Postmodern classic?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Morning on base

This one seemed to come out real well, hopefully it'll be similar here. Mornings and evenings can be quite nice, and the contrast of the camp below gives it an odd feeling.


The other day this weather crept up, stopping all planes and making a mess of everything- spreading the omnipresent dust over all.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Car Quiz

I'm a Lamborghini Murcielago!

You're not subtle, but you don't want to be. Fast, loud, and dramatic, you want people to notice you, and then get out of the way. In a world full of sheep, you're a raging bull.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Mental illness

According to this article, nearly 1 in 5 of every teenager is bipolar. Actually, upon closer read, you realize that the 1 in 5 number is among current psychiatric disorders, not just normal people. But even allowing for sensational media statistic, one has to wonder at this 'increase' in mental illness. Is it just me, or does this seem, pardon the expression, insane? The more we study people, the more it seems that they don't fit in these nicely defined parameters. The obvious reason must be that they're crazy... so let's just drug them up. Kids acting up in school, give them some Rytalin. Everybody needs something, from 'mothers little helper' to the latest designer drug to hit the club scene.

As someone who has been inside and outside the psychiatric health industry (psycho-pharmacology, counseling, etc..), like most things, I have found that the people involved really do think that they are helping. But I think they will be surprised when they pay attention to the actual science comes in, showing that inequality, violence and greed are in fact, more natural than the nonviolent compassion we hold as the ideal. Learning to fight and get along with ignorant people in school is the best social education one can ask for, as dysfunctional as it may sound.

Stop medicating people, let them fight it out- you'll be surprised to see how people's happiness and mental stability improves. We've evolved for millions of years to surive amidst powerful and dangerous beasts and inhospitable climates, not to mention the wars among our own people, but now we can't handle the soft life of modern living? Give me a break. Let the chips fall where they may.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Collateral damage, what is the worth of foreign lives?

So we missed Ayman al-Zawahiri in the targeted missile airstike last week in Pakistan, too bad. Looks like we killed about 4-5 of his henchman, perhaps even some big guys like they're making this Damadola out to be. Unfortunately, around 18 local Pakistanis also got it. They were either hosting this celebratory dinner, or they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The concept of collateral damage- an attempt to quantify the moral calculus of targeting. Is this a futile exercise?

The rhetoric flies... is this just propagandized cover your ass? Certain people seem to think so.

I would like to think there is a balanced way of looking at this. Ultimately, I don't think any moral calculations will be satisfying. You can cold-heartedly say (like I would), those Paki's were probably sympathizers, whatever- it's still regrettable. A part of me thinks, in some kind of romantic 'code of the warrior', that those who are willing to make a moral stand and put their life on the line are to be respected- one can imagine that in the right circumstances, they would be a credit to their society. But they have the misfortune to fight a more organized and capable force. This is the price paid when we follow through on our stated objectives of capturing or killing members of Al Qaeda, devoted to the endangerment of our way of life.

We don't need some heightened circumstances of 'being in a war' to justify this kind of violence inflicted on other people. Some people in the comments of the Washington Monthly raise some interesting, if facetious comparisons- what if it was Americans or other Westerners? Wouldn't we feel the same way?

No. We, by our very nature (or at least the broad set of cultural values known as the West) generally value our individuals very much (some would say out of proportion). While in the 'West' 18 people would be a tragedy (ie: recent story of the 13 miners), for the billions of 3rd worlders living in the chaos between anarchy and authoritarian government, a different calculus exists. Maybe when you reached 180,000 people would start to pay attention, but then probably only a decade later and with little fanfare. A famous quote of Stalin comes to mind: 'One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.' The truth of the matter is that it seems to take something like a democratic institution of government to give individuals their value, not easily done outside of aristocratic institutions like royalty or wealth in these societies, much more restricted than our own.

But we can't justify our actions on their failures. That might illuminate their hypocrisy, but it does not legitimize this effort. Archaic viewpoints, as institutionalized in irrelevant codes such as the Geneva convention attempt to provide an answer to this 21st century conflict and fall short. This Euro-centric outlook falls apart when you are not fighting Europeans. We look to the world, valuing our people, and wishing to defend their way of life against those who would take it, with little value for their own people. The dictators of the 20th century have followed the patterns of the past, attempting to overwhelm with numbers and force what they could not master by negotiation or ideas, and failed despite the conventional wisdom.

This is the dilemna of the West in the 21st century, an existential war in the midst of our culture. For what is worth fighting for? I read this awful article about the problems that many countries are having with their Muslim immigrants, or their nationals living in Islamic countries- violence on women being a central difference. We have tried to value our women (even if one must frankly admit a lack of perfection), while others have made no such efforts. How can we defend our ideals if we can't defend ourselves?

Meanwhile, more and more people come into the world, and we look to new technology as our solution while natural resources decrease. Clearly competition exists still, even among the 'civilized' the cutthroat murderous impulses lie deep in the recesses of our psyche.

The lives of those supporting the local insurgent networks here cross my mind, along with a contemplation of what additional methods might be applied towards the goal of their pacification. But a more urgent example may be the fact that roughly 70 million people live in Iran. How much time will they give us until the value of their people drops below acceptable standards with the contemplation of the nuclear ayatollahs? Then perhaps there is some moral math, when our perception of danger reaches a certain zenith that we value their lives at the same level they do, this can only mean destruction is imminent.

Collateral damage seems to be merely a psychological displacement to avoid the consequences of our actions. We need to face up to this. Following these outdated moral codes is a recipe for suicide. Following no codes is nihilism and anarchy. We must look at this in a determined manner, because once the math takes over- rationality of this sort can be very bloody.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Technology taking over the world

I’ve just watched a movie called ‘Stealth’, about advanced technology taking going haywire. An experimental fighter jet is run by a program that malfunctions, giving it access to all kinds of military information and power, making it a military threat first to enemies but then eventually to the builders. Turns out all right in the end, but it did make me think of a few things in the process. It’s another rehash of the ‘technology’ taking over archetype, most perfectly represented in the Terminator series. Or the malicious Hal 2000 in ‘2001’.

This threat of ‘Artificial Intelligence’ is a recurring theme in popular fiction, but if I think back on it, it isn’t new. By definition, archetypes point at the primal urges of our psyche. This fear of the inanimate animating itself can be seen to me most clearly as the civilized looking down at the uncivilized, such as the ‘Barbarians at the Gate’. The men and people of the Classics had the latest technology and tactics of the day, and always worried about keeping them away from their enemies. They did this by enforcing a separation of them by tradition and culture. The Spartans worried that, as a part of Lycurgus’s laws, if they waged war too much on their neighbors they would learn their methods and be able to defeat them. As Epaminondas eventually did later with the Thebans in their uprising shattering the Spartan rule. The Romans worried about training the tribes, in the fear they would turn against them. And they were right to worry, as seen with Arminius uniting the Germans, as well as later the Roman-trained Huns sacking Rome, along with the Gaul’s numerous attempts.

They considered these people to be barbarians, incapable of civilized thought or actions. Contradictorily, they feared them wielding the tools of civilization with their modern military methods of the day. The Iranian situation is a good parallel, or WMD’s in general- undeveloped, theocratic or communist enemies wanting the power of nuclear weapons to make up for other shortcomings. Although that topic is relevant I shall have to restrict it to another discussion, as I am raising it here only to show it’s comparison to this recurring archetype. We seem to have this surprising parallel with the contemplation of computers, although I would suggest that this is probably more to stay in the annals of science fiction than present reality. But the idea of barbarians- those incapable of civilization or logical thought- remains a fear of our people. Of those educated in the Western civilization, we rightly fear those who don’t share our values. Therefore, empowering them with our technology would be very dangerous, you don't want to wake up with the Terminators putting their feet on your neck! The problem with the development of technology is not that it develops out of control, but that it is easily abused by the people it is now accessible to- when prior it was unavailable and inaccessible.

What to do about it then, do we sit around with our multi-cultural niceties, or do we destroy those who would do the same to us (but seem to only lack the means)? The movies seem to usually have a good ending, maybe it'll work out that way here as well. Haha...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Well, when one has free time on his hands, even the gym gets boring. So a bunch of movies tend to circulate around. Just saw 'March of the Penguins', a documentary on Emperor Penguins in the Antarctic. Amazing, you don't even mind the fact it's been dumbed down for kids a little. The footage is just beautiful. And I was raised on nature documentaries, so even better.

The normal stuff fares a bit worse. Narnia wasn't bad, but nothing I'd bother to see again. Then there's the fun stuff, like 'Doom' or 'Aliens vs. Predator', passes the time, fun... My mom sent me the complete set of A&E's version of Horatio Hornblower, that's really good. My brother sent me Deadwood and Rome- HBO makes some good stuff. The guys here seem crazy about 'Lost' and '24' series seem to be easier to watch.

Ah, best get up and back...

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Quite nice; outside it is raining, good for a change. Even if it does turn everything into a slush of mud, just means I won't be out there in it. I've got my books! Thinking of Asia and when I'll return there, possibly next month. Trying to get my travel arranged.

It'll probably rain into tomorrow, but it could stop and dry a little. The ground here certainly won't absorb it, not enough plants or sediment. Maybe it'll help with the pollution- outside our area there's this big factory, everytime you pass it you see the long, black snake of smoke trailing across the sky. I'm not a big fan of the weather here, especially when it gets so hot. At least in the tropics there's shade and water. But you've got to make do.