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Priority List

April 16, 2012

After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 doctors in the few still functioning medical facilities like the Hospital de l’Universite d’Etat and in hastily set up temporary relieve centers were overwhelmed by the number of severely wounded patients and they had to use the concept of triage to determine, who should be treated first.

The doctors had to amputate smashed limps as fast as possible to avoid the development of gangrene. Every minute counted and the limited resources and the limited number of medical personal made it necessary to avoid wasting time for severely injured people with uncertain survival chances.

The patients with better survival chances were treated first, the others died. Many of these victims could have been saved in a normal situation, but in the aftermath of the earthquake the necessary effort so save their life would have jeopardized the survival of dozens others.

It should not be left unmentioned in this context, that relieve efforts were severely hampered by US troop transports, which were blocking the airport in Port-au-Prince. Doctors Without Borders stated, that hundreds of lives were lost because its planes were denied landing rights. The US administration regarded the deployment of 10.000 soldiers as more important than the deployment of doctors, because the USA feared to loose control about Haiti to Aristide supporters.

But this is another story for another blog post and I mentioned this episode in Haitian history actually and primarily for the two following reasons:

First, to remind myself how fortunate and privileged I am, never having experienced such a disaster situation and never having been forced to make decisions about life and death.

Second, to point out, that despite my fortunate personal situation I nevertheless have to set priorities. There are so many things that seem to be of nearly equal importance, so many tasks to do, so many ideas swirling in my head ready to be worked out and to be transformed into real world projects.

There are so many ideas in my head waiting to be realized — or at least to be written down and published in a blog post.

I cannot do all at once, I cannot do everything in this short life, I have to separate the promising from the questionable and the outright weird, I have to do triage all the time — fortunately on a rater benign and inconsequential level.

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Yesterday I had a very disturbing experience while making the obligatory morning walk with the cat family. Princess Min Ki, Ma Xi, Rosy, and Sumo were participating in the walk, Wendy stayed at home. We went from our gathering place across the road upwards through the wilderness of a patch of mixed forest to a small clearing at the western edge of the wood.

The cats always like to make a stop at this clearing and sniff around or roll on the soft forest floor or just rest in the sun. I usually wait till they have finished with whatever they are doing, but yesterday I went a few steps further into the forest just to look how the vegetation develops. There are little sprouts and leaves coming out everywhere, because the forest floor is permeated with seeds that only wait for spring to develop in new wonderful flowers, ferns, shrubs, and bushes.

Suddenly I saw right before me three little black squirrels sitting on the ground in a circle, chomping away on the newly developing leaves. I made two other steps but the squirrels were so busy that they didn’t even run away as I was standing right beside them. They were very young, babies, or rather toddlers, and they looked indescribably cute.

This was probably their first expedition into the dangerous world outside their winter hideout. Maybe their mother had accompanied them and had fled when she saw me coming — and the children had failed to listen to her warning calls. They were for sure hungry, April is a hard time for squirrels because buried nuts begin to sprout and are no longer available, and new food sources have not developed yet.

Usually I call my cats every other moment, reciting their names in a rotating order. I do this to let them know where I am and in what direction I go, but also to warn the animals of the forest, that Mato’s cats are on the loose. Unfortunately yesterday I was quiet because I wanted to listen to the birds, which were celebrating the arrival of spring with an oratorio of twiddling and chirping.

The cats had not noticed the squirrels yet, but they were just going up to follow me. They would kill the squirrels and eat them. Worse than that, they would catch the squirrels and let them free to catch them again, they would play with them, they would dissect and eat them alive, unmoved by the screams and squeaks, indifferent to the terrible pain they were inflicting on the little baby squirrels.

I didn’t have time to think it over and ponder about the best solution to this problem, I didn’t have time to weigh the pro’s and con’s of various remedies. I was not prepared for this situation, I never would have imagined to stand in front of three baby squirrels with four cats behind me.

It was an emergency and I had to act instantly. I just grabbed the three animals, two with the right hand, one with the left hand, and ran to a group of young pine trees which were a few meters away. The trees were about two meters high and had thin but dense branches, the cats cannot climb up on such trees because the branches bend or break under their weight.

The squirrel children were so surprised that they didn’t make any attempt to move or wriggle out of my hand. They had a wonderful soft and fluffy fur. I also saw to my surprise that they had a white belly. That makes sense, animals with a white belly, who are jumping from tree top to tree top high up in the air are harder to make out from below.

I placed the little babies between the highest branches, each one on its own tree. They were clumsy and hardly could cling to the branches, one instantly fell down and I had to pick it up and put it on the tree again. The cats were now fully alert, Princess Min Ki and Ma Xi were already looking up to the squirrels on the trees.

Rosy fortunately seemed to be not interested in hunting, but she obviously was bothered by my unusual behavior. She gave me a critical and somehow disapproving look and just turned back home. Sumo was only sitting and wondering. Sumo is an old lady and a bit slow, she never was a hunter, she probably would have left the squirrels alone.

As I was checking the situation again, I noticed that Princess Min Ki had walked away from the trees and started digging in a small pile of twigs and branches. I ran to her and discovered a fourth squirrel which tried desperately to crawl and hide in the pile. Min Ki is clever, she would have just waited till the animal nearly disappeared and then taken it out with her claws.

I grabbed the fourth baby squirrel and looked for another suitable tree. This one was more active than its siblings and it screamed or rather yelped, it also bit me. I don’t mind to be bitten by a little squirrel, they are very unlikely to have rabies. In former episodes of my life I was already bitten by a bat and a mouse while I rescued them from the cats, so this bite added just another flavor to my life experience.

I found a fitting tree and positioned the baby between the higher branches but as I turned back to the cats I saw Ma Xi reappearing from under a tree with one of the baby squirrels in his snout. The animal obviously had jumped down or had fallen down and he only had to pick it up. When Ma Xi saw me coming he instantly ran away, taking his pray to a safe place. There was nothing more I could do, this baby would die.

I called Min Ki and Sumo to continue with our walk, because I wanted to lure them away from the scene. They indeed followed me and we went along the usual path for about ten minutes, but then Princess Min Ki suddenly turned and went back in the direction of the small clearing. She probably couldn’t stand the idea that Ma Xi had all the fun with a screaming and yelping squirrel and she was left empty handed (empty pawed in her case).

I can only hope that the little squirrels used their time to find a secure place and that Ma Xi’s catch was the only fatality. Even if that was the case, the idea that one of these lovely creature suffered and met such a terrible end is deeply disturbing for me.

Yet I have to acknowledge to myself that this kind of carnage is going on all the time. My cat friends prefer to eat local, organic food and in spring and summer they indeed need significantly less pet food than in winter. This is fortunate because pet food comes from farm animals, which in general have a joyless and burdensome live and inevitably meet a violent end.

Beside experimenting  with vegan cat food — which my feline friends profoundly dislike — I am buying mainly organic cat food, but what does that mean? Are the organic animal farms oasis of joy and pleasure? Comes the organic meat from animals which die of natural causes? (for the sake of my cat friends I hope not).

This is admittedly an ethical minefield and it is interesting and often entertaining to watch, how pet lovers who are also animal activists, tiptoe around the issue or try to square the circle with complicated explanations which purposely are missing all the critical points.

I have pondered about this issue for a long time and last year also wrote a lengthy blog post with the title “The ethical cat”. An updated and amended version of this text will be published as soon as possible and till then I consider it as sufficient to close my musings with the acknowledgment, that in the end it is a matter of choice.

In the end it comes to the simple and clear choice between killing the small animals in the forest, or killing the large animals on the farms, or killing the cats.

Back to the concept of triage and back to the headline of this post “priority list”. Setting priorities is probably a more appropriate description for what I need to do but I wanted to start with the concept of triage because I often feel like being in an emergency, overwhelmed by the multitude of challenges and unable to respond to all of them.

Concerning the world around me I see the following challenges:

1. Preventing or ending war, banning or reducing weapons, avoiding, extinguishing, containing violence

2. Halting the destruction of nature by chemical pollution and radioactive contamination

3. Ending the excessive use of resources, addressing the problems of consumerism and overpopulation

4. Neutralizing or destroying the propaganda machine of the ruling elites (the mass media) to end brainwashing, mind-control, indoctrinate, misinformation, tranquilization of the population

5. Breaking down current social, political, economic structures and reorganizing human support systems into smaller, more transparent and more controllable entities.

6. Reforming education and teaching a natural, harmonious, cooperative lifestyle, a lifestyle not dictated by technology

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Concerning my very personal life I’m confronted with three main challenges:

1. The need to grow personally by meditation, music, and constant learning

2. The need to reorganize my life to achieve the greatest possible efficiency and harmony with nature

3. The need to interconnect with likeminded people, tell findings and experiences that are useful for the community and discuss new ideas

Everything else can fall by the wayside.

Concerning this blog I will focus on the following themes:

1. Preventing a war against Syria

One month ago there were some optimistic comments and analysis that the Western allies were looking for a negotiated settlement because the Syrian government has proved to be too strong and too stable for an easy victory. It seems appropriate to remain skeptical and the overall picture shows, that the USA is set for war.

US President Obama has requested, that the Pentagon begins preparing military options in Syria. While previous requests focused on intelligence gathering, a testimony before the Senate revealed, that the US administration is now planning the opening stages of a military strike.

The war will most likely start with an aerial blockade for an extended period of time, executed by a massive number of airplanes. Syria has much greater air defense capabilities as Libya had, and has five times the number of missiles and advanced equipment, therefore the air blockade is requiring the most modern US electronic warfare capabilities.

Strategic plans aside, for now the West is just following the Libyan model of arming and training jihadists and other idle young men from around the Arab region. The pressure will increase as the continuing organizing and training of militias in Jordan (Mafraq, al-Houshah) and Turkey (Incirlik, Hakkari) and the weapons shipments from Saudi Arabia and Qatar yield more and more operational units of insurgents.

There is also the possibility that Turkey is fabricating cross border incidents to request help from NATO allies (invoking Article 5/6 of the treaty), resulting in a NATO imposed “No Fly Zone” and “Safe Havens” for the insurgency.

If this scenario doesn’t play out, there will be a continuous war of attrition, aiming to wreck the Syrian economy and diminish popular support for the Assad government to a point, where its legitimacy can be disputed and an open invasion launched.

2. The US global strategy of destabilization, assassinations, and sabotage

The US-military planners have changed their strategies from direct attacks and occupations to Special Forces Unconventional Warfare. Libya and Syria are the first implementations of the new strategy.

US soldiers will also called back from Afghanistan soon, because arming and financing the various competing fractions there is sufficient to ensure, that Afghanistan remains a failed state where Navy seals can roam freely and drones can exterminate everybody who is suspected to be or has the potential to become a terrorist.

http://info.publicintelligence.net/USArmy-UW.pdf

Syria, the present focus of US unconventional warfare, is only one stop in the global campaign for gaining control about the dwindling resources of the planet. Iran is another stop, but maybe not even the next one. The Caucasus region and Central Asia are rich in oil and natural gas and it is only logical that these areas are also in the crosshairs of US strategists.

After the demise of the Soviet Union thousands of missionaries from Arab countries converged on the newly founded republics on the southern edge of Russia to help the by the Soviet system estranged Muslims “better understand their religion.”

Azerbaijan has the second highest Shia population percentage after Iran, but 15 percent of Azerbaijanis are Sunni Muslims and Salafis have gained much influence in the last years. The rapid polarization and impoverishment of Azeri society has led to a pervasive disillusionment with traditional institutions and modern Western democratic ideas. Salafis have cleverly tapped into this pool of profound discontent. 

The Russian Republics Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, have a muslim population, Kabardino-Balkaria has a mixed population of Muslims and Christians.

In March Russia moved 20,000 ministry troops from Chechnya to Dagestan to stabilize the situation there.

There are also the Central Asian former Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan (70 percent Muslims), Kyrgyzstan (86 percent Muslims), Tajikistan (98 percent Muslim, Sunni Islam of the Hanafi school is official religion), Turkmenistan (92 percent Muslims), Uzbekistan (94 percent Muslim).

Terrorist actions in Central Asia have increased in recent years, especially in the two most volatile states, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Ethnic tensions and endemic poverty yet make all five states vulnerable and have led to a growing influence of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a secretive transnational islamic movement, which calls for the unification of all the Muslim countries into a single Khalifat.

In all these countries there is a pool of unemployed and untrained young men, who know not much more than the 114 Qur’an Surahs they learned in the madrassas. They are unable to contribute anything positive to the economies of their homelands and are unable to find work. This pool of frustrated young men can be easily tapped by radical islamist groups and the forces behind them.

The young men may be unable to fix the plumbing or rewire a fusebox or mend appliances, but they will be able to pull the trigger of an AK47, or behead an infidel, or put on a suicide belt.

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In the twilight of the Cold War, the USA supplied Afghan schoolchildren with millions of textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance against the Soviet occupation.

Though legal experts questioned, whether the books violated a constitutional ban on using tax money to promote religion, the US administration defended the religious content, saying that Islamic principles permeate Afghan culture and that the books “are fully in compliance with US law and policy.”

Published in the dominant Afghan languages of Dari and Pashtu, the textbooks were developed in the early 1980s under an AID grant to the University of Nebraska-Omaha and its Center for Afghanistan Studies. The agency spent 51 million US$ on the university’s education programs in Afghanistan from 1984 to 1994 and regional military leaders in Afghanistan helped the USA smuggle these books into the country.

The primers, which are filled with talk of jihad and feature drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system’s core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books, though the radical movement scratched out human faces in keeping with its strict fundamentalist code.

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A propaganda piece in The Telegraph denounces Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad for “callously mocking the religious beliefs held by a majority of his population,” and cites leaked emails allegedly sent among his inner circle of female aides and family members, who poke fun at conservative Muslims. From the Telegraph article:

Most of the messages ridicule the burqa, the full body cloak worn by some Muslim women.

One e-mail from a female adviser depicts an image of a crying child in a shopping mall who has lost his mother. Trying to reunite them the shop assistant asks the boy for a description of his mother. The little boy replies “I don’t know sir I have never seen her.”

On January 22 the President’s father-in-law Fawaz Akhras allegedly forwarded a ‘British wedding photograph’ showing 24 newly wed Muslim couples, the women all wearing white burkas, their faces covered. “I just hope, for their sake, that each husband goes home with the right table cloth” the joke reads. Another email entitled ‘Why God sends rain to Mexico and not to the Middle East’ lists photographs of scantily clad weather women, and ends with an image of a covered Muslim woman standing by a weather map holding an umbrella.

Well, whats about the ban of burqa and niqab in France?

It is interesting that, while conservative Muslims are stigmatized and vilified in most Western societies and regarded as a threat to Western culture, a secular government that is under attack by radical Islamists is criticized in Western newspapers for not paying due respect to religious fundamentalists.

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Uri Avnery, an Israeli peace activist, who in fact is a “war activist”, advocating military intervention in Iran and Syria, wrote a widely discussed piece “Shukran, Israel,” where he laments the fact that Israeli politics, instead of curbing radical Islam, has strengthen it.

His analysis that Israel aided the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism is accurate, he only omits the fact, that this resurgence is cementing the patriarchal social structures, is strengthening or reinstalling a feudal system, is perpetuating sectarian and ethnic divisions in Arabic nations.

The resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism and the toppling of secular regimes (Iraq, Libya, Syria) which tried to modernize their countries based on socialist principles is in the best interest of the neocolonial powers because it will allow them to exploit the resources of Arab nations for a pittance as long as there is any drop of oil or water left in the ground.

Blood diamonds, blood rare earth minerals, blood oil, blood water.

3. Production, trade, possession, use of weapons

Global weapons exports in 2010 totalled 411 billion US$, the volume of the worldwide weapons trade has increased by 24 percent over the last five years

The world’s biggest weapons exporters, the USA and Russia, sold 30 and 24 percent of the total deliveries, while Germany took third place with 9 percent.

The total world spending on the military is 1.6 trillion US$, and the United States military budget is 46 percent of that total.

The USA is the biggest producer of weapons because that is the area where companies cannot outsource production for obvious strategic reasons. The US economy is a war economy. The USA has the biggest military budget (702 billion US$ in 2012, 120 billion for weapons) and is the biggest exporter of weapons (32 billion US$ in 2010, 46 billion in 2011). Saudi Arabia just purchased 13 billion US$ worth of weapons; the UAE spent 11 billion US$. A record deal of 60 billion US$ with Saudi Arabia is already signed.

It is nearly impossible to avoid supporting the weapons manufacturers. Most big corporations who produce consumer goods have also subsidiaries who produce weapons. Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, General Electric (NBC/Universal), Honeywell, Samsung are all big military suppliers.

Mercedes-Benz produces the 290 GD, also available with a Stinger Weapon Platform.

Boing is the worlds third largest weapons producer and everybody who boards an airplane helps their profits (beside getting an x-ray dose from the airport scanners).

Boings contender Airbus is not an alternative, because Airbus is a subsidiary of EADS, which builds the Eurofighter and is Europe’s largest defense company. Airbus military aircrafts are:

A310MRT/MRTT (MRT are military transporters and MRTT are tankers for air-to-air refuelling of fighter jets).

A330MRT/MRTT, competing with Boeing’s KC-767.

A400M, replacing the C-160 Transall, competing with Lockheeds C-130 Hercules and Boings C17 Globemaster. Until now there are 192 orders from nine countries.

In September last year, the International Association of Machinists and the Aerospace Industries Association sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to preserve the aerospace and weapons industry and its high-skilled workforce. The letter argues that the US aerospace and weapons industry has production facilities in every state, employs 844,000 people directly and supports more than two million jobs in associated companies.

Aretha Franklin stopped flying in 1983 after a bad flight from Atlanta to Detroit and she is suffering from flight fright since then. She began traveling by her custom bus, but she had to turn down many offers because the locations were too far away to travel by bus.

In 2004 she travelled by bus from her home near Detroit to her first concert in LA after 21 years, and thrilled her fans in two sold-out shows at the Greek Theatre. In 2009 she travelled by train to perform in Las Vegas.

4. Mind control 

This is about Propaganda, indoctrination, misinformation campaigns, TV brainwashing, media lies, the Hollywood dream machine, censorship, intellectual property rights. Four blog post have been published until now, updates and further post will follow.

5. The war against education and information

Subtitle: Fahrenheit 451 once was science fiction.

This is about libraries and book censorship. Libraries are subjected to budget cuts, closed down, privatized. Books are censored or banned.

Reading books and studying literature will decline further, young people are too busy checking their Twitter and Facebook accounts and looking the latest viral YouTube videos. This is intentional and gives the ruling elites free hand to create their euphemisms, their vocabulary, their narrative. And with that a public reality which conceals their crimes and protects their profits.

Will new generations be able to study classic texts and benefit from the wisdom of hundreds of earlier generations when the mass media rains down gazillions of bits of informations on them?

How will young people be able to escape the around the clock propaganda (nowadays called news) and the conditioning/brainwashing (also known as “mind control”) by entertainment media, sport media, and advertising?

In’t the wisdom of the ages deliberately hidden or even destroyed?

The OWS library, which was dumped into a landfill by the NYPD, had only some 4000 books (that is about the amount of books in my house), but the incident was nevertheless symbolic and revealed, how the ruling powers view community efforts of providing free knowledge.

Since 2008, more than half of US states reported a decrease in funding of public libraries. Budget cuts forced the Seattle Public Library to shut down for a week, Chicago’s public libraries are now closed on Mondays, LA County’s public library system faces a deficit of 22 million US$, the NYPL’s Slavic and Baltic division and other research library branches have been closed. Since 2008 the NYPL workforce has been reduced by 27 percent, the acquisitions budget for books, CDs and DVDs has been cut by 26 percent.

In the UK 414 libraries (325 buildings and 89 mobiles) of 4612 have been closed or face closure, 20 percent of libraries are under threat. Staff is cut by 50 percent and volunteers have to step in and keep the libraries operational.

Libraries that are not closed are privatized, meaning higher fees and further staff reductions.

The war against digital libraries

In February the website “library.nu” disappeared. A coalition of international publishers accused the site of piracy and convinced a judge in Munich to shut it down. Library.nu had offered nearly a million digital books for free.

The main content of library.nu was non fiction: textbooks, secondary treatises, monographs, biographical analyses, technical manuals, collections of research in mathematics, engineering, biology, social science, and humanities. The texts ranged from “orphan works” (out-of-print, but still copyrighted) up to the most recent issues. 

To the publishing industry, this event was a victory in the war on piracy that will lead to more revenue and more control over who buys and who reads expensive scientific books. For the users (the pirates), it made the access to educational material more difficult.

They will have to buy the books on Amazon and they will have to pay via credit cart or via PaiPal, supporting US corporations with every move.

Many of the library.nu users will not want to support US banks and Ebay/Paypal. They will not want to support Amazon, known for its tax evasion practices, its exploitative job policies, its sabotage of WikiLeaks. Buying a book on Amazon would support a system that they despise, would leave them feeling trapped, disillusioned, frustrated.

The users of library.nu were students, scholars, and scientists from around the world. The comment section of the site was most helpful and proof of the high intellectual standard of the visitors. I copied and saved many comments because they were excellent reviews and summaries — far beyond the level of comments on Amazon.

Sometimes the comment threads emerged into heated discussion about complicated scientific issues, making the site a unique forum for the exchange and evaluation of ideas and theories.

As already mentioned, the users of this site came from all over the world, but especially from South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, China, and India. The main users of the site were the global middle class, not truly poor, but nonetheless restricted in their spending. They were engaged in what the elite institutions of the world are telling them to do all the time: Educate yourself, become scholars and thinkers, read and think for yourselves, bring civilization, development, and modernity to your people.

http://pastebin.com/7xe8wf3T (Don’t forget the torrent search engines.)

The war against public libraries and digital libraries is only one facet of the push to limit free access to new scientific findings or to the wisdom of the ages. The war against free accessible knowledge/wisdom/information is fought on various levels, for instance as a war against public education.

Public education is deprived of funding or is privatized, meaning that only the affluent have access to proper education, while the poor are served by a desolate system with outdated teaching materials, crumbling and filthy buildings, frustrated teachers, and classes sized up to 60 pupils.

Texas for instance eliminated 10,717 teaching jobs in 2011, public schools now spend 8,908 US$ per student, a decrease of 538 US$ from the previous year.

Public education is not only be starved but also censored, as it happened for instance in Arizona: Following the suspension of the Tucson School District’s Mexican American studies department, the authorities confiscated all related teaching materials, including artwork, posters and some 50 book titles. Teachers were commanded to turn in the books that had been overlooked in the confiscation effort.

To close this subject I just want to mention for good purpose, that intellectual property laws (patents, trademarks, copyright) and legislative measures to protect intellectual property (PIPA/SOPA, ACTA) are also part of the efforts to hinder access to information and knowledge.

In a wider sense the secrecy of corporations and governments (Obama’s war on whistleblowers) also falls into this category.

I referred to Fahrenheit 451 in the headline because in Ray Bradbury’s 1953 science fiction classic, a “fireman” is somebody who burns books “for the good of humanity” and fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which all books catch fire.

In December the Institute of Egypt in central Cairo caught fire during deadly clashes between security forces and protesters. 192,000 books, journals and writings, documenting the history of the nation, were mostly destroyed.

Fahrenheit 451 once was science fiction. I will have to move the book from its old place and sort it into political literature.

6. Taught to kill

Alternative titles: The Mass Murderers Primer, Killing for Dummies.

Soldiers are trained to kill and to follow orders. Armies try to get their recruits before they are twenty, because the personality can more easily be molded at a younger age . The main purposes of boot camp is not to learn fighting skills, but to change the character of the recruits, to socialize them out of the civilian life into the soldier/killer role.

Boot camp, or basic training is quite similar in all armies and the used practices are the result of centuries of experience.

For the young recruits, basic training is the closest thing their society can offer to a formal rite of passage, and todays armies stand in an unbroken tradition of lengthy ordeals by which young males throughout history were initiated into the adult community of warriors.

In totally militarized societies (ancient Sparta, the samurai class of medieval Japan, the Mongol clan societies) military education began at puberty or before, and the young boys were immersed in a disciplined society in which military values dominated. In modern societies, the process is briefer, more concentrated, and more visible. It is, essentially, a conversion process in an almost religious sense, and as in all conversions, emotions are far more important than the specific ideas.

In some modern societies military values are on the rise again, transported by TV shows, films, and computer games. If the society in addition to this mental training is based on knock out competition and if weapons are easily available and part of everyday life, the conversion of the recruits in boot camp will be easily achieved.

Research led by Washington University in St. Louis suggests that military service, even without combat, has a subtle lingering effect on a man’s personality, making it potentially more difficult for veterans to get along with friends, family and co-workers.

The study found that voluntary military recruits were less warm and friendly to begin with and after military service the veterans scored lower than their civilian counterparts on measures of agreeableness (a dimension of personality that influences our ability to be pleasant and accommodating in social situations).

Statistics show that marriages of soldiers and veterans have a higher divorce rate.

One can view violence and war as a combination of psychopathic behavior, stupidity, social/cultural traditions, and male aggression (testosterone). There may be some genetic preprogramming, but it is not significant. The plasticity of our brain as well as the slow development of children, who have to be nursed, fostered, guarded, educated for decades by parents and schools, would make it easy to override any genetic disposition to violence and war.

In the case of humans, nurture tops nature, but where is the society, which raises the children in a spirit of peace and tolerance?

How can a child in Gaza, Afghanistan, Somalia, Congo, Iraq, Libya, grow up to a peaceful person?

How can a child in the USA become a peaceful person, when computer games (Mortal Combat, Wold of Warcraft, Doom), TV, and popular music teach violence around the clock and when permanent war is waged?

7. Cruelty against animals

Most animals lead a perilous life which usually ends violently and painfully. Humans needlessly add a significant amount of pain and make the life of many creatures even more arduous and dire.

Methods to inflict pain on animals: Hunting/poaching, fishing, animal testing, animal experiments in laboratories in the name of science, factory faming (keeping animals in tiny caches to produce meat, dairy products, eggs), cock fighting, dog fighting, tauromachia (bullfighting), horse racing, poisoning of animals and destruction of their habitat (BP oil spill, clear-cutting of the rain forests, human-induced droughts).

8. Roots of violence, hate

This issue was already addressed in my blog post “Another essential Question”, which will be regularly updated and amended. Here a short overview:

Aggression, violence, hate, are psychopathic behaviors, or pathological mental disturbances, to mint it with different words. The main causes for this defects:

1. Permanent sensory overload and traumas cause psychical defects, resulting in aggressive and psychopathic behavior. Traumatic experiences are childhood abuse, poverty, crime, war. Sensory overload is caused by too much noise, too much unusual colors, shapes, flashing lights, too much TV, computer, advertising, too many people constantly violating each other’s private space.

 2. Many human males are aggressive by nature (too much testosterone). Science has several evolutionary explanations for gender differences in aggressiveness, one is that males can increase their reproductive success by polygamy, which will naturally lead to competition and conflicts with other males and subsequently to fights over females.

9. Business as usual

This is about the unabated destruction of nature (especially forests and oceans) and the poisoning of the biosphere. The matter will be addressed in a series of blog posts, focusing on the fact, that political leaders don’t take any action, the mass media are complicit, and the majority of people therefore are misinformed and clueless.

A first post about the “Nuclear Renaissance” is already published, following posts will address the ongoing destruction of forests (especially the rain forests), the poisoning of water sources and the acidification of the oceans, the continuing and even increasing production of poisonous chemicals, the increase of greenhouse gas emissions at unprecedented rates.

10. About material support systems

This could be also titled: global versus regional versus local. Big support systems are prone to mismanagement, waste, corruption, they can be highjacked by special interests (Wall Street), they are not transparent and not controllable.

Creating small, rather independent local economies and new independent networks of these initiatives is a crucial part in a transition to a sustainable human (humane) society.

The efforts to create smaller, easier controllable and manageable support systems is represented by a multitude of initiatives, like: 

The Transition Town movement, counter currencies or local vouchers, small local credit unions, time-banks, co-ops and jointly owned workshops, buy local campaigns, barter trade, farmers markets, CSA (Community-supported agriculture), subsistence farming and gardening, DIY (do-it-yourself) movement, Arts and Crafts movement.

Beside creating local structures everyone can reduce her or his dependency on big support systems by simplifying her or his life and learning basic skills that are needed to install, maintain, repair the installations, tools, machines, and appliances, that we absolutely need in our daily lives.

The DIY movement is not new, basically it is a re-introduction of the old patterns of personal involvement and use of skills in upkeep of a house or apartment, making or mending clothes, maintenance of appliances, computers, and any other material aspect of living.

This was already discussed in the 60s by visionary thinkers and artists, for instance by Alan Watts, Gary Snyder, allen Ginsburg, Timothy Leary in a “Houseboat Summit” discussion in the February 1967 edition of the San Francisco Oracle.

It is time to take the Whole Earth Catalogue and Epilogue from its sacred place on the book shelf and dust it off. I was reminded of this publications when the late Steve Jobs mentioned them in his commencement speech at Stanford, calling them “one of the bibles of my generation.”

When I read about Jobs reference to the Whole Earth Catalogue, I looked instantly and found the two books still there on their special place. With 36.3 centimeters heigh and 27.3 centimeters width they are the biggest books that I own. The epilogue is a bit thinner, but still of impressive size. These books accompanied me now for forty years and when I moved (and I moved more than a dozens times) I always took care that they were safe and found a good place in my new home.

Most of the entries are still useful and modern technological advances can be easily incorporated by the vast treasure trove of material that is accessible on the internet. A future blog post will present a collection of related web links.

I for myself don’t like to be completely dependent on the cloud and have collected over the years a pile of magazines and books. A book list will maybe also follow someday, for now here a short list of periodicals that I found useful:  

Elektor, Everyday Practical Electronics, Nuts & Volts, New Electronics, Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, MAKE Magazine, Backwoods Home Magazine, Family Handyman, Fine Woodworking, Woodsmith, American Woodworker, Natural Life, Organic Gardening.

11. LEDs — an experience report

LED lighting needs less than half of the electricity that traditional compact fluorescent lamps use, but LEDs are more vulnerable to electricity spikes and surges, because LEDs work with voltages that are tiny compared to the 110/240 V of mains electricity. Heat dissipation and the quality of capacitors in the driving circuits are also still a problem.

Taking precautionary measures and installing net filters and surge protectors will increase the life of LED lamps. LED efficiency differs greatly, at present the most promising technology seems to consist of arrays of small SMD LEDs.

I exchanged the old compact fluorescence lamps in our household over a period of four years and use exclusively LEDs for two years now, all lamps come from small manufacturers. In my experience their products were better than the offerings of Philips, Osram Sylvania, and GE.

One of the first LED lamps that I bought stopped working after two month, but since then there were no further defect. The brightest LED lamps that I use generate 900 lumen with 10 watt, but I use also lamps with energy consumptions of 1.2 to 3 watt.

LED lighting prices are expected to fall by 30 percent per year, with luminous efficacy approaching 200 lm/W by 2014.

A more detailed report will follow.

12. About intellectual support systems

This subject could also be titled: Extended mind, Mental outsourcing, and is connected with list entry 4 (Mind control) and 5 (The war against education and information).

Nurturing, the family environment, education, the social structures have so much more impact on humans than on any other animal species. The technical term for the prolonged dependence of the human infant on parental care and learning is “neotany,” and this human characteristic appears to be one of our few truly unique traits.

As I wrote already in list entry 6, the plasticity of our brain as well as the slow development of children, who have to be nursed, fostered, guarded, educated for decades by parents and schools, makes it easy to override any genetic or epigenetic programming.

In the case of humans nurture trumps nature and the human personality is mostly reflecting education and experience, while genetic dispositions are of less importance.

The evolution of humans therefore is not only a natural selection of genetic traits but also a selection of cultures, traditions, forms of social organization. Human evolution is a combined biological and cultural/social evolution.

Based on these assumptions it is clear, that a change of the environmental conditions, of the social organization, of the cultural climate, of the value system, will have a profound impact on every individual. 

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US-citizens in average spend the astonishing amount of eight hours in front of TV or computer screens. This means, that there is a lot of brainwashing, conditioning, reeducation, indoctrination going on. Most of the problems, that humans cause, could be solved, if one could turn the media machine into the right direction!

Intellectual support systems comprise of two groups: 

1. Outsourced memory, contained in: Oral tradition, drawings and paintings, books/libraries, archived media (film, tape, optical disks), and digitally stored data.

2. Outsourced data processing, performed by: Abacus, lookup tables, pocket calculators, computers, cellphone apps, internet search engines.

Big intellectual support systems have the same downsides as big material support systems, they can be corrupted and highjacked by special interests, they are not transparent and not controllable.

The ranking algorithms of Google are opaque and amount to censorship — non commercial sites will inevitably be on the bottom of the pile. Facebook has closed down many accounts (Electronic Intifada). Microsoft is censoring MSN Messenger conversations.

It doesn’t matter if one uses Google, Facebook, MS services, or Yahoo. Everything is advertising, everything is e-commerce, every mouse click is monitored and analyzed, to construct a profile of the user.

I use search engines, but I prefer to follow faint traces link by link. Faint traces which often lead to the most interesting locations, never to be revealed by any search engine.

The internet with its flexible and expandable construction cannot be easily controlled and censored. Data flow and routing are autonomically decided at the nodes based on congestion feedback. Governments can shut down the internet completely in an area or a whole country, but trying to censor information with a firewall is nearly impossible.

The efforts to create smaller, easier controllable and manageable intellectual support systems and to overcome censorship is represented by initiatives like: the blogosphere, alternative media, independent nonprofit websites, open source software, Wikipedia, Pastebin, Usenet, small server/client networks based on FTP protocols (KDX, Wired, Hotline), P2P networks without central infrastructure (Bit Torrent, Ian Clarke’s Freenet), Tor browser/Hidden Wiki/Deep Web, Tribler, Hotspot Shield. password protected sites.

In a wider sense hacker groups like Anonymous, iOS jailbreaking, cracking/reverse engineering (Hackintosh, OSx86), warez, cyberlockers (file hosting services, online file storage providers) fall into this category.

13. The Rise of Carism

This will be a science fiction short story about the rise of the NADP (National Auto Drivers Party), a political movement of car drivers which blames the traditional parties for steadily rising gas prices and deteriorating roads.

In this story the NADP inevitably gains more votes in every election, promising cheap fuel and tax exceptions for cars (especially SUVs). The Carists pursue their political aims not only with aggressive propaganda but also with violence, political opponents either disappear or are run over by cars. Several high level opponents burn to death together with their families, when remotely controlled fuel tankers crash into their houses and explode. The assassins don’t have to fear prosecution, because most of the policemen are NADP members.

When the Carists finally take over the government, they dismantle the democratic system (or what is left of it) and start a reign of terror. The government is empowered to rule without parliament, to pass laws and govern by decree.

Pedestrians and bicycle riders lose all rights. Any form of public transport is dismantled, bicycle lanes are removed to make roads wider, there are no pedestrian stripes. When pedestrians or bicycle riders are injured or killed by a car, the car driver is not held responsible. Many car drivers begin to chase and kill pedestrians and cyclists for sport. They equip their SUVs with special front bumpers which not only include brush guard tops but also sharp blades. Blades are also often welded to the car bottom, so that victims, which are run over are cut into pieces.

Subsequently everyone who doesn’t own a car is put into concentration camps and on Sundays camp inmates who have not yet been consumed by starvation or disease and who are still able to run are brought into sport arenas, where they are chased and killed in a SUV-rodeo to the cheers and roars of the NADP masses.

This for a start, I would be thankful for any suggestions how this story could continue.

14. Deep Green Resistance

The Deep Green movement, represented by people like Lierre Keith, Derrick Jensen, Aric McBay, Paul Kingsnorth (in a more spiritual sense), believes that industrial civilization is fundamentally unsustainable and must be actively dismantled in order to secure a livable future for all species on the planet. This ideology is largely based on the concept of Deep Ecology, which recognizes the inherent value of other life forms and features of the natural world aside from their human utility.

The rationale underlying Deep Green Resistance is:

Humans aren’t going to do anything in time to prevent the planet from being destroyed. Poor people are too preoccupied by just getting by, rich people benefit from the status quo, and the (dwindling) middle class is too obsessed with consumerism and high-tech gadgets. The risk of runaway global warming is immediate, a drop in human population is inevitable, fewer people will die if collapse happens sooner.

The global industrial economy is not fixable in its present form, the US political system is not fixable. OWS, ACLU, protests, marches, sit-ins, petitions, spurious left-wing initiatives such as campaign finance reform, top-down initiatives like REDD (carbon credits), are window dressing, are hopeless and pointless.

Everybody who thinks that people who loathe and ridicule the “tree huggers” and proudly cruise around in their SUVs, big like battle tanks, everybody who believes that the hedge fund managers and CEOs, who fly around the globe in their private jets and the billionaires who laze on their super yachts, will take their cues from the kind hearted environmentalists who try to live modestly and try to harmoniously integrate with nature, everybody who believes that the shining example of the dedicated environmentalist alone will heal the world, is naive, is a dreamer, is delusional.

The proponents of Deep Green Resistance have a point, yet their endorsement of violence against humans is not acceptable, is counterproductive. The establishment of a less violent society with violent means is not possible, because the use of violence only will lead to more violence.

It is self-evident, that the establishment of a new humane society is only possible if the old systems break down, but this has to be achieved by passive resistance, obstruction, subtle interference, jamming, creating gridlock, sabotage.

Weapons and explosives should not be used, humans should not brought in harms way. Arson should not be used, because it destroys valuable materials and generates dangerous pollution (dioxins).

What strategies could be applied to bring the system down? A few guesses:

Gluing locks, disabling machines (monkeywrenching), cutting electricity or creating short circuits?

Opening the gates of meat factories, fur farms, laboratories, zoos?

Spreading germs in the slaughterhouses and food factories?

Developing zoonotic diseases (Creutzfeldt–Jakob variants for instance) that don’t harm the animals but make infected animal populations unattractive for human consumption?

Sabotaging supermarkets? (flash mobs, dropping lot of rotten eggs, spilling lubricants, cutting power lines)

Sabotaging traffic by creating traffic jams or by spreading lubricants and caltrops?

Damaging the high voltage transformers which are essential for the electric power grid?

Developing malware (Stuxnet, Duqu) to infect industrial and military software? 

Hacking corporate and government networks, bringing down the stock exchanges? BTW: More women should study mathematics and programming! Cyber resistance, cyber insurgency doesn’t need muscle power.

Developing computer games that are addictive and mesmeric, games which educate, indoctrinate, completely change the players mind?

Sabotaging refineries and pipelines by disabling valves or hacking the electronic process control systems? Refineries are the bottleneck of the fuel based economy.

Developing fungi that live in fossil fuels and destroy engines? (diesel bugs)

http://www.casa.gov.au/wcmswr/_assets/main/fsa/2005/oct/50-51.pdf

http://www.neptuneproducts.co.nz/shop/Articles/DIESEL+Fuel+bugs.html

http://www.debugamericalatina.com/bacteria-in-diesel.html

Many of these measures would have to be accompanied by warnings to the consumers, for instance warnings about contaminated food and warnings about lubricants (to avoid broken legs or car accidents).

Further reading:

Claire Wolfe: 101 Things to Do ’til the Revolution

Cory Doctorow: Little Brother

Various Authors: Ecodefense, A Field Guide To Monkeywrenching

14. Nature Deficit disorder

This is a term coined by Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods”, which describes the trend that children are spending less time outdoors. Parents are keeping children indoors in order to keep them safe from danger and there are less natural surroundings in a child’s neighborhood.

Many parks and nature preserves have restricted access and “do not walk off the trail” signs. Educators add to the restrictions by telling the children “look but don’t touch”. Due to such hindrances and inhibitions children today have no chance to develop a relationship with nature.

New technologies have also a significant influence. A Kaiser Family Foundation study concluded, that the average young US American now spends 44 hours a week with electronic media and is practically every minute — except for the time in school — using a smartphone, a computer, is looking TV, or is playing computer games.

Richard Louv argues that the Nature Deficit disorder causes a diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses. Children grow up disconnected with nature, and this broken relationship is making kids overweight, depressed and distracted.

One could argue, that the condition of “Nature Deficit disorder” is not restricted to children and also affects an ever growing portion of the adult population, contributing to social tensions and discontent, crime, domestic violence, mental illnesses, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, allergies, and cancer.

15. Remarkable Women

I have published already two lists of names plus accompanying short comments and web links. One was a list of remarkable Indian women, the other of North American Women. Lists about women from other areas and updated versions will follow, as soon as I have enough time left.

16. Meditation, music, and cats

Alternative title: Zen and the art of purring.

A recently released study, published in the journal Psychiatry Research, suggests that meditating for just 30 minutes a day for eight weeks can increase the density of gray matter in brain regions associated with memory, stress, and empathy. These brain changes suggest that meditation improves people’s ability to regulate their emotions, control their stress levels, and feel empathy for others.

Meditation, making music, spending time with cats, and other mind-body interventions, are fitness exercise for the nervous system and the brain.

Meditation can be viewed as a combination of three neurological functions:

1. Quieting the brain chatter. 

Brain chatter is the uncontrolled flow of associations leading from one idea to the other. In neurological terms this is a chain reaction of groups of neurons activating another group of connected neurons which in turn activate a third group and so on. The brain chatter is normally going on all the time when the brain is idle and when we are conscious, it is a part of our consciousness.

When we are busy processing incoming sensory signals from outside or inside our body, the brain chatter stops. Involved are either the glial system via calcium wave signaling, or certain inhibitory neurotransmitters, or the fact, that the parts of the brain, which are processing the sensory signals use so much blood supply, that not enough is left for the other brain cells to become active.

As with many other neurological functions, it is likely that the brain chatter is diminished by a combination of all three methods.

The brain chatter is a necessary brain function, but it can be tiring, can be a distraction, can slow reactions, and make focusing and systematic work more difficult.

2. Focussing

This can mean either focussing on parts of the body or focussing on continuously repeated activities. Focussing on the body starts usually with the area below the belly button and with the activity of breathing, extending later to the spine, to al limps, the facial muscles, areas of the brain (For instance the “third eye”, meaning the working memory/central executive. This particular technique is called Purusa Dhyan meditation).

Focussing on parts of the body strengthens the nerve connections to this parts, which subsequently is improving control of body functions and movements.

Focussing on continuously repeated activities can mean: chanting mantras or prayers, focussing on breathing, focussing on continuously repeated movements (Tai Chi Chuan, dancing, walking), practicing skills with a continuously repeated sequence of movements in music, sport, and other activities.

3. Balancing or increasing certain neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphin, melatonin for example)

Paramahansa Yogananda writes in his book “Autobiography of a Yogi,” that “the Master/devotee relationship involves fifty percent the blessings of God.” I was not able to translate this into my atheistic worldview until I found out, that feelings of peace, bliss, elation, are caused by a special combination of neurotransmitters.

Matthieu Ricard, a french buddhist monk, who works as aid, advisor, and interpreter for the Dalai Lama, is often called “the happiest man in the world.” He tells his audience to quietly sit down every day and practice happiness.

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This is only a short overview of the subject. I cannot discuss and describe the details of meditation practices or the underlying neurological functions in this blog post, but I will come back to this theme as soon as possible.  

17. Reality check

We see red and blue, but red and blue are according to scientific research just certain wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. We know about the wave particle duality postulate of quantum mechanics and antimatter and the Higgs boson, and most of us have read about chaos theory and nonlinear dynamical systems and kinetic theory and biomathematics, yet all these theories are constructions in the heads of scientists.

And though complicated experiments can verify these theories to some extend and many scientific findings are applied in modern technology (nuclear weapons, tele communication, computers), this is beyond the world that we are able to see or feel or taste, this is beyond our perception and we can never be sure about these theories.

We are stumbling along in the dark, trying to get a vague idea of reality, but nothing is certain, nothing is definitive and absolute. There is no guaranty that there exists any reality which can be pinned down with words.

The recent scientific findings have profoundly changed the tone of philosophical discussions (especially epistemology) and I was relieved, as psychology gradually morphed into cognitive neuroscience and philosophy became a part of linguistics.

I was relieved, when I could openly declare my opinion, that language is pattern recognition and that we mainly think in words/symbols and their visual and auditory representations. No more discussions about the various religious myth, no more discussions about free will, consciousness, dualism, qualia, self, mind, being, personal identity, reality, and the purpose of life.

One indeed can consider linguistics as a phenomenological branch of neurology. Our logic evolved from grammar, we interpret and construct our internal version of reality in the same way as we construct language. Linguistics and comparative literature show us how our brain works and what our limitations are.

Common sense, grammar, logic are prominent connections in the working memory, which is a group of brain areas with high neuronal density and synaptic connectivity, making a nearly “random access” functionality possible. 

The existence of this working memory map is necessary, because it 1.) allows to compare and correlate patterns which are in distant areas of the brain, 2.) it allows the conscious control of associations, 3.) it makes it possible to keep groups of neurons active for a longer time.

The constant firing of action potentials is very energy consuming and keeping neurons active in the whole brain for an extended amount of time is impossible because of the limited blood supply. Therefore the capacity to remain active for several seconds is confined to the working memory.

Groups of neurons that remain active can interact with each other. To have several groups of neurons active at the same time means to have access to several items and to be able to compare, correlate, weigh and rate these items.

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This is only a first prevue of the envisioned blogpost with the title “Reality check”, which will probably be even more voluminous as this text here is.

This short introduction has not even touched the miracle of synaptic connections, which are powerful micro-machines, capable of acting either like NMOS or PMOS switches, boolean algebra units, analogue operational amplifiers, or frequency filters.

It has not mentioned the interplay between neurotransmitters and the 80 to 100 billions of neurons with one quadrillion synapses, the specialized brain cells (mirror neurons, spindle cells), the glia cell system.

It has not addressed  Hebb’s rule (neurons that fire together, wire together), the feedback loops on various levels (including synaptic functions), the integration of memory and neural processing (which are in fact the same), pattern recognition (the most powerful tool of our brain), and network self organization.

18. Nobody can’t prove anything

This is about the non debatable believes of religions, ideologies, certain philosophies (dualism, idealism), and superstitions. As history shows, this rigid and inflexible believe systems are highly detrimental and harmful.

Qur’an, Bible, Talmud, Bhagavad Gita, and other sacred texts were written hundreds or thousand years ago, they are not applicable to modern societies, are subjected to differing interpretations, and are often misunderstood.

(On a side note: Marx’s Capital, Friedman’s “Capitalism and Freedom”, Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” are not regarded as religious texts but nevertheless sacred to the followers of the represented ideology and therefore can be rightfully added to the list of sacred texts.) 

The “in the face approach” of many atheists and skeptics or the often displayed arrogance and haughtiness will for sure not convince any “true believers” nor encourage them to denounce their faith.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, that religions and ideologies have a terrible impact and cause humans to act irrationally and irresponsible, the true believers will frantically defend their faith, dig in their heels, and mount ferocious counter attacks on everybody who dares to question the validity of their beliefs and religious practices.

I wouldn’t dare to tackle this delicate subject, if I wouldn’t have the assistance of one of the big US comedians of all time. George Carlin sadly has died in 2008, but his ideas and the documentations of his wit and astute judgement are out and keep him alive in our memory.

This is Georg Carlins discussion of the Ten Commandments:

Here is my problem with the ten commandments- why exactly are there 10? 

You simply do not need ten. The list of ten commandments was artificially and deliberately inflated to get it up to ten. Here’s what happened: 

About 5,000 years ago a bunch of religious and political hustlers got together to try to figure out how to control people and keep them in line. They knew people were basically stupid and would believe anything they were told, so they announced that God had given them some commandments, up on a mountain, when no one was around.

Well let me ask you this: When they were making this up, why did they pick 10? Why not 9 or 11? I’ll tell you why: Because 10 sounds official. Ten sounds important! Ten is the basis for the decimal system, it’s a decade, it’s a psychologically satisfying number (the top ten, the ten most wanted, the ten best dressed). So having ten commandments was really a marketing decision! It’s a political document artificially inflated to sell better. I will now show you how you can reduce the number of commandments and come up with a list that’s a little more workable and logical. I am going to use the Roman Catholic version because that was the one I was taught as a little boy.

Let’s start with the first three: 

I AM THE LORD THY GOD THOU SHALT NOT HAVE STRANGE GODS BEFORE ME

THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD THY GOD IN VAIN

THOU SHALT KEEP HOLY THE SABBATH

Right off the bat the first three are pure bullshit. Sabbath day? Lord’s name? Strange gods? Spooky language! Designed to scare and control primitive people. In no way does superstitious nonsense like this apply to the lives of intelligent civilized humans in the 21st century. So now we’re down to 7. Next:

HONOR THY FATHER AND MOTHER

Obedience, respect for authority. Just another name for controlling people. The truth is that obedience and respect shouldn’t be automatic. They should be earned and based on the parent’s performance. Some parents deserve respect, but most of them don’t, period. You’re down to six.

Now in the interest of logic, something religion is very uncomfortable with, we’re going to jump around the list a little bit.

THOU SHALT NOT STEAL

THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS

Stealing and lying. Well actually, these two both prohibit the same kind of behavior — dishonesty. So you don’t really need two you combine them and call the commandment “thou shalt not be dishonest”. And suddenly you’re down to 5.

And as long as we’re combining I have two others that belong together:

THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTRY

THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR’S WIFE

Once again, these two prohibit the same type of behavior. In this case it is marital infidelity. The difference is, that coveting takes place in the mind. But I don’t think you should outlaw fantasizing about someone else’s wife because what is a guy gonna think about when he’s waxing his carrot? But, marital infidelity is a good idea so we’re gonna keep this one and call it “thou shalt not be unfaithful”. And suddenly we’re down to four.

But when you think about it, honesty and infidelity are really part of the same overall value so, in truth, you could combine the two honesty commandments with the two fidelity commandments and give them simpler language, positive language instead of negative language and call the whole thing “thou shalt always be honest and faithful” and we’re down to 3.

THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR”S GOODS

This one is just plain stupid. Coveting your neighbor’s goods is what keeps the economy going! Your neighbor gets a vibrator that plays “o come o ye faithful”, and you want one too! Coveting creates jobs, so leave it alone. You throw out coveting and you’re down to 2 now- the big honesty and fidelity commandment and the one we haven’t talked about yet:

THOU SHALT NOT KILL

Murder. But when you think about it, religion has never really had a big problem with murder. More people have been killed in the name of god than for any other reason. All you have to do is look at Northern Ireland, Kashmir, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the World Trade Center to see how seriously the religious folks take thou shalt not kill. The more devout they are, the more they see murder as being negotiable. It depends on who’s doin the killin’ and who’s gettin’ killed. So, with all of this in mind, I give you my revised list of the two commandments:

Thou shalt always be honest and faithful to the provider of thy nookie.

and

Thou shalt try real hard not to kill anyone, unless of course they pray to a different invisible man than you.

Two is all you need; Moses could have carried them down the hill in his pocket. I wouldn’t mind those folks in Alabama posting them on the courthouse wall, as long as they provided one additional commandment:

Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself.

19. Harry the hero

Harry was a big grey tabby cat and when he joined our family he was already one year old. He was found by a farmer laying beside the road with a broken shoulder. He obviously had been hit by a car. The shoulder somehow healed but he was limping when he came to us.

Over time he learned to compensate his disability and it was astonishing how well he could do everything despite the damaged shoulder. He was a terrific hunter and could fend off any other intruding cat and only when he was slowly walking one saw that he was limping.

Unfortunately he died only six years old of an incurable liver infection. I will write his biography in another post.

20. Remembering Lizzy

Harries closest cat companion was Lizzy, a female ginger cat with an amputated left front leg, who died on June 1st 2010. She was my best friend for eight years. I will write about her life and about our friendship in one of the next posts.

21. Walking with the cats

I have incorporated a short report about a walk in this text, to give readers an idea, what to expect from blog posts about this subject.

As we are living at the edge of a forest, all our walks lead us into the wood.

Japanese researchers found, that a walk in the woods reduces the level of stress chemicals in the body and increases killer cells in the immune system, which fight tumors and viruses. It is also a proven fact, that trees release clouds of beneficial chemicals. 

Some of these aerosols appear to help regulate the climate, others are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral. One of these substances, taxane, has become a powerful treatment for breast cancer and other cancers. Acetylsalicylic acid, Aspirin’s active ingredient, is generated by willows and was harvested from there for centuries before it could be produced synthetically.

Finally I want to refer to the writings of two elderly gentlemen, who despite their advanced age still have a sharp mind and still have important things to say. Normally I try to promote female scholars, writers, journalists like for instance Vandana Shiva, Alice Walker, Arundhati Roy, Maude Barlow, Judith Butler, Frances Moore Lappé, Tara McKelvey, Sharmine Narwani, but this two men deserve an exception from my usual policy.

S. Brian Willson is a Vietnam veteran and peace activist. He is a trained lawyer and he worked as prisoner rights advocate, veteran’s advocate, and US Senate aid.

Willson had his epiphany in 1969 when he witnessed the incredible destruction that had just been inflicted on a defenseless Vietnamese village.

From his autobiography:

With smoldering ruins throughout, the ground was strewn with bodies of villagers and their farm animals, many of whom were motionless and bloody, murdered from bomb shrapnel and napalm. Several were trying to get up on their feet, and others were moving ever so slightly as they cried and moaned. Most of the victims I witnessed were women and children. At one dramatic moment I encountered at close range a young wounded woman lying on the ground clutching three young disfigured children. I stared, aghast, at the woman’s open eyes. Upon closer examination, I discovered that she, and what I presumed were her children, all were dead, but napalm had melted much of the woman’s facial skin, including her eyelids.

S. Brian Willson became a peace activist and he participated in lengthy fasts, actions of nonviolent civil disobedience, and tax refusals. In 1987 Willson and two other members of a Veterans Peace Action Team blocked railroad tracks at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, protesting against the shipping of weapons to the Contras in Nicaragua, An approaching train did not stop and struck the veterans, Willson was severely injured and lost both legs below the knee. He also suffered a skull fracture with damage of his right frontal lobe. Subsequently, he discovered that he had been labeled by the FBI as a domestic terrorist suspect and that the train crew members had been ordered by their superiors not to stop the train.

His books: 

On Third World Legs

Blood on the Tracks

His website: http://www.brianwillson.com/

Fidel Castro Ruz is the retired President of Cuba. I don’t need to write much about him, because he is a figure of historical importance. He started as a revolutionary, ending the Batista regime, and became a statesman, steering Cuba through rough times and keeping it free from US influence against the backdrop of a stringent economic embargo since 1960, the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961, and a propaganda war via US TV stations, broadcasting to the island and depicting the USA as the promised land where milk and honey flows. The CIA plotted an estimated number of 638 assassinations against him.

The hard core anti-Castro Cuban expatriates in Little Havana, Miami, may still dream of a restoration of Batista’s rule and may define Fidel Castro Ruz as the incarnation of satan, but elsewhere his achievements are recognized by an increasing number of people.

Fidel Castro Ruz will be always remembered for sparing Cuba the fate of Haiti. Cuba is not ecologically devastated, it is not one of the poorest countries of the world, it is not a sweatshop paradise for US corporations. Cuba has no problem even remotely comparable to Haiti’s cholera epidemic with 540,000 sickened and more than 7000 dead. Cubans have a life expectancy of 79 years and not only 62 years like Haitians.

Cubans had their fair share of natural disasters (Hurricane Flora in 1963, The Century Storm in 1993), but the Cuban authorities have become experts in protecting the citizens against the impact of tropical storms. There is a well established routine of evacuations and sheltering and the island has weathered some of the most violent storms the tropics can churn up, achieving almost perfect compliance with evacuation orders and consequently unusual low death tolls. In 2004 Hurricane Jeanne killed more than 1,500 in Haiti, many drowning in floodwaters. Nobody died in Cuba.

Fidel Castro Ruz was always a prolific author on various topics and he had a significant influence on the politics of individuals and groups across the world, including senior leaders like Nelson Mandela, Hugo Chávez, and Evo Morales. His still publishes his comments and analysis and they are accurate, detailed, pointed, and definitely worth reading. 

http://en.cubadebate.cu/category/authors/fidel-castro-ruz/

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Back to from where I started — back to my cat friends:

I didn’t abandon the cats, despite my profound disapproval of their cruelty and my dismay about the pain, that they inflict on their fellow animals. But I couldn’t talk with them, touch them, play with them for a whole day. I avoided any interaction with my cat companions, not because I wanted to punish them, but because I simply was not able to see them eye to eye.

I have to admit, that this is also the way that I often reacted in domestic disputes. Fortunately I got more mature and mellow over the years, such disputes are rare now. I’m still not sure if I should view this character trait of me as positive or negative. On one hand, retreating into “inner emigration” allows me to cool down and gain emotional distance, to detach myself and get a clear head.

On the other hand, my fellow humans (or fellow creatures, as it is in the case of the cats) are left in uncertainty and they are also not able to vent their anger or explain their position.

As the day progressed after the “squirrel incident”, the cats became more and more worried and they looked at me and meowed doleful. I gave them food as always, but food is not everything, cats expect more from their human friends. Cats are brutal killers, they are loners by nature, they are egoistic, solitary, indifferent and yet, they are at the same time sensitive and emotional. Scratch the surface and you will find out, that they have a gentle heart.

I didn’t make the usual evening walk and also skipped the morning walk today but when Ma Xi jumped on my lap as I was writing this text I hugged him and stroked his head and he sighed with relief and rubbed his little head on my chest and started purring as loud as he could.

He was so relieved and blissful that I instantly felt terrible guilty and as soon as he went up and left my lap I made my round to all the other cats. I touched them, hugged them, I talked to them and told them that they don’t have to worry and that I still love them.

I also told every single one, that she (or he, in Ma Xi’s case) is my favorite cat. And that is not a lie, they are all my favorite cats.

I have experienced a lot of curious and unexpected situations in my capacity as cat host, but my feline companions surprise me still ever so often. When we made our evening walk today, Ma Xi suddenly ran to a tree and climbed up to a heigh of approximately three meters. It was as high as Rosy would come.

Since Cindy sadly disappeared (she was probably shot by a hunter), Princess Min Ki is the undisputed tree climbing champion. Rosy trains hard, but will always remain a rather average climber, the other cats are not into climbing. Ma Xi also was never a tree climber and he often looked longingly up to Cindy, Min Ki, or Gandhi (our frequent visitor), when they were sitting high up in the canopies. 

It seems, that Ma Xi trained secretly, he obviously doesn’t want to be left behind. When he came down after a few seconds he looked at me with appreciation and I told him, how great his climbing achievements were and that I’m very pleased with his performance.

As expected, Princess Min Ki could’t resist to show her superior skills and leave the other cats in the dust, a few seconds later she disappeared high up in a pine tree and we had to wait another three or four minutes till she was ready to come down and continue the walk together with us.

It was an eventful walk, we also came across a group of three female deer, who are permanent residents here. I call them “the girl band”. We have met the group quite often now and they don’t run away anymore when we meet them. They have discovered that hunters don’t roam this part of the wood and they seemingly also don’t mind to be left alone by the bucks.

When I see them, I alway have Aretha Franklins remarkable song “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” in my ear. Another superb song from one of the greatest voices in pop music history.

I choose a long route this evening, leading us to a rather remote and impervious part. Sumo, our 14 year old cat lady, who only recently joined the walkers, had never been here and at one point became afraid and confused. She just sat down and didn’t move any further.

As the other cats became impatient and it was already quite late, we had to continue without her. It often happens that a cat family member leaves the group and gets lost on the way, usually the cats find back alone and arrive home later.

Yet, as I wasn’t so sure that Sumo would find home by herself, after completing our walk I immediately went out again and jogged to the place where she got lost. I called her and after two seconds she came out from under the bushes, she indeed had just waited to be fetched by me.

When I turned back direction home I realized that Ma Xi had followed me. The two cats greeted by sniffing at each other, they were astonishing amiable and we three went home slowly with both cats looking around in the underbrush and waiting for each other.

It seems that Ma Xi has learned another lesson in “social responsibility.

Sumo has in the last few month gradually assumed the position that Lizzy once occupied. She always is around me and follows me wherever I go and in the night she lays on the bed and purrs me to sleep with her soft voice.

Who said that cats are nocturnal animals? The cats in my family are for sure not more nocturnal than I am, they usually sleep when I sleep and they go up when I go up.

As I recall my memories of Lizzy, who was undoubtedly the greatest cat love of my life, and compare her with Sumo, I ask myself, if that will be my destiny: One by one accompanying and guarding my aging feline friends through their final years?

Helping them to close down their lives peacefully, gracefully, and dignified?

I could imagine a worse fate.

Maybe fate is kind, maybe it turns out this way, Lets hope for the best (lets keep fingers crossed, I would say, if I wouldn’t oppose any superstition).

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