Category Archives: Culture

The Fall of Rome and Modern Parallels

Did you enjoy your history classes in school?

I believe there is hardly anybody who will answer ‘yes’ to this question, and I believe this to be by design. People at the helm, the so-called ‘leaders’ are usually not the smart and productive ones. Otherwise they would not have to resort to plunder. So we can not expect them to be very creative in inventing new ways of cheating the productive part of the people out of the fruit of their labor.

They have to look at successful actions in the past. But as these actions are always doomed and not very long lasting it would be very bad for business if others would recognize their actions and see where they lead.

Thus history lessons have to be made so boring that nobody wants to even look at them. Trying to actively hide them would not work because a good mystery will always cause interest and that is definitely something that must be avoided.

Making it boring was therefore a very good move. If a noticeable number of people would be interested in history – even the rather recent one like that of the Hitler empire – they would see the plain parallels in today’s events.

Hitler for example used the word Vaterland (fatherland) and the emotionally charged word to rally the people behind his agenda. ‘Homeland’ feels pretty close to that. Both don’t have any real meaning as a farm in Maryland is as little my home, or fatherland as a farm in China. The current owners of both would kick me off if I were to go there and life there now. If something is not mine it is not mine independent of where it is.

But beside making the real history, one that tried to convey reasons behind events and not only the date, a mock-history is sold and promoted by Hollywood. This fake history causes people to believe that they know what went on and so there really no reason any more to do some actual research into cause and effect.

All these ideas are not new and all over the past the few who could look and see realized this reality. One such evidence is the essay “The Fall of Rome and Modern Parallels” by Lawrence W. Reed, the director of The Foundation for Economic Education. This was a talk given in 1979 and is read by Stefan Molyneux of Freedomain Radio.

Or see it directly on YouTube.

Independence Day and the Belief in Authority

I grew up in Germany after a time in history when the German people had had 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 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 that 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 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 it 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 what 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 at you back 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 ways and the gene pool got 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 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 to city hall to do with us what 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.

Something to be Learned from Doctor Who

TARDIS (Type 40 TT capsule)
Time and Relative Dimension in Space

When the first long batch of Dr. Who ran, I was still in Germany and, somehow, I never encountered it. I might have known about it, and even though I have always been a science fiction buff, it never entered my life.

But since the revival in March 2006 with Christopher Eccleston as the new Doctor and Billie Piper as the new companion, Rose, I have been hooked and not missed a single episode.

There is quite a bit to learn from the Doctor, in all his incarnations since that revival and I found this nice collections of nuggets:

  1. Always stand up for what is right-no matter the odds.
  2. Never be afraid to act ridiculous.
  3. Sometimes, winning is no fun at all.
  4. Time is not a straight line – its all wibbly-wobbly.
  5. A longer life isn’t always a better one.
  6. Never knowingly be serious.
  7. Everybody dies -this is unavoidable.
  8. Time is not the boss of you.
  9. Be proud of your beliefs – and your fashion sense.
  10. Not all victories are about saving the universe.
  11. The greatest weapon is your mind.
  12. Every species and individual has the right to live – even if they are an insane genocidal madman.
  13. The most ordinary person can change the world.
  14. Nothing’s impossible – just highly unlikely.
  15. When it comes to living, it’s not the time that matters, it’s the person.
  16. The most amazing things in life come in small packages.
  17. The good things in life don’t always make up for the bad, but the bad doesn’t always spoil the good.
  18. Knowledge can make you a powerful person.
  19. Your life may seem boring, but remember, not everybody can have a normal life like yours.
  20. There’s always a better way.
  21. Being alone can be good at times – but sometimes, you need someone.
  22. Love can span the entire length of time and across the universe … and even across realities.
  23. It doesn’t matter what you look like – you can be a hero, a fantastic person and eternally cool.
  24. Arrogance and self-righteousness will usually lead to a fall from grace.
  25. Sometimes there isn’t a baddie – just people trying to do what they think is right.
  26. Talking nonsense can conceal important facts.
  27. Improvisation can save your life.
  28. Never ignore a coincidence … unless you’re busy.
  29. There’s no point in being grown up if you can’t act childish every once in a while.
  30. The most simple things can fuel and terrify your imagination.
  31. Faith is a great thing to have, but it can sometimes kill you.
  32. When it’s time to go – remember the best.
  33. The universe is vast and complicated and really very, very beautiful.

And I have to contribute one here that I learned from the last Doctor, Matt Smith:

35. Bow ties are cool!

Size Does Matter

Usually ‘size does matter’ has something to do with bigger is better. Here I mean it the other way: smaller is better. At least that’s the idea of the tiny house people. I ran into this idea a few years back and it just fascinated me then and now that I am re-visiting I thought I better put it up on my blog so that I don’t forget.

So, here it is…

If I combine this with my idea to have a property where it takes me half an hour to get from the entrance of the property itself to the door of the house, it becomes even more unusual – have a 20 acre property with a 200 square foot house. Maybe I can have a few houses on the property though.

Anarchy is Old

Discovering and developing the anarchist mindset over the last few years, all these ideas seem to be new and novel to me.

Yet, while researching the history of the concept of voluntary interaction instead of force, I am finding that the ideas I encountered first through modern anarchists like Larken Rose or Stefan Molyneux are not really new, but that these people stand on the shoulders of others that have carried the torch of personal liberty before them.

Just as for me personally the ideas become clearer and more obvious with the time I am exposed to them, so the ideas themselves have become clearer and self-evident through the attention they get from thinkers and philosophers through history, and will, most likely, continue to develop.

Today I watched a video made in the 80s that I want to share here…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwnZYY-CDXo

It helped me find another resource that I will now research further – Emma Goldman. Thanks to the internet and mp3 I can now fill my time in the car with the study of a very early anarchist.

Another proponent of the idea of personal liberty who I am still wrapping my mind around, is Richard J. Maybury. (Thank you, Nicole, for introducing me!) He does not call himself an anarchist, even though, judging by his ideas, he probably is one, or at least close to one. It would be hard for me to understand why, if one understands the inherent dangers of governmental powers, one then would continue to support it, even on a very limited level. If rape is bad, then you want to get rid of it and don’t keep a little bit of it, just in case there is a psycho who needs to let off some steam.

So, Richard, I call you as an anarchist, even though it would be nice to have a word for the proponent of a stateless society that is not also a synonym for the initiator of chaos and mayhem. This brings up a point that is also made in the movie above: using the concept (and word) of patriotism as support for one’s country as well as its government, while in fact the two are very different things.

I can certainly love my country and everything it is – thus being patriotic – without also supporting those people who are claiming it – unjustified, I might add – as theirs, including all the workforce in it. Thinking of it, I believe that, in order to be patriotic, I would have to do everything possible to rid a country claiming to be free, of the elements that try to enslave the people living in it.

But back to Richard Maybury. I just finished his book Whatever Happened to Justice, in which he explains the difference between natural (common) law and political law.

One little tidbit jogged my mind.  It is an example for the fact that under natural law all people are treated equally, including government officials. I want to quote this here:

The Criminal Justice Museum in Rothenburg, Germany, has a copy of the Sachsenspiegel, the common law of the Saxons, which was used as a top law-book from 1220 until 1900. It explained how to bring suit, inheritances, property rights, guardianships, and so on. So that illiterate persons could read and understand, each law was illustrated with a picture.

Exhibits in the museum show that German law was especially hard on government officials who were caught committing fraud. In Augsburg, Germany, if the head of the government mint were caught debasing and inflating the coinage, the penalty was loss of a hand. If his inflation amounted to more than 60 pfennigs ( 4.8 ounces of silver, about $25 in today’s money) he was burned at the stake.

Consider this in light of our current situation where politicians print money as if there is no tomorrow, thus debasing and inflating our money. I wonder how many of our “elected officials” would run around without hands and char-coaled.

Google, the new McDonald – Responsible for Many Big Butts

Stumbling over the new Google Maps ‘MapsGL’ feature I was sent around the planet. First I went to the Westminster Abbey in England to check out – no, not Westminster Abbey, but – how 3D buildings look in the new Google maps.

After that I went to Rome, Italy to look at the Colosseum, first from the satellite view and then I admired Google’s switching over to a 45 degree view when zooming in.

OK, that’s what Google wanted me to do, but I am not the person to just follow what somebody tells me to – I want to explore! So, I tried Stonehenge, England. No 3D building or 45 degree views there but I was still amazed that this little spot on our planet gets so much attention from all over the world.

As I had never been to Stonehenge I now wanted to try a spot that I knew from a personal encounter to compare notes. The first that came to mind was the monastery of Montserrat in Spain, close to Barcelona. After just a minute with the help from my friends at Google I was there:

Click to go to the Google Local Page

That sure brought back memories. I had been there twice, once during a long stay in Spain with two buddies, and once later with a date. The interesting bit about the second visit was that then and there I decided to not do vacations any more. That was some thirty years ago and I have pretty much kept that promise to myself. Did not really miss anything, but made up for it by doing things a bit more radical. For example, instead of vacationing in California, I just moved there.

But when visiting there virtually after so many years I also realized how easy that trip had become – just a few mouse clicks and I was half around the world. When I was there the first times, I first had to get my body into Spain, then driving up that winding road, buying a ticket for the aerial tram and getting up to that summit.

Sure was good exercise and I was slim and trim (not that I am fat now!) But now makes me wonder how many big butts Google might be responsible for by just getting people to places virtually.

Google could be the next McDonald!

Story from a Minnesota State Trooper

The following story came across my desk today:

I made a traffic stop on an elderly lady the other day for speeding on MN State Hightway 210 just East of McGregor, MN.

I asked for driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.

The lady took out the required information and handed it to me. In with the cards I was somewhat surprised (due to her advanced age) to see she had a Conceal Carry Permit. I looked at her and asked if she had a weapon in her possession at this time.

She responded that she indeed had a .45 automatic in her glove box. Something – body language, or the way she said it – made me want to ask if she had any other firearms.

She did admit to also having a 9mm Glock in her center console. Now I had to ask one more time if that was all.

She responded once again that she did have just one more, a .38 special in her purse. I then asked her what she was so afraid of.

She looked mew right in the eye and said, “Not a f—ing thing!”

On first sight, this looks like a funny story. But in my eyes there is some much wrong with it that we can really learn a lot from it.

The first, and most obvious is the elderly lady’s willingness to submit unquestioning to those she claims not to be afraid of. Why doesn’t she just use all that hardware on the person who stopped her with the intention to extort some money from her.

I don’t know if she was actually driving recklessly, endangering others so that the trooper had to intervene to save life and property of others, or if he was enforcing some random rules made by some men in black robes. Looking at the alleged location of this story…

… the second reason seems more likely.

Examining our own reaction this story allows us to learn to understand the real problem. We find this story funny but only because we all agree with the idea that what the trooper did was correct. Beside stopping her with the intend of robbing her for some made-up reason (speed limit), we are also not appalled by his inquiry into her exercising her rights that are already confirmed by the troopers superiors. She has a carry permit, so she can carry whatever she wants and does not have to answer to any lowly enforcer’s questions.

The only reasonable answer to the enforcer’s very first question should have been “None of your f—ing business!” But she probably knew that the only reaction to that answer would have been to be dragged out of the car and her acting upon her later statement of not being afraid of nobody. And that would have been the end of that trooper and we would have never heard of that story.

We might have heard it in a different way, as, for example, that a vicious female in Minnesota had murdered a trooper just doing his duty and the swat team that had been called in to hunt down this murderous beast had shot her 86 times – and only because the avengers ran out of bullets.

One question to leave you with – did you stumble over the trooper’s wording of “She did admit to also having…” or did you just read over this? If you did read over this without a serious growl in your throat then I have to sadly give it to you that you also consider yourself chattel of the ruling class.

This, Jen, is the Internet – the IT Crowd

The first time I heard about the IT Crowd was from Cory Doctorow in one of his BoingBoing posts. Thanks to pirates I was able to watch the show despite not being in the UK, and I was instantly hooked on the show.

After a few seasons I re-visited the IT Crowd in one of my posts from 2009 but now, finally, there are some clips of it on the interweb, so that, for all of you who don’t know these master pieces of television yet, I can share some of the highlights.

Here is one of the best scenes – EVER!

Violins and hot chicks

I reported about the violinist Vanessa Mae in the past and just have to revisit the subject now that another Youtube sensation has crossed my 32 inch monitor (yes, I am using a HD TV as my day to day monitor instead of investing in some reading glasses).

If you haven’t clicked through to the other link yet, here is what I mean when I say Vanessa Mae…

And then we have the bubbly Lindsey Stirling who combines violin play with a very unique type of dancing. I am just blown away how you can hop around so wildly and then play the violin without missing a beat…

She seems to be a real member of the new youtuber crowd, offering something really worth spending your time on and maintaining a light and fluffy communication with the fans. I like it when an artist understands that this friendly contact is way better than being aloof.