Server

I applied for a server position at this new restaurant in DC and I started my training yesterday. After the 4 hour training was over, my attitude towards working in restaurants was only reaffirmed. The skills acquired in food service are different than the skills that I would like to acquire and therefore, I have decided to find employment in another field.

This experience has made me realize that I need to be challenged intellectually in an academic way. I do not want to say that being a good server does not require intellect, but rather that the challenges involved with it are not academic. Although I understand that I need money to live, I am not to the extent where I am starving and so it is worth it for me to wait for a better opportunity.

I accept the possibility that I will not make as much money doing something else, but I would rather be poorer and do something academically challenging.

Climate Change and Conflict

Everyone is familiar with certain effects of climate change; we all know that the world is getting warmer, that extreme weather is becoming more frequent, and that sea levels are rising. These are all direct results from climate change and certainly pose a great threat to mankind, but the holistic understanding of climate change and its effects is not well known, especially by people in the West.

One aspect that I would like to focus on here is the role climate change plays in conflict. There is a book called Forecast by Stephan Faris that explains the consequences of climate change throughout the world, and in the first chapter, the author describes the conflict in Darfur.

The fighting in Darfur is usually described as racially motivated, pitting mounted Arabs against black rebels and civilians. But the distinction between “Arab” and “black African” in Darfur is defined more by lifestyle than by any physical difference: Arabs are generally herders, Africans typically farmers. The two groups are not racially distinct. Both are predominantly Muslim. The fault lines have their origins in another distinction, between settled farmers and nomadic herders fighting over failing lands.

Prior to reading this book, I thought the conflict in Darfur started because of religion, little did I know that it was due to forced migration. One would not think that climate change plays a significant role in conflict, but once a little information is known, it is very difficult not to see the connection. Climate change should not only be understood as rising temperatures, but also as forced migration, violence, and rape. I will leave off with an excerpt of Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy in which he explains two different types of war.

One is waged because of the ambitions of Princes or of a Republic that seek to extend their Empire, such as were the wars that Alexander the Great waged, and those that the Romans waged, and those which one power wages against another. While these wars are dangerous, they never drive all the inhabitants out of a province, but the obedience of the people is enough for the conqueror, and most of the time he leaves them to live with their laws, and always with their homes and possessions. The other kind of war is when an entire people with all their families are taken away from a place, necessitated either by famine or by war, and goes to seek a new seat in a new province, not in order to seek dominion over them as those others above, but to possess it absolutely; and to drive out or kill its old inhabitants. This kind of war is most cruel and most frightful.

Global Warming Conspiracy

Waiting in line for the senate hearing today, I overheard a conversation between two men about global warming. One was trying to convince the other that global warming was a hoax, meaning either that global warming was not anthropogenic or that there was no warming in general. Although, I personally support the expression of different ideas, I believe the global warming conspiracy is only distracting us from what we need to get done.

In order to catalyze imperative action, I would like to draw the conclusion that our efforts to mitigate climate change should not be altered even if global warming were a hoax. I shall explain how I reached this conclusion by drawing out the logic between universally accepted statements.

Before I can explain the logic, I need to make clear that there seems to be two aspects in regards to what actions the United States should take: one is transitioning to renewable energy and the other is giving reparations to developing countries that are suffering from climate change.

Regarding the first aspect, we all agree that burning fossil fuels is dirty; there is no debate that coal plants release other substances such as mercury and arsenic. No one wants these substances in their bodies, therefore, everyone should agree that the United States should transition to renewable energy. Furthermore, fossil fuels are limited so we have to transition to renewables sooner or later.

The second aspect should also not be affected. Even if we were not responsible for climate change, there is no doubt that developing countries are suffering from it. Do we not have the responsibility to help others in need? If I see someone drowning, shouldn't I help save this person even though I wasn't responsible for this person being in that situation? I think any reasonable person would agree that I should help. The same moral and logic applies for assisting developing countries adapt to climate change.

Therefore, in conclusion, whether you believe in global warming or not, you should be in favor of renewable energy and helping developing countries.

DC and Copenhagen

My current life in DC can only be described as unstable; I still have not found permanent accommodations nor another part-time job. And even though my life has been generally unstable for the past few years, it has never been so unsure as it is now. Hence, my mind is currently occupied with these everyday worries.

However cluttered my thoughts are and however frustrated I am about my life, my problems are insignificant in comparison to the global issues currently being addressed in Copenhagen. Maldives, a country threatened to be submerged under water, sent a 15 year old boy as its climate ambassador to remind all of us that climate change is a problem in the immediate future. This 15 year old ambassador represents both his country as well as our future generations who need our help. It depresses me to understand that the people who are suffering the most from climate change are the ones who contributed the least to it.

The developed world owes a debt to third world countries which it should pay back by reducing its pollution and by helping those suffering adapt to climate change. I can see no moral or logical argument against this conclusion.

Noam Chomsky

Since I have not dedicated a composition solely to express my respect for Noam Chomsky, my writings have been incomplete, and since today is his 81st birthday, I believe now would be a good time to write one.

I do not remember specifically when I was first introduced to Chomsky, but I assume it was during my high school years. I believe it was my sister who recommended one of his books to me, Manufacturing Consent if I remember correctly. Unfortunately, during that time, I was not too interested in learning and so I did not read the book.

I was re-introduced to Chomsky during my 2nd year of university by my politics professor, Michael Urban. It was then that I decided to start researching about him and reading his material. Soon after watching interviews of him on the internet, I became completely fascinated about his philosophies on politics and society. His logic and sense of morality enlightened me to the extent where I dedicate much of my mental development to him.

I thank Noam Chomsky for all that he as done and I hope in the future that I will have the opportunity to meet him.

Custom and Individual Thought

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists on adapting the world to himself; therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
- George Bernard Shaw

"The key to success is to risk thinking unconventional thoughts. Convention is the enemy of progress. If you go down just one corridor of thought you never get to see what’s in the rooms leading off it."
- Trevor Baylis

"Every revolution was first a thought in one man’s mind."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We must care to think about the unthinkable things, because when things become unthinkable, thinking stops and action becomes mindless."
- James Fulbright

"Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, no matter what name it is called."
- John Stuart Mill

"The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement."
- John Stuart Mill

"The fatal tendency of mankind to leave off thinking of a thing when it is no longer doubtful, is the cause of half their errors."
- John Stuart Mill

Safe Drinking Water

I just watched a documentary yesterday called FLOW - For the Love of Water. It was about how billions of impoverished people do not have access to safe drinking water and how multinational water corporations are only helping the rich. The documentary reminded me of how important safe drinking water is and how much I take it for granted. Noam Chomsky mentioned in one of his interviews that many treatable diseases could be eliminated with clean drinking water, costing pennies a day from rich countries.

The documentary also reminded me of the Lifesaver bottle which is a hand held filter that is supposed to turn filthy water into sterile drinking water. I first encountered this filter watching a TED talk and I remember being amazed at human ingenuity. I wish I could produce some sort of product that could save millions of lives. So far, I can only think, read and write, nothing in comparison to the person who designed the Lifesaver bottle. Check it out at www.lifesaversystems.com.

Some facts about access to safe drinking water from www.water.org:
  • 3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease.
  • 43% of water-related deaths are due to diarrhea.
  • 84% of water-related deaths are in children ages 0 – 14.
  • 98% of water-related deaths occur in the developing world. 
  • The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.

Extension of Human Life

The Extension of Human Life Indefinitely and its Effects

Introduction

This discourse was initially prompted by my discovery of Aubrey de Grey who is a scientist working on a treatment to extend human life indefinitely. He spends some time in interviews explaining the numerous criticisms he receives (which is quite substantial I can only imagine for someone who is dedicated to such a controversial cause) and presenting his arguments to defend his research. His defenses were extremely interesting to me and during my analysis of them, I decided to write my own opinion on the matter.

I would first like to state that my discourse is not holistic; it consists of only the factors that I have thought of, excluding most of the ideas of Aubrey de Grey that I have heard, trying to keep the considerations in this essay as original to me and to him as possible. Furthermore, I intentionally did not include the subject of economics as I lack a thorough understanding of it that it deserves, if it is to be written about. This discourse is just one piece of the large puzzle which is needed in the holistic debate of the extension of human life and its effects.

The first part of this composition will consist of the question of man's nature and his morality. The point of this first section is to understand the concept of anti-aging treatment in the context of existing treatments to extend human life; this section will have it's own conclusion based solely in the context in which it is analyzed. In other words, I would like to use the context of existing treatments to show that we generally agree that postponing death is natural and moral.

The second part of this composition will consist of the analysis of the effects of extending human life indefinitely. The reason why I separated these two sections is because they take different things into consideration. The former takes into consideration general accepted morality while the latter takes into consideration concrete effects, a more utilitarian approach. In my opinion, the latter should ultimately have more weight in determining whether or not this treatment should exist.

Nature and Morality

When analyzing a new subject such as the anti-aging treatment, I find it helpful to connect it with similar subjects which are not debatable. In this case, treating disease or preventing unnecessary death would fit the criteria.

Do we find treating disease to be natural? The answer seems to be yes; it only seems natural that man would use his superior intellect to further his life, taking into consideration that all living creatures tend to do the same to their respective capacities. I see no difference between receiving treatment for a disease and aging; both cause unnecessary death and suffering.

This leads me directly to the second topic of this section, which is morality.

Do we find treating disease to be moral? I think we do. I would definitely find it immoral to allow suffering to continue while having the power to stop it. How is extending human life through anti-aging treatment any different? I do not believe it is and therefore, I conclude that extending human life indefinitely is moral.

The next step that needs to be taken is to discuss if extending life is moral given the context. In other words, are relieving pain and extending life good things once we take into consideration their positive and negative effects? Since I have already made the case that extending life through the anti-aging treatment is a moral thing, I would now like to mostly consider the negative effects it might have because ultimately, what determines the immorality of this treatment is the strength of the negative effects. In other words, if the negative effects do not outweigh the initial good of relieving pain and extending life, then the treatment should be developed. I would analyze other positive effects as well, but I do not find it necessary to take that next step because I do not believe the negative effects outweigh the initial good.

Effects

This section will unfortunately not be as structured as the previous; it would be more of a short list of the most obvious effects I think an anti-aging treatment will have.

I. Over Population
The most obvious negative effect this treatment could have is over population. This is, of course, a very legitimate concern for people who would like to take care of the planet and future generations. Seeing how humans are already destroying the planet and seeing how the world population is only growing, one would conclude that an anti-aging treatment would exacerbate this problem. I am not so convinced of this argument to the extent where I think we should not even try to develop the treatment.

The first part of the argument which is not too convincing is the possibility of overpopulation. The fact is that the problem of overpopulation is not about numbers, the problem is the fact that we're destroying the planet. For example, if one were to take the biomass of ants and put it in one hand, and then the biomass of humans on the other, one would realize that the biomass of ants would actually weigh more. However, ants do not create waste, they do not destroy the environment so it is not a problem that they are so many. In other words, the problem is not that we are too many, the problem is that we are too stupid. If humans were to live in a sustainable way, the world could actually support many more people.

Another factor to take into consideration is the status of women. As the status of women rises, fertility rates tend to drop. In fact, many countries in western Europe have extremely low birth rates to the point where it is not sustainable.

Therefore, I am not certain of how likely it is for our world to be over populated taking into consideration new green technologies and the rising status of women. However, if there were to be this threat, treatment could just be discontinued. Also, I would like to point out that this treatment does not make humans immortal; people will still die, just not due to aging.

I (extended). Taking Care of the Environment
It is possible that humans will actually take better care of the environment because they themselves would be affected by the deterioration of it. I believe the reason why most people who can protect the environment don't is because it poses no immediate threat to their existence. Moreover, it poses no threat at all to the older generations because they will be dead before they will suffer from their misdoings. Thus, an anti-aging treatment could make humans more environmentally friendly. Although people still would not suffer from their mistakes immediately, it would nevertheless be something significant for them to consider.

II. Violence
Such a radical treatment would definitely cause some unrest. I do not think this treatment will cause wars, but I leave that as a possibility. I think it is more likely that it would cause domestic violence, particularly from religious fundamentalists. I think this subject will be treated similarly as abortion.

III. Good and Bad People Living Indefinitely
I think it is very difficult to imagine if the general good of mankind would benefit or suffer more from good and bad people living indefinitely. It will be helpful first to distinguish different types of bad people, since there are a variety of them. Imagine a pyramid hierarchy with the petty criminals in the bottom and the powerful tyrants in the top. I think it is most likely that the anti-aging treatment will have more effect the higher we look on the pyramid. Petty criminals would still get punished with probably higher jail sentences to adjust to the increase in lifespan. Violent criminals, such as gangsters, would also not be significantly effected due to the dangerous nature of their activities. In other words, they would more likely die before they could take advantage of the treatment. The most considerable effect would be on the powerful tyrants and others who belong in the same category, and seeing that they pose the most formidable threat, I am unable to conclude whether or not society at whole would benefit more or suffer more from good and bad people living indefinitely. One would hope that the good done by good people in general would outweigh the bad done by tyrants.

Final Note

There is one more concept that I would like to give some credit to before I end this essay and it is the instinct factor. However nonacademic and unprofessional this factor sounds, its legitimacy should not be underestimated. For many it is difficult to avoid having a negative initial feeling when hearing about this anti-aging treatment. Although many would not be able to explain this negative feeling and although this anti-aging therapy could be logically explained as something positive, many if not most people would still have a negative feeling towards it. I think there are two likely possibilities for this. One is that people are emotional animals that distinctly dislike what they are not familiar with. The other possibility is that this instinct is brought about from unexplainable and unforeseen negative effects that the subconscious mind realizes. Of course, if its caused by the former, it should be ignored, but if by the latter, we should proceed with caution. And because I am unable to discredit this instinct, I think it would be wise for us to take it into consideration.

In conclusion, I believe the negative effects of this treatment are not considerable enough to outweigh the initial good of relieving pain and extending life; therefore, Dr. de Grey has my support.

Power and Violence

I am currently reading Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy and I have come to an interesting chapter in which he describes three modes of expanding, the third of which, pertains to what I want to analyze.

The third mode is to get not partners but direct subjects, as did the Spartans and the Athenians. Of these three modes, the last is entirely useless, as was seen in the two republics written about above, which were not ruined otherwise than by having acquired dominion they could not keep. For taking care of governing cities by violence, especially those accustomed to living freely, is a difficult and laborious thing. If you are not armed and massive with arms, you can neither command nor rule them. To be like that it is necessary to get partners who aid you and make your city massive with people.

This reminds me of something Chomsky has previously mentioned. Chomsky has stated that it is becoming more and more difficult for states to use violence to control their populations because the masses do not tolerate it anymore. According to Machiavelli's opinion, ruling with violence is entirely useless and since Chomsky talks about recent history and Machiavelli ancient, maybe we can conclude that violence has never been a successful tool to control the masses, at least not for a long period of time.

Of course we have to take into consideration the different contexts that both intellectuals were discussing about. Machiavelli was writing about controlling inhabitants of conquered territory while Chomsky was talking about native populations (the former probably being more difficult due to the lack of sufficient arms for large territories). Nevertheless, I think an enlightening connection can be drawn that educates us a bit more about power and violence.

Living a Modest Life

I would like to spend sometime to explain why I plan on living a modest life and what a modest life specifically entails.

There are a couple of reasons why I believe in living modestly. The first and most obvious reason is because it is better for the environment. Our pursuit of owning more material things is the root cause of many environmental problems and until cradle to cradle is fully implemented, consumption will continue to have a negative impact on our environment. 

The second reason is considerably more complicated because it deals with my spirit. I do not want my material possessions to distract me from connecting my spirit with those who are impoverished. It is somewhat difficult to explain this reason clearly, but it suffices to say that if I were to live a lavish lifestyle, my mind would be occupied with less important things and that would, I believe, lead me away from being in spirit with those who suffer.

Now, I would like to give some idea to what living a modest life specifically entails. Here are the criteria:

no house
no car (unless C2C)
no more than 50,000 dollars equivalent of yearly income
no more clothes than what can fit into a suitcase

These criteria are subject to change when necessity calls for it, e.g. if I have a family, and if I decide to change my criteria, I will make my reasons clear at that time. However, if there is a time when I exceed my set limits when necessity does not call for it, I would like my close friends to assist me in correcting my misdoings.

Somali Pirates

I would like to dedicate some time to discuss the media and specifically about an article that was published on September 30, 2008 titled, “Somali Pirates Tell Their Side – They Want Only Money”.

One could infer from the title itself that most news articles about the Somali pirates do not contain their side of the story, which by default would make them not objective. If this were the case, which I think it is, then the media would have strayed so far away from its original purpose that it has to distinguish certain articles as being fair.

That is unacceptable.

Furthermore, the lack of objectivity is evident in the unawareness of the American public. Do most Americans know why the Somali pirates started to hijack ships?

According to the New York Times article, the Somali pirates started hijacking freighters because they wanted to stop illegal fishing and dumping in their waters, but since then have become corrupt.

Mohamed Osman Aden, a Somali diplomat in Kenya, states “It’s true that the pirates started to defend the fishing business. And illegal fishing is a real problem for us. But this does not justify these boys to now act like guardians. They are criminals. The world must help us crack down on them.”

This is, of course, just a small piece of the puzzle of what is the background to this topic, but it is significant; the American public should know about this, but they don't.

I criticize the media for not fulfilling its responsibility.

World Muslim Population

Muslims have been receiving overwhelmingly negative attention in the past years and I can only think that this has been brought about by Islamic fundamentalists and the War on Terror. It seems to me that the mainstream image of Muslims has been tarnished and I would like to contribute my opinion to this issue. It should be understood that extremists are always in the minority by definition and therefore, to accept this tarnished mainstream image of Muslims would be unfair and just simply inaccurate. Furthermore, the perception that Muslims are predominately in the Middle East is also false; only 20 percent of Muslims live there while 60 percent live in Asia, the highest concentration living in Indonesia as shown in the chart below.


JS Mill's Autobiography

I have just finished reading John Stuart Mill's autobiography and I feel as if he has died for the first time, because prior to reading it, I never felt that he was ever truly alive. His autobiography gave me the impression of his utmost honesty and righteousness, so much that it has now led to my increase of admiration and respect for him. I must admit that I have not read most of his other writings and it is very possible that I never will. However, of those that I have read, all have convinced me of his sense of philanthropy. And even though I never had the chance to know him personally, I will spread his name and his wisdom as if I had.

Here is an excerpt of his autobiography pertaining to his childhood education.

Most boys or youths who have had much knowledge drilled into them, have their mental capacities not strengthened, but over-laid by it. They are crammed with mere facts, and with the opinions or phrases of other people, and these are accepted as a substitute for the power to form opinions of their own: and thus the sons of eminent fathers, who have spared no pains in their education, so often grow up mere parroters of what they have learnt, incapable of using their minds except in the furrows traced for them. Mine, however, was not an education of cram. My father never permitted anything which I learnt to degenerate into a mere exercise of memory. He strove to make the understanding not only go along with every step of the teaching, but, if possible, precede it. Anything which could be found out by thinking I never was told, until I had exhausted my efforts to find it out for myself.

Last Day in Berlin

Today is my last day in Berlin and so far it has been memorable. At about 9:30, I met up with another person about C2C. He turned out to be an engineer who's going to start his own sustainability brand. The entire conversation took about a half an hour because he had to catch a flight.

One of the questions I asked him was how C2C could be improved. He said that he would like to see C2C become more open source. This was really interesting because I've heard a lot about this topic through my research. For the record, I still don't fully understand what that means. I have a feeling that it means that information would be more transparent. For example, EPEA has the information on what ingredients are C2C. If that list of approved ingredients were to be public knowledge, then the movement would be more open source, but then I don't know how they would make money.

As he was answering this question, he explained to me a couple of problems that they're currently facing. He told me that it takes a long time for companies to figure out what's in their products and I assume this is so because suppliers aren't easily convinced to open up their books. Another problem they encounter is stubbornness. Larger companies tend to be more stubborn in doing things the old way which, of course, is a problem because C2C requires that you redesign substantially.

Another question I asked him was the role of politics and how it could assist with the movement. He told me that the government shouldn't use punishments, but rather incentives and I assume he was referring to the policy towards companies. This makes sense and seems practical enough. I think an easy step that a government could take to contribute is to purchase C2C products.

In short, the experience was very enlightening and I'm happy to have met another person in the C2C movement. I couldn't have asked for a better last day in Berlin.

Visualizing Logic

I have recently realized my tendency to visualize my logic. It is a bit difficult to explain what I visualize because it appears differently every time. Sometimes my logic appears to me as blobs and sometimes it appears to me as common objects that I can find in my vicinity.

These visualizations are also interactive. I imagine myself moving the blobs around in a way that parallels my logic and I tend to use my hands to express these movements. From a third person perspective, I might seem like quite an odd individual when speaking.

Someone pointed out to me a few years ago that I express myself, to a large extent, with my hands. I never noticed it before and I think it might be a result of my visualization of logic. I do not know what to conclude from this realization however. I am not certain if this tool for logical thinking is positive, negative or just different.

In conclusion, I feel I should improve my visualizations somehow, maybe with some interactive computer software on a touch screen. I am actually quite curious to see the usefulness of such a program. It wouldn't have to be too complex; all I would need to do is to be able to make blobs, label them and move them around. I imagine this program would work best on a touch screen so that it could emulate my imagination as accurately as possible.

Chomsky Lecture

Text of lecture given at Nezahualcóyotl Hall, National Autonomous University of Mexico
September 21, 2009

In thinking about international affairs, it is useful to keep in mind several principles of considerable generality and import. The first is the maxim of Thucydides: the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must. It has an important corollary: every powerful state relies on specialists in apologetics, whose task is to show that what the strong do is noble and just, and if the weak suffer it is their fault. In the contemporary West, these specialists are called "intellectuals," and with only marginal exceptions, they fulfill their assigned task with skill and self-righteousness, however outlandish the claims, a practice that traces back to the origins of recorded history.

A second leading theme was expressed by Adam Smith. He was referring to England, the greatest power of his day, but his observations generalize. Smith observed that "the principal architects" of policy in England are the "merchants and manufacturers," and they make sure that their own interests are well served by policy, no matter how "grievous" the effect on others, including the people of England, but most severely those who suffer "the savage injustice of the Europeans" elsewhere. Smith was one of those rare figures who departed from the normal practice of depicting England as an angelic power, unique in world history, which was selflessly dedicating itself to the welfare of the barbarians. One telling illustration was John Stuart Mill, one of the most decent and intelligent of Western intellectuals. In a classic essay, he explained in these terms why England had to complete its conquest of India for the purest humanitarian ends. He wrote right at the time of England's worst atrocities in India, when the true end of the further conquest was to enable England to gain a monopoly of opium and to establish the most extraordinary narcotrafficking enterprise in world history, in order to force China with gunboats and poison to accept British manufactures, which China did not want.

Mill's oration is the cultural norm. Smith's maxim is the historical norm.
Today, the principal architects of policy are not "merchants and manufacturers," but rather financial institutions and multinational corporations. A sophisticated current version of Smith's maxim is the "investment theory of politics" developed by political economist Thomas Ferguson, which regards elections as occasions when groups of investors join together to control the state, by essentially buying the elections. It is a very good predictor of policy over a long period, as he has shown.

Moral Actions

"The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life."

- Einstein

My Quest

The trip to Venlo took about 11 hours – 10 hours on the bus and 1 hour on the train. I left at about 7:30 in the morning and arrived at about 6:30 in the evening. What was surprising to me was that the weather during the whole trip was the same, and I went straight across Germany. But it wasn't until I arrived that it started raining so it didn't give me a chance to see much of the city. I ended up waiting in front of a hotel for my host to pick me up.

That night I got to meet the really nice couple and their adorable 8 month old baby. I didn't end up chatting that much because it was already pretty late and I had that meeting with that guy in the morning who, by the way, wasn't the mayor, my mistake.

My meeting with the guy was set at 10, but he informed me that he would be in another meeting at that time so I would be received by his right hand man who turned out to be a 24 year old grad student. He was really nice and showed me a lot of the current C2C developments in Venlo. He first took me to this “Viewture Room” where they had information about future plans regarding C2C, but all of the information was in Dutch so it wasn't as fruitful as it could have been. The grad student wanted to show me this tool that he had been putting together and luckily there was a projector in the Viewture Room so I ended up having a power point presentation specifically for me.

The tool he designed was a software for architects to help determine how C2C their blueprints were. One would have to input all the relevant information of the planned structure e.g. the dimensions, what direction it's facing, the surroundings etc. It was actually quite enlightening and I can imagine it being very useful in the future.

After that he took me to another info center which was located in the center of the city. It had some more information about the renovations they have planned, but it was again all in Dutch so we didn't end up staying long. After 10 minutes of walking around in the city, we went to meet the guy who turned out to be the coordinator of C2C for Venlo. At first, I was really excited to meet him, I was smiling and being very optimistic, and I even said exactly what I wanted to say. He basically told me that if I wanted to help the C2C movement, I would have to be an entrepreneur; I would have to provide some service and find someone who would be willing to pay for it. That's when my smiles went away. Being an entrepreneur doesn't fit my character so I was saddened to hear his advice. He said that C2C is too early in its development to take on people who sit on the sidelines.

He told me that there was a group of companies that meet every month to figure out ways to implement C2C, but were not being very productive due to some conflicts. He said that they could use someone to help them get their act together obviously implying that it could be something that I could do. Unfortunately, the companies were not meeting during my stay in Venlo so if I were to take his advice, I would have to come back and probably move there before I could start contributing to the movement.

The meeting wasn't all negative, he ended up referring me to a person who organized a group of designers called the QreamTeam. I know, it's a pretty funny name. And although I had the information in my hands, I was reluctant to call him due to my fear of bothering strangers.

The meeting ended at about 1:30 and I went straight back to the house. I sat on the bed and thought for about 5 minutes. I looked at the information I had written down and ultimately made the phone call. The guy wasn't in Venlo at the time so he referred me to his colleague who was. I hung up the phone and immediately called his colleague. To my luck, his colleague picked up the phone and told me that I could come down right now and meet him. So I walked back downtown which took about 15 minutes and met the colleague who was the project leader of the designers. He gave me a really good vibe right when he greeted me.

He then introduced me to a couple of people and took me to a back room where they had a stockpile of random products. He showed me a few products that were C2C certified and then proceeded to explain to me his personal experience with the whole process. It wasn't all positive, but he did believe in the C2C philosophy.

I explained to him in the beginning that I was a person who was very passionate about C2C and who would like to learn as much as I could about it so that I could figure out a way to contribute. He was very informative during the whole meeting, but ultimately couldn't offer me anything which was understandable. However, he did refer me to another person who was a key player for C2C in the Netherlands, but the only thing was that his office was in a different city, Eindhoven. Not surprisingly, I was reluctant to go because of my lack of assertiveness, but I did gather up the strength to call the guy, which was good because it eventually led to my trip to Eindhoven.

A one way ticket to Eindhoven was about 9 euros and it took about 40 minutes to get there. I left the next morning to his office which was located at the International Center for Sustainable Excellence. The ICSE was a newly opened center that exhibited a variety of sustainable products and provided office space for sustainable companies. I'm still not sure exactly what the main purpose of the ICSE was, but it gave me a positive impression.

The guy himself also gave me a good impression; he was really nice, really cheerful. He basically acted as if everything in his life was going smoothly. I told him why I was there and he responded by telling me his personal story with C2C which was a bit long so I don't remember most of it, but through his personal story I could tell that he was a key player in the entire C2C movement. He, in the end, like the last 2 guys, could not offer me anything, but did refer to me another person. He printed out a few sheets of paper full of people in the C2C movement, but told me to contact this one guy who was head of personnel at the Environmental Protection and Encouragement Agency in Hamburg. The EPEA does all the materials assessment for C2C in Europe.

After the meeting, I decided to walk around the exhibition to take a look at the products. Most of the information was in Dutch again, but they did display a couple of products that I could touch. As I was reading the description of a product, a random man came up to me and explained what he was doing there. He told me that he founded a business community called City of Tomorrow which basically helps different companies work together to build a sustainable future. He said the mission statement was to place the expiration date of human existence on infinity. He further explained that the community would take a more holistic approach to build a sustainable future. The chat ended shortly because he had some family matters to attend to, but I got his card.

After I checked out all the products, I went straight home and stayed in bed for the rest of the day. The next day was my first and only day to relax. I spent a lot of time contemplating what happened and what my next move should be. I joined the family for a pleasant dinner and got to know them better. At about 9, I went back upstairs and contemplated some more and then went to sleep.

Now that my trip is over, I feel as if I've grown up just a bit more. This trip really pushed my limits and I'm glad it did. I overcame the obstacles easier than I expected and I think I have my experience working on the election to thank for that. I think my next stop will be Hamburg, maybe in a couple of weeks or so.

So it seems that I'm going to stay in Berlin a bit longer, but how much longer, who knows? Now, I have to figure out what the best way is for me to extend my visa.

To conclude, I want to point out that all the people who I spoke to gave me the impression that most of the people in the C2C movement are businessmen and not environmentalists. Even though this isn't inherently a bad thing, I don't think it's ideal. I felt as if I were one of the very few who actually wanted to save the world.

Why I Paint My Nails

Many have posed this question to me and I have hitherto been unable to succinctly express my philosophy. Moreover, my previous explanations have been so distinct from one another that a third party might deem them unrelated. Here is my current attempt to explain why.

There are two reasons why I paint my nails. The first reason is because I want to express my discontent with blind obedience. The acceptance of this custom of painting nails is an insignificant but symbolic example of blind obedience. The second reason is so that people ask me, which in turn, provides me with an opportunity to share my beliefs.

Destiny

As I sit here in front of my computer, I tell myself that everything will be alright, trying to comfort my mind from the mysterious future. I don't know what will happen and it makes me uneasy, but I need to believe that I will do what I'm meant to do. I believe in destiny, or I want to believe in it, I'm not sure which. I usually don't say that I'm a man of faith, but does believing in fate mean that I am? Maybe not, I don't think God has a plan for me. I think I gave myself a purpose and because I created it, I have a destiny.

Chasing My Dream

There is a city in the Netherlands called Venlo that's supposedly the first city to implement Cradle to Cradle (or at least trying to). I contacted their mayor to ask if they were offering any internships. This was his response:

Thank you for your e-mail request. I am not sure if we can offer you anything, however I am interested in your ambitions and would like to find out a little bit more about you and see if anything may arise from that. If that agrees with you, I suggest you make an appointment to come and see me in Venlo and we'll take it from there.

At first I responded by saying that it was inconvenient for me to travel to Venlo just for an interview, but now I'm considering it. I asked him if he would be willing to have an interview over the phone but he didn't respond after a few days so I took it as his unwillingness. So here's the email I just sent him today.

I assume that your lack of response means that you are unwilling to have a interview over the phone.
 

To be honest with you, there is nothing else I would rather do than work on C2C. And if traveling to Venlo to meet you is the only chance I have of doing so, then I will do it. Let me try to figure out how I will get there and then I'll make an appointment with you. Is that ok?

This is very important to me.


All I have to do now is to confirm an appointment with the mayor and figure out all the logistics.

It's difficult to explain what I'm feeling currently; it seems to be a mixture of nervousness, excitement and desperation. Everyone has been telling me to go meet the mayor and I think I should as well, but I'm just afraid of being denied the opportunity after putting in all the effort of going there. Nevertheless, I think I should take the chance because if I go, I would literally be chasing after my dream and I can't think of any other way I would rather live my life.

A Chain of New Experiences

Last week, I traveled to Denmark with three of my friends because one of their families owns a farm there and I thought it would be an interesting experience. I was right. I have to call last week's experience “A Chain of New Experiences”, if I were to give it a name that is. The first new thing I experienced was hitchhiking 400 km. Because it was the four of us, we split up into two teams and then decided to have a race to see who would arrive in Denmark first. Some of it was how I imagined and some of it wasn't. We did stand on the side of the road with our thumbs up, but we also went to gas stations to ask people to give us a ride when they were filling up their tanks. Well, I should say Tau asked people at gas stations; I still have the problem of approaching strangers in those kind of situations. Hitchhiking took the whole day, I thought we had to sleep at a gas station, but in the end it worked out and we arrived around midnight. The people who picked us up were all very nice and all had previously hitchhiked themselves, all of them men. I assume women are too afraid to pick up hitchhikers.

The second new thing I experienced was being on a farm. It's actually quite ridiculous for my not being on a farm before knowing that California has many farms and that Cerritos used to be one as well, but it's true. The family also raised pigs and the smell was noticeable right when I got out of the car. Luckily enough, I saw my friend and his family loading pigs into a big truck the next morning. I looked through the window of one of the pig stables and didn't think it was very brutal, but I haven't done any research on animal farming. They said that it's illegal to give the pigs hormones in Denmark which makes me think the farming laws in Denmark are pretty strict. In addition, I spoke with my friend's dad about agriculture and organic farming. It turns out that farmers in Denmark are like doctors, they have to go to school for 6 years. Another new thing I experienced that belongs in this section was riding a tractor. I woke up early in the morning because they said one of their employees was going to plow the field and I wanted to sit in the tractor with him. It was very interesting even though it lasted for only 10 minutes. I always thought that there was a machine that turned when farmers plowed their fields, but instead there's just this crescent shaped metal thing that's dragged through the soil and the momentum from the tractor is enough so that the soil turns over.

The third new thing I did was hug a wind turbine. Actually, as we were on the road towards Denmark, I saw many wind farms, which was amazing to me; they're much larger than people think. So there was a wind turbine near my friend's farm and he said we could actually walk up to it and touch it. One of the things that I wanted to do before I die was hug a wind turbine, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. The next evening we walked to it; it took about 10 minutes and it was just in the middle of a field. The wind turbine makes a little noise when it spins and when we were standing right below the rotor blades, I heard some sort of swoosh noise which I assume is produced from the blades cutting through the air.

In short, I learned and experienced many new things during the trip, which is surprising because it was only a few days. I realize now even more that I'm too disconnected with nature. I have no idea where food comes from; I am completely disconnected from the process.

MLK Jr. on Civil Disobedience

I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.

You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid.

You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab or shoot or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety.

And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

You died when you refused to stand up for right.

You died when you refused to stand up for truth.

You died when you refused to stand up for justice.

EESI Cover Letter

Thank you for taking the time to read my application. You may have noticed by now from my resume that I have almost no experience in protecting the environment. The reason for this is because my decision to go into the field was a recent one. However, I do not want to mislead you; I am very passionate about protecting the environment.

My main interest is Cradle to Cradle. Just in case you are not familiar with it, I will explain it briefly. Cradle to Cradle is a design philosophy in which there is no waste. Products that are C2C certified can only consist of two components, something that is called a technical nutrient and something that is called a biological nutrient. A technical nutrient is a component that can be reused over and over again. A biological nutrient is a component that can safely biodegrade into the environment. Thus, in this way, C2C products have no waste.

This design philosophy does not only deal with production but also buildings and city planning. Moreover, governments are implementing this philosophy e.g. the Netherlands and California. I am very interested in how companies and especially governments are turning C2C into a reality. I plan to get a Master degree in environmental policy and as a career, I would like to focus my efforts on implementing C2C throughout the world.

In order to do this, I need skills, skills that I currently do not possess. Specifically, I need to gain research skills and knowledge about environmental policy. I do research in my free time, but I am still an amateur in comparison to what I imagine myself to be in the future. I believe EESI can provide me with the skills necessary to achieve my goals. I hope that you will give me an opportunity to prove myself in the field of environmental policy.

As I stated earlier, I do not have much experience in this field and therefore, it has been difficult for me to get my foot in the door. Despite my lack of experience, I believe I can still contribute greatly to the organization through the forms of passion, determination and intelligence.

I want to point out that in my last occupation, I went beyond my official responsibilities and organized a paper recycling system. And even though it does not sound like much, I want to stress it because I want you to understand that I am very passionate about protecting the environment.

I hope that I will be able to show you my passion in person as an intern. Thank you.

Environmental and Energy Study Institute

High Performance Green Buildings Policy Internship

EESI’s High Performance Green Buildings Initiative works to raise awareness among policymakers and other stakeholders that the U.S. building sector offers huge potential for saving energy and mitigating climate change, as well as stimulating the economy, reducing pollution and waste, and improving health. Buildings account for more than 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, but we could reduce that impact significantly if public policies made energy efficiency and renewable energy a priority in building design, construction, operation, and renovation.

Intern Responsibilities

* Monitor Internet sites and postings and publications as provided to identify legislation introduced, regulations proposed, and news relating to green buildings, building codes, appliance standards, energy technologies, smart growth, and other issues as necessary
* Research and compile information for EESI projects and publications related to green buildings, energy, etc.
* Quantitative policy research and analysis, including budget, appropriations and current and upcoming legislation
* Research and draft program and legislative reports (fact sheets, white papers)
* Identify, monitor and report on relevant science, technology and policy issues
* Attend and take detailed notes on Congressional hearings, briefings, meetings, or programs around the DC area that will provide EESI with valuable and relevant information
* Assist with the outreach for and execution of EESI Congressional briefings and events
* Maintain and update webpages; write news items for website
* Update database information as needed
* Project-related administrative tasks

They have asked for an interview and I scheduled it for next week. I hope it goes well because if it does, then I am off to DC! However, ideally I would still rather have the internship in Ecologic, but they still have not responded. I will contact them again next week.

Civil Responsibility of Citizens

This composition will be different than others because I have not previously thought about this topic before writing my opinion. I have not written in this style before for fear of sounding redundant and confusing; therefore, I will try my hardest to organize my ideas as clearly as possible. I will write down my mental process as it happens and if I am successful, you, the reader, will better understand how I think.

What are the civil responsibilities of citizens? The first thing I want to do is to define responsibility as a moral or legal task that one has for the well-being of others. I want to, however, specifically focus on the moral tasks citizens have to their country.

I want to consider voting. I define voting as expressing one's opinion in response to a poll. I believe most people would agree that voting is a civil responsibility that citizens have. Even though I probably do not have to convince you of this belief, I still want to examine it a bit further.

Is voting a civil duty of citizens?

Before I go into this question, I want to make clear that I believe people have the responsibility to help others, but are not responsible to help others in every way they can. That being said, it would be insufficient to show how voting helps others, if my goal is to figure out whether or not citizens have the responsibility to vote. Another factor would have to be considered for this composition and that would be the negative effects of not voting. In other words, if I want to conclude that citizens have the responsibility to vote, I would have to prove that voting promotes the well-being of others and prevents disaster.

I can think of two possibilities of what would happen if nobody voted, either decisions that are voted on do not get made or someone becomes the decision maker; I feel that if the former case were to arise, it would eventually result in the latter. Thus, to prevent decision makers from having unchecked power, citizens must vote. This raises another question. Would leaders have unchecked power if citizens did not vote? I believe that is most likely. Even though there could be a check and balance system within the political system and there could be other ways for citizens to express their opinions, if citizens are unable to directly influence their leaders (in this case, being able to elect them), they will more likely do what is not best for the citizenry. Moreover, lack of voting would render a check and balance system pointless because there would be nothing stopping the elites of separate branches from working together to exploit the many. Therefore, I conclude that voting would promote the well-being of others by preventing catastrophe. This point is, of course, debatable, but according to my beliefs, unchecked power will inevitably lead to disaster, a topic I leave for another day.

Ecologic Transatlantic Internship

Students and recent university graduates from the US and Canada are invited to apply for a position as a Transatlantic Intern at Ecologic. Each year, Ecologic brings young people interested in environmental policy to its headquarters in Berlin to participate in its international environmental research and consulting program. Interns are integrated into Ecologic’s policy research and office routines, providing them real-world experience in an academic environment. The intern’s work program will depend on his or her interests, skills, and experience, as well as on current projects at Ecologic. Interns also have the opportunity to participate in events and conferences hosted by various organizations in Berlin's transatlantic community, enabling them to gain a broader understanding of important policy issues.

Applicants should generally have at least a bachelor's degree. Students may wish to pursue an Ecologic internship as part of their graduate degree program (in public policy, international relations, environmental studies, law or other relevant disciplines), or they may do so prior to commencing graduate studies. Starting and ending dates are flexible; generally, internships last for six to twelve months. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, preferably four to six months in advance of the desired start date. German language skills are an asset but not required. Interns wishing to improve their German language skills are encouraged to take time from their 32-hour per week schedule at Ecologic to pursue language classes.


I applied to this internship about 1 1/2 months ago and I still haven't heard anything from them. I feel like my life is on hold until I know their answer. This is unfortunate because I'm already in Berlin; I'm in the city where I want to live. I love Berlin, but I can't enjoy it because I'm so nervous.

Tests

Almost all tests that I have seen and taken seem to want to challenge my robotic abilities. Tests don't want me to be human, they don't want me to explore my creativity or anything of the such, rather they encourage me to memorize, to be programmed. And I for one refuse to be a robot and reject this absurd custom that we have to separate the able from the dis-able. Surely, I cannot be the only one who has realized this. Where are my fellow humans? Where is the protest? Where is the anger?

Admittedly, tests play a crucial role in our society and if one wanted to succeed, one would most likely have to go through some sort of test. I understand this and although I don't have a specific alternative, I have a general suggestion for those who can rewrite the tests. Test what makes us human!!! Test our excellence!!! It is demeaning to me, as a human, to be tested on how well I can emulate a robot.

I do not suggest that everyone should refuse to take tests, but I do encourage everyone to share my mentality.

3 Options

I have 3 options now. Because the university rejected me, I can either work in China, teach English in Germany or go home.

First option
I meet with a German woman every week to do a language exchange and her husband works for a wind turbine company. If I could, I would like to work for him and if I can't, I'll go to Germany. He's also going to help me apply for this other job at this other organization. I forgot the name of it to tell you the truth, but it has something to do with development. I'm hoping that one of them will hire me because I would love the experience; it would help me both in getting into an university and finding a job.

Second option
If both of them say no, then I'm going to fly to Germany and immediately start applying for English teaching positions. I have found a few English training institutions in Berlin already so I hope I can find an opportunity there. What makes me nervous is that there are only a few German universities that offer the major that I want. Most Master programs there that have to do with the environment require a similar Bachelors degree and therefore, leaves me at a huge disadvantage. I don't have a technical background which leads me to think that I have to combine the two fields, meaning environmental policy. But because there aren't many schools that offer that major, I would only be able to apply to a couple. What happens when they reject me? I have found some schools in England that offer this program so I might consider going there in the future.

Third option
My last option is to go home which I really don't want to do for one main reason - I don't think I can find a good job there. I think the 2 most likely jobs that I would end up doing is working in a restaurant or being an assistant in a law office, both of which I hate. However, I would be able to see my family and friends, so it's not entirely negative.

Inspiration

My recent experience with my students has lead me to the following conclusions: having an idol is more important than I previously thought and inspiration is developed. First, I would like to discuss how I came to these conclusions. It has come to my attention that many if not most of my students treat wealth as their goal. I am not implying that they think money is the most important thing, but I do feel as if they act on that belief.

The first thought that arises is greed, understandably. However, greed seems too simple to do this phenomenon justice even though it is probably partly responsible.

I sometimes ask my students what great person inspires them. More often than not, I receive no answer. This has led me to believe that there is a connection between treating money as the goal in life and having no idol. An idol gives one direction; it sets a model for a person to imitate. If one, for example, held Gandhi as an idol, then hopefully, one would try to internalize at least some of Gandhi's characteristics. Therefore, as a result of not having a person to admire, many of my students are on a wrong path set forth by greed. Thus, I believe now that having an idol is much more important than I previously thought. This leads me directly to the second conclusion.

Inspiration is developed; it does not happen over night. I could show a documentary about Gandhi to my students which would probably lead to the understanding that he was a good man, but would not result in anything extraordinary. However, if my students were raised in an environment that encouraged them to be inspired, then there would be a larger chance of them having an idol.

I must make a small, but essential distinction. What I just explained is inspiration given to a person. Hence, in this situation, the person is more of a receiver of inspiration. I want to mention that I believe inspiration can also be developed within oneself. In other words, people can take the initiative to inspire themselves. Thus, inspiration can be developed in two different ways, by receiving it and initializing it. In a sense, inspiration is similar to knowledge; it can be taught and self-taught.

Civic Freedom

Ralph Nader makes a distinction between civic freedom and personal freedom. Personal freedom is being able to marry who you want, go down the street when you want, hang out with your friends when you want, etc. Civic freedom is being able to participate in power, speak your mind about the government, join together to form unions, etc.

This is a very crucial distinction that never occurred to me before. I think most people label those two different types of freedoms as just “freedom”.

Nader continues by saying that there's personal freedom in dictatorships. What the difference is between democracies and dictatorships is the right to participate in power. Luckily, we officially live in a democracy so we have more civic rights than people living in dictatorships, but it frustrates him that we don't practice them.

He poses a question. If the United States were to suddenly become a dictatorship, how would that affect the daily lives of the people? He implies that it would not affect most people's daily lives because most do not practice their civic rights.

Dream Job

When you are at the point in life where you are wondering if you love your job or not, look no further than in your heart and ask yourself this question. Would you still be doing that job if you were not being paid? If yes, then be relieved. If no, first ponder, then research and finally change.

If you are not yet at that point of life, but are at the point where you know what you want to do in the future, the same question can still be asked. If yes, again, be relieved. If no, then I say you are heading the wrong direction and should change paths.

Sci-fi

I have realized something very interesting about science fiction; I have realized that it helps us objectively analyze different human problems by taking us out of our biased positions. And it does this, I believe, by presenting problems that we experience in its fictional stories in fictional worlds. We become the 3rd party. We obtain a more objective analysis of the situation. Therefore, I believe sci-fi can be a training tool for us to have the objectivity of a 3rd party even in situations that we are heavily involved in.

Moreover, sci-fi helps us have foresight through its presentation of worlds in different stages of development. If someone were to watch a sci-fi episode about an advanced alien race about to destroy itself because of damage to the surrounding environment, then maybe that someone will have the thought of protecting the environment sitting around in his head. Therefore, in this case, sci-fi also allows us to see things from a different perspective.

I have always thought that people should have objective opinions, that they should look at their problems from a 3rd person's perspective, maybe even from an alien's perspective. It is something that I believe is necessary to truly solve problems.

I am proud to say now that I am a sci-fi fan.

Space


Here is a picture I drew with Illustrator (I just installed it a few days ago). I know the picture is not that impressive, but it took me a couple of days to make. Illustrator is definitely different from what I'm used to.

I think my next picture will also have something to do with space.

le Elite

Recently, I've been putting more effort into my classes because I found out that the more effort I put into them, the more enjoyable they are. And it makes sense, the powerpoints that the school provides are often boring. Adding my own spice to the class makes it more interesting for all parties.

This step is part of a process that I'm undergoing to make my job more meaningful. For example, much of the extra content that I add to the class has to do with protecting the environment. Other content touch upon creativity, education, activism and sometimes a little philosophy.

I also proposed that we start recycling paper in the last teacher's meeting. Luckily, I didn't encounter any opposition (nor should I have) and so now, we have a recycling box in the teacher's room. I'm going to propose other ideas that I think will make the school more green, and hopefully, I will be convincing.

I think it's productive for me to start thinking about how to make my workplace green. Helping companies go green is a very possible candidate for a future career. Fortunately, the major I want to study is exactly right up that alley.

Here is a logo I made for the school. They had to name it “le Elite” because “Elite” was already a registered name. I had a lot of trouble trying to make the “le” fit in and I'm still not happy about it. And yes, the green is symbolic.

Lohao


This is a business card I made for Lohao City which is an organic supermarket in China. They currently have about 6 stores in Beijing.

Chinese people are starting to worry more about their health and therefore, are starting to demand organic food. Lohao City was founded to respond to this rising demand. Most of its products are imported, but they do have their own organic farms so the produce isn't too expensive.

TED


This is a graphic I made today by using the official TED graphic as a base.

TED talks is a series of presentations given by people in the fields of technology, entertainment and design. They present to us, I believe, a more accurate picture of the true form of intelligence by showing its diversity. There was one talk given by Sir Ken Robinson about education and in this talk he mentioned how intelligence is diverse, but the public education system only wants certain forms of intelligence. “It has mined our minds, in the way we strip mine the earth for a particular commodity” as he put it. By doing this, the system prevents the development of the potential of the human mind.

I believe I'm a victim of this educational structure.

I feel as if my intelligence is extremely narrow.

What TED presents to us is the diversity of the human mind. It reminds us how intelligence, creativity and play are all interlinked. But most importantly, it reminds us what we are capable of.

It gives me hope that I can one day reclaim and mold my potential into anything I want.

On Poisons

One important discussion John Stuart Mill brings up in his analysis of liberty is the sale of poisons and the legitimate control that can be placed upon it. According to Mill:

If a public authority, or even a private person, sees any one evidently preparing to commit a crime, they are not bound to look on inactive until the crime is committed, but may interfere to prevent it. If poisons were never bought or used for any purpose except the commission of murder, it would be right to prohibit their manufacture and sale. 

Mill further states:

Again, it is a proper office of public authority to guard against accidents. If either a public officer or any one else saw a person attempting to cross a bridge which had been ascertained to be unsafe, and there were no time to warn him of his danger, they might seize him and turn him back without any infringement of his liberty; for liberty consists in doing what one desires, and he does not desire to fall into the river. Nevertheless, when there is not a certainty, but only a danger of mischief, no one but the person himself can judge of the sufficiency of the motive which may prompt him to incur the risk: in this case, therefore, (unless he is a child, or delirious, or in some state of excitement or absorption incompatible with the full use of the reflecting faculty,) he ought, I conceive, to be only warned of the danger; not forcibly prevented from exposing himself to it.

This presents us with an interesting dilemma. Mill makes it obvious in the first passage that he disagrees with the prohibition of the sale of poisons. However, in the second passage he elaborates with an example of the unsafe bridge which makes it clear that Mill believes in preventing harm (in this case, to oneself). What if consuming a poison would cause physical or mental harm (which it probably does)? Wouldn't it be correct to forcibly prevent a person from exposing himself to it? Mill leads us to believe with his example of the unsafe bridge that the person crossing the bridge should be warned and should only be forcibly prevented when there is not enough time. However, I argue, that the person should be forcibly prevented even after being warned. Furthermore, I believe the logic that brought me to this conclusion is evident in Mill's writing.

Mill mentions that liberty consists in doing what one desires, but the person who is about to cross the bridge does not desire to fall into the river and therefore, we may forcibly prevent him from crossing. From that example, I think it is fair to ask if any one desires to be addicted to a poison and to ruin his life (I am limiting this argument within the parameters of addictive poisons). True that it isn't for certain that a person would become addicted and that he would ruin his life, but it is a considerable risk; even in Mill's example, it is not for sure that the bridge will collapse, it is just deemed to be unsafe. Therefore, I believe it is right to prevent a person from consuming dangerous poisons.

Mill also believes that force should be implemented only towards a person who is in some way unable to think clearly. But I ask, what if that person is thinking clearly and just does not believe the warnings? What if that person does not believe that the bridge will collapse? I believe he should be prevented from committing the act anyway. As long as there is a considerable risk of a person killing himself or even ruining his life (assuming he does not desire these things), he should not only be warned of the dangers but also prevented from taking the risks.

Thus, in the case of the manufacture and sale of considerably dangerous poisons, I am of the opinion that they should be prohibited. However, as a necessity, scientific research should be conducted to determine which poisons belong in this category. I am in no way able to present a viable method nor an applicable standard to determine and categorize dangerous poisons.

Anger

I find it very difficult to not get angry.

I have confidence in my self discipline, but controlling my anger is something I have not yet mastered.

I believe it is very easy for a person like me to get angry.

I want to protect the environment and I am surrounded by people who don't care; it seems sometimes that anger is a reasonable reaction.

It is difficult to be surrounded by indifference.

Everyone living their little lives, missing the big picture.

Despite that, I should control my anger.

I should not call people stupid.

My anger solves nothing.

Freedom of Speech

The following is an excerpt from John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. In this excerpt, Mill gives his reasons on why freedom of speech is critical.

First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any object is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds.

And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.

Christiantiy and its Followers

I have always had a very vague opinion on Christianity and its followers, but I have never been able to explain it well enough to my satisfaction.

I will not attempt here.

Instead, I will quote a passage from John Stuart Mill's On Liberty to which my beliefs correspond.

By Christianity I here mean what is accounted such by all churches and sects – the maxims and precepts contained in the New Testament. These are considered sacred, and accepted laws, by all professing Christians. Yet it is scarcely too much to say that not one Christian in a thousand guides or tests his individual conduct by reference to those laws. The standard to which he does refer it, is the custom of his nation, his class, or his religious profession. He has thus, on the one hand, a collection of ethical maxims, which he believes to have been vouchsafed to him by infallible wisdom as rules for his government; and on the other, a set of every-day judgments and practices, which go a certain length with some of those maxims, not so great a length with others, stand in direct opposition to some, and are, on the whole, a compromise between the Christian creed and the interests and suggestions of worldly life. To the first of these standards he gives his homage; to the other his real allegiance. All Christians believe that the blessed are the poor and humble, and those who are ill-used by the world; that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven; that they should judge not, lest they be judged; that they should swear not at all; that they should love their neighbor as themselves; that if one take their cloak, they should give him their coat also; that they should take no thought for the morrow; that if they would be perfect, they should sell all that they have and give it to the poor. They are not insincere when they say that they believe these things. They do believe them, as people believe what they have always heard lauded and never discussed. But in the sense of that living belief which regulates conduct, they believe these doctrines just up to the point to which it is usual to act upon them.

Delay

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Stephan Hawking:

Charlie Rose: Thinking about this universe that you think about, what worries you the most about the future of the universe?

Stephan Hawking: I am not worried about the future of the universe. The universe will continue whatever happens, but the future of the human race and of life on earth is much less certain. We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity...

...If we remain confined to planet Earth, sooner or later we will destroy ourselves. The only long term survival plan that works is to spread out into space. The sooner we start, the better.

Maybe my goal in life shouldn't be to “save the world” anymore, maybe it should be to delay our destruction long enough for us to move to a different planet.

Die NPD Parteiprogramm

The following are selected passages from The National Democratic Party of Germany's political platform, aka. the Neo-Nazi party.


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Wir stehen mit einem lebensrichtigen Menschenbild gegen Fremdherrschaft und Fremdbestimmung, gegen Überfremdung, Ausbeutung und Unterdrückung, für deutsche Freiheit, für Freiheit der Völker, für eine soziale Neuordnung in Deutschland, die unserem Menschenbild entspricht.

We stand with an idea of man against foreign rule, foreign infiltration, exploitation and oppression. We stand for German freedom, the people's freedom, and a new social order in Germany that corresponds with our idea of man.

Volkstum und Kultur sind die Grundlagen für die Würde des Menschen. Deswegen trägt der Staat, dessen Aufgabe der Schutz der Menschenwürde ist, Verantwortung für das Volk.

National traditions and culture are the basis of the dignity of man. Therefore, the state, whose duty is to protect the dignity of man, is responsible for the people.

„Multikulturelle“ Gesellschaften sind in Wirklichkeit kulturlose Gesellschaften.

Multicultural societies are in reality societies without culture.

Deutschland ist das Land der Deutschen und somit die Heimstatt unseres Volkes. Die Erhaltung unseres Volkes und der Schutz für alle seine Teile sind die höchsten Ziele deutscher Politik.Zu diesem Zweck strebt das deutsche Volk Freundschaft und gute Beziehungen zu allen gutwilligen Nationen an, um gemeinsam der Zerstörung der Lebensgrundlagen durch multikulturelle, imperialistische und gleichmacherische Kräfte zu begegnen.

Germany is the land of the Germans and thus, the home of our people. The preservation of our people and the protection of all of its constituents are the highest goals of German politics. For this purpose, the German people aim to have friendships and good relations with all good willing nations in order to confront the destruction of livelihood due to multicultural, imperial and egalitarian forces.

Die kleinste Gemeinschaft innerhalb unseres Volkes ist die Familie.

The smallest society within our people is the family.

Kindergeld als volkspolitische Maßnahme des Staates darf nur an deutsche Familien ausgezahlt werden.

Child benefits, as a national policy of the state, are only given to German families.

Die Tötung ungeborenen Lebens darf nur bei Gefahr der Gesundheit von Mutter und Kind sowie nach Vergewaltigungen erlaubt sein.

Abortions are only allowed when the health of the mother and child is endangered, and in cases of rape.

Der Präsident muß als Staatsoberhaupt über den Parteien und dem politischen Tageskampf stehen. Daher soll er nicht durch die Parteien, sondern unmittelbar durch das Volk gewählt werden.

The president, as the head of state, must stand above both the political parties and the daily political struggles. Therefore, the president should not be chosen by the parties, but rather directly elected by the people.

Die Industrie- und Dienstleistungsverlagerungen aus Deutschland und die Vergabe von Lohnarbeit in sogenannte Billiglohnländer ist moralisch zu ächten und steuerlich zu ahnden.

The outsourcing of industry and services from Germany and the benefits of wage labor in so called low wage countries are morally to be outlawed and financially to be punished.

Jeder Deutsche hat das Recht auf Arbeit. Arbeitsplätze sind zuerst an Deutsche zu vergeben. Männer und Frauen sind im Arbeitsleben unter Berücksichtigung des Leistungsprinzips gleich zu behandeln.

Every German has the right to a job. Jobs are given first to Germans. Men and women in the working life, under the consideration of the performance principle, are treated equally.

Ausländer sind aus dem deutschen Sozialversicherungswesen auszugliedern.

Foreigners are excluded from the German social welfare system.

Die Staatenwelt ordnet sich neu. Im Rahmen dieser Neuordnung muß Deutschland - in Übereinstimmung mit dem Völkerrecht und dem Abkommen von Helsinki – eine friedliche Politik zur Wiedervereinigung innerhalb seiner geschichtlich gewachsenen Grenzen betreiben.

The world of nations is rearranging itself. Under this reorganization, Germany must – in accordance with international law and the Helsinki Agreement – pursue reunification within its historical borders through peaceful politics.

Deutsche Landschaften sind Kulturlandschaften. Deshalb kann Umweltschutz grundsätzlich nicht getrennt von der kulturellen Entwicklung gesehen werden.

German landscapes are the landscapes of the culture. Therefore, the protection of the environment fundamentally cannot be seen as separate from the development of the culture.

Zum Schutz der Natur gehört auch der Schutz des Tieres und der Erhalt der Artenvielfalt in der Tier- und Pflanzenwelt. Zuwiderhandlungen sind strafrechtlich zu ahnden.

The protection of animals and the preservation of biodiversity are included under the protection of the environment. Violators will be criminally prosecuted.

Alle gentechnisch veränderten Waren müssen in Deutschland der Kennzeichnungspflicht unterliegen.

All genetically modified goods in Germany must be labeled as such.

Die NPD setzt sich fuer die nachfolgenden ein:

Abschiebung krimineller Ausländer. Die Feststellung, daß im Heimatland eines Asylbewerbers strengere Strafen als in Deutschland gelten, darf der Abschiebung nicht grundsätzlich im Wege stehen.

Wiedereinführung der Todesstrafe in besonders schweren Fällen bei wiederholtem Sexual-, Kindes-, Raub- und Massenmord und bei schwersten Fällen des Drogenhandels.

The NPD advocates the following:

The deportation of foreign criminals. The fact that the home country of a foreign criminal has harsher punishments than Germany should not in principle stand in the way of his deportation.

The reintroduction of the death penalty in extreme cases of repeated sexual and child abuse, rape, mass murder, and drug trafficking.

Verstärkter Umwelt- und Tierschutz durch härtere Maßnahmen gegen Umweltsünder vor allem in der Großindustrie und Tierquäler sowie die Einführung einer wirksam arbeitenden Umweltpolizei.

Increased environmental and animal protection through harder measures against violators especially in big industries. Also, the introduction of an effective environmental police.

Die Versorgung von Kriegsteilnehmern und deren Angehörigen ist eine Ehrenpflicht des deutschen Staates.

The supply of soldiers is an obligation of honor of the German state.

Criticism of On Liberty

The following is an excerpt from On Liberty by John Stuart Mill.

Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions as well as against external injury. For the same reason, we may leave out of consideration those backward states of society in which the race itself may be considered as in its nonage. The early difficulties in the way of spontaneous progress are so great, that there is seldom any choice of means for overcoming them; and a ruler full of the spirit of improvement is warranted in the use of any expedients that will attain an end, perhaps otherwise unattainable.Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end.

Mill clearly expresses in this passage that liberty only applies to some, and he later mentions that that “some” is determined by their capability “of being improved by free and equal discussion." "Until then,” he states, ”there is nothing for them but implicit obedience to an Akbar or a Charlemagne, if they are so fortunate as to find one.”

The purpose of this short composition is to reveal a danger of the cited passage. The specific sentence that shall be focused on is the one in bold.

Even though Mill is a man of morality, his belief of despotism for barbarians merits both caution and restraint. The danger of his belief lies not in the falsity of its logic, but in the probability of its misuse. His belief in its foundation can be criticized in that there are no such barbarians that he speaks of. However, the benefit of the doubt shall be given to him for now. Let us assume that there are entire races of barbarians which have not yet “attained the capacity of being guided to their own improvement by conviction or persuasion.” For these societies, can despotism be “a legitimate mode of government”, “provided the end be their improvement”? The short answer is yes; it makes logical sense.

However, it should be stated again that the danger of his belief lies not in the falsity of its logic, but in the probability of its misuse. It is much more likely that his belief will be used unjustly to colonize other societies, that there will be an egocentric and greedy ruler, and that despots who truly believe themselves to be philosopher kings are, in reality, guilty of self-deception.

Response from Chomsky

Each of us has finite time, resources, energy. Even if we devoted 100% of it to helping the needy, relieving suffering, etc., we'd have to make very painful choices, ignoring a huge amount that ought to be done. And no one can spend anything remotely like 100%, so the choices are harder, but inevitable. There's no general answer possible as to how to make them.

I once drove to a protest demonstration in New Delhi with a woman who really had devoted something like 100% of her time and energy to these endeavors. She had given up a professorship at the university in New Delhi to live in a deeply impoverished village in Rajasthan, living in poverty of a kind we can barely imagine, trying to work mostly on women's issues in a region where the oppression of women is grotesque. In India, even in the richer parts, if your car stops for a traffic light, you're likely to be besieged by utterly miserable people pleading for a coin. I noticed that she sat completely stolid, not even looking out the window, and she advised me to do the same. It's not that her heart is made of stone. Quite the opposite. She knew that she couldn't give a fraction of them anything meaningful, had chosen to devote herself to their misery in different ways, and understood that unless you pretend you do not see, you'll tear yourself to shreds, helping no one. In other circumstances, she would have given everything she had to some beggar.


That doesn't answer your question. Nothing does. You'll just have to decide for yourself, as each of us must, which is the right way for you, of the many we have available to us.


Noam