Mythorelics

Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Spring Cleaning

For most who might read this, late January is not Spring Cleaning Time. But today it was for me – and a good thing, too. I’ve had bronchitis for a month! Two doctors failed to find out what to do about it… and holiday dispiritedness plus physical exhaustion from coughing kept me from getting to something that needed to be done: window cleaning! Not so much wiping down glass to make it clearer, although I did some of that too, but clearing away what insects have left, and dust. There are security bars outside the screens, more ornamental, I suppose, than protective. It wouldn’t take much to pull one off; I’m sure I could do it. But if someone wants in badly enough, they’re going to get in, no matter what. These things have lots of 45 degree angles which collect stuff, and although locals around here take off shoes outside the house, regularly sweep floors (without moving any furniture) and bathe frequently, they’re not much for doing anything difficult that doesn’t involve food.
Hill-tribe people here, and many AmerInd tribes, plus people of the Great Steppes, changed dwellings frequently, rather than bother with nasty cleaning. After not so long of no people around, nature has a way of making many things more pleasant. But scorpions and snakes might move in – I just recently read that scorpions, like bees and amphibians (among others) are disappearing. I have a theory that because there are now far fewer predators preying on the weak and diseased, germs that prey on us have become stronger, and more plentiful.
Anyway, it wasn’t just bronchitis kept me from posting here for a while, but re-writing a lot of old posts (posted below, up to the one with 9-11 in the title). I’ll print that up someday, after I make some copies of my Lanna history in Thai, and post that on the net (I think the domain name will be chiangrailanna.com). And we had to move out our chickens (my bronchitis may have resulted from breathing in a chicken mite) – mostly to our new place, to which we expect to move at the beginning of April. Surrounded by tall bamboo, it has a banana grove and lots of other fruit trees, a little lake, a mountain view and a difficult to find, but quite convenient, location. We’ll pump our own water, grow food, and invite the occasional guest. I’ll have a gallery upstairs, and no chickens right around the house! Really looking forward to it! We’ve been here in Nam Lat as long as I’ve lived anywhere in ChiangRai, or, for that matter, anywhere else – except Columbus, Ohio. And I lived in 6 houses there!
Cleaning is good psychologically, and that’s important, as the political situation in the USA has become way beyond depressing. At least I found “Abolish Corporate Personhood NOW” on facebook today, helping me to hope that some people will finally push to solve some of the major problems, before major catastrophe sets in (a possibility here too; people still believe Taksin worked to help them, broke no laws and is their only hope – not realizing that the Devil you know is almost always better, or paying much attention to the situation in Cambodia, Laos and Burma, where people who I see as much like Taksin have quite stifled things while making lots of money doing business with him…)… Ah me. And I was thinking the economy would be OK until spring. Not so, I guess.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Community as Wealth

Visiting my wife’s village for their New Year celebrations, I was struck by her Lahu tribe’s dancing. It looked so simple, but I could not figure how to do it. Yet everyone stayed pretty well in step. Eventually I figured it as an exercise to practice solidarity, harmony, concord and camaraderie. People were becoming more closely in sync with each other.
These are people almost never alone, who have scarce little cash, credit or material wealth. They do have, and value, community. They help each other, and are seldom desperate, nor in need of charity – from folk they don’t know, anyway (and from ones they do know, it’s another kind of thing entirely: more a kind of investment).
When I was young, the folk duo Simon and Garfunkel had a popular song about Richard Corey, a man who had everything, but went home and “put a bullet through his head”. It was easy to relate to the loneliness and isolation portrayed. We know that things alone cannot provide happiness, or even reason to live.

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Technology

Technology hasn’t provided more leisure time (as anticipated), or fostered creativity, or even helped the cause of justice. It has, instead, made people more complacent, and maybe less capable of real thought and meaningful decision-making. It may well have made our lives more fragile, vulnerable and pathetic. Modern medicine allows us to live longer, but science and technology have NOT made us stronger. To think a palm pilot or global positioning device enriches life is simply mistaken.
Even in the 1960s many understood that technological society is shallow, conformist and spiritually weak. That new inventions were becoming passé. That society in the USA had become a rootless cultural void. And especially, that materialism has little, if any, viability, meaning or ability to provide real satisfaction or more than fleetingly temporary gratification. It isn’t true that people have forgotten this – though most corporate media seems to have!
Maybe we can’t smash all the machines, or the state, but we can accept that the decline in consumerism we’re suddenly facing is a good thing. We can try to buy local products, limit corporate power and to not denigrate, degrade or disparage the poor. Then, and only then, might we become more truly enriched.

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Tibet, Mongolia, empire, religion and tribes

Parallels between the “mysterious (or historically neglected) East and the known West can be fascinating – for instance the “Manifest Destiny” westward expansion in what became the USA, and eastern expansion, past the Ural Mountains, of Russian people.
A case might be made for similarity between Roman Emperor Constantine, and Genghis Khan. Both seem to have found religion useful for purposes of empire.

It’s said, around 100CE a Fourth Buddhist Council was held in Sri Lanka, and there, then, details about Buddhist religion were first written down (on palm leaves). This seems to have been at least 500 years after Siddharta Gautama became Buddha, or died, even.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “No single version of the life of the Buddha would be accepted by all Buddhist traditions.” It may be debatable whether early Buddhism prohibited depiction of the Buddha in bodily form but allowed representation by certain symbols, but I can remember places of Buddhist worship that did not use effigies.
It’s debatable whether examination of core concepts of most religions share many basic ideas: about floods, war amongst the Gods, religious names, laws, prophets, etc., and whether they all arose in navigable river basins, and when (some say: around the same time that there was a global rise in sea levels, at the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 BCE). Maybe remnants of a global culture survived inland along the banks of the world's great rivers, but lost contact with each other and evolved in their own divergent ways, while retaining many core beliefs. Maybe a lot of things, but there’s good reason to question much of the teaching that goes on – and much of what’s accepted as true.
Voltaire, Tom Paine and other people of long ago questioned the “received wisdom” of those born to power, and it’s good to see others still doing so now – though their numbers seem to me distressingly small. I find it hilarious that 100 years ago there were Englishmen claiming 90% of all that can be known already was (and wonder if those making that claim were members of the preposterous “Church of England” – the absurdity of nationalism taken to perhaps its greatest height; I mean really… when I saw signs in northern Myanmar for “Southern Baptist” churches, I thought that quite ridiculous enough, not yet realizing how preposterous that other church title – normal, unquestioned, and long of great power - is).
I just discovered it convincingly claimed that “Buddhism came of age in India but was born and reared in the chrysalis of Persia. Although persecuted by kings, it once flourished in Iran. That the cultural history of Nepal offers nothing that can be seen as a prelude to Buddhism is not surprising in view of the numerous forgeries that underlie Nepalese archaeology.” That’s from “Indian researcher” Dr. Ranajit Pal (see www.ranajitpal.com/zoroaster.html & www.lumkap.org.uk/ for details – I haven’t yet… the government of the country where I live busily censors sites – another I’d like to read, but can’t, is on how capitalism has ruined democracy). Pal claims Buddhism arose, not in North India, but in what was once Persia, and is now Iran, in an area formerly part of India (so called India within Iran). That comes from http://blog.nationmultimedia.com/trirat - “Thai School Daze, The Historical Buddha, an Earth-moving Discovery?”, Sept. 17, 2007.

Discussing the new generation of academic books meant to find popularity among general audiences I thought to say I’d like to see one on Tibet-Mongolia relations. Afterwards I did a google search and checked some entries in Britannica, and then produced the following:
7th century monk Hsüan-tsang traveled from China to India for Buddhist texts, and found “millions of monasteries” reduced to ruins by the Huns (Hsiang-nu), nomadic Central (or perhaps Altaic) people. Many remaining Buddhists had become involved in developing a form of Tantrism, an esoteric psychic-physical system of belief Indian Buddhism revived, especially in the northeast, and flourished for a time under Pāla kings (8th to 12th century CE), and the university of Nālandā became a centre for study of Tantric Buddhism and the practice of Tantric magic and rituals. Under the Pāla kings, contacts with China decreased as attention turned to Tibet and Southeast Asia. Then, with the collapse of the Pāla dynasty in the 12th century CE, Buddhism in India suffered another defeat, from which it hasn’t recovered except with “Untouchable” caste people looking for a way out of an oppressive cultural system (mostly fairly recently). Though some pockets of Buddhism and Buddhist influence remained, after Islamic invaders sacked Indian monasteries in the 12th century, Buddhism found little basis for recovery, especially as the Buddhist laity retained little interest.
Early Chinese (Han) grew millet in the Yellow River valley, while Tibeto-Burmans remained nomads. Tibet split from Burma about 500 CE, and while Tibetan language is a member of the Tibeto-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family (a linguistic construct of somewhat dubious viability), it’s been claimed that Tibetans share genetic background with Mongols. Other mutual influences are clearer. There seems to be an Indo-Scythian component to both (but that construct has problems too – the Scythian component may well have traveled to, more than through, India). A romantic claim that the Hopi of the US Southwest and Tibetans are cousins has found support in depictions of strong cultural similarities between the two groups: a Zuni-Japan connection has also been explored, but that kind of conjecture is hypothetical indeed.
In Tibet, a distinctive form of Buddhism evolved from the 600s CE. In the 600s, Tibet was a powerful kingdom with cultural contacts to China, India and Western Turkic groups in Central Asia. Buddhism was transmitted into Tibet mainly during the 7th to 10th centuries. Notable early teachers were the illustrious 8th century Tantric master Padmasambhava and the more orthodox Mahāyāna teacher Śāntirakṣita. In 1042 a teacher from India initiated a reform movement; within a century the major sects of Tibetan Buddhism had emerged. By the 12th century CE Tibet had become almost exclusively focused in importing and developing Indian forms of Buddhism and art.
The first major historical incursion into Tibet, by the Mongols, left a lasting legacy which still influences Tibet today. From another remote, land-locked country, the Mongols built a huge empire which included most of Asia, all of Russia and, briefly, parts of Eastern Europe.
Genghis Khan attacked northern China in 1210 CE, but according to the Mongol’s Secret History , it was only after the war against the Muslim empire of Khwarezm, while he was in the Oxus region, probably in late 1222, that Genghis Khan learned from Islamic advisers the “meaning and importance of towns.” Another adviser, formerly in the service to the Chin emperor, explained to him the uses of peasants and craftsmen as producers of taxable goods. He had intended to turn the cultivated fields of north China into grazing land for his horses, but began to develop bigger ideas. It’s said Genghis was stopped from advancing into India by a fall from his horse and a dream interpreted by one of his advisors as death for the Mongols should they invade India. True or not, Mongol dependence on their small horses kept them from achieving domination over swampy lower Burma, where horse hoofs sank into tricky root systems. Genghis died in 1227; in 1235; the Mongols launched an attack on Tibet (finished in 1239). It’s not clear that Genghis wanted to convert his people, but like Constantine I (“the Great”; 280 – 337 CE), he may well have perceived the benefits. Britannica reports very differently from my understanding of Constantine, whom I understand to have converted only on his death-bed, after greatly assisting in the development of the Church for what seem to me quite clearly political reasons.

It’s possible that Genghis Khan had some interest in Buddhism, but Buddhism made its major entry into Mongolia in 1244, when an important Lama went to the Mongolian court and fully submitted to Mongolian authority. The Lama's nephew became an intimate of Kublai Khan, and Kublai a patron of Buddhist religion. A Patron and Priest relationship, by which the ruler of Tibet (the predominant grand lama) was regarded as the religious adviser and priest of the Emperor, existed until the Ming drove the Mongols out, and Tibet proceeded to remove traces of Mongol influence. But influence from Tibet on Mongolia was much more considerable, especially in that Tibet provided a script for the writing of Mongolian language.
In China, the descendants of Kublai became Sinicized (Sinified? My spell-check doesn’t like either one); in Central and Western Asia, Mongols adopted Islam and Islamic culture, while in southern Russia and at home, they retained nomadic ways. Many intermingled with Turkic peoples, especially the Kipchak. Arabic and Tatar replaced Mongol as the official language of the Golden Horde.
The Tibetan nation can be divided into several groups, including the Ando, Nachan, and Hor, who further divide into 39 to 51 sub-tribes, each maintaining a distinct identity. The Hor, who are further sub-divided into thirty-nine sub-tribes, are of Mongolian and Turkic descent. Central Tibetans display a strong Mongolian genetic component, while the Kham (also known as the Khampa) are taller and longer-limbed, with sharper features and more aquiline noses, and perhaps somewhat of Scythian descent. The Eastern Tibetans are not as mixed as the Central Tibetans in the sedentary areas. At any rate, with Han Chinese expansion, animistic tribal peoples loath to succumb to hegemony found refuge in mountainous areas of southern and western China. It seems – linguistically – that some also left Tibet for less feudal, controlled and culturally stultifying, areas.
The Yi (Lolo or Wu-man), an ethnic group of Austroasiatic origin living largely in the mountains of southwest China, speak a Tibeto-Burman language; the term is used by the Chinese to designate what they formerly called the Lolo or Wu-man. They numbered about 5.9 million in the late 20th century. Their principal concentrations are in Yunnan and Szechwan provinces, with smaller numbers in northwestern Kweichow and the northern part of Kwangsi Chuang autonomous region. Almost two-thirds of the Yi live in Yunnan. The Yi language is spoken in six relatively distinct dialects. Among lesser minorities within the Yi language group are the Lisu, Na-hsi (Naxi or Moso, a branch of the Hsi-fan subgroup), Hani, Lahu, Pai and the Ching-p'o, who speak the same language as the Kachin of upper Burma. Many Na-hsi embrace Tibetan Buddhism; they also believe in various spirits and demons and, along with their shamans, have priest-exorcists of the Bon cult of Tibet.
In Yunnan, the Yi are the largest minority group in the province. Once rulers of large parts of Yunnan, the Yi are a hill people with subsistence agriculture and proud warrior traditions. Linguistically, they belong to the Tibeto-Burman group. Second largest in population are the Pai in northwestern Yunnan. Long Sinicized, the Pai are rice cultivators who are among the original inhabitants of the region.
Non-Chinese Sino-Tibetan languages of China include some Lolo-type languages (Burmish)—Yi, with nearly 7 million speakers in Yunnan, Szechwan, Kweichow, and Kwangsi; Hani (Akha) with about 500,000 speakers in Yunnan; Lisu, with 610,000 speakers in Yunnan; Lahu, with about 440,000 speakers in Yunnan; and Na-hsi, with approximately 300,000 speakers mostly in Yunnan and Szechwan. Other Sino-Tibetan languages in Yunnan and Szechwan are Kachin and the closely related Atsi (Tsaiwa); Achang, Nu, Pumi (Primi), Ch'iang, Gyarung, Hsifan; and Pai (Minchia, probably a separate branch within Sinitic).

Seems to me these escapees from the feudalism inherent in empire and organized religion are important vestibules of ancient wisdom (to me, at least, demonstrably there whether one prefers to believe in it or not) but becoming increasingly “assimilated” and absorbed. Money, drugs, well-patrolled national borders and increasingly accessible communication technologies have worked, and will continue to work, to decrease diversity, and limit our options, alternatives and ability to successfully evaluate much about life. Sorry to slip into preaching…

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POWER and its limitations

There’s a kind of behavior, and a kind of power, where to behave honorably is to conform to certain rules of cunning, courage and ferocity. Where honorable denotes, simply, the possession of superior strength and willingness to use force. Where to be 'honorable' is to be 'exceptional', 'worth your salt', and especially, 'overbearing'. Here, an honorable act is little more than a successful act of aggression - either in response to some perceived insult or to real provocation.
A high degree of heroism and virtue can be seen as embodied in a superior elite, or, to any brave man proud of valor, scorned danger, in people of no scruples, ready for anything. The key is ability to be a ‘real man,’ to follow a double moral system, with one set of norms applying among members of an ‘in’ group, and another, opposing set for relations with those outside it. In relations with fellow ‘real men’, tact and fine manners' are required, to be used with kinds of erudition, courtesy, kindness and verbal persuasion without compulsion. But in dealings with ‘lesser’ people and enemies, an opposite principle, of false kindness, false condescension and false courtesy applies: snares concealing death to unsuspecting trouble-makers, to the wicked or to the contemptible.
Despite formal hostility from most official authorities, these characters – be they criminals, politicians or entertainers – often enjoy popular esteem, even veneration. The courage needed to make these qualities count, and to not just defend one’s self and group against several (or even more) antagonists, but to take the offensive and put enemies to the slaughter, remains too often seen as admirable.
Power’s often expressed in the respect and esteem in which certain people are held, and linked to possession of particular qualities, and the accomplishment of particular feats, deeds and actions. This is often, but hardly always, part of a cultural pattern whose central themes of self-assertion and honor attained through violence, is taken to be of paramount importance.
A brave man, someone who will put up with no provocation, can be seen as what every man needs to be, indeed must be to survive. Individual force and strength is the one and only means of settling conflict; any clash of interests or ideas presents a kind of quandary, a suggestion of attack, wherein-which it is found impossible to tolerate the superiority or (worse still) dominance of others.
Where this attitude dominates, competitions, challenges and fights are a fundamental means by which people are socialized. The distribution of power and prestige, even within a family, isn’t preordained, or patriarchal type, but established through conflict and testing. Relations within a family obey the rule, not of intimacy or solidarity, but of subordination, involving physically asserted superiority, obligations and values emphasizing prerogatives attached to each position within the hierarchy. Rule is seen as a chore that allows tending to no others.
The father-son relationship, for instance, isn’t based on an established, stable hierarchy derived from the parent's capacity, age and experience, but on ability to emerge victorious - through physical strength and/or cunning - in any competition. What matters most in the establishment of hierarchy is the predominance of the strongest. The strongest member of the domestic group might also be the oldest, or might be the most aggressive or wiliest. Family roles are thus fluid and temporary, subject to considerable tensions and reversals. In time, a son or even wife might grow sufficiently bold to challenge the father's primacy, struggle against it, and dethrone it. Competitive success is an end in itself, independent of the material advantages victory might bring, or even decision-making prerogatives.
It is, indeed, fine – and empowering - to conquer fear and overcome intimidation. It’s good to be strong, and capable; also to be rational, and truly self-controlled. It’s also healthy, and wise, to believe in something beyond he (very limited) self, and to accept life’s limitations. For in being civilized, there can be flowerings much grander than arrogance can supply. And to influence can be much better than to assert.

When too small a percentage of people in a society make, or try to make, or assert the power to make, decisions for too large a percentage, that society is bound to fail, encountering, at best, revolutionary change.
A person can only consider so much, and make so many decisions. The details of scores of lives are too complex are too complex to be handled in a centralized, autocratic way. Needs are often unexpressed, or expressed only poorly. These private needs may still be noticed by an intimate, but will usually escape the notice of others, whose direct needs they are not (and especially by the less needy).
When people can’t decide for themselves, things fall apart. No input from a life regarding matters directly pertinent to it, and stress and death result – it’s quite simple.
But often, in their pride, people don’t notice this. Were they more involved with plants, animals or children, I think they would.
The problem of proportions presented here is a big reason why organized religion, “trickle down” theory and corporate oligarchy simply don’t work well for very long. Too few deciding for too many. Can’t be done. It’s logistics, and bureaucracy can’t help.
In this life, we are all faced with responsibilities. Unpleasantness can be avoided sometimes, but not always. Intoxicating, aphrodisiacal power fantasies can be indulged sometimes, but not for long.

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Material change

Stress, rejection and anxiety can produce very real biochemical changes (including neurological damage) with extreme, and on-going, consequences (post-traumatic stress syndrome, PTSD), and within a context of social alienation, this is worse than within a context involving a supportive (loving) grouping. This we have come to accept, mostly without dealing with many of its important implications.
Being still of a barbaric, competitive (and overly punitive) society, the capitalistic system dominating at least half of our world prefers quick and short-lasting gratifications to either accepting responsibility for consequences or the individual’s status as but part of several greater wholes. This is not only immature, but dangerous – especially in light of a preponderant self-image as more mature than others, and therefore deserving of control.
To deal with these realities, we must first come to accept that no blessing comes unmixed, that nothing is purely good and involving no negative aspects. Then we must re-examine the idea of culture, re-integrate it with actual communities, and learn to accept both ourselves and others as imperfect but still deserving (although of only limited material opulence – no source of any real happiness, anyway).
Then, and only then, might we become able to deal with the angers so violently torturing us (and at least somewhat control our hatreds, jealousies, resentments and other barbaric pettinesses).

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Capacitating the winds of change

Is humanity simply easily manipulated, greedy because scared, driven by forces beyond our capacity to even begin to comprehend, or just increasingly adrift, un-anchored by convention and the interactive involvement which constitutes true community?
Lord of the Flies homo-erotic frat pranks by mercenary Kabul US embassy guards indeed. Someone didn’t read that book the way I did (see the last part of my blog entitled “Differentiation and Trade” – also posted here). Anti-Obama protesters waving insane signs are merely mimicking something from another era (that of my youth) – mimicking something which was quite scary and not at all understandable to the insecure. And the winds of change can make many feel (and be) very insecure.
Activists of the late 60s too often failed to recognize what elitists they really were, how snobbish to the non-hip, “politically unaware” work-a-day people who kept the roads open and other things running, and how this complacent sense of superiority undermined all they (well, we) were working for…
It’s too easy to look down on others, and even with people acting idiotically, usually wrong – and even to try to “help” them, too patronizing. Life is full of difficult choices, and that won’t change; there will always be pressures, differences of opinion, and things to fight about. But there are also ways to live that reduce the number of occasions for conflict and disaster, as surely getting fired has been for the foolish embassy guards trying to fit in and deal with a very challenging situation with negligible guidance as to parameters… for none can claim their leadership to exhibit any real sense of morality…

A main tenant of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) is that all humans enjoy the same relationship with God, or the Divine Spirit, and thus that there is an essential equality to all humanity.
Which is a nice sentiment. But as with statistics, or much information, that can be taken, or used, in many varying ways. Its meaning isn’t just relative to the context in which the concept is presented, or attempted to be utilized, but depends greatly on the extent of inclusiveness listener or presenter is inclined to entertain. It’s not that some are “more equal than others”, or even more human, but that to most of us, some other people are somewhat comprehensible while others are simply not, while also, while for a few, responding to others at all, interacting, just doesn’t happen. Those more able to comprehend and interact have a definite advantage over those that don’t, and if the truth of words is to be evaluated in light of action, that reality deserves consideration. Meaning, those in a catatonic, “vegetable” state may be loved by a Divine Spirit, but ultimately cannot be taken as having equal importance to us - any of us – as the actively interactive. Any assertion will have more applicability, and value, in some contexts than it could ever have in others. We forget this, especially when priding ourselves on living in the “Information Age”. I’m hardly sure that there is any information which could be judiciously expected to be found of value to each individual human, or even each interactive one. In effect, it’s all just opinion, viewpoint, or conditioned response.
If we are to take the worldview of my wife, once a stateless person with no formal education no concept of country, religion or proper socialization, as having equal validity to the worldview of any of the prominent people we find reported about in the “news” media, some problems occur. For instance, we often like to think that education makes for better people, with more capacity, better judgment, and potential (at least) to be more helpful to others. But my wife does not contribute to the incidence or, or occasion for, war, or hatred, or social degradation, or mass misery. Much of the “information” valuable to many others is of little interest to her, and although she too has attitudes and prejudices, they hardly impose on others to any extent comparable to that which is done daily by the more socialized, “civilized”, high-class” or educated. She does not oppress, over-consume or dictate (except, occasionally, to me). The actions of the educated often do oppress, utilize too much of our precious and limited natural resources, and at least attempt to dictate (and not just to a spouse).
It’s all a bit of a mystery.
Does, or does not, education enable, empower, and assist? Once again, it depends on context. Education can be a good thing, but cannot impart wisdom or insight. Or even, really, understanding – although the exchange involved in friendship can certainly help with that. Empathy, perceptivity, capacity for caring concern, character insights, prehension capacity, laughter – these can’t be taught, but can, somewhat anyway, be learned.
The main point I’m reaching for is that the important things to learn in life can’t be quantified as information which cold be placed in a computer or other retrieval system. Life simply isn’t as simple as that. Information, like art appreciation, may confer some advantages to some, but nothing is universal. What’s important to him isn’t necessarily important to her.

and, An organized self-contradiction:
The intent of organized religion being to help the individual achieve something transcendent, its orientation is essentially selfish. As it doesn’t aspire to maintain its base (us, struggling humanity), but rather aspires to something “higher”, its complete success would be its complete demise (and not all that much eventually). Thus self-defeating, its selfish nature is at odds with itself, and involves no rational, pragmatic sense whatsoever (except to assert control). Organized religion involves but pageantry, fantasy and promises – in other words, deceit, but is as addictive as any hedonistic behavior. Sometimes it’s good that so many of us so regularly fail to learn from teachers.

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Holy, Holy Books and Knowledge.

Although it’s clear there’s more at work in our world than our rational facilities can comprehend or even much deal with, it’s also clear that our rational facilities are the best tool we have to work with, and should not be neglected. They can certainly be of more value than any book; if only we can find ourselves able to be not afraid. That we should think more than follow should be clear, but most manifestly isn’t, at least to most. Which is a big problem. As are democracy – rule by capitalists, and capitalism – rule by deception.
Balancing several competing, oligarchic departments of power might be wiser, but oligarchs tend to forget how little wisdom they really have, and also forget that the “downtrodden” often retain much that their “leaders” have lost. The ignorant and poor, despite being unlikely to use it well, also need power. And that failure to use it well might prove a blessing.
Jerusalem based Armenian historian Roupen Shahakian says, “If there is peace, Israel will disintegrate. It’s the Palestinians that are keeping them together.”
How believable – violent obnoxiousness a kind of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. All that’s necessary for reason to prevail is reason, and for irrationality, irrationality.
Israelis and other True Believers need enemies, and will fight among themselves rather than cease being bossy. Having “divinely inspired” books, it’s clear, has made nothing clear. What’s holy, anyway, but loving kindness, goodness, beauty and things which inspire? Certainly not the aspects of the Biblical “God” – full of jealous hatreds, resentments and punitive desires (at least as shown in the book “He” supposedly provided for us to know of Him).

Biblical narrative doesn’t even fit with coordinates of geographic Palestine, and what remains from ancient Greek scholars and writers on history and geography offers amazingly little mention of Jews. As with swords and shields mentioned in the Book of Mormon, external verification of much narrative in “holy books” is hard to come by.
In 1985, Lebanese scholar Kamal Salibi (Emeritus Professor at the American University of Beirut), published “The Bible Came from Arabia”; it offers rigorous linguistic and geographic analysis, showing that scenes of Old Testament action took place not around what we recognize as Palestine, but in the West Arabian highlands of ‘Asir, (“Difficult Country”), a region of southwestern Saudi Arabia immediately north of Yemen and south of Mecca, on the eastern side of the Red Sea – one of the wettest and most temperate places in that desert area. Salibi shows an amazingly high concentration of Biblical place names in a narrow portion of the ‘Asir region, and an astounding degree of correspondence between those places and ones of Old Testament action. Salibi found hundreds of corresponding place-names (between the Bible and towns and villages of ‘Asir), and on the basis of linguistic analysis, has built a strong case for ‘Asir as the actual local of biblical stories. However, this isn’t at all a new idea; ancient Arabic texts contain numerous mentions of “Israelites” as a West Arabian people, and many people previously pondered the quandaries presented. The Saudis bulldozed much of the area, soon after release of Salibi’s presentation of this theory, and allow no archeological research there.

It’s said that knowledge is transmitted in story, but people don’t very much really like truth (no matter what they claim), and do like stories (and especially TV). It’s also said all religions purvey the same truth – and there may indeed be truth in that, in that they at least all involve story. Also allegory, allusion, misrepresentation, and at least some pompous formality, if not pageantry.
Gautama Buddha was born in what is now southeastern Iran, and has no followers nearby. Biblical Palestine was part of what’s now the Islamic Holy Land. The ‘Sermon on the Mount’ had been written down by 70 BCE, and much else in Christianity predates its purported founder. Also, much in religious text has been lost in translation – and become but as copies of copies. Even the Quran was set down through recollection, after time, and not, exactly as it stands, by its central Prophet. It existed in various versions until about 20 years after his death (although some will deny this).

There’s no nothing (no absolute vacuum), nor any true unity – only duplicity (well, and maybe duality). A story is a representation, as is authority. We feel secure being led, happy entertained, and scared of the release of death, which is truth.
Real death is when you allow yourself to be misled, abandoning the self and its governance to someone else. Who will die, too. It’s been told, that for ancient Greeks, loss of self-control was worse than defeat, more dread than Hades!
Organized religion is but politics, and sexual repression exists because the meek are easy to control. The same pertains to hallucinogens – sex and drugs don’t make you smarter (even travel doesn’t necessarily “broaden” the mind), but joyful experiences do tend to make one more independent, or, at least, less group dependent, and thus harder to control.
But without others sharing story, sense of place in context, and values, we aren’t just vulnerable, but defenseless, and unable to continue on. Always there is compromise and change. That everything changes doesn’t change; where else is truth?

A friend tells of his grandmother in Bavaria, who had him haul water from a specific place in the forest, for her herbal infusions, which helped many. He asked her to write her knowledge down. She didn’t. He asks way. And I think, in all likelihood, if she had, it would just have been misinterpreted. Sometimes, what we know, we can’t even know how we know.

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“Great Books”

“Western” books often recommended, on which I concur:

Herodotus: Histories
Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days
Homer: Iliad and Odyssey
Hesiod: Theogony and Works and Days
Aeschylus: Oresteia.
Sophocles: Oedipus Rex
Euripides: Bacchae
Plato: Meno, Gorgias, Phaedrus, Timaeus
Euclid: Elements
Ovid: Metamorphoses
The Icelanders’ Sagas (Egil’s saga, Njál’s saga, etc.)
Beowulf
Chaucer: Canterbury Tales
Boccaccio: Decameron
Jakob Grimm: Germanic Mythology
Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm: Grimm's Fairy Tales
Goethe: Faust
Voltaire: Candide
Machiavelli: The Prince
Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
E.T.A. Hoffman: Hoffmann's Strange Stories
Charles Baudelair, Les Fleurs du mal
T. S. Elliot: Four Quartets
De Tocqueville: Democracy in America
Charles Darwin: On the Origin of Species
Veblen: The Theory of the Leisure Class
Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe
Jonathan Swift: Gulliver’s Travels
Henry Fielding: Tom Jones
Lawrence Sterne: Tristram Shandy
Charles Lyell: Principles of Geology
Henry Thoreau: Civil Disobedience, Walden
George Bernard Shaw: Man and Superman, Pygmalion
William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
Arthur Koestler: The Case of the Midwife Toad, The Gladiators
Konrad Lorenz: On Aggression
Arthur Rimbaud: A Season in Hell
John Muir: Autobiography
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: No One Writes to the Colonel, Innocent Erendira
Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson): Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking-glass
J.R.R. Tolkien: Tree and Leaf
James Clavell: King Rat
Wm Somerset Maugham: The Painted Veil
E.M. Forster: Passage to India
B. Traven: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Joseph Heller: Catch 22
And, of course, the ever infamous 1984 and Brave New World


“Eastern”:

Lao Tzu: Tao de Jing (“Classic of the Way of Power”)
Shui-hu chuan (The Water Margin, or All Men Are Brothers)
Hsi-yu chi (Journey to the West)
Wang Shih-fu: Hsi-hsiang chi (Romance of the Western Chamber)
Lo Kuan-chung: San-kuo chih yen-i (Romance of the Three Kingdoms)
Wu Ch’eng: His-yu chi (like Journey to the West, a fictionalization of Hsuan-tsang’s pilgrimage to India in the 7th century CE)
Cao Zhan (Ts’ao Chan): Hung-lou-meng (Dream of the Red Chamber)
The Bhagavadgītā
The Upanishads
The Ramayana
R.K. Narayan: Malgudi stories (The English Teacher, Waiting for the Mahatma, The Guide, The Man-Eater of Malgudi, The Vendor of Sweets, A Tiger for Malgudi) and shortened prose versions of The Ramayana and The Mahabharata
The Tripitaka canon of the southern schools of Buddhism
Murasaki Shikibu: Genji monogatari (c. 1010 CE; The Tale of Genji)
Fujuwara Sadaie (Teika): the Shin Kokinshü (c. 1205 CE)
Sirin Phathanothai: The Dragon’s Pearl
Jack Reynolds: A Woman of Bangkok

Neither:
V.S. Naipul: A Bend in the River

And a couple titles I found and may try to obtain and read:
Roberto Pazzi: Cercando l'imperatore: storia di un reggimento russo disperso nella Siberia durante la rivoluzione (Searching for the Emperor; The Story of a Russian Regiment Lost in Siberia During the Revolution; pseudo-historical; 1985)
Thomas DiLorenzo: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War

Just over 3/4 through to that absurdly magical number of 100… oh well… I’ve made up the difference with the two other listings, done early in my blogging days!

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The Egotistic Predicament

An increasingly common problem is the Egocentric Personality Disorder (a kind of arrested psychological development involving traits similar to a child's defense against hurt feelings). A couple years ago there was much furor over George W Bush’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and a little over the United States as a whole exhibiting this sociopathic problem. But these syndromes have roots, to some degree, in all of us.
A true victim of the syndrome:
• Lives largely in a dream-world, with actively indulgent fantasies of exceptional success, power, beauty, genius, &/or love, while also deceptively exaggerating personal achievements and talent (knowingly, to others, without admitting it as fantasy)
• Expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements
• Has a sense of entitlement, with unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment, including automatic compliance with his or her expectations
• Has a self-image as especially privileged, and only understandable by others of similar high-status (and of similar tendency to exaggerate accomplishments, and tendency to demand to be considered superior without real evidence of achievement)
• “Has an attitude" – is frequently haughty, acting in arrogant ways, with a grandiose sense of self-importance, and requires, indeed, demands, excessive admiration
• Believes in being more than just special – more than simply better than everybody else; indeed, is so self-important as to be unaware of others' needs and the effects of that their actions produce on others (and even, in fact, on their own life); all is unimportant compared with their mission from God
• Fails (sociopathically) to recognize other people's emotions and feelings – is lacking in empathy, not recognizing or identifying with others' feelings
• Expresses disdain for any who can, or might, be seen as inferior
• Is frequently envious, jealous of others while (usually mistakenly) sensing jealous envy of themselves by others
• Is exploitative towards others, feeling free to take advantage of them (within a pattern alternating between unrealistic idealization of some people, and equally unrealistic devaluation of both the same people – sometimes, and others - always), with most assessment of others being in terms of usefulness
• Can’t accept criticism; is easily hurt &/or made to feel rejected due to fragile self-esteem (though often appearing tough-minded and unemotional - behind a mask of ultra-confidence lies fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism).
• Has diminished sense of potential repercussions for negative (wrong) actions, seldom, if ever, feels remorse, and simply hates even the idea of ever saying “I’m sorry”
• Expects others to go along with all ideas and plans; demands rather than asks (has a sense of entitlement) – cannot work cooperatively or budge from thinking their own way always right
• Once started, will stick to a course of bad behavior &/or bad judgment regardless of the inevitability of being punished for it
• Sets unrealistic goals, desiring constant praise and admiration
• Shows marked preference for appearance over reality
• Has great trouble maintaining productive relationships
• Has intense, short-term relationships with others, and is unable to sustain intimate ones, except with obsequious service providers.
• Expects this state of affairs to be able to continue indefinitely!

One clearly needn’t exhibit all instances of the syndrome to be adversely affected by it!

The Egotistic Personality sometimes connects aspects of reality generally seen as objectively unrelated (but relatable within a delusive, intuitive and illusory time sense). Selective in self-awareness, editing out many negative (darker) aspects of the self, with an addictive personality and furtive rebellious impulses that fail to adequately discern distinctions between the imaginary and real, it has a profound sexual bewilderment which often leads to irresponsible, hedonistic, and overly-indulgent activity. Associating spontaneity with intoxication, there’s a strong conscious need to be noticed, and even stronger unconscious need to manipulate, that leads to relishing sexual exhibitionism (but mostly only receptively, to protect vulnerable self-image). Responses to demands will usually be aggressively negative, often using passive-aggressive means like procrastination, deliberate forgetfulness, dawdling, and intentional inefficiency.
It’s a manipulative, resentful, sometimes infantile, disdainful and covetous personality, arrogant, haughty, patronizing, &/or with contemptuous attitude, as shown in behavior. Efforts at accommodation are forced and occasionally inappropriate; compelled by aspirations to prestige and praise, the egotist finds need to exaggerate, misrepresent, distort, mimic and occasionally invent, to bolster cherished delusions.

Feelings of despondency, helplessness, aggression, and guilt aren’t just poorly dealt with – they’re there, but denied. So there’s a contingent desire for escape, to find respite and refuge in intoxication and unconsciousness (without expecting any consequent loss of importance and prestige). Desperately insecure, the egotist compensates by constructing a grandiose self-image, which only contributes to disfunctionality.
Egotistic personality disorder involves dramatic and emotional behavior, similar to that of histrionic, antisocial and borderline personality disorders. Perhaps guilt-ridden (though that’s quite Freudian), but certainly sexually obsessed, bent on self-destruction, and negligent of others, disturbed personalities failure to resist dangerous desires and impulses, and become willing and able to perform acts harmful to others (and by extenuation, to the self). Many will experience a feeling of release and gratification upon completing a destructive act (especially humiliation of another - often, preferably sexual), and frequently become obsessive-compulsive (except, instead of with a judgmental and overactive conscience, with weak or nonexistent code of morals). There’s a tendency to dysfunction in productivity, but, especially with the egotist, this often gets overlooked.

Egotists usually have normal, even high, intellectual development, while remaining emotionally and morally immature. Dealing with them can give a sense of trying to have a reasonable discussion with a clever six-year-old – the age when children are often grandiose and exhibitionistic, and strongly resist to blame for misbehavior. Although they understand what the rules are (what lying, cheating, and stealing are), they still try to wriggle out of accepting those rules for themselves!
The egotist, like the narcissist, and most politicians, theologians and philosophers, has a context problem similar to that of the 6-year-old. This comes partially from self-identification being an absolute: one is a fixed thing (or capacity), instead of part of a process. This self-importance, seeming fundamental to receptive success (the gaining of further encouragement from others, especially those who seem to matter most), seems to make pomposity a prerequisite. That one comes from limited capacity, and is headed for limited capacity, isn’t just brushed aside, but virtually denied. “I am a blue-blood, created for this role” seems to be the operative theory – though little can be further from the truth. None of us is fundamentally superior, we all make mistakes. We’re all born of mothers, and all will die. Some may wish to deny death, but that’s also to deny process, the inevitability of change, and other fundamental realities over which opinion holds no sway.

Compare these traits of 5- and 6-year-olds: they’re almost amoral, conscienceless; they care overly much about appearances, are authoritarian, contemptuous, critical of others, frequently cruel, stingy and disappointing as gift-givers, envious, competitive, sure of entitlement, hyper-sensitive to criticism, impulsive, naive, and more than occasionally secretive, self-contradictory, and often with a warped sense of time.
In egotistic personality disorder, these traits are also there. They may be a child's defense against cold and un-empathetic care-givers (usually the mother), and may be felt useful towards winning emotional favor. The child hyper-inflates whatever it senses the care-giver approves of, while perceived weaknesses are "split off" into a hidden part of the self (or so its theorized). This splitting may produce a lifelong tendency to swing between extremes of grandiosity and feelings of emptiness and worthlessness.
Or, it may relate to defenses against shame, or be due to excessive pampering, over-indulgence and over-valuation by parents… maybe even to being valued by parents as a means to improve their own self-esteem. That it’s related to excessive parental indulgence not balanced with realistic feedback seems likely; other causes could be unreliable, unpredictable care-giving, emotional abuse, too much praise for perceived exceptional looks or talent, &/or learning manipulative behaviors from parents. A child can learn to overcompensate for feeling rejected, isolated and unconnected... or objectified.

Egocentricity is usually strongest around age 5 (though kids that age can be very nice and fun to be around). It takes years for a person to learn to think from the perspective of someone else, and longer to become consistently inclined to do so.
This is how we are; the egocentric predicament doesn’t mean we don’t know and need love (something impossible for a monad or solipsist). Most of us learn to consider long-term consequences of self-centeredness and dishonesty, but some, including some generally regarded as highly successful, simply don’t. A core root here must involve the mother-child relationship: one could certainly be considered mentally-ailing to doubt the existence of one’s mother, as some egocentric philosophers seem to have done (are we merely dreaming, only imagining once having been a baby – might there not be a malicious deceiver getting something from producing these illusions?)!
When children, particularly after age 6, lie, they’re usually considering what other people are thinking or feeling, then deciding how best to stay out of trouble by figuring out what the other(s) would prefer to hear. This means they’re learning to try to see through other eyes, and starting on the path to empathy! But some come to prefer a mask to flexibility, vulnerability, and spiritual growth.

Root social and cultural contributing factors and probable (partial) causes include:
• Social (and media) preoccupation with wealth, power and fame, rather than with ordinary or average people
• Social approval of open displays of money, status, or accomplishments ("if you've got it, flaunt it") rather than modesty and self-restraint
• Near-idolatry of inherited title, money, power and “class”
• Preference for a leadership style that emphasizes leaders’ outward appearance and personality rather than understandings and values
• The growth of large corporations and government bureaucracies that favor a managerial style based on "impression management" rather than objective measurements of performance (got this one off the Net, and don’t really know what it means, but hey, corporations and government must be at least part of the problem, surely, no?)
• Social trends that encourage parents to be self-centered and to resent children's needs
• Weakening of social institutions that traditionally help children see themselves as members of a community rather than as isolated individuals
• Tendency to condone spoiled over-indulgence, conspicuous consumption and even to revere arrogance
• Youth worship, acceptance of indulgence and the popularity of instant-gratification seeking
• Belief that children should be respected similarly as adults, accepted "for what they are," and thus able to feel self-confident – leading to deficiency in self-critical abilities (yeah – a little New Agey, and from the same place on the Net).

Although the egotistic personality may seem confident, with strong self-esteem, it’s just a pretension. The inclination to monopolize conversations, and to look down on and belittle any that can be seen as inferior, is rooted in insecurity. Underneath lies fragile self-esteem, trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism, a strong tendency to react with rage, contempt and efforts to demean other people in order to bolster the self, and perhaps also a sense of secret shame and humiliation (Freudian, once again, sorry).
Egotists enjoy solipsistic fantasies, living in their own private worlds (and reacting with affront when reality dares to intrude). They don't care what you think unless they're afraid of you, but show interest in the world and how it works, and are fond of novelty and amusement - games, music, stories, outings, adventures…
Egotists see other people mostly in terms of potential utility (to themselves), and find normal people as expendable. They expect the ordinary hoi-poi to stop whatever they're doing to accommodate anything the egotist wants! Egotists use other people to get what they want, without caring about the cost (both to their own self, and to other people).

Narcissists are said to often look, or think they look, significantly younger than they are; this is a point of great pride; some emphasize it by either maintaining styles from their youth, or following the styles of people the age they want to fit in with. That their faces don't show their chronological age may be a sign that they haven't been living real lives with normal wear and tear. The narcissists' years sometimes pass without touching them! The egotist, somewhat more grand, prefers an aristocratic, authoritarian, autocratic mien, and so doesn’t mind looking a little older, and accordingly, superior.

Egotists feel entitled to whatever they can get, expect privileges and indulgences, and also feel entitled to exploit other people without repercussion, or any expectation of reciprocity. They’re typically stingy, even to the point of eccentricity, but can be charming (and flirtatious and seductive) with strangers. The narcissist will flatter shamelessly to get something; the egotist will bribe. With both, any attempt to get intimate is threatening, and puts on emotional pressure; there’s likely to be a quick withdrawal from these “demands.” Only the narcissist will be positively fawning and solicitous – whenever, and as long as, they're afraid - maybe just afraid of not getting what they want. The egotist resorts more readily to using intimidation.
Neither likes to provide much personal information. They not only frequently act unusually reserved, but are quite secretive, and jealous of their privacy. As their real life isn't interesting to them, it doesn't seem potentially of interest to anyone else; they're ashamed of much about their real life, and realize much about their work, friends, families, homes and possessions aren't really up to snuff: they deserve better, and want others to think they have it. Also, exposure of personal detail would reveal conflicting detail…
Inevitably, they will freely contradict generally accepted fact, and even lie about things they did with someone, to that very person. They’ll misquote you, to you, completely bold face. Any who disagree with them, they'll accuse of deception, delusion or both. But eventually, they tend to undo themselves - by behavior that seems oddly stupid for people as intelligent as they are; they rarely consider probable consequences of their actions.

Egotists, extremely sensitive to personal criticism, are extremely critical of other people, thinking being critical shows their superiority. They want to be seen as infallible, and even of unique cosmic significance. But if someone says to them, "Please don't do that again -- it hurts," they might simply do it harder, just to prove they were right the first time, reasoning that, "As I’m a good person and can do no wrong, I didn't really hurt you and you’re lying about it." They’re habitually cruel in both big and little ways; they're paying attention to their fantasy, and never (or almost never) closely to other people – though the bruises they inflict are real, not part of that fantasy, and not just part of the victim’s imagination. No matter how gently one suggests to the narcissist that they might do better to change their ways or get some help, they’ll only react in one of two equally horrible ways: they’ll attack, or they’ll petulantly withdraw (almost autistically).
Like the narcissist, the egotist often doesn’t get jokes, not even cartoons or simple riddles, and can’t make effective jokes, except for sarcastic cracks and the lamest puns. This, because, lacking empathy, they don't get the context, or affect, of words or actions; and all humor, jokes and comedy depend on context and affect. The egotist may specialize in sarcasm about others, which can be taken for wit (as with George W. Bush’s facile nicknaming), but only narcissists are totally incapable of irony. What might at first seem a mimic, pose or humorous put-on might well, in fact, be something the narcissist is totally serious about. They can come close to parody in their pretensions and pretending, and be quite funny without knowing it. But you'd better not let on that you think so! The Emperor with no clothes can still order one’s head chopped off.
Of course, the autocrat rarely achieves truly desirable results…

"Modern American Christianity is filled with the spirit of narcissism. We are in love with ourselves and evaluate churches, ministers and truth-claims based upon how they make us feel about ourselves. If the church makes me feel wanted, it is a good church. If the minister makes me feel good about myself, he is a terrific guy. If the proffered truth supports my self-esteem, it is, thereby, verified."

Like with social-climbing women on Thai soap operas, narcissists want (need?) to win every time. They’re poor sports who can't stand to lose, often argumentative and quarrelsome, defiant, fresh, snippy, jealous, envious, competitive, combative, belligerent, verbally and physically aggressive. They’re prone to threaten, insult, and get physically violent; and may occasionally have violent temper tantrums which can require physical restraint because of violent striking out.

Sounds like a lot of Thais and Expats I encounter. Both, to make sure of winning, will cheat or make up idiosyncratic rules, while complaining that others are cheating and not following rules

and gays: who often love to dress up and pretend they’re somebody else.... and are frequently less interested in actual final products than in what they’re doing at the moment

And many popular entertainers, and especially most Expats, who’ve largely escaped possibility of social censure, can successfully avoid peer pressure, and are proud to have left most problems back home…!!!

Mencius and empathy

Chinese sage Mencius (372-289 BCE) believed people are pulled toward being good. He wrote:
“If men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they will without exception experience a feeling of alarm and distress. They will feel so, not as a ground on which they may gain the favor of the child’s parents, nor as a ground on which they may seek the praise of their neighbors and friends, nor from a dislike of the reputation of having been unmoved by such a thing. From this case we may perceive that the feeling of commiseration is essential to man.” He wasn’t familiar with psychopaths (epitomized by continual changes of feelings) or sociopaths (who feel no empathy). These are people intensely hurt, alienated and emotionally isolated, who can vengefully delight in the agonies of others. Some are even highly successful. Cooperative impulses are healthy and powerful towards achieving the common good, but we seem to have been losing them. Anticipation of reciprocity and reconciliation simply isn’t what it used to be – much trust is gone, as with the autistic, sociopathic and psychotic. We’ve become alienated – and what are we going to do about it?
It IS indeed up to the individual. When the madmen of absurd power notice they’ve been left out of something good, their behavior may well change; but that won’t happen as long as we remain followers looking just for fun and acceptance, instead of self-motivators who know that to give is to receive.

Psychopathy, or antisocial personality disorder, can seem enigmatic and beyond normal human understanding, but isn’t. Although its symptoms are easy enough to recognize, its roots remain unclear; undoubtedly, different paths can cause similar forms of it.
Psychopaths commit violent, nefarious criminal acts, often predatory, premeditated and with a sadistic quality, without the slightest personal upset. Sadistic behavioral aspects often decline after about age twenty-seven, but other personality traits remain constant and decline in severity with age, little, if at all. A third of psychopaths remain criminally active throughout their lives. Mostly affecting men, individuals with this disorder seem to lack most normal emotions, and commit violent crimes without remorse or even disgust. It involves an inflexible, all pervasive, pattern of behavior which has noticeable roots in adolescence or childhood deviations from social norms. Sufferers show repeated disregard for the rights of others, plus a general recklessness, impulsivity, deceitfulness and irresponsibility. They’re usually of normal intelligence, able to manipulate others for personal gain through a superficial charm and deviousness (with a characteristic lack of remorse, regret or empathy); a trait of callous unemotionality fuels poor behavioral and emotional regulation, lack of empathy, moral poverty, propensity to manipulation and the violating of the rights of others. Their egotistic personality allows them no concern for consequences others might suffer due to them. This lack of emotion might be a temperament style of low behavioral inhibition. Generally, psychopaths fail to understand or experience the emotional significance of affective stimuli the way ordinary people do; studies involving autonomic nervous system and skin conductance show psychopaths responding less anxiously to fear-eliciting stimuli. Dysfunctions in the limbic system and frontal cortex are found when psychopaths process affective material. Damage in the cingulate cortex may be a basis for the fearlessness that makes psychopaths so impulsive and recklessness. They have deficient processing of unconditioned stimuli (such as a distress cues), which implies psychopaths have a sub-optimally functioning amygdale (a poorly functioning amygdala could also be responsible for emotive and cognitive defects). Abnormalities existing within the limbic system and prefrontal cortex could be a reason for the impulsivity and lack of morality that permeates a psychopath, or could result from a joint root, stem from the same cause.
Often psychopathy afflicts children of abusive families, or ones exposed to violence and aggression at an early age. Although some psychopaths develop out of relatively normal households of apparently loving parents, more come out of broken homes or poor living conditions. Exposure to violence, aggression and neglect could well lead to the belief that the world is neither a good nor safe place, and thus create a "survival of the fittest" attitude, with consequent lack of empathy and moral altruism. An absence of pro-social models can certainly effect the development of psychopathy. Attachment theory suggests that inconsistent parenting practices lead to poor attachment profiles in young children; these weak attachment profiles aren’t significant enough to create a mental representation for guiding future behavior. The psychopath, with no mental model for morality or interpersonal relationships, feels no significant connection to others. Inconsistent parenting, punishment and resentment may be salient factors in the development of psychopathy. Varying degrees of punishment may lead a child to assume consequences to his actions aren’t something to be concerned about, or, worse, that punishment is at best capricious and arbitrary, and may even be inappropriate, disconnected and indicative of an order-less, immoral world. There may even be a sense of revenge for not feeling accepted, included, appreciated – perhaps even for having been over-so protected and isolated as to be unable to earn intimacy. Caring can come to seem weakness, and to trust to be naïve, to feel merely to be vulnerable…
Remind you of any particular person, or group of people?

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Better Ways

Not only could there be expanded awareness, better schools, and better laws, prisons, international relations and nutrition,

There are better ways
Of transportation (more rail, public transport and ride-sharing, use of natural gas and electric bikes, and yes, less jet-set flying about)
Of population control (sexual honesty, admitting that it’s not yet a chicken still in an egg, never having taken a breath or even ever having been seen)
Of waste disposal (after well-controlled, limited use, recycling and turning excrement into fertilizer – more easily done than you likely know)
Of product distribution (patent and licensing limitations instead of extensions, and especially the favoring of local products)
Electricity production (solar, graceful wind generators, geo-thermal, methane from sewage utilization, even exercise harnessing)
and storage (well, maybe not just quite yet – batteries have lagged behind other technologies, but still… there could easily be neighborhood power collection and storage repositories, with meters)

but there’s hardly the will or method necessary to implement these ideas – and a very good question, “Why?”, about that!

Where are our beliefs leading us? Do we care? Or, perhaps, do we count too much on something? on a few things? on, even, other people?

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Directional precepts for viable democratic governance

The key to viable governance isn’t democracy per se – we only have representative democracies anyway – but checks and balances. That we forgot the old Roman question, “Who guards the guards?” and lost much of that feature of good governance is at the root of most of our current pressing issues.

7 Directional Precepts for Policy Guidance:

1. While recognizing that the Executive Branch of government is intended to, and should, carry out policy decisions enacted by the Legislative Branch, we also recognize the essential nature of leadership focus and need for directional unity. A President should lead, not rule; balance of powers must be restored.
2. The Judicial Branch must be concerned with justice and not politics; judicial standards must be enforced – if necessary, through impeachment. Judicial appointments should be made from within that branch of government, on Presidential recommendation and Legislative approval, from a large enough candidate pool for timely completion.
3. Corporations having rights as people is illegal, absurd and contrary to both the public interest and the 13th Amendment. A society ruled by lust for profits can be neither moral nor stable, and only real people should be able to give (limited!) political campaign finance donations.
4. The National Guard must be for guarding the nation, and never deployed abroad. Any acts of war must be initiated by Congress; the Executive has the responsibility to protect the nation and its constituency, but must also not only obey International Law, but United States law.
5. The Federal Reserve Bank must be owned by the citizenry, not by bankers, and caps placed not only on interest, but fines and penalties levied by financial institutions.
6. Ethnic, linguistic and natural diversity, as also the environment and nature – being valuable assets for all humanity - need not only active efforts towards preservation, but to be honored, sustained and enhanced through both law and the promotion of appropriate respect.
7. “Free Trade” should not be encouraged at the expense of workers or the environment, nor tariffs instituted to protect vested interests.

Bill Clinton, middle-of-the-roader, promoted “free trade” while spending more than had ever been spent before on crowd-control devices, and the terms progressive, conservative, liberal, hawk and dove, began to lose all meaning. Isolationist or internationalist, patriot or not, humanity has become beset with circumstances which not only demand change, but require renewed attention to traditional values and respect for received wisdom. We need leaders, and teachers, who can, and do, practice what they preach – and so know what they’re talking about. We must stop being bedazzled by glamour, image and ‘charisma’. Many may not remember, but Adlai Stevenson, an honest thinker of real integrity, lost the prospect of the Presidency because of a hole in the bottom of his shoe. We cannot continue to have performers, instead of people capable of adequate performance, responsible for addressing crucial issues.
Lowering expectations isn’t the answer; changing priorities is. Labor-saving devices haven’t produced more free time or quality of life, nor has materialism contributed to justice, integrity or reliability. Children usually can’t even play outdoors freely anymore – and there’s a lot more to that than sexual predators. When people have enough time to form a real community, and the power to help determine what’s going on around them, there simply isn’t as much chance of misconduct and wrong-doing. We don’t need morally arbitrary, intrusive, authoritarian, repressive government or social institutions; what we need is community, cooperation, and increased sharing of responsibility.
In the last generation, Americans have become known for responsibility-avoidance. This is syndromic – an unfortunate aspect of our putting too much emphasis on individuality. But as anyone who has a child knows, one shouldn’t, can’t, and will never even be able to try to decide everything for oneself. We exist in various continuums, and need to recognize that as actuality. “No man is an island.”
What we’re now faced with is simply a need for boring old maturity. It’s sad we can’t all be 17 – and know everything, hold no fear of death and see life as an adventure where one can do no wrong. Although that’s fun for a while, it ends. Face it: only a few of us are 17, or 19, and they won’t be that age for long!
We must cease to consider greed a viable motivator. To allow a tiny minority to block the good of society at large is suicidal. Innovations in viable (‘alternative’) energy, medicine and reliability (as opposed to ‘planned obsolescence’) must be brought to market. We must also recognize, and accept, that the marketplace cannot continuously enlarge; if we are to be caretakers, and not despoilers, of the future, population control simply MUST be encouraged.
We need to earn, continuously, respect – we can’t just glide by on the assumption that we simply deserve it. That simply doesn’t work; this is not a mater of opinion, just a reality. We’ve gloried in youthful irresponsibility far too long, and are faced with unavoidable consequences.
Technology can help, but we’ve put too much faith in it, much as we’ve pretended toys alone can make a child happy. A child needs friends, and you can’t have friendship without respect; you can’t have respect without facing reality and making real decisions – usually in consultation with others, not unilaterally. This isn’t so hard to understand – we live with it every day. But we need to apply it to a grander scale than we have been. We need to grow up.
We can no longer have one set of standards for prominent people, and another for those with less sensational lives. We can no longer have one set of standards for at home, and another for overseas. Maybe we can’t be right all the time, but we can try – and should. Do we really need to be punitively reminded again and again that violence and retaliatory aggression can’t achieve what kind encouragement can? We need to set a higher standard, and the only way we can do that is to listen – listen to the wisdom of the ages, and stop hearing only what we want to hear.
Which, I’m sure, isn’t what anyone really wants to hear, so, for now, I’ll simply reiterate the 7 main points!


Let’s restore:
1. Balance of powers
2. Segregation of powers
3. curbs to corporate power
4. non-aggression
5. financial integrity
6. cultivation of healthy diversity, and
7. responsible trade practices.

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