Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Update; and The obsurdity of territory

My absence has certainly gone unnoticed. But anyway, I haven't had much to write about lately. The problem is: all my best ideas come to me at work. Then I get home and turn my brain off for a couple hours. And, unfortunately, I can't really post at work.


For those who don't know, a few days ago Iran seized a bunch of British sailors who were conducting a standard search of vessels entering Iraqi waters. Iran claims, however, that the Brits were in their waters. So they took those seamen. And they won't give 'em back. But they have assured Blair that the troops are safe and fit, or something like that. Blair was pissed; said something to the effect that shit would hit the fan if Iran didn't return the soldiers. Iran said, "no."

Today's development:
``The rumor is that the Brits went in for a rescue attempt on the Royal Marines and Navy guys,'' said Mark Waggoner, president of Excel Futures Inc. in Huntington Beach California, referring to 15 British military personnel seized by Iran on March 23. ``And we don't know if that's true.''
Two things: First, this (read: everything about this situation) is the small shit that starts world wars. It's ridiculous. Both of these countries' leaders need to sit down and smoke a bowl or something. Remember what happened when Hezbollah swiped only two Israeli soldiers? War. But an Iranian-British war would be horrible and far reaching. Second, and more importantly, this goes to show the absolute lunacy associated with the concept of "territory." Not only do countries claim land, but they're like, "shit, I need to extend my ownership out 100 miles into 'coastal' waters, too." Well, I don't know if it's 100 miles, but it is some similar distance. Are the North Pole and Antarctica claimed? Methinks not. But it won't be much longer. Same goes for the moon and the earth's orbit and any ocean that's left.

I'd like to think this modern Westernized world could be capable of one day living without brutal and absolute ownership of land (and water, for that matter). If yes, it would probably cut the number of wars by some significant percentage. But I just don't know if we have it in us anymore. Maybe there's some extant cultures out there that can show us a better way. We have some on this very continent who might know, if the old ways haven't already been obliterated by globalization.

Don't even get me started on globalization.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The weather and other random crap

It hit the 40s here today. It's a frickin heat wave. How awesome. I like talking about the weather for some reason (anybody who ends up reading this blog regularly will probably see what I mean, so let me apologize ahead of time). What's funny is that as a teenager I absolutely hated talking about it: I thought it was the smallest of the small talk. Now, I don't know what has happened to me, but I'll gladly carry on a hearty conversation about jet streams and convection and Alberta clippers and thunder snow. Well, I'm kind of lying, because nobody in their right mind, aside from meteorologists, wants to talk about those things. (Which reminds me, if you like meteorology and have access to WGN over the air or on your cable/satellite provider--and if provider carries the feed of WGN that shows the Chicago news--tune in to the noon and nine p.m. broadcasts, Central time of course, to see the best weather forecast breakdown I've ever witnessed on TV.) Anyway, Neil from the Up Series of documentaries makes a good point in 28 Up. He says that people who live most of their lives outdoors don't talk about the weather much because they live in it; everybody thus intimately knows what's going on in their environment and they have few reasons to discuss it further. Makes sense to me. So, we'll see what happens when Spring finally rolls around and I get my ass out on the hiking trails. Will I blog less about the weather? One can only hope.

Other stuff of interest (maybe):

~Spring your time ahead this Sunday morning. It'll be nice to have some extra light during waking hours.

~Did ye know Geoffrey Chaucer hath a blog? That's right. He and a few of his merry friends make witty posts in all their Middle English glory. And don't miss the occasional Old English (must be late OE) post by guest blogger Tremulus Aescgar, who reminds us what it was like "bifore the Frenssh cam to Engelonde." Represent!

~Wikipedia has a list of unusual articles. Trust me, this page is hours of fun.

~One of those articles is about Uncyclopedia, Wikipedia's alter-ego. Again, hours of fun.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Substance behind the statement

So, flipping through the channels last night, I caught Mitt Romney on CSPAN. It was part of their ongoing series highlighting the race for president in 2008. Mitt is a Republican, former governor of Massachusetts. I watched for about two minutes while waiting for Alton Brown to come back on, and I really couldn't handle Mitt's bullshit for much more than that anyway. At first Mitt sounded okay on the surface. He talked about lowering various taxes for the middle class--that kind of stuff that every politician talks about. Then he got all proud of his so-called social conservatism. He basically took shots at homosexuality and medical science and the other standard stuff that is so sound-biteish in modern politics. His big subconclusion was something to the effect that he has, throughout his political career, stood up for traditional values. Traditional values? I guess I don't know what that means to some people.

As a big history nut, traditional values are interesting to me. One of my passions is Appalachian history. I like the idea of a family unit and/or a community coming together to survive in this world, despite the fact that most times the rest of the world you are aware of is against your people. I value many traditions, including respect for and deep knowledge of the land. I like the tradition of self-government and self-reliance that is deeply, though more and more obscurely, rooted in our unique history. I like the fact that we have the chance to look to the oldest in our society, those who are the keepers of nearly lost knowledge.

The values of tradition that I hold dear are, to me, intrinsically useful. Losing these values would cripple our society if one day our modern technology/lifestyle failed us. I value lots of things that are rooted in the past.

Unfortunately, politicians and journalists don't understand tradition. Or, if they do, they spin tradition into a narrow meaning. Either way, the result is people like Mitt.

To interject, I don't really consider myself partisan. Most people who know me would say I'm liberal. And that's fair. I lean to the left quite heavily. But I really don't buy into the right/left dichotomy. Those who really know me would say that I have strong libertarian tendencies as well. I'm also rooted in the philosophies of Montaigne, Hume, Deleuze, Nietzsche, and Foucault. I think I'm fairly independent when it comes to issues and politics. But hey, the labels come out when you have to operate in a political system that is so polarizing. My point is that I'm not a Democrat, or a Republican, or Green, or anything. In other words, if a politician wants to talk to me about stuff, I'm listening. But you better not talk like an asshole or a simpleton.

Nowadays, the culture war is everything. One side claims tradition and values. Another side claims acceptance and progress. And none of it makes sense because all sides could easily exchange the labels they rely on and still be talking about the same shit.

When people say they stand as the gatekeepers of tradition, they're full of crap. Most people, in one way or another, cling to tradition. At the same time, most people want progress. You can't have one without the other because the resulting lack of any balance would cause the personal system you live life by to collapse for want of structural integrity. When I hear a politician get on their pedestal and tell me that they and their party represent the sole voice for tradition, it makes me want to yell. And yelling is not good: it destroys a conversation. So, I refuse to yell. But then, my subsequent natural preference is to withdraw. And that's not that good either.

What I want to see is people argue for their traditions based on the simplest sense of utility: How does your tradition and your values positively impact society? You can't just say "traditional" or "values" and automatically claim some sort of authority. No, you must elaborate. You must show us how what you hold dear is beneficial for people. You must show us relevance. I want it carefully spelled out for me every time you make such a deep claim. If you don't, I will not hesitate to completely disregard your whole message. We know how logic works: if one premise is weak or unsupported, then the rest of the argument is lost.

Sometimes tradition is unhelpful, sometimes it's productive, and sometimes it's downright harmful. All the time, it's worth exploring--but, we can't forget, so is change.

Sadly, people who are strict partisans fail to see how another perspective always--always!--has something of value to offer. Screw parties and the political spectrum and anything else that attempts to essentialize a person's mindset or philosophy. Think we'd survive without political parties or partisanship? Yeah, it's hard to even imagine what that world would be like. But I believe it's probable and preferable.

What Mitt's little superficial appeal to tradition really got me thinking about was my value for some old ways that were prevalent not too long ago: people in this country, at least those who lived the rural life (which were many), used to have a close connection to the earth. They knew when crops needed to be planted and harvested; they knew how to track animals in the woods; they knew which wild plants were which and what each was good for; they knew the best wood to burn for warmth; they knew the general time by the position of the sun, moon or stars in the sky; they knew the night sky so well in general; they knew their neighbors; they knew solitude; they knew quiet time; they knew really, truly hard work--but work that was all theirs; and they knew uncountable other things that are virtually lost in modern day America. Our entire history as humans has been about living closely with the land. While that relationship has been complicated, and filled with ups and downs, it has been the physical (and often spiritual) center and bedrock of people's lives since always.

What happens if technology and synthetics have to completely replace intuition and naturally occurring substance? I don't really know. My gut says that it would turn out bad eventually. And if it doesn't, well, I get the impression that it wouldn't be such a fun or meaningful world to live in. But I also admit that I could just be desperately clinging to an old way of life that is bound to die like so many others. I doubt it though.

So, who's seriously talking about this tradition out there? It's important to a lot of people, even if it's not vocalized loudly. (Wink wink, nudge nudge--I'm talking to some of you libertarians and environmentalists. This is right up your alley.) I want to hear talk about what it means to be self-reliant or to be an environmentalist. Our political lives are not about the hot-button, superficial issues that generate high ratings on TV. Anyone who says, "I own issue x" just doesn't get it. And that goes for everyone--right or left, the religious or the secularists, northerners or southerners, the political or the non-political, or whatever binary opposition we are told to position ourselves in.

Alright, this post is getting out of control.