Autism

I think autism is the most misunderstood of the psychological afflictions. Certainly at its most extreme it can be debilitating, but if properly cultivated it can create a profound inner strength, particularly in terms of intellectual capacity. The unautistic mind can be left under a fog of social needs and anxieties, while the autistic mind is almost bodiless in its observance of the natural world. It is not bound by emotion or the pressures of external forces; it is free to see the world objectively. I would argue that it is at an advantage in terms of thinking independently and freely. That Imageis not to say the autistic mind is not spiritual, simply that its spirit is exclusively derived from within, cherished, and difficult to extinguish. It does not read great authors or take in great ideas and adopt those ideologies; it conforms them to itself and creates a more whole being of multitudes and diversity of worldviews. Unconstrained by social constructions, it can be without identity and exist only as consciousness. It is not afraid to shout truth from the rooftops while its more feeling centered intellectual equals cower in fear of the labels that might then be applied to them. An autistic mind at its highest cultivation is unbiased, unfiltered, rational, and possibly the greatest threat to the corruption of entrenched power elites.

The tendency is to pity those with autism, and to seek to find a “cure.” But many in the autistic community would see this as akin to finding a cure for homosexuality or blackness, which, of course, are ideas discarded decades ago. It may be difficult for the family members of autistic individuals to cope with the lack of communication and antisocial aspects. But if you frame these obstacles as insecurities instead of symptoms, they can perhaps be easier to deal with. And it can be easier to stop trying to protect and to let flourish. Or to let fail. Insecurity over intelligence or appearance can be pretty debilitating, too, and individuals with those problems are allowed the opportunity to fail, without question.

Autism is associated so often with innocence, but is that a trait, or a result of being shielded from the harshness of the world by well meaning family members? What of autistic members of the poor class? They generally aren’t even diagnosed and just defined as “odd,” or especially sensitive. I can’t speak to how these sorts of individuals develop into adulthood, but I would guess they end up, on average, as productive as any other persons who grow up poor.

This speaks to a larger problem in the parenting of the baby boomer class, especially those in the middle and affluent classes. The urge to protect, diagnose and to build self esteem of their children has been discredited as resulting in spiritually empty and unsuccessful adults. Read this piece by Lori Gottlieb at the Atlantic for further proof. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/how-to-land-your-kid-in-therapy/308555/

My main point is that autistic people need to be let be, not pitied and protected. Ask them; they would probably agree (It’s kind of their M.O). Maybe they fail; maybe they end up needing help. Or maybe they end up changing the world. They deserve the opportunity to find out.

Twins Reshuffle Roster for Possible Playoff Loss

Terry Ryan can admit when he’s made a mistake. But he knows that when the chips are down, sometimes it’s better to retool with some brand name mediocrity.

After signing pull hitter Josh Willingham in the offseason and hoping for a much needed veteran presence in the clubhouse, what the Twins got was an aging slugger who had never heard of right field, hadn’t laid a sacrifice down in years, and was only concerned with padding his stats, hitting 19 home runs, 16 of which were of the selfish variety.

Image

But Ryan has been here before, acquiring such luminaries as Drew Butera and Dustin Martin in a deadline deal in 2007. And on Tuesday he pulled off a trade that, while it has its skeptics among the blogger aristocracy, is a slam dunk of deadline craftiness; classic Ryan. He put Willingham and control-challenged “thrower” prospect Hudson Boyd into a package for Jerry Hairston Jr., Elian Herrera, and pitcher Scott Elbert, now former Dodgers. What the Twins gave up were two one dimensional players, and what they got in return was a gift basket of speed and flexibility, and with Elbert an arm they can groom to be decent number 3 or 4 starter.

“We like Elbert a lot, he’s a guy we’ve had our eye on, “ Explained skipper Ron Gardenhire. “He’s a kid with a good arm, he can hump it up to 92, but what we really like is his approach, and his ‘here it is come get it,’ strike one mentality.”

“He’s had a lot of years in the minor leagues, so we know he’s a gamer who doesn’t take anything for granted,” Continued Gardenhire, “So we figured, why not give him a chance to fail at the big league level in front of paying fans?”

Herrera was another wise find. After superstar/diva Matt Kemp went down with an injury in early May, Herrera stepped in and sparked the offense for 4 games.

“That’s leadership, plain and simple,” explained recently benched third baseman Trevor Plouffe. “When Kemp went down, you were like, ‘man they can’t recover from this,’ but then Herrera stepped in and really softened the blow for a few dozen hours. And look at his team, they’ve been on a steady descent since then and are still within shouting distance of the wild card.”

Plouffe added with a chuckle, “That’s what we play the game for.”

Perhaps the most tantalizing prospect in the deal is wunderkind Jerry Hairston, who has treated Dodger fans to a dose of his oozing potential from twelve years ago.

“We like him at the plate. He’s patient, sometimes too patient, but unlike an [Adam] Dunn type player, he takes his walks but also puts the ball in play without striking out a bunch,” said Gardenhire.

“We want the ball hit on the ground because striking out is a rally killer, hit it somewhere and balls have a way of finding holes.”

“Yeah we definitely need more contact type hitters,” said Joe Mauer, who currently leads the major leagues with 16 double play grounders. “Put it in play, things happen, strike out and you’ll be kicking yourself back to the dugout wondering what kind of spectacular double play you could have just hit into.”

Some critics have been quick to point out Hairston’s lack of power. Gardenhire disagrees.

“We know he can hit one out, he’s had some years with decent power numbers, such as in 2009 and 10 (When Hairston socked 20 longballs combined), but he knows what he’s here to do is play different positions, move the runners over and maybe if the date is July 29th, and we’re facing a lefty and there’s a runner on first with 1 out and we’re down by seven, he can maybe send a hanger over into the bullpen.”

“Well hopefully not the bullpen of the opposing team. Showing people up isn’t Twins baseball.”

Meanwhile, Willingham and Boyd mull their lost opportunities.

“The Dodgers have a decent team,” said Willingham while stabbing himself in the neck with a ballpoint pen.

Boyd sees an opportunity for a fresh start: “I can throw 99, but don’t tell them I told you that. What was the question?”

Meanwhile the Twins hope the revamped roster will lead to some momentum in the standings.

“You gotta wait and see, there’s a lot of baseball to be played at an intentional disadvantage,” said a straight faced Ryan.

Twins fans can hardly wait.

Lupe Fiasco

Here are the verses to Lupe Fiasco’s song, “Words I Never Said.”


I really think the war on terror is a bunch of bullshit
Just a poor excuse for you to use up all your bullets
How much money does it take to really make a full clip
9/11 building 7 did they really pull it
Uhh, And a bunch of other cover ups
Your childs future was the first to go with budget cuts
If you think that hurts then, wait here comes the uppercut
The school was garbage in the first place, thats on the up and up
Keep you at the bottom but tease you with the uppercrust
You get it then they move you so you never keeping up enough
If you turn on TV all you see’s a bunch of “what the f-cks”
Dude is dating so and so blabbering bout such and such
And that aint Jersey Shore, homie thats the news
And these the same people that supposed to be telling us the truth
Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist
Gaza strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say shit
Thats why I aint vote for him, next one either
I’ma part of the problem, my problem is I’m peaceful
And I believe in the people.

Now you can say it aint our fault if we never heard it
But if we know better than we probably deserve it
Jihad is not a holy war, wheres that in the worship?
Murdering is not Islam!
And you are not observant
And you are not a muslim
Israel don’t take my side cause look how far you’ve pushed them
Walk with me into the ghetto, this where all the Kush went
Complain about the liquor store but what you drinking liquor for?
Complain about the gloom but when’d you pick a broom up?
Just listening to Pac aint gone make it stop
A rebel in your thoughts, aint gon make it halt
If you don’t become an actor you’ll never be a factor
Pills with million side effects
Take em when the pains felt
Wash them down with Diet soda!
Killin off your brain cells
Crooked banks around the World
Would gladly give a loan today
So if you ever miss payment
They can take your home away!

I think that all the silence is worse than all the violence
Fear is such a weak emotion thats why I despise it
We scared of almost everything, afraid to even tell the truth
So scared of what you think of me, I’m scared of even telling you
Sometimes I’m like the only person I feel safe to tell it to
I’m locked inside a cell in me, I know that there’s a jail in you
Consider this your bailing out, so take a breath, inhale a few
My screams is finally getting free, my thoughts is finally yelling through

How can anyone not love this album? These lyrics exist. Yeah a black rapper is smarter than you, even though you were subliminally raised to think that was impossible (A hat tip to lil Wayne on that one, and the fact that all the images you ever saw of black males were overwhelmingly negative).

Maybe instead of thinking of ways to trick your professors into giving you a passing grade or taking enough Adderall for an A, (I’m just as guilty as anyone), college should just be spent listening to Lupe Fiasco. We wouldn’t know as much about calculus, but the world would be a little less ignorant, a little less racist, and a little more thoughtful (And hopefully even a little more pro-Palestinian).

Here’s an interview with Lupe Fiasco being awesome.

http://www.worldstarhiphop.com/videos/video.php?v=wshhKC6zz885UUs3E0xx

Sorry for the rant. Today is a passionate day.



							

Donald Trump Could be the Next President of the United States of America

I have a friend who lives in a house with three roommates. They decided to look for subletters recently. I don’t know what reasons were behind their decision to seek more roommates, but in any case they decided collectively to seek one or more additional tenants.

Now, one incumbent roommate, we’ll refer to her as Barbara, found a subletter fairly quickly. My friend greeted this news with enthusiasm; why wouldn’t she, her rent just decreased by 20% in her mind. But Barbara had different ideas. Her logic worked to rationalize that, since she found a subletter, she no longer needed to pay rent. There would still be four roommates paying rent, just like before. In her mind, she did her part, no one had to pay MORE, and so there was nothing wrong with her living rent free from that point on.

It is FAIR for Barbara to continue paying rent while she lives in the same house, and to split the rent five ways instead of four, saving everyone money.

But Barbara is not concerned with saving her roommates money. She is concerned with saving herself more money. She will say to her housemates, “Find yourself a subletter, than you won’t have to pay rent, either.”

Barbara denied her housemate’s an opportunity for increased financial flexibility, in favor of greatly increasing her own. And then she rationalizes this by championing her own ability to find a subletter. Does this sound familiar? It should. This is how the rich keep the poor poor. They do not take from the poor. They merely keep the poor where they are, and profit from them.

They rationalize this oppression by saying, “Stop complaining and get a job.” Find your own subleaser.

If only it were that easy. If only the real world had a level playing field like my friend’s housing situation. My friend can, in fact, find a sub leaser and stop paying rent if she wanted to.

The real word is far harsher. Say you grow up in a low income family. You didn’t choose to be poor, this was just the situation you were born into. You probably live in a low income neighborhood. You have access to less quality education. You can’t afford to go to college, nor are you educated well enough to succeed if you could. Without a degree, only low paying jobs with no opportunity for advancement are available to you. Say you are of average intellect and creativity, and you don’t really stand out in any way. How is it possible for you to attain “The American Dream?” You can probably hold down your low paying job, you might even be able to support a family if you are extremely responsible with your money and life choices.

But God help you if you make a mistake somewhere along the line. If you become a parent before you’re financially able to support a child. If you resort to criminal activity as an alternative to starvation. If you develop an addiction you can’t really afford to have. If you become sick, or disabled. If any of these things befall you, by your own imperfections as a person or by random chance, your options dwindle. Welfare can help you, but social safety nets are increasingly under fire by people like Barbara, who will say that America is the land of opportunity, that if she did it, why can’t you? She will tell you to stop whining and get a job, and point to examples of “rags to riches” Americans who overcame what you’re facing. Without considering that perhaps those examples of “great Americans” were incredible people with some combination of remarkable creativity, intellect, or determination.

And to add insult to injury, Barbara implies that she has those qualities, and that is why she has a nice job, and a German car, and her kids go to private school.

Barbara grew up in a middle class neighborhood. Her family wasn’t wealthy, but they could afford name brand cereal. She received a quality education, and even though her intellect and creativity were only average, she was able to get good grades in school because her parents expected her to. This, as well as her family’s ability to afford college, allowed her to attend a decent university, the University of Minnesota. She worked hard in college, and graduated with a degree.

She was not without some hiccups along the way. She developed a dependence on the drug, Adderall, and had to take a semester off and spend time in treatment. Her family was able to afford to put her into a treatment facility, and she recovered. Her friends and family called her “brave” for overcoming her addiction and earning a degree.

She became pregnant at one point, but was able to afford a safe abortion. She said it, “Was the hardest decision I ever had to make.”

She made friends in college and one of them set her up with a great internship right after graduation. She called this friend a whore behind her back.

Within a few years, Barbara was making more than 60,000 dollars annually. She credits her success to hard work and determination. Her parents are proud of her. “She’s overcome so much.”

If you’re Barbara the sky is the limit. If you’re poor, the limit is the sky.

This myth that the playing field is equal, that anyone can be successful, that if you’re great you’ll be rewarded, is deeply tied into our subconscious. So much so, that a large section of this country believes in taxing the rich LESS in proportion to the poor. They expect us to believe that the rich having more money to spend will result in that wealth trickling down to the poor. That cutting funding for social safety nets will help the poor. Because not having the option of government assistance will force them to seek the American dream.

But what can the poor say about this? They have no voice, no representation. And since when do they have time to make political messages? They have to work three jobs just to avoid starvation.

While the poor get their meager incomes taxed, the businesses people like Barbara own are getting tax breaks. They say these tax benefits are “funding innovation.” It’s a reward for ingenuity. As if there is no ingenuity to be found in the poor classes. It all comes back to the rich rationalizing that since they are rich, they are inherently better than poor people. Social Darwinism. It certainly is a comfortable feeling, that if you’re successful, you are because of your own merit, not the random chance of you being born into an upper middle class white family.

Oh yes, not being white puts you even further behind the eight ball. Good luck getting employed if you have an afro, or a very dark complexion. White employers associate these traits with violence and crime. If you’re a minority race, you better cut your hair and act like Al Roker or Mario Lopez, or you’ll be deemed too dangerous and different to find quality employment. In other words, you can be successful as a minority race, but it’s even more important for you to have a college degree, and how successful you are is unfortunately tied in pretty closely with how white you act.

There are some affirmative action programs designed to make up for this imbalance. But Barbara opposes these, too. She says, “If they really want equality, they should have the same shot as me. Nothing should be given to them.”

And then Barbara will say that we need to “secure our borders,” because otherwise cheap Mexican labor will take all the jobs away from hardworking Americans. Which jobs? Not Barbara’s job; you need to speak English and have a college degree for that.

No matter how serious politicians say they are about tightening up border security, isn’t it odd that illegal immigrants just keep coming? Almost as if those with money and power see some sort of benefit in hiring people that work for less and don’t require fancy add-ons to their employment like health insurance, wage increases and maternity leave.

Yeah, Barbara hires illegal immigrants. Oh, maybe she doesn’t. But the people she hires do. And she saves a pretty penny. And guess what? The poor actually don’t benefit from this.

But Barbara will say she didn’t take anything from these poor people. They don’t have to pay more rent because of her hiring illegals.

Barbara doesn’t see what they’re so pissed about, either. After all, she does volunteer at a soup kitchen.

It’s a dog eat dog world, she says. If she can save 300 dollars a month, she will, even it comes at the expense of others. Especially when these savings are institutionalized.

The Republican budget proposal includes 6 trillion dollars worth of cuts over the next ten years, with much of those savings coming by completely overhauling Medicare and Medicaid, which provide assistance to, guess who, the elderly and poor, respectively. Also in the proposal is a reform cutting corporate and personal income taxes for the wealthiest Americans, slicing the top rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. This will cost the government trillions in tax revenue.

This accomplishes three things:

1) Makes the poor poorer.

2) Makes the rich richer.

3) Does not solve the budget crisis.

This is real.

Independent Thought, Pesticides, and ADHD

Conspiracy theories are almost always idiotic. Surely the Watergate scandal gave credence to many crazy theorists; it was proof that the government really did go behind people’s backs and wasn’t just capable of being corrupt, but truly was. However, I never give conspiracy theories much thought, even though it is amusing at times to imagine them containing even the smallest nugget of truth.

While I like to stay grounded in reality, I do like to theorize, so the following is my attempt at a marginally plausible conspiracy theory. It has to do with several things I have strong opinions about, notably American laziness, over diagnosing of mental illness, and thinking independently. Here it is.

There was a study I looked at recently which pointed out a relationship between pesticides used in food and being diagnosed with ADHD. The study found that out of 1,139 children, the ones exposed to byproducts of the pesticide were about twice as likely to develop ADHD than those who weren’t exposed.

In addition, it is increasingly simple to be diagnosed with ADHD. This could be attributed to a greedy pharmaceutical industry, or the need for people to deflect blame for their shortcomings (procrastination, lack of focus) and to seek medication for something that isn’t necessarily wrong with them, but part of their personality. With the latter example, I’m more or less also alluding to when people with colorful personalities are given medication to “even them out.”

But what if those were minor factors, and the most significant reason for the increase in diagnosing ADHD is that ADHD is simply on the rise in people. Or rather, it isn’t that there has been an increase in diagnosing ADHD, but an actual increase in people with it. And pesticides could be a part of that increase.

Now what does ADHD do to people? Well, it makes it very hard for them to focus. They may jump from activity to activity, conversation to conversation, and generally have very limited attention spans. And furthermore, it seems that in our globalized world, those with limited attention spans are being catered to. Newspapers are in decline, because fewer people want to spend the time to actually read an article. Pundits like Glenn Beck are increasingly popular. The internet is on the rise as a source of information, as well. Blogs are still rising in popularity. What do these factors have in common? They present news, but also what to think of the news that is presented. Old fashioned news was supposed to be shown in a way that allowed the reader/viewer to formulate their own opinions about the story. Now that emphasis is less and less important in the market for news. Writing a story about a bank robbery isn’t marketable. But writing one that places the blame on someone or something in a politically charged way is both juicy and extremely marketable. Maybe a journalist would say that Obama’s tax increases are driving more and more people to crime, and to robbing banks in particular, and that this represents the sorry state of Obama’s America. Does this sound familiar? People have such short attention spans these days that hardly anyone even bothers to look at their tax forms and realize that their taxes have been cut under Obama (34% of Americans believe their taxes have increased under Obama. 95% of working people have had their taxes reduced).

But infotainment, as it were, has prospered in this era of ever accessible information. Glenn Beck himself claims to not believe all of what he preaches, and admits that the words he says have a price on them. The more outrageous his statements, the more money he makes. And yet Americans eat all of this quasi news up. In our hectic schedules, it’s far easier to be told what to think, than to actually think.

I remember when I was a kid, sitting in the computer lab and typing up some sort of writing assignment. After you had printed the project, obviously you would exit out of the program and shut down the computer. Those were our instructions. I remember looking around and hearing kid after kid raise their hand feverishly into the air to ask, “It says ‘are you sure you want to shut down!’ Do I click OK??” Basically any wrench thrown into the plans of these kids, no matter if that wrench was insignificant as a simple yes or no, threw them into a panic.

I’m not sure what created this phenomenon. Perhaps it is that so much of K-12 education is memorization and not actual critical thinking skills. Perhaps it is that there is such an emphasis on the what, as opposed to the why. Imagine these scenarios:

Okay kids, I want you to add 1+4+5+3+7+3+5

Okay kids, I want you to add up the ages of the 7 kids in this problem and find the total, in order to gauge your ability to perform addition.

The first scenario is what I’ve been talking about. The kids may very well be able to add those seven numbers together, but when they are given a similar problem later, and not told the exact steps, they may not be able to complete the problem. They know how to complete the process, but they don’t understand the overall objective.

In the second scenario, the kids are taught what their objective is; to find the sum of the seven ages. They may not succeed at first, but once they figure out that to find sums, you have to add up all the numbers, I would guarantee they would be more successful than the kids in scenario 1 in solving future problems. They might also find different ways to come to the same conclusion. Perhaps they can eyeball the average age and then multiply that by seven. Or add in clusters. The important thing is that they are learning how to problem solve.

The kids in scenario 1 are being told what to think.

The kids in scenario 2 are being taught how to think for themselves.

Perhaps the kids in these scenarios have a high propensity towards ADHD. Can’t you imagine a teacher not even bothering with the second scenario, seeing this hyperactive kid who can’t focus, and saying, “Okay kid, it’s not hard. Just add these numbers up.” The kid completed the problem, the teacher didn’t have to go through the arduous process of getting an ADHD kid to understand the broader objective behind a math problem, and everything seems fine, right? Well the kid basically had someone else do the problem for him. He might know how to add, but he doesn’t understand situations where addition would be needed, and he doesn’t understand figuring out problems himself.

Now this kid, let’s call him Jimmy, because hypothetical children are always called Jimmy in my mind, grows up. He was taught to write essays in 5 paragraph form, and he can, but he doesn’t understand why that organization is useful in expressing his arguments, he would never bother trying to think of a more useful essay format and he often writes very incoherently. He knows the scientific formula, and can perform it, but he couldn’t tell you why it’s important in coming to scientific conclusions, and he’ll never apply it to real life. He can follow instructions in building a model airplane, but there is no chance that he could come up with his own ways to make the airplane better. Jimmy has a job, and does what his boss tells him, even if what his boss says leads to lower productivity. He doesn’t know the difference between whether what he’s doing is inefficient, wasteful, smart, or that if he made some slight alteration he could save his company millions. He’ll tell you he’s just trying to do his job.

Jimmy probably doesn’t care about the news or politics, nor does he follow them. Now if I was a political campaign manager, or ran a news company, wouldn’t it be easier and more beneficial for me to cater to people like Jimmy than to play the game the old fashioned way? I could shout from my podium something like, Obama isn’t an American citizen, knowing that statement will make news, despite it being totally untrue. When it makes news, Jimmy hears about it. He doesn’t care enough to look deeper into the issue; I am who formerly were his teachers and his bosses, telling him what to think. That broad, untrue statement about Obama’s country of origin becomes what Jimmy knows about politics. And certainly any foreigner doesn’t belong in the white house, so Jimmy pledges his support to me. Maybe the injustice of a foreigner in the white house stirs up emotion within him. So maybe he even goes to rallies. Jimmy becomes these people.

Going back to the conspiracy theory origins of this essay, I suppose I should state my original hypothesis. That being, if pesticides in food cause more ADHD, and more ADHD leads to less independent thought in children on through to adulthood, could there be a link between the use of pesticides and susceptibility to being manipulated by corporations and politicians? Would it not be advantageous, from a political and economic standpoint, to create a nation of unfocused drones who would rather have others tell them what to think than to think independently? Wouldn’t it be easier to tell them what to buy, how to act, who to vote for?

Basically it’s advantageous for those who rule, for their citizens to not think independently. Parents don’t want their children to think for themselves, either, they want to think for them. No Billy, don’t go adventuring in the woods, you’ll get hurt! Who cares if you might gain valuable life experience. Just because there is a slight chance that Billy might learn about new things and have to react instinctually and in ways he hasn’t been formally instructed in, doesn’t override the potential danger. I’m sure most parents would like their kids to think for themselves, but it simply can’t be put above the child’s own safety, because no parent wants to see their child in danger.

And if Billy is ADHD, that gives even more incentive to the parent to keep their kid safe. I feel this is a trend with the current generation of parents. They want to give their child every opportunity. They don’t care about whether Billy learns how to apply mathematics, they just want him to be able to do it, so he can get straight A’s, and go to a good college, where he can get a business degree and makes lots of money in his life, so that they can retire comfortably. The fact that Billy is hardly a person is secondary. He has the skills to function like a person, so lacking the ability to actually be one doesn’t matter.

I recently took a class designed for student leaders (I’m not one; I had to take it as punishment. Long story). One day, when studying ethics, we were given a scenario where a man, whose wife was dying of cancer, had to make a decision on whether he should break into a lab and steal a potential antidote.  We were asked, would you steal it? To my shock, about half the class said no. They did not consider that the wife would certainly die if they didn’t steal; they were concerned with breaking the law. All their lives, they had been told that stealing is wrong. They never delved deeper into asking why stealing was wrong, they just accepted the conventional wisdom that stealing is bad. So let’s delve deeper. To steal rattles the foundations of a stable society. If stealing was okay, then it would be impossible to run an effective business. Thus, any enlightened society would make stealing illegal. It shouldn’t be allowed because, if widespread, it creates anarchy. The surface value about stealing just says it’s bad. But would isolated theft in times of life or death situations truly upset the very foundations of a functioning society? I would say probably not, but that isn’t something I can know for sure. If someone were to say that the rhetoric behind stealing being accepted in times of life or death can easily be stretched by criminals and eventually lead to anarchy anyway, that would be a way in which someone could independently come to the conclusion that stealing is wrong under any circumstance. But the fact that half the class couldn’t find a difference between stealing for profit and stealing to save a life is the value of independent thought. Their reasoning all centered around stealing being wrong, and them having a firm commitment to never breaking the law. I’m not saying that everyone who said they would steal in the scenario is an independent thinker, or that everyone who said they wouldn’t, isn’t. But this situation does shed light on the fact that a lot of people wouldn’t think for themselves and would actually put the law above their own family in life or death situations as a result.

Isn’t that a scary thought? But again, isn’t that advantageous to a government? If putting pesticides in food leads to more people putting the law above their own families, couldn’t you see the rationale behind a government giving the go ahead to putting mind altering chemicals in food? If people place their loyalty to the law and not their family, then that could feasibly reduce crime.

But if you turn your own mother in for committing a crime (Assuming it wasn’t against another family member), then what is the value of being a family? If your allegiance lies with the government and not those who you love, then that strikes me as traitorous. The government does a lot of good things for people, but it didn’t raise you, it didn’t give you identity, it didn’t bring you into the world. And I think most people, thinking independently, would think the same way.

I know this essay has become rather pompous, as it might seem as though I am saying that I am capable of thinking independently and no one else is. I assure you that this not the case. I grapple between thinking for myself and for other entities just like anyone. Furthermore, there are plenty of examples of independent thought out in the world. Albert Einstein was a great independent thinker. I find a lot of comedians think independently. Those who invent and create generally have independent minds. Are they pompous, or are they rare gems in a sea of conventional wisdom?

But isn’t the allegation of pomposity partly what makes independent thought so rare? If someone came up to you and told you to reject conventional wisdom and think for yourself, you’d tell them to get real and stop being a self-important asshole, dirty hippie.

But if it comes down to being considered an asshole or thinking for myself, I think the answer is pretty obvious. And I hope I don’t have to tell you which it is. See what I did there?

How, Socialism?

Albert Einstein wrote an article entitled Why Socialism in 1949. In it he, naturally, advocated a socialist form of government. I myself have long dreamed of living in a socialist society, but have become more aware by the day of that impossibility considering where I live, The United States of America. For whatever reason, the article sparked in me a series of questions I felt impassioned to delve into. What has caused socialism to become so unpopular in our culture? What has made it synonymous with the concept of anti-Americanism? What steps can be taken to someday institute socialist reforms in America? So many questions, but luckily, I had time.

Let us begin at the root of the problem: capitalism, and the corresponding desire for massive amounts of wealth. It is a desire of the people of capitalist societies to accumulate such wealth so as they can afford any good, service, and lifestyle they desire, of whatever quantity. It is a selfish notion, rationalized with ideas of supporting ones family, seeking the American dream, and living a comfortable lifestyle. We are adamant against losing the possibility of not attaining such wealth that we can move beyond what is ‘comfortable.’ We feel that opportunities are missed when we don’t attain such wealth, that we don’t ‘get’ all there is to ‘get’ from life. We are brought down by the notion of the American dream, which is to us a completely economic notion and one inherently married with capitalism.

Americanism, and its like-minded cousin, patriotism, are rooted in mob mentality. In America, we tie in this concept of the American dream with being American, with being patriotic, which is a value supported more in groups than individually, particularly after 9/11. To not have the possibility of achieving an ‘American dream,’ is un-American, unpatriotic, and unsupported in our culture. Therefore, any system of governance which limits the ability of an individual to accumulate infinite amounts of wealth is scorned with vengeance.  When in solitude, it is unlikely for an individual to reflect on their patriotism, and to necessarily cherish it. In groups, however, it is profoundly taboo to demonize, or to understate the importance of, patriotism in any way. To champion it is to gain instantaneous support; therefore it is tacked on to other issues. Once the label of patriotism is applied to an issue, the issue’s opposition is stuck in the position where it can’t utilize the same label, and risks additionally being ascribed as un-American.

What is it that makes patriotism such a cherished value in our society? When the concept of ‘love of one’s country’ is brought up, we as Americans are conditioned to accept that idea as infallibly good. Part of why patriotism is so beloved is that people like something to unite under. They like that a large umbrella such as national pride can override smaller scale disputes among us. That people on opposite ends of political spectrums can put aside their differences in moments of national tradition.

I had an experience in middle school that might shed some light on the origins of patriotism, and why it has gotten out of control in our society. I played the trumpet, and sometimes had disputes with my fellow players. Sometimes I sat behind others who I felt I had more talent than, or scoffed when demeaned by those better than I. But when we played together, and we really played well, I felt such a rush of pride and felt infinitely united with my fellow band mates. My disputes with the others melted away, and it was a profound and great feeling to experience. That feeling went unspoken, however, and if it was indeed felt by my fellow band members, I couldn’t say. But imagine, if you will, that after we had played our song so triumphantly, that I verbalized all that I had felt during the song; the pride and unity I felt with the band. Perhaps some would agree with, and empathize with that notion. But what if someone else in the band articulated that they felt a stronger sense of pride and unity than I had? That is precisely what patriotism has become in America. One cannot dismiss the feelings I felt playing that song as any way negative. So instead, in competition, others jostle for who had the most pride, and the most unity. Perhaps then the trumpets make claim to having the most band patriotism. The Saxophones then say they have more. The fundamental feelings at the core are infallible, so they cannot be undermined. But what if the clarinets don’t wish to partake in the chaos and make no claim to being the most patriotic? Then surely when a dispute arises between the clarinets and another faction that claims the utmost patriotism, the clarinets are deemed unpatriotic.

Here we have the most fundamental problem in our culture; that since patriotism is a universally admirable trait, everyone must be in competition with one another in order to have the most of it. Everyone must play the same game of, “I’m the most patriotic, I’m the most American,” because it is political suicide to be passive. So on one hand, we have “the American dream,” which centers around the old American notion that anyone can achieve anything; the rags to riches story. And we have formed that story into meaning, “Anyone can achieve insurmountable wealth, and everyone has a right to try, no one can stand in our way, and to hell with helping anyone else achieve the same because it’s a dog eat dog world; if I’m stuck helping someone else that just puts me further behind in achieving the dream.”

And here is socialism, which has been tied to Communism (And if you don’t believe they are basically the same then you’re un-American!) Communism has been seen as un-American since the 1920’s. Prolonged efforts have been made to root out communists or potential communists, as their profound anti-American tendencies are seen not as docile ideological differences, but as a threat to the way of life we enjoy and that we demand be preserved. This was further enhanced by our chief world rival of the 20th century, the Soviet Union, being communist. As we united against this enemy, we came to accept the propaganda against the U.S.S.R as common knowledge, ingrained in our culture. Surely to question criticism against a military rival would be at best taboo, at worst treasonous. Now being a communist meant being a traitor.

Then there’s freedom. It is firmly tied with patriotism, but is used strategically in opposition to socialism. Americans believe we should be free to engage in whatever we please in our pursuit of the American dream. Socialism stands in that path, and, so the rhetoric goes, freedom is limited. Essentially, socialism is tied in with being against the American dream, unpatriotic, and traitorous. A political candidate can’t touch the subject without being labeled all three of those things. And as Americans become more and more lazy in their acquisition of news, they are more and more willing to not think critically about an accusation of being a socialist. If Barack Obama wants to limit free enterprise in any way, that’s limiting the American dream, and to limit the American dream is to be unpatriotic, and to be unpatriotic is to be a traitor, and to be a traitor who supports limiting free enterprise in any amount, is to be a socialist traitor who hates freedom. It is now impossible for a political candidate to experience any political success without supporting and increasing the powers of capitalism and big business, because to attempt to limit those powers at all is to risk becoming the clarinets.

Clearly this can only be bad for America. The gap between rich and poor will widen, and the power of corporations will only increase. As corporate power increases, so too does their influence on lobbying and subsequently the legislature. This patriotism rhetoric may soon run our country. Anyone or any group against the capitalist hegemony will be branded as un-American, a label that few can recover from. There has become a McCarthy-esque state of fear among us, whereas in the 1950’s the label of death was that of communist, so today is it being labeled un-American.

Alongside the lust for wealth is the lust for power, but are they one and the same? Often the two go hand in hand, after all, the rich generally hold most of the power in a capitalist nation. But the tide is turning towards the rich controlling those in power. Corporations now have no spending limits in support of a political candidate. Thus, rich corporations can funnel infinite amounts of money towards the campaigns of political candidates who are likely to support them, and big business in general. In this sense, power is becoming obsolete. You can no longer truly have power without the influence of wealth. Barack Obama rose to power in large part due to a very well-funded campaign. He could not succeed on his message alone; he had to market his message. So it has now become, in essence, impossible to run a successful campaign for political office without the aid of substantial wealth, meaning that capitalism now has an inordinate effect on who we elect to our government.

What can be done to counteract this? One scenario is that the quality of life in America becomes so unbearable due to an overabundance of greed, pollution and limiting of ideas, that there is a final backlash against capitalism. When would this happen? Would it ever happen? Would the power of corporations prove too mighty a foe?

I believe there is another way to create socialist reforms in our society. This option is for those who resent capitalism to mobilize and organize with extreme efficiency and with a strong purpose, and to move beyond simply whining on youtube and facebook. Actual political organizations have to be formed, and they can lend no validity to an accusation of being un-American. They must form a comprehensive thesis on why the sustainability of our nation, our world and the human race, is more important than the possibility of acquiring limitless wealth. But they must make this message simplistic and accessible; they must make it relatable to the average American. They must not appear pompous or self-righteous. The must not enlist help from a current socialist nation; they must be entirely American in their ideology and their influence. They must approach their message with humility and common sense. They must refrain from attacking individuals, in fact, they should almost entirely focus on what needs to be done to improve the situation, rather than what is wrong with it. They need to instill the difference between paying workers based on the value of the product they produce and paying them based on their minimum needs and what the job market dictates. They need to emphasize that religion does not equate to morality, and that to build a truly sustainable nation and world, logic must be paramount.

What does logic have to do with this issue? It is the only thing that can save us from ourselves. Without logic, feelings of lust and greed will go on unchecked, and lead to the manipulation that the patriotism rhetoric has produced. Human beings are still animals; we have not evolved so far that we are immune to our instincts. Only by a strict system of logic can we sustain life on this planet for much longer. When faced with a proposal to either have a society with a few rich and many poor, or to have a society with fewer rich and the rest living comfortably, most people with a rational common sense would pick the latter. We know this is the right choice, but individually we all, covertly or not, wish to attain that great American wealth. This is instinctual, and this urge must be suppressed, for it is, left unchecked, going to lead to the downfall of mankind far earlier than any of us would like. We can’t leave these problems to a future generation, although that is our tendency. We know, or should know, that our selfish pursuit of limitless wealth isn’t good for our world. That being selfish is inherently a negative quality. But we engage in societal procrastination, by which we don’t take action to correct what we know is potentially dangerous behavior until it becomes an immediate need. We see the world slowly crumbling around us (Seems like we’ve had quite a few massive earthquakes lately, and more and more nations are producing nuclear weapons; when will one be used next?) and we may agonize over the state of things. But for now we have our own selfish desires and problems to deal with, and until the planet falls into such disrepair that we can’t go about our daily lives as we wish, we’ll continue with our own desires and problems. But by the time we aren’t able to go about our daily lives as normal, it may be too late to revert the damage we have done.

It may already be too late, and our fate is sealed. The world is a delicate ecosystem, and we have abused it and harvested it to no end. Think about the notion of life. In order for life to exist, the stars must quite literally align in such a way that if a trillion solar systems were formed (And the chance of a solar system forming is close to infinitely impossible) there would need to be trillions upon trillions of more solar systems to be formed before a star which is the absolute perfect size, produces the absolute perfect amount of heat, to provide to a planet the perfect distance away, which has the perfect type of magnetic field to provide safe haven for sophisticated life forms to exist for a prolonged period of time. Now think about how precious planet earth really is. And how, quite possibly, it isn’t completely perfect in harboring life. Perhaps the window of time in which our ecosystem is inhabitable isn’t as long as we think; maybe around 4 billion years (Which is when the first bacteria were believed to have existed on our planet). Maybe the magnetic field will weaken to a point where earth is uninhabitable in a few hundred years. We can’t assume that our ecosystem is perfectly suited to us, and much less can we assume it indestructible.

We certainly aren’t helping! We are constantly, and continuously, polluting, drilling and deforesting, all of which could have dire impacts on the earth’s sustainability. Perhaps removing so many metals, oil and other materials from the earth can eventually mark a shift in its sustainability. Perhaps damaging the ozone layer to a certain point makes it impossible to go outside without risking immediate skin cancer. Perhaps removing so many trees from our forests will reduce the amount of oxygen produced to a point where there isn’t enough air for our rapidly growing population to breathe.

And why do we abuse our ecosystem in this way? One reason is to meet the needs of our ever expanding populace here on earth. Another is business. We cut trees for the lumber industry (As well as others), we drill to meet the demand for the oil industry and the market for metals, and we pollute as a byproduct of the energy industry, as well as the manufacturing industry.

Would socialism help? It certainly couldn’t hurt. With less free enterprise the demand for goods that derive from our planet might drop a little. But socialism wouldn’t be lessening the world’s wealth; merely redistributing it. What it could do is lessen pollution’s impact on the planet; with less incentive to make money, companies might be more inclined to appeal to customers by being environmentally friendly. The main benefit of socialism would be a decreased emphasis on the acquisition of wealth, however. Knowing that becoming infinitely rich isn’t a possibility might lead people to value different things in their lives besides money. And that’s the step that everyone must take before we can truly thrive as a society. We must cross the line towards accepting that we won’t attain infinite wealth. It isn’t an easy proposition. To cede that possibility is extremely difficult. I myself grapple with it. I have advocated socialism for some time now, but deep down I still have aspirations towards being filthily rich, and that, even in a socialist society I’ll become famous through something or another and attain great wealth. But I must commit to not aspiring to such grandeur. Only then can I be certain that I’m not a contributor to the problem.

Now this whole issue begs the question: do I love my country? I’m inclined to say yes, if only to gain support for the ideas in this essay, and as I have insinuated, a political idea cannot survive in America when it is known to come from a source of anti-Americanism. With that said, however, I must say that I have respect for the principles this country was founded on. The founders attempted to create a nation immune to the tyranny of an individual leader, as well as immune to the tyranny of the majority through a system of checks and balances, which were fairly ingenious at the time. Certainly there have been ups and downs with the people acting tyrannically (slavery, prohibition) and the government acting as such (Japanese internment, Dick Cheney’s belief in the unchecked power of the executive branch), but overall the system of government has held up fairly well. It seems as though individuals in government are aware of this tedious balance and hold fast to the constitution in order to preserve it. I have few qualms with the way the government operates, besides the economic aspect, and I do have an admiration for the origins of this country. I think, through the evolution of capitalism, and the concept of rugged individualism (Which bore the rags to riches concept), that we have strayed from being an enviable society towards being a destructive and aimless one. But I believe the one problem to be capitalism. I love this country, because I care enough to want to fix it, which I most certainly do. Is it fixable? That’s a more difficult question, but one who’s answer will be apparent only when an attempt is made.

Religion: Is Everyone Right?

I was working at the place where I work, which I refer to as GPE (Greatest Place on Earth). During the Thanksgiving break, I was required to work 31 hours in 4 days. I’m sure many of you have to work more hours on a regular basis, at more grueling jobs. But you get paid more, I’m sure, and you don’t have to spend that time listening to the endless prattling of a 17 year old psychedelics enthusiast who I will refer to as Ronny Sifkind. He is a coworker of mine, and was scheduled for almost the exact same hours as I during this time.

Anyway, he was going on about this chemical that the brain releases during the dream state called DMT. I didn’t listen to much of what he said, as I generally attempt to block out most of what comes out of his mouth. But I was nevertheless mildly intrigued and looked DMT up on Wikipedia the next week.

In addition to Wikipedia, I came across an overview for a book called DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman. All of the following is conjecture and its basis is assembled from those two sources. It isn’t conjecture because I was lazy and didn’t look at more sources, it is because so much about this molecule is unknown.

It is found in some plants, and is naturally produced in the human body, albeit in trace amounts. It is speculated, and not confirmed, that DMT contributes to the visual process of dreaming. In South America, there are tribes that ingest DMT as part of psychedelic rituals. In other parts of the world, it is smoked in a synthesized form. It is considered extremely illegal.

What produces DMT in the body? It is hypothesized that the mysterious pineal gland is what creates natural DMT in the brain. At 49 days after conception, this gland releases DMT into the body for the first time. When someone dies, there is a massive rush of DMT.

So what can we glean from this? Perhaps human consciousness is derived from the production and release of DMT. Perhaps people do, in fact, have “souls” and “spirits”, which enter the body at 49 days and leave when that person dies. Perhaps consciousness is a form of hallucination produced by this molecule. Strassman makes the claim that the rush of DMT at death is responsible for people’s so called “Near death experiences.”

It is also speculated that people who have tried DMT can experience a whole lifetime in a span of ten minutes, simply by means of hallucinating. This leads me to wonder what association time has with consciousness. Could the massive release of the molecule at death create an afterlife in that person’s mind, which time would have no bearing on, seeing as that person’s consciousness had ceased?

Think about dreams. In them, no new information is available to you that wasn’t in your awake state. Dreams are based on reality. Could it be, then, that if someone truly believed in a heaven, or a hell, that they could very well enter that place in their own mind? Could a Buddhist hallucinate another lifetime as a different being? Could a Muslim extremist encounter 99 virgins in the afterlife? Perhaps what happens when we die follows the same pretense as Santa Claus; if you believe it, then it’s real.

All speculation, of course. But a (Quasi) scientific theory is more palatable to me than something involving the supernatural. Just something to think about.


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Dedicated to the life and times of Officer Dog