Contemplating Patriotism

(I wrote this a while back, so the political references might not be correct any more.)

political-power

I grew up in Germany after a time in history when the German people had lived through a very bad experience with patriotism.

The love for the Fatherland (not Homeland as it’s called in the US today) had been used to rally most of the German people to commit mass-murder and be mass-murdered. I was born when that experience was still very fresh and that means that I did not soak up any patriotism with my mother’s milk – just the opposite, patriotism was something to be despised. Especially when I was little, this was more a feeling than an intellectual understanding.

I never lost that gut-understanding and coming to America, one of the most patriotic countries on this planet, did not change that a bit. This must be the reason that at this time of the year, with the independence day looming, my toenails start to curl up a bit in anticipation of all the flag waving and land-of-the-free singing.

Though it appears that I am not alone with this uneasy feeling when confronted with the love for the fatherland.

Leo Tolstoy defines patriotism as the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers.

That actually, I have to admit, is a bit stronger than just the feeling of toenails curling up.

Gustave Herve, another anti-patriot, calls patriotism a superstition – one far more injurious, brutal, and inhumane than religion.

So, what is the problem here? A bigger part of the world’s population is patriotic, and what is wrong with loving one’s country? Don’t we all have fond memories of the house we grew up in, the neighborhood, the city? And should that not extend to the country? But why stop at the country border, should we not expand that out to the whole world, or, in a short time, after somebody finally invents the warp drive, the whole galaxy, the universe?

Maybe we will have to look a bit closer what this ‘country’ that many are so patriotic about, really is.

What happens at the border between two different countries?

One of the most guarded borders I know of is the one that, for so many years, existed between East and West Germany. I have crossed it several times and it was indeed the feeling of entering a different world. But the difference was not the language – German of one kind or the other on both sided. The land itself? No, because now, that this border is gone, you can cross that line without even noticing it any more. And it’s not culture either because these two Germanies  had been one culture before they became two countries.

The only thing I can see, that was really different, was the group of rulers. On the Western side it was Konrad Adenauer and on the Eastern side it was Walter Ulbricht, each with his gang.

It now appears to me that the only difference between somebody named Franz in East Germany and somebody named Hans in West Germany was the ruler they considered themselves to be a subject of.

Very similar to Jack in Oklahoma who claims to be a subject of Mr. Obama and Jim in Calgary who thinks he has to answer to M. Harper.

The display of patriotism here in the US of A, once the 4th of July roles in, if we really go down to the very basics, just means the pride to which dude that patriot is willing to give his money, life and children.

Let us look briefly at the ‘land of the free.’ That turns out to be a dud very quickly. If it were the land of the free, and I had decided that it is good and fair to give half of my money to somebody to do with, whatever he pleases, and on top of that allow this person to take my children and train them into potential soldier for his cause, then I should be able to choose who that person would be, right? Could you just send your 50% taxes over to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (that’s the dude over in Iran, in case you don’t have the current political scene at your direct disposal)? Or, to be a little bit less radical, send if over to Steven Harper?

See, the idea of the ‘land of the free’ is right out the window – we are subjects! – Just so well trained and indoctrinated that the very idea of being able to select the ruler to receive one’s contribution appears idiotic.

Now the question comes to bear if there is anything we can do to change this situation. First we have to investigate the idea of ‘being proud of’ something.

Can I really be proud of an accomplishment that is not mine? I had considered this question before when sitting in traffic. Unfailingly, once in a while you wait behind a ‘Proud Parent of Something or Another.’ Honor student, cheer-leader, etc. I had wondered on occasion what reason these parents have to be proud. I can understand that they are happy – but proud? Why? It’s something their children have accomplished. Then again, maybe not, perhaps there was a father sitting in the car in front of me who had always, dutifully, done the homework for his son. But I actually don’t think that was the case, I don’t believe they would have advertised that on the back of their car. Same for being a proud American – proud of what accomplishment? Making lots of money so that it can be collected by the tax man to build bombs with, which are then thrown on people the proud American has never met and who he has no quarrel with?

Would that really be something to be proud of – if it was actually true?

Can you be proud of making somebody so jealous, I mean so badly jealous, that he starts to fly airplanes into some bankers buildings? Wouldn’t it be something to be much prouder of, that, after you really created so much wealth, you would reach out and help those in need to get to where you are, as well? Wouldn’t that be something to be proud of, to do deeds that other will actually love you for?

Acting like that would require clear and logical thinking, something that cannot be expected in the presence of emotionally charged propaganda. One of the most emotionally charged areas in our lives are our children – we do anything to protect them and give them a better life.

Thus the easiest way to get somebody blindly lined up behind a cause is the statement "it’s for the children!" And how do we protect our children best? Sending them to war to fight for freedom – that is the true spirit of patriotism.

Yes, I am well aware that this does not make any sense. How about you?

Now we might make the mistake to blame those people who spread this propaganda and who manipulate in order to gain power. That would be the wrong target for our indignation. The correct target is the one looking back at you from the mirror when you brush your teeth.

There are always people around that want to cheat, who want to get something without actually creating a value that can be traded. They are easy to handle. You might fall for their schemes once or twice, but then you understand and you just don’t deal with them. If they don’t find new victims they will just wither away and the gene pool gets a little bit better. The problem is our conviction that there is any legitimacy to their action, even if their random rules are called ‘law’.

That these ‘laws’ are utterly random, without any basis in logic, becomes clear when you ask yourself why it is OK to smoke one kind of leaves, while you go to jail if you smoke another kind. I know, it is all there to ‘protect our children.’ But we already know where that comes from.

Breaking any of these so-called laws will expose you to a possible punishment, and following those laws to avoid the penalty makes sense.

But there is a different, much more sinister, element to our obedience to the ‘law’ beside the avoidance of punishment.

Imagine you are driving out in the countryside at three in the morning. Full moon, you can see far and wide and there really is not a soul around. Suddenly, totally out of place, there is a traffic light, and, as most, if not all, traffic lights do, it shows you a red light for you to stop.

Now, imagine further that you stop at that light and it is one of those lights that never seem to turn green. Finally, as there really is nobody within miles, neither a civilian, nor a cop, you decide to go and break the ‘law.’

How do you feel about that?

If you don’t have the slightest murmur of guilt, then there is hope for you. But, chances are, you feel that you have done something bad because you broke the ‘law.’ What you feel there is the conditioning of submitting to authorities. The mysterious quality that transforms mere mortals to god-like creatures.

I know, I exaggerate a bit here, but I want to make the point, that many of us carry the grain of belief, even faith, in authority itself. The conviction that something like authority does exist, that there is something that makes it OK for one person to tell another what to do.

But this belief is total and utter superstition.

Let us, for the moment, take that good old document, this country was based upon, even though we are not using it any more. One of the premises of that parchment is that ‘all men are created equal.’

Unlike many other cultures that evolved from monarchies, this country was built on the foundation that there are no different classes that would privilege some of the members. That was the theory, but unfortunately reality sometimes does not ‘get’ it. There were just too many immigrants that had such a deeply ingrained belief that there are people better than them, that this parchment did nothing in preventing those people to create their superiors again.

They were totally free not to do this, but they did it anyways. Fighting an authority is not the same as a complete conviction that it does not exist. The opposite actually – you can only fight something that you believe exist.

Once we succeed in a basic change of mind about this, there will be no need any more to fight city hall – city hall will just wither away. In the process there will be some collateral damage, but this will be so minor in comparison to the continued permission for city hall to do with us whatever it wants.

So, your homework for this glorious Forth-of-July weekend is to understand – and I mean a gut-understanding – that authority itself as a phenomenon, does not exist. Except in our mind!

If you give somebody the permission to tell you what you have to do and think, he will certainly take that offer. Many might not, but there are plenty of the politician/lawyer type of people around that will take your offer with a grateful nod of their head and then get out the whip and whip you into shape.

Just be aware that you can withdraw that permission at any time. It will be a bit harder than had you never given it in the first place, but it is definitely possible.

Puns can be so phunny

A few puns I ran into – so funny!

  • I tried to catch some Fog. I mist.
  • When chemists die, they barium.
  • Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
  • A soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
  • I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid. Hie says he can stop anytime.
  • How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.
  • I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Than it dawned on me.
  • This girl said she recognized me from a vegetarian club, but I’d never met herbivore.
  • I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I can’t put it down.
  • I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.
  • They told me I had type A blood, but it was a Type O.
  • A dyslexic man walks into a bra.
  • PMS jokes aren’t funny. Period.
  • Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.
  • Class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there’s no pop quiz.
  • Energizer Bunny arrested: Charged with battery.
  • I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
  • How do you make holy water? Boil the hell out of it!
  • What do you call a dinosaur with a extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.
  • When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.
  • What does a cock do when It’s hungry? It goes back four seconds.
  • I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me!
  • Broken pencils are pointless.

My Old TRS-80

TRS-80 top modelOne of my first ‘investments’ I made after college, when I started making a boat-load of money (that’s how it felt, at least) with my new job, was a TRS-80 computer from Radio Shack.

Today I ran into an article on Mashable about that Trash-80 that brought back memories of sitting on that machine for long nights, the ash tray overflowing, discovering all the things you could do with BASIC.

Despite my feeling of being totally rich, my pay check of nearly 2000 Deutsch Marks would not allow me to buy anything but the entry model of this computer. At that time the US Dollar was around 4 Marks which brought the price of that computer to an amazing DM 3000 – one and a half month’s pay. This made me think about what that top model Tandy computer would cost in today’s Dollars – – – turns out to be over 26 thousand Dollars!

And looking at the exchange rate from the other side – I made only $1500 in today’s Dollars and I thought I was rich? Now I wonder if the exchange rate of DM to US$ really reflected the relationship of cost of living. A quick Google search reveals that in 1980 a bread in the US cost about 50 cents, while a bread in Germany cost DM 2.50 – so the exchange rate is at least in the ballpark.

Maybe I should have moved to the US right after college – I might have been able to afford one of those fancy floppy drives from Radio Shack…

In case the TRS-80 catalog on Mashable ever goes away, here’s a copy…

According to Steve Jobs

  1. Steve-MiniWe don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.
  2. That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.
  3. Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
  4. I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.
  5. Quality is much better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.
  6. Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
  7. Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.
  8. When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.
  9. Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.
  10. My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.
  11. Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
  12. What a computer is to me is the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.
  13. Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
  14. It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy.
  15. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.
  16. You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
  17. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.
  18. Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.
  19. If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away.
  20. Ultimately, it comes down to taste. It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then try to bring those things into what you’re doing. Picasso had a saying: good artists copy, great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas, and I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.

Expanding on “Computers with Consciousness”

halI always enjoy Jon Rappoport’s articles on NoMoreFakeNews. The latest post on the idea of computers developing consciousness prompted me to add a bit of a different viewpoint to it:

Jon, this article just screams to me for an answer. First of all, I do agree with you on pretty much all of your viewpoints and actually enjoy your “Escape From the Matrix”. But where I want to bring a bit of a different viewpoint is body v. computer – for me they are pretty much the same – they are machines. But why is it that we have developed consciousness, one may ask? – I actually don’t think we have – but instead we started to occupy those meat-machines once they became good enough to represent us. In the same way, I imagine, that computers will become attractive enough at some point of sophistication for a souls/spirits to occupy them.
I realized this – many, many years ago – when I saw a window mannequin, during a nightly walk and window shopping, with a being trapped inside. That being had been attracted by the beauty of the plastic body and got stuck in it believing it could not escape that matrix of plastic any more. It tried to communicate with me and maybe I was able to help a bit with conveying the idea that it is trapped only if it believes so – I sure hope.
My experience with computers is similar – sometimes I notice beings in there and if I work with them they usually work with me – that’s how I make a living with computers.
I agree that the sudden appearance of consciousness with more memory and TeraFlops is humbug – but once the filigree sophistication of computers gets to the same order of magnitude as our meat bodies I see a good chance that beings get trapped in there as well and make the computers/robots to appear to have developed consciousness. That will – obviously – lead those scientists further down the rabbit hole.

SciFi Anarchy

Mack&pipe60sFor many years I have been listening to sci-fi stories on Escape Pod. Great way to make your driving time more enjoyable. In the olden day when I drove much more I was always up to date with the latest episode but lately I have fallen seriously behind – not enough commuting (well, not too sad about that, though.)

On m,y last trip back from LA I listened to a classic, written in the 40s – Expediter by Mack Reynolds. Happy to report that there were anarchist that long ago.

Typing Relief

When running an online business and you want to be known as a reliable and responsive company you are going to answer a lot of emails.

Many of those emails will contain the same – or mostly the same – information, like,

“Thank you so much for your interest, but currently we don’t offer a whole sale program. Let me add you to our mailing list so that we can inform you when that changes.”

I learned very early that I definitely want to type this over and over and have looked for solution to reduce my typing.

I found many. One that offers the most features is AutoHotKey. It could do all I needed but is very hard to set up. You have to edit a text file defining macros – it’s nearly a programmers job. Not that I mind as I am, by trade, of that breed, but I found something much easier to use for my limited objective: a plugin for Thunderbird. It was perfect as I was using this email client anyways. But then the support for this plugin got slower and slower and was always a few versions of Thunderbird behind, so I had to postpone upgrading it until the plugin update had come out.

And now with the idea to go to possibly using a different email client – I would use all my functionality that I got so used to.

So I searched again and found AutoText by Jitbit AutoText, and that seems to not only offer me to replace the functions in Thunderbird, but in any other application I use as well. Once I have a definition for something like ‘chm’ defined to be expanded to “Cheers, Merlin” I can use that abbreviation also in Gmail and any other web-based program.

I searched hard and long for this – so hope it helps you out.

Worst Youtube Videos Countdown

There was, apparently, somebody called Rocker 13666 on Reddit who created a list of the worst music videos uploaded to Youtube ever. I learned about this on GeekBeat but could not find the original post on Reddit, so, in order to preserve this list for posterity, I record it here:

  1. It’s So Cold in the D
  2. Beavis and Butt-Head – It’s So Cold in the D
  3. IceJJFish – On The Floor
  4. I Don’t Wanna be a Crappy Housewife
  5. Double Take – “Hot Problems”
  6. Zanger Rinus: ‘Met Romana op de scooter’
  7. Sateliti – Audi
  8. Wowowowow
  9. The Divine David ‘The World Is Burning Let’s Masturbate’
  10. Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up

So – how was the pain – you masochist!

Oh, just one little bonus – a GE light bulb commercial…

Pictures for Facebook

I often get funny, interesting or opinionated pictures (my opinion, obviously) in my inbox and often keep them with the idea of sharing them on Facebook – mostly one at a time.

But now that folder with all those pictures just got too big, so that I will never catch up with my Facebook posts, especially as my engagement with and on Facebook is seriously waning.

So, in order not to just throw all these images away to clear up my desktop, I post them here and tell all  my Facebook friends where to look – if they are interested.

So – here we go…