Monthly Archives: April 2014

Getting Over Oneself For A Greater Good (or at least an existential indifference that is universally admired by cynics)

The most important part of being a good, mature person is to finally get over yourself. I think this is the biggest challenge particularly to intellectual people (like many here) who put more effort into their ideology than they do into their fashion (like everyone here). I noticed that many of my friends who have been lifelong apolitical & un-ideological have a much easier time of being good people without any particular principled stance.

People get way too many kinks in their proverbial rope after years steeped in ideology. Of course, the benefits of intellectual pursuit of abstract thought are innumerable, but without taking time to untwist your knots once in a while, you are apt to become un-likeable to a great number of people. Nobody needs the self-righteous in the corner cutting them down for their particular brand of bliss.

I have some of those guys in my Facebook feed where, to them, some political/religious/social cause is a life or death affair. And you sure as hell better not go in there and make an opposing comment or you’re liable to get deleted or cold shouldered, liable to get ganged up on by a pack of mad ideologues. They think it is still somehow impressive to be so principled, so righteous. I dare confess that perhaps I am sometimes guilty of this but I will say that I am not the last person in the thread to extend the olive branch when arguments present themselves.

But the most righteous men are the ones who got over themselves a long time ago, and I have been trying to model myself after a few of these characters who I am convinced could sit down and have good, meaningful conversations at a circular table with the Taliban or the Aryan Brotherhood.

… And isn’t it that when we picture Jesus Christ or the Buddha, we picture such a person? Somehow I feel Christ to be the type drawn like a magnet towards the worst extremities of societies out of both curiosity and a desire to straighten out the crooked. Of course, we are not men and women who can make a violent extremist reform after a few verses of poetic dialog, but certainly we must have some self-confidence as to theoretically plant a seed for positive change or at least nourish the ones for positive change that lurk in the heart of all of us who are the Beloved of God…

And maybe we can be even bigger & badder than this and approach the topic with the assumption that maybe nothing needs to change. Maybe these people are already grounded and moving towards a positive goal — a goal that we might not recognize or agree with, but maybe, just maybe, we don’t have it all figured out ourselves. Maybe these people, however different and queer they may appear to be, even are included in some special manifestation…  Boy, get your head around that! Maybe even the dirty isn’t dirty, and maybe it is just something that we cannot recognize as clean; maybe something greater is served by a mysterious means… Maybe the one thing holding these people together and keeping them from a more horrible existence is this Third World ideology or this prison gang.

Either way, maybe it isn’t our business to entangle ourselves in another spider’s web or play Judge & Jury to a court case we haven’t sat the whole way through. Especially we should not do this if it interferes with the good.

This is overcoming oneself entirely when we dismiss even the idea of being judgmental to the Other, perhaps; to finally just have a toast with the enemy and see how much we can gain through a tentative few hours as friends instead of foes.  To be able to stop seeing the enemy as the enemy, even if it is just for a few hours… That speaks well. To have no enemies? That speaks volumes of good.

I think it was said that one ought to do business like strangers but live like brothers. And perhaps such a stance applies to ideology as well. We do not have to let our religious & political differences be an eternal thorn in the side. When basic goodness & ideology come in conflict, which is the first we should sacrifice?

Ideology is a mere interpretation of the Good; when ideology trumps Goodness we have lost any chance at achieving anything through said belief system.

Even if this doesn’t serve to convince perhaps we should realize that after a while doesn’t this all become a tad bit boring? Where is the Frenchiosity that we need? The spirit of the Existential Life… Where we can all smoke too many cigarettes and drink too much coffee in the morning, too much wine in the evening, hurting our health through a myriad of vices and rubbing shoulders with every manner of repugnant type of person because we can, can, can. (sadly, a Moulin Rouge reference) (even here).

Frenchiosity. It is existential, indifferent, adventurous, passionate, bored, arrogant, stale, dynamic; it is the bitter, black death-like coffee that spurs to life, the deep, red, vivacious wine that dulls; it is a series of vaguely contradictory qualities that lend themselves into a fashionable and unforgettable Careful Indifference Always Deferential To Ideals & Dismissive. It is a grave, structureless ritual… I am really not sure if this is right at all, but I saw it in the sixties and seventies french films, and if this really isn’t what “Frenchiosity” is, I do not care to correct myself or “Know” the real Frenchiosity. That is far less real to me than the movies that I saw, and that is far less real to me than the abstract ideal, and it would be far less meaningless. To me, This has to be Frenchiosity, and without this interpretation of it all those films are wasted hours.

Even if we don’t want to be good — at least we can be indifferent and through indifference express that famous Parisian arrogance the world has come to hate yet envy (and perhaps even envy and hate are connected). We can view it as all for naught… And then why bicker of an All that is Naught? And why not recognize that in a twisted place there grows the Twisted Thing, and to spit and scorn and slap the muzzle of the Twisted Beast is a purposeless act that only betrays an inner spite & lack of self-control.

But what I would really advocate:

The greatest gesture we can make to benefit ourselves in the long run is to finally let go of those uptight principles and desires that prevent us from the ultimate expression of humanity: kindness & friendliness. 
I think it was the Buddhist monk who-will-not-be-named-because-he-ceases-to-care-for-any-permanent-attachment-to-a-singular-identity who said Kindness is my religion
At some point the only will that we should have left in us that transcends ideology is the Will to Compassion. 
And this means approaching anyone or anything, homeless & dirty or filthy in their luxurious riches; to approach the crooked and the straight; to approach the extreme and the normal, the super and the mundane… All with a similar kindness & Will to Compassion. 
In Compassion, we triumph over our own identity & we transcend the limitations that our mind has put on us through a developed ideology and we fulfill the Truest Good. That of Unconditional Wellwishing. Unconditional Love. Agape. Compassion. 
And so forget the Principles & Ideals we have whenever they come into conflict with Kindness, Calmness, Compassion & Love. 
There is no one too great a Sinner, too far gone to be bereft of Good Will. 
No matter how bad we think someone is… We cannot let them take away the most important part of our character: Compassion. 
And who are we to withhold the Medicine of Compassion & Care to a Sick Body? 
This is swallowing pride. 

Do Numbers Truly ‘Go On Forever?’

Math & science (& everything STEM) these days has quite the plucky confidence; that cocksure strutting accompanied with the dung eating grin that all the ladies like. One of the many things I was repeatedly told as a kid was that numbers go on forever… numbers stretch into INFINITY. 

This was a big idea as a kid and we just swallowed it… We simply accepted that any man-made creation that had some system to account for endless propagation could stretch into forever, and that we should recognize that as some great strength of mathematics & the physical sciences. It literally is prepared for the circumstance of infinity.

But this raises the question… Can it be said that something stretched into infinity if it actually hasn’t stretched into infinity?

If I were to tell you that I have a theory of human history as infinitely cyclical, and that it repeats itself over and over again, without end; that our history stretches into eternity with a sense of constant repetition… Now let’s just ignore whether or not history does repeat itself, but let’s just focus on the idea.. Could I get away with tell you that history will stretch into eternity?

It would immediately ask the question of whether or not humanity will actually live forever. Something that many of us are skeptical of. We’d dismiss it as some overly cocky gesture of a historian.

What if a fantasy or science fiction novelist told you that his fantasy realm stretched into infinity. No, not just the idea of infinity, but that it actually goes on forever. We’d all probably point out that he cannot, nor could people taking over after him, hope to extend something into the eternal…

But I recognize that, he says, I am only saying that the world itself is infinite. And therefore the number of characters within this place is infinite and stretches into eternity. We might never cover their stories, we might never imagine what they actually are… But these here characters in this here world stretch on into infinity!

I don’t know about you, but I would roll my eyes and say, yes, we get it… Your fantastical world is “eternal,” and the characters are “infinite.” I’d then try to steer the topic to something far more practical and relevant.

But this is exactly what mathematics and the physical sciences are insisting… Their system stretches on forever because they say it does. Just like the author, or the historian, who have only covered a finite number of details that are merely asserting that something is eternal, so, too, Mathematics is asserting numbers are eternal without actually reaching eternity.

Is there anything stopping numbers from reaching eternity? You could bring that up… Theoretically, they are eternal. Just like this fake writer’s fake world; just like this historian’s hypothesis of human history will stretch into eternity forever repeating itself.

But we would fault the historian and the writer by saying that he cannot extend his fake world or his historical theory into eternity because he is mortal and, moreover, the human race which would continue on his work for him is likewise mortal.

The same can be said to the mathematician calling numbers something that stretches into ‘eternity.’

You can sit there with your finger on the ‘9’ key , holding it down, and have all your friends holding down the ‘9’ key for tens of thousands of years… But you will die someday. And whatever number you create or give some name to is not going to have stretched into infinity. It will still be measurable.

Likewise, we could all try our best to stretch the author’s fantastical world into infinity; we could all try our best to stretch our world into infinity and thereby stretch history into infinity… But this is all imagination. This is all drivel that we would write off quickly.

But for whatever reason no one is quick to scoff at the idea that numbers are infinite.

This merely illustrates the bias we have towards STEM: we regard their asinine assertions as entrely valid (!!!) because, well, sure.. They have a ‘system’ set up behind it.

We will question the idea of the historian or the author who suggests it is infinite… We will question the religious person who likewise puts forward such a theory of something stretching into infinity without proof or demonstration…

But we let mathematics (and other scientific concepts) go on scot-free simply because of a bias.

Sure, there are people that would accept on face value as well that the historical or fantastical world concepts are ‘infinite,’ but the number is much fewer compared to those who accept, without question, the idea that numbers stretch on forever.

Food for thought.

All That Is Good Is Hard… And Why Shouldn’t It Be Hard?

We all understand that a lot of our lives is a hard struggle to attain a small amount of things. Waking up in the morning seems to particularly be a struggle to many — that moment that the body fights to overcome the desire to carry on rest, that much needed rest it craves. It maintains a most basic desire to remain comfortable and dormant, gaining its strength and power; but, always, we must pry ourselves up and move forward to face another day without ever there being many particular promises that it would be good.

We also learn in our youths that many of the indulgences that we participate in to achieve a sense of happiness are fleeting; easily these also become gross overindulgence, leading to a breakdown of our health and general stability. Excesses lead to their own brands of unhappiness. Excesses lead to a nasty imbalance and the emotions become a rapidly shifting kaleidoscope of chaotic interaction.

What were these overindulgences then, but weak attempts to overcome our hard lives with some interesting interruptions of the monotony? So fleeting. But we have come past that and we come to a truer understanding…

“Hard is the good.” – Plato. It is hard to be good; it is hard to do good. It is hard to choose the moral action when a thousand easy outs face us all. It is easy to achieve less… it is easy to avoid the risks associated with striving for the highest and settling for the lowest.

But why shouldn’t the good be hard?

For as we strive to accomplish hard things we become better people through the discipline and appreciation that it imbues on us. So instead of criticizing a system that is hard sometimes we ought to criticize the system that is easy.

On first glance this may appeal to the anti-welfare state conservative, and it should rightfully so because no one should earn an income doing nothing. But, it should also appeal to the enviornmentalist who wishes to see man minimize his impact on the environment.

We should minimize our impact and live off of the land in a way that is a bit harder but is supremely superior.

We should be ready to trade in our Middle Class lives for far less conspicuous consumption and closer living to nature; and likewise we should trade in our urban ease and privilege for a more stark and rural existence. We should be ready to live by the sweat of the brow.

And then, after a good day’s labor, we can look back at all that we did and see the physical products we made and utter all that is good is hard.

And it is also here that a true happiness is felt: affection and kinship with mother nature and pride in our own labors. And it is a happiness that can accompany a man far further than a lot would think.

And that is why our labors should be honest and directed towards bringing ourselves closer to nature, to our inner selves and to other people. Perhaps even in that order.

All that is good should be hard so that we do not grow lazy; it is out of our lethargy that grows a depression, a weakness. It is out of this natural inactivity that the body is plagued…

It should be hard. It should be hard because it has to be ethical, it has to be beneficial; it has to be done honestly. It should not be hard because of an artificial economic or political structure imposed by man but because the nature of achieving the good is hard. 

Former Ms. International (Japan) Supports Plight Of Comfort Women

Perhaps one of the most difficult topics for anyone in Korea (or Japan) is the issue of the 위안부 (commonly referred to as ‘comfort women’ in the West; the Korean word translates roughly into Pleasure Division) and now former Miss International Ikumi Yoshimatsu of Japan is speaking out and saying that she believes that the infamous ‘Comfort Women’ were, in fact, victimized and deserve apology.

I could find no coverage of this in English so below is the original Korean and the translation:

2012년 미스 인터내셔널 우승자인 일본인 요시마쓰 이쿠미(吉松育美·26)가 미국 라디오 방송프로그램에서 일본군 위안부 문제에 대해 ‘소신발언’을 한 사실이 알려져 화제다. 하지만 요시마쓰는 이 때문에 자국의 우익 네티즌들에게 뭇매를 맞았다.

The 2012 Ms. International winner, Ikumi Yoshimatsu, has revealed on an American radio broadcast her opinion on the issue of comfort women. She is also taking a beating from right wing ‘netizens.’

9일 일본 인터넷 뉴스사이트인 ‘제이 캐스트(J-CAST)’에 따르면 요시마쓰는 지난달 29일 CBS 라디오 방송의 대담 프로그램에 나와 “일본인 우익들 사이에서 ‘위안부는 매춘부이기 때문에 사과할 필요가 없다’는 의견도 나오고 있지만 생존 위안부의 증언을 들어보면 그렇지 않다는 의견도 있다”며 “일본인으로서 이런 발언(위안부에 대해 사과할 필요가 없다는 발언)은 부끄럽다”고 말했다.

On the 9th\ Japanese internet news site ‘J-Cast’ reported that Yoshimatsu appeared on CBS radio last month on the 29th and said the “Japanese right wing says that the Comfort Women were [hired] prostitutes so there is no reason to apologize’ however she feels that after hearing the testimony of Comfort Women survivors that this was not the case and that “she is embarrassed by the statement [that there needs to be no apology towards comfort women].”

영어로 대담한 그는 또 “(위안부 피해자들에 대한) 사과가 ‘문제’로 여겨지는 데 대해서도 분노를 느낀다”고 덧붙였다.

She also said in English that “considering the apology to the victimized comfort women as a ‘problem'” makes her “feel great anger.”

그러나 요시마쓰의 발언이 일본어로 번역돼 일본 네티즌들에게 알려지자 그에 대한 반발의 목소리가 터져 나왔다고.

After the interview the content was eventually translated into Japanese and is causing quite a stir among internet users.

이에 요시마쓰는 지난 6일 페이스북에 “공부가 부족하고 영어 인터뷰에서 언어 능력 부족 문제도 있어 여러분에게 큰 혼란과 오해를 불러 일으킨 데 대해 사과한다”는 글을 올렸다.그러면서 그는 “위안부 여성들의 삶,그런 상황에 놓일 수밖에 없었던 여성들이 있었다는 데 대해 슬픔을 느끼고 있다”고 해 소신을 완전히 꺾지는 않았다.

Yoshimatsu expressed on her facebook page on the 6th that “due to my lack of study there were issues with her English ability which may have created some confusion and misunderstandings for which I apologize.” She also want on to say that, while there’s that, “as the women of the comfort divisions were put into such a position without any recourse she feels a great sadness.”

서울 신문

For those who might be unfamiliar with situation, in the end she recanted to what amounts to the general position of any right wing Japanese: that perhaps there were issues of women being sold against their will or resorting to it out of some great poverty, which is regrettable, but there is really no need for an apology simply because they were functionaries within a contracted service.

It is said in debates throughout the internet that there is evidence that the comfort women were recruited specifically for the task. The wikipedia also notes that a surprising amount of the Japanese comfort women were even Japanese and offers up recruitment posters used in the process in various languages. There is even the suggestion that the Comfort Division started essentially in an effort to curb the amount of rapes that were happening

I am unsure about specific evidence of women being forcibly enlisted into it. I did hear a story from a Korean woman that she was sold into it against her will by her father, and this was the most dramatic account that I have heard.

Regardless, it was an incredibly ‘dark time’ in history but, with that said, it is also a time when the average woman in Asia (and in many other places) had few rights or recourses if they were from an impoverished background. Prostitution was simply a reality — and it remains a grave reality for millions. We now come to the idea of whether or not this was particularly grosser, particularly graver, particularly worse than any of the other things happening around that period and the question of how forced were they.

There are even accusations (denied by the US) that comfort women were set up for Soldiers that arrived in 1945 (accusations, and denials).

The first link of the two, on the second page, provides a good quotation which perhaps best reflects the US knowledge of the comfort women at that time:

A Dec. 6, 1945, memorandum from Lt. Col. Hugh McDonald, a senior officer with the Public Health and Welfare Division of the occupation’s General Headquarters, shows U.S. occupation forces were aware the Japanese comfort women were often coerced.

“The girl is impressed into contracting by the desperate financial straits of her parents and their urging, occasionally supplemented by her willingness to make such a sacrifice to help her family,” he wrote. “It is the belief of our informants, however, that in urban districts the practice of enslaving girls, while much less prevalent than in the past, still exists.”

It appears that there might have been some circumstances of actual enslavement…  But I am unsure of the evidence, and considering the sheer desperation of most people at that time, well, we are talking about a sour situation for everyone.

Long story short: it was probably terrible for all the women involved, but they also probably did not have such a bright future otherwise elsewhere. It is a lose-lose situation.

Is it insulting to say that? I am unsure. Perhaps it is just stressing the plight of women in general of that time period and the desperation of poverty. Perhaps enough time has been spent lamenting very specific crimes but little time is spent in consideration of the day-to-day horror that was afforded by war time women of Asia (and beyond) in WWII. And, perhaps, the most difficult reality for us to accept is the one in which humans are so willing to subject their fellow beings to horrific lifestyles for a bit of profit, and how through ignorance some even accepted such a pittance of a life out of the notion of helping their family.

I do not like dwelling on these topics because it shows the grave darkness that lurks within human society; and as we are human just like them, part of this darkness lurks inside ourselves.