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On Being an Expectant Father in Morocco

I can honestly say, I’ve never felt so useless as I feel as an expectant father in Morocco. My wife woke up with labor pains at 4 AM. At 5 AM we called her mother who came over, they had a process worked out for how things would work. In Moroccan culture, the man isn’t really involved. At 6 AM we went to her mother’s house (and of course, I was trying to comfort her, but since this is our first child and I’ve been kind of left out of the loop that would include me back in the USA, I tried to help with breathing, massage etc) At her mom’s they laid her on the couch and told me to just go wait in the other room. At 10 AM the midwife came. At 11 AM her water finally broke. At 1PM we finally took her to the hospital where I had to wait outside and they told me to go back to her Mom’s house and wait. Now it’s 7 pm and I just called and found out she’s still not ready (at one finger which I’m not totally sure of the meaning of, but think it has to do with the cervix) and they told me to wait and if she doesn’t deliver tonight they will send her to Fez (a nearby city) for a C-section. It’s all fairly frustrating as culturally, I’m just not allowed to be with her (even to hold her hand and say breathe or push) and since it’s not my culture and I’ve never really been through this, it’s all just a bit frightening. I suppose that’s the norm in any culture though…

I’m just thankful that her Mom is with her, which is why we decided to have the baby here. It was more important that she be comfortable than anything else…I just hope she is.

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The Menehune Tale

The giant warriors landed in their canoes and stood on the beach. Ke’eali’i hid behind the hala tree watching in awe. One warrior would have been enough to give him nightmares for the rest of his life, but what he saw went way beyond nightmares.

Dozens of the warriors worked together to pull their massive outrigger canoes high above the waterline while equally giant women began to disembark with baskets loaded with chickens, rats, dogs, and plants. He watched in awe as six giant men pulled a tiki from the center of the canoe and planted it in the sand. When they shifted it to face the cliffs that circled high above, the sunlight seemed to bring it to life. The tiki was even more terrifying than the men who held it and Ke’eali’i felt his breath stop as all of the assembled giants set their baskets around their god and then lay face down on the sands around it.

As much as he wanted to see what would happen next, he knew that this was perhaps his only chance to slip away into the jungle without the warriors seeing his movement. Once he was far enough away that he thought they would no longer hear him he broke into a run. He needed to get back to his village. He needed to warn his family. He needed to let his people know. The Tahitians had come to Hawai’i.

 

 

Although Ke’eali’i had never seen Tahitians before, he and everyone in his village knew what they were. His people had fled the Marquessan islands three hundred years before and followed migrating birds over three thousand miles across the vast blue ocean to escaped overcrowding, famine, and nearly constant warfare from marauding Tahitians. They were the Menehune and while they had hoped that their enemies would never come this far and disrupt the new lives they had built for themselves on the most isolated islands on the planet, they had kept alive the stories that told why they had come.

Marquessan society had been a brutal existence before the arrival of the Tahitians. It had become much worse after. Ke’eali’i and his people knew what to expect now that the giant warriors had landed on the sands of Kahana Bay.

The tallest of the Menehune stood no more than five feet tall while the smallest of the Tahitians stood over six and a half feet. The largest of the Tahitians were over seven feet tall and it was why in their distant homeland, the Tahitians had begun to call them the Menehune, or the little people. Soon after initial contact Tahitians had begun to enslave the Menehune and force them to use their long honed stone building skills to construct temples and fishponds. Many had died.

Faced with superior numbers, decreased land for agriculture, and constant warfare Ke’eali’i’s most revered ancestors had decided that they would take their small tribe and set off to find a new home. Golden winged birds came to the Marquessas each winter and each spring flew north to an unknown nesting ground. It was these birds they followed into the uncharted and unknown.

Carrying calabashes filled with fresh water and seeds; and bringing yams and taro, the Marquessans had spent months living upon fish and rainwater while they continued towards the stars to which the golden winged birds had flown. After much hardship and the loss of many lives, a sharp eyed woman had seen the pale hint of green reflecting onto the stationary white clouds that filled the horizon.

Of the nearly one thousand that had set out on this voyage of desperation, less than two hundred had lived to see the abundant reefs and bird filled jungles of this land that they had built a new civilization upon. A chain of islands that filled their every need and that no human foot had ever trod upon. This gift from the Gods was the reward for all they had suffered and over the next three centuries they began anew to create a society that honored those Gods and utilized the heavenly resources that had been bestowed upon them.

They had multiplied and now numbered in the thousands, though they were spread out on the eight largest islands. It was a loosely knit culture composed of a dozen lush valleys occupied by a dozen peaceful tribes. Each tribe existing in isolation from the others throughout the year except for the ten days of longest daylight during which members of all tribes gathered here in the Kahana Valley to celebrate the coming of their ancestors to this place of peace.

As Ke’eali’i ran to his village, he knew that their time of peace had come to an end. The last celebration had ended three cycles of the moon ago and if the legends were true, it would be the last time that the Menehune gathered openly with one another and feasted in peace and plenty. The Tahitians, their enemies, had arrived.

 

At the time of the arrival of the Menehune, the sharp eyed woman who had first spotted land was honored with the title of high chief. It was a custom that was new in a land that was new. In their old lands it had been the men-warriors who had ruled. Here it was the women-growers that determined what was necessary for the good of the people. The new female chiefs had placed their focus upon the Gods of growing, the Gods of birth, and the Gods of life magic. This change created an entirely new society from the one they had left behind which was ruled by the Gods of hunting, the Gods of death, and the Gods of killing magic.

As a result, the Tahitians did not find spear and club armed warriors waiting for them when they marched back into the valleys of the Menehune. Instead they found abandoned villages with houses that were too small for them to comfortably use, they found hastily harvested gardens, and they found massive temples dedicated to life and fertility and constructed solely for the purpose of gratitude. They did not see any of the Menehune and they were not met with violence. The still smoldering cooking fires were populated only by birds that scavenged the edges of the villages, looking for morsels that had been left behind in the orderly departure of an entire culture.

For a superstitious people who gloried in the violence of warfare and who looked to their Gods to bring death to their enemies, these abandoned places raised great fear. Rumors circulated among the warriors that they had come to the land of ghosts. Those warriors who wandered into the woods alone sometimes did not return and those who did told of hearing strange sounds as they walked through empty bamboo thickets.

Each time the Tahitians found a fertile valley they also found abandoned temples and villages and each time they would raze them in the hope that their Gods were stronger than those of the people who had so mysteriously vanished. As more Tahitians came and more Tahitian villages were founded the stories of the little people who lived in the little houses became more complex. Rather than destroying the fishponds and temples of the Menehune, the Tahitians began to use them and stories emerged that those who could best the Menehune in games of wit were able to pay for the construction of the massive stone works left behind for the price of a single shrimp.

With the villages burned and the evidence of the actual size of the Menehune no longer evident, the legends made them even smaller than their actual size. The deep valleys and high mountain swamps became places that no Tahitian would dare to go and for a time the Menehune were able to continue their existence in the high and dark places without fear of interference from the people below who were in the process of evolving from Tahitians into Hawaiians.

 

Ke’eali’i, hadn’t known what the reaction would be when he brought word to the village that their ancient enemies had landed. A part of him had hoped that they would fight. He, like all young men of the Menehune, had grown up having mock battles where the Tahitians landed and they, brave warriors that they saw themselves to be, would fight to the death to preserve their new homeland. As he came into the village he looked lovingly on the grass huts, fish drying racks, and carefully tended gardens. Several of his friends tried to stop him to ask why he was in such a hurry but he ignored them and instead ran directly to the hut of the high chief, his grandmother.

High Chief Puka Pohaku had never known the Tahitians. Her grandmother had been one of the original refugees from the sea. She had heard tales of the murder, rape, and destruction of their people when they came into contact with the Tahitians. She had, with the high chiefs of other valleys long considered the possibility that they might someday be faced with these menacing giants again. While it was easy to forget that the old stories were true, such was not the life of a high chief. She, and the others like her, had a plan. They were not going to watch history repeat itself here. Things would not happen the same way in this place.

Ke’eali’i came into her hut, out of breath and she knew before he began to speak that the time had come. The life of ease they had become accustomed to was about to end.

“Honored Grandmother,” the boy said, breathing in gasps. “On the beach, I saw, I saw…”

“I know what you have seen for the stars have foretold that this time would come. You have done well Grandson, to come to me with haste. Now we must prepare…”

“Should I gather the men and get weapons…” the boy was flush with fear and excitement.

“No!” She spoke sternly, perhaps too sternly, judging by the instant deflation of the boy in front of her. “This is not the way that we have prepared for these times. You will go to each hut and tell them to come to me. Have the young people do the same as you and tell all of the adults to gather. Waste no time Grandson for time is something that we no longer can take for granted. Send youths to the high gardens and out to the fishponds and tell everyone that the worst thing they can do is to be seen by the invaders. They must not see us or all will be lost.”

The boy bowed and left to do as she told him. She had a moment of concern that he might be tempted to engage with the warriors but it was only a moment. He was a good, sensible boy and like all of her people, respected her wisdom. He had done good to come to her before telling anyone else.

In a short time, the adults in the village had gathered around her. More would be coming from the high gardens and the fishponds but she could not wait for them. They would learn of what was happening as they arrived.

“My people”, she said to the gathered mass around her, “Today, our ancient enemies have landed on the beaches to the east of us.”

Instantly there were exclamations of grief and rage. She silenced them with a wave of her hand. Most of them anyway.

“We will fight and kill them before they can get reinforcements.” This came from Lokahi, the leader of the men. She had expected it.

“We will not.” Her voice stood firm and solid above the excited murmurs of the crowd and stopped Lokahi where he had turned to begin rallying the men. “We do not have time to waste and every hand and body is needed if we are to survive. Do not forget that in our ancient homeland we had many more warriors than we have here. Still our people were forced to flee. We will not be condemned to making the mistakes of the past.”

Lokahi was stopped but not convinced. “Would you have us wait for them to enslave us?” His concern was real and he was not alone in it. She could see in the faces of all who had gathered that there was fear, confusion, and in some cases anger.

“Do not worry my people. Long have we known that this day would come. I and the high chiefs before me have considered how we might best survive and we are certain that the Gods would not have brought us to this land only to let it be taken from us. This is the time when we are tested by fire. Do we stand with the Gods of Life or do we fall back to the Gods of Death. I can tell you that the Tahitians are in favor with the Gods of Death and if we call on them to help us, all is lost. Trust in the wisdom of your leaders. Trust in the love of your Gods.”

Lokahi was still speaking for the fears of the people. “What would you have us do? You certainly can’t expect us to sit and wait for destruction.”

She forced a calm and melodious laugh. It spread over the fear of her people like a cool trade wind dissipating the angry smoke of a volcano. “Do not fear, my people. Fear is for those who have come to disrupt our way of life. Fear is the friend that we send to do our bidding. Laughter is the magic that will save us and send our enemies from the lands we will live in.”

“We will survive and we will prosper, but for now, we must leave this place. Gather our preserved foods and medicines. Bring your tools. Take what you can carry for now we will leave this place of ease and comfort and move to the high wet places. We do not have much time. Do not lament over what we leave behind but only laugh to know that what we leave behind will inspire fear in our enemies and create protection for us without the loss of a single life. Now, move and make haste for our time in this place is at an end. As the people come from the fishponds and high gardens, tell them what has happened. Do not carry fear, trust in our Gods.”

She turned her back on them and began to put the many herbs and medicines that were drying near her hut into hala baskets and calabash gourds. She moved with quiet deliberation and ignored the few questions that came her way. Most of her people followed her example and moved to similar tasks, but not Lokahi.

“High Chief, respectfully I choose to tell you that I think we should fight. By giving them this land with no blood, we encourage them to take more and more. This land was our gift from the Gods.”

Straightening up from where she was wrapping dried kamani bark into tea leaves, the old woman looked at this strong and angry man in front of her.

“Do you trust our Gods so little that you think they would allow this to be taken from us with no blood Lokahi? The Tahitians will spill their own blood. The fear that our Gods put in them will cause them to slaughter their own people. Trust in the Gods Lokahi, trust in your Chiefs, look inside yourself and you will know that what I say is true.”

 

Ke’eali’i did as he was told. He took his duty seriously and young people were soon enroute to the distant gardens and fishponds. Ke’eali’i ran up the slick trails to the high gardens with the ease of youth and the concentration of a warrior. The high gardens were located up the sides of the narrow valley and thus cooler and wetter than the lands below, capturing the rain and mist from storms as the Gods held clouds over the mountains to bring the water of life to the Menehune below. As he ran into the banana patches he caught site of his father stripping banana leaves from a plant that had already born its fruit.

His father, seeing the boy coming towards him smiled briefly before noticing the firm set of his son’s usually smiling mouth. He stood from where he had been working, straightening his back and standing to his full height of nearly five feet. He was a tall man among the Menehune, but as he stood, Ke’eali’i noted how small and vulnerable he looked in comparison to the giant tattooed warriors he had so recently seen on the beaches of Kahana.

“Father,” he huffed, “The Tahitians have landed and the high chief is calling for everyone to return to the village at once.” With the message delivered the boy let some of his fear seep out of his being, “They are so big Father. I saw them on the beach, their God is terrible to look at, I’m afr…”

Kalihi stopped his son’s words by putting his hand on the boy’s head. It was a rare gesture of affection from the usually severe man who demanded that the boy learn all of the skills necessary for life among the Menehune faster than any of his peers. The boy stopped mid-word.

“Go and tell the other men and women. Did she tell you what she means to do?” This was asked in a way that told Kalihi that he did not expect his son to have any more information.

The boy shook his head no, then thought that perhaps he should tell his father what he knew. “She said that we will not attack them. I don’t know what she plans…”

His father smiled. “We are lucky to have her. She is wise. Don’t worry my son, the Gods have prepared us for this day. Our chiefs have long known it would come. Today is just another day for you to learn the ways of our people and our Gods. Now hurry.”

With that, Kalihi turned his back on Ke’eali’i and began to roll the banana leaves he had already stripped. The boy watched in amazement.

“Father, aren’t you going to go there now?”

His father laughed. “Do you think we will need these less now that the Tahitians have arrived? Remember my son, that work interrupted does not mean that one should abandon work already done. Trust in the Gods, do as the High Chief has told you, and I will see you in the village soon.”

The boy moved away to do as he was told but his father stopped him once more.

“I know that she is your grandmother and that she has been gentle with you and that sometimes you think that I have been harsh, but I want you to know one thing, my mother is as strong as the strongest koa tree and as wise as the stars that she studies so carefully. When I was a boy, she was twice as hard on me as I am on you. Sometimes so harsh that I considered leaving to another valley, but I have learned as the cycles of the moon pass that each lesson she insisted on prepared me for what was to come next. Do not worry my son, the fiercest God of the Tahitians is no match for our High Chief. She knows what she is doing.”

 

And so it was that the new exodus began. Before night had fallen, all of the people of the village had done as they were told. Leaving their fires burning and the bulk of their tools and ornaments behind, they followed High Chief Puka Pohaku as she led them deep into the valley and up the jagged walls of the mighty Ko’olau Mountains. Much of their food, medicine, and possessions came with them, wrapped in the banana leaves that Kalihi and the other gardeners had thought to bring back with them from the high gardens that now lay below them. Runners had been dispatched to the other tribes of the Menehune on Oahu and the swiftest paddlers were on their way to neighbor islands so that all of the Menehune would know that the Tahitians had arrived.

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Muslims and Jews have not been fighting each other forever

Here’s something that flies in the face of ‘conventional wisdom’ In this case it’s the CW that Jews and Muslims have always been at war with one another.

In fact, in history most Jews lived in the Muslim Arab realms (Andalusia, North Africa, Palestine, Iraq and Yemen). Despite sporadic periods of persecution, Jewish communal and cultural life flowered in this period. Muslims granted Jews and Christians exemptions from military service, the right to their own courts of law, and a guarantee of safety of their property. Jewish poets, scholars, scientists, statesmen and philosophers flourished in and were an integral part of the extensive Arab civilization. In 11th century Christian Crusades began, sparking warfare with Islam in Palestine. Crusaders temporarily captured Jerusalem in 1099. Tens of thousands of Jews were killed by European crusaders throughout Europe and in the Middle East. During the period that followed Jews fled to Muslim areas where they were welcomed with open arms, in some cases achieving the highest positions in society.

It was the Christian desire to divide and conquer the middle east which drove Islam and Judaism into warfare with one another. Christians were at war with both peoples. This culminated with the atrocities of Hitler and the creation of the Jewish State of Israel on land that was already occupied by Muslims, Jews, and Christians (Palestine was a mixed society that coexisted peacefully prior to the Israeli occupation).

Ultimately, Christianity managed to install a domination oriented Jewish government in the heart of a region that had thrived for millennium under tolerance and cooperation. Thus, Christiandom caused it’s two enemies to hate one another and kill one another while it sat back creating a new history that ‘those people’ had been fighting one another for all time.

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Google+

I’m Vago Damitio /vah Go dah Mish yo/ . I’m 39, born in Seattle, university in Hawaii, married in Morocco, living in Morocco expecting our first child any day now.

My mom was hippie christian and named me Christopher David, two names I don’t really go by. As a kid I was carted to sunday school in a rainbow colored schoolbus in California.

I started asking a lot of questions that pissed off the sunday school teachers and left me young and faithless. Faked speaking in tongues to see if I could get away with it and when I did, I knew the whole thing was bogus. Faked being born again to get kisses from a farmers daughter (yeah, it worked).

Saw the world as devoid of a creator and really geeked out with computers and a love of NASA and space. Really geeked out with sci-fi. That led me to Heinlein and L.Ron and a real fascination with the ultimate questions (42). A neighbor’s husband died and she knew I loved to read and gave me his library…lots of sci-fi, plus Krishnamurti, baghavadgita, and more. This led to reading all the holy books I could get at the library or used bookstore including the book of mormon, quran, bible, scientology, book of the dead (egyptian and tibetan), and more. Became more than a little geeked out with wicca, I-ching, and tarot. My great aunt who was somewhat famous as a hollywood spiritualist and medium secretly gave me my first tarot deck knowing my christian mom would disapprove. She said her guides told her to do it.

During all this time, I was suffering still from a spiritual vacuum (I think it might have been a Kirby) and I did far more than just experiment with drugs and alcohol which led to going in the Marines in 1990 where I experimented with Lutheranism, shamanism, and any other religious services I could find.

It was in 1995 though, after I was out of the Marines that things really changed for me. First of all, I rediscovered the Tao te Ching and recognized it for a perfect spiritual road map. I continued to read Tarot and i ching but with a very different understanding thanks to Jung and others.

In December of 1995 I was visited by a spiritual master. This may sound unlikely (and it does to me so it must to you) but I was working at a bar in Raleigh, North Carolina and this little black man walked in. He had a funny accent and I noticed that whomever he began to talk with would literally light up with ..well…with light. finally, the bar quieted down and I had the chance to talk with him and felt the same sort of light inside me. I asked who he was and he said he was a writer, I asked where he was from and he said a country where we don’t really understand your people, I asked what he was doing and he told me he was writing a book about my people to bring understanding to his people. Then he asked me questions about the stock market, television, celebrity, being a bartender and the way he did it really made me have revelation after revelation about life, living, and more. He told me to keep my eyes open for a teacher who was coming to show me something valuable. I turned to get drinks for new guests and when i returned he had paid for his drinks and was gone.

Shortly after this, my brother introduced me to a Sufi Master named Sharif Baba who truly opened the door for me. Among his many lessons. “All the buses lead to the same bus station” It was at this time that I truly became Muslim, though it took me more than a decade to recognize that. I’ll write more about that later.

Over the coming decade I continued to read Tarot and i-Ching. I continued to study the Tao te Ching. And i continued to find truth is Sufism. In 2001 another spiritual master found me. I was hitching down the west coast of the USA and ride after ride was becoming heavier and heavier with coercive religion until finally, a retired minister turned nichiren buddhist picked me up and told me about nam myoho renghe kyo.

Four years later living in a van in Hawaii and ready to kill myself while I tried to finish a novel called Slackville Road, I had a dream where I was told ‘don’t kill yourself. remember ‘nam myoho renghe kyo’. So what, right? Except an hour later when I went to the storage unit where I kept my stuff, the lady at the desk asked me “Hey are you ready to become a buddhist?” I laughed and said sure. She said, “Okay, the first thing you need to do is say Nam Myoho Renghe Kyo” I shit you not. I became a Buddhist.

A couple of years later I was looking for a much needed refuge from a relationship gone bad, I prayed for guidance and for some reason wrote the word Muslim. The next day I found the perfect place to live. I moved in and only that evening when I heard the call to prayer did I find out that I had moved next door to the only mosque in Hawaii. Again, I shit you not.

So, let’s see…I’m a born again Buddhist Muslim geek that reads Tarot Cards and loves the Tao te Ching. Yeah, that about sums it up. I’m a kook by just about any definition, but you know what? I’ve found some spiritual truth that has led me to the life I’m living…and I’d like to share it.

Now, what about you?

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What’s up with the Christian fish?

My friend likes to say “When you see the fish, hang onto your wallet” but it led me to wonder why the fish is the symbol of Christians (which by the way, I’m not)

The fish outline is a logical symbol for the early Christian church to adopt. Fish play a major role in the gospels. For example:

Mark 1:17: “Come after Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

Matthew 12:40: “…Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Matthew 14:17: “And they said to Him, ‘We have here only five loaves and two fish.'”

Luke 5:6: “And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.”

Luke 24:42: “So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.”

John 21:6: “And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.”

1 Corinthians 15:39: “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fish, and another of birds.”

Some Christians believe that a second link between their religion and the fish symbol is seen in the Greek word for fish (ichthus, spelled: Iota Chi Theta Upsilon Sigma). That is an acrostic which has many translations in English. The most popular appears to be “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” [Iesous (Jesus) CHristos (Christ) THeou (God) Uiou (Son) Soter (Savior)].

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Meliptimous Taggle

Meliptimous Taggle.

 

“Meliptimous Taggle. “ Thus begins this odd tale of a man with an odd name that doesn’t really sound odd whatsever…even though it is.

 

“Meliptimous.” When I first heard it, I thought I had misheard him. “Excuse me, sir?” I said to him.

 

“Meliptimous Taggle,” he said, as slowly and patiently as if he were saying “William Vanderbuilt.”

 

Meliptimous and Taggle both sounded strangely familiar and yet I’m sure that I had never heard either name before that night. It was simply one of those names that sound exotic and familiar at the same time. More than that, really. I mean. They both sound like true words.

 

Meliptimous Taggle had more truth attached to him than all the world’s rich guys combined have relatives begging for the crumbs from their tables. If you’re confused how I mean that, read on, and you are sure to see what I mean.

 

“Meliptimous,” the beautiful redhead squeezing her luscious body against him said, “ Are you sure this is the best place to discuss this?”

 

Meliptimous laughed and gave me a broad wink. “ I have never been in a more comfortable establishment. We Taggle’s have a way of finding these places.”

 

 

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Google+ Anthropology #5 Control of Culture

Anthropology of Google+ #5 Who’s in Control?

Humans are many things and the definition of what it means to be human is rarely, if ever, completely agreed upon within all schools of thought, however, one characteristic that defines humanness across all such definitions is the ability to communicate through the means of symbols, whether those symbols be words, pictures, or social networks like Google+

As James Shreeve points out in The Neanderthal Enigma:

What was truly revolutionary about the Upper Paleolithic was not language, style or art, but the opening of the social conduits through which information of all such novel forms could flow.(Shreeve. p. 312).

Shreeve goes on to point out that cave art was probably designed to be a part of a ritual experience which was carefully planned and transmitted through the societies of the time. This magnificent leap may well have been the spark that lit the inferno that has led to today’s social media.

The next great leap from representational pictures and art was to be able to express words or ideas clearly with written language. The invention of hieroglyphics and alphabets allowed more complex forms of information to be passed between individuals even if the individuals never actually encountered one another (not even on Google+ or Facebook!)

Being humans, those who were able to control and use these tools used them to control and use their fellow human beings as well. Thus, this conversation which henceforth has been concerned with the idea of humans communicating meaning, moves into the more insidious realm of human beings utilizing power within human populations.

In The Media and Modernity, John B. Thompson dissected power into four distinct types. These are economic power, political power, coercive power, and symbolic power. The four are connected at multiple nodes, however, for the purpose of a less complex explanation, Thompson considers each in distinct form.

Economic power is that which controls material and financial resources in a society. Some examples of this in ascending order of influence would be farmers, merchants, bankers, and major financial institutions such as the Bretton Woods Institutions (the IMF, World Bank, etc.) and entities such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook.

Political power is that which is concerned with authority and governance. While those with economic power are able to wield political power more easily than those without, for the purposes of this discussion we will look at political power in a vacuum. The ascending order of power here might be citizen, council member, representative, senator, governor, and president. If we remove political power from the vacuum, we see that Facebook and Google were two of the largest lobbiers in Washington D.C. this past year. In addition, they power they wield with the users is considerable since users include all levels of power up to and including presidents.

Military power is that which uses physical and armed force. Military power falls within the realm of the coercive institutions such as prisons, police forces, sheriffs, national guard, and offensive militaries. Again, there is certainly a connection between this form of power and economic and political power. A look at the Arab Spring and the role of social media demonstrates this better than perhaps any other example. There is also a connection between all three and the final form of power Thompson discusses.

The final and one could argue, most powerful form of power is that which Thompson calls symbolic power. Symbolic power is the glue that binds the other forms of power to one another and to the people which form the basis of all power systems. Through schools, churches, and media of all sorts (including social media) people are convinced that the individual power they possess should be given freely to those who wield economic, political, or coercive power in human societies. It is for this reason that the rise of social media has also given rise to heretofore unknown levels of power among a technological elite in human society. I

The common factor which until recently was necessary for such consolidation of control was a standardized and efficient means of production and distribution for the message that the media is to carry.The rise of social media has warped this consideration. In general there is no longer a lag time between the communication and the reception of the message that social media carries.

It was this lag which prior to social media gave mass media so much power. By utilizing this factor, those utilizing mass communication were able to carry messages much further than the eyes of whoever might look upon a cave wall and to tell those who did look, what they should interpret the paintings to mean.

Mass communication took this lag time and use it to transcend both time and space. This meant that whatever message was being carried could reach people who are distant in geography or in time and there was no chance to reinterpret or dispute the chosen interpretation
.
Through this process, the few have been able to exert influence to overcome the resistance of the many. Through the power of the word transcribed and written some men were able to legitimize the illegitimate taking of individual power from other men. One example of this could be how the symbolic power of the media has been used to convince the poor that there is a separation between economic and military forms of power and thus keep them from rising up in arms when they realize that the two are actually one intertwined entity. Thus the symbolic form of power has been used to tell the consumers of the media how to value and see the world.

The rise of social media has turned this model on it’s ear. Farmers can communicate with generals and the message of fruit vendors can be spread quickly and efficiently to the masses.

In fact, when we look at the control of mass communication, it is easy to see that communication on a mass scale has been responsible for the building and defining of individual cultures. Culture, after all, is meaning that is shared. This shared meaning has been exhibited through the mass media.

Communication has, in fact created our individual cultures. And, here’s the kicker, today, social media is creating a new global culture.

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Birth of a Djinn

Once upon a time a magical being was born into a human body. Like all humans his soul was magical while his human body was not but unlike most humans, his ability to use his magic was not forgotten. Sometimes this caused problems, as he was unaware of his own magical nature and was subject to the same passions, desires, selfishness, and dilemmas as all other humans. The thing with crossing the boundaries between worlds of magic and this world is that one thing can never cross between the two and that is the memory of anything connected to the magical world.

In this reality, magical beings, or as they like to be called djinn come again and again in order to learn the lessons of suffering, the lessons of the flesh, and the true meaning of existence.

It is important to note, that some djinn choose to be born into this world of pain over and over while others choose to ignore that aspect of their nature. The world of the djinn is a world of wondrous beauty unlike anything but the merest moments in this world. So you can see, a djinn has to have a very good reason for being born into this world. Most of them choose never to leave their magical land of milk and honey.

Our djinn’s reason for coming is unknown to us, just as it is unknown why any being would willingly choose to suffer the hardships of our world. It is only known that this djinn had made many trips to our world. He was searching for something very specific, but as we’ve said before, it was impossible for him to bring the knowledge of the djinn world across the boundary between worlds.

What we know of specific beings that cross into this world is scant. We only learn when that djinn manages to accomplish what it comes here for. Even then, it is subject to interpretation. An djinnnamed Siddhartha was born into many lives to discover boundless compassion. Another djinn named Christ was born to discover forgiveness. Another djinn named Mohammad was born to discover devotion. There have been many more djinn that are not known so well as these three. Our story revolves around one of these. 

Most people in this world are unaware of the signs that signal an experienced djinn being born. There are many physical characteristics that to a djinn would be as clear as the words on this page.  Our djinn was born with some of these signs. He was born with characteristics that were not usual among the newborn. His hair was thick and full. His teeth were already formed. He had the strength to move his head. Most importantly, his skull had already healed what is known as the soft spot. This is the spot on the head that allows a newborns cranium to fit through the vagina of its mother. It is also where the djinn typically flow in at the moment of birth

Our djinn didn’t have one of these. As a result, the birth was traumatic. Furthermore, the lack of a soft spot required surgery to make sure that the newborn’s head would develop normally. This required quite a bit of time in the hospital and as a result, his weary mother was relieved to find out that this child with fully formed teeth wouldn’t gnaw on her tender breasts.

Those who know such things say that each time an djinn visits this world, this world becomes more difficult for it. That is why many djinn choose to stay where things are much less complicated.

 

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The Death of Email

Google+ = The Death of Email

Lots of people have been talking about how Google+ is going to be the death of Facebook. Frankly, I doubtthat. I do however think that it’s a killer. From my perspective, Google+ is going to be the death of email.

I, and many others, have been talking about the death of email for a while now. It may sound silly, but twenty years ago the idea that snail mail would virtually disappearas a means of personal communication was also ridiculous. Email has become such an essential part of modern life that the idea of itdisappearing sounds impossible…until you think about it.

First of all…let’s look at snailmail. When’s the last time you wrote a letter to someone whom you have an email address for? Do you write letters to people that you see on a daily or even weekly basis? Do you write letters to people you talk to on the phone? Unless you are utterly romantic or old fashioned the answer is most likely no. Who was it (before email and cellphones) that you were most likely to send or receive a letter from? Family, friends, and people you want to maintain a connection with.

Fair enough. Email made it much easier to maintain those connections whether it was through old fashioned letter writing (one on one), group emails, yahoo or google groups, subscribing to blogs, or just having a way to ‘poke’ someone and let them know you are around.

Along came Facebook. Take all the people from your email lists, dump them into a big box together, and now you can poke, message, or even chat with people easily (as long as they are online). Since even the grandparents and technophobe cousins eventually gave in (except for that one guy who still insists on writing letters – I hope you have at least one friend like that!) Still, email remained a more elegant way to communicate,especially for one on one or (lets face it) for anything that youdidn’t want to be owned or sold by Facebook (because Facebook has always been circumspect in regards to privacy).

Now comes Google+. You already most likely use Gmail. Instead of everyone being in one big box together you have circles of people so that you can actually use it to send personal messages without the clunkiness of Facebook. Groups are easy to set up or join and don’t require any kind of registration process.Add in group hangouts and huddles and suddenly, there goes email.What? Really?

Yes. Do you email people you see everyday? Even if you do, it’s much easier to do so from Google+ than from email and guess what? They don’t even have to be a member ofGoogle+ to receive your updates or messages.

Let’s consider my email inboxes for a moment. Here is what they typically consist of:
1) Email from friends and family who aren’t on Facebook (very very few of these)
2) Email from clients or potential clients (as G+ goes more mainstream these will move to G+)
3) Email updates from blogs I subscribeto or groups I belong to (including professional associations)
4) Bills, payments, and invoices
5) Spam

Updates and groups will certainly moveto G+. Bills, invoices and payments are also moving towards things like Google checkout or mobile solutions. And that leaves one thing(which is already the largest contributor to my email inbox): Spam.

Yup. Death to spam. Long live Google+.

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Anonymity on Google+

On Google+ Anonymity

Personally, I’d like to see Google continue enforcing it’s policy on non anonymity. If people want to use nicknames or pseudonyms, they should have to be verified as belonging to a real person who is accountable for what they say.

I know, the arguments that political radicals, whistleblowers, and LGBT who want to post important things anonymously are then wiped out of google+. That doesn’t mean they are wiped off of Twitter, or blogs, or anything else which can then be shared via Google+ by a real person.

Frankly, I think real people are less likely to spam, send virus links, or engage in being trolls, goblins, or other ghoulish behavior. It will also keep 50 year old men from pretending they are 16 year old girls or boys, 14 year old girls from pretending they are 50 year old men, and actors from pretending to be something dramatic when they are really just actors.

I know, freedom of expression and all of that, but frankly, this isn’t the only place you have to go and since for me, this is becoming a place where I talk to people and get to know people – it would be nice to know that the people I think I’m talking to really are those people.

In general, I don’t like talking to people in masks, but if google wants to create one ‘Halloween’ day a year where we all get to pretend we aren’t who we are, I won’t have any complaints about that.

It’s my opinion…and you can be sure of that…since I’m really me.