30 August 2020

Police country tactics

Did you ever stop and think about the broader implication of the police stamping down the protests?

Let me put that question in a different form.

Did you ever wonder how come that Northern Koreans do not raise against their dictator after decades of mistreatment?

If you asked yourself that second question but not the first, then you are not realizing how lucky you are to live in the country that has First Amendment. 

I grew up in the country with no protection of the speech. And citizens considered criticizing government particularly dangerous. 

My country of origin did not start like that. My grandparents were telling me that after the second world war, everything was full of vigor and passion and wish for a better society. But then, slowly, the government started squeezing the population. 

It started very similar to what is going on now with police and protests. The government got an excuse with a rise of Stalin to remove itself from the Eastern block and stamp down the evil Stalinist who wanted to turn our country into Soviet Union colony, as they did with most of the other Eastern block countries. 

My grandparents told me, police beat people who dared to protest. The police came and took away people who organized protests. No one ever saw those people again. 

My grandparents told me that’s how it started.

It did not stop.

The danger of Stalin went away. But the tactic used by the government of my country of origin did not change. There were always some other enemies. 

No one ever protested. I grew up in a country where only protests appeared just before the country slid into civil war. Nothing before. Regardless of how bad it was.

The police stamping down protests is usually just the first step in securing dictatorship. There is another little action dictators do to make sure people do not organize. 

The next step declared that there are spies among us. And that genuine patriots report spies and suspicious behavior. It did not take long before people seized such tactics as a great way to get rid of annoying people. 

Your neighbor is pissing you off? Easy, say he was glorifying Stalin. Police arrests troublesome neighbors and your problem is gone. 

I grew up watching TV comedy shows about such incidents, a funny story about two neighbors where one neighbor caused the other to be shipped off to “Goli Otok”, a desolate island with political prisoners. All my family laughed at the show. And the entire family ignored the inconvenient fact that I grew up with my mother snarling at me not to repeat anything I hear in the house. 

During my parent’s generation times, the government declared Sorosh an enemy who was sending spies. Yes, believe or not, a country with officially Communist, the left government considered Sorosh evil. Do not be surprised. Sorosh promoted democracy, and the government at the time was de facto dictatorship and oligarchy. Communism was just a handy ideology to exploit. Dictatorships do that, they use religion, ideology, conspiracies, whatever works to convince people there are enemies around and only dictator can save them. 

So the same tactics continued. I grew up with parents telling me not to trust anyone outside our family. I should not even trust family members who had friends that worked as police. 

My family had an awful experience with family members who were working for the police. This happened when I was too little to remember details. But, according to my mother, a distant relative who worked as a police officer arrested my uncle to push up his own career. My uncle was a stupid teenager hanging out with other stupid teenagers and doing silly stuff. According to my mother, my uncle did nothing wrong but ended up going to prison because he did not wish to snitch on his friends. 

What was behind the entire event, I do not know. I never heard the other side. But I know that my mother’s version was considered possible. It was well known that one has to be careful about whom to believe. 

And that’s how dictators take full control. First, you beat the crap out of the protesters, arrest, and kill protest leaders declaring them the enemy of the society. And to prevent protests even to appear, start awarding people who report their neighbors as enemies.  

In the end, governments end up with a population who can see that things are going badly but cannot do or say anything because they do not trust other people around them. If you say something police will grab you and kill you in the night.  If someone else says something, how can you be sure they are not government agents trying to provoke you to say something wrong and get into trouble? 

In the end, that’s how the civil war started in my country. A bunch of extremists started yelling, and everyone else went silent. People like me thought they were the only ones who thought that war is wrong, that ideas which were pushed were wrong. I and countless others never dared to raise a voice in protest. And I still wonder if we did, maybe all that bloodshed would not happen.

So, I will finish up this by saying treasure your First Amendment. The ability to criticize the government, to assemble, is precious. Treasure it. 

As long as there is First Amendment neither you nor your neighbor will end up being tortured and killed. 

Protect First Amendment and do not trust any government that tells you protests are riots. In 9 out of 10 cases, they are not.

21 August 2020

Civilian view of a war

I survived one civil war. And I live among the Trump supporters, although I’m not one. So, I keep thinking about how the situation here is similar to the situation just before the war started in my country of origin. 

My newest pet peeve is idiocrasy of people around me believing that somehow, civil war will make the situation better for them. 

It will not. 

When a war starts, your life, as it was before the war will never come back. Never. 

If you are in a shitty situation now, you might think the disruption of today’s society will do you good. War might be a good idea. You hope you will end up on top. 

Wrong. I can tell you that every single person in my country of origin thought they will be one that will end up on top.  After the war finished, none of them ended up better than they were before the war. Every single one was worse off. 

Everything you have will be lost, and more stuff you have and more savings you have, more you’ll lose. So all property, all retirement savings, all little mementos you find precious, all will be lost. All your plans for the future will be tanked. Everything. Especially if you live in the area surrounded by people that see you as an enemy. 

The only persons who suffer the least damage from the war are people rich enough to transfer their life and everything they have outside the war zone, or sociopaths who focus on their personal gain. Because war, civil war, is not like in the movies. Remember movies have to be exciting, make sense and end up on an up note for creators to earn money. I guess you have enough life experience to know life is not like that. 

So what happens? Well, people try to cling to the idea of saving the old life, somehow returning things to pre-war normal. So society does not disappear, instead, it turns into some kind of zombie where bullies and sociopaths get to set the rules. An average person is just trying to get by. An average person is hoping beyond hope that somehow old life will come back. And sociopaths use that hope to force people to work without pay, to pretend that everything is just a small minor crisis and it will be over soon, you’ll see. 

“Be patriotic”, they say while they steal the last bit of food you have. 

Sociopaths use hope to trick other people into sacrificing for “a greater good”. Often sociopaths use the same ideology used to justify war. But, sociopaths are just sucking the life out of the rest of population for the personal gain.  

So, the least damage happens if you leave at the very beginning with all of your belongings. Then you can keep most of its previous life. 

Very few people leave. There is another characteristic which never fails — people don’t believe that war will start. 

So, when a war starts, it takes some time for people to accept that their life is irreparably changed. 

Some people never do. They linger for years after the war, bitterly complaining about their awful luck and how other people f- them over. 

You are in a bit better position if you’re surrounded by people on your side. Then you just need to pretend, and pretend good, that you are fully and with no reservation devoted to your side. Every day you have to show the belief that no matter what your side does, an action cannot be wrong. 

Depending on how good you are in that pretending less damage you will suffer. But you will suffer some damage and loss because the entire country, the entire society will. One cannot get a decent slice of the pie when there is no pie left. And war, especially civil war, destroys the whole pie. 

Oh, you might think I’m with good guys. The catch is, good guys, do not win. Because every side thinks of themselves to be good guys. Winners later declare themselves good guys. And winners conveniently paper overall actions that are not suitable for the good guys. Just think about how in the USA you have two different perceptions of what was going on in the last Civil war. 

Ideas that your group is good, and the other side is subhuman is the standard tactic used throughout history to make wars more acceptable to the general population. It has nothing to do with the truth. You believe that you are better than the other side is a just symptom of manipulation by your leaders. People and life are way more complex and never so simple as binary good and evil.

I’ve heard options of running away and camping in the forest, while the things calm down. Yes. People do that. And they are called refugees. Running for your life means you run with what you can grab to carry. And that is ALL you will have from your old life. Running away throws you at the mercy of the others. And people have little mercy. I’ve seen how refugees are treated during the war. Even refugees that are supposedly on your side. 

I’ve seen refugees digging through the trash to fight off starvation. Often they could not. Yes, I’ve seen refugees dying from starvation. And no, I could not give them anything, because neither I nor my family had enough to eat. During the war, I lost so much weight that my period stopped. For males in the audience, that means weight loss similar to one caused by anorexia. Mercy does not even cross your mind when you’re hungry and suffering. Your own stomach overpowers it. 

All inclusions, all rights, you think you have, disappear. If you are not in your life prime,  strong,  without scruples, you are automatically second or even third-class citizen. Women, disabled, minorities, children, old people, anyone different  loses rights. Even if you a young, strong male of the right color, if you dare to have morals and point out wrongdoings of your side, you lose rights. That’s why I hate dystopian movies and shows that ignore this “minor” fact.

There is another complication in the USA that did not exist during the war in my country of origin. My country of origin was tiny, and the world could force the bloodthirsty sociopaths to put down the weapons and make peace. Even then it took 2-3 years. 

The USA is not small, and it is geographically isolated. I cannot speculate how things will go in the USA. But I know that in my country of origin sociopaths and so-called “leaders” prolonged war because they also controlled the black market. Although I am not sure one can call market black when it is controlled by leaders. 

There is no happy ending with war. 

If you think the economy is bad now, think twice. After the war,  most of the factories and companies are moved away, or destroyed, or looted. In my country of origin the unemployment rate before the war was around 11%, after the war it was 70%. 

And profiteers, the same bastards that were selling humanitarian aid to you instead of giving it, they end up connecting themselves with politics so they are protected when new society and new order takes place after the war. Yep, that happens too. If you thought corruption is rampant now, wait till war starts. My country of origin now is more corrupt than it was before the war. War does not remove corruption. In the best-case scenario, it exchanges one set of corrupt people to a fresh set. But in the average case, war makes corruption blossom. I was not joking about selling humanitarian aid. Throughout the war, I was eating cans of food, purchased in a local grocery store, that stated in English “not for sale”. But when profiteers are people who set rules, you cannot complain. 

Wars drag out the worse in humans. If you think humanity is bad, you saw nothing till you see what we do in the war. 

People you thought are nice, people you thought you know, end up being or behaving as a war criminal. The boys, I played with, turned to be war criminals. A nice lovely neighbor who was so friendly, a war criminal. There is no knowing who will turn to be a monster. 

See if the monsters think you’re on their side, they will behave nicely towards you. The only red flag is the way they talk about “the others”. But if you make a wrong step, or disagree with something they said about “the others” soon, you will feel the full brunt of their monstrosity. 

I’ll finish this long post by repeating the most important point you need to take from all this. War will not make you better off. No matter where is your starting point, you will end up worse off. Even if you lose nothing material, you will end up with PTSD. That part is unavoidable for anyone who survives the war. The only intensity of PTSD varies.

Do not get sucked into the warmongering. Nothing good comes from war. Nothing.

21 June 2020

Writing as non-native speaker

The start of this blog will sound superfluous. I’m as any other wannabe writer. Voracious reader, read and written stories since childhood. 
I published my first short story when I was 19 in my native language, but then civil war broke, and my writing ran, not merely to a back-burner, but got buried and forgotten in the basement.
Not that I fled the stories. No, I love stories, and enjoy reading/watching stories every day. And Star Trek and science fiction stories were part of the thread that kept me sane during the war. Those stories helped me preserve some hope in humanity and future. 
Finally, I revisited that basement, and I got an idea of writing in English. And my long trek towards that goal started.
Before I began with the writing adventure, I already spoke the English language well. I had to, as a scientist. I had to write scientific papers in English. I had to give public talks and lectures in English. I attended grad-school lessons in English.
But that knowledge was not sufficient for writing. When I started writing stories, I learned that I still have to work on my English. I imbedded my writing syntax and logic into logic and syntax of my native language. And I’m still fighting with that issue. Seems like it is a never-ending struggle. 

So, in 2018 I published my first fan-fiction story, and it elated me. Not much because fan site published my story, but because editor corrected a handful of my words, and added that the rest is perfectly fine for reading. 

That gave me a boost to continue. Now I’m writing a bunch of short stories and submitting them to the magazines. And with every story, I’m learning more, applying what I learn and seeing my short story adventure as a test of my English language. When I get good enough in English, I will sell the original fiction story, not just fan-fiction. 

I’m still taking courses, immersing myself into writers' community, and visiting the writer’s conferences. 
Right now I’m taking part in Summer Festival of Writing, organized by Jericho Writers. It is an online show, which I find a blessing now. It is easy to take part, and it reduces all expenses to the ticket price. It is harder to socialize and make connections, but somehow acceptable for the first attempt at the attending a writer’s event.
And I just completed the Workshop, online, from The Writers of the Future. So I’m continuing with my efforts. And who knows, maybe I will sell the story this year…

14 June 2020

Review: So You Want to Talk About Race

So You Want to Talk About Race So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me start with a little personal introduction. I'm an immigrant, arrived in the USA in 2008 after Obama was elected. When I fulfilled conditions for citizenship, I took it because I considered the USA's overall direction to be the correct one. Today is actually the anniversary of my taking the oath and becoming a citizen. I still treasure the letter that I got from Obama for the occasion.
Growing up in a small, south-eastern European country, poor enough not to attract any people of color to immigrate, made me utterly ignorant of race-related problems. 
So when the protests erupted, I bought this book and read it faster than I read any other book in the last decade.

And content hit me hard. The experiences the author describes as her everyday life, as something that every person of color has to go through daily, is horrific.
And I say that because I went through similar emotional anguish during the civil war in my country of origin. That fear of uniformed and armed people is something I experienced too.  Being hungry, being in rags, being judged, being forced to conform or risk beating and death, a dread of being stopped by people in uniforms, I went through all of that. 
I know how damaging such experience is to a person, how hard it is to live a life under such constant pressure. It is not living, but mere survival. 
I was lucky, the war lasted only 5 years, and then I could continue living. 
But now, a knowledge there are humans around me that experience such horror throughout their lives, it makes me sick. That has to change. That really has to change. No one deserves to live in such constant terror. 
When you decide to read this book, keep my words in your mind. As a civilian who survived a war, I can tell you that the book's experiences are eerily similar to the average experience of civilian war survivors. 
So whatever melatonin levels are in your skin, you should try to do something to help your fellow humans. 

And, as a white person, I cannot end this post without actually giving opinions about white supremacy.  My skin color exposed me to the direct excuses those eejits use to justify themselves. And those excuses can be boiled down to a pure fear of competition, lack of significant talents or skills, and ultimate laziness.  Every single racist I meet was either lazy, stupid, talentless, or any combination of three. In conditions of the increased and more robust competition, they cannot succeed. The racist answer is to use aggression to eliminate competition instead of exerting an honest effort to become a better human.  That's why I despise them. 
People like that will not limit themselves to just eliminate competition based on skin color. In situations where everyone is the same color, people like this find different ways to "thin the competition." They will use gender, religion, a particular region of origin, anything. Any excuse to declare other groups of humans less then is acceptable. Any reason to eliminate competition is a good one for them. If you know such a person, call them up for what they truly are and call up excuses for what they truly are.

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03 June 2020

Review: Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by David Gerrold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book started a bit weak, regurgitating advice already contained in other similar books. Then I was annoyed by the writer shamelessly promoting his own novels.
But then, he shared some very useful advice on style and how to improve one's writing. And for that only, last quarter of it, this book is worthy of reading.

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Review: Activated

Activated Activated by Ell Leigh Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, book and character Molly just grabbed me. I could not put this book down. In the beginning, the plot, the development of the main character was done quite nicely. 
The end was a bit weak, not really closing up the character arc of the several characters and introducing weakly new characters, and being quite transparent in what is going on. It seemed more like the author was trying to fill up space till the next book and adventure started.

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24 May 2020

Review: Hyperion

Hyperion Hyperion by Dan Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, the author is obsessed with Keats and poetry.
The book and the whole understory are great, captivating and one can see why the book won the award. The story is complex, with loads of layers that surprisingly all fit nicely together. And the book is masterfully executed. Just the right amount of the foreshadowing, descriptions, and change in POV voices so that book looks like a series of short stories, but it culminates into the common milieu.
The only issue I have with it is all that poems and poetry that's inside the book.
It is very likely that I will go for subsequent novels.

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