Saturday, August 4, 2007

It's Slavehood That's Inconvenient

People who know me have long heard that from the very beginning of my earliest baby memories, what I most wanted to do was learn how to read and write. I grew up in households filled with books--my parents and both sets of grandparents had huge libraries filled with books--whole walls covered with books from top to bottom. I remember crawling over to the bottom shelves of my parents' bookshelves where I'd routinely pull a book off the shelf, open it, and attempt to decifer the mysterious heiroglyphics that I could see there. When I was a little older and could manipulate a crayon or a pencil, I'd try to copy the tiny letters I'd see printed across the page. One of my grandmothers (whom we called "Ma") was fascinated by this interest of mine, so she decided to see if she could teach me to read, and did so in one afternoon with A.A. Milne's "Christopher Robin" book, Now We Are Six (when I wasn't yet). I can't explain how I learned it so quickly, although uber-educator John Taylor Gatto says that reading is extremely easy to learn and explorers and anthropologists in Africa were able to teach African children living naked on the veldt how to read in less than 40 hours. I believe the same experience was mirrored by South Seas missionaries, who taught Polynesians how to read the English Bible very, very quickly. There are those who say, "If you can talk, you can sing," well I say, "If you can talk, you can read." All you need is to learn the sounds of the letters and then vocally apply them to words you see and your already existing vocabulary will make the correlation. This task would be a lot harder if the words you are trying to read are in a language you don't speak, which is why I think it took "so much longer" for Africans and Polynesians to learn reading than it took me, who already at least knew the language that I was learning to read.

The way we teach reading in school, Gatto says, is purposefully designed to make it difficult and frustrating (he often quotes Plato, who said that once we start paying people to teach, they will make learning increasingly difficult--that's job security!). He's got a lot of more serious explanations for that other than one that is cynically against teachers (who, as a whole, are quite dedicated to their tasks, although often hampered by adminstrations and school boards--and remember, Gatto himself was a professional teacher), one of which is that the heavily moneyed class, who control the government by putting forward and marketing only the candidates who will do what THEY want (when was the last time YOU actually had a good choice of candidates, and don't go by what they promised, but but by what they ultimately delivered), and what they want is a severely dumbed-down population (who won't be any competition for the already extant moneyed class) of easily manipulated low wage slave-workers (who will not have the time or inclination to turn to reading complicated texts in order to learn outside of the box they are stuck in, but will be satisified to get their "news" and "opinions" from mass media owned and controlled by that very same heavily moneyed class). These educational limitations don't apply to the children of the moneyed class, of course, who attend special private schools who are generally prohibitive for those outside of this class.

I haven't been able to stomach television at all for the past decade (and now movies have pretty much followed along with that, too) and the only time I even (am forced to) take a glance at television is when some coffee shop or restaurant I might happen to go to has the blasted thing on right in front of my face with subtitles running across the bottom of it. And seeing even that little bit is enough to give me indigestion.

Nowadays, magazines are just as bad, and even the poor Internet is overrun by this kind of thing--do people really think that people in the media-owning moneyed class are going to leave the Internet alone? After all, Google, you know, prepared it so that China could filter out all the objectionable content that the Communist government didn't want the Chinese people to be exposed to. Google, of course, is in it for the money and don't kid yourself, "cool, wonderful search engine" that it is, this search engine (and the associated advertising revenue) was enough to propel its founders up into the financial stratosphere. Just for fun, check to see what Google stock is selling for, and how much it rose since its initial public offering. I didn't invest in it, because I won't directly invest in companies whose social conscience I don't approve of. While I, too, love money, I'm not IN it for the money. There is a difference.

I am sure that the process is NOT being used to mask and filter the content that Americans are exposed to. For one thing, while I am not certain, I am pretty sure China has only one government-controlled or approved internet service provider, so controlling content would not be all that difficult. In the U.S., it would be a lot more difficult--but NOT impossible. I don't know if people understand this, but remember how Al Gore was laughed at because he claimed to have "invented" the Internet? (I wonder how all those acolytes who now get down on their prayer rugs and pray to him five times a day would feel about this if the memory of it comes back to their minds?). Well, the truth is that he wasn't really wacko in making that statement, there was some kind of truth to it, although in typical Gore fashion, it was an example of limitless self-aggrandizement and also typically had contained within it a disturbing kernal of fascism.

The history of Gore's "inventing the Internet" was that in its infancy, what we now know of as the Internet, which was (and is) a linking up of individual computers across a wide geographic spectrum, was mostly in existence for the military and some universities. When I first heard of it and used it was when I worked at the Stanford University Medical Center. Stanford (uh, notice, private university now central to what was to become Silicon Valley) was involved in creating a national medical database through which surgeons and other doctors would be able to share mortality statistics and other medical data. (Nowadays, even some SURGERIES can be performed remotely, such has been the advancement of this particular technology.) But this technology was on the brink of exploding into a truly universal use and the federal government was quite concerned about it. Republicans point blank didn't want the people to have it. Too much empowering technology--the elites could have it, of course, and would, but they felt that otherwise this could be very dangerous for national security.

Democrats, on the other hand, felt like maybe there was a way to bring it to the people, most of whom, of course, (since they KNOW their consitutents) were already so dumbed-down that they would use it only for superfluous entertainment, gaming, communicating garbage back and forth among each other, and the like, and wow, what a marvelous new medium for spreading even more moneyed-class "propoganda"! Besides, it was clear that a TON of money was to be made here. (Even ultra-liberal Michael Moore once admitted, three of four propoganda films ago, that there was absolutely no difference between the two major political parties, who really do represent only the financial top two percent of constitutents, of whom Moore is now a member, I am sure.)

So Clinton, who was president at the time, assigned his otherwise-pretty-useless Vice-President, Al Gore, to "work on that issue," and "Jessie-Jackson-like," Gore more or less served as a broker between the computer industry and government security interests. The Internet that Al Gore "invented" was one that COULD be rolled out to the people, but had buried within its structure the ability of the federal government to shut off the tap whenever it needed to, and meanwhile, was able to spy on every user at will. President Bush gets blamed for all the spying on citizens that is apparently going on currently, and yet built into the very structure of Al Gore's Internet was the exact same thing from its infancy. (I wanted to actually throw up when, while watching Steve Jobs's hour-long infomercial on the roll-out of the Apple iPhone, Jobs blithely demonstrated that he had Al Gore's number on his auto-dial...but of COURSE he would! And oh, Gore is on the Board of Directors of Apple, in case you didn't know, so that was part of his "reward" for brokering computer industry interests.)

So, while the Internet could be for a time a somewhat trusted source (or, at least, an unhampered source...except in public libraries), one has to always keep their evaluative antennae up. You have to utiilize critical thinking all the time. What's shocking, though, is how few people actually do. It's easier to simply turn on CNN or catch the exact same news off of Yahoo (amazingly correctly named if you only knew what the name meant) or MSN (part of the corporate universe of the richest man in the world), or, for those who feel that they are making an "extra" effort, spend some money and go to the movies and watch a so-called documentary by Michael Moore.

Okay, so you have to read uncontrolled sources and utilize critical thinking. Mostly, that will mean reading books. And I have been reading them since before I even went to nursery school. And I don't mean I read "Dick & Jane". If the book was on my parents's shelves, it was fair game in my mind for me to read. By the time I was in first grade and other kids were learning how to copy two sentence "stories" off of the blackboard, the teacher would ask me to be the one to make up and write on the blackboard the stories that the others would copy. The teacher felt that I, being a kid, would write something that would interest the other first graders more than her own. I felt hampered by the "two sentences" limitation, but I think I did okay. Anyway, it was fun and I enjoyed it, and the other students seemed to, too.

I feel that this long background of involvement with books has made me phenomenally wealthy in the currency that books provide. When people are starting out in their working life and the concept of investing for retirement is first introduced to them, what is always pointed out to them is the advantage of "starting early." How much MORE money for retirement does a worker have when he starts saving in his early twenties than if he starts some time in his mid-forties. But when I see that, I think, "Yes, but imagine the advantages if he had started the day he was born?" For example, I gave my godson the gift of $1,000 on his birthday, with instructions to his parents to invest it for him and not even tell him about it until he turned 21. That boy is now 20 years old and he doesn't know that at this point he has approximately $20,000 dollars (what that investment has so far grown into). Next year, he turns 21 and can claim it all, if he wants. HOWEVER, if he's really smart and decides to simply keep that money until he retires (an unlikely choice, but just imagine if he did), at age 62, that money would have grown to be something in the neighborhood of $10,000,000! And all THAT from only one one-thousand-dollar investment begun on the day he was born. THAT'S the advantage of compound interest and starting early, VERY early!

I think of knowledge as working on a basis of synthesis; just as the two diverse elements of hydrogen atoms and oxygen atoms combine together to synthesize a new substance, water, so do diverse elements of knowledge combine together to synthesize new knowledge. So that's what I think of as the "compound interest" element of knowledge--the synthesis of various discrete elements of knowledge that compound against each other. Now apply that to "starting early". And I started reading very, very early, and never let up.

I have to admit that I have to laugh when stupid and lazy people (who don't understand, for example, a simple logical argument that goes against the grain of some propoganda that they received) accuse me of being "stupid" or "unintelligent". They can't even imagine.

What goes on in the minds of such people can sometimes give me apoplexy. And it is horribly frustrating to have no way to counteract all that, it is such a tsunami of ignorance and intellectual failure that I fear for the existence of ALL truth. It seems that we really are on the verge of another very serious Dark Ages, one much worse than any we have ever had before, and this time that is apt to be global in extent. It is that IGNORANCE that could very well spell the end of all of us, not some political cypher like global warming, heavily propogandized by a POLITICIAN (gee, we all know how concerned and honest THEY are!).

Earlier today, I was glancing through my e-mail and saw that Roger Ebert's latest movie reviews had come out. While my interest in the mass-media of movies has been severely curtailed recently, every once in a while I glance to see if something interesting has managed to be made. I see that Ebert has reviewed some new movie about polar bears, called Arctic Tale. That one might be cute...but oh no, polar bears, there's bound to be something evidentiary about global warming in there, and sure enough, I read this line by Ebert in his review: "The documentary studies polar bears and walruses in the Arctic, as global warming raises temperatures and changes the way they have done business since time immemorial."

Since "time immemorial"? It was all I could do to keep from shouting at the computer screen. Ebert doesn't even offer a way to respond, not even an impotent "comments" section (which would do nothing but garner for me several weeks of hate mail from all the true believers--"it's a CONSENSUS!" they all scream, as if scientists even had a consensus on something important, such as what kind of foods make you fat!). Since "time immemorial"? You see, the party line on global warming is that right now the Earth is WARMER than it has ever been in its entire history, and all this is because of the carbon dioxide emissions of industrial countries and selfish western people who want to drive their SUVs, and presumably this warming is going to continue getting worse according the projections of a precipitously steep upwardly climbing curve, and unless humans REDUCE carbon emissions by 80%, all life on the planet will be destroyed.

Wow, how horrible! And this "truth" is branded "inconvenient." I'll say it's "inconvenient"!

However, what that really is is an "untruth".

This is where reading comes in, and the ability to synthesize understanding. I find that even the simplest WORDS can tell you a whole story, you don't even have to read more than that if you can think a little bit about what the words are telling you. Here's one of those words: "Greenland." What, or where, is "Greenland"? Greenland is a totally frozen-over, very large island in the northern reaches of the planet. Okay, so if it is totally frozen-over, completely covered in ice from one end to the other, why on earth did they call it "Greenland"? Was that some kind of ironic joke? Well, no, it was named that by the Scandinavian explorers who first were able to SAIL on over there, and who then later colonized it. They named it "Greenland," because it was, well, GREEN! It was lush and fertile and beautiful and there were sailors who were very excited about all that available vacant land there for the taking, so they decided to move there.

Why was currently-frozen-over Greenland green and habitable when the Scandinavian explorers first discovered it? Because the Earth was much WARMER then than it is today. Wow that's very important! The Earth was so much warmer then than it is today, enough for Greenland to be green and habitable, and yet the Earth wasn't destroyed! It looks like maybe we won't have to go back to the Stone Ages after all in order to save the Earth.

Other place names tell a similar story--even street names in London. There are many, many "Vine"-oriented names in London, going back to a time when the London area actually had vineyards. England doesn't have a wine industry now, it isn't the climate for it. But it was once upon a time. These vineyard names apparently date back from a period called "The Medieval Warming Period," which was also the time when all those gorgeous cathedrals were being built in Europe. It was a time of great wealth and leisure, because all that warmer climate made for a stronger and more abundant agricultural economy.

It is projected by some scientists that if our Earth once again achieved the same warmth of climate as the planet had during the Medieval Warming Period, then our Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway would be open for shipping all year around instead of freezing over in winter. This would do very much for the economies of our midwestern agricultural states and for all the Canadian cities along this route, and might even revitalize America's industrial might, because many foundry cities also lie along this route. Such warming would do wonders for Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Vermont, Maine, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec. Think what this would mean to the fortunes of Duluth, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Detroit and Windsor, Buffalo, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City.

Actually, that economic value would spread farther than just the areas I mentioned. While all the exportable grain output from the breadbasket states and iron and other minerals from Minnesota could now be shipped world-wide all year around through that "rails to the Great Lakes, by Laker Tankers to the rest of the world" transportation corridor, also included in that economic growth would be coal from Alabama and well, anything from the upper 2/3s, central 1/3 of the nation that could efficiency utilize this newly-opened up and expanded transportation corridor.

Another plus to the melting ice would be the opening up of the Northwest Passage, where the costs of commerce would lessen significantly due to not having to ship material through the Panama Canal, or else all the way down around the bottom of South America which the newer cargo ships that are wider than the Panama Canal can carry currently have to do. This would not only benefit the Seattle and Vancouver areas, but also Alaska, Japan, China, and for Russia, would open up the currently frozen, but phenomenally rich-in-resources Siberia. And NONE of this is detrimental to the Earth, because it has been that warm BEFORE. "Time immemorial?" How far back does Ebert's calendar go? Not very far back, apparently, and his personal library doesn't even include a geographic list of place names. And this man is supposed to be a WRITER! (Pesonally, I don't believe you deserve a wide public forum if you aren't smart enough to spew anything but lies.)

Words--real, honest, meaningful, and true words are the ticket...and books are full of them. They have within their mysterious shapes and meanings more answers than you think. Words, similar to ancient wise-people's tales, have filtered human wisdom down through the charcoal sands of time. What is left is pure, valuable, empowering, and liberating. Turn off the dumb-box of TV, stop reading the gutter press for the vicarious-living masses, pull a serious book off the shelf, open up your mind, and start synthesizing for yourself some REAL knowledge. Then you can break the chains of your slavehood and find that TRUTH is anything but "inconvenient--for you, it will be life, itself.

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