It’s hard to believe this photo is from 1933, but it is. That’s the last time there was a rally as large as last weeks on Wall Street.
I saw this story noted in a few places over the past few days…it is being presented as a positive sign, but for those who are too lazy to do the math, let me point out that the last rally happened on August 8, 1932.
Hmmm…what was happening in 1932?
Japan occupied Shanghai and arrived in Nanking.
Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World.
The League of Nations proved worthless in averting World War.
Hitler was naturalized as a German citizen.
Herbert Hoover was President. Roosevelt defeated him.
Massive riots in Bombay (Mumbai) between Hindus and Muslims.
Uh-oh. Maybe we shouldn’t look at what happened in 1933.
Unsustainable Energy Trends By Byron King
I’ve been getting a lot of calls and e-mails from people asking about the falling prices for oil in recent weeks. The immediate explanation is that world economic activity is decelerating. Demand is falling. OPEC announced cuts in output. But the markets still believe that economic decline will trump the ability of OPEC to prop up the price of oil. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Just over the horizon, things are about to become dicey. This week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) will release a new report on the future of world energy. In its World Energy Outlook, the IEA will state categorically that “Current global trends in energy supply and consumption are patently unsustainable.”
There’s not much wiggle room in that statement. According to the IEA, despite the recent fall in oil prices, the medium- and long-term outlooks for energy supply are grim. Conventional oil output is destined to decline. Demand will still grow, however, especially in the developing world. And the twain shall only meet by prices rising to clear the market. “It is,” as our Arab friends like to say, “written.”
Last night I went to the 50th birthday party of a friend and mentor. It was a very nice time. Of course, today is the day I officially become homeless again (though not friendless and so not without a place to hang my very nice hat) and so that is a bit odd. It’s been a long time since I didn’t have a place of my own. Four years…seems like a long time anyway. So that was on my mind while I was talking with a few people and one of them mentioned that he recently was talking with Marshall Sahlins, and I realized that the book I’ve been reading on the toilet lately is by the same Marshall Sahlins. That was odd (and I’ve just realized that he and I share the same horrid birthday of December 27 from his wiki page). Then, in the midst of a fantastic spoken word performance in honor of the birthday girls first half century and what she knows, it hit me that the four year old child that had been taking pictures of the back of my head and closeups of my hairy ears is the niece of soon to be President Obama and that her mother, sitting on the couch next to me, is the sister of the President to be.
All of this struck me as very funny when combined with my imminent (or perhaps I should say emminent) homeless-ness and the advent of my next vagabonding adventures.
I wonder if President Obama will get a chance to see the closeups of my hairy ears. Maybe he will be struck by them. In any event, by posting this, I am hopefully making sure that he will be able to identify the man who wears those ears.
He’s right of course, but that doesn’t mean we are going to listen to him.
The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual and temporal leader, on Friday said sex spelt fleeting satisfaction and trouble later, while chastity offered a better life and “more freedom.”
“Sexual pressure, sexual desire, actually I think is short period satisfaction and often, that leads to more complication,” the Dalai Lama told reporters in a Lagos hotel, speaking in English without a translator.
He said conjugal life caused “too much ups and downs.
“Naturally as a human being … some kind of desire for sex comes, but then you use human intelligence to make comprehension that those couples always full of trouble. And in some cases there is suicide, murder cases,” the Dalai Lama said.
He said the “consolation” in celibacy is that although “we miss something, but at the same time, compare whole life, it’s better, more independence, more freedom.”
Considered a Buddhist Master exempt from the religion’s wheel of death and reincarnation, the Dalai Lama waxed eloquent on the Buddhist credo of non-attachment.
“Too much attachment towards your children, towards your partner,” was “one of the obstacle or hindrance of peace of mind,” he said.
Revered by his followers as a god-king, the Dalai Lama arrived in Lagos on Friday on a three-day visit following an invitation from a foundation to attend a conference. He has made no political speeches in the west African country.
He leaves Friday night for the Czech Republic and then on to Brussels to address the European Parliament before heading to Poland, where he is due to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The 73-year-old Nobel Peace laureate has been a mainstay on the diplomatic stage ever since he fled his native land for neighbouring India in 1959.
Still based in northern India, the Dalai Lama has increasingly been in the spotlight since protests in Tibet turned violent in March this year, just months before the Chinese capital Beijing hosted the Summer Olympic Games.
Regarded by his many supporters outside China as a visionary in the vein of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his accent on non-violence to achieve change.
However, he is reviled by the Chinese government, which has branded him a “monster” and accused him of trying to split the nation.
I know that I haven’t written in a while about the dramatic changes that I think we are just beginning to see, but I don’t want you to think that I’ve stopped believing. We are living in the midst of the most incredible events in human history. Things are changing and they are changing very fast. Mumbai is, unfortunately, the first link in a fairly terrible chain of events. As usually happens when things such as this go on, there are signs visible to those who are willing to look. Here is one that you can see in a couple of nights:
Monday evening, Dec. 1, a slender crescent moon, just 15-percent illuminated, will appear in very close proximity to the two brightest planets in our sky, Venus and Jupiter.
Venus has adorned the southwestern twilight sky since late August. No other star or planet can come close to matching Venus in brilliance. During World War II, aircraft spotters sometimes mistook Venus for an enemy airplane. There were even cases in which Venus drew antiaircraft fire.
This winter, Venus is the unrivaled evening star that will soar from excellent to magnificent prominence in the southwest at nightfall. The interval by which it follows the Sun will increase from nearly three hours on Dec. 1 to almost four hours by Jan. 1. It’s probably the first “star” you’ll see coming out after sunset. In fact, if the air is very clear and the sky a good, deep blue, try looking for Venus shortly before sunset.
Jupiter starts December just above Venus and is moving in the opposite direction, dropping progressively lower each evening. By month’s end Jupiter meets up with another planet – Mercury – but by then Jupiter is also descending deep into the glow of sunset. In January, Jupiter will be too close to the Sun to see; it’s in conjunction with the Sun on Jan. 24.
A very close conjunction of the crescent moon and a bright star or planet can be an awe-inspiring naked-eye spectacle. The English poet, critic and philosopher, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) used just such a celestial sight as an ominous portent in his epic, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” In addition, there are juxtaposed crescent moon and star symbols that have appeared on the flags of many nations, including Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, Algeria, Mauritania, and Tunisia.
Also on Monday evening, you may be able to see the full globe of the moon, its darkened portion glowing with a bluish-gray hue interposed between the sunlit crescent and not much darker sky. This vision is sometimes called “the old moon in the young moon’s arms.” Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was the first to recognize it as what we now call “earthshine.”
As beautiful as the view of Venus, Jupiter and the moon will be from North America, an even more spectacular sight awaits those living in parts of Western Europe where the moon will pass in front of Venus.
Astronomers refer to this phenomenon as an “occultation,” taken from the Latin word occultāre, which means “to conceal.” This eye-catching sight will be visible in complete darkness across much of Eastern Europe. Farther west, Venus will disappear behind the dark part of the moon either during evening twilight or just before the Sun sets. When Venus emerges, it will look like a brightening jewel on the slender lunar crescent. For virtually all of Europe, the Sun will have set by then, the exception being southern Portugal (including Lisbon).
Such favorable circumstances are quite rare for any given location. For example, the last time London was treated to such a favorably placed Venus occultation such was back on October 7, 1961. And after 2008, there will not be another similarly favorable Venus occultation for the United Kingdom until January 10, 2032.
This is a great game. I wrote this paper last fall but I think it is still relevant. I have been too busy to play lately, but I look forward to getting back into it. One of the best parts is that it is free, can be played anywhere there is an internet connection, and doesn’t need software…just a browser. Link to the Game.
Kingdom of Loathing: Virtual Society of the Spectacle
Kingdom of Loathing, located at kingdomofloathing.com, is a game that began as a joke. The joke requires some historical background in order to be understood. In 2003 online games were becoming increasingly sophisticated with 3-D type graphics, complex imaginary worlds, and sophisticated character creation systems and classes. At the same time the ‘hipster’ culture typified by such websites as ‘BoingBoing’, ‘WeMakeMoneyNotArt’, and ‘GrowABrain’ were reaching new highs in site visits and overall web popularity. Here is the joke: In 2003, a couple of hipsters created a sophisticated online game with stick figure 2-D graphics, ridiculous parody worlds that ridiculed popular culture, and ironically named character classes based on hipster culture and making fun of traditional RPG categories. This resulted in character classes such as ‘accordion thief’, ‘disco bandit’, ‘pastamancer’, and ‘saucerer’. The punch line is that despite all the ridiculous pop-culture and hipster references, Kingdom of Loathing is actually a well crafted game and has attracted more than a million players so far.
An understanding of what it means to be human provides an understanding of the self first and foremost and at the same time, it also allows one to see the self inside of others. Whether it is from looking at the common origins of our most remote ancestors or looking at the unique cultural practices and contributions of different groups of human beings, anthropology is about understanding human beings. It is about recognizing the unique contributions that each society, individual, or part of an individual makes to the overall composition of the great human story.
When looking at the conflicts in the Middle East, it is far too easy to fall into the ‘us’ and ‘them’ scenario in which one group is good and one is not. In fact, we are all human beings and as much as some people may try to make us think it, we are not all that different from one another. A more challenging approach is to take the anthropological approach that involves asking questions about each group, each person, and each action.
Let’s look at an example with each scenario. Iran.
First, here is the ‘us’ and ‘them’ scenario from the U.S. point of view. We are the defenders of democracy, we are trying to help the Iraqis to create a new democracy in the Middle East so that all the people of the Middle East can have peace. They are a radical Islamic state that is ruled by a madman and they keep sending guns, money, and bombs to the people that are causing problems for us and our friends in Iraq. Pretty simple, and the scary part is how many Americans believe this to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Now let’s look at the same situation from an anthropological view. In the interest of brevity, let’s assume we know all about America. What we need to ask about Iran are who, what, where, when, and why. All of these questions are important, but the most important is why. Iran is a country with a rich history, a devout people, and a beautiful land. Iran is located East of Iraq and West of Afghanistan. Iran is ruled by a leader who gained power after a corrupt leader supported by the West was overthrown in the 1970’s. Iran used to be known as Persia and controlled a huge empire. The Iranian people speak Farsi. Iran and Iraq have the majority of the Islamic Shiites in the world. Iraq was ruled by a Sunni dictator who fought wars with Iran while getting money and weapons from the United States.
Without having gone to any depth, it is already clear that by asking questions, suddenly the geopolitical conflicts of the Middle East and Central Asia become much more understandable and clear. When one begins to look at such things as naming conventions, courtship, holidays and celebrations, shopping patterns, or the elaboration upon any specific part of a culture it suddenly becomes a much more human situation.
I think that is the true value of anthropology in informing the world about conflicts, war, peace, and violence. Anthropology is the human science and as such, the job of anthropologists is to make the cultural, sociopolitical, and geopolitical events that take place in our world understandable as human events and thus eliminate the idea of the other. If we can do that then perhaps someday we will be a peaceful species.
When a society becomes militarized, it begins to see itself as more important than any other society that it exists among. A militarized society first convinces itself that it is more important than other societies and then begins to make decisions based on that self important worldview. Israel is a militarized society that has made itself more important than the people that exist around and within it who are not a part of it. The United States is a militarized society that has made itself more important than the people that are around or in it. In Israel, the Palestinian people have been dehumanized in order to make it more palatable for the Israeli people to treat them with less respect or decency than Israeli citizens. In the United States, immigrant workers whether legal or illegal are treated with less respect and decency than American citizens.
The psychology involved in this is known as the creation of the ‘other’. Militarized societies have shown patterns of dehumanizing those who exist outside or on the fringes of mainstream society. The Nazi’s did it with the Jews. The United States did it with people of color, Native Americans, communists, labor movements, and more. China ostracized intellectuals and artists during the cultural revolution. Israel has created an Arab other that the West is currently in the process of learning. The new other is Arab, Muslim, and Middle Eastern. Western societies have dehumanized those in the Middle East as barbaric, fundamentalist, and extremist and this has made the people in the West simply yawn or change the channel when they hear about torture, murder, and atrocities committed against these human beings.
In addition to this creation of the other, militarized societies are able to utilize fear to reap huge profits with disastrous consequences to the environment. Militarized societies use unsustainable practices in the interest of ‘national defense’ or ‘homeland security’. Defense industries are allowed to pollute above acceptable levels, sensitive environments are destroyed, and all in the name of fear.
The economics and politics of militarized societies become entangled with one another. Since militarized societies spend huge amounts of money on defense and offense, weapons suppliers and manufacturers take on increased importance in the politics of such a nation. The military-industrial complex then begins to fund politicians who are more likely to benefit it, to create situations (i.e. wars) that require it, and manipulate public opinion to favor it.
Manipulation of the public can come in many forms in a militarized society, whether it is through the denial of science (global warming and Bush’s science advisers), polarization of a party line through talking points and giving preference to certain media over others (Bill O’Reilly, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Clear Channel). When this begins to happen the public becomes misinformed and is more likely to believe the lie of the ‘other’ and allow the militarized society to infringe on the human rights, environment, and freedoms of not just the other, but of the militarized society itself.
Militarized societies lose freedom for the ‘other’ and freedom for themselves.
As human beings we are, by nature, social creatures. We live in groups, work in groups, and most of us spend our free time in group settings as well. If someone chooses to have less interaction with the society of humans in their day to day lives than most of us do, it is very likely that even they will be forced to have a certain amount of interaction with other human beings. The fact that there are more than six billion of us crowding onto this planet makes that a near certainty.
I do not claim that we are superior to animals in the way that we deal with one another. In many ways, I think we are inferior as we have often made things more complex than they need to be. That is the price we pay for being creatures that have an abundance of adaptation aimed towards decision making, time distinction, and self preservation. In point of fact, it is probable that mice aren’t exactly making plans, which may be the reason why mice aren’t generally killing themselves or having wars with one another.
Human beings have the ability to visualize and conceptualize a number of different future possibilities. This is what has made us such a successful (in terms of dominating our environment) species. It is probably also why we are able to justify the violence that we inflict on the natural world and upon one another. We are a self centered species. In fact, some would argue, that we are the only species with a sense of self. It is the unbridled concern with ourselves that have led us to violence, war, terrorism.
It is easy, as a human, to consider one’s own situation to be more important than the situation of a fellow human being (or fellow living thing for that matter). As an example, white farmers along the East Coast of the United States looked at the successful farms of their Cherokee neighbors and felt that it was more important that they (the white farmers) have the successful farms than their neighbors. The result was genocide and the tragic Trail of Tears as the Cherokee were forced from their fertile land to the dust bowl of Oklahoma.
This is a tragic example of what happens when morality, ethics, and human rights are not considered and the ‘self’ is allowed to run rampant over others. Human rights are a reminder that all humans deserve the same respect and consideration that the self does, whether that self is an individual, a community, an ideology, or a nation. Had the white farmers looked on the Cherokee as their equals, deserving of the same human rights, the Trail of Tears would certainly not have happened. Nor would the Israelis be treating the Palestinians like prisoners, nor would the Chinese be treating the Tibetans like lower than humans, nor would the United States be so quick to drop bombs on areas that non-combatants might be injured in.
Morality and ethics are codes that allow us to consider our actions without regard for the prejudice of the self. It is important that we utilize morality, ethics, and human rights any time that we consider the issues of violence, whether they be in regards to understanding or waging war, the causes and effects of terrorism, or the best ways to approach nonviolence and peace.
Consider peace without regard for human rights, this could easily become nothing more than harsh and dictatorial rule, and thus not be peace at all. Or the use of non-violence in situations where one’s morality and ethics might lead one to abandon this principle for some cause that benefits the greater good.
Morality and ethics are not universal, but human rights should be. If, when we study or engage in any phenomenon, we make our decisions with an eye towards promoting the greatest human rights, then, perhaps, we might become more than we have ever been. The social animal might become a better sort of creature, and perhaps we will even begin to make our decisions with an eye towards creature rights.