Monday, September 21, 2015

A Perfect

Have you ever experienced serenity? A moment in time, or a day, or a week, or a year, or possibly even your whole life, where the sole feeling that dominates you is one of utter placidity, where your worries and wants are nonexistent because there is nothing more for you to do in your moment than enjoy it?

I experienced one once. It was my last night in London after a hectic and storied year of growth and change, and I leaned out my window, taking in the city one last time. The sky above was cloudy and just a bit cool for the end of summer, but the city was in full swing below. Heat rose from the laughter and joy of the people on their nights out, which was more than enough to keep warm the drunken idiot who danced when only he could hear the music.

The lights gleamed off the clouds above, bathing the entire city in gold, and I just leaned on my windowsill and breathed it all in. The temperature of the air, the laughter from below chirping like birdsong, the kingdom of London glowing in the night; it was a perfect ending.

But, of course, the credits didn't roll, the audience didn't stand up and stretch their legs, and the movie theater employee didn't sweep up the stray bits of popcorn and candy that slipped from the patrons' buttery fingers. My life went on after that moment.

For the past 2 years I've been running a personal marathon to reclaim that moment, but not to relive it; rather, that moment gave me the clarity to realize just what road I'd be running for the rest of my life. It gave me a general direction, and since then, I've been better fine-tuning my compass to right my way.

Perhaps it's just because I've hit my quarter-life crisis head-on; after all, suddenly so many of my friends are in long-term relationships, or having children, or maintaining steady jobs and doing other things while I'm still thinking about how cool it would be if DC introduced Darkseid into their cinematic universe. That's not to say that I haven't done or accomplished things in my life; to the contrary, whenever I tell people about my experiences they actually seem legitimately impressed.

But of all the things I've done, nothing will strike me as more important than bringing back that feeling of peace. Maybe it's a taste of Buddhism's nirvana, where all wants and needs are released and the soul is at peace for eternity, or maybe it's just the knowledge that I can be that content in my life. There is no panacea for it; one person's cure will usually only work for them, so here's to stumbling blindly through my life and feeling the walls for clues until I see an inkling of light.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Seeking Refuge

Of late, the current crisis of refugees making their way from Syria and the Middle East into Europe has been dominating headlines, and for good reason: there are currently more displaced people than ever before in history due to the wars in Syria and Yemen, as well as ISIS' destructive crusade around Iraq.

It was recently reported that Germany has taken in more than 800,000 refugees on its own, while the ever-aggrandizing and aloof David Cameron finally bowed to public pressure, though that 'pressure' only constitutes no more than 10,000 refugees.

The EU as an entity has been lackadaisical in its approach to the current crisis, as is warranted by a body that depends on unanimity. There is very little in terms of a top-down approach that can emanate from Brussels and be accepted throughout the union, but should there be some great rise of public consciousness, then I should hope that a refugee allotment plan looks something like this:
  • Firstly, the refugees need to be registered, which is, of course, a difficult task, but a necessary one. Registering them allows for a formal process of integration into a country, and also allows for access to public records, if the person has any. This also aids in background checks run by INTERPOL, EUROPOL, and the member states' various security agencies.
  • Secondly, the EU and its member states should seek to find suitable housing arrangements for the refugees, whether through public housing or temporary housing of some kind. Families would obviously be kept together. The number of people distributed throughout the EU should, ideally, be commensurate with population, also taking into account available living spaces. There should hopefully be no 'excuses' as to why a country can't host more refugees, aside from a legitimate one such as size.
  • Thirdly, and this is probably a bit idealistic of me, offer free language classes for those who don't already either speak a member state's native language or English, or both. Also, enable a job seeker's scheme whereby vocational training classes are offered at either a discounted price, or for free.
  • Fourthly, there are likely many qualified individuals who have fled from the various conflicts, and they would probably like nothing more than to work and save money for their families. This is a measure that would be slightly controversial, especially with the more nationalistic states/parties, because there might be a notion that 'refugees are stealing jobs.' It would be the most difficult to sell, but the most necessary as well if they are to stay in the EU for a long time, or for the rest of their lives.
  • Fifthly, get ready for the long haul. The civil war in Syria has no discernible end in sight, especially since now all western powers are afraid that if Assad's government falls, then ISIS will be able to set up camp in Syria. This would give ISIS better access to Turkey, which is already fighting the Kurdish Worker's Party in the south of Turkey, while the Kurds are also the primary force fighting ISIS (which is another completely confusing and Risk-esque situation in itself). 
This is obviously not detailed, but I'm not a policy adviser; otherwise, I might have actually written up a policy paper. (Not saying I did, but if I did, it would probably be around 50, maybe 55 pages long, with individual policy suggestions for each member state, along with distributions of funding from the EU in addition to discretionary funds available from each member state's annual budget, and then a future analysis of population growth and possible employment demographics from the refugee pool. Again, just a hypothetical. Maybe.)

Finally, the US. The country that boasts the most has done the least in terms of allowing in refugees from Syria. Since the conflict started in 2010, the US has taken in somewhere around 1400 Syrians total. It goes without saying that the US, a country with more open space than all of Europe, should be actively vetting and aiding Syrian refugees.

That's all for now, 
Das Flüg
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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Don't Watch the Video

Today, a madman with a gun did what has become one of the most mundane, everyday incidences to lead the day's news headlines in America: he killed several people; however, this time was different. The man took a video of the shooting on his phone as it happened on live TV.

The man shot a reporter, her interview subject, and the cameraman, filmed it, and posted it on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. As you'd expect, it was taken down by the sites, but many have saved it and uploaded it elsewhere. Don't watch it.

Why, you ask? You probably expect to hear the usual "this is what the killer would have wanted you to do" from many people, but that isn't why you shouldn't watch it. You shouldn't watch it because this is a video depicting a brutal act that shows the end of someone's life. We shouldn't want to watch people die, regardless of whether or not we know them, or hate them, or what have you, because it isn't at all like a movie or a TV show. These people won't appear in other shows, or movies, or talk about their death scenes in an interview: they're gone.

Death isn't a fetish, it is a fact of life and something that just about everyone will try to avoid in the course of their lives. It is both fascinating and perverse, but we do not set up shop in a hospital's ER just to watch incoming patients fight for their lives.

What's more, who wants to be remembered solely for being killed on tape?

That's all for now.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Trump Dump

Donald Trump is a joke. I'm not even going to provide you with any examples of that because I don't need to, nor do I want to; all you have to do is Google "Donald Trump" and I'm pretty sure the first hit that'll come up will be about something he said or did. He's the greatest living actor alive: he took on the role of a condescending, narcissistic talking cardboard box of a man for a TV show where people gargle on his testicles day in and day out, and apparently he's still living it, whether he realizes it or not.
He's also running for president of the US of A. Any political scientist worth their salt and poor salaries will tell you that he has about as much chance of winning the presidency, let alone the republican nomination, as most of the contestants on his shitty TV shows have at tasting anything other than the bitterness of defeat on the hairs of Trump's ballsack. Recent polls suggest that Trump is ahead of the other candidates, but polling is notoriously flawed.
But, for the sake of dreams and rainbows and 'fun,' let's imagine a world where Donald Trump has attained the republican nomination for president. (Keep in mind that this is also a world where pigs fly and human farts reverse global warming.) Now let's think about how various people would react on election day; I can think of a few:
  • "Donald Trump is the nominee? Better vote for the other guy/lady, whoever they are."
  • "Donald Trump is the nominee? Sweet! Let me go grab my gun and shoot some immigrants! Oh, and vote too!"
  • "I wasn't going to vote for him anyway."
  • "Donald Trump is the nominee? Well, this just delegitimizes the entire American political process and demonstrates precisely that only the wealthy can attain power in the country, whether it's directly or indirectly by lobbying! I'm not voting. Now I'm going to go to Chipotle and fight global warming."
  • "We have elections in America?"
I'd say that covers it. Speaking of coverage, I get that news stations are supposed to cover candidates, but come on, guys. If you want a smarter electorate, give us smarter programming that's not about self-aware vacuum cleaners.

That's all for now, Das Flüg 

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Thursday, June 25, 2015


When I walk to and from work on my usual route, I normally pass a raucous homeless man who is impossible to not notice with any of the 5 senses. He would push his cart up and down the street, yelling incomprehensible proclamations to the sky, every so often pausing to read from what I assumed was his personal bible. I believe I once made out the words "CIA" and "Obama" from his hoarse pontifications.

Whenever I walk to or from work, I typically turn my brain on autopilot and set my legs to one course: the train station home. My eyes stare forward at my distant destination, and nothing diverts my attention, save for the occasional attractive woman or the aforementioned homeless man.

It took me several walks to and from work to realize that the homeless man wasn't there anymore. No more partially toothless shouting, no more layers upon layers of clothes, even in warm weather. I started to wonder if he had moved to somewhere with better shelter, or perhaps he had died. That was the sad thought: if this man was actually dead, then he likely died without anyone knowing his name.

And I started to wonder about him. He was someone's son; maybe he was a brother. Maybe he had a father, maybe he had a mother, maybe he was an uncle, maybe he had a cousin. Maybe he had friends; maybe they stole a Playboy and saw their first naked women together. Maybe they knew his name. Maybe he grew up in a house where life wasn't easy and circumstances were drawn against him. Maybe he made some bad choices; maybe he made some good ones. Maybe he once marveled at the simplicity of rain, maybe he once wondered about how cars worked. Maybe he went to school. Maybe he was enjoyed at it, maybe he didn't. Maybe he never wanted to admit that he enjoyed it; maybe he thought he could do something else with his life. Maybe he fell in love; maybe he had his heart broken. Maybe he made a mistake; maybe he lost everything. Maybe he was a genius who lost his mind. Maybe he had regrets. Maybe he didn't realize he had regrets. Maybe his friends forgot him. Maybe his family was gone. Maybe he never knew it.
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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Party on a Sinking Ship

There's a strange irony to global warming. On the one hand, the world is getting invariably hotter due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This will, of course, cause the ice caps to disintegrate and sea levels to rise, which will create coastal flooding and completely muck about with the air streams in the oceans, which will affect temperatures globally, which will affect crops, rainfall, etc. etc. etc. NASA recently estimated that the rate of melting is actually increasing. All of this has, of course, been precipitated by the human race's use of fossil fuels.
Not much has been done in terms of stalling the rise of temperatures past the point of no return, though steps have been taken, such as in China. In other places, such as in Australia, where James Bond villain caricature and Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sought to renew Australia's use of coal. The debates in the US congress might as well be made into mythical songs, given that around half of Republicans in congress don't believe in climate change.
On the other hand, companies have already started lining up for the possibility of drilling for oil in the eventually melted arctic ice shelf. And even though President Obama has continually vocalized for action to be taken on global warming, he allowed for Shell to resume its drilling in the Arctic. It's generally unsurprising, given that the US is set to become the largest oil producer in the world, if it isn't already.
Obama put it well enough himself in his bit during the 2015 Correspondents Dinner when he had 'Luther the anger translator' yodeling behind him: ignoring the science of climate change is stupid, irresponsible bullshit. And yet, he's still allowing for continual mining of the very resource that contributes to rising global temperatures.
Some companies (notably Shell) have bandied around the tag that oil helps underdeveloped countries/regions catch up to more developed countries, but that entire mode of thinking is completely illogical. Wouldn't introducing clean technologies allow for an even greater leap in development? Why not fund research for more efficient solar energy in regions around the equator and on island nations?
I like to imagine that most world leaders, either at the corporate or government level, go into their positions believing that they can change their country and the world for the better (except for Tony Abbott. And David Cameron, for that matter, who said that climate change is serious but still advocates for hydrolic fracturing, aka fracking). They then, after learning the ins and outs of the job, succumb to the pressures of economics, or at least to the silver tongues of advisers with deep, wide pockets.
Or I could be entirely wrong and most elected leaders are just very good orators with no actual substance behind them. Tomato, tomato.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The World is Too Big

How do you view yourself? A fish in a pond, a cog in the machine, a beacon in the dark? Do you hold the next great idea? Are you the next big actor? Will you change the world? Save it? Burn it? Rule it? Leave it?

Do you see yourself as the mouse in the maze, or the scientist testing the rat's best time?

So much happens in the world and we can't even comprehend it all: Vladimir Putin trying to sow discord in the EU and annex more of Ukraine, China and US in a cyber war that goes completely unspoken, all the human rights violations in North Korea, ISIL spreading throughout the Middle East, Palestinians struggling to get electricity, strikes and discontent across South America, the hottest year on record in Antarctica, California running out of water, the FBI not allowing for public disclosure of its surveillance technology, cartel wars in Mexico, the slow privatization of public services and the military, corporate oligopolies, etc. etc.

If the list in the paragraph above strikes you as surprising in any way, I can assure you that this is a very, very small list of issues that runs in the background of the news you see on TV every day. The fact is that the average news show is only set up in such a way so as to present to you the news of the day with some other tidbits in between, depending on what station it is. Even if a show anchor wants to present something other than the doldrums of the day's headline news, they're required to dedicate a certain amount of time to the stories, even if the anchors on the previous shows have covered them to an early death.

I concede that it's good to know what the president/prime minster is up to, but to follow them around in the course of their daily lives, even if they're on vacation? Even if they're just spending time with their family for Christmas or going out to get a burrito?

It serves a purpose, some would argue; it humanizes the president/pm and makes him/her seem more like a person and less like a plutocrat. At the same time, dedicating a news story to how he/she hit a jump shot only detracts from a much more important story, such as the pending merger between Comcast and Time Warner, or the murder of Putin's largest opponent. (Those are two stories that have been covered, but to the extent that they should be? Certainly not.) A person's day-to-day is not news.

But then what is important to the average person? Usually, you can count them off on your fingers: money, job, social life, a place to live, and all the minutiae in between those fingers. Most will never look to completely change the world or lead it, and are content to make enough money so that they're happy.

This doesn't speak to the difference in some cultures, where getting more is better, or having too much money is looked down upon.

Few will ever make a huge dent in the sociopolitical fabric of everyday life. It's a fact that can be generalized throughout time whenever one studies the 'lucky few' who have their names in the history books. For instance, a majority of Americans (estimation by Howard Zinn) in the 1770s didn't support separation from the UK. And yet, America's founding fathers hold an esteemed position in American history, even though all were wealthy slave owners, and were, on average, very young to boot. They were the extreme minority.

I've found myself thinking that the world is far too big, regardless of how much some pundits may say that it's smaller than ever because it's more crowded and we've got the internet and whatnot, because it's the truth. The world is big, and complex, and one person could never even hope to truly comprehend every viewpoint and issue that pervades the social fabric of our time. There are 7 billion people on this Earth, a number that is unconscionable to most, since most people can't even accurately guess how many pennies are in a jar when there's a prize on the line.

What's more, it's easy to completely ignore the rest of the world. It's easy to never think about how some things affect people thousands of miles away because they're not immediate. You'd never imagine the life of someone who is afraid of a clear blue sky because of the possibility that they'd be killed by a drone high in the sky, or understand what it is to be without running water in a desert, because those problems aren't immediate. Yes, we in the western world are concerned about drones, but overall, they aren't bombing anyone on the local soil. There is no danger to us.

Terrorism was the one action to slither its way into the public conscience because it became immediate. The danger was there, clear and present, playing on the TV nonstop for 24 hours a day for months on end. Terrorism was the issue that moved from the invisible to the visible, from the shacks and debris of war-torn regions to Main Street.

Those in the smallest minority, those dedicated to waging a lopsided war on behalf of a defunct notion of justice, changed the course of history. That's not to say that the people who commit atrocities should be lauded in the centuries to come, but that precisely isn't a judgment anyone can make. History, as is said so often, is written by the victors, and there has never been a victory so difficult or an issue so muddled as what it actually means to triumph against terrorism.

Even then, when the issue became visible, so many people didn't understand it. The world was too big at that point, the issue too complex, so the reasoning became simple and stupid, compacted and rebranded until it could be sold to even a squirrel picking at nuts in the Autumn.

The world is big. You're small. It is simply the way of any organism living on a rock floating in space. Don't feel bad because that's how you were born, and it's how you'll die.

This has been a post full of rambling. I'm sure I had a point somewhere, but I'm typing this out at work while there is nothing to do. Oh well.

That's all for now,
Das Flüg