Paradoxes of the Human State or The Games People Play:
Part One: The Morality Trump Card
Stops any progression of conversation dead in its tracks After all it is ones “moral” thinking. What do we hold in higher esteem than that?
Our own moral thoughts?
Woops… now what do we do? Back to square one I guess.
Silly humans and our reasoning thought.
Breakfast of Champions?
As part of his series on albatros chicks taken in the isolated Pacific Ocean Islands of Midway, Chris Jordan shows us that on a diet of human trash, tens of thousands of these chicks die on Midway every year from starvation, toxicity and choking.
When one finds bottle caps, plastic bags, toothbrushes and syringes in the stomachs of baby birds on one of the most remote islands on Earth, does it not begin to raise serious questions about the harm we (the human species) are doing to this Earth?
Reflections (of denial): A tale of two Nations….
Have you ever fought against something in your life… and you were not totally sure why? How about people. Have you ever been attracted to a person (as a friend.. or more), but there is something about them that really picks at you and each time you are together you get under each others skin a way that you think is not productive, but try as you might, you just can’t seem to get rid of them. It is like they are a part of you… or a part of you you don’t really like, want to look at or see.
Thus is the feeling that I often think about when I think of the China and The United States.
Over my years of travel, living in various parts of the world and working, I have come to be able to have the chance to see both of these cultures in great detail, and being a person whom likes to read, ask questions and look for as many possibilities as I can to each and every situation; I have come to the conclusion that China and the United States are VERY much alike…. but maybe not in the ways you may think, or have even thought about.
Let us start from the beginning. The US, a country (if starting from 1776) of some 235 years, was born out of war. Fighting for a better country, system and way of life was the motto of the day. China, a country of 2500-5000 (dependent on whom you may speak with) years of history, was too born out of wars, and an idea of the betterment of the people within (of course in different ideological ways, but the gesture was the same). Up until 1945, the United States was pretty much a centralist protective country that took care of its own and did not much get involved in the affairs of the world (yes they did participate in WW1). China, too blocked itself off from the world, but only opened up to the world, when (not unlike the United States), economic opportunities came a knocking and the government saw a great way to reform. The United States became the world leaders in arms, (the army, and production of arms… of all kinds, combined are their two biggest industries…. hence the military industrial complex metaphor). China became the manufacturing base of the world (thanks to the wests, sorry western CORPORATIONS thirst for cheap labor and high profit margins), and so they both dominated (and continue to do so) the world… but just in different spectrum’s, and they are both now vilified for said domination.
The United States and China suffer from this idea of exceptional-ism. Not a bad thing. Indeed, to have the notion that your nation is great and that you live in a great country is a good thing, but these nations take it further. China calls it “the Century of China” (discounting the fact that other Asian cultures like India, now Vietnam, Indonesia and further abroad places like Brazil are enjoy growth at or now above the pace of China). The United States, well, by their actions and ways in the world (less now then in the past), seem to just assume they are dominate. They have bases on every continent (practically) and have never fully left most countries (as of yet) that they at one time occupied, or sent military troops to.
Both are countries with an insatiable appetite for natural resources. And, in their own ways they will do what they need to to procure it. They may go about it in different ways, but they are always looking out for number one… themselves.
Despite the politics, despite what you may think about this idea of “democracy” vs. “communism”, “socialism” vs ” free market” (or whatever non existent catch phrase you may think is in place) China and the US are all about MONEY. It is what drives them both in many ways. Their countries thrive on it and they see it as their real motivator for many things.
Both are countries with populations that have very little respect for their government nor a strong hope that the government systems that they have at the moment will bring around a real and positive change for their peoples. In the United States they have what they call…. freedom to choose. Basically that just means they constantly blame the other side for the ails of their society (or on someone else that is not them). In China they have the black market. Now the United States talks about this all the time. Copy right infringement, intellectual property rights etc etc etc. In China, there are two economies. The one that the government is pushing… and the one that a large percentage of the general population follows. They don’t much care for/about what the government is doing or saying, they just go about their day and do what they need to do in their lives and survive in the ways that they can. They are like Americans whom really see nothing good coming from their government, so they just take matters into their own hands and the underground trade in … everything… is huge and not something that is even hidden in most quarters. Everyone knows it and it is just what goes on. Now you may call this uncivilized, but I certainly don’t see it as this … communist… that the west keeps talking about. Anyone whom has REALLY seen China knows that is just not the case there. Yes, they have limits on freedoms (so in that form of the definition it is true), but does not the United States have the patriot act? To me, I see little difference in that. They can detain whom they want, listen to whom they want and not tell you anything. Granted, detainment and political freedoms are more in China, but Chinese don’t profile like Americans… they just overrun with one cultural group (the Han) to … gentrify. Sort of the idea of the American ”melting pot” thing. You are from another culture, but when you come here… you are an AMERICAN!!! Same thing in China. Move in the Han… you are all CHINESE!! All this aside, generally, in the day to day, the people’s of both nations pretty much think the same things about their leaders.
As I travelled both countries one thing I could not stop thinking was how much the persons (especially of certain generations… the older they were the more so), of each country thought they knew so much about the world. I heard time and again from both nations that .. they had great news outlets and they were informed about everything. Well that is not the case in China at all, but the strangest thing is the way the news is reported in both countries. In China it is about the OUTSIDE world (but not China), in the US it is about the world from a US prospective. So in both countries neither of the peoples are getting the entire picture of anything. The United States may (and does) have more open and more overall news stations than China, but the US news has become so bi-partisan and so one way or another that it is hard to get the REAL news anymore. In some instances if I wanted to watch international news, I would choose Chinese as it just… shows the news… it does not commentate on it (unless it is in a propaganda .. China is better way.. but I can see though that.. hey just like in the United States). The people of both countries, while saying they know a lot about the world from their great news also have VERY large portions (the majority) that have never travelled beyond their own borders and really have no understanding of the world outside their own little bubble. In China at least the younger generation is open (and I think the US is heading that way too more as well), and they WANT to know many things about the outside world… and they WANT to be a part of a great, global community.
I can see why the general populations think that way, for the leaders of their countries pay lip service to each other. Occasionally scolding each other about something they see, but in many instances turning their eyes away (back to the money piled up in the corner).
When you look at the gap between the rich and the poor of both nations, it is very large, and in both nations the “minority” groups are that much less to have an active voice in all things in the country and are therefore less likely to have “made it”
The rich? It seems to me that the rich of the US and China are exactly the same. Neither owns anything that is made in their own nation. Their clothes, jewellery, shoes, furniture and cars are from Europe. Their high-tech household products and electronics are from Korea or Japan, and even their houses are build with wood from old growth forests, or limited stalks from other countries or stones from hundred year old villas shipped in from Europe. It seems in both countries to ” make it” means to own nothing homegrown.
Their playgrounds for diversion are even the same. The United States has Las Vegas, China has Macau. Both “get away wonderlands” where people can pretend (at least for a day or two) they live THAT sort of life, and gamble the night away. The United States has New York, China has Shanghai (granted New York still is WAY far ahead in culture, but then their is Beijing for that), they have large amounts of people whom travel home on one day of the year to see their families (thanksgiving/lunar new year). Their general populations use the same products… (the Chinese make them and they are sold to the American consumer for cheap, while the general Chinese population uses a lot of the lesser known Chinese brands because they are cheaper… buying a western brand means you have “made it” in some way).
They both act like bullies.. when they don’t get their own way. China abstains from voting, the US says… no. It may not sound the same, but the reasoning behind it is.
And the craziest thing of all.. and the one that always leaves me scratching my head and makes me think of one of THOSE type of people in my life is……
……………they need each other. The United States and China are like siblings. One older, one younger. Both mature in some ways, and immature in others… both needing a hand in learning… how to get along in the world. And they fight, and they disagree, and they say that they hate each other and that the other does not know what it is talking about….
….. but at the end of the day, just like siblings in a family, they sit down at the table and they eat together. Sometimes in silence (the heat of the argument of the day still fresh in their thoughts), but they bite their tongues and they think…
…What IS IT about this person that makes me so upset (when I don’t really know them)?
…What is it indeed.
Let us begin the talk about true sustainability: Part Two
It is one of three things that we all need to survive, and it is one of the biggest issues that we need to be dealing with if we want to have better and true sustainability for the world in the future.
Poverty and access to food are at their lowest and highest (respectively) levels since…. ever, and while that is a good thing, it is not something we should be resting our laurels about.
Economic downturns in many (most) western nations have put a squeeze on many people, and the amount of those living in poverty is on the raise. This in turn directly relates to people’s ability to get enough to eat and it has a ripple effect to those in the nations that have NO access to anything. Food agency donations are effected, through less money being given as well as more of the resources being kept in richer nations to deal with their own raising poverty rates.
….And then there is a thing called climate change. Believe it is human caused or not, it is a fact, and it is occurring (for whatever the reasons). This is and will continue to have a great effect on the food supply chains the world over in all ways. From the production to the distribution, climate change is perhaps the one single biggest problem we (will) have with our food supplies. Cooling of some places, drying out of others, the heating of others, and the complete disappearance of some, will put intense pressure on us all to be able to find different ways to continue to produce.
And then there is the fattening of our nations. This to, in a totally opposite way from those that have nothing is effecting our food sustainability. As calorie consumption raises (and it tends to happen also in nations that develop, but it is at alarming high rates in many western fully developed nations), the land needed to produce those calories (mostly meat) increases. And so we cut down those trees, wipe out those ponds, marshes, and the like that contribute to our betterment (through the services they give us of cleaning our air etc) as well as wiping out habitats for other species. They are all connected. WE are the one species that is not connected in this cycle, and so we are destroying the cycle of the earth (which in the long run will destroy us).
We need to look at what it is we are putting into our mouths. The food (or non food as it were as many nations now consume large mass quantities of processed chemicals) cause a strain on us all in terms of health issues they generate. Health budgets are big issues for many nations… and are only going to get bigger. So we need to look at that as well. What we eat today will have a direct effect on many other things we may not have thought of tomorrow. Genetically altered foods are inevitable and something we need to look at as a way to help us cope with/adapt to the changing environments and demands of an increasing world population, but we need to make sure they are being produced in ways that will not come back to bite us in a generation or two when we discover they are changing us in some ways.
The “green economy” needs to take a look at how it effects our food sustainability. Staples of our diet (like corn) are being diverted to things like bio-fuels, which have a direct effect on the food supply and cause prices to raise, causing a further inability for many to be able to afford (let alone actually have access to) them. More land is needed to cover the demand of both these bio-fuels and our stomachs. The cycle is all connected.
No nation is not at risk in some ways. Many western nations (especially the United States) will suffer more from climate change than others. So while now they may have enough to eat, in the future they may not. Our distribution process is under attack (from corrupt governments, agencies and corporations wanting to make a bigger buck) or at the very least broken in its ability to really distribute foods to many places in the world… Even in developed nations. How many “inner cities” have real fruit and vegetable markets?. Even those places whom are not seen as “third world” or “poor” need to improve greatly their production and distributions systems, the ones we think are fully developed are not for they have been taken over by corporations. Food is a big business and it is all about the bottom line and so corners are often cut to make shareholders options raise. We are playing with peoples lives for a better portfolio. An example is chicken. It is one animal that has been changed so much in terms of its production time, all in the name of maximizing profits, but the quality of the chicken has decreased (to say nothing about the ethical issues of how we treat these animals. We may consume them, but we could consume them with a bit more dignity).
The next couple of decades are going to see some big changes (I feel) in food in our world, and I do believe that if we really are wanting to have a better sustainability of our way of living, we need to understand that food is one of the most important issues that we have in this world. Not just because some people don’t have it, but because in our world it is a very feasible thing now to see that even the nations that do are more susceptible than ever to not. So lets not wait till a have nation is in crisis like the now have nots. Lets begin to create real sustainability and understand that in order for that to happen that it is not just about the way we produce, and distribute the food that is the issue, it is also the way we consume it that needs to change.
And I refulse to believe Texas is a state until Rick Perry’s prayer visuals tell me his big JC in the sky says it is! (and I want it in writing… perferably blood from “the body of christ”)
The propoganda of our own despair
Humans it seem really do like put our feet in our mouth. Especially when we forget (quite often on purpose) the BIG picture of everything.
Hence it seems has been the case in the past few days of the falling back into the easily digestible “the man is wrong” stick again when it comes to the riots that have rippled across the tweets, blogs and such of England and out onto the streets resulting in the looting, burning and bodily harm and death of some.
I have to pause.. especially when the issues here are so much more complex than just the old mantra “the man is wrong” speal. These are very troubling times we live in and it seems to paint these riots in just one easy and quick brush would really not be seeing the much bigger issues that are now at hand and waiting to be looked at.
It seems to me the propaganda machines of all sides of the debate over the causes for the riots in England (out right lawlessness vs riots about inequality vs. a generation brought up with little ideas of authoratative values vs cultural/religious attitudes vs. a lost generation with no hope) have all been rolling out rhetoric these days.
I dare say when the reason why the protests (notice I say protests as that is what they began as) occurred in the first place (as the little mentioned anymore, match that lit this whole thing; the Duggan shootings) were lost in the race to get the latest “kicks” “technology” or “bling”… this ”movement” I have heard floated in some circles, this taking back of the country, this not taking it anymore rally cry, this anger from the middle class (such as it is that is left in the west), this lashing out at the state of the country, lossses me a bit.
It seems to me when time and time again you see the videos, reports and so on, it is race on race, culture on culture, religion on religion violence… these aforementioned reasons loose me a bit, and I start to see that there are a whole lot of other issues at play here than just the … we want to stick it to the man that makes a great soundbite but does not really tackle the big picture of it all.
What I can see is the idea that youth may have looked at what big business has done to the world and decided to do the same to them. What I can see is a generation of business that has not really had respect for, or moral values about the way they conduct business (in some cases), and so people being a creature that learns from example is just getting theirs in the same way (but instead of doing it in a suit, they are doing it in a mask and adidas trainers…
….but lets be honest, that is not what happened here in most cases REALLY… come on now. For if they did, think that, why hit all the small business? Woud they not want to by-pass them and just stick it to “the man”? Also if one looks at some of the tweets and such things it was not political statements that were being thrown around, it was “hey lets get some new kicks”. This idea of a revolution against business also looses me when they ransack and take home the products made by people whom are being exploited (in some or many cases) in countries by these companies to make money. Indeed if they did not think about this while they were taking them.. just trying to stick it to the man.. why not give it a thought now.. you were in your idea of showing you were not going to take it anymore…actually doubling sticking it to those whom made the product in the first place (and most often those are very low income wage earners in places like Vietnam and China).
Adidas need to do damage control .. because I dare say the images I saw of all of these so called.. poverty stricken, were in their trianers. Perhaps they could capitalize on this and spin it with a new shoe. HOw about something like…. “hypocritical”… when you want to riot in style.
All kidding aside, lets hope level heads prevail through the end of this (not just a .. this is the ONLY reason and lets curb the use of social media in some ways), to see the points all the propaganda machines have been churning out the past few days to prove their side is the right and just ones and how about we actually deal with ALL the issues, for there are some VERY DEEP issues here (racism, cultural/religious centric feelings, disenfranchised groups, poverty, economic hardships and yes… just plain lawlessness) that are FAR reaching, not just in England but indeed in many parts of the world.