Virtual Fahrenheit 451 – No Part of History Is Good Enough

451 (2)

“Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns…”.

In Ray Bradbury’s prescient 1953 novel, the government made the past illegal. Guy Montag is a “fireman” employed to burn the possessions of those who read outlawed books.  They even had book-sniffing robots to find homes with hidden books.

When Guy becomes despondent over the meaning of his work, his fire chief explains that, “over the course of several decades, people embraced new media (in this case, film, and television), sports, and a quickening pace of life.  Books were ruthlessly abridged or degraded to accommodate a short attention span, while minority groups protested over the controversial, outdated content perceived to be found in literature (yet comic books, trade papers, and sex magazines were allowed to stay, as those fed into the population’s want for mindless entertainment).”  People would watch the “parlor walls” (large televisions) with visiting friends instead of conversation.

We are now in the throes of a virtual Fahrenheit 451.  The need for burning books has become moot with the advent of ubiquitous, mesmerizing “screens.”  Evidence:

  1. Generations of high school graduates who show increasing ignorance, apathy, and illiteracy; they are ill-equipped for self-sufficiency, yet they excel at World of Warcraft, and Grand Theft Auto.
  2. People without enough money for food, have cellphones, and giant high-definition televisions, with cable. They read little and text a lot.  Everything is Facebook, selfies, videos, and soon virtual reality.
  3. Minority groups are protesting the controversial facts of our history. For example, the Fairfax County, Virginia school board just renamed my high school, J.E.B. Stuart High School, Justice High School.  (I can just imagine my next class reunion.)  Why?  Because he was an officer in the Confederate army.  Does anyone believe the Confederacy won the war?  Does anyone not see the tragedy of 600,000 lives lost as a lesson in pain?  Why remove the reminders?

What is next?  Will we remove the Civil War from our libraries?  Will museums take down every work of art with elements of that part of our nation’s history?  Will schools bury the history of slavery and the people responsible?

When will we hold accountable the Africans who sold tens of millions of other African as slaves to the entire world? https://goo.gl/EXnyGT

Were they not even more responsible for the misery of those slaves and their progeny?

Ignoring or censoring history will neither change the past, nor the consequences of what happened.  It will leave us less aware of the truth; a type of cultural dementia.  We must resist becoming a world of virtual Fahrenheit 451.

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What About the Other Slaves? – Before, During, & After Slavery

In 21st Century America, we have extinguished open slavery of the centuries past.

It seems that ISIS still has slavery as part of their culture.  For a discussion of modern and historical slavery, go to  https://goo.gl/e5bNUz  .

New covert forms of slavery have arisen, including sex trafficking, and domestic servant trafficking.  We have not found a way to conquer cruelty and greed.

But what about those past centuries?  What about the entire world history of slavery?  Slavery, in various forms, was common and accepted in the most primitive of pre-historic cultures.  Most slaves were captured from defeated communities.  One of the intentions of war, was to capture people for religious sacrifice, unpaid labor, and involuntary sex.

 Read more about the history of slavery for perspective.  https://goo.gl/emJoUk

African slave traders sold captives from all sources, including those they kidnapped themselves.  Africa made itself the source of slaves for the known world for centuries.

Sometimes our news implies that America was the only home of the not-free.  Sometimes the descendants of slaves point to the progeny of slave owners and to people who came later and had no connection to slavery whatsoever, and accuse them of the crimes of the past.  Racism groups people by categories and treats everyone in that category as if they were homogenous, related, cohorts of prescribed mind and body.  I reject racism, as I reject slavery.  But, some see racism as a perpetuation of slavery.  I will not debate these ideas, but I will shed the light of history on slavery; especially the African slaves sent to the Western Hemisphere, in “slavers,” under the cruelest conditions.

slaversSlave ships were inhumanly cruel.  It was common for more than 15% to die en route.
sourcese of african slavesAfricans captured slaves from the darkened areas, and marched them to the ports to be sold.

With the discovery of the New World, the invading countries needed vast amounts of labor, well beyond the available indigenous people.  The slave traders shifted to the west, as this map shows.

african slaves

Look at the numbers and proportions of slave buying nations.  North America received 4.4% of the 12 million African slaves, while the Spanish, British, French, Dutch and Brazilians of South America and the West Indies received 95%. I wonder what happened to them?

 

Trump Ignores “Face” at Our Peril – North Korea Not Like NYC

If America desires influence in Asia, we must understand the sensitive parts of their cultures, that may not be as sensitive in ours.

President Trump’s aggressive, public, verbal attacks on North Koreas may play well in the USA, but they are more harmful and dangerous in Asia than most Americans think. Regardless of how you see Kim Jong -un, he is Asian; you must take Asian culture into account.

Asian culture developed the concept of “face” over thousands of years. A person’s “face,” sums up their standing in all parts of life; it is much more important than our concept of reputation; it is who they are as a person.

Most average American’s discovered Asian culture in World War II.  We were confronted with totally foreign, Japanese ideas and customs, including seppuku, the noble term for honorable, ritual suicide by samurai (the term familiar to most Americans is, hari-kari, a term used by Japanese commoners.).

Decades later, we are motivated to observe Japanese etiquette socially, and in business; we are challenged to understand what “face” means, and how it works.  “Giving face,” “losing face,” and “saving face” are extremely important in every part of daily life.

“Giving face” means acknowledging, honoring and giving credit to another, while minimizing one’s own importance, and deprecating one’s role in the matter with humility.

“Losing face” means being, publicly slighted, criticized, ridiculed, or humiliated. The caustic, demeaning language Americans commonly tolerate could evoke suicide among some Asians sensitive to “losing face.”

We only recently see such sensitivity among youth immersed in social media.  “Shaming,” and “cyberbullying,” are examples of the new American version of “losing face.” Ironically, Facebook is a big part of this phenomenon

“Saving face” means recovering positive standing, dignity, and honor with offsetting actions and expressions; for example, smoothing over mistakes, and minimizing losses.  In  “face” culture, even adversaries seek to give tokens and acknowledgements that do not dishonor each other.  Bragging or ridiculing are considered ignoble, vicious, low-class breaches of etiquette.

President Trump and Kim Jong-un have lost face, in the eyes of many Asians and Americans.   Both have established “low-face” reputations already.

Kim Jong-un is feared, more than respected, as a man who would assassinate rivals, and punish those who would embarrass him, or challenge his godhead.

Donald Trump is disrespected for his feral attacks, predictable, public taunts, and churlish name-calling.

The brash, threatening exchanges, threats, and personal, demeaning attacks, slash at the “face” of these vainglorious, egoistic adversaries; the use of “Rocket Man,” and “dotard,”are examples of the escalating, vulgar, and unforgivable personal affronts they have exchanged.

Both men must somehow find a face-saving way to end their disputes, or they will escalate without reason.

First, they must clear the “face” board; no more personal attacks, minimum admissions of error, and tolerable acceptance of blame.

Second, they must engage in building trust and agreement, without losing face.  For the most part, that means letting diplomats forge whatever agreements it will take to tamp down this “monkey dance,” and reduce the threat of nuclear havoc.

Third, they must give and save face to hold agreements in place.

 

No-Knowledge, Hapless Harlequins – Scary Ignorant Clowns

pierrot-and-harlequin

We Americans pride ourselves on sophistication without evidence.  Take any “on-the-street” interview.  Does the ignorance of the pedestrian amuse you?  Beware the flagrant lapse of education and awareness. Apparently, we stopped requiring and inspiring “common” knowledge thirty or more years ago.

We have become a sort of third-world country in terms of awareness; clowns of not-so-funny, serious lapses of informed smarts.

A television sampling of instant interviews prior to the recent eclipse was a frightening display of the absence of even elementary information and knowledge about the nature of our planet, our solar system, our universe.  We were supposed to laugh at these peoples’ abject ignorance.

What a condemnation of our education system, and any ill-informed populism we might engender.  Finite knowledge, and unbounded ignorance go hand-in-hand with fascism, and other forms of mindless collectivism.

A glaring, and shocking example of this growing surrender to rude “democracy,” is the recent Fox News segment, “Next Revolution,” with Steve Hilton.  He calls it “positive populism,” I call it a thinly clad predecessor to the failed notion of communism.  We have entered a dangerous period of power without knowledge.  A democracy of fools is a vast and dangerous mob, incited by the slightest of mistaken thoughts and gossip.

Harlequins were clever, cultural foils for royal courts of yore.  They raised obvious points of regal stupidity through not-always-subtle, but carefully-clad humor, and thinly-disguised ridicule.

I fear that we Americans have become so arrogant, so conceited, so vainglorious, that we cannot see the truths in the humor of our harlequins.

 

Intelligence Could Not Be More Artificial – Screen Addiction Steals Our Reality

Our pre-American forbears led lives of subsistence; work all day, every day for enough food to survive; prepare and eat the food; collapse into sleep; awake to the same exhausting challenges.  This work ethic and focus are a major part of what colonists brought to the New World, driven by the chance to own the land they work, hunt and fish the wilds about them, and live free of the crushing burdens of near-slavery as serfs, peasants, and servants.  They could not dream of a time that was not filled with all the efforts of pulling and putting together the pieces of life’s necessities.

Just meeting today’s needs was never enough. They could not afford to face the seasons unprepared. They had to be alert, to anticipate, prepare, learn, and plan for the cycles and dangers of nature; they had to be ready for the seasons, timing, preparing, sowing, harvesting, preserving, and storing of food: crops, fish, game, fruits; cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood, clothing, tools, weapons; sickness, injury, childbirth; shelter, stewardship of farm animals, and on, and on.

Except for a few times, when nature did not allow work, people, including children, worked, ate, and slept.  Church was a mandatory break for the work-cycle.  Not only did weekly Sunday services provide “leisure” time for peaceful, renewing, and moral guidance, but it also allowed for physical regeneration through rest; it fostered hygiene and discipline; it fostered family and community “leisure” and play.

This kind of all-absorbing farm life continued for most Americans until technology began its ascent.  Within a dozen decades, we expanded, invented, and produced, new tools, factories, mines, roads, bridges, harbors, waterways, and railroads.  Farmers and ranchers produced enough food to allow them to sell it to non-farmers, who earned the money in towns and cities.

“Money-crops” such as cotton, tobacco, wool, hides, and furs, fed the textile mills, the leather tanneries, and tobacconists; cash was used for things the farmer could not produce easily, such as cloth, dye, needles, pins, shoes, glass, pots, pans, jars, jugs, clocks, medicines, spices, firearms, gunpowder, swords, axes, shovels, scythes, harnesses, chains, hinges, nails, buttons, buckles, candles, lamps, and things we needed then that we no longer remember.

Non-farm work had start and stop times.  Workers arrived at a certain time, worked and ate at certain times, and left at certain times.  That meant the rest of the day was up to the workers to use as they chose.  Holidays became expected days of rest.  Merchants tailored shop hours to worker schedules, which gave them down time as well.

The Great Depression and World War II accelerated three trends:  migration to cities, training in trades, and advanced education.

They also introduced and promoted the first virtual technologies, telephone, phonographs, movies, radio, and television.  Costs, broadcast time and reception areas limited the time people spent talking, listening, and watching.  But the attraction was clearly evident.  People would plan their days and evenings around their favorite news and entertainment programs.  Trips to the movies were considered treats.

The return of prosperity brought expanding demand for all the virtual technologies.  One limit on these technologies was location: phonographs, telephones, radios, movies, and televisions were locations people had to attend to use.  One exception for police and fire fighters:  two-way radios mounted in vehicles.  World War II saw the advent of “walkie-talkies,” the conceptual and technical precursors of modern cellphones.

Car radios, and the transistor radios released the listener from having to find a radio, to having a radio with them

The 1950’s, and 60’s introduced computers to American Business.  Once again, computers were locations, entombed in rarefied environments defended by physical security, and complete ignorance of the general populous.

The 1980’s advent of “personal computers;” which were portable, with some effort.  All that was missing was connecting computers through telephone systems – the Internet, and connecting radios to telephones – cellular phones.  The catalyst for the connectivity we enjoy today was the cellphone, which erased any connection between phones and locations, and made people the locations for telephone numbers.

Televisions were limited by the stations that broadcast in their reception area.  Three major national TV networks evolved, connected by satellite to the world.  Connecting televisions directly to satellites, coaxial cables, and now the Internet, brought us out of “network-tv” into the 24/7 “cable-tv” era.

Once cellphones connected to the Internet and television, where we watch movies, we arrived to today, where the distinctions have almost completely blurred.  Likewise have our senses of reality.

Now, “friends” are not people we know, “social media” is anonymous and often anti-social.  “Gamers” give a whole new meaning to “WoW,” spending days lashed to their computers, dispensing with bathroom breaks, installing Mountain Dew, refrigerators, and cutting pizza delivery slots in their doors.

We already have an entire generation living in basements.  What is next?  Maybe evolution will soon give our species extended narrow thumbs for “Texting,” and dimmer judgement for “Sexting.”  Maybe someday, all our ogling will be “Googling.” Is the “Zombie Apocalypse” upon us with the living “undead?”  I wonder if Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence will converge into caskets, from which we never need emerge?  Will we live to see the rise of VARZI?

Opioids – Government Impotent Ignorance Prevails!

Update 10/31/2017:  Politicians blame doctors and pharmacies for the opioid crisis, despite the CDC reports that show that illegal drugs are the main source of overdose deaths.

According to the CDC report for 2016, most lethal effects of the opioid epidemic are coming from the streets and not out of doctors’ offices and pharmacies.

“Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is now a major driver of opioid overdose deaths in multiple states, with a variety of fentanyl analogs increasingly involved, if not solely implicated, in these deaths,” the CDC’s Julie O’Donnell, John Halpin, and colleagues reported.

“Fentanyl was involved in more than 50 percent of opioid overdose deaths, and more than 50 percent of deaths testing positive for fentanyl and fentanyl analogs also tested positive for other illicit drugs.”

But where has the government focused attention?  President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, proposed further restrictions on physicians, and, abstinence to potential drug abusers.  Why do authorities do this?  Because they are ignorant and unable to stop the illegal drug manufacture, sale, or use.

Highly publicized articles, including grandstanding lawsuits by states’ attorneys’ general are pandering to news hungry media and ignoring the pain inflicted on compassionate pain management. Death by dying method (drug overdose), without distinguishing source (legal vs. illegal) is a misleading abuse of authority and power.

The recent blitz campaign against opioid drugs is terribly flawed.  According to the latest official data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (as of 2015) more than 52,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2015.  Sad, we lost fewer to drugs than to automobiles (38,000), plus homicide (16,000), and slightly fewer than those lost to suicides (43,000).

But of the 52,000, how many died of prescription drugs vs. illegal drugs?  Nearly, 30,000 (58%) died from prescription drugs, the balance of 22,000 (42%) died from illicit drugs.

Opioids include prescription drugs derived from opium (such as heroin), and synthetic drugs (e.g. fentanyl) which are both prescribed, and sold illegally (manufactured and sold to drug dealers).  These illegal synthetic opioids are largely responsible for the spike in overdose deaths, because they are 100 to 10,000 times stronger than morphine.  Drug dealers mix them with heroin or other drugs to enhance the strength.  The potency is often inconsistent and unknown to the user.  Illegal fentanyl is a popular additive which is 100 times stronger than morphine.  Even a slight mismeasurement is multiplied by 100.

CDC is foreclosing options for legal, and legitimate pain medicine, even though illegal drugs are aggravating the overdose statistics.  They are implying that doctors are responsible through overprescribing opioids to pain patients.  Pain management specialists, who deal with chronic pain patients are often ignoring real suffering by undertreating the pain to avoid criticism from the CDC.

Readers who have real spine and neck problems know what pain is, even after surgery and other efforts to repair the damage.  I have talked to people just beginning treatment and surgery, who are being given glorified Advil and other ineffective drugs, when what their pain indicates is opioids.  Some people do get addicted and abuse opioids.  I do not dispute that.  But, not everyone who takes pain medicine becomes an addict, even though they depend on the relief they get from their prescriptions.  Dependency is not the same as addiction.  It does not automatically lead to ever-increasing desire for more and more.

Carfentanil is the scariest invention yet.  10,000 more powerful than morphine, this relative of fentanyl has been a recent bogeyman for illicit drug users.  Primary producer:  China (recently banned).  This drug is meant to tranquilize elephants. As little as 20 micrograms will kill you.

This scary substance is, knowingly or unknowingly, used as a cheap booster for other illegal drugs, mostly out of Mexico.  Think you are buying heroin, or meth?  Think again.  Houston police recently seized what they thought was methamphetamine and found lethal amounts of carfentanil instead.

The old days of drug abuse are officially over with the advent of this drug.  The next terrorist attack could easily be a batch of white powder.  A car bomb or suicide vest filled with this drug could kill hundreds or thousands, including first responders.

The point, let legitimate pain-management doctors do their jobs; spend the millions of dollars now devoted to opioid suppression on the true shadow of death: illegal superopiods.

 

 

 

 

No Penalty for Synthetic News – Voracious Media Swallow Anything

For quite a while, papers such as the National Enquirer were the only place a reader could find out about the conception and birth of the extraterrestrial, alien children of movie stars.

“Enquiring Minds Want to Know,” led supermarket and drugstore shoppers to buy the tabloid for gossip and secrets of the rich and famous, celebrities, along with eyewitness tales of the occult and UFOs.  It only took a dozen or so specious or craftily worded articles per week to keep the America Media publication flush with advertising revenue.  No one cared about journalism, or retractions, or misspellings – entertaining fiction was all it was.  They had a big enough budget to settle lawsuits and keep printing.

Now the ever-widening maw of the internet has spawned info-fantasy outlets to compete with reality.  Exempli gratia:  The recent articles about a couple of California “Breatharians,” who claim to live on “energy that exists in the universe and in themselves” and that they are sustained by “cosmic nourishment.”  This must put the National Enquirer in the backseat of audacity.  No fewer than six news outlets on Google News published the articles; YouTube videos of the couple and their two children have hundreds of thousands of views.

I will not honor this idiocy with more details, but I will shake my head at what the word “news” has come to mean.  I shudder at the thought of how many people might believe such unfiltered, synthetic, mental trash.  Our children are already screen zombies with waning connection to the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual worlds they inhabit.  The gullible, undereducated, and socially diminished cohorts of the future may have little reality on which to build their lives.

The comedian Gallagher quipped, “I wish there was a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence.  There’s a knob called “brightness,” but it doesn’t seem to work.”  That was before cable TV and the Internet.