Category Archives: Personal

I Couldn’t Make This Up: 2007

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Ten years ago this month I was working a short-term contract as a psychiatrist in a public mental health outpatient clinic.  At I was considering allowing my medical and DEA licenses to expire, simply because I felt like a hypocrite.  I entered psychiatry to set people free, not to enslave them to diagnoses and drugs, government and insurance, for the rest of their lives.

DEPRESSED ECONOMY

Sunday, April 1, 2007 – Driving around Columbus, GA shows how depressed the economy is.  It smacks of military people borrowing against an uncertain future. Independent businesses are so rare as to be non-existent. Otherwise, Columbus is clunking along on pawn and title pawn shops, government buildings, banks, insurance companies, and a variety of businesses dedicated to selling and maintaining vehicles and vehicle parts.  There is so much run down and empty commercial space – and the place looks generally devoid of life – that the only activity shows at the multiple traffic lights, where large trucks, vans, SUV’s and old clunkers congregate as if at a business meeting.

PET FOOD SCARE

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 – The pet food scare widens, and it appears the economic hit is on China’s wheat gluten.  I’m more convinced than ever that the thugs at DHS, CIA, FDA, CDC, or DEA are behind it, and they all answer to Bush and Cheney, the sadomasochistic side show in the world-wide butt fuck.

I believe the goons at DHS have made their point.  Melamine is a plastic, used in McDonalds’ forks, hahahaha, and the latest bullet in the war on pets, but the repercussions in the plastics industry should be interesting.  I’ve wondered about the buildup of plastic breakdown products in the environment, and the toxins they release.  Animals would be the most susceptible, of course.

No one has proved the wheat gluten is the cause.  No one has even proved what the toxic agent is.  The “scientists” are disagreeing with each other, thus to obscure the real issue (in my view) that this was inside sabotage by someone who had access to aminopterin, which was proven in the DHS-funded lab at Cornell, created for the purpose of protecting US tax revenues from foreign threats.

The media arm of the Police State blithely ignores the obvious, so eager is it to cozy up to the perpetrators.  I’ve noticed AP is particularly reprehensible along these lines.  No wonder it hides behind its image.  It took some research to discover where their corporate offices are.

FEAR

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 – The vague cloud of fear that hovers over me surrounds the planet, I suspect, and I am less afraid than most.  Unseen enemies are those who are reacting to their own fears, and I have to dance lightly to stay out of their way.  I try not to take insults personally, even if they are meant that way.  I get strong reactions from people, as on the ESLR message board, when I assess the state of the “economy.”  I don’t pander to the Wall Street-generated hype meant to reassure people of economic growth, despite evidence.  It’s a pack of lies and deserves to be so-called, because people aren’t as gullible as they once were, especially as they feel the “economic growth” like a cancer in their personal lives.

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Corn, Cochran, GA Supposedly 80% of corn sold in the United States is already genetically modified. It’s too late to label GM products.

CORN AND ETHANOL

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 – How much time does it take to grow an acre of corn, convert it to ethanol and burn it?  Has anyone calculated the cost of energy, soil depletion, and water for the process?

The environmental groups are quiet on this one, and so are the Agriculture Department, the economists, farmers, American Solar Energy Society, and scientists.  Isn’t anyone even curious?  Congress hasn’t asked, Bush certainly doesn’t want to know, and once again, I am the lone voice asking questions that should have been asked a long time ago, before the legislation, before the factories were built, before the farmers were seduced into following this government-created fad.

COLUMBUS, GA NOISE POLLUTION:  LOCUM TENENS ASSIGNMENT

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 – The noise makes constant assaults on my senses, and I’m afraid  I will explode from repressed fury.  The airplanes have been droning–along with machines, traffic, and sirens–but mostly constant airplanes since I got home to the camper, exhausted from a relentless day, seeking a little peace, not to be had here, where the very earth is vibrating from the din.

I, for one, will be glad if I live to see the world run out of oil.

Now, the train.  The trucks on the highways.  The last airplane is gone, finally.  Was air traffic stacked up over the airport?  The train whistle is constant.  Everybody is in a dizzy tizzy today, all except the one bird I hear twittering, and my cat, who is as serene as a placid pool, asleep.

That train has been whistling for five minutes.  Motorcycles, more trucks.  If I were home and could do it, I’d let out a primal scream by now, so furious am I.  A horn.  another motorcycle.  I can still hear the train.  More traffic.

I turn on music and dance awhile, as I encourage patients to do.  It helps my attitude a little.

Train still blowing the whistle – seven minutes or so.  Constant.

The work turns me into a zombie prescription writing machine.  In W’s office, where I work on the adult side, the computer is also loud, so I listen to that all day and wonder if that contributes to my headaches.  Or maybe it’s the coffee they have there, the creamer, the stress.

I just got up and closed the windows.  It helps a little, but my head is vibrating still.  I can feel it like a saw grinding though my skull.

I turn on the fan, now that the windows are closed.  I can still hear the traffic noise outside, even though the fan is only two feet away from my head and has its own noise.

How loud must it get before people wake up?  Now I know why people go deaf.  Not that it would protect anyone here, because the vibrations penetrate all walls, all protections.  You can hear it over the music, over the fan, over the air conditioning.  It rattles the ground, shakes the camper.  I might as well be in the center of a war, except this is a war on nerves, as in the nerve of them.  There is no defense against sound, except to leave or bury my head in  . . . what?  The earth transmits it, too.

You get what you focus on, says Seth, but how can I think of anything else?

Winston Smith, in George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, had a horror of rats gnawing his face, so those who would convert him used rats in cages over his face, as I recall.  For me, relentless machine noise is the torture I most fear, but I am already being tortured, and my head hurts, and I think I will have a stroke or heart attack, and soon, if I don’t escape this hell hole in a healthier way.

 

USPS REORGANIZATION

Friday, April 13, 2007 – I discovered Richard Nixon re-organized the Postal Service in 1971, giving it over to a Board of Governors, and removing the Postmaster General from the Cabinet.  You don’t hear much about the Postmaster General or the Board of Governors, but the USPS affects every area of our lives.

Who exactly owns the USPS, which is so heavily saturated with garbage mail it can’t deliver a first class letter without losing it in the junk?  Why am I subsidizing these assaults on my money, attention, and all the trees on the planet?  I pay yet again for the destruction to the environment.  And these government goons are blaming taxpayers for global warming?  They are burning resources just as fast as they can get away with it, and their solution is to do more of the same?

Not at my expense, folks,  Use your own money to play stupid, because I don’t run my life that way.  Double rates on all sneaky mail (that is, all mail with rates they don’t want you to know).  How’s about publish ALL the rates everyone has to pay, like the slick paper flyers and unwanted medical journals, CME offerings, school and university solicitations, magazines, newspapers, non-profits, campaigners, sales pitches, fundraisers.  If they didn’t spend so much money on self-congratulatory propaganda, perhaps they could afford to do some good.  What exactly is pre-sorted first class?

MONEY MANAGEMENT

Saturday, April 14, 2007 – Money management is about keeping my money.  The more money I keep, the more money I save.

 

 

 

 

 

The More Things Change . . .

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Above:  The professional literature in Psychiatry remains funded primarily by pharmaceutical companies.  I get up to eight Psychiatry periodicals every month, all containing about 50% advertising, most of it by Pharma.  This junk enjoys a privileged postage rate, because it is “educational.”

April 12, 2017–Reading old journal entries helps me focus blogs and show the trend of my thinking over time.  In April, 2007, ten years ago this month, I was considering allowing my medical and DEA licenses to expire, because I felt used by a medical system that causes more disease and suffering than it alleviates.  As a psychiatrist, I was under a virtual mandate to prescribe drugs that promised more help than they delivered.  Not only that, but the system itself was so dysfunctional that it put everyone at risk.

ON MEDICINE AND PSYCHIATRY
Wednesday, April 18, 2007 – If I can get out of the business of medicine, I can enjoy the fun of medicine, when it’s done right.

It starts with honesty.  We have created a sado-masochistic society that feeds failure and punishes success.  In today’s climate, the individual doesn’t matter.  “Equality” means bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator, statistically speaking, to save the “economy” from the individuals who take more than they give.

Our society has rendered them so dysfunctional that they are incapable of doing anything useful and resentful of those who expect them to make an honest living.
What kind of psychiatrist would I be if I didn’t point out the insanity of that?  I believe the individual matters, if only to herself.  I matter enough to stand my ground in the face of society’s power struggles and to comment on the process.

The US psyche is caught up in the emotional two-year-old anal stage of psycho-sexual development, the “terrible twos,” the year of potty training, the age in which life-long issues related to power and power struggles emerge.  The “self” vs. “not-self.”
As we play with the shit we have created, we are evolving, hopefully, toward a greater understanding of what it means to be free.  Demonizing and drugging the individual mind and spirit is society’s game, not mine.  I have evolved beyond the anal stage.  I quit.  Get ahead by slowing down.  Take time to smell the roses before you pave them over.

This patient-churning prescription writing machine throws the government credentials—the medical licenses—into the compost bin.  Thus relieved of the paper shield, I step from in front of the DEA’s guns to show them aiming at my back, to control invisibly every aspect of the prescription game.

They need me more than I need them, but only because they believe in drug laws.  If there were no drug laws, we wouldn’t need the DEA, but doctors would still have jobs.

“Doctor,” a word my absentee bosses don’t know, is derived from the Latin “docere” meaning “to teach.”  A doctor is fundamentally a teacher about health.  That’s what I do – teach people about health, especially mental health.

You know what I tell my patients?

“It really is them,” I say.  “They are the crazy ones.  Don’t put your life on hold waiting for the government.  You’ll grow old and die waiting.  Live it up while you still can.  Dance in the living room.  Turn off the television, for your sanity’s sake.  Shut off the mind and noise pollution so you can hear yourself think, and you’ll get back in touch with your common sense.”

ADHD (ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 – I enjoyed working with kids and parents yesterday.  I gave practical advice and supported them in their efforts.  A little six-year-old hugged me on the way out.

These aren’t bad kids.  In fact, I think many who are branded with ADHD are brighter and more creative than the rest, with skills and interests that reach beyond the classroom.  A 12-year-old girl who is about to fail sixth grade for the second time daydreams and draws during class.  Likes violin and reading Japanese books in English.

I reassure them school really is boring, and teachers are busy pleasing absentee bosses.  Moms nod vigorously, and the kids stare at me as if they are shocked I would express such heresy.

CME ON ADULT ADHD

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 – I read a Continuing Medical Education article on ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  Bottom line is there’s nothing new, except the diagnosis of adult ADHD.

Do you think anyone would consider causes pills won’t treat, like multi-sensory fatigue from the environment?  Machine noise from traffic and power tools, airplanes, blowers, coffee grinders, speakers in coffee shops, grocery stores, hardware stores, banks, blaring “I Died and Went to Hell” music and advertising at top volume?  The screeching, attention-starved voices from the halls of hell?  Who can attend to anything with all that noise?

No.

Think they might consider that the same drugs are used by drug addicts and schools to treat the same symptoms, but it’s okay if you have the correct diagnosis?

No.

Think the lack of physical education in the schools, or the fact that kids with too much energy are punished by depriving them of play time might contribute to their hyperactivity?

No.

It’s all in the brain chemistry, you know.  Hit ‘em up with a little Adderall or Ritalin and we’ll let ‘em come back to school.  Never mind that they have been suspended the last X days and are even further behind.  They shouldn’t have acted out.

The other two psychiatrists here, Child & Adolescent psychiatrists, indulge me in my one-to-two minutes of tirade.  Each says separately, unfortunately, the kids who come here need to be on meds.  Doctors have adapted to being prescription writing machines, drones in the endless grind of patient-churning status quo.  They see the hypocrisy, but they learn quickly to keep quiet, to show in behavior the repressed anger generated by power abuses.

Learned helplessness vies with identification with the aggressor, but do you think psychiatrists make the connection between abstract understanding and the evidence in front of them?

No.

Why learn psychiatry if nobody cares?  You could get a computer to write prescriptions faster and more legibly.

The inertia is as cloying as clear gelatin.  Perhaps this is the egg; the yolk, the planet, the albumin the atmosphere, with humans poised at the interface, possibly growing and possibly getting big enough to crack the shell.

 

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Where There Is Love . . .

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Above:  Chicks Toozie and Speckles dirt bathing, January, 2012

I re-read The Four Agreements, (Don Miguel Ruiz, 1997) over the weekend.  This is one of many spiritual/self-help/philosophy books that I enjoy reading from time to time.  They remind me that all is not what it seems.

The Four Agreements is short and seemingly simple, yet it reinforces concepts I’ve read in other places, albeit in different words.  Ruiz begins by claiming we all live in dream worlds, both individual and planetary dreams.  He relates this to the Indian (Hindu, Buddhist, and others) concept of “maya,” or “illusion.”  He says our planetary dream is a nightmare based on fear.

The remainder of the book describes “four agreements” a person can make to break the grip of fear and create a heaven instead of hell on earth.  These are, “Be impeccable in your word; Don’t take anything personally; Don’t make assumptions; and Always do your best.”

Ruiz cites the “nagual,” which is defined as a person in MesoAmerican culture who is a ‘sorcerer,” who can change shapes.  It also refers to the great unknown, beyond words or description.  Carlos Castaneda also made reference to the “nagual” in the person of his Yaqui Indian mentor in his series of books about don Juan and his teachings. (

Having read widely and extensively about spiritual teachings over the centuries and across cultures, I find a commonality that affirms we are all spiritual beings, although the paths to understanding may be different.  The Tao of Physics (Fritjof Capra, 1975) relates Oriental mystical tradition to modern quantum physics.  Here, time and space are perceived as relative and subservient to the cosmic “qi,” or essence of everything.  Seth, in the Jane Roberts series of channeled books, corroborates this idea and goes beyond it, saying we are limited only by our beliefs.  He emphasizes we create our own realities and that “the point of power is in the present.”

All seem to agree that we change the world by changing ourselves and our personal beliefs.

Ruiz’ claim that the world is ruled by fear struck home.  As I grow older and experience personal health problems, I’ve had to confront head-on a belief system that humbles and challenges me.  It tempts me to give in to fear.  It comes from outside but it also results from beliefs I took on, maybe by osmosis, or by conditioning, as Ruiz asserts.  Everything from advertising, which exploits fear and insecurity to sell products, to media, which uses fear to promote sensationalist agendas, to religion, which uses fear to subdue believers, is based on the notion that this is, and always will be, a world of suffering.

Is it, and must it be that way, I ask myself.  The answer from my inner core and from all the spiritual guidance books I read, is an emphatic “no.”  We can choose to be happy, as Ruiz most recently affirmed.

I watched a red-winged blackbird bathing in the watering dish outside my window yesterday.  As he splashed around, flinging sparkling droplets in a wide arc, I had to smile and admire him for his ability to find such ecstasy in this simple act.  It’s easy for a technologically-gifted human to provide that opportunity, and it makes me happy to see him enjoy it.

I get similar gratification from watching my chickens take their dirt baths.  They roll and loll in the dirt, creating little nest-shaped holes in the ground.

How hard can happiness be, I wondered, when we have no fear?

I’ve heard it said that “Where there is love, there is no fear.”  Google attributes this to John 4:18 in the Bible, specifically “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment . . . .”  I suspect this is not solely a Christian insight, as Ruiz also relates fear to punishment.

Then, I decided, once again, that it all comes down to love.  Even hate and fear are love turned upside down.

How to apply this understanding in a practical way remains a challenge for the “warrior” in the spiritual realm.

 

 

The “Health Care Industry” is Sick

THOUGHTS ON THE HEALTH SCARE-SNARE RACKET

Saturday, March 25, 2017—Trumpcare, the Republicans’ answer to Obamacare, failed this week.  Predictions abound about what the government will do next.  It appears Obamacare is imploding, and the media expects it to be saved or replaced.  My right-wing conservative friends declare government control of health care is unconstitutional.  My left-wing friends believe Obamacare needs to be fixed, not replaced.

I’ve been opposed to government and insurance-controlled medicine since graduating from medical school and psychiatry residency.  Back then, it was Hillarycare, which was trounced initially.  During Bill Clinton’s presidency, Hillarycare began being implemented piecemeal through bureaucracy.

For me, the issue then and now was freedom, including freedom of choice about everything from practitioners to types of treatment.  Government-controlled health care translates into a guaranteed captive market for insurance companies, in which the healthy subsidize everyone else, especially the “industry” itself.  Doctors and patients must kowtow to government and insurance rules.  Out the window go confidentiality, honesty, and compassion, since symptoms must fit a diagnosis code to insure payment for treatment.  In psychiatry, this means the psychiatrist must come up with a diagnosis which goes forever on the patient’s record and can interfere with everything from self-esteem to employment.

AND, SEVEN YEARS AGO THIS MONTH . . .

CURRENT EVENTS:  OBAMACARE

Wednesday, March 24, 2010—Everyone is talking about Obamacare, which passed over the weekend.  Everyone knew it would, but nobody knows what it means except more taxes.  The boat is sinking, but we’re afraid to rock it.

VIGNETTE:  OBAMACARE

Friday, March 26, 2010—I met a 35ish guy in line at Starbucks yesterday.  I was standing at the cash register when Sean mentioned something about Obamacare.  I said Dr.Obama needs to write his own prescriptions.  The guy behind me, a big, burly fella with motorcycle helmet and a completely tattooed right arm but untouched left arm, thick dark hair two-three inches long, eyes brown and intense, said something about economics, bankers, the Fed, or a related subject that tipped me off.

I realized he is an awakened soul, sees things as I do, and so we stood there agreeing with each other until both got coffee and moved out of the way.

Tee hee.  I had told the boyfriends the other day there is no gold in Fort Knox, and the levels of security exist to protect the void.  My new friend, whose name I didn’t ask, agrees there’s no gold in Fort Knox, but for fools’ gold, hahaha.  I told him his generation is much smarter than my generation and got a laugh out of someone behind me in line.

On the way out, my new friend mentioned the book, Creature from Jekyll Island, and said he learned on the net that the US has been selling gold-plated tungsten bars to China and I think France as if they were gold, and the deception has recently been discovered.  Apparently it began during the Clinton years, and the cost was something like $50,000 per bar to produce.

Later, Sean said we were two peas in a pod, an unlikely pair, the two of us, but what the hey.  These younger folks are expected to cater to all these old coots who were gullible enough to trust the Woodrow Wilsons, FDRs, Lyndon Johnsons, and other paternalistic exploiters, and I don’t blame the younger set if they believe Boomers are dispensable.  Why should they support us?  I told my friend he is under no obligation to make good on the government’s promises.

TEN YEARS AGO THIS MONTH:

MEDICAL SCHOOL ATTITUDES

Monday, March 26, 2007 – I’ve been thinking about my medical career.  Starting in medical school, I was appalled by the attitudes, and they got worse in the hospital in our third year.  M. was a good study companion the first two years, but his old girlfriend and the vicious, cut-throat, warfare in the hospital in our third year edged me out.  He played the politics and kissed up to the residents, but he also loved doing the procedures, and was like the rest of them, eager to compete for opportunities to do lumbar punctures, draw blood, drain fluid from lungs and peritoneal cavities, deliver babies, run codes.  While I wanted the experience, too, I wasn’t willing to elbow my way into the situations that offered them, and the rush-rush mentality rattled my confidence and made me afraid to touch the patients.

I was horrified at the frenzy of my classmates when it came to procedures, and the careless disregard for the patients they were so eager to practice on.  I wasn’t willing to follow residents around, hoping for chances to draw blood or run errands or otherwise do their bidding.  They perceived my attitude as insolence, and the OB-gyn boys took it more personally than the others. No one ever told me directly, so I was flabbergasted when Dr. S said they complained and almost failed me for the OB rotation.  I only remembered they wouldn’t let us do much, because they wanted to do it, and they kept medical students in a room together entire afternoons while they saw the patients alone.  I spent my time studying, so made the highest grade in the class on the written test.  I thought the OB-gyn material was the easiest.  Everyone else was bragging about how many babies they were “catching,” as if it were a disease.  I only “caught” one baby, that the chief OB resident helped me with, but he was the first baby with congenital syphilis the attending physicians had seen in ten years.

THE MD ROLE

Monday, March 26, 2007 – My no-frills trappings and simple, ascetic life – which it is – runs counter to the doctor stereotype, into which other doctors pour money and pride.  I’ve never felt comfortable in the doctor role.  It belongs to someone else, a non-being, a stereotype formed by others’ expectations, divorced from my self-perceived style.

But I’m good at it, among the best I know, which makes it all the stranger, because it comes so easily.  That I don’t put much faith in the pills I prescribe, the system I represent, the beliefs believed “normal” by today’s standards, ekes out in passing references.

No, I don’t believe in war, competition, health care insurance, the federal government, marriage, or that churches should be property tax-exempt, unless everyone is property tax-exempt.  If I pray directly to god, without need for a priest or rabbi to intercede, why should I pay property taxes when they don’t?  Who’s to say god listens more to them than me, and why should that give them a material advantage?

DRUG AND ALCOHOL LAWS

Saturday, March 3, 2007 – Drug and alcohol laws represent a major human rights violation–as the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion foretold–and should be abolished.  No one has the right to restrict another’s access to her own body.  The key to better health is better education and a free range of choices.  No one feels my pain like I do.

I believe drug laws set the frame for the sadomasochistic power struggles we call addiction. Drug laws are a means by which government seeks control over taxpayers.  Laws put government in a moralistic, paternalistic, top-dog position over the taxpayers who pay its way.

Laws and other social engineering tactics restrict the productivity of the very individuals who support them, and the entire society loses.

CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PRESCRIPTIONS

Monday, March 12, 2007 – Doing child and adolescent psychiatry means prescribing drugs I don’t approve of, because the teachers dictate medical care for unruly kids.

No, we won’t give them physical education, home economics, shop, or any incentive to behave, nothing that will interest them during the long hours they must sit, while some harried, bored, and boring teacher parrots an agenda designed to stifle curiosity and make children hate education.

No, we will diagnose them as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and put them on amphetamines to control their behavior, because what we’re really doing is cultivating the next generation of slave labor for the imperialists who formerly were industrialists but no longer even produce meaningful industry.  They produce paperwork, insurance, stocks, cash, and debt, using their forebears’ reputations as collateral, generating paper profits on Wall Street, while product quality and workplace safety plummet.

 

What is Intelligence?

From my journal, seven years ago this month.  Some things don’t change (much).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010—I ran into M and his wife, K, at B&N yesterday, and we got to talking.  M talked a lot about intelligence, and I realized he is insecure about his, because he doesn’t (or didn’t) have a college degree.  He married his first wife because she did and quickly found degrees don’t assure intelligence or curiosity.

We speculated together, and I continued later to wonder what constitutes intelligence.  Others place too much emphasis on standardized tests, I believe, yet these represent the conventional guidelines.  College or advanced degrees constitute another measure.  If you go to a brand name school, all the better.

These don’t guarantee intelligence, though, as M. learned.  By others’ standards, I am intelligent, well educated, and do well enough on standardized tests, but I was not smart enough to reach people like my father.

M said engineers are linear thinkers.  His brother is an engineer and a perfect example.  Another term is “narrow-minded.”  Some people have claimed vocabulary determines intelligence.

Seth, in The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, claims fundamentalism has arisen in reaction to Darwinism, which presumes a random, chaotic, uncaring universe without rules.  But science, as we understand it, binds itself with the most rigid rules and produces people like my father, who deny the existence of anything outside the framework.

I believe intelligence is an attitude rather than a concrete quality.  Intelligence and curiosity may be synonymous, because curiosity gives flexibility, open-mindedness, inventiveness, and common sense.

We don’t measure common sense on IQ tests, but this may determine basic intelligence more than any other parameter.  Common sense finds food when hungry, shelter when cold or wet, safety when threatened.  This is survival of the fittest in action, and this is why the relatively hairless beast called man can survive in freezing weather.  It has little to do with beating other hairless beasts over the head with a club to steal their women and food.

In fact, the fittest and most likely to survive are those who can cooperate in groups, as the pack animals can join together to bring down their prey.

Intelligence is a relative term.   M claims marriage compatibility is based on intelligence, and that he and K are closely matched.

My parents were closely matched in intelligence, I believe, but no one appreciated my mother’s smarts because she didn’t have the degrees to prove it.  Yet she had an active mind, lots of common sense, and managed to keep my father’s interest all their married life.

My father, who made gods of science and intelligence, was one of the most narrow-minded people around.  He couldn’t converse on any topic other than those that interested him, or where he excelled, and these were few indeed.  He had little interest or curiosity about anything outside that box.

If you presume others are stupid, you will miss evidence that conflicts with your belief.  The “scientific method,” the presumption of cause and effect, must exclude more than it includes to have any validity at all, and then you are only proving the limitations of your experiment.  The germ theory of disease, for instance.

 

The Art of Conversation

 

brainboocwern022017           In 2010, I was a member of a local Toastmasters’ club.  Toastmasters International is a group that emphasizes leadership through developing speech-making skills.  The format is highly structured but inclusive enough to allow for short speeches on a variety of topics.  When my work schedule changed, I left the club but remember it fondly and have considered returning.  This journal entry made seven years ago was inspired by a Toastmasters meeting:

 

LISTENING

Tuesday, February 9, 2010–A Toastmasters member read a blurb last night about being a good listener.  It presumed interrupting means you aren’t listening.  I disagree.  I frequently interrupt to clarify a point, to carry thoughts further, or to convert a monologue into a conversation.  I listen with the intent to understand.  It takes “listening” a step further, into the range of “hearing” the context.

If someone is misinformed, under-informed, or if they are over my head, boring, or otherwise wasting my time and theirs, I believe as a good listener, I have an obligation to set the communication on track.

Few people appreciate the give and take of conversation.  If you finish sentences for someone, does that make you a bad listener?  Maybe you’ve listened to that sentence so many times, you know it by heart.

A reader, by definition, is a listener, even though the listening is through eyes rather than ears.  Anyone who watches TV is a listener, of sorts.  Anyone who watches a movie, ditto.  In the latter, the media provide the visual imagery that readers supply for themselves through imagination.

Since that time I’ve thought more about listening and its role in conversation. Our society seems built on passive listening.  By “passive listening,” I refer to structured learning environments, such as classrooms and lecture halls.  Churches follow a similar format, with attendees listening to sermons.  Expression, such as singing or hymns or recitation of creeds, is by rote.  Passive listening extends to radio, television, and movies.  Cultural events, such as plays or concerts, depend on audiences that listen quietly to the performances. The internet has advanced communication by allowing for interactive exchanges through e-mail, FaceBook, Twitter, or blogging.

Pondering this led me to reflect on how the human brain is wired with respect to language.  Most people, about 96 percent, have language ability concentrated in the left hemisphere. Here, the brain processes receptive language (listening) in a specific area called Wernicke’s area.  Patients with Wernicke’s area strokes can speak fluently but do not understand what is being said, by themselves or others.

Broca’s area controls expressive language, or speaking.  People with Broca’s area strokes  can generally understand what is being said, but they have trouble formulating and verbalizing their own thoughts.  This is not a problem of motor function.  The muscles of speech, like in lips and tongue, are not affected by the stroke.  Strangely, those with Broca’s aphasia (speech difficulty) can often sing, presumably because musical expression is located in the right hemisphere.

Writers and speakers make careers out of developing expressive language skills.  They know the challenge of finding the right words to verbalize thoughts.  They must arrange sentences and paragraphs coherently, and anticipate how others might perceive the words in that context.  But writers and lecturers are not necessarily good listeners or good conversationalists.

Toastmasters is one group that offers opportunities to develop expressive language skills.  At another level, improvisational comedy is potentially a way to develop the art of conversation.  Improv’s primary rule is to move the action forward.  A stated or implied “no” creates an impediment to this flow.  In contrast, arguing is an example of how “no” blocks communication.  A good conversationalist wants to hear the other’s point of view.

This led me to speculate about other opportunities in our society to develop conversational skills, a give-and-take in which all participating parties emerge invigorated and refreshed.  How many people listen only to refute, rather than build on thoughts and take them further?  How many agree in an argumentative tone of voice, such that they sound like they are disagreeing?

The art of conversation relies on equal participation from both receptive and expressive sides of the brain, the yin and yang of communication.  Because the two speech areas of the brain are physically separated, I wonder if making a conscious effort to develop conversational dexterity will help connect the two modes of communication—listening and speaking—to benefit all brains equally.

Any thoughts on this?

 

 

Reflections: “Open Veins of Latin America”

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December 1, 2016

Seven years ago this month, I finished reading Open Veins of Latin America:  Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, by Eduardo Galeano.  This superb 1971 work of investigative journalism is the book that then Venezualan leader Hugo Chavez gave President Barack Obama.

I’ve been keeping journals in one form or another throughout my life.  I chose this seven-year interval to show how events do grow on themselves, and issues never die.  They merely change form.

Now we have the death last week of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who was simpatico with Chavez.  We have the recent ousting of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff by a political coup, which was vehemently protested by the popular electorate.  Social upheaval around the world reflects the troubles in Latin America, yet the strategies used by the power brokers remain the same.

Open Veins reveals how the game has been played and how it continues to be played.  What follows is only a partial set of notes from my reading, but it summarizes the book’s overall message.

OPEN VEINS OF LATIN AMERICA, EDUARDO GALEANO, 1971

            The early part of the book, Open Veins of Latin America, depicts how Spanish conquistadors raped South America of gold and silver in the 1600s.  They enslaved the Incas and other natives to do their dirty work.  Priests soon followed and continued the tyranny, shaming the locals for being un-Christian and forcing them to work in the mines as penance..

The middle pages of Open Veins depict the violence and social repression brought by the foreign money exporters  They used and use local governments to protect heir “investments.”  The same story occurs over and over, under different cloaks, whether cacao, coffee, rubber, cotton, or bananas.

The oligarchies control the land, with the help of government.  Government gets its cut in the form of taxes and job security.  Peasants are paid in subsistence wages if they are lucky.  Monoculture of produce for export displaces food production for locals, and malnutrition is common.

The book shows how prices are manipulated on Wall St., how US surpluses dumped in other countries are “foreign aid” drops prices for local economies, and the peasants are the first to suffer.

I thought about how this book shows the same methods the robber barons used in the book by that name.  Confessions of an Economic Hit Man also comes to mind.  I thought the advantages of TV and the worldwide communication network is exposing the barbarian plunderers like never before.  No wonder the world hates the US, but we learned our methods from the British, who are no more civilized than they were when they were Angles and Saxons.

Their arrogance and ours knows no bounds, apparently, because they and we continue to get away with it. It also provides more evidence for my hypothesis that government and property rights are the problem.  Land can’t be owned, not really, but property rights and government are two sides of the same coin.

Reading Open Veins tells me others are aware of the tactics used by the exploiters and have been writing about them a long time.  Open Veins was first published in 1971, 36 years ago, as many investigative books were.  The clamp down on journalists since then has been subtle, a mere matter of monopolizing news sources and publishers the way United Fruit monopolized the Latin American banana market.

The governments change, but the methods are the same around the world.  Those who claim the land have all the rights, as long as others believe in property rights.

I believe the land claims its people.  I feel claimed by this property and am unconcerned about how I will hold on to it.  It will hold on to me, I figure, because it knows a valuable human sacrifice when it supports one.

In Open Veins, as everywhere, the oppressors succeed by dividing and conquering, by pitting people against each other, controlling food and water sources.

Why, you might wonder.

It is the folly of the testosterone poisoned, I claim.  They think oppression increases profits.  They aren’t free market capitalists, who know oppression is bad for business.  You want to keep your work force strong, healthy and happy, because they will work harder for you out of gratitude.

When you’re an absentee landlord, as so many of the latifundio owners are, it’s easy to pretend ignorance of the injustice perpetrated in your name.  But how much can they enjoy all that ill-gotten wealth, knowing they did nothing to earn it and most live in fear of those they exploit?

In the US, people are TV-educated, at least, and able to get different versions of the exploitation game.  US residents know they are being exploited, but they aren’t sure who’s pulling the strings.

You are, Joe and Josie Taxpayer, as long as you put up with it.

Open Veins  tells other stories of governments colluding with investors, primarily British bankers in the 1850s, to rape and pillage their countries’ natural resources, including their people, all for exports.

Because no one values the contribution of human capital, not even those like Eduardo Galeano, the author, books like Open Veins miss the point.  It correctly implicates foreign investors, governments, and bankers, as well as the established oligarchies in the various Latin American countries, but it blames the dictators rather than the social conventions that allow dictators to grow and flourish.

Open Veins alludes to the guano on the coast of Peru, left by centuries of seagulls and pelicans, discovered and plundered in a few short years to replenish nutrient-starved wheat fields in Europe.  The Peruvians destroyed the gull and pelican habitats by overtaking, effectively killing the goose that laid their golden eggs.  Meanwhile, the technique for fixing atmospheric nitrogen was developed, and the guano industry died overnight.

Galeano provides example after example of corruption, revolution, unstable governments all at the mercy of British and American governments and corporations.  Over the centuries the plundered resources have changed, but the methods remain the same.  Gold and later other minerals.  Tin, copper, iron, silver.

I’ve read about the oil in Venezuela and the oil cartel controlled by Rockefeller interests.

No wonder Chavez wanted Obama to read it, and no wonder Obama won’t do it.  But how many other people will?

Americans provide the markets for these treasures, but Americans are insulated from the real costs through price fixing, labor exploitation, and tax advantages.  Gas costs more in some of the producing areas than in the US.  The developed countries, like Britain and the US, control the refineries and the mills, usually locating them at home, where labor is paid multiple what the disenfranchised Latin American labor gets.

America and the world have been suckered into overusing oil to support the oil cartel, and they continue to waste it in the name of quick profits and unacknowledged long term costs.  Galeano notes that oil supplies the war machines, a fact I haven’t seen substantiated anywhere else.

Americans don’t want to see their part in all this.  If they do, they compensate by giving money to charities or support social programs on pseudo-philanthropic entities like the Ronald McDonald’s houses at hospitals.

Open Veins, like The Robber Barons, astounds me with its details, its voluminous research, its insight into the methods used through Latin American history to degrade and oppress people.  While the Spanish and the Catholic Church initiated the devastation, the British institutionalized it, especially when industrialization began.  The industrial centers became black holes for raw materials, including human capital to produce it, but the raw goods never garnered the prices of the finished products, and the Brits conveniently dominated the finished product industry.

The Brits bought and sold Latin American governments, used them to fight each other—such as the Triple Alliance against Paraguay and its leader/dictator, Francisco Solano Lopez, who was dangerously independent, building Paraguay’s internal economy with foreign debt.  The British bankers—Bank of London, Barings, and Rothschild—couldn’t stand it.  They financed Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay to wage war against Paraguay, effectively broke up Paraguay, and bloodied everyone involved, as well as indebting them and ravaging the country, then collected in London from all sides.

I’m amazed at the wealth of detailed information in Open Veins.  It substantiates everything in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man about how the US government and corporations work in foreign countries, all with banker help, of course.  In Open Veins, the International Monetary fund and governments of Latin American countries collude to export money out of the countries under the guise of helping them.  Galeano pegs Wall Street as the center of the vortex, as I have 40 years later.

            Open Veins was powerful.  Galeano ends by saying that more revolution is coming, but he does this without conviction.  He sees the foreign investors and banks as having won the economic wars.  The masses, he believes, are too beaten down to fight back.

Debt is the trap for these countries, as everywhere.  I believe these countries should not feel obligated to honor debt assumed by dictators who were subsequently deposed.  That’s why they were deposed. Governments are not like buildings, tangible assets that can be repossessed.  No.  Governments are paper shells, here today and gone tomorrow, leaving their works like corpses behind.

Governments are primarily economic entities, and this is where Galeano stumbles.  Politically, he needs to blame the corporations, knowing full well the enemy lies within, because the corps couldn’t do their damage if Latin American governments didn’t provide the keys, the prisons, and the armed guards to keep the masses under control.  In 1978 he wrote that his book was banned in several countries.  If he had questioned the validity of the debt assumed by these dictators, and the US/corporate players, he would not have lived to write the 1978 revision.

Of course, as usual, I am the only person on the planet who understands that the debt is illusory.  It is all uncollectible.  It is government who has enslaved the populace, here as well as elsewhere, and the populace will remain slaves as long as they believe they need masters.

Galeano doesn’t question the value of the technology and machinery these countries are acquiring at such great cost.  He has been seduced, like others, into believing this junk represents progress.  He sees this struggle between rich and poor—especially foreign rich—when I see more and more the imbalance between rural and urban.

 

 

Bananas!

dsc01567

Thursday, October 20, 2016

In a previous blog, I lamented the loss of a banana tree in the storm Hermine.  I was ready to cut the remains of the banana stalk but decided on impulse to let it remain, hoping the broken stalk would still have the uumph to ripen the bananas.

And so it has.  Bananas are ripening daily, with ten cut so far and those pictured awaiting breakfast cereal.  The chickens love them.

This experience reminds me not to give up too soon.  When all seems lost, and years of effort wasted, nature can provide some sweet surprises, generating hope for another season of fruitfulness.

 

Disaster

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When disaster strikes on the home front, world events and political wrangling fade into a surreal background.  Hurricane Matthew knocked out electrical power in 90% of Chatham County, with power lines down on the streets, flooding in low-lying areas, and people like me stranded behind  fallen trees.

Eight huge trees fell across our driveway, with branches so thick that the road wasn’t passable even on foot.  It took two and a half days for us to clear trunks and branches from the road so we could get out by car.  It took another five days for power (and in my case, water) to be restored.  My brother-in-law was so desperate for his television fix that he hooked his car battery to an inverter and the TV so he could watch the presidential debates.

The storm hit Saturday morning (October 8) around 5 a.m.  I had spent the Wednesday prior in the hospital emergency room with a hypertensive crisis, with blood pressure in the stroke range.  I’d been having headaches and was beginning to lose my eyesight.  The doctors wanted to admit me, but I negotiated my way out of it, claiming that there was no one to take care of my animals, and the storm was coming.  “If I have to die, I’d rather die at home than in the hospital,” I said.  The docs begrudgingly discharged me with blood pressure medicines and a follow-up visit after the storm.

So I ended up playing lumberjack three days later, grateful that my body is still in good enough shape to take care of necessities.  Because of the power outage, my stricken eyesight and blocked roads, I was isolated from all stimuli outside my immediate environment, the sounds of chain saws throughout the neighborhood and the unhurried and unchanged sounds of nature.  I did what I could, using stored water for washing dishes (gas stove, fortunately), emptying the refrigerator of food before it went bad, cleaning, sweeping.  meditating.

The outside world seemed unreal, a dream.  I had decided the hypertension came from becoming overly involved in world events, caring too much for things I can’t control or even influence.  The body is known to generate the same stress hormones when faced with close and real as well as artificial (like TV news) danger.

I decided the hate and fear mongering perpetuated by the media creates a chronic state of mass arousal and over-stimulation that grows on itself.  This energy has nowhere to go, except to wear down the body and sap its vitality.

As a symbolic thinker, I believe everything that happens has significance beyond what is immediately apparent.  That my fate is connected to the world’s fate puts my body in the cross-currents between inner and outer, a tree splintered by the winds of forces beyond my understanding or control.  That I choose not to see what’s happening is my purely human physical reaction to the clashes of Armageddon at my doorstep.

 

 

 

Before the Roosters Crow

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From my porch, 091416

I got up before daylight this morning and took coffee to the porch.  There was a light drizzle, and gusty breezes sang through the trees.  I snuggled in winter bathrobe–thankful that mid-nineties summer heat has finally eased off–and let mind wander, guided by the rhythms of live oak branches and leaves dancing in the wind.

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Squire on his perch, 091416

Otherwise, all was quiet, no machine noise, and only sporadic crows of the roosters.  They seek reassurance, back and forth.  I answer with my translations.  To Squire’s five-note crow, I respond, “I love you so much!”  To Speckles two notes I sing “You, too!  Go back to sleep.”  And they do.

Silence again, but for the rustling crackle of oak leaves in the waves of wind.  For 20 minutes, I watch the sky lightening, as shades of gray transition into tones of green and blue.   Rain slackens.  Then the primal screams begin again.  This time, Speckles wakens the crows in the trees, who cackle an annoyed reply.  Squire answers once, then all is quiet again, but for the breeze and the drip, drip, drip of rain petering out.

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Speckles and Brownie, 091416

I think about how this weather is my favorite, cool but not cold, and breezy, lifting thoughts and carrying them wherever the wind blows.  Absent human noise, even the birds still sleeping.

The roosters set my daily clock.  Their morning greetings are like love songs to the rising sun.  I sing back in human words, believing that my intent to greet the day joyfully, in harmony with nature herself, carries far and wide, inspiring the dreams of those still sleeping.

Suddenly a gust of wind blows the rug across the porch and over my potted herbs.  A moment of panic startles me out of reverie.  Memories of hurricane Hermine, only a week and a half ago, merge with memories of the garden spider that succumbed to the storm’s high-velocity blasts.  As the storm moved in, I saw the spider struggling at the web’s anchor on the asparagus fern, looking panicked.  A  large twig attached to Spanish moss had blown into her web, ripping it apart.  My heart went out to her, but what could I do?  I had the chance to say good bye, because I knew she had little chance to survive the blasts of wind, this late in the season.  The next day, I could find no evidence or trace of her body.  Only the moss-covered twig, swinging on the strong web anchor from above, proved she ever lived.

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Hermine the Spider’s first web, 072016

I have watched that spider all summer.  She moved her web three times, after I kept bumping into it on the porch.  Finally, the web stretched from the fern on the porch to a low-hanging branch of the live oak tree, out of my way and over my head.  The huge spider was easy to see, with body at least two inches long and legs another three inches.

bananasdown091416The storm also broke the top half of a banana tree that had a rack of green bananas.  I had dearly hoped these bananas would have a chance to ripen before the first frost.  My garden this year was a miserable failure, but the bananas showed some promise, for the first time in over ten years of trying.

Storm Hermine threw branches and moss all over the yard and knocked out power and water for 48 hours, but the spider’s struggles and disappearance remain my most poignant memory of the storm’s passage.

This morning, as the dawn broke, I noted the moss and twig swaying in the breeze, and thought about how everything runs its course.  That oak tree may be over 100 years old, but garden spiders live only a season.  My three chickens are five years old and have a projected life span of not much longer.  They keep me focused in the moment, with more vitality packed into five pounds of feathers and mouth than any creatures I’ve ever known.

At 7 a.m., the roosters start crowing in earnest, and my quiet time ends with the primal rooster message:

“I love you so much!”

“You, too!”

 

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Memories of Hermine, 091416

September 14, 2016