than that, because that statement doesn't lend itself to an organic segway, especially not a segway to a topic I can relate to the starter, so I'll try to post something else up soon. Until then, take it your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Downward Spiral

I'm not doing well. I'm doing pretty shittily in fact. I'm having trouble making myself do actions like going outside, going to class, brushing my teeth, etc. I'm generally not in a good state of mind right now. Like I always say, I'm not the worse off, but I'm not in a good place. And things seem to be getting worse, or at best staying still. Ultimately though, I have no idea what to do. I have faith, I believe God will see me through all this somehow, but I have no idea how. I'm really tired of this mental disease crap, I really am and I'm just really tired of all this. But whatever. My mind is foggy and unclear, and I forgot to take my medication today, but heck I was really screwed up yesterday and so I don't know how much of a factor that is. I know this breakdown now will slowly build up my problems until I can finally break or I am broken out of it, and then I'll have to deal with all those built-up problems, and then what, I'm not sure. I'm really tired of trying to articulate my feelings, trying to write things, produce things, I dunno, but writing is perhaps the only thing I can do write now that gives me at least some satisfaction in life so I should probably keep that up. I really believe I can't give up on my life because that's just wrong, really it is, when it comes down to it I know that I am at my core a good person, heck, in fact every person has enough good in them that killing them is wrong. I really wish I was more articulate with this, but I really can't be bothered with that right now. Anyhow, I hope this sees all my readers well. Don't worry too much about me, I've gotten through worse scraps, and I've got God on my side who can stand against me, what disease can triumph, if I have God on my side?

Well, that's about that and take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!