Month: September 2018

Euphoric Recall

peter-otoole-the-ruling-class-1972.png

 

Euphoric Recall is the nostalgic version of Wishful Thinking. Only remembering the good parts is an understandable survival mechanism, but it doesn’t lend itself well to realistic decision making. It does a better job setting goals, but tends to minimize the difficulty in reaching them. It’s a great way to motivate a crowd, but a bad way to get through hard times, because the person who was once so enraptured now tends to fall prey to disillusion.

Who wants to grovel in world full of tedious reality checks when one could skip among the clouds? When Coleridge was having his opium dream about Kubla Kahn it took someone knocking on the door in order to convey a mundane message to spoil the whole fantastic vision. I’d rather be damned for being an enthusiast than praised for being a pragmatist.

The first explorers took to the seas with a minimum of technological support and a lot of wishful thinking. It’s hard to navigate when your map contains fanciful drawings of imaginary beasts and the text “here lie monsters.” They left port anyway, and even though half the crew often perished before the ship found its way home, everybody was in high spirits on the day they took off for parts unknown.

We are all doing this every day we’re alive, but we don’t realize it or admit it to ourselves, because it would be too upsetting.

I’m living in Thailand, a country with the highest motorcycle road fatality rate in the world, and yet the only vehicles I own are motorcycles. I like to think I’m well aware of the risk I take every time I leave home, but I’m not really, for habituation makes me drift into denial. “Sure, maybe it will happen someday, but not today,” I tell myself, or better yet, I simply don’t think about the possibility of dying at all.

I’m like Captain Cook heading toward Tahiti with a crew of drunks and enough provisions to last a few weeks.

In fact, no matter how much insurance we think we have to guide our actions, we’re all just flying blind. As Helen Keller said “The reason no one experiences security is because it doesn’t exist. Life is either an exciting adventure or it is nothing.” If a woman born deaf, dumb and blind can say that, I suppose I can, too.

Lying Liars

41815182_2079429068757842_4898630558680088576_n

There’s no way to tell who’s lying and who’s telling the truth. That’s why we have to assume everyone is lying. Our ancestors were great liars and we’ve done our best to uphold the tradition.

Most of us aren’t evil but some are deeply so and proud of it. Often the woman with the sweetest smile turns out to be the nastiest person, and likewise the ugliest hag has a heart of gold. Since appearances are often deceiving, we have to assume that everyone bears malevolent intent while pretending otherwise.

This is the only way we can stay safe in the presence of active evil.

OK, I guess I’m one of those people who can’t be trusted to tell the truth. I’m lying. I’m talking about myself here, not other people. You can’t believe a word I say is true. I’ve always been this way, and there’s little chance I’m going to change anytime soon.

It’s a lot easier to blame others for their occasional untruthfulness than to take responsibility for my own habitual lying.

Most people don’t share my problem. Why lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth? Don’t ask me, I have no answers. I do know that when given the opportunity to tell a lie and get away with it, I’ll lie with impunity every time.

Even the probability of being caught offers no remedy for my propensity. If I stand to gain nothing by lying, I’ll still lie just for the fun of it.

YOU’D PROBABLY OUGHT TO GET BACK TO WORK

 

40112760_10156606619104655_3796588516561911808_n.jpg

Listening to me ramble on isn’t going to get you anywhere you want to go. Surely you have someplace you’re supposed to be, doing something for which you get paid. If not, the I misjudged you. I thought you were some kind of go-getter.

Me, I came and went a long time ago. Now I observe rather than act. In my experience, people who are always moving someplace new to find contentment are often unpleasantly surprised to find that they brought themselves along on the journey. Whatever they were hoping to escape was in between their ears.

I knew a woman who had been married nine times and she wasn’t finished yet. She had been hoping that marriage would take her someplace she wanted to go. Each time that didn’t happen, she started over again with a new man, doubling down on her efforts to get where she wanted to go. Except she didn’t know where that was.

Fact is, a lot of people are just faking it, hoping something comes along pretty soon that will give them a sense of purpose and a comfortable life. If you grew up in the third world, that image of comfort would be a lot different than if you expect to live in an air-conditioned home in America with wall-to-wall carpeting and a three car garage.

Hoping that something comes along isn’t much of a plan. The Internet has changed everything. Most people don’t have much faith in the Future. Things are already pretty hard in a lot of places, and promise to get even harder. The rich are looking for hideaways.

But someone like you, young, healthy and educated has a better shot than most. Why the long face? You need someone to prescribe you a mood stabilizer? No, I don’t want to hear about all your diagnosis. I’m sure you have plenty. You come from a place where people put great stock in doctors. Don’t try to get me to feel sorry for you. That way lies madness.

NOT IF, BUT WHEN

40211729_10155355658881595_3108619877699551232_n

 

Everyone knows that certain things are assured. The Pacific Northwest of America will be ravaged by an earthquake. A nuclear conflagration will happen someday between warring countries, although the superpowers will probably not be involved, at least at first. Economic collapse when bubbles pop will affect stock markets and currency values will fluctuate wildly. We know this. Nobody knows when, but we know these things will happen.

When they do, daily life will become much more difficult for most people. Even if there is no such thing as a “World War” again, regional conflicts have a way of affecting other countries in and out of the region, in ways that are unpredictable and potentially catastrophic.

As I write this, Venezuela’s currency is almost worthless and Argentina has just suffered another devastating devaluation. Even if you don’t know anyone in either place, these things could affect you. If you’re the adventurous type, you could grab all the dollars you can get your hands on and go there looking for bargains. There’s no way of knowing if that’s a good idea or not. The people in those countries are as desperate as they are angry, and just because their currency is weak doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Chances are you won’t make out like a bandit, but you may meet several bandits during your stay.

If there is a disaster, no one will know what to do for a long while. “Experts” will expound, but they will just be making stuff up. Blowing smoke. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in 1914, no one could have had any idea it would lead to the deaths of almost twenty million people, nor that troop movements would spread influenza worldwide, killing another fifty to one hundred million, or three percent of the world’s population at the time.

Nobody had the slightest idea this chain of causality would come together, and we still can’t predict complex chains of events.

So what can we do?

I’m not going to suggest you stockpile gold, or food, or ammunition. I’m simply going to urge you to remain flexible and open. If you’re not where you want to be, doing what you want to do, make the changes now rather than later. Making changes later may be impossible. You may find yourself stuck.

I was in Argentina when the government secretly devalued the peso by removing its parity with the dollar. One day you could withdraw your choice of dollars or pesos from Argentine banks. Many of these banks had names that sounded foreign, like Bank of America or Hibernia. But they were really Argentine banks. When they changed the law without notice, all those in power knew it was coming and had safely withdrawn their dollars before hand and sent them overseas. People who trusted their government and their banks had a rude awakening.

Then the banks declared a “holiday.” By the time most people could get their money out, it had been devalued by 75%. There were long lines just to withdraw enough pesos to live on for one day.

Governments this unscrupulous usually don’t telegraph their actions ahead of time. The best way to win a fight or a war, for that matter, is to employ the element of surprise. There is a war going on all the time, between the rich and the poor. Usually the rich win, because they have all the options. But every once in a while, they are surprised by revolution. Nikolai Ceaucescu of Romania was giving a speech when the crowd started to boo him. A few days later he and his wife were executed by firing squad. These massive turnarounds can happen quite quickly and unexpectedly.

So none if us are safe, even if we think we are. There are many more nuclear weapons in more hands than ever before. India and Pakistan hate each other with a passion that is hard for other countries to comprehend. They are both nuclear powers, yet the Pakistani military recently told field commanders they no longer needed to seek approval when deciding to use tactical nuclear weapons along the disputed border of Kashmir. How would a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, or Israel and Iran affect neighboring countries? A lot, I bet.

How would it affect International Banking? Travel? Trade? What would the costs be across the globe? What would martial law look like in America? I recently saw a recent amateur video of a train carrying tanks in Tennessee. The train was traveling at high speed, and at least three hundred tanks passed by during the length of the cellphone video. Where were they headed? Why were they in transit?

Governments are well aware of the risks they face and are not letting things slide towards chaos out of a desire to preserve liberty or individual rights. They are making plans. When the shit hits the fan, they will be ready, even if we aren’t.

So again, what can we do to prepare ourselves for fundamental shifts that may last for years? Today’s status quo may someday be but a fond memory. “Remember when you could buy an airplane ticket without travel permission and just go wherever you wanted? Remember when you could criticize the government and not lose your food allottment?”

If we want to be useful and relatively affluent, it would be good to master a skill for which there will be a demand, and then have needed tools on hand. Everybody wants to get paid for sitting in an air conditioned office and working nine to five, but there may not be much demand for that if the world’s economies are gutted. Far more employable would be a person who could fix needed things that are broken.

The ideas that came about during the Enlightenment are not shared universally. The idea that all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights is not a popular one in most of Asia, for example. Here, people believe strongly in VIP status. If you criticize an elder or a powerful person, you should expect to be taken down.

In fact, the whole premise of democracy, that common people can hash things out through dialogue is quite rare over here. Debate is frowned upon. It’s considered disloyal. Even if what you say about someone else is proven to be true, you can still be prosecuted for slander. Many things here are the way they were in Europe during the Middle Ages. And those societies were relatively advanced compared to other parts of the world. I doubt if Genghis Khan appreciated lively debate about his policies.

When serious disruption occurs, one of the first things to evaporate will be the thin veneer of tolerance for anything less that total obedience to the State. Temporary States of Emergency will prove long-term. Your civil liberties will be returned once the State of Emergency has passed. Think of what’s happened to air travel in the last fifty years. It’s hard to imagine that you used to be able to show up at an airport and board a plane by simply handing a ticket to a person at the boarding gate.