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Archive for June, 2010

Quick quiz, what does this list signify?

China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, USA, Yemen, Sudan, Vietnam, Syria.

Got it yet?

These are the countries with the highest number of executions in 2009.  Of these eight countries, only one is currently classed as a country of the first world. North Korea fails to appear on the list, as they don`t disclose their number of executions and therefore cannot be counted. But, if we presume that North Korea similarly participates in executions and similarly belongs on this list, than where does the US fit in its relation to the so-called Axis of Evil?

And while Syria, Yemen and Sudan continue to practice female genital mutilation and clitoridectomies, America still executed more of its citizens than those three countries combined.

Here is the list in full, courtesy of Amnesty International.

China > 1000

Iran > 388

Iraq > 120

Saudi Arabia > 69

USA – 52

Yemen > 30

Sudan > 30

Vietnam > 9

Syria > 8

The US is the only country with a stable enough infrastructure to provide an accurate and verifiable list. The rest of these countries are still working on providing clean water to their citizens.

So why does America continue such practice which even countries like Burundi and Togo – a country that in the not too distant past practiced cannibalism – consider to be inhumane?

I frankly don`t know, I`ve yet to encounter a credible argument for it. But what is most appealing (er. surely appalling) about America`s particular affinity to this form of barbarism is that it is, of the countries which practice capital punishment, both the most creative and experimental in its ways of killing people. From hangings, to injections, to electrocutions and now firing squads, America is frankly medieval in the prosecution of its criminal class.

The land of the free – coincidentally the country with the world`s highest active prison population both in total and per capita. 0.75 percent of its population or roughly 2.3 million of its citizens, is currently housed in prisons, eclipsing China`s meager 1.6 million – seems to be completely at a loss as to what to do with its offenders.

And so it has really devised only one of two solutions. Either lock them up for such crimes as writing bad checks or using drugs, or execute.

According to the New York Times, April 23, 2008, (America) `has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)`

So what could possibly account for such high incarceration and execution rates? One possible answer is democracy. In a country in which judges are often elected officials, rather than government appointed civil servants, tough sentencing tends to be driven by popular sentiment rather than an impartial system designed to perform a task regardless of public opinion. So, lets just hope the Great American public doesn`t get a taste for firing squads and stonings.

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The Ideology of Tarot

A very good friend of mine, in trying to unravel some of my rather tangled thoughts about love, life and moving, suggested we consult her Tarot cards.  Not being spiritual in the least, I of course first objected but then she stated to me that she doesn`t believe in it either.  This was puzzling to me, and so I asked her what`s the point?  And she said, it never hurts to have a second opinion.

This answer amused me, and I thought I`d give it a try.

To begin, she told me to keep my problem in mind.  Think about the problem, and ask the cards a question.  So I did.  She had me draw out five cards, and then place them in a particular configuration.  In turn, she turned each card over, and then consulted her guide book (she`s not an oracle afterall) about what the cards may mean, and then asked me to think about what that means to me, in relation to my problem.  So far not very supernatural.

So the cards had vaguley mystical – ish drawings of old trees being caressed by nymph like people, and wizened men holding sticks and such.  All terribly suggestive things.

They way it worked was quite simple.

Ask the cards a question.  Draw out a set number of cards.  One card represents `the problem,`  One card represents what you don`t know.  One card represents what you do know, one card is a solution, one card is a resolution.

The card`s all relate to different things, death, pride, courage, anxiety, etc, and depending on what position the cards may be in, the reading changes.

And I tell you what, they really helped me sort out my thoughts.  I`ve become a believer.

Rubbish, I hear you yelling at your screens.

Fuck off Rob, don`t tell me you`re a convert to mysticism, and what the hell has this got to do with Ideology?

Everything. . .

You see, I realized that what the tarot is NOT doing is tapping into a mystical spirit world.  What it is doing, is tapping into the sub-conscious, in a way that is highly controlled and directed.  What tarot is, despite its mask of spiritualism, is rudimentary psychoanalysis.

They are essentially Rorschach cards, that are highly suggestive, but when encountered, done so in such a way that the subject relates such things as `love` `selfhood` `anxiety` to the problem that is asked – generally something that has been `on your mind`.

So where is the ideology?  Well, it is an ideology of mysticism, its an ideology of distraction.

While psychoanalysis (except for Jung) is divorced of mysticism and relates entirely to human thought processes and an understanding of the culture of the mind- the psychoanalyst `reads` a person`s anxieties, thoughts and disorders as manifestations of unresolved issues that may be causing the subject to manifest dis-ease; mysticism, conversely, presents to solve the same problems through some form of spiritual or divine intervention.

And that`s precisely what Tarot presents itself as doing.  Rather than openly acknowledging it as a form of isolating certain aspects of the subconscious and questioning why those thoughts are present, Tarot professes to have spirit guides or ghosts or ghoulies or psychic waves influencing the messages the cards spell out.

But that is all bullshit.

For some reason, Tarot masks its human element (what does this picture mean to you – how does it make you feel in relation to the problem at hand.  If we were to see this image as symbollic of what you don`t understand about yourself, what do you think about that) and substitutes that for a supernatural element (`the cards know all`).

So here`s how it works:

Reader;  Ask the cards a question.

Will I find love?

Pick a card.  That card is the problem.  Oh, you picked a card about nature.  See, there is an old tree.  Hmm, what do you think about that?

Uhhhhh, It makes me feel that love is timeless.  um, but the tree is healthy, its still alive.

well, it says in the book that the tree represents wisdom.

Hmm, Maybe I worry that I`m not wise enough to find true love?

Hmm, why do you say that?

I don`t know, because it hasn`t happened yet, or love is difficult, and I fear I`m not wise enough.

Why do you say that?

I`ve made some bad decisions regarding love.

So that makes you scared?

Shouldn`t it?

Do you see where I`m going here?  That`s pure psychonalysis.  It`s asking the question what does this symbolically loaded thing, which could mean anything and everything, mean to you?  And why do you think that way?

But back to ideology.  I can` t help but ask why we as a society, in the 21st century, with sophisticated understanding of nature, technology, the world, the mind and culture, still feel the need to fall back on a supernatural world that is more knowledgable or more special than the one in which we live?

Personally, I find the mind a fascinating, wonderful, terrible thing.  Surely, our own world is special enough that we don`t need to make up things as magic, psychic powers and religion.

And yet we still do.

In this age of knowledge, where scientific study has shown us how our world is made, how things are interconnected, a good 80 Percent of us, still think that it was made by a floating giant magic man of some kind.

Instead of believing in the certainty of slow, progressive evolution, there are large vocal populations that insist we were scraped together out of clay and mud through magic.

It baffles me that we in the 21st century, fall back on the supernatural to answer the hard questions, and yet rely on the science and technology to provide our entertainment.

Surely we`ve got things backwards somewhere.

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I`ve been watching with growing horror the seemingly unstoppable stream of oil gushing into the gulf of Mexico, and am very much unsurprised with BP`s inability to stop the flow.  But why can`t they stop the flow?  Surely this is their area of expertise, no?  Well, yes and no.  Their expertise is in the active exploration and drilling and collection of oil.  Not in the stoppage of oil.  Indeed, this would be entirely against their mandates, which is to secure oil for their rights of sale.  And so their solutions to the oil flow problem are inherently going to be counter to our best interests because a proper solution would be to so totally bury the burst pipe thereby making all that oil totally unaccessible.

There really is only one option, and that is to render the entire drill site unaccessible, which BP of course is not going to propose as a solution, as their bottom line, regardless of how big the current bill may be, is dependent on these vast oil reserves.  In the long term, regardless of how much oil escapes, that is still insignificant in relation to how much oil they can eventually extract from that well. And so rather than stopping the oil leak, they are trying to salvage their investment.

And so their so far failed solutions are to try to collect the oil rather than stop the flow.  The failed top hat and such were designed so that they could siphon off the oil from the leak and collect it in their tankers, thereby diverting the oil from the shores and into their pockets.   And here in lies the problem.  We, as people unconnected to the oil industry, are hoping for a solution that stops the leak, while they as the oil industry, are looking for a solution which minimizes their loss.  And so their solutions will always be least effective to OUR needs because they are trying to solve a different problem from that which we want solved – an end to unsafe deep water drilling.

But under what other circumstances do we permit the guilty party to come up with the resolution to their problems?  Do we allow murderers to come up with their own ways of compensating their victims?  Should we allow rapists to devise a way of comforting their victims?

While BP had no intentions of causing this leak, it was through their cost cutting, mismanagement and negligence that this leak occured, and so for precisely those reasons, they should be the LEAST suitable company tasked with the responsibility of repairing their damange.  But we often get mislead by the ideology of expertise.

It is precisely the same problem with the auto industry.  America has a problem with ENERGY dependency.  We all have a problem with global climate change and pollution.  One of the major contributors to this problem over the last hundred years, is the auto industry, an industry which is highly polluting in the manufacture of its product, a product which in turn creates a great deal of pollution.  So who do we look to for a solution to these problems of energy dependency and reduction of pollution?  The auto industry itself.  The very same industry which created the problem.

So as their solution they convince us to consume hybrid cars, or electric cars, and airheads like Gwyneth Paltrow tell us she bought a Prius cause she loves the earth, blithely assuming that the production of these cars is less polluting than the production of conventional autos.  In fact the reduction in pollutants is negligble.  We`ve replaced oil in the combustible engines, with Nickel Cadmium batteries, nickel that is extracted in Canada (a highly polluting process), then shipped to Japan (using conventional, high polluting shipping), manufactured into batteries in Japan, then shipped back to America, to be installed into the frame of a car.

Hardly a green option.

But surely the sollution to our energy dependency problems is not a question of what kind of car to drive, but rather, to use PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.  But Ford, Toyota, Honda et all., are hardly going to propose that you get off your ass and take a bus. And so we are provided with spurious solutions which turn out to be no solution at all.

And meanwhile the seas are getting darker, the storms are getting stronger, and we`re wringing our hands waiting and wondering when these corporate entitites which have put us into the shit, are going to get us out of it.

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