Sunday, February 28, 2016

AWARDS

My favorite Oscar.

Humanity has many weaknesses. Giving out awards is one of them. Awards are more sophisticated remains of our need to constantly seek/bestow power over others in the animal pack. Rather than taking heads, we now fill them with the idea that the award-winner is special due to some time-specific behavior: Winning a race, crying on screen, riding a bull, etc.. 

Awards are always political in some way. Olympic gold medalists may have to qualify on statistics, but how they get there has a lot to do with their backgrounds and how savvy their parents/coaches were to encourage their success. In other words, there were probably many young people like Jesse Owens who did not have the coincidental ingredients which led to his award-based celebrity. Were those others, whether or not inspired by them, actually helped directly by Owens' awards. No. We would not have a Black Lives Matter campaign 80 years later if they had been. 

Awards in a post-Reagan America are often used to subtly stick it to those who are struggling. Give an award to a one-legged runner, and you convey the message to other amputees whose recovery is not as substantial that they are not trying hard enough. Honor athletes with HIV in the name of normalizing the disease, and you succeed in diminishing the struggle of many poor people with HIV to avoid homelessness. I could go on.

Tonight's Oscar ceremony is a totally politicized event. Studying the process of electing the nominees and winners within the Academy will enlighten you to just how political it is. The outcries of racism, sexism, homophobia and whatever are disingenuous lobbying efforts by people established within the movie business. Oscars are money. Talent alone does not rule the arts. Sales do. Awards are the "Housekeeping Seal of Approval" of the film industry. Like that seal on a bottle of bathroom cleaner, it doesn't guarantee you'll like the smell of it or how well it will remove the soap ring from your bathtub. 





Saturday, February 27, 2016

MICHAEL POLLAN


Michael Pollan is neither a farmer nor a scientist-by-training. He is a writer and media presenter. Yet Michael Pollan has become a food and agriculture guru to the elitist Left, which is actually the centrist Right by any sane political analysis. In other words, he is preaching to the choir of Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Bittman and all the Manhattanite-wannabes who will listen intently with bleeding hearts and greedy stomachs. 

Pollan's latest push for celebrity comes in the form of a four-episode show on Netflix, Cooked. I had the distinct displeasure of watching the first, and perhaps my single, episode last evening. Where did Netflix think the appeal of this show resides exactly, I asked myself continuously. 

The show tries to draw lines between impoverished aboriginal Australians, South Carolinian rural folk and Michael Pollan by way of fire and roasted pigs. Now the pig part has ample potential, especially when applied to the elitist class from which Pollan emerged: Son of wealthy New Yorkers, youthful summers on Martha's Vineyard alongside singer James Taylor, education at Columbia, etc.. However, the roasting of the pig for long hours around stifling fumes in sweltering heat seems to have little to do with Pollan, sustainability or economic equality.

The most annoying exploitation of this narcissistic pseudo-scientific exercise by posh Pollan is the footage of the native Australians. The subtext is that these aboriginal people, who do not eat pigs by the way, are happier in their rural poverty than they could be in a 21st century context of an affluent Australia. This is simply outrageous, especially when coming from a 1-percenter who shuffles around looking folksy and making flat statements about nutrition and metabolism like a cellular biologist who has proven theories himself about everything to do with the subjects.  

I understand why Pollan is a hero of some in the small/local agriculture/cuisine movement. I applaud the notions of sustainability and hard work for better nutrition. Pollan may see himself as a missionary, but Cooked on Netflix is simply a half-baked ego trip for a wealthy person who cannot get enough attention. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

JIMMY SAVILE

Jimmy Savile

If you don't know who Jimmy Savile, who died in 2011 at 84, was in British culture, I think this BBC story from today will enlighten. The case of Jimmy Savile is outrageous because his abuse of children was covered up by people who should have done something about it decades ago. Like Roman Catholic priests and other clerics who abuse children, Savile parlayed his ostensible philanthropy for great power in official British culture to the extent that he was honored by the British monarchy. This provided him with the cover he needed to be a sadistic brute.

The Savile case is now famous in part because it is about sex. Since Western culture, while not as screwed up about sex as Islamic culture, is still sexually repressive, any excuse to exploit a story about sex is grabbed by the media and groped to irritating excess. But I look at Savile's story through the eyes of a gay man who sees Savile's behavior as typically male and especially typical of males in power. 

Gay men in positions of power within the LGBT subculture can be no different from Savile. The issue is one of maleness and male conditioning, often by the women who raise them, in a sexist world. The difference in the gay male subculture lies in the dual conditioning in a male-male relationship. Both parties can engage in a sado-masochistic dance for mutual gratification and ascension to some form of power. 

The core issue underlying the Savile case and others like it is institutionalized sexual repression. Telling children that sex is bad or some sort of potentially lethal weapon has its repercussions. Withholding sex education from children on the grounds of religious superstitions is socially counterproductive. A civilized society where sexual conduct is generally consensual, healthy and joyful cannot develop without early sex education. 

Shaming a sex offender publicly after he is dead is a useless exercise of the guilty for their own self-absolution for their own negligence when the offender was alive. The Savile case is particularly annoying. The doublespeak of the government spokesperson (Dame Janet Smith) in her address on the matter is as bad as the offenses themselves. It does nothing to further the cause of prevention, though she manages to slap herself on the back (in nearly Shakespearean prose) for the job she has done. 

Sexual abuse is preventable. It is preventable by educated mothers and fathers of children. This would not require expensive government studies. It is doable right now. Only religion and the fear it uses to poison healthy sex without procreation stand in the way.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

THERAPIES WITHOUT RESULTS


The ultimate failure of behavioral psychology as the primary model for treating mental illness and accompanying dysfunction stemmed from the immediate results yielded by chemicals on the brain. Early psychiatry, working hand in hand with behavioral psychology, operated on the premise that drugs (sedatives mostly) would simply mask symptoms of mental illness, then perceived as more controllable by the afflicted. The underlying problems would resurface unless they were either rooted out by psychoanalysis or mollified by changing behavioral habits.

Now, decades after seeing pharmacology failing to address the overall scope of mental illness in society, it seems obvious that there is no one way of treating mental illness. Drug manufacturers continue to study the human brain's chemistry. Not all of this research is ethically motivated, I am sure. However, they are using science to deal with disease. Behavioral psychologists are perhaps more prosperously employed by advertisers than by the medical establishment. This is perhaps related to the neglect of the poor and addicted by the mental health establishment and by government. The vast majority of homeless people are mentally ill, addicted or both.

Looking at the global response to the Syrian crisis reveals to me that world politicians have failed the Syrians in a similar way to members of the medical establishment. For four years the world has watched the decline of a pivotal Middle East country. The response has largely consisted of ranting and school-yard banter between various allied groups. Meanwhile, millions of Syrians have been impacted negatively by the conflict. Now the surrounding nations are about to pay a heavy price as well due to mass migration of displaced Syrians.

We are living in a time of basic conflict between ancient models of dealing with oppression, such as revolution and war, and scientific approaches to resolving conflicts and injustice. The main reasons for this conflict are economic disparity and overpopulation. Economic equity cannot be provided for all seven billion human beings with current resources and technology. And it is doubtful that technology will expand as quickly as human population has been expanding.

This does not bode well for the human species, if there is not another form of social advancement outside the current establishment of capitalism and quasi-democracy, fueled by greed, materialism and war. The Syrian diaspora is an exaggerated form of the homelessness that is present in every prosperous city of the world. There is no "better" place to run on a planet which is overrun with our species. It seems to me that it is time for governments to be assiduously funding and applying scientific research on our species itself. How can our species live equitably without violence? This is a worthy pursuit of science. New smartphones, new weapons, social networks and fake food are not the treatments we need for our disease.

Monday, February 22, 2016

INFORMED ANALYSIS IS NOT PHOBIA

Photo from Daily Mail, UK: Migrants in Kos, Greece 

Once again I heard a migration advocate, this time in Greece, declare categorically that anyone who protests mass migration without proper vetting is "xenophobic". I am now noticing international corporate media's shift from throwing the word "Islmophobia" in the faces of protesters against aggressive mass migration. Xenophobia seems to be the new barb of the unthinking politically correct, also known as those mesmerized by corporate propaganda on shiny screens.

Reading about the roots of a culture and its behaviors to formulate an intelligent opinion is the antithesis of a phobic reaction. For example, looking at the voluntary submission of the vast majority of Syrians to dynastic dictatorship for decades shines a light on the complicity of the Syrian population in developing the current chaos in their country. Condoning and participating in corruption of government has its consequences. The German people are particularly sensitive to this. Perhaps that is why they have displayed such empathy to the Syrian escapees. 

Enabling populations to escape the consequences of their collective choices is not a progressive process for human development. It is regressive. It also diminishes the human progress of populations who have taken the reins of responsibility to build progressive societies. Here in the U.S., we are struggling with this same issue as we deal with a push by some to develop a generalized victim culture, exemplified by the regressive approaches to poverty, addiction, crime, racism and poor public education. 

Saying "No." to anyone about anything is beginning to be cast as "cruel". This reflects the last several decades of overly permissive child rearing in The West. We now have an adult population which has been allowed to remain childish in its perception of the world. This contributes to the binary nature of American politics, for example. Trump is cruel and bad. Hillary is maternal and good. The issues become irrelevant when life is viewed through the eyes of a child (disengaged citizen) who does not feel responsible for the consequences of the grown-ups (political leaders). This works well for politicians and their corporate masters.

I believe I have the human right and responsibility to participate in maintaining my human environment on my property, on my block and in my city. I do not believe I am being phobic if I do not want a tent city of undocumented foreign migrants at the foot of my street. As it is, there are troupes of illegal migrant men from Central America living on the streets of my neighborhood. I do not believe it is xenophobic to be concerned about them, their native culture and the consequences of their homelessness for my neighborhood. 

The immature and privileged who feel they are immune to the consequences of opening borders to aggressive migration may not be xenophobic, but they may well be self-defeating. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

HOG HOLOCAUST


There's a little bit of Nazi in all of us when it comes to feeding ourselves. For example, the number of hogs raised for slaughter in North Carolina slightly exceeds that state's human population. One pig raised specifically for slaughter to every person in that state. The vast majority of these animals are raised in factory farms where they are treated like any other mass-produced object. But they are not inanimate objects. In fact, pigs are extremely intelligent and also share many compatible physical characteristics with human beings.
Corporate media have done a good job of demonizing PETA animal advocates. Urban animal advocates devote more time and energy trying to defend pit bulls than the animals who end up on their plates. Perhaps that is because urban Americans are becoming more like pit bulls than cows. Corporate media have also waged a strong campaign against Vegan vegetarians. Why? Because corporate meat producers, like tobacco producers and petrochemical producers, are motivated purely by greed. 
Meat production for all 7+ billion human beings is already unsustainable. It is contributing to climate change and environmental deterioration. But the meat industry will never self-regulate itself out of business. Only consumers with a conscience can do this. Below are the statistics for animal slaughter in the U.S. from 1950 on. Think about it. 

U.S. Slaughter Totals, by Species (1950 - 2015*) : Totals
Updated June 25, 2015
YearCattleChickensDucksHogsSheep & LambsTurkeysTotal
(thousands of animals)(billions
of animals)
195017,901N/AN/A69,54312,852N/A0.1
195525,723N/AN/A74,21616,215N/A0.1
196025,2241,644,02610,08679,03615,89970,7021.8
196532,3982,192,37810,45573,85213,00892,7202.4
197035,4162,946,29411,83387,01221,354105,5493.2
197541,4643,097,43011,45869,82415,892119,4453.4
198034,1164,132,17716,87597,17411,322159,0714.5
198536,5934,617,28021,60884,9386,300175,1814.9
199033,4396,022,45020,91385,43211,403271,1996.4
199535,8177,530,84719,52896,5364,631281,0328
200036,4168,426,14124,49498,1063,527268,0698.9
200135,5308,566,38226,26098,0823,290269,3029
200235,8888,716,09923,998100,3783,351271,2449.2
200335,6478,684,43424,301101,0433,042267,7819.1
200432,8808,895,74825,967103,5732,906254,3089.3
200532,5399,000,47327,890103,6902,763248,0949.4
200633,8498,968,66628,025104,8422,766254,7169.4
200734,2649,035,62027,311109,1722,694264,9269.5
200834,3659,075,26124,149116,4522,556271,2459.5
200933,3388,658,86022,767113,6182,516245,7689.1
201034,2498,790,47823,627110,2602,458242,6199.2
201134,0878,683,06724,472110,8602,164246,8449.1
201232,9518,576,19424,183113,1632,183250,1929
201332,4598,648,75624,575112,1262,314239,3859.1
201430,1708,666,66226,368106,8762,309236,6179.1
2014*9,9702,817,7408,49135,99076072,8142.9
2015*9,3502,892,8519,35838,39973477,1343
% Change-6.2%2.7%10.2%6.7%-3.4%5.9%2.8%
* Year to date through April