08 July 2019

Pity the rich

A few months ago, I read in one of my philosophy books that we should pity the rich because they never have opportunities to develop themselves and truly learn what kind of person they are.

At first, this sounded like an abstract philosophical hypothesis— that I could only imagine how it would be correct. But then I met a gaggle of rich heirs from Beverly Hills, and evidence was there. I cannot give specific details of the interaction due to the requirements of my current job. But I can describe general impressions, like mouth open wide while he is trying to figure out how come people he usually considers servants are actually forbidding him to do what he wishes.
Each member of gaggle was adorned with brands, stuffed in new expensive vehicles, and spotted perfectly trimmed hair in the latest fashion ( I assume since I’m not really fashionable. )
There were around ten of them, and although all of them were in their tweens, they were hopelessly incompetent. They were not only ignorant of basic stuff every average tween knows, but they didn’t even think to do some research for themselves to prepare for the novel situation. Each interaction with them led to confused faces who were stumped with the sudden revelation that they are prerequisites for them ‘having a fun day at a lake.’ Apparently, even a legal requirement to have a life vest while boating was unknown to them. Something that basically simple google search could tell them.
Behavior like that is excusable if someone is preteen or just teen.
When I was their age, I knew how to get information if I’m venturing in some new activity.  Today that’s even easier with internet availability on the tip of your fingers. Yet, for them, the very idea of researching something one does not know was foreign.

Surprisingly, the ancient philosopher was correct, especially when humans born into richness are considered.
Maybe that’s why wealthy parents needed to buy enrollment for their kids in that latest scandal that still is going through courts.
Seeing such incompetence also clicked with my history knowledge. I always thought that aristocracy declined because peasants got fed up with the situation. But all we have to do is look at North Korea to see that people can suffer a lot and that few tweaks and techniques can stop them from organizing.
Now it seems plausible that bubble wrap of money that protects rich heirs it also limits them. And those limitations are precisely what caused aristocracy to crash. Being protected by their bubble wraps and thinking they are special because they are born rich doomed them.
In the end, I really did feel sorry for the rich. Because they are truly dependent on this particular social system surviving and keeping them in their money-made bubble wrap.

05 June 2019

TV SHOW recommendation


Auschwitz - BBC documentary, 2005


Living today in the USA often reminds me that it is necessary to refresh my knowledge from history. Especially the part about why racism is wrong. 
I found this show thanks to the Netflix algorithms. I love historical documentaries, so this particular one was recommended to me. And boy it was spot on.
The documentary goes through the whole history of the Auschwitz, starting with the original military building that was on the site before Nazis took it over. It explains how politics and ideology of the Nazi, led humans in charge of Auschwitz to do monstrous things. 
And that last point, explaining how ordinary, everyday people with a bit weird ideology can be turned into monsters is what I really like in this documentary.
Through the time, people started de-humanized Nazi, representing them as some kind of evil, inhuman monsters. And that is sort of normal reaction, because if you can somehow prove that monster is not human, then you can prove that you and humans around you will never do such things. 
Sadly, that is not so. 
Unfortunately, all humans have in the capacity for evil and monstrosity. Forgetting that will allow monsters to appear, but reminding ourselves that ordinary human can turn monster, will make us more vigilant in stopping new monsters. 

That’s why I liked the documentary. It showed Nazi as they are, humans with a particular skill set,  love for problem-solving,  and engineering tendencies. Those same tendencies that later brought us the excellence of the German engineering examples.  
But this particular humans also had an entirely misguided and f-up ideology which told them that certain groups of humans are not humans but something less, inhuman, and in essence, merely annoying things that need to be removed for the betterment of their own group. 
And if the last thing sounds familiar, it is. Through human history, various kings and religious leaders used precisely the same rationalization to justify killing other humans. Any difference between US and THEM is enlarged and used as an excuse for killing. The important thing was that THEY have something that WE want. 
The problem was if you admit that fact, then WE are not good guys. No, it is better to form some form of the ideology that will make THEM seem like things and not humans. And then take stuff from THEM for US. And WE will still be all good and peachy, after all, THEY are not human, so how could you do evil to something that is not human?

And that is precisely what this particular documentary is uncovering. You can see Nazis convincing themselves that Jews, Slavs, disabled people, and Gypsies are not really human, so it is ok to get rid of them. As long as Nazi stick to the belief that what they were removing is a problem, inhuman, or even evil agent that makes their life worse, they can also believe that they are still good guys. 
The documentary shows, in a chilling way, Nazis using skills and life approach developed by their own efficient culture, to solve what they saw as a problem. The documentary shows how ordinary humans with misguided beliefs go from bad to worse in an attempt to solve a problem that, according to them, made their people unable to earn enough to have a decent life. 
When you see the story from that point, in the end, it was not surprising that commander of the Auschwitz was not remorseful for what he has done. He died considering humans he killed as annoying, evil, objects. He and his friends abandoned humanity because they convinced themselves they are not dealing with other fellow humans.

And that shows the truth behind this monstrosities. The moment when you start believing your leaders that THEY are somehow less than US, you are stepping at the path that might lead you to the exactly the same monstrosities as the ones Nazi did. The moment when you start treating another fellow human as a thing, you are turning to the path that will lead you not only to do bad stuff but also to cut pieces of yourself and your conscience away. You will not be a good guy anymore.

So do not believe when someone tells you that a person or a group of humans are somehow inhuman or evil. 
The progress of human societies and a variety of governments and problem-solving approaches to social problems showed that they are better ways to fix the issues in the community which blocks you from having a decent life. The problem is those better ways need refreshing and protecting every few generations.  Because the very people who are telling you that THEY are evil and problem, see you as a problem and inferior human. 

22 May 2019

Book Review

So you want to...

by M.F. Turner


This little book is a nice overview of the all what one should know to start thinking about the publishing. So if you are an absolute beginner, this is the right pick for you.
To me, it was not really useful, because I spent years listening to the  Sci-Fi and Fantasy Marketing podcast, where all the subjects were covered with way more details and directions what one needs to do.

04 May 2019

Officially started looking for the new doggie.

As I wrote my own pup died a few months ago. It was hard, but the grieving process took its course. And now I'm looking for another dog.
I miss good times doggies bring, more and more each day.



Fun in the snow

Hiking

Paddling. Funny thing is connected with this photo. We were making a slow tour around the lake, stopping here and there and letting Lytle sniff. At this particular place, we stopped a bit longer. He got bored with us just sitting there, so he went to the kayak and sat at his place, and started calling us to go.

Another less mentioned good side of the dogs is their enthusiastic help with many spills and food messes. Here you can see both of my sous-chefs. Each time I cook, I have two of them staring at every my movement. I trained both to stay out of the kitchen because the last thing I wish is to trip over one of them and spill the hot liquid on them. But boy, if I spill something all I needed to do is call the dog, and a spill would disappear. I have to be honest, I did not realize how much I got used to that particular doggie service until it stopped.

Of course, there was negative stuff, like Lytle's obsession with cat poop. This was a place where we had a cat door leading to the laundry room with the litter box. One day, we left Lytle alone at home, while we went grocery shopping. He ate the door so that he can get to the litter box, and of course, got stuck inside because the hole is not very big. I still have no clue how did he manage to squeeze himself in, but we found him inside the laundry room. He could not get out. I guess he was lacking a right motivation.



There were things we had only with Lytle.

He was a ring bearer at our wedding.

He was also there encouraging our cat during the leash training. The poor pup was so excited the first time when the cat got a leash, but later he learned that cat's idea of a walk is a boring one and quickly gave up on the idea of having a cat pal for walkies.

Here I just wish to mention doggie seatbelt. I'm often appalled by people allowing their dogs to freely walk around the vehicle, or even worse in the truck bed. First thing I did when Lytle became my responsibility to get a doggie seatbelt. An additional benefit was to keep him in the back seat, without him trying to climb in front with my husband and me. In time he learned that seatbelt means going for a ride and having loads of fun. Unfortunately, he also learned that if he pulls slow he can elongate the seatbelt and put his nose into our necks. So we belt did not keep him in the back seat.
Yeah, smart fella.

 I'm looking forward to the new pup, and watching every single Cesar Milan episode just to get my doggie fix.

Right now, I'm looking at the listings at local shelters and consult my husband about the potential candidates. We are waiting for the response on one inquiry, but if that one fell through we will simply go directly to the shelter and just get a dog there. Big dogs are often abandoned and shelters are full of them.
It will be hard not to take all of them with us back home.

30 April 2019

Emissary

Book Review

The novel by J.M. Dillard


This is one of the rare books that made me appreciate the original pilot episode even more. I loved how the author added the depth and inner side of the characters. 

This book actually made me understand the whole DS9 a bit better. And in the end, it is an example of that rule that book is always better than movie/TV.


Really, if you like Star Trek, go read it!

14 April 2019

Less apparent things outside our control

People. One cannot control other people.



This fact is hard to accept because to all of us it seems that we are so easily pushed around. In childhood by our parents, as adults by bosses and other humans around us, and all this gives us the impression that there is no way we can do what we wish, that we are controlled. So we assume that other people too can be somehow controlled. 

But people are usually unpredictable. 

One can learn how people work, learn how to recognize different types of humans, learn how most likely certain humans will react in certain situations. But in the end, you can never be sure how the other person will respond, simply because you do not know what is in that other person head. 

Scammers know that humans are unreliable. That's why they will do their best to provoke an emotional response from their victim and make sure that victim acts as fast as possible, creating a sense of urgency.  Because if a victim stops and thinks they will not fall for the scam. It is more straightforward to scam and control emotional people or people who do not think much. 
But the main factor behind scammer's success is correctly guessing what might be inner motivation for a human to go along the scam. And that also explains why you have that feeling that other people control you. In truth, you are actually following your inner motivation. Like going along the obnoxious work situation because you need income. 

I will repeat, we do not know what is happening in other people heads. If you are verse in body language, you can read the emotions and guess from there what person's next reaction might be. But in the end, the guess is the best you can do.  
The main obstacle is a human brain and errors it causes. When anyone judges others, they usually use themselves and their experience as a reference point. And as an additional complication, people often project emotions, thoughts, and motives on the other people. 
Moreover, different cultures have slightly different norms for expressing emotions and somewhat different ways to react to the same stimulus.  So chances that you will be correct in predicting how a person will respond depends heavily on your own experience with the culture of that person, and your ability to be aware of how your brain functions, so that you can correct for errors. 

There are ways to exert control, as any person who was a hostage of some kind will tell you. One can scare people in doing what they wish, or one can destroy a person’s self-esteem enough that they lose motivation to fight back. I’ve seen both techniques in action. And those techniques work up to a point. And the person who is trying to control never knows when the victim will reach that breakpoint. That's why over human history, sooner or later oppressor's career ends in a bloody uprising. 
And breakpoints happen not only on society scale, but also on individual one, where a victim ends up murdering a bully, or less newsworthy, merely leave the bully. You probably met ex-bullies that were abandoned by their victims. Such people are usually older, and when you take pity on them, very soon, you see that it is better to stay away. I have such an example in my neighborhood, an obnoxious old man, and just to avoid pointless arguments with him I changed where I walk my dog, so I do not have to bump into him. And I reached that point after just a few conversations/arguments with him. 

Maybe you can call it karma, but after the point of breaking is reached, scammer/controller is left in a predicament. Not only that victim is gone, but also all the time used to increase, and perfect control methods is basically lost.  
I'll point again, to even try to control other people one has to invest a lot of time to perfect the skills and methodologies, and during that time scammer does not learn anything else.  And that is usually scammer's downfall because they are ‘one pony trick’ people.  Again, most likely you can take yourself as an example. You fell for a particular con only once. No one, especially same conman cannot catch you on the same trick twice.

Anyway, one cannot control other people. You can follow the rules of your society to gain the most of the support of your social circle, but that usually is based on how kind and helpful you are towards others in your social circle. Basically, you can do your best and then wait for the outcome.



02 April 2019

Dealing with things outside our control

One of the hardest lessons is how to deal with an event that we cannot control at all.
The society usually makes us believe that we can even influence everything around us. If you wish to get something that is out of your reach you get advice to try harder or pray.
I tried both. And neither had a positive effect. The only thing I accomplished is torturing myself.
One of the wise advice I got is to accept the things I cannot change. In theory, the advice is great but very, very hard to accomplish.
First, it is tough to figure out what actually I cannot change and what needs fixing on my side. From childhood, I was trained to try harder. But sometimes working harder just creates more problems.




I will start with the events that are easy to recognize as something outside our control, and in future posts talk about the events and situations that are harder to identify as situations out of our control.

Death, War, and Catastrophes


Another issue that creates problems in figuring out what we can and what cannot control is a pain that comes with loss or big scale tragedies.
My first experience with events like that happened during the civil war in my country of origin.
Before the war, I was not actually paying attention much to the events unfolding. I was more focused on the cute boy from my high-school and plans of what to do with my future. Like any high-school teenager would do.  I was aware of the news and weird separation between members of the different religious groups, but I was not taking it seriously because my best friend was from a different religious group and we were fine.
So when the war happened, it was a full surprise to me. All the plans I had for my future crashed down like a house of cards. I was slammed by the event that was entirely out of my control. Absolutely nothing I do could stop it, change it, or make it go away.

Then deaths started happening. Boys I played with as a kid started dying in war. I still remember during one of the funerals I attended, mother of the boy who got killed tried to throw herself on a coffin while it was lowered in the ground, screaming for the coffin to be opened, screaming how her son is not dead, he is just sleeping.
It took the death of my loved one to figure out the strange behavior that mother had. I experienced that same feeling of disbelief that everything connected to a dead person is now over. For good.
I experienced that feeling of loss and refusal that there is nothing one can do to change this new situation.

It is very, very hard to deal with those emotions. I went through a war, lost many friends, lost my relatives, lost my mother, and still, I go through all those blasted five phases of the acceptance of the death. Now, it is just faster to go through the process. I learned that it is essential to let the grief go through all those five phases naturally and cry when even emotions make my eyes water. That really speeds up the grieving process, and one gets back to a semblance of normality sooner.

Death really brings to focus on the reason why religions exist. If you research a bit, each and every religion deals on what happens after death. Each and every religion has some answer what happens after death. Also, every religion has rituals to help during the loss and grieving period. And those rituals are helpful with grief. They give some kind of framework to work through the pain and keep your sanity.
But it can backfire, if one takes religious promises of some continuation of life too seriously and get stuck in grief, never passing through all the five stages of the loss acceptance. So be careful if religion is your only option for help.
And if you are not religious you still can benefit from those rituals, just adapt the wording to something that reflects your own values. Such adaptation is normal for religious ceremonies. Many monotheistic rituals today are actually modified polytheistic rituals.

The worse situations are when several deaths appear one after another. I experienced that during the war, but it does not take catastrophy of such kind to experience a similar situation. Recently my husband suffered something similar losing one friend after another. There was no apparent, logical or any other sort of reason for such series of events. But he is going on through the same shaite I went through during the first two years of the civil war in my country of origin, losing one friend after another.

You get one hit after another, and after some time you lose the hope in future and start to tense up just waiting for another hit.
It is tough to go through such a period in life or even recover after it. Honestly, if you are going through a situation like that, please ask for professional help.

I did not, and that resulted in severe behavioral changes that I had to deal with for years. See, in situations like those I mentioned above one develops specific coping skills, and those are awesome while the situation lasts because it helps you survive.
The problems arise later when those coping skills become a daily habit that you keep even after the situation stops. Those same skills that helped you now are the problem that is preventing you from living a normal life. From a helpful tool, they turn into an obstacle.

I was faced with such realization the first time when I moved out of my country of origin. I moved to Germany, and the first lightbulb turned on during the language class. A teacher asked us how we should react in some situation. She described a mildly annoying situation of interacting with another human. She was calling the students across the class asking them to answer in German, and of course, I made answer in my own head in case she calls on me. But then I got stunned with the mildness of the responses of other students. Majority of them did not even see the situation as adverse as I did. My answer was full of aggression, and I interpreted the presented case as an attack. And I was the only one who saw it as an attack. No one else did.
For me, that was a sobering experience. It was like someone poured the cold water on me. Sadly, my interpretation of the situation was normal behavior and perception for my own country of origin. Such definition developed during the war's adversities and just kept on even when the war stopped. I left my country of origin approximately five years after the war finished. And if you think that five years are enough to shed the useless old patterns of behavior, you’re wrong. When the whole area is influenced by the same event, then such patterns of behavior become a norm, and healthy behavior is perceived as strange or crazy.

That’s why I recommended the help of the professional if you landed in the life situation where life kept on hitting and kicking you over a more prolonged period of the time. It is hard to realize that your own that bad situation ended. It took me more than 3 years outside of my country of origin to calm down and relax.
And I’m not joking about it. I did not even realize that I was not relaxed until the relaxation finally happened.

Death is one of the hardest life events to handle. It is final, harsh, unrelenting. It is an ultimate example of events we cannot control, and it is an event that makes us face our own mortality. Depending on how you face it, it will help you grow or froze you in fear and tension for years.