Saturday, December 11, 2010

China Diaries: Part I

Growing up, I think I had OCD. Wait, I know I had OCD. I spent my life as child, contemplating the issues that faced humanity under the 150 foot Poplar trees. The next chapter of my life, was taking charge.

The Hero's Journey.August 16, 2009

Out of Mao's Shadow. $16.00, would this be enough to keep me occupied for the entire 12 hour plane flight? Granted I would sleep, and talk for a few hours in between. What if they search my bags? Is this a form of contraband in China? Screw it, I threw it I could brush up on Chinese history and maybe impress the tour guides.

I was determined to sit next to Vanessa, and with Trevir on my Left hand side, this was bound to be a hilarious trip.

As the overhead lights dimmed as the plane made a 180* on the tarmac. A feeling came over me. I looked at the screen ahead of me, as I felt the engines revved up. It was scene with my Uncle Jack at my Grandma Murphy's house. Two different things were happening. One in my mind, one in the physical world, and I was completely conscious of both. There were no housing developments, the trees in the backdrop were smaller and you could actually see Mt. Rainier. But I was innocently lost, but curious. Like I was coming to the realization of what it meant to be conscious in the world. No longer were my actions just a response to my surrounding environment, but rather a conscious decision. My mind had been blown and I was looking in the direction across my Grandmother's yard. My Uncle Jack must of picked up on this, because in the next scene, he leaned over and whispered, "Welcome to the Beginning of the Rest of your life." I never Life, up to that point, consisted of who called "Shotgun", lazily eating otter pops in Grandmother's vast field.

What is the purpose of life? Why I am able to comprehend the words in ink before my eyes? Why eyes? Why do I exist in this specific time and this specific place? What does it mean to be a human? How would you describe life to someone that has never lived before? This is the question of my life.

What have we become? What are we becoming? What does it mean to be human? The dual nature keep my mind in abeyance, and will it take a lifetime to discover the answers to these questions? The trip to China, at the last moment, became more of a journey of personal discovery, than an experience in another culture, on behalf of the sudden and startling revelation. Relaxation, no. Tyler time, no. There's a world to experience and questions that need to be answered. Nobody ever helped me out or was looking over my shoulder helping me plan for the trip. What did my family know about China?

I dropped the cantilevered tray table, and before the ink touched the pages of my journal, Trevor was already at it. "Murphy, Murphy" I almost chocked on the Seaweed Soup when he told me that won "Most likely to get get kicked" He'd say, "God damn you Tyler Murphy" with the justification. Holy crap, this was going to be a long trip, compounded by the four hours of sleep the night before, the sleepless night of traveling half way around the world, and the stressful morning that followed after I found out our dog, Lady, had been attacked by a porcupine and was covered in blood, and needles fifteen minutes before I was to the house. The only thing I wanted to do was journal and in between sleeping sessions. What is that much to ask for?

When I arrived at Skagit Valley College that morning, Trevor walked over to our truck and began talking., and he never stopped. For two week he never took a breath. He just. Kept. Talking. I was interested in learning if he spent the night before gathering the last minute essentials. Nope, he was at a friends house where he stayed up to 3am playing video games. I asked him about where his Permethrin process, he forgot it, his netting, forgot. Jesus, I spent the entire night spraying my clothes and sleeping bag down, and double checking everything.

The ceiling was light green. The room felt taller than it was wide. The light from the hallway lightly lit up the room. In my buzzed state of mind.

Trevor talked about what he'd do protect the ladies. The two weeks that I spent with Trevor, I grew to really like him. Something inconceivable two weeks earlier. The tables turned, I came with a lot of baggage and returned with a lighter load, while Trevor returned with a handmade sandals, a pheasants hat, and 11 foot bamboo shoot. Is this symbolic? Maybe, I'd like to think so.

The Chinese, as citizens do not pose a threat to the United States in any form. The Chinese as any other culture, just want to live their lives, raise their children, and be happy."

Free Marketers.

"What has been undermined was the wisdom of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal reforms that capitalism needed to be saved from its own excess in order to survive, that the free market would remain free only it was properly regulated in the public interest. The great and terrible irony of capitalism is that if left unfettered, it inexorably engineers its own demise, through either revolution or economic collapse.

The guardians of capitalism's survival are thus not the self proclaimed free marketers, who, in defiance of the pragmatic Adam Smith himself, wanted to chop away at all government restraints on corporate actions, but rather liberals, at least those in the mode of FDR, who seek to harness its awesome power while keeping its workings palatable to a civilized and progressive society." (The Great American Stickup-pg 18-19)

Chris Hedges in his novel, the Death of the Liberal Class, writes the liberal class has abandoned its core principles and has "become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power."(Death of the Liberal Class pg.9) The irony remains, according to Mr. Hedges, that "In killing off the liberal class, the corporate state, in its zealous pursuit of profit, has killed off its most integral and important partner. Corporate power forget that the liberal class, when it functions, gives legitimacy to the power elite."(Death of the Liberal Class pg. 12) The Liberal Class recognizes the social-economic hierarchy of human nature and tries to work within that framework to allow for some social mobility for those who given the opportunity. It doesn't call for a idealist society, but one that works with the current system to help those who are at disadvantage.

Allow me to take this one step further with help from Joseph Heath's Economics without Illusions, "The commitment to "limited government" and "laissez faire" capitalism turns out to be not so much a principled defense of individual liberty as an arbitrary privileging of the interests of those with money to invest (whom we may refer to, for convenience, as the "wealthy"". The right wing call for "less government" therefore becomes a call to "keep those programs that benefit the wealth-scrap everything else." And this simply doesn't qualify as a political philosophy. When spoken in the mouths of the privileged, it's just a fancy way of saying, "More free stuff for me, less for you"

Capitalism is not a spontaneous order. The compositional fallacy, however, makes it tempting to believe that is is. Since it is in everyone's interest to have a system of property rights, or to have the orderly exchange of goods, won't people just natural tend to organize their affairs in that way? Who needs the government to step in? Yet as it turns out, we do need government step in, even to secure the most basic conditions for a functioning market economy. Two boys trading marbles in the schoolyard may constitute a spontaneous order, but the capitalist economic system is a highly artificial construct, based upon an elaborate set of social programs that have been refined and tweaked over the course of centuries.

Do I need to say more?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pinnacle of Globalization

I came here in the sixties to see the land of the free. I was living in Greenwich village, going through the counterculture, the culture of love, going to an Irish bar at the end of the day and getting the New York Times at three in the morning. I was able to go anywhere, accepted anywhere, nobody cared where I was from, what religion have. It was a fantastic experience. I thought this is what the world as it ought to be.

-Mohamed Elbaradci
Former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency