Friday, October 25, 2019

In Observing...

Not sure exactly when I wrote this poem.  Probably in my early 20's, at a time where I was far too negative, hopeless, certainly dissatisfied.  A time of questioning the true meaning of life, the odds of being happy, and my own place in the scheme of it all.

I thought it important to share this poem because I expect to be focused on the environment in my next posts.  And, not from a hopeful perspective.

Look for the hidden message.

In observing the beauty of a
Sunset, I began to question the
Trueness of the feelings of the current species on
His only home.  Unlike the first men of
Eons ago, modern homo-sapiens' only concern is
Racing from place to place in search of
Exotic pleasure fulfillment.  Our predecessors were
Hourly amazed with things no more complex than
Oranges defying gravity or the subtle change in
Position of that tide-controlling ball which many
Eager wanderers tried so desperately to reach only to
Fall back in frustration.  When huge, dark clouds crossed
Over his sky, he sat in awe at nature's way of
Ridding her domain of impurities.  Now, a storm is a
Mere inconvenience for us, the technologically advanced strain.
Although many look upon the days of the dinosaur and
Neanderthal with pity, I do so with envy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Right to Choose

I caught the end of a Star Trek Next Generation episode today.  It was the one where the Federation, through the lead of one of its most brilliant robotic engineers, has decided to "decommission" Data.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, Data is a highly advanced robot, played by actor Brent Spiner who interacts with the other crew members (and the audience) as if a real person, although, like Spock from the original Star Trek show, Data is always working on his emotions.   At the conclusion of the episode, Captain Picard presents a case for bestowing the right to choose on Data, by appealing both to Data's obvious intelligence, awareness of his situation, and awareness of self (criteria often put forth as qualifiers for sentience), but also, by acknowledging that it is inevitable that other Data-like being will one day be created, a race of them, one might say, and that by ruling that Data is property, no more, with no choice to decide his fate, the Federation would be establishing a legal justification for the enslavement of future Data-like beings, even those who are created with even more human like capabilities. 

Laws which protect property over people.

The fact of the matter is that humanity has been struggling with the definition of property for all of its existence.  Legally speaking, men were often protected from the ramifications of spouse and child abuse due to the long held beliefs that they were the property of the man of the house.  Not to mention the hundreds of years of slave trade where people of color were sold in the marketplace right alongside cattle and sheep. 

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. 

Self-evident perhaps to white men about white men and their possessions, who themselves often treated their children, spouse, and certainly men of color as property, perhaps even despairing at such beliefs but perceiving them necessary for economic reasons.  The decades after these words were written are marked by both amazing accomplishments, and horrific instances of denying those very unalienable rights to the Native Americans who populated our land before it was the United States, and those American born citizens who happened to be the wrong color.

Which bring me to the Turkish invasion of Syria.

Sadly, the focus of Americans seems to be that either President Trump tacitly gave Turkish President Erdogan the green light to invade or that we should not be involved in a country protecting its borders.  There is very little talk of the choices available for the people who live in this area of the world, people whose only crime was to be born there. 

Now, let's be clear on this.  The situation with the Kurds, is extremely complicated.  They exist primarily in an area which is labelled Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey, on a map; upwards of 30 million people without a country of their own, perhaps the largest such distinction in the world.  Since a large share of Kurds live in Turkey where they press for there own self-governed territory or more representation in government, sometime violently, the PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, and other countries around the world, including America.  Yet, it was Kurdish forces which did the yeoman's work on the ground to help defeat the ISIS caliphate, and who currently guard the prisons where many ISIS fighters are held. 

In essence, the United States used the Kurds to help defeat ISIS, while condemning their acts of terrorism within Turkey to gain political independence.  If you see parallels to the events of the 1770's in colonial America, you shouldn't be surprised.  Syria, which is run by a Russian ally in Bashar Assad, a man condemned multiple times by the West for his awful treatment of the Kurds in his country, (just as ex-ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was vilified for gassing Kurds in nothern Iraq), is being turned to by the Kurds to help them maintain their land in northern Syria.  Whether Assad gives a shit about the Kurds or just wants to act as a thorn in Turkey's invasion of its land, is certainly debatable.  All the while, an Erdogan led Turkey, which is a NATO country, is becoming far too friendly with Putin and Russia.  I guess dictators and tyrants have their own club too.

And so the wheel keeps spinning with the Kurds looking to, literally, anyone to help them fight an assault that is creating over a hundred thousand refugees (where will they go, Turkey, Iran, Iraq?), destroying their villages and killing their soldiers. 

All because they do not have the right to choose and are fighting, among other things, laws which protect property (country sovereignty) over people.  President Trump is fine with allowing Turkey to defend its borders (he probably wishes he could create a buffer zone between America and Mexico) as that is one of his major political stances.  Russia is giddy with the idea that they can be the peacemaker, cementing their importance in the Middle East drama.  Syria is glad the line in the sand is now being drawn against Turkey.  And Iraq and Iran want anything except an independent country for the Kurds (especially if they get to control the oil reserves in the northern areas of these countries) so don't mind the Turks doing the dirty work of cleansing the area of Kurds, cleansing being the proper term.

The right to choose.  It is certainly a Utopian dream to believe that those uplifting words which helped create America, would actually be brought to fruition throughout Earth.  It would require a paradigm shift of the highest magnitude in so many phases of the tenets of civilized thought, none less important that the legal structure which protects property over people. 

The Kurds have fought, and will continue to fight, to protect their families and their culture from being forcibly removed from their homeland, a land where they have lived for centuries regardless of the name assigned to it on a map.  Yes, they are a tribe caught between many countries, sometimes to the detriment of their cause, but a family nonetheless.

Is it possible for a family to encompass such a large population while living in multiple jurisdictions?  Is it possible for a family to encompass multiple countries while sharing religion, culture or strong moral values?  Is it possible for a family to include all races and creeds, despite the variety of ways in which they speak, worship and love?  Is it possible for a family to be the family of Earth, as seen from the perspective of a being not of this planet?

Can we extend the right to choose to all the members of the family of man?  Do we want to, really?  Humanity has a long was to go before the words of the Declaration are applied to all the humans who inhabit our planet. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Climate Musings

I just finished reading the Fall Edition of Lapham's Quarterly, called Climate.  As usual, an amazing compilation of essays, notes and observations concerning the planet and its climate.  And, also as can be expected, a compilation that reaches thousands of years into our past, and even a few which describe possible future scenarios.

I bookmarked a number of the articles towards purchasing some books for Christmas, some of which are. 

The Unexpected Universe by Loren Eisely

Man and Nature by George Perkins Marsh

When Rain Clouds Gather by Bessie Head

the Muqaddimah by Qalat ibn Salama

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Down to Earth byBruno Latour

How the Little Ice Age Transformed the West and Shaped the Present by Philipp Blom

The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire byKyle Harper

Many, if not all of these books exhibit a common theme; as mankind has experienced the boom in technology, industrial capacity, robotics, and modern medicine, as we have learned that we can control our environment, manipulate bacteria, extract more and more valuable commodities from the planet, we also take one more step towards a disconnection from nature and its cycles, so that while we have certainly advanced in a remarkable fashion from our humble beginnings, we have also misinterpreted that dominion over the flora and fauna of Earth equates to controlling and conquering nature, as opposed to the more responsible definition which includes taking care of and being responsible for the continued flourishing of the beauty and sustenance that nature provides.

In Climate, we have accounts of people working with the land, using its resources responsibly, so that they remain for future generations, side by side with depictions of men denuding forests for all its lumber, then moving on the next wooded area with no concern for the devastation left behind.  In both cases, these stories teach us a lesson about valuing what we have, and working with nature to improve our lives, as opposed to improving our lives despite the consequences to the natural world, as if the two are not intertwined.

Nora and I went to the movies last weekend and saw Ad Astra.  At one point in the movie, when describing the lunacy of men fighting over the resources of the moon and other planets in our solar system, the main character describes humanity as "world eaters".  The phrase is stated with the backdrop of malls and consumerism on the moon, all to distract us from the reality that our petty wars over resources, rather than been solved before we left our big, blue marble, came with us to the other rocks orbiting around our sun.  Is the epitaph "world eater" destined to be our legacy should others visit earth after humans are gone?

It is difficult to predict what the world may be like in 20, 30, 50 years from now.  I imagine that if we were to speak in depth with people born in the early 20th century, those who have seen the massive changes in transportation (horse drawn carriages to rockets), communication (telegraph lines and limited distance phone lines to instant world-wide access in your hand), medicine (millions dying and maimed from the ravages of polio and flu to the mapping of the human genome and targeted treatments based on individual genetics), and global interconnections (from alliances based on blood lines to ones based on money and natural resources), we would come away with the feeling that most of these scenarios could not have been foreseen, and that the aged are as much lost in the times of today as they are in the hurt that results from the death of their generation.

But what is easy to predict is that if we don't come to grips with the effects of the Anthropocene Age, especially the damage we are causing to the natural cycles of our environment, our future will be as unpredictable as the present is for those who lived 100 years ago. 

Will we be like the frog who doesn't notice the warming water until it has been boiled to death, or will we be able to pry our future from the deleterious effects that result from unrestrained capitalism and its crony, uncontrolled resource extraction? 

Can we take a step back from the idea that we are judged, we will be judged by future generations with a yardstick labelled profit and loss, and replace it with the understanding that history might reflect a new morality where the degree in which the Earth's population suffers, or does not suffer, from poverty, treatable disease, or a lack of opportunity for education and economic sustainability, was addressed with environmentally friendly solutions that not only promoted humanity's survival but did so in conjunction with nature not in opposition to it?

The other interesting take away I realized from Climate, is the pretty large trove of history that connects natural disasters with cultural and even social change in humanity.  And on a fairly large scale as well.  It is just another example of how understanding history, or at least understanding the importance of valuing historical lessons, can help bridge humanity's efforts to a more peaceful future.  Perhaps some of those connections as described in Climate are the result of connecting dots after the fact towards a result one wishes to find, but it can certainly bring one to pause when we consider how horribly we are treating Mother Earth, and how she may react, in light of past social and cultural upheavals that seemed to coincide or were inspired by a large scale natural phenomena, especially those associated with humongous volcanic eruptions and the change in world wide climate that a few of them caused. 

It is no surprise that we are experiencing an increase in human migration due to climate fluctuations, if one studies the reasons for past human migrations, migrations which compelled early hominids to seek more hospitable environs.  In essence, humanity has been searching for Eden ever since we became conscious of our discomfort, sometime driven by the search for better food sources, sometimes water, sometimes shelter, but often as the result of a climate change that made "home" less hospitable.

Just as no man should be above the law, humanity is not above nature.  If we continue to treat it as just another commodity, I fear we will be vastly unprepared for the ramifications of our folly, and not able to break the paradigm that put us in this mess, which will result in mankind engaging in the same actions which brought us a climate crisis, unable to shift quickly enough once the true danger is realized.  Certainly the lessons of history, and many of the entries in Climate, would lead me to conclude so.  Let's hope history is not repeated and I am incorrect.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Impeachable Offense

As is the normal cycle when Donald Trump is accused of something, the recent time line starting with the release of the whistleblower complaint and now, reflects the same pattern. 

First, denial that the wrongdoing occurred.

Then, acknowledgement that it happened, but not the way it has been reported.

Then, yes, it happened as reported, but was taken out of context, and by the way, this person did the
same thing and we should be investigating them.

Then, regardless of its legality or morality, when the president does it, there can be no legal ramifications (similar to Nixon's claim).

Mixed in with these steps are various permutations of shadow efforts to do the very thing he is accused of, use of all the legal and illegal methods that the rich and powerful have to escape responsibility from accountability, and use of his power (now, presidential power) to sway various factions that to go against him would be detrimental to their future.

Donald Trump, as candidate, actively welcomed foreign interference of the 2016 election, then used his presidential powers to interfere in the investigation, all the while denying his guilt.

Now, President Trump has actively lobbied for foreign investigations of one of his primary political candidates through is personal attorney and some high ranking public servants, while simultaneously tying aid approved by Congress to that foreign leader, all in the hopes of improving his chances of winning the 2020 presidential election.  One would imagine that if successful again, he will contrive of some way to alter present constitutional law to win the 2024 election as well, since being dictator is his true goal.

Curiously, most current GOP elected public servants, either remain blind to his crimes, or mitigate the depth of them by saying they would not impeach over a phone call, as if that was the only problem.

Now, of course, the GOP is not the only party that includes hypocrites when it comes to defending their leader to the detriment of the country.  I detailed the numbers related to the Clinton impeachment in a previous post which showed very few Democrats voted to impeach despite Clinton's lies to a jury and to the American people.

Still, we are here, now, and Trump's continued use of the powers of the Office of the President of the United States to squelch investigations into his awful diplomatic contacts, his apparent love of the really bad tyrants and dictators on the planet, the padding of his personal fortune via use of directing military personnel as well as foreign visitors to his properties, his continued attacks on the free press when it has the temerity to disagree with him or report on his dishonorable actions, and the blatant disregard for the public trust by not releasing his tax returns, all add up to an individual who is not fit to be our leader. 

Whether he lacks a moral direction, or never had it, whether he is incapable of thinking beyond what is good for himself, or actually believes that what is good for him is good for America, or whether he is the spawn of Satan, and not an orangutan as jokingly posited by Bill Maher, Donald J Trump should become the third president in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives, and if the words of Lindsay Graham (see below) from 1999, are still true, Trump should be removed from office by the Senate.

"You don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role. Impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office."