Soft Colonialism & Chinatown.

Let me thrash out a certain perspective. Chinatown is a global phenomenon, ubiquitous to major cities & towns. Although to me they contrast most strongly when set against a non-Asiatic culture, that is a personal ignorance. To bind together all these disparate locations, expatriate culture has lead to the construction of similar architecture, food, language and semi-segregation. These are small, semi-independent colonies and are scattered across the world.

At times Chinese migration was directed by a foreign gold rush. Many Chinatown’s were founded by greed, similar to a lot of European colonisation (& Russian, & African, & Australian-Aborigine, and so on & so forth). Some Chinatown’s were created due to fallout from significant, contemporary events, which is seen after W.T.C. attacks in the U.S.A. caused a domestic migration from New York City to Montville, Connecticut. Nevertheless, greed via business seems to be a significant factor in all Chinatown’s and this is a concept with a lot of reach. Not only does greed motivate the founders of the colony ‘to boldly go where no Chinese has gone before!’, it is directly relevant to instances of negative action; legal targeting, insidious rumours, coolie-slavery, etcetera.

Discourse on colonialism is dominated by the European forms. These forms are distinct from a soft colonialism. They are characterised by much larger movements of people, greater technological inconsistency between the colonisers & colonised, seizure of power across a larger geographic area, seizure of power in deeper social values, a central authority responsible for the colony before its founding, and much more violence. These traits belong to a ‘harder’ colonialism. Frequently a colony will send some type of remittance to the homeland and resources are diverted from the local populace. These two traits are common to both ‘hard’ & ‘soft’ colonialism, although in the latter it is lesser.

Hopefully consideration of Chinatown’s as a soft colonialism will reform perceptions of colonialism into a broader category, enable realistic criticisms of certain modern nations and feed curiosity.

Astronomy, Catholicism & Plumbing.

Astronomers are mapping the stars, and the galaxies beyond them. Although it may become utilisable in the distant future, or may discover points of escalating interest (ex. Armageddon asteroids, aliens) in the short term, it is not practical nor essential like plumbing or farming. A lack of practical purpose however, does not mean it is unworthy of pursuit. It indicates to the community which supports this pursuit of knowledge for it’s own sake, to rank the expenditure with other potentially useless investments, such as the military. Some researchers find it personally purposeful to inch precise instruments across the night sky, they find some pleasure witnessing the magnitude of the visible universe. Such pleasurable pursuits are extended beyond the community of researchers to the broader public via the mass media by shows like Cosmos, with much slower time-frames than sporting activities.

Mapping of the stars, supernova & other astronomical debris is no equivalent to practical industry from the perspective of democratic citizenry. Headlines, such as 40 000 000 Stars Mapped, are intended to loosen public purse strings but emphasize progress over pursuit. Farmers, plumbers and emergency services have a value which outstrips what is offered by astronomy (or the military). It may one day produce great value, as put forth with clarity by Mr. Stuhlinger. The link is to a piece of correspondence between a NASA director and a Christian sister.

That missive to the world, which is a contest for the faith of the multitude between two members of secular and sacred communities, keeps the ball rolling. If the ball, or to say it differently how we value our objectives, were to be the abolition of suffering, a Nietzschean perspective looms. Can the good can only be so, when there is suffering to mitigate? The affirmative answer is more Catholic than Christian, and has an equivalence in the Buddhist dogma of dukkha. Catholicism, which has an often wild and despicable history, has been a powerful ideology for millennia. Change was slow and suffering was a common thread to bind together a community (& to induce serfs to embrace their lot in life). How should this inform efforts to structure an understanding of modernity? Is the international community of tomorrow better united by the importance of suffering, or stargazing (or soldiering or shitting)?

Professional stargazers have reached a certain threshold in public awareness, the public figures of Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Brian Cox demonstrate this. As much as they champion values of the Enlightenment (tradition of criticism, egalitarianism) and the significance of their academic domain, they have been unable to challenge the supremacy of the public dollar. They, and less prestigious members of their faculty, produce headlines as steps in the paper chase.

When progress is measured by percentages of mapped sky, for an activity which is communally, although not personally, worthless in the immediate future, I would suggest astronomy is serving an ideological purpose. It is a mental support for Western citizens to conceive, secure & justify the international situation. So to say, our moral elitism (science & secularism) is why our nations are leading the world (by non-faith based measures), why they will continue to do so and validation of the global economic system which is the best measure & explanation of differences in life quality. Does anyone know how often religious-social elitism justified suppression of lower classes in the past? To justify the relative standards of material existence, signs of progress are need to alleviate guilt by reassurances that change is coming. This justification is emptying the inner worth of pursuing knowledge for it’s own sake.

A quote from Mr. Deutsch from the book ‘The Beginning of Infinity’;

“But then there is the philosophical magnitude of a cluster of galaxies. As I moved the cross-hairs to one nondescript galaxy after another, clicking at what I guessed to be the centre of each, some whimsical thoughts occurred to me. I wondered whether I would be the first and last human being ever to pay conscious attention to a particular galaxy. I was looking at the blurry object for only a few seconds, yet it might be laden with meaning for all I knew. It contains billions of planets. Each planet is a world. Each has its own unique history – sunrises and sunsets; storms, seasons; in some cases continents, oceans, earthquakes, rivers. Were any of those worlds inhabited? Were there astronomers there? Unless they were an exceedingly ancient, and advanced, civilization, those people would never have travelled outside their galaxy. So they would never have seen what it looked like from my perspective – though they might know from theory. Were any of them at that moment staring at the Milky Way, asking the same questions about us as I was about them? If so, then they were looking at our galaxy as it was when the most advanced forms of life on Earth were fish.”

These days, mathematical algorithms become computerised and a machine is substituted for the man (or woman), all to produce signs of progress. What’s the rush?

Compulsory Voting in Democracy.

Democracy, for all the word gets bandied about, was not well defined in my schooling. As democracy existed in ancient Greece, it could be described as a timocracy, a form of elitist and exclusive democracy. Modern, Westminster style democracy has many variants, what is of interest to me here is compulsory & non-compulsory systems of voting.
Interesting tangents to this topic include votes weighted by professional or social qualification, plumbers have more say on plumbing by-laws; vote about each issue, a more direct participation; trade-able votes, personalities could accumulate votes. Those last two are the platform of the Flux Party, and are more fully explained here.

Compulsory voting stands where two broadly valued concepts connect, freedom & democracy. A fully free citizen is under no State compulsion, therefor compulsory voting is an infringement of freedom. Democracy is, to quote Abraham Lincoln “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”. So exclusion from voting, from apathy or active exclusion or  protest, is an infringement of democracy. Which is the Greater Good?

Demagoguery is an inherent risk of democracy, mob rule means general concerns can supersede technical concerns, amongst the possible manipulations of demagoguery. Lobbyists corrupt ideal functioning, yet the position of the lobbyist category relative to a certain type of elite business elite (in the case of tobacco), is congruent with the position of environmentalist advocate in relation to a hippy elite. That is, the lobbyist or advocate seeks to popularise the attitudes of their community, and treat the general citizen as ignorant relative to an elite attitude (free enterprise or nature love, respectively).

Drawing this line of thought towards the eponymous issue, a question arises, ‘Which voting system encourages the least worst style of demagoguery?’
If it is acceptable to inflame the generic citizen with passion enough to vote, the approach of censorship by passive exclusion is found, but only when the voting itself is non-compulsory. Compulsory voting requires demagogues to change tact, and focus on the vote more than participation. Citizens left behind by the State, are those able to benefit from a democratic revolution and also exceedingly likely to withdraw from this very process, again only if it is non-compulsory.

To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, one must know the daemons name before it can be slain. A democratic and free state should have compulsory voting to call forth the imagined conquerors of the daemons tormenting the citizen for the objective of overcoming the struggles, sufferings and horrors. This is my personal position. However, in the interest of balance, it must be stated that compulsory voting can validate a governmental system without popular approval.

A Minister for Men.

This is specific to Australia.

There is a Minister for Women. She is not chosen democratically, the duty is loosely described as “to ensure that women’s issues and gender equality are taken into consideration in policy and program development and implementation”. The Minister for Women has been a consistent role since 1983. I do not believe the role should be temporary, and should be permanent for the next 50 or 100 years, perhaps further. Rather this is an attempt to persuade you the reader, that the obvious complementary role, that of a Minister for Men, is a meaningful suggestion to develop our society.

If the role of Minister is justified as a better method to act on problems which disproportionately affect women (as opposed to a focus from relevant ministers i.e. domestic violence being adequately addressed by the Minister of Police), then it is or will become worthy to extend a similar role to address disproportionately male problems. There are problems (i.e. overtime-overworked, suicide, victims of most non-sexual violent crime, inconsistent university entry & graduation, shorter life expectancy, employment-divorce) which disproportionately affect men.

Male hegemony dominated most historic Australian societies, but it is greatly reduced in Australia after the turn of the millennium. Issues of focus for feminism remain, for example there is not an approximate balance of genders in parliament. To cut to the chase, the stereotypical straight, white male who dominates peak positions in media, business, society and politics is under no obligation to represent men. Feminism, as virtue, or its counterpart misogyny, as vice, is a tool of female politicians, and masculinity, or misandry (this issue was sometimes in jest, yet anecdotally, a university sociologist told me sincerely, speedos delivered a sexist advantage to his government), do not follow the same dynamic. Mens rights are often treated as an attempt to restore society to a Victorian era status quo, and simply blaming masculinity is acceptable to mainstream media.
I must personally & briefly reject the definition of feminism as someone who holds gender equality as a community value, this is an underpinning value but this definition does not even mention the focus on womens rights & issues which is essential to feminism.

The Australian of the Year made an appearance on Q&A earlier this year. David Morrison, as a manifestation of the above mentioned stereotype of the elite, straight, white male, spoke of domestic violence as Australias no. 1 social problem. It was pertinent to the question, but it was false, I’m certain by ignorance and not intent. I understand the role of AotY is under no obligation to develop & maintain a deep awareness of Australian society. Mr. Morrison’s comments follow a politically correct hierarchy of victimhood. To briefly demonstrate the falseness of a claim that domestic violence is the number one social issue (approximate numbers, links here or elsewhere in article);
– domestic violence kills slightly more than once a week mostly women,
– suicide kills roughly 38 per week an approximate gender ratio of 3 men : 1 woman,
– murder kills about 5 per week an approximate gender ratio of 3 men : 2 women,
– drug abuse kills 14 per week an approximate gender ratio of 9 men : 5 women*.
In raw terms of lives lost, domestic violence does not compare to other issues. Breaking down the discussion on murder into specific terms is useful in discussion and in pursuing a better tomorrow. Nevertheless, the male hegemony does not pursue the suffering of men, particularly premature death, a Minister for Men can fulfill that duty.
To briefly focus on the above mentioned politically correct hierarchy of victimhood. This is an extension of political correctness beyond it’s most practical realm. This practical realm is the need for a certain politeness for those who have a massive audience. Presidential nominees as well as Batman films can, inadvertently, trigger the mad &/ sad to do bad things and  I am suspicious of more insidious effects. Political correctness can transgress this practical boundary, for example the suffering of Justine Sacco for using sarcasm on the internet.

To return to the title, a Minister for Men could work on solving or reducing the problems which disproportionately affect men. Our community continues to offer less support for men, than for women. Examples abound, Royal Women & Children’s Hospitals are a signal of care which has no equal for men, of  course hospitals do not forcibly expel men seeking medical assistance. News articles about domestic violence always come with a phone number to call for immediate human contact, a form of social support. This support is not found in most articles with male victims.

To be positive, modern lifestyles are mostly better than historic lifestyles. This post is intended to be critical of some effects of feminism and political correctness, however it hopefully is not destructive to worthy objectives and is constructive towards a better tomorrow. If it has been persuasive, please sign the petition and join me in calling for a Minister for Men.
Let me leave you with a question, what should be required from a could-be father in relation to an abortion?

Some Ideas…

Road lights should have a triggering mechanism, which might act on the 1 kilmetre of road ahead. Especially remote and rural roads where there is little large wildlife, no strong winds (trees on the road), no flooding, no rockslides and similar. In Australia, and I imagine many, many other places, there are a lot of roads like that. It would reduce energy consumption and light pollution, which hurts insect biodiversity. If it is expensive to install, then it could be done when other roadworks are done. The technology already exists, pressure sensors at traffic lights or motion sensors, and would be simple to modify for this purpose.

 

Social support can be provided by a prison with the doors open. The security would protect the vulnerable. It would make it simpler to concentrate social support. It would provide a safe place for homeless to shower. It would be entirely ineffective at providing social support to remote & rural areas, there the tyranny of distance reigns. It could create a core for a secular community, as religious buildings are to religions. It would equalise social support somewhat, no special groups garnering greater goods, and could integrate into public transport.

 

There should be a government register which marks down politicians promises. If online, it could be extended to petitions. A media employee would be in regular contact with various media outlets, so that the public is regularly informed about the consistency of politicians.

Between Hanson & Hitchens.

Recently Q & A hosted a panel which included Pauline Hanson. She is quite well known in Australia, critics would describe her as an xenoophobic and supporters would say she is asking some serious questions. Her political party has done well in recent elections and has a policy of a Royal Commission into Islam and of halting immigration exclusively of Muslims. Christopher Hitchens, who has died, was a militant atheist and very critical of Islam, as well as warfare and imperialism.

I am not a devote follower of politics, but I am confident in asserting that Ms. Hanson is the main Australian politician who is critical of Islam. I would assume Mr. Hitchens would support her attitudes, to a limited extent. A question to ask his ghost via spirit medium, would be ‘Do you think all religious political groups have a definite & active interest in marginalising criticism and a result of this, is the obscuring of reasonable criticism of Islam by the undesirable title of Islamophobia?’ His answer to banning Islamic migration would be a little more predictable, I reckon.

It is difficult for atheist criticism to gain traction, in part due to an attitude that religion is well intended. Neither the Bible nor the Quran (nor the Torah) are perfect guides to morality, and this is in direct conflict with strong Christianity & strong Islam (& strong Judaism). As long as discussion centers on the positive parts of the Bible, the assumption of the perfection of the Messiah & his message is left unchallenged, and the explicitly murderous verses & verses of nonsense don’t become part of the reputation. It is distasteful to connect murder and nonsense with the Christian theology, with the Christian holy book. However, I would think it less provocative to do so, than to criticise Islam. Criticism of the Quran, or of Islam on the evidence of the nations where it has been strongest for the longest, is seen as fanning the flames of right wing extremism and intolerance.

To briefly discuss Aisha (an active figure in the Sunni – Shia schism), explicit details in the Koran provide Islamic acceptance & approval of at least one occurrence of paedophilia (10 y/o girl and 54 y/o man) and polygamy (to the 11th degree), both crimes in ‘the West’ and both significantly, but not exclusively or totally, associated with Islamic communities, including migrants & refugees. This is an honest criticism is diminished & ignored by things such as the fear of the label of Islamophobe & genuine Islamophobes who only squawk of terrorism. Also, those Muslims who either want to change their community or represent a change are less publicly active than would otherwise be the case, and so their views do not propagate as one would wish.

In a moment of support for Ms. Hanson, those nations (Saudi Arabia & Iran) have not produced a respectable democracy. Democracy in Indonesia (which is successful & mostly respectable) I believe to be a product of historical capitalism (controlling profitable spice trading) which in turn led to colonialism (by the Dutch) who imported their systems of organisation which were retained after the Dutch (& others) departed.
Criticism of Kim Davis was a much greater presence in the media than criticism of Saudi Arabia & Iran in relation to LGBTQI causes, especially with the Saudi seat on the UNHRC. This illustrates the shielded (within the mainstream) status which Islam currently, and wrongfully in my opinion, holds. Further it is a dynamic which produces alienation of the right wing & conspiracy.

Ms. Hanson and her One Nation party represent citizens who hold strong negative views of Islam and seek to represent these views on the national scale. Mr. Hitchens was more an activist than a representative and sought to develop the international public discourse on religion. How would you compare Hanson & Hitchens? How do you compare Islamophobia and militant atheism?.

Public Opinion, Soft Drink & Spectacle.

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”
Edward Bernays

Public opinion is the most popular opinion if a survey were administered and the top results collected. It does not require a logical explanation, a position held may be arrived at by different approachs. It is this public opinion which democratic institutions should define and apply. It is this public opinion which advertising firms seek to manipulate for private gain.

Public opinion is not entirely free, nor entirely national. Restrictions on free speech vary from false advertising, to inciting riots, to threats. International opinions are beyond any single nation, and Earth Day is a demonstration of public opinion unrestricted by national boundaries. Attention given to dissent varies in quality and quantity, and this feeds back into public attitudes about the current state of affairs.

This ‘invisible government’ is not as coherent as it may soiund. Public health government  departments and Coca-Cola advertisers both influence public behaviour and opinion in effectively opposite directions. It is an scary world where the best & brightest in this field are more likely found in a private company than public service. That is where they are though, for good or ill.

The competition for the public attention is where the Spectacle proper begins. NYC regulations of soft drinks began a Spectacle which reached Australian shores and for good cause, obesity is a major health problem here & there. A major public health problem, treated with socially supported medicine, the cost of which can be assisted by taxation on the billions of profits of soft drink companies.

The then mayor of  NYC, a city 50%+ obese, sought to regulate and moderate soft drink consumption. The anti-soft drink aspect of the Spectacle expressed itself in forms of newspaper stories, talk show segments and billboards displaying health messages. The pro-soft drink aspect of the Spectacle manifested in the same forms but also could draw on the Spectacle of the brand. Brands which advertise as though a tropical getaway were taken with each sip, or at least when you feel like a holiday, sip that feeling away. Truly there are soft drink brands which are international, and these brands won (by constitutional appeal that government exceeded it’s authority).

Ability to influence public opinion is found much more in the private pursuit of profit than in public service. This dynamic, of pursuing a fantastic representation for a wage, elevates the Spectacle beyond reality. A company is better known by advertising than by the real conditions, and in pursuit of a sale companies (Fair Trade Coffee) advertise the real conditions, as though your purchase is needed to validate decent working conditions. Coca-Cola is not the company which supplied a cocaine infused tonic to the public, it is not the company which drained drinking water in poor, rural India, Coca-Cola is the Spectacle manufactured by the marketing department. It is global. It is not going away soon. There has got to be a better way.

“The Indian parliament has banned the sale of Coke and Pepsi products in its cafeteria. Indian parliamentarians should take the logical next step, and ban the sale of Coke and Pepsi products in the entire country.

The ban came as the result of tests, including those by the Indian government, which found high concentrations of pesticides and insecticides, including lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos, in the colas, making them unfit for consumption. Some samples tested showed the presence of these toxins to be more than 30 times the standard allowed by the European Union. Tests of samples taken from the US of the same drinks were found to be safe.” – source

A Society of Sub-Cultures.

*I’d rather be wearing white in desert sunlight!

Consider the dynamic between proletariat and bourgeois, from the communist framework of course. It strikes one as reasonable that members of the proletariat would seek to become bourgeois, and so this class would criticise the revolution if it restricts their dreams o private property. There are castles for sale (bloody aristocrats eat cake whilst citizens of DPRK eat grass). If they were all to become culture centres and tourist traps, what effect would be seen in those with secret, selfish wishes? On their motivation? Their social engagement?

This type of selfish desire is harnessed in an effective manner in our society, by the form of monetary value and taxation. Not to say there is no room for improvement. This acceptance of selfish desire, and this method of harnessing it for the greater good, enhance some aspects of community, although if private property is the problem these dynamics only repeat the problem. Anyway, there is no need for all citizens to go to a mosque, church or stupa, to be taught a spirituality which encourages selflessness and kindness. How else can the plethora of cultures and sub-cultures coexist?

Secularism is another facet of pre-existing ideology which holds influence over this state of affairs. Some communities desire to be the supreme social power, and have all state affairs organised and developed by their principles. So, for example, an Islamist and a Apostolic Christian may agree about peace on earth, but would they do agree about the prayers which should be said before class? Secularism, although it does diminish the dream of overwhelming religion / culture, means that only the secular code shall be placed above the divine code and then mostly in matters in the public domain. Proslytising and preaching can occur in personal domains, which appears to give breathing room to the dream of religious dominance.

As a certain form of economic structure (capitalism) and a certain form of governance (secular) spreads and deepens around the globe, individuals (born in the right place to the right parents, more than ever before) are free to pursue their own ends, and by so doing inch the larger community forwards. Value systems and individual projects are not uniform and do not have to be. However, limits of what can be selfishly pursued (monopoly control of all high fructose corn syrup or mangos) and which value systems must be excluded (WWII Japanese rape culture, WWII USA nuclear weapons usage) are exceeding a certain boundary, one most deserving of respect.

A minimum (prison) standard should be guaranteed, all else is competition. I believe it is better to share some standards of capitalism and secularism than it is to raise them. This leads me again to the question of whether current leading communities can remain so only as long as the global order remains stable. So to say it differently, if all people everywhere were given the wealth of the average Qatari on their 18th birthday, would inflation collapse the global networks of markets, the networks of production and distribution?

Latin America, 4-Day Work Week, Climate Change & Capitalism.

Recently the government of Venezuela called for a 4-day work week. This curious fact came to me through openDemocracy. The goal is to reduce power consumption due to low dam levels and reliance on hydro-power, auguring rolling blackouts as a near immediate occurence. Regardless, a 4-day work week is a goal worth working towards.

This can be associated with climate change, as rain is an aspect of the climate, and it has changed. Whether this change is due to industrial influence on natural patterns, like the Yellow River running red, or micro-organisms altering the global atmosphere  or a part of a cyclic change, does not get mentioned. Regardless, both sides of the climate debate should agree that we want to stay in the present Ice Age and discuss what to do to achieve this instead of laying the blame.

The Venezuela power crisis has given more momentum to the cause of developing an effective method of power transportation. Advancement in this domain would improve environmental impacts, business costs and industry efficiency. If discovered and disseminated early, it would enable developing nations to move directly to a better civil infrastructure which would be superior to the efficiencies of modern nations.

Forbes hosts an article about this crisis. There is not a single word about a 4-day work week being a reasonable goal of government. It boggles my mind that a reasonable solution to poverty is, & I quote,
“The right way is to give poor people more money so that they can buy whatever it is at that market price.”
Yes, wealth  which enters the economy at the bottom of the socio-economic scale will turn a lot more wheels than wealth which enters at say, the banking sector. However there are surely more effective, easier structural tools of government, such as price fixing, than redistributing wealth from billionaires. Price fixing is ridiculed in the article as a useless economic tool and redistributive taxation is apparently the solution. Market clearing price is mentioned, compare it to price gouging, an effect of monopolies which can form in spite of taxation due to lack of regulation (such as price fixing). Price gouging is not unlikely to occur in the Venezuelan crisis, as it is a common occurrence in times of crisis.

A better tomorrow should be for more to lead the good life, rather than for business to grow. A 4-day work week should be applauded, despite the crisis, and support thought of to make it possible outside of ecological catastrophe &/ socialist stupidity.

This article is indicative of the elite dictating the terms to the many. Business in America can do well, but not without exploiting dollar a day workers (seriously) in Bangladesh. It is well and good to say the rich should give to the poor, even unwillingly so if the government must act with taxation. How though, should the government of Bangladesh move a fraction of the wealth of billionaires, to the local paupers? It speaks of the dystopia of capitalism that a 4-day work week is not a goal, but instead seen as a problem to be ended with laissez-faire markets. As I have said before, a minimum standard should be essential to modern government. As mechanisation, computerisation, and industrial performance advance, it is becoming increasingly possible that the normal standard of work is what the people want it to be, and not what the birth lottery dictates.