Author Archives: katharineotto

About katharineotto

I vote with my big mouth, boycott packaging as much as possible, shop with a canvas "Acupuncture" bag, read to understand Humanland, do as much of my own cleaning, cooking, gardening, landscaping, clothes making, and home repairs as possible. My home is my laboratory, where I invent things out of the dribs and drabs of inheritance from my pack-rat parents. I also conduct animal behavior studies on three chickens and a cat, who study me while I feed all the other wildlife that likes chickens and chicken food, including mice. Mice like to eat wiring, too. There were no mice when my rat snake was still around, but I kept losing eggs.

Who are the Savages?

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This isn’t a book review about Savages, by Joe Kane, published in 1995.  This is an attempt at a synopsis, although such a meaty and universally relevant book is hard to encapsulate.

On the surface, it is a travelogue, depicting the author’s extended visit to the Amazon rain forest, where ancient meets modern in dramatic but understated violence.  In 1991, Kane, a journalist originally working for an environmental group in San Francisco, came across a plea for help from members of the “savage” Huaorani, indigenous clans of Ecuador, primitive jungle dwellers who live off the land and are known as fierce warriors who have never been conquered.

The mysterious letter claimed DuPont-owned Conoco was trying to destroy their land and way of life.  At issue was the massive development of oil fields in the Amazonian jungles by many oil companies, but especially by Conoco.  Maxus Energy Corporation, which was slated to develop “Maxus Block 16” on traditional Huaorani land, also becomes a major player in this book’s drama.

Author Kane wanted to discover for himself what the Huaorani were like and how they lived.  He writes about befriending tribal leaders/members, and hiring one of them, Enqueri, as a guide to Maxus Block 16, deep in tribal lands but slated for oil drilling and exploration, if the Huarani could be appeased. The story delves into the author’s encounters with other locals, the military, the oil company representatives, government officials, missionaries, environmentalists, and the land itself.

Savages becomes a personal story about the Huaorani, especially members Moi, Enqueri, Nanto, and others who are fighting for their land and traditional ways, but they are forced by inevitable change to adapt, each in his own way. Kane describes his first, danger-fraught trip by truck, canoe, and foot through the jungle, with nothing but a machete for defense, and virtually no clothes.

He provides entertaining but respectful cameos of the individuals and Huaorani settlements.  He emphasizes Huaoranis’ resourcefulness, their ability to go without food for days, to build leak-free shelters out of palms within minutes, and their bountiful good humor in the face of adversity.  Deemed savages by some, because of their reputation of vengeful killings of invaders, the Huaorani that Kane depict come across as lovable and kind, well adapted to the jungle but sadly naïve about the world beyond their territory.

Kane describes multiple instances in which his jungle-bred friends collapse in laughter.  They spend afternoons in communal bathing, playing and flirting.  Sharing food is a sublime act of generosity, because for them, it is feast or famine.  They adore their children.  The Huaorani can also stand motionless, without expression, for hours, observing everything.

The story offers adventure deep into the Amazon rain forest and shows its contrast with the new age of oil exploration and development by the generic “Company,” which includes Shell, Texaco, Conoco, and most egregious, Maxus Energy Corporation. The author reveals the horrific degradation of the land caused by the “Company.”  The Huaorani refer to all non-clan members as “cowode” or “cannibals” who have brought roads, pipelines, colonists, oil spills, overflowing toxic waste pits, oil in the streets, towering flames of natural gas, and the pervasive smells of petroleum.  The Company has clear-cut vast acreages of jungle.

The Company has led to poverty and disease like never before, but it has also brought gifts, jobs, and schools.  The missionaries have in some ways run interference between the Company and the local populations, but they have imposed their own agendas, and have convinced younger generations that tribal ways are evil.

Since 1970, the national debt of Ecuador has gone from $300 million to $35 billion, the opposite of what the oil extractors promised, yet the Ecuadorean government—like so many other governments—has played along and accepted enormous debt in the peoples’ name.  They have looked the other way as filth replaced natural wonders and pristine natural habitat.  As Ecuador sank ever deeper into debt, oil prices declined, and oil companies claimed costs were higher than expected. They assured the government that clean-ups were being handled and going well.

The trajectory of the book shows how the natives are killed or absorbed, killed by disease from infection, toxic waste, contaminated drinking water, malnutrition, and all manner of accidents.  The author specifically mentions malaria, polio, and tuberculosis, as well as fungal infections.  He also describes the toxic effects of crude oil and cleaning up oil spills for slave wages by hand.

But the gifts were seductive, and the jobs attracted those who wanted a more modern life.  Food like rice, salt, a kind of Kool-Aid, and lollipops, as well as tools, outboard motors and gas, began to creep into the jungle to take their places alongside the traditional manioc and monkey meat.  The Huaorani wanted schools and health care, which the missionaries and oil companies promised to provide.  Kane mentions the double-edged sword of literacy.  Children were taught by missionaries to read (the Bible), but not to write.

The story hasn’t ended, but the fate of this hitherto isolated culture seems destined to change, and to change dramatically.  At this point it doesn’t matter whether it’s right or wrong, because it’s too late.  Huaorani children are already forgetting the history of their clans, or they are being taught it was a “savage” one well left behind.

But, still, the book raises the disturbing question: “Who, after all, are the real savages?”

 

 

 

 

 

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Taxing the Sun

The new 30% tariff on imported solar panels looks like a direct economic hit on the alternative energy industry, imposed by the dinosaur in the White House.  That the man is owned by the oil industry is becoming increasingly obvious.  First there was the okay to the final segments of the Keystone XL pipeline.  More recently, just about the entire coastline of the US has been offered for off-shore oil and gas drilling.  Our Secretary of State is former CEO of Exxon, and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency has spent much of his career fighting the EPA.

Now we have a 30% tariff on solar panels?  According to an Associated Press report, the tariff was sought by Suniva, Inc., which sought bankruptcy protection in April, and by the American subsidiary of Germany’s SolarWorld.  They claimed the 500 percent increase in imported solar panels over the past five years has led to a ruinous price collapse.  Nearly 30 American solar-manufacturing companies closed in that time.  They claimed big, bad China plotted to flood the global market with cheap products to weaken US manufacturing.  Apparently foreign companies manufacturing in the US are exempt from the tariff, but they now have more wiggle room to raise prices.

So the US President jumps in to stop China in its tracks, apparently, and to raise the price of solar panels for everyone.  But, as Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb, claimed, tariffs are a tax on consumers.  Moreover, a tax on imported solar panels will reduce choice and supply for everyone, forestall or delay installation, and constrict employment in the alternative energy field.

A tariff is defined as a tax or duty on a particular class of imports or exports.  It is claimed “protective tariffs” are intended to make domestic products more competitive.  Tariffs are not new in the US, with the first imposed in 1789. Since then, well over thirty acts affecting tariffs have been implemented.

The 1789 tariff, also called the Hamilton Tariff Act, was the second piece of legislation passed by the fledgling US Congress.  Two years later, excise taxes on whiskey, run, snuff, and refined sugar were initiated.  The purpose of both types of taxes, according to the first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, was to pay Revolutionary war debt, allow the government to function, redeem at full value federal debts, and pay the debts of states.

President George Washington made protective tariffs a national security issue.  In his 1790 State of the Union address, he claimed protective tariffs, especially for military supplies, was crucial for US independence.

Between that time and 1860, tariffs and excise taxes comprised 80-95%. of federal income.  The amounts of each varied.  Thomas Jefferson abolished the whiskey tax, but it was re-instituted in 1812.  When national debt was paid off in 1834, Andrew Jackson abolished most excise taxes and halved tariffs.  By this time tariffs had become a major political issue, especially following the tariff of 1828, the so called “Tariff of Abominations,” which imposed a 38% tax on 92% of imported goods.  Most tariffs were instituted to protect domestic industry, favored by Whigs (which later became Republicans), who were mostly Northeastern industrialists and industrial wage earners.  Southern Democrats strongly opposed tariffs.  In the South, tariffs raised prices for every household and also made it harder for the British textile manufacturers to buy their cotton. Some historians believe the cause of secession was not slavery but tariffs.

The Republican platform of 1860 favored higher tariffs. Abraham Lincoln made tariff increases one of his priorities. The Morrill Tariff passed in 1861, after seven Southern states had seceded and their Congressmen had resigned.  The Morrill Act raised tariffs from 17% overall and 28% on dutiable items to 26% overall and 36% on dutiable items, but it wasn’t enough to feed the government and the approaching war, so a second tariff bill later that summer raised tariffs another 10%.  Lincoln also instituted the first income tax in the US, under the “Revenue Act of 1861,” but it was repealed ten years later.

After the Civil War, tariffs fluctuated mildly but remained, with excise taxes, the main source of federal funding until 1913.  This was the year the income tax went into effect.

Since 1913, most of federal income comes from individual income taxes, payroll taxes (later), and corporate income taxes, with 41% coming from individual income taxes.  Excise taxes apply to “luxury” items, like tobacco, alcohol, and gambling, but also to telephone and utilities, among other things.  Excise taxes comprise about 3.8 percent of federal income.  Tariffs now constitute only about 1.7% of government revenues, $30 billion in 2012.

Far from being a supporter of free trade, the US has 12,000 specific tariffs on imports.  Tariffs on imported tobacco products are the highest and can run up to 350%.  Peanut tariffs that date back to 1933 run from 131.8% for shelled peanuts to 163.8% for unshelled peanuts.  New Balance shoes enjoys a 48% tariff on foreign sneakers like Nike and Adidas.  There’s a 40% tariff on Japanese leather.  We pay a 100% tariff on European meats, truffles, and Roquefort cheese, just to name a few.

It is arguable whether tariffs protect domestic industry, or benefit a country’s economy, especially if they start trade wars with other governments.  In the case of the solar industry, the added cost to imported solar panels may be prohibitive for large-scale projects that could employ large numbers of people.  It looks like a protective tariff, not for domestic solar panel manufacturers, but for the oil industry.  But the good news is that the solar industry is thriving, considering the 500 percent increase in imports over the past five years.  No wonder the oil companies are threatened.

Oil Glut

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By Katharine Otto, January 20, 2018

Tracking history through personal time shows how my interests evolve.  In January, 2008, I was reading Oil! by Upton Sinclair, the 1926 novel he wrote about the oil industry.

In January, 2018, ten years later, I have read the biography of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Titan, by Ron Chernow, published in 1998.  This book goes into detail about Rockefeller’s childhood, personal life, his creation of Standard Oil and business methods, retirement, and philanthropies.  It gives short character sketches of most of the people associated with Rockefeller.  It makes an attempt to reconcile the strange mixture of rapacious greed and Baptist charity that coexisted in the man.

I didn’t know it then, but the novel Oil! was probably based on the true story of Standard Oil and the way it destroyed, compromised, or bought out its competitors.  The monopoly was dissolved in 1911 when the US Supreme Court found Standard Oil in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.  Chief Justice Edward White gave the company six months to spin off its 33 subsidiaries.

If the purpose of breaking up Standard Oil was to destroy the monopoly and allow for competition, the plan backfired.  The same insiders controlled stock in all the subsidiaries, Chernow notes, and in the decade after the decision, the total value of the assets quintupled.  Rockefeller, who had a quarter of the stock in the parent company, and received the same amount of stock in all the subsidiaries, went from being a mere millionaire to a having net worth of  $900 million, and thus became the richest man on the planet.bkschertitan1998

In 2018, the largest oil companies in the world are Standard Oil descendants.  Standard Oil of New Jersey became Exxon; Standard Oil of New York evolved into Mobil; Standard Oil of Indiana became Amoco; Standard Oil of California was renamed Chevron;  Atlantic Refining morphed into ARCO and eventually Sun; and Continental Oil became Conoco, now a unit of Dupont and Cheeseborough-Ponds, according to Chernow.  British Petroleum later took over Standard Oil of Ohio.

Also in the past year, I have been reading about the divestiture of fossil fuel stocks from a number of pension plans in various countries, including the US and UK.  The Norwegian central bank has recommended similar divestiture from its sovereign wealth fund to avoid too much dependence on oil in its portfolio.

wsjoslooil111717This leads me to believe the industrial age, with its over-reliance on fossil fuels, specifically oil, has peaked, and we are on the path to some new paradigms regarding energy and its use.  I’ve speculated about what sells oil and realized war, international shipping, airplanes, plastics, trucks and automobiles provide some of the largest markets.  In other words, the “global economy” depends heavily on oil and will for the foreseeable future.

To reduce dependence on fossil fuels requires a longer and broader perspective than we have considered so far.   The drum beat for “growth” and “progress,” and for the “global economy,” American dominance, and “jobs,” presumes a continuation along the paths we have taken so far, yet they have led to world-wide malaise, toxicity, and conflict.  Will more of the same be better?

The US dollar lost 95% of its value between 1913, when the Federal Reserve Act was passed, and 2010.  More money isn’t necessarily better, and it leads me to wonder if the frenzy over money, from individual to international levels, misses the crucial issues.  They say money doesn’t buy happiness, but worry over money buys only pain.  They also say money is a symbol for energy, but energy blocked or misdirected, like money, festers and ultimately damages the host. Is more energy better, if it causes destruction?

Oil is the new gold, in today’s economy.  Oil may be more useful than gold, but the way it is used leads me to question whether we are wasting or misspending our energy and resources to acquire only excess, pollution, and trouble.

Oil has become so integral to our 21st century lives that it’s hard to imagine life without it. It’s also hard to imagine the pristine conditions the planet enjoyed before humanity started extracting that gooey black stuff from under the ground and spewing its spent components in the air, dumping it in the water, and spreading it over the land.

Does “the economy” really need to grow, or does it need to retract a little and engage in some self-reflection, to appreciate and make better use of what we have?  Will the “growth jobs” of the future concern themselves with cleaning up the ocean gyres, planting trees, and making re-usable shopping bags?  Are American citizens and taxpayers under any real obligation to support wasteful government mis-spending of empty money that rightfully belongs to the unborn?

Anyone who supports return to a healthy planet should consider how our national policies create artificial markets for fossil fuels, global warming, and planetary suicide.

Joe’s Nightmare

December 29, 2017–In a slight divergence from my normal posts, I’d like to present here the first five pages of my novel.  This magnum opus has been over 30 years in the writing, keeps getting shelved, evolves, and may be coming into its time.  I call it “speculative fiction,” describing visions that leap-frog over the Armageddon the sooth-sayers are so ominously predicting.

It’s About Time, Bud, Beon and the Bots, begins with “Joe’s Nightmare.”  Protagonist Joe and his doctor friend Marian are sitting at Mack’s  Bar and Grill on a busy Friday night.

I present this opening here, to WordPress friends and would-be friends, seeking correspondence of ideas and imagination.  I hope to entertain, tell a story, express a philosophy, and inspire the forces of vitality to all who are touched by it.

CHAPTER 1

JOE’S NIGHTMARE

Marian glared at Joe, but he didn’t see.  He was slouched low in the booth, staring at his beer. His faded white shirt hung loose over thin shoulders.  His brown eyes, usually bright and inquisitive, were dark, brooding, and sad as those of an old, dying dog.  His eyelids drooped, and even his large, floppy ears seemed to sag.  Marian chuckled at his woeful appearance.  Joe’s eyes didn’t move.

Her eyes followed his to the glass, then scanned the room.  Mack’s Bar and Grill was hopping, the Friday night crowd jubilant and loud.  Tiffany lamps interspersed with hanging plants sparked with bejeweled light.  The misted window beside their booth gleamed with trails of glittering raindrops outside.  Mack’s mirror collection covered the walls, giving an impression of friendly spaciousness that Marian found refreshing.

As people swarmed, eerie, surreal shadows played across Joe’s face.  Televisions with muted sound in front and back showed sports highlights.  A dank, musty smell rose with moist heat from the milling bodies.

Marian leaned back and closed her eyes, absorbing the lively mood.  Occasional bursts of laughter here and there rolled over her like waves.  A loud gruffaw from the center of the room startled her, but Joe’s eyes remained fixed on his glass.

She sat up and sipped her wine, watching her strange friend.  As narrow as a line in his personal life, Joe was a genius when it came to science.  More than a genius, he was a wizard.

But tonight even the bubbles in Joe’s beer showed more signs of life.  “Joe!” she almost, but not quite, shouted.  He jumped.  His knee hit the booth’s underside and jostled the glass, but he caught it before the first drop spilled. He held the beer and glared at her.

“Where are you?”  she asked.

“I’m here, of course,” he retorted.  “I live inside my body.”  He put finger to pulse with a flourish and closed his eyes. “My heart is slowing now,” he finally said.  “Had me worried for a minute, a minute and six seconds, to be exact. It was racing at 144 beats, after you so rudely interrupted my experiment, but it has calmed to a mere 86.”

He released his wrist and blew on the chilly glass.  “I would fog a mirror if I had one, so I appear to be breathing.  Would you like to see? I didn’t bring my blood pressure cuff, this time, but perhaps you have one in your purse.”  He chugged half the beer and thunked the glass on the table.

“What experiment?” Marian asked.

Joe gave her a disgusted look.  “I was calculating the volume of air coming out of an invisible speck.  I was counting the bubbles, of course, to multiply their spherical volume by the number.  Then, I was going to add another speck and keep track of its air volume.  From that I was going to determine how much CO2 was dissolved in my beer to see what effect it might have on global warming.  Why?”

Marian sighed.  “I wondered if something was wrong.”

“Nothing but the ruin of my experiment.”  He chugged the rest of the beer.  “Another scientific failure.  Now we may never know how we could save the world by dissolving more carbon dioxide in beer and drinking fast.”

He waved his glass high in the air, exposing a thin wrist bounded by a frayed white cuff.  A passing hand with rings on every finger swept past and escaped with glass on tray, leaving a trail of french-fry smell. When the next beer arrived, Joe slumped into bubble-counting position, his head at eye level with the glass.  His feet struggled to find room under the table.

“Quit kicking if you want me to be quiet.”

“OK,” he said.  “Sorry.”

Marian was left to her thoughts.  Marian wasn’t sure when she first noticed Joe.  Like a cloud, he had eased into her awareness, emerging as if from thin air, until one afternoon he was sitting on a barstool at Mack’s in full flesh, still and silent, his stiff brown hair forming spikes around his head, unshaved chin jutting over a coffee mug. He sipped coffee and stared at the back bar mirror, which revealed the scene behind him, of booths, mirrors, and windows lining the restaurant’s long side.

Over the ensuing weeks, Marian noticed Joe sitting on the same stool every afternoon, drinking coffee, staring into the mirror above the bar.  She liked relaxing at Mack’s, too, where she, exhausted from a long day of writing prescriptions and ministering to other people’s ailments, could let Mack alleviate suffering instead.  Most days she watched, sipping herbal tea at her favorite barstool near the cash register.  Here, she and Mack exchanged ideas on economics, as he collected low-overhead money for treating customers’ problems.

Mack’s Bar and Grill was an independent country, the front door claimed, the “State of Freedom, Democracy, and Capitalism.”  It pictured a lion with Mack’s face lapping beer out of a mug.  It declared Mack’s roar the “Loudest in the Land.”  So far, no one had challenged his independence, and the local police were some of his best citizens.

Mack claimed the lion was the ideal free market capitalist, king of the jungle, who sleeps 20 hours a day, eats two hours, and makes whoopie the remaining two.  Also, he gets his harem to do the hunting and killing for him. Mack complained that Linda, his wife, didn’t understand lion thinking.  She thought he was too fat.  “You have to work for your supper,” she told him.  As for the harem, she only smiled and shook her head.

Until the day Marian noticed Mack’s limp, she could have believed Joe knew only three words.  “Just coffee, Mack,” was all he said.

But Marian’s interest in Mack’s arthritis brought Joe out of his trance.  He jumped into their conversation and regaled them for nearly an hour on the anatomy of the knee, physiology of muscles, histology of bones, the causes of inflammation, and all the current treatments.  Marian was awed, because he was accurate in every detail, and his knowledge seemed infinite.

Who is this strange creature, she wondered.  He looks like he lives in the street.  Over time she found that his aloof manner discouraged personal questions, but Joe was always eager to discuss medicine, technology, and science.  Now Marian took his wizardry for granted and followed him from topic to topic with delight.

“How do you know so much?” she asked tonight.

Joe’s eyes didn’t waver from the glass.  “I’m a curious person,” he said.  “I read a lot.”

Suddenly, a hot dish of fried calamari landed in front of Marian.  Joe looked up.  He glared at the calamari.

Marian offered Joe a sample but knew in advance his answer.  He knew everything about squid, except the taste.  He explained its biology, physiology, anatomy, life cycle, mating habits, and preferred habitats the last time she ordered calamari.

“Fried food is bad for you,” he said now.

“That’s what they say,” Marian replied.  She dipped an offending morsel into tzaziki sauce and popped it in her mouth.  “But I believe in homeopathic doses of lard, from time to time.”

Joe’e eyes followed her hand, glanced at the TV screen, at Mack behind the bar, then looked briefly at Marian’s face before settling back on the beer. He spoke as if to the bubbles. “I had a nightmare,” he said, his voice barely audible.

Marian laughed.  “Is that why you’re so gloomy?  I thought it was something serious.

Joe ignored her.  Marian sighed.

“Is there anything I can do?” she asked.

“Shoot me,” he said.  “That might help.”

Thoughts on Utopia

I picked up Thomas More’s classic book, Utopia, the other day.  Publsished in 1516, the book describes what More conceived of as an ideal place.  The word “utopia” is derived from the Greek, and means “no place.”

Thomas More was trained as a lawyer and worked in government service under King Henry VIII of England.  As most people know, King Henry was desperate for an heir to the throne, and his wife, Spanish Catherine of Aragon, was barren.  King Henry wanted an annulment, but this was denied by the Roman pope.  To obtain his desire, King Henry had Parliament pass a law in 1534 declaring King Henry the supreme head of the Church in England.  This eventually became the Anglican Church..

Thomas More was a devout Catholic and refused to accept King Henry as the head of the church.  For this treason, he was imprisoned and ultimately beheaded by the king in 1535.

The book, Utopia, opens with More involved in a conversation with one Peter Giles, and a traveler, Raphael.  At the time, More is on the king’s business in Antwerp.  Raphael proves to be well travelled, having visited many known and unknown kingdoms and other territories.  He shows a familiarity with many forms of government and impresses More and Giles with his comprehensive knowledge and understanding.  Giles naturally asks him why he does not enter the service of some king, as an advisor, as he could be quite useful.

Raphael refuses to consider the idea.  He says kings have advisors who are jealous of each other and of new information.  Also, kings want wars to expand their power and influence.  Working in the service of a king would amount to slavery, and Raphael prefers his freedom.

The subject of thieves comes up, and Giles notes that thieves are being hanged on a regular basis, yet there is no reduction in stealing.  Raphael says hanging for thievery is unjust, a punishment far in excess of the crime, and that the plague of thievery is created by society.  He notes that wars, for one thing, produce a multitude of maimed and mutilated former soldiers who are unable to work and have no other means of supporting themselves.  Wealthy landowners, who keep many idle hangers on, only like the healthy ones.  When their lackeys become sick, they are tossed out, with no place to go.  Add to this the fact that kings keep standing armies, even in times of peace, in order to keep prepared for eventual war.  These soldiers are not trained in any other livelihood so are without recourse should anything happen to interrupt their military careers.

Raphael goes on to say that the problem is rendered worse in England, where the wealthy have commandeered large tracts of land for the grazing of sheep.  Formerly agricultural land is fenced off, with whole towns being displaced from their former livelihoods involved in agriculture.  These people have no place to go and no alternative sources of income, so they are forced into thievery to survive.

This is prelude to the rest of the story, about the ideal civilization of Utopia, but what strikes me is how little has changed in 500 years.  Wars and displacement continue to be the primary causes of poverty, with the corporations and governments commandeering large tracts of land for such things as dams, airports, and power stations.

Ongoing discussions about the increasing disparity between rich and poor neglect to consider the most fundamental, root cause of poverty, as prominent today as in Thomas More’s time.  War and displacement debilitate the most vulnerable members of society and lead, ultimately, to the crime and violence we see in the US today.  While we don’t have actual war on our turf, we are involved in wars around the globe, to expand our US economic empire, while neglecting problems at home that are destroying the fabric of the society in which we live.

One would think we would have learned something in the past 500 years.  At least we don’t hang people for thievery, which may be a step in the right direction.  Should we begin applying our vast resources to constructive rather than destructive activity, we may begin to revitalize our debilitated national spirit and make a justifiable claim to being a civilized society.

Gotcha!

The “health care industry” owns you, body and soul.  The irrefutable fact that health care insurance is mandatory in the United States proves the “industry” owns your body.  The idea that it owns your soul, too, requires a deeper look.

The “soul” is hard to define, and there are those who claim it doesn’t exist.  Various religions have their own conceptions of what the “soul” is.  For the purposes of this article, I will keep things simple by claiming the soul in this physical life is affiliated with mind, the ineffable generator and receiver of thoughts and ideas, the vast processing unit some people assume is in the brain.

The health care industry’s claim on your mind, and the mass mind, can be evidenced in multiple ways, most specifically in the mass belief that health care on a grand scale is necessary.  Television, with its ability to influence millions through covert and overt mental manipulation, works to consolidate and perpetuate the belief that you need doctors to look for and treat problems you didn’t know you had, to “educate” you about warning signs of potentially life-threatening conditions.  Media warns about “bad” foods, and signs of cancer and other terrifying diseases, all broadcast with the stated intent of helping you live a healthier life.  It promotes a philosophy that the “health care industry” works to serve you, when, in fact, the “health care industry” works to manufacture and promote disease by undermining your confidence in yourself and your body’s natural tendency toward healthy homeostasis.  It sells health care the way it sells cosmetics, by leading you to doubt your own beauty and your own body, enough to buy the product that will make you feel better about yourself.

The new “normal” for blood pressure has dropped from 120/80.  The new normal for cholesterol has dropped from 200.  No one mentions these are only numbers, and blood pressure fluctuates naturally during the course of the day, depending on activity and stress.  More people are depressed, we are told, and better pills for dealing with uncomfortable emotions are coming down the pike every day.  Never mind that TV itself is depressing and probably raises blood pressure.

Fact is, the body, which is well adapted for handling specific threats, is confused by more generalized, non-immediate, ones, like those generated by the mind, its imaginings, and the information the mind feeds to the body.  Worry is a bad habit that creates constant stress, keeping the body on the alert for ill defined dangers.  A perpetual state of hyper-arousal takes its toll on the body.  Worry is only one manifestation of fear, a chronic condition in our society, not only perpetuated through media but alive and pulsating on the streets, in traffic, in grocery stores and shopping centers.  People have short tempers, are quick on the trigger, and always afraid the other guy with a short fuse has a real gun that can do real damage in real life.  We live in a violent world.  Just watch TV to learn that version of the truth.  We have real reasons to be afraid, and we tell our bodies that, despite the lack of immediate danger.

So what does this have to do with the health care industry owning our minds?  Well, the idea that we absorb all this crap as if it were gospel, without the exposure to alternatives to determine how much is true and how much is propaganda, for the purpose of selling “health care.”  The illusion that there is “care” in the “health care industry” ultimately leads to a sense of having been betrayed, because the “care” was siphoned off a long time ago.  The system itself is greedily vampiristic, the parasites feeding off the host, bleeding and treating them ultimately to death, one life at a time.

Of course there are exceptions, and there are the medical heroes, those who have not lost the ability to care.  These are the doctors, nurses, and other “providers” patients are lucky to have.  But even the best of them are stretched thin and on the verge of burnout with the excessive demands of the system itself.

There are alternatives to the one-size-fits-none proposition offered by the “health care industry,” but you won’t hear about them on television.  You might hear from those who have personally benefited from alternatives like acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, herbal therapies, or folk remedies, just to name a few.  Ayurvedic medicine, but these are not likely covered by your mandatory insurance, so you would have to pay out-of-pocket.

But hey, it’s the price you pay for freedom.

Symbols and Psychiatry

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Corn snake, kco051316

Ten years ago this month, I had just retired my medical and DEA licenses, in search of better ways to inspire people regarding the mind and its potential.  A long-time student of symbolism, I write daily in my journal and regularly include references to astrology, mythology, religion, dreams, and other symbolic languages.  These universal concepts fall loosely into Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s idea of a “collective unconscious” and of “archetypes.”  As most people probably know, Jung was a protege of Sigmund Freud, father of modern psychiatry, whose The Interpretation of Dreams, published in 1900, rocked the scientific world and initiated the field of psychiatry and psychoanalysis.

The following excerpts from my November, 2007 diary show how I play around with symbolism to help develop a deeper appreciation for everyday life.

ON PREDICTIONS AND FREE WILL

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 – I believe if the student fails, the teacher fails more, because the teacher is paid to teach.  The student (ideally), pays to learn.  This is why I’ve never believed in tenure and probably why I don’t believe in marriage or other chains on the future.  As an astrologer, I don’t believe in predictions either, but astrologers as a group would disown me for saying this.  They thrive on making predictions, and people expect them to do it, but no one can say that predictions are consistent with free will.

You have to be a free thinker to understand how limiting predictions are.

This moment, as I sit in my recliner on this beautiful sunny day, overlooking vast expanses of marsh and blue sky, I have access to all time, depending on my focus.  It can come as dream, memory, fantasy, association, feeling, impression, dimly or readily perceived.  A book once read is forever a part of my experience, because I have invested the personal effort to make it so.  A book once written is part of everyone’s experience, whether direct or indirect, as knowledge brought through on the verbal place is “thicker” and more physical than the more ethereal realm of imagination.  How can I know before I read a book how it will change my life?

PENELOPE AND UNDOING

Thursday, November 22, 2007 – I’m approaching my multiple goals in piecemeal fashion.  When everything seems to be at beginning stages, as now, or beyond my capabilities, I feel frustrated and at odds with myself.  Re-doing things makes me feel like Penelope, Odysseus’ wife in The Odyssey of Homer, who undid her father-in-law’s shroud every evening to avoid having to marry any of the moochers who invaded her home as soon as Odysseus stayed gone too long.

I used to think Penelope was a sap, but undoing is a matter of perception, and if you enjoy the weaving and undoing for its own sake, it is no longer a waste of time.  Here we have the clash of the results-oriented and the process-oriented approach.  Also apparent is the stated vs. actual purpose.  Penelope stated she wanted a shroud.  She actually wanted to stall for time, so the actual purpose was met.

She lived in a time when women were possessions, and we have that subversive belief still, although no one admits it.  Marriage is a testament to the people-ownership concept.  While presumably it’s a mutual ownership, no one expects men to be as faithful as women, although this is a generalization and less true than in the past.  In the great sexual shuffling of today, men and women seem equally unfaithful.

Probably few perceive the ownership attitude as clearly as I, the target of so many who want to own by any means available.  Insurance companies, government, bankers, stockbrokers, businessmen, acquaintances, friends, family, partners–all want an advantage and will look for or create excuses to cross the line of equality, move in and take over.

Am I bitter and cynical?  Yes.  I don’t like feeling this way, knowing it only hurts me to have this attitude.  Like it or not, I am a herald, of sorts, meaning I search restlessly for higher and more comfortable ground, especially mentally.  Those who would control will seek first to control the mind.

I can’t control my own mind, nor do I want to.  I like its free ranging ability and thrive on the little lessons obtained from every facet of my life.

How would I know about undoing if I did not live it, feel the emotions associated, know the practice from mythology and the term from psychiatry?

Unraveling a sweater – which I’ve already done once with this one because I didn’t like the stitch – brings many facets into play.

How would someone else handle it?  Who knows?  Most people would not attempt to knit a sweater at all, I suspect, and this is my contention with “most people.”

Nor will “most people” appreciate the value of the process as a means of showing how to solve problems, because this is my real purpose.  Rather than start over, I can adapt mid-sweater and potentially turn a mistake into a success.

SNAKES IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN

Monday, November 26, 2007 – I’ve retired my medical license to become a New Age Profit . . . er . . . Prophet, for the Spirit of Capitalism.

I cut my fangs on Telluride politics and other stories from the Serpents of the Modern Caduceus.  What if there were two serpents in the Garden of Eden, and they ran the interlopers out, better to rest in peace without getting trampled?  Then they can bask in the sun of the Garden, eating of their favorite fruit, the apples from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Now that Adam and Even have departed in search of something better, the wise snakes may rest assured the tree won’t be cut down to build a house, to hold squealing brats who like to torture snakes for fun.  Minimal risk of getting eaten for supper or skinned for belts and purses.  Why, now that God has expelled these demons from Heaven, the snakes are ecstatic.

Unfortunately, the Garden of Eden isn’t quite as lively as when the humans were around.  They provided entertainment, if only by making God mad.  We snakes can make God mad without even trying.  All we had to do was show him how dumb his latest invention was, and he threw them out and has been moping around ever since, feeling guilty about over-reacting.  Now, look at the mess man has made of his lives.

All we said was “Wise up.”  We didn’t say do it the hard way.  No.  That was Adam’s choice, to do it the hard way.

We snakes wise up the easy way.  When our skins get too small, we shed them and slither on out to greater dimensions of girth and wisdom.

Yes, snakes are hated and feared, because we are so smart.  We see life from the ground up, and we know where our support and strength lie.  Our raw intelligence knows its own turf and doesn’t seek to intrude on that of others.  Snakes don’t go looking for trouble, unless it’s entertaining trouble that enhances our wisdom and gets a potential threat redirected into other dimensions, like hell on earth.