‘We’ don’t ‘do’ politics

real life vs politics

 

Most of the smart people I know want nothing to do with politics. We avoid it like the plague—like Edge avoids it, in fact. Is this because we feel that politics isn’t where anything significant happens? Or because we’re too taken up with what we’re doing, be it Quantum Physics or Statistical Genomics or Generative Music? Or because we’re too polite to get into arguments with people? Or because we just think that things will work out fine if we let them be—that The Invisible Hand or The Technosphere will mysteriously sort them out?

Whatever the reasons for our quiescence, politics is still being done—just not by us. It’s politics that gave us Iraq and Afghanistan and a few hundred thousand casualties. It’s politics that’s bleeding the poorer nations for the debts of their former dictators. It’s politics that allows special interests to run the country. It’s politics that helped the banks wreck the economy. It’s politics that prohibits gay marriage and stem cell research but nurtures Gaza and Guantanamo.

But we don’t do politics. We expect other people to do it for us, and grumble when they get it wrong. We feel that our responsibility stops at the ballot box, if we even get that far. After that we’re as laissez-faire as we can get away with.

What worries me is that while we’re laissez-ing, someone else is faire-ing.

 

Brian Eno

 

Source: Edge

Google this: eproctophilia

fart

 

 

A British scientist has invented a neologism for ‘someone sexually obsessed in flatulence’. That even takes an extensive academic report in explaining this out-of-the-universe phenomenon.  This is the excerpt copied from the website:

“One subtype of olfactophilia [a paraphilia where an individual derives sexual pleasure from smells and odors] is eproctophilia. This is a paraphilia in which people are sexually aroused by flatulence. Therefore, eproctophiles are said to spend an abnormal amount of time thinking about farting and flatulence and have recurring intense sexual urges and fantasies involving farting and flatulence. To date, there has been no academic or clinical research into eproctophilia. Therefore, the following account presents a brief case study of an eproctophile and given a pseudonym (Brad). Brad gave full consent for his case to be written up on the understanding that he could not be identified and that he was guaranteed full anonymity and confidentiality….” 

These resources must be indefinitely abundant in gross-out comedy flicks.

 

Source: Improbable Research

The exploding man

the screaming man

 

 

The whole China was left dumbfounded when a man on a wheelchair set off a bomb to himself in Beijing’s international airport last Saturday (20/7).

This man, identified as Ji Zhongxing, claimed that he was a victim of the country’s ‘ravaging’ political and social injustice. He claimed he was captured by local police in Dongguan city, Guangdong province, for owning an illegal motorcycle taxi, but was then severely beaten until he was left paralyzed.

Furthermore, he said that he had petitioned Beijing for a review of his case, but to no avail. He was forced to cover up the court fees, his parents died afterwards, and he ended up burdened in debts. In the climax that followed, setting up explosives was his Hobson’s choice in voicing out his frustration.

The public media itself – and bloggers alike – were largely divided in analyzing this occurrence. Some believed he was ‘victim of the state illegitimacy’, while others, on the other hand, alleged that he was acting like a lone wolf.

 

And what do you think about this case?

 

Read further on how the netizens opined on this case in Global Voices Online.

The Israeli connection in Guinea

guinea

 

 

We all have been bombarded with reports about China investing in huge amounts of money in Africa. We all have known about multinational corporations’ attempts to seize control of the continent’s seemingly endless, overmuch natural resources. And we all realize the ongoing geopolitical nerve wars between China, United States, Europe, and Japan in grabbing the ‘heartfelt’ attention of the continent’s leaders.

Nevertheless, the situation is totally disparate in Guinea.

It is one of the world’s poorest countries; more than half of the population can’t even read. It is one of the world’s most severely corrupt nations; you can sense its ‘unpleasant’ smell once you step in to the airport. It is, time and time again, ruled by authoritarian, plutocratic regimes, resulting in bogged-down progress in nearly all sectors.

But the country has gigantic iron-ore reserves – of the world’s rare and finest quality – worth up to 140 billion dollars. And the presence of mining companies is largely absent here.

Starting from this point, an Israeli billionaire attempts to take advantage of this situation – one which often involves illicit methods in order to maintain his control in one of the world’s largest mining reserves.

 

Read the 13-page full report in The New Yorker.

 

Excerpt:

 

Beny Steinmetz, who is fifty-six, does not seem to live anywhere in particular. He shuttles, on his private jet, between Tel Aviv (where his family lives, in one of the most expensive houses in Israel), Geneva (where he technically resides, for tax purposes), London (where the main management office of B.S.G.R. is situated), and far-flung locations connected to his diamond and mineral interests, from Macedonia to Sierra Leone. He is technically not an executive of the conglomerate that bears his name, but merely the chief beneficiary of a foundation into which the profits flow. This is a legal fig leaf. Ehud Olmert, the former Prime Minister of Israel and a friend of his, described Steinmetz as “a one-man show.” Olmert continued, “I don’t quite understand the legal aspects—just know that he can work ceaselessly and will move from one side of the globe to the other if he identifies a promising deal.” Steinmetz is very fit and exercises every day, no matter where he is. With blue eyes, tousled sandy hair, a preference for casual dress, and a deep tan, he looks more like a movie agent than like a magnate.

“I grew up in a home where diamonds were the subject,” Steinmetz has said. His father, Rubin, was a Polish diamond cutter who learned the business in Antwerp before settling in Palestine, in 1936. A family photograph from 1977 captures Beny as a young man, sitting at a cluttered table with his two older brothers and his father, who looks sternly at the camera while Beny inspects a precious stone. That year, Beny finished his military service and struck out for Antwerp, with instructions to expand the company’s international business in polished stones. According to a privately published history of the family business, “The Steinmetz Diamond Story,” Beny branched into Africa, in search of new sources of rough stones. The plan wasn’t to establish mines but, rather, to make deals with the people doing the digging.

Approximately half the diamonds in the world originate in sub-Saharan Africa, and many ambitious Westerners have followed the lead of Cecil Rhodes—the founder of De Beers—and sought fortunes on the continent. “Unfortunately, there aren’t any diamond mines in Piccadilly,” Dag Cramer, who oversees Steinmetz’s business interests, told me. “That’s not where God put the assets.”

Instead, diamonds tend to be found in countries that are plagued by underdevelopment and corruption and, often, by war. This is enough to scare off many investors, but not all; some entrepreneurs are drawn to the heady combination of political uncertainty, physical danger, and potentially astronomical rewards. Ambassador Laskaris, who has done tours in Liberia and Angola, likened the diamond trade in much of Africa to the seedy cantina in “Star Wars.” “It attracts all the rejects of the galaxy,” he said. “Low barriers to entry. It rewards corruption. It also rewards a little bit of brutality.”

Steinmetz plunged into Africa’s treacherous political waters. In the nineteen-nineties, he was the largest purchaser of diamonds from Angola; later, he became the biggest private investor in Sierra Leone. Today, Steinmetz is the largest buyer of rough diamonds from De Beers, and one of the major suppliers of Tiffany & Company. And he has diversified his holdings into real estate, minerals, oil and gas, and other fields, with interests in more than twenty countries. A Web site that Steinmetz recently set up describes him as a “visionary” who used a “network of contacts on the African continent” to build “a multi-faced empire.”

Life has no meaning; we make it our own

existentialism

Source: Minimum Comics

 

The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism – and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong – and lucky – he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death – however mutable man may be able to make them – our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light. ―Stanley Kubrick

 

Thought Catalog even provides 19 quotes on how to cope with existential crisis. (the one above is the longest)

Rethinking death

death

 

 

Death remains one of the universe’s most enigmatic mysteries ever happening to us. Death itself can penetrate an individual in a sluggish pattern, either from a disease or a debilitating physical and/or psychological abnormality, but at times it can also inconspicuously take place in an abrupt, either in an accident or a murder coming out of the blue.

Is death itself a disease? The most sophisticated medical advances today can barely answer that question. Is death absolutely inevitable? There have been numberless attempts to leapfrog the fate, and the solution itself is seemingly buried in mare’s nest. Is immortality the key to avert death? Thinking at it on a deeper level, we can infer that instead immortality brings us more liabilities than rewards.

Whether death itself should be explained or not is, in ethical context, out of the question; we ascertain the fact that only through the manifestation of death, we become aware of how we should accomplish our lives in proper manners. We fathom the intended purpose the death is presented to us: we should, despite all the hindrances and adversities, struggle for what life is meant for. We do not even know whether the life we are living is a mere stupefaction, until death wakes us up. We do not even know if there is going to be afterlife. We are only ‘reminded’ to live to our fullest extents.

In brief, the definition of death itself lies beyond our own Plato’s Caves.

 

A philosopher writes about how he struggled to come to terms to his father’s death, and how the death taught him about living a meaningful life. Read it on Aeon Magazine.

 

I have seen the full stop of death, closing the final chapter of a life, making it possible to stand back, look at the whole, and say that it was good. Of course, any life story is littered with mistakes, bad times and failures, as well as successes. But in the case of my father, and of some others I have known who have died in recent years, there has been some comfort in the knowledge that the overall story was a good one. Maybe there were some decent chapters that still might have been written, but there could equally have been a cruel twist or two in the tale that would have led to a less happy ending. For the protagonist, better a good short novel than a tragic epic.

There is nothing automatically soothing about this, of course. The reaper can, and often does, choose to type ‘The End’ after pages of misery, without bothering to bring any resolution. The last full stop that allows the ‘life well lived’ to be appreciated can also expose the life gone badly for all the horror that it was. That is just one reason why secular humanists should not overstate the extent to which a good, happy, moral life is possible without God. Of course it is. But bad and unhappy lives are also possible, and all too common. Philosophy provides little consolation for these, other than the knowledge that the pain is over.