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Who Benefits?

A few hours after I made that post yesterday, about half of which asks the question "who benefits" to which I myself cannot find the answer, I came across this video.

This is not primarily about the virus. It is about the US economy. I have pasted the link from the time where he actually talks about the virus and what it might mean. But, to really get what he is saying one needs to listen from the start where he is talking about the US economy, which he says has been in terrible shape for a very long time due to some very bad decisions that go back decades, and that it had gotten to the actual point of free fall before the whole virus scare. And one also has to continue to the end in order to hear him talk about the Dollar as the Reserve Currency and how the US might be in the process of losing that. The whole video is about an hour long. The bit where he specifically talks about the virus is only a few minutes.

It may give an answer to the "who benefits" question. May also only be a partial answer.

And no, it is nothing like a huge global conspiracy, some cabal, some power grab, some wealth grab.

The explanation given is laughably simple: Ineptitude, selfishness, pettiness, myopia, the fundamental human urge for covering one's ass when one is caught with one's pants down. Very banal. Very anti-climactic. Pitiful. Wretchedly so, in fact. And also very predictable when you consider the baseness, the depravity to which we human beings can sink when it suits our needs.

And if true - an unforgivable sin.

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I am more scared than I have ever been



And I am alone in my fear.

Blogger is now putting page views right next to the posts on the dashboard, so one doesn't have to go to a stats page to see if anyone is viewing the blog. No one seems to, literally not a single person, so I can probably start looking at this thing as a private diary. Which is good. Because I do need to talk about this stuff, to articulate it, bring it outside my head where it is just running in circles or rather downward plunging spirals. I need to create some kind of mental order before I lose my mind. Which, I think I am in the process of doing actually. Writing it out (in lieu of talking about it) may help slow this. It won't stop it  - I am too frightened for my mind-state to go back to any sort of rationality any time soon.

The world, as I have known it during my 66 years here, is probably gone. The lively streets, the cafes, the conversations, the city animals, the shops. I keep seeing this picture in my head. So, let me write this like a story like as if someone else is telling it, like a quote:

"At some unknown point in the future the powers that be will say "OK, you can go back out now" and I will go out. Turn the corner, down the little hill that leads into the market. There is a restaurant there, it is called Sokak Restaurant (sokak means street in Turkish) which was owned by a wonderful guy named Cengiz. On the wall they have a mural that says "sokakta hayat var" which means "there is life in the streets". I will see that mural. It will slowly fade over the years to come but right now it is still there, still bright and fresh. The restaurant itself is gone. They used to have a colony of cats there. Well fed happy cats. They never used to bug customers for food or anything like than. Back then (before early March 2020 - I am projecting into the future in my fantasy), while there was still "life on the streets" no cat in Istanbul ever did. The shopkeepers took care of them, you see.

The restaurant is gone. The chairs and tables are still there, covered in dust. No one has even bothered to move them and they are not loot-worthy it seems. Their wooden seats have already started to rot at the edges because the past Spring has been unusually rainy and wet. 

The cats are gone. Some may have died of starvation. Some have hopefully gone feral and are feeding off of mice and such in the big churchyard next door. Cengiz's waiters, his wonderful maitre d Zafer, the busboys. Where are they now? Are they OK? Did they go back to their home towns? Were they from villages? Maybe they went back to them and have started to at least grow their own food? At least that. And maybe there is even a kernel of hope in that. A new beginning. 

I continue to walk. There is a small street. It used to be lined with small businesses. Mostly cafes and bars, an internet cafe, a glazier named Ercan and his nephew Umut, who were very special friends of mine. All boarded up. They left. Had to. Could no longer pay the rent. Had gotten into too much debt. Whatever. If you can call pavements and buildings a street, sure it is still a street. But of course it is no longer a street, there is no more life. 

I turn the corner into what used to be one of the busiest tavern streets of Istanbul. Boarded up. I had a special friend on this street. Kemal. A wily old Kurd from Ağrı who owned the small tea and coffee counter, a little gold mine. There was a seating area of straw covered low stools, always jam packed with all sorts of people, from all sorts of backgrounds and ages. Common denominator: We were all HDP supporters. We had a common political cause. I used to hang out there sometimes. Kemal has long closed the counter and gone back to Ağrı where he is lucky enough to still have a small farm. (As I am writing this he has already left, so this is no fantasy, it has already happened). Where all the other comrades are - who knows... Dispersed to the winds. And not only they - politics itself is dispersed to the winds. Who will scream about this or that atrocity, gossip about this or that politician when the world is collapsing around us?

Because this is what I am walking through right now, of course. The economy has collapsed, ergo the world, as we knew it, has collapsed. Not just a crisis. It is demolished. And not just here in my little old hood that used to be so full of life. Not just here in Turkey. Across the globe. Maybe a few ultra rich northern European countries are not yet facing the music. But fear not, they will in time. When everyone else is belly up who are they gonna export their goodies to? It is here, now. They will get it in 6 months. 

Anyway, I continue to walk.

The whole tavern street is almost gone. A straggler here or there hanging on for a few more weeks maybe. There are no customers. The clientele used to be shop owners, small business employees - they are bust. Maybe students whose allowances could afford these places. The allowances are gone - the parents are bust. Everyone is bust. Who is gonna go to a tavern now?

This used to be a soccer neighborhood. Giant screens everywhere, in all the taverns where people watched the game. All have been looted away. A few broken ones here and there, still mounted. Gathering dust. 

I continue. The fish market. Half empty. Most of the customers who used to buy the fish can no longer afford it. Besides the fish wholesalers have gone belly up too. They can only sell what local fishermen fish out of the Bosporus and that is precious little. But not too many people who have enough money left in their pockets to buy it, so all is good. Supply meets demand.

I walk as far as what used to be a bustling supermarket. A small one but stocked to the gills. It is still there. The shelves are now mostly empty. There is only one cashier left and only one of the many many floor guys who used to always annoyingly get in the way. I know both of them by sight. We hug. We burst into tears.
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It is now 6 months later. In the meantime my employer, the university has already made an across the board cut in the salaries. Only 50% of what it used to be. But now I get a personal message. Since I am so near to retirement age they are cutting me off. Well, it is true, I was very close. I go. No hurt feelings.
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It is now a year later. The university closes entirely. Paid students can no longer pay tuition. And the foundation can no longer pay for the scholarship students. Finito. I am no longer there myself but it breaks my heart. 
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I have savings. I dole them out into tiny amounts. We are living on bare essentials now, which are getting harder and harder to find. There is a food scarcity. Last Spring farmers across the world were not allowed to plant their fields since they were expected to adhere to the rules of the lock down and stay in their houses. Now, there are the early signs of a global famine. 

Hafize, and her daughter decide to move back to a small town called Cide where she has a house. Her village is close by, she can grow food. They want me to go with them. And I do.

My life, as I have known it, is over."

Back to now: I cannot talk about this. It is a forbidden subject. I have tried. Not by describing such a walk, of course. That I am doing for the first time now. By saying "forget the virus, the world has seen many pandemics and survived all of  them. It will survive this one too. Look at the world: It is collapsing". Do not look at the trees, look at the forest, in other words. Look at the collapse of an economic system that in one shape or another has been around for thousands of years. It is in meltdown in front of our very eyes. It is targeting you now. Not just the working classes as has always happened during crises. This is not a crisis! It is a controlled demolition that will wipe out everyone, including the global middle class, even the upper middle class if it is allowed to go on long enough. You! And you are talking to me about a virus? Economies have run, shops have stayed open, as have taverns, as have brothels even, even during the black plague for gods sakes! And you are talking to me about a virus? For which there isn't even a proper test?

The answer I get is either a resounding silence or a reply that calls me irresponsible, deluded, a conspiracy theorist (I do not have single conspiracy theory about this btw, to which I will get to in a minute). Or, at best, the nicest ones, try to talk me into accepting the virus. That it is in fact very very dangerous. How can I not see that and worry about other stuff? Mostly it is silence. But it has become a pattern. It is always one of these three.

I have wondered about this, about these almost automated responses that seem to kick in, whenever I try to draw attention to the economic collapse. And the answer has come to me during a conversation with my nephew Sinan (one of only 2 people around me who are looking this straight in the eye).

It is too scary. So, when someone tries to make them face it people either shut down or become hostile or try to talk you out of it. However, I am fairly certain that somewhere in the backs of their minds everyone knows this, sees it. We have this saying here "cambaza bak", means "look at the jongleur". I think it sort of corresponds to "shiny object". So, for now at least, for as long as you can afford to do so, it is safer psychologically to look at the shiny object. Because when you look at the future - the sheer uncertainty of what you are looking at, may lead to insanity. Which, I think, is the road that I am headed down myself.

But it isn't just that. It is also the loss of logic that is driving insanity as much as uncertainty.

I do not know anything about this pandemic. I am looking at those Euromomo graphs. What I see there is that there have been very bad outbreaks in 26 EU countries every Winter, and into the Spring of every year since 2016. What I am also seeing is that they have the same pattern. They start, they escalate, and then probably when it gets too warm for whatever it is that is causing the outbreak to continue operating they die down. And return when it gets cold again. Only 4 years that I can see here, but I imagine that this would have to be a recurring pattern since the start of this planet. And one that would affect all living creatures, not just humans. Nature's way of cleaning up, making room for the new. Very sad, yes. Natural, also yes.

Why did we not go into full on panic mode in 2016? Or 2017? Or 2018? Or last year in 2019? Is this one bigger now? The graphs don't say that. In fact they suggest the opposite. Yes, the Euromomo people have put a caveat on the site saying that it takes them some time to aggregate the data, so the recent weeks may not be reflected accurately. They say that they have put this caveat in because a lot of people are confused as to why the current deaths shown in the graph do not spike as much as the ones in the previous 3 years. I am not at all surprised that people are asking about this. I am too. Even if the data of the recent weeks may not yet have been fully aggregated, is there any way that they would eventually constitute a curve bigger than the ones from previous years? Could they even approach it? Sinan did some more digging around and found out that the epidemic in 2016 caused 270000 deaths in the EU alone. The total world number now for this outbreak, as I am writing this, is at 28,791 - about a tenth of that. The whole world against only 26 EU States, and it is only 1/10?

I do not know whether this is a pandemic that will kill hundreds of millions or not. What I am seeing in numbers does not support this at all. But, what do I know? Maybe this is only the start and it will escalate completely out of control and all the computer models that the technocrats are busily concocting are accurate, which is why they have put the world in lock-down. Only time will show us that. But right now, with what we can see tangibly here on these graphs, locking down the world economy is illogical in the face of the data that we currently have. But even if that were not the case, even if this was deemed to be an eminently sensible, logical precaution to take - is this a measure that has ever been taken before? In all of history? Has there ever been a precedent for this?

So... Why is this happening now? Could there be some kind of ulterior motive? One that has nothing to do with sense and precaution at all? This would be the point where I would normally be expected to jump straight into conspiracies. Which is not what I am going to do. In fact I am going to do exactly the opposite. Because...

Who benefits?

Who benefits out of locking down the world economy because there is a perceived (real or not, but definitely perceived) threat of a pandemic that would dwarf the Spanish flu?

Again - who benefits?

No one, as far as I can see. At first I did wonder about all this "upward transfer of wealth by the 1%" stuff. The "major reset to a single world digital currency" stuff. Or "they are using this to set up a global police state" stuff. But when you really sit down and give it some thought...

Who is Apple going to sell all those iphones to? Every busboy here, during those happy bustling marketplace days, had one you know? Not just the 1%, or the 5%, or indeed the 10% or even the 20%. Masses across the world were buying the stuff. That is how the stocks went up, that is how the shareholder fat-cats became even fatter-cats. Only iphones? Name a product. Any product. Same principle. So, how exactly does the 1% benefit? So, they have swooped in and bought up everything in sight that the depleted middle classes had to forsake. And? Can they sell it on? Who is there left to buy it? Valueless property, that's all. On top of which the production lines have dried up. No one left to buy all the goodies which I would think is the real resource that feeds everything else. Commerce.

Nation States: How are they gonna collect taxes? Here, as in quite a bit of the rest of the world as I understand it, a lot of tax is collected from VAT. But everyone stopped buying? Businesses went belly up, so not much income tax left to collect either. So, how are all these famous police states going to operate? With no money to fund all the toys, the drones, the software, the personnel? The Military Industrial Complexes: No taxes, no tanks. Sorry.

And OK, let us say that some evil unseen cabal out there somewhere actually wants Nation States to collapse in order to bring about their dream of a World Government. This is the biggest conspiracy of them all isn't it? Where is that world government going to get its money from if there is no commerce to tax? No taxes and everything falls apart. You can sit at world government headquarters and twiddle your thumbs. You don't have the funds to run it, do you?

No one benefits.

And then the last one - OK, they have gone to a digital currency. That is what it was all about! Well...  Not much use left for it, is there? Commerce has stopped. Sure, it will allow governments and corporations to monitor every single purchase. But with no police state infrastructure that can be funded to do away with the culprits because the States (or the world government) can no longer collect taxes, what use is that? And on a more practical level with all that - if I go and buy a pack of cigarettes my insurance company will raise my premiums. Right? Not to worry, will there even be any insurance companies left?

Bottom-line: Unless a significant proportion, if not the majority, of the world's population is employed and is buying stuff and paying taxes, either as income tax or as VAT, everything stops. I am not an economist, or a social scientist, but I think I still have enough brain cells to see this. I mean, how can it be otherwise? No cabal - no matter how evil, no matter how secret, no 1% - no one, absolutely no one, can hope to benefit from a demolished world economy.

When there is no more "life on street" left, life ends for everyone. For the busboys at Cengiz's restaurant, his happy cat colony, and the 1% and the cabal alike.

And the collective wisdom of humanity has always known that. Until 2020. Where has that shared human experience, the wisdom, a knowledge of history that has seen to it that life continued as best as it could even during times of great adversity, that businesses stayed upon, that production and commerce went on even during the worst plagues, even during famines, even during the bloodiest and most god awful wars, gone? What has happened to the age old collective wisdom of humanity?

There is no logic. It is demented.

And this increases my fear. The complete lack of logic of this whole thing. From the pandemic to the measures taken to prevent its spread.

I will probably not be alone for long. Soon the forest will come to people's doors. It will be right there staring into everyone's faces - regardless of whether you want to look back at it or not. The juggler will pack up his balls and go home when the neighbor upstairs goes bankrupt. And then the neighbor downstairs. When your tenant can no longer pay the rent. And then... No, I won't say it.

I will not be alone in my despair for long, I think. Unfortunately, at that point, it will probably also be too late.

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I hope I am wrong. I pray I am wrong. I pray that this time next year everyone around me will take the piss out of me, reminding me of my panic today and how utterly silly I was and how I made a mountain out of a mole hill. And could my mental state be attributed to paranoia? Dementia maybe even? I might want to check out a really good health professional, you know? I am ready and willing, more than willing - I beg to take on all the ridicule and more. I am willing to take on abuse, if only I can turn out to be completely mistaken.

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March 2020 - Naxos made me write this...



I have not written anything on this blog for a long time. I could say it was because nothing terribly interesting was happening and that I was sort of vegetating. Not true. There have been events, especially the military operations that my country undertook in Syria last Fall and Winter that had me beside myself. Back then I made some videos that I shared on FB, but I did not feel up to writing about it here.

And I would probably not have felt up to writing about this current world crisis either, but Naxos has somehow talked me into it. He and I have been talking about this quite a bit and yesterday he sent me the link to an article written by a Futurologist called Matthias Horx and my response to that article is what Naxos insists I should write down.

But just to give a bit of background here: My big fear is not about the virus itself. It is about what the effects of the "cure" to it are likely to be: Economic collapse and the tiptoeing in of authoritarianism and a surveillance society world-wide. I am utterly terrified of these.

The virus itself? I simply don't know. The numbers they show us, all those steep upward graphs. Looks very scary, certainly. But, what do these numbers show us exactly? We only see the increase in total case numbers identified. What we never seem to see are an increase in percentages. The numbers of tests conducted are increasing from day to day in every country. In fact, they are increasing exponentially. Here in Turkey for example, they conducted 3800 tests yesterday, today they will conduct 10000. So, of course the numbers of identified cases will also jump up. In fact, from yesterday to today the identified case numbers here in Turkey will probably jump from 670 to around 2000 because of the increased numbers of tests. And of course the population will be utterly terrified because all they will see is the number 2000 (or whatever it comes out to be) from 670 in just one day. So, what confounds me in all this is that very few appear to be asking about what happens to the actual percentages. Do they also go up or do they remain steady or even go down? Until I see percentages that go up over time I am not going to panic about a pandemic.* And no, I am not expecting to see percentages of any kind - up, down, steady, whatever - any time soon, if ever. So, as far as the virus goes - again, absent of percentages over time, how can one possibly know? What I do panic about instead are the likely results of this.

And before I appear completely insensitive here: The disease itself - regardless of whether this is a contagious virus, a highly contagious virus, an epidemic, or a full on pandemic - of course I am horrified by that and what the afflicted, their families and the health workers caring for them must be going through. From the descriptions of it, it sounds very much like Pleurisy, so heaven help all that are faced with it. So, I am not ignoring the disease, or that it is obviously contagious, that one should be ultra careful. Goes without saying, but I want to say all that anyway.

No matches for the word "Percentage" on a huge site devoted solely to Corona Virus statistics that has apparently gotten over 40 million views to date. 
So anyway, this is the sort of stuff that Naxos and I have been talking about. He is more worried about the contagiousness level of the virus than I am but we seem to be more or less on the same page about other things. Especially about the impact that this will have on the global economy and the creeping in of authoritarianism. So, I think in order to cheer me (and himself) up he sent me this article above.

What Horx does is this: He moves into the future, to the Fall of 2020, and imagines himself sitting in a cafe looking back at today. And he realizes that this crisis has made his society come out stronger, more resilient. He gives lots of examples from social relations to culture to even the economy. It is a beautifully written text, German only but I am sure internet translation will work just fine should you want to read it. And it is a text of hope, it has a positive message, for which I heartily applaud the author. In a world of fear-mongering click bait, writing a positive text is only to be commended.

That said... (And everything from here on is a slightly edited copy paste of what I said to Naxos on Whatsapp)

Well, he is looking at it from the micro perspective of an upper middle class German** (one of very few countries in the world that may come out of this with less economic damage) whose life in the Fall of 2020 may well be like what he describes.

At that point he will also be used to a lot of new things, such as the fact that the government is tracking his every movement via his phone. He will have become acclimatized to the new world he is living in and no longer think about the fact that a lot of freedoms he took for granted (such as travel whenever he likes, wherever he likes, with no "papers" for example) are no longer there.

That is the whole point. People will transition into totalitarianism without knowing it. In fact welcoming it.

Oh and of course - that cafe he is sitting in - that will have changed ownership. It will now be owned by some fat-cat Dubai cartel and the nice people who are running it (who used to be the former owners of it) are now just minimum wage earners.

But, he as an upper middle class person, will probably not look that far. What will matter is that it still "looks the same".

Oh and of course, he will really love that he can now do a lot of things online from home, doesn't have to trek to meetings, because during this crisis that has also been established as a norm.

But will he realize that "working from home" isolates humanity? Prevents groups from forming? Opinions being shared? New ideas coming out of spontaneous conversations? That, in other words, "working from home" is the best hindrance to dissent? No better way to prevent opposition than physically separating people?

Once the "crisis" is over the changes will be very subtle. And most people will not see them. But, they will be there. There will be mass surveillance the likes of which Orwell couldn't have imagined. But outwardly, the world for upper middle class people who are not dissenters, who are OK with the system, who do not question things, will "look the same".

They will never even know.
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Added March 24th: For the past few days the Minister of Health here has been doing something that helps me make my own percentage time line for Turkey. Every night he gives out the numbers of tests that were conducted on that day and the cases identified within that number, from which one can calculate a percentage, of course. The tests are selective, in other words they are conducted on people who go to the hospitals with already serious flu symptoms. (Mild symptoms have been told to not go to the hospital since only serious cases will be considered for testing and further treatment. If you have a regular cold, runny nose, etc etc, even a temperature that isn't actually spiking, you are expected to do the usual stuff at home. Only if it turns into a serious chest congestion and/or a spiking fever are you told to come in). So, the following percentages obviously do not reflect the cases within the general population but only within a select group of people who are already seriously sick with flu in order to have become eligible for the test in the first place.

Today, 5 days into his giving out the first set of results, cases identified seem to be holding steady around 8 - 9%. No increases, in other words. Here are the numbers and I will keep adding them for as long as they come in:
  • 19 March (1981 tests, 168 cases) % 8,48;
  • 20 March (3656 tests, 311 cases) % 8,50; 
  • 21 March (2953 tests, 277 cases) % 9,38; 
  • 22 March (On this date the case number was given (289) however the total test number was not given by the Minister. Some people on twitter came up with a very low test number (1775) which gives a very high percentage result of course - %16,46. This number of 1775 tests, looking at the percentages trend from the days before and after is very likely to be completely bogus, but I am adding it in anyway.)
  • 23 March (3672 tests, 293 cases) % 8.2
  • 24 March (3952 tests, 343 cases) % 8.67
  • 25 March (5.035 tests, 561 cases) % 11.1 (yes, today it has gone up. Taking note)
  • 26 March (7.286 tests, 1.196 cases) % 16.4 (so yes, this is a big jump. Taking note, of course)
  • 27 March (7533 tests, 2069 cases) % 27.4 (This does seem to be spreading very quickly. So could it be of more concern than I think? _____ Or, having thought about this for a bit: It could also be the spread pattern of any seasonal flu, of any corona virus. Starts slow then increases rapidly. No way of knowing that. At least for me.)
  • 28 March (7641 tests, 1704 cases) % 22.3
  • 29 March (9982 tests, 1805 cases) % 18.1
Added March 26th: Just came across this. I am not going to make any comments about this. Draw your own conclusions. Mine are complete confusion. I cannot make any sense of this at all. Why would you lock down a whole country and wreck your economy when you no longer consider the disease high risk? This is really really strange. Could this be some sort of mistake?: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/high-consequence-infectious-diseases-hcid#status-of-covid-19

Added March 27th 1AM: I came across a news site called UKColumn which has turned out to be quite a find. Which is where I actually also found about the UK government posting that I added here a few hours ago. But, when I listened to their broadcast from the 25th I found out about something else that has really bewildered me, which is what is shown in this site here. This is a EU funded organization that monitors mortality rates in EU countries. Highly legit, mostly partners with health ministries. The WHO is sitting on their advisory board. And they have put out graphs that are based on mortality from April 2016 to March 15th of this year in EU countries. They have a collated one and then they also have something that they call a z-graph which shows what happened in individual EU countries during these 4 years.

And these graphs show that there were three epidemics in Europe since 2016. The first in late 2016 through Spring of 2017, and looking at the numbers in the graph it looks like as if 70000 people died during this one. And then across 2017 and 2018, starting in the Fall and going all the way to the early Summer there was a second one - maybe the second wave of the first one. Around 65000 deaths it seems. And then there was a smaller one last year - smaller being a relative term, 60000 deaths during this one:
https://www.euromomo.eu/index.html

When it comes to the present time there is a spike starting in the Winter of 2019-2020. It briefly goes up to 60000 at the very end of 2019 and then appears to hover just below that for a bit after which it starts to go down in more recent weeks. However, they do say on the site that the data they have for recent weeks is unreliable, so I would think that one should not take that drop into account quite so quickly. But, even if all the deaths have not been registered yet, even if there is a delay in collecting the data, is there any way that this could spike to the level of the epidemic in 2016? The one from 2019, yes maybe, just about if death numbers rise as quickly as they have been rising over the past week. But the one from 2016? 70000? In EU countries alone? The numbers on the worldometer site are from the whole planet and they currently, as I am writing this, stand at 24000.

But regardless of whether this one catches up or not - the thing is this: Why did we never hear about the epidemic of 2016?

Anyway, I think I am going to keep a very close eye on this from now on. See how their data changes after more of it has been collected.

Added March 28th: From when I wrote this my mind state has changed much for the worst. I just somehow re-read a bit of this, and it seems like as if I was far more sanguine a week ago. Today, I am extremely scared. Really really scared. So, I made a new post here.
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* Added March 23rd: I want to note this for the record: The number of deaths from the virus have gone up over 180% from March 18 to today. In just 5 days! From 8951 to 16514. And this is scarily significant. Could show, in fact does show, that this is far more dangerous that I was assuming 3 days ago when I wrote this. I do not know whether it shows that the flu is more contagious, again I still think that that we can only know if we see percentages over time, however it definitely shows that if one is in a certain demographic and one catches it, this is a very dangerous illness indeed: There has been a release by the Italian Institute of Health in recent days which shows that the median age of deaths related to the virus is 80.5 years, so it appears to be an old people's disease. And the same release also says that only 0.8% of death cases had no preexisting health conditions. That, in fact, 75% had 2 or more pre-existent health conditions. So, I am still going to want to see percentages before I become convinced regarding contagiousness. But, after this report by the IIH, I think I will want to see not only percentages but also percentage distributions by age brackets.

But, that said, an increase of over 180% in just 5 days does not portend at all well for old people who have the disease in a serious form and I want to go on the record that I am now keeping this very much in mind.

** Actually when I looked later I saw that Horx is Austrain, or at least lives in Vienna. But, it doesn't really change the thrust of this. Austria is probably also one of the few countries, along with most of Northern Europe, that will emerge less damaged - economically that is. The other stuff, the shift to authoritarianism and total surveillance I would expect to be universal, of course. There as much as everywhere else.
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Back to the fancy stuff


So, I have spent most of last month playing around with casual wear for avatars. Which is all very well and good up to a certain point, but after a while boredom does set in. I usually wait to stumble upon something to give me an idea, and this time it was a big series of vectorized vintage flowers that I saw on vecteezy, one of my favorite resource haunts. So far I have ended up with 4 skin based outfits that are based upon these drawings. As is often the case with floral elements they all have historic overtones, one nearer in time to present day than the other three - more Art Deco than medieval, so to speak. But, in the end, all of them belong to a different age.

I think I have finally gotten the hang of making things for mesh avatars. And especially mesh heads, which is quite tricky actually since there are so many different brands out there and with most of them the UV maps don't exactly match. What one has to do therefore is have a whole range of demo mesh heads on which to test the skin until a common denominator that works for most of them is found. Hopefully I now have that. At least no complaints from the customers so far, which is all to the good.


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Üsküdar

 I have been working on the Istanbul Facebook page quite diligently. However, so far I have not really ventured much outside of my own hood, Beşiktaş, where God knows there is enough material to fill not only one but many Facebook pages. The thing is that I want people to see other things too, of course. Especially other lifestyles.
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Dress-up Games


I have been in SL more of late. Finally managed to make the transition to the mesh body and the mesh head for Alpha. Wasn't easy to do, I still miss the scurrilous little face that the classic avi used to have and that, for the life of me, I cannot seem to achieve with the mesh head. Far too perfect. Far too smooth.
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Bıdık the Crow


My housemate Hafize has been taking care of a young crow for the past few weeks. And the relationship is becoming so hilarious that I want to make a note of it.

Bıdık, as the crow is named (means little one in Turkish), was found between two parked cars in the dead of night in a neighborhood called Çağlayan where Hafize had gone to visit her sister. Baby crows are actually quite big, you know they are babies from their wings which are still unformed and their beaks which are thin and relatively soft. He was kept inside for the first few days, but then we realized that he would be OK outdoors provided he was near an open window in case he needed to flee inside. He has grown very quickly, can now fly (after a fashion - he still cannot gracefully glide the way adult crows do, quite a bit of excessive wing flapping there), he gets fed raw chicken, cheese and meat as special treats but his main food is cat kibbles which he seems to thoroughly enjoy.

And he is an absolute delight to have around. Very funny, very mischievous, extremely inquisitive. I had always heard that crows are highly intelligent, but I had no idea they were this intelligent. Far more intelligent than the cats and the dog, as far as I can tell. And a very pronounced personality. Scurrilous, deceitful, playful, obstinate.

I hope he learns to eventually fend for himself, not live his life as a pampered house-crow (if there is such a thing). He has been flying further and further and there are plenty of crows around here. So, my big hope is that he will somehow hook up with them. But meanwhile he is with us. Hafize and the neighbors have been taking a lot of videos of him, and I have started to collect them on youtube here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvbK8Vus5VDV8rrPcLqReow/videos
There's some other stuff there as well, of course, but the bulk of it is crow and cat stuff. And I will go ahead and embed one of the funniest ones here:


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Beşiktaş


I am not terribly patriotic when I think about Turkey as a whole. Sure I want the country to be OK. Sure, I want it to get out from under this yoke of oppression and tyranny - which I am fairly confident that it will, sooner or later. Sure, I like hearing the music, or eating the food. But, I do not well up in tears when I see the flag or anything like that. I do not think we are better than anyone else on the globe.

I become a bit more involved when it comes to Istanbul. But, when it comes to my own neighborhood Beşiktaş, I become a card carrying, flag waving, fully fledged patriot. I love love love where I live. The people. The mixture. The congestion. The animals. The sweet young things that flock from all over the city to congregate in the cafes and bars. The black and white that designates the colors of the soccer team around which everything here revolves. The un-elitism. Very important that.

And that brings me to "Çarşı" of course. The soccer fan club whose world view centers on anarchy, whose motto "Çarşı herşeye karşı" translates as "Çarşı is against everything." I know nothing about soccer, wouldn't know the difference between a goal post and a center field. But, "Çarşı" is something different. Something that goes beyond soccer. Something that brings together humor, kindness, protest and a deeply selfless love for a team - not because it wins, but also because it loses. I linked to a very good article on Çarşı (which I really do think is an international phenomenon) above, so I will not say more myself.

Long and short of it - I love my hood. I identify with it. I feel great wandering its many crooked unkempt streets. Going up to the park that has become one of the emblems of the Istanbul protest scene. And so, inevitably many of the Istanbul FB page pictures are taken from around here. At least initially, for now they are. 
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My city is Istanbul


I may have found a way to put my street photos to some use. Not in terms of creativity, or design. I still have no ambitions or confidence in that regard. But there is something else that has been bugging me for ages, and there I may be able to do something with them. Which is trying (against all odds) to change the perception that people have of my city by starting a Facebook page (awful design, but nothing to be done about that, it is the thing that has the reach) where I simply post what I capture around me. And also a tumblr where I post the pictures in a much nicer way, mostly in order to satisfy my own designer cravings. Doubt that too many people will be looking at that one.

Funnily enough it isn't only foreigners who have a very warped perception of this place. Locals have it too. For me, this city is magic. For the Western tourists who come here it is what they see in the historic peninsula and what they see from the top of the tour bus. They come here with a mis-perception that this is an exotic, oriental city and there is plenty to re-enforce that if all they see is the Grand Bazaar, the palace, the historic mosques and the flocks of Arabic tourists who tend to congregate there and whom they will invariably mistake for locals. 

For the locals the city is a nightmare of traffic, of congestion. And there is something in the psyche here that involves a lot of self-deprecation. I see this in my students, my friends, my relatives. A deep deep dissatisfaction with who they are and what surrounds them. Very low self esteem. A lot of "we will never amount to anything" nonsense. I have been to lots of big cities. From Hong Kong to Sao Paolo. And of course all the usual suspects like London, Rome and Paris. And yes - 30 years ago Istanbul was a very provincial sister to these. I have actually written about how the city transformed and re-invented itself right here on this blog

Today, it rocks. It is the metropolis to end all metropolises. It rocks with its youth, with its street animals, with its protest politics, its anger. Its humor. Its resilience. I live in, and therefore I obviously wander around in areas that are congenial to me. I know that there are vast neighborhoods where life is quite different. I know that there is lots of poverty for example. That poverty I do not see where I am. The city is huge. You could spend a lifetime here and not see most of it ever. But I have decided to show what I do see everyday. And hopefully to enable an alternative way of looking at this society. Neither as an orientalist fantasy, nor as a "we will never amount to anything" negativity. We do amount to something. Something energetic, funny, wild, contradictory and provocative. And that is what I want to show. 
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Julian Assange


I am very upset about this. In fact, I obsess about it. For the man himself and what he has been subjected to obviously, but I also obsess about what this means. In Gordon Dimmack's words "this is the biggest story ever, in ever ever - bigger than Brexit, bigger than anything else" - speaking as someone from the UK. As someone from Turkey, Brexit has never been high on my agenda anyway, but looking at it from here, Julian Assange's plight is a bigger story than all the horror stuff we are currently undergoing in this country also.

I do not want to romanticize this by posting a picture of Assange and his cat. It is simply one of the most expressive pictures of him that I could find, that it is all. What is happening here is far too serious to romanticize. I have been aware, for a long time now, that freedom of press / expression, democracy, human rights are gone from the entire globe. We, here in Turkey, get extremely worked up about what is happening here, in our own country. As we should! What most of us here fail to see however is that we are only a part of a much bigger global pattern. The powers in the West do it far more subtly, that is all. Or that has been the case up until recently. But now with Julian Assange all pretense, all subtlety has finally been tossed out of the window. It is staring us in the face.

What I am especially very upset about is the lack of reaction. Even more than that - no one even knows! The mass medias of the world have hidden this so well that people don't even know! Here, as I said, we are so engrossed in our own tragedies that we don't see it. And also, I think that people here who do see it prefer to not show it in order to maintain this illusion that all is still OK in the West and that once we break out of this yoke of tyranny that we are currently subjected to in this country, and once again join the "free world" all will be fine. Except that the "free world" is no longer free.

So, why are there so many journalists, academicians, and politicians jailed here and not over there then? Could it be that over here there is far more dissent? That the propaganda that we, in this country, have been subjected to has been so clumsy, so ham fisted, so overt, that it simply hasn't worked? That we have seen beyond it - journalists and all? And have landed in jail, as a result. But that instead, the masses in the "free world" are so far propagandized, and in such a subtle way (again journalists and all) that there isn't that much dissent left to worry about? Ergo, no imminent need to throw people in jail en masse? What was it that William Casey said to Ronald Reagan in 1981? "We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything that the American public believes is false."

And then along came Julian Assange. To whose plight (which is actually their own plight, their own freedom, their own future!) no journalist is reacting. So, obviously the plan has worked. Just call the greatest journalist of this century a "Russian Asset", talk about some trumped up rape charge in Sweden, diminish him any which way you can - and you're all set. Do your State's bidding - whatever country you belong to, they are all the same anyway. Get paid well. Couch "dissent" as opposition to the politician de jour, focus people's hatred on personas rather than on the completely corrupt system that the man has exposed by providing a safe haven to whistle blowers from all over the world.

So yes, I am very very very upset.
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Going out on the streets


After exhausting home and cat photo topics I have ventured outdoors with the phone and have started taking street photos. I still get nervous when I point the thing at people but I am also realizing that, unlike a real camera, the phone does not seem phase anyone. They probably think I am just texting someone when I hold it up like that.

The results aren't great or anything like that. No Cartier-Bresson in the making. But I do enjoy it. I am also finding (as I also did years ago when I was taking photos for a conference web site) that taking just a single shot doesn't really capture the spirit of the streets. So, I am stitching together series of photos into panoramas. Seems to work better somehow.

No idea how long I will keep doing this. Not sure if it could be some sort of creative activity for me. There are lots of urban photographers I admire (my darling Murat being not the least among them), but I don't think I am cut out to be one of them. I will probably grow tired of it at some point. However, for now it is a lot of fun. Gets me out of the house for one thing - which I really need to be doing far more. 
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The Selfie


Whenever I see a photo of myself taken by someone else I have a massive shock. This isn't something new, or something that is age related. Obviously I no longer look as good as I used to, and I wouldn't expect to come across as a glamour puss in photos. And like I said, it isn't a new thing anyway, I have had this experience for decades. The shock has less to do with how I look in these snaps than it has to do with my expression. Really really sour. Bad tempered. A very nasty old woman stares back at me.
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Starting to take photos


Never done it before. Never had the slightest interest, in fact. But now that I have the phone camera I have started to explore, starting with my own home and my cats. Which is probably how most people start with this. Their homes and their cats. And it is a lot of fun, I must say. A new toy, a new playground.

Although it proclaims to have a high resolution (4000something pixels) it isn't a very good camera, as I found out when I looked at the photos at 100%. But it is more than enough for my purposes, which is to basically take souvenir photos. Home for now, but I will probably eventually venture outdoors - and we shall see how that goes...
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Finally - a smart phone


For years I had a Blackberry. Something like 15 years. And then in the end the battery gave out and because it is such an old model it could no longer be replaced. At least not here in Turkey where HRH has banned Blackberry phones because they refused to hand over the user data to the government. So, I have had no choice but to go out and purchase a new phone. Being a consummate hater of all things Apple, I went for a Samsung A50. Android, a google product - which makes it hardly less criminal (even possibly more), but what is a person to do?

Seems nice, lots of toys obviously. But, I intend to use it pretty much the way I used my old phone, mainly as an actual phone, and SMS messages for online banking. I will install whatsapp because if I don't my sister will kill me. The internet stuff I will probably leave to my desktop computer entirely. Why fidget around on that silly little screen when I have this huge big thing in front of me? And I do not sit glued to FB and twitter (no instagram at all, I should add - loathe that little contraption!) all day long anyway. Hardly sit in front of it at all, to be honest. To the extent where I feel guilty about not showing enough interest in what my friends' posts.

I do like the camera however. So, I may start to take photos. We'll see.

They are lethal these things, and not least because of how very badly they can affect creativity by not leaving any room for idleness which is the incubator wherein creativity breeds. Without sitting around and doing nothing, without in fact being bored, creativity simply has no room to grow in. Real creativity killers they are - those nice cameras notwithstanding... Which is actually my real big reason for intending to keep this thing where it belongs - inside my bag. Even gave an opening lecture for the university on this very subject last year - here's the presentation for it, if you want to take a look.
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So, we won the election


By a landslide, no less. HRH has been defeated, and defeated very badly indeed. At least here in Istanbul, at least for now. Last night the city turned into one big party, and my 'hood was once again one of the center stages of the celebrations. I was out for a bit too, but it was so crowded and so hectic that I didn't last long. Dancing everywhere. Belly dancers, halay dancers, disco dancers. Dancers and dancers. Young and old. Rakı glasses raised all over the place with the famous chant "to your health Tayyip." Dogs dressed in victory t-shirts being paraded around. Our beloved Çarşı soccer fan group out in full force in their black clad magnificence.

Of course I am very pleased. Am I hopeful however? Of the politicians who won this round? Nope. Not with this lily livered opposition. The fact that they got their acts together for once doesn't tell me much. They will be back to their usual cowardly ways in no time at all. It will not take "him" a long time to figure out new ways to divide them, to manipulate them. And unless they stand united, they fall. And they will not stand united.

This is as far as the politicians goes. No hope whatsoever. Am I hopeful about this society itself however? Oh yes. Way way way ahead of the politicians. So, in the long term I am very hopeful indeed for this country. But then again - am I hopeful for the world? Nope.

So...
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Kikas and Marmaduke!


I am back from my travels. Porto first, then Greece, where I spent a few lovely days down in Kalamata where Katerina and Fotis have a village house up in the mountains above the city. Just gorgeous!
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Intimate Spaces for Metaverse Avatars?


I am going to Porto in a few days to make a presentation at the Consciousness Reframed 2019 conference. It is a trip that I am looking forward to especially since I will also be getting together with CapCat Ragu (Catarina Carneiro de Sousa in RL - and we have met before). But this time I will also be meeting with her mother SL artist extraordinaire Meilo Minotaur (Sameiro Sousa in RL) - and that will be a first time encounter which I am anticipating with a lot of pleasure.
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The big alpha.tribe update


I did not want to switch over to a mesh avatar for a very long time. I have had the Alpha shape and skin for years and I have really identified with Alpha, in that appearance. She looks like me. Or rather she looked like I looked 20 years ago. But, then a few weeks ago I decided that the switch had to be made if I wanted to keep up with SL as a fashion designer. I had to know how this stuff worked. It all had to do with what I have talked about on this blog from time to time. About no longer feeling up to scratch in SL, about a feeling that the world had overtaken me technologically and that I found it hard to be creative in it. So, among some other changes, I made the switch.

And almost had a coronary!

I have been using a skin template for years which has worked very well on the classic SL avatar. But when I rezzed the skin on the mesh avatar what I saw was nothing short of a monster. Very obviously the UV maps on the mesh heads and bodies had changed drastically and nothing that had been created specifically for the classic SL avatar was in place anymore. A grotesque mouth stretching from ear to ear. Eyes that were no longer where they were supposed to be. So awful looking, in fact, that I do not want to sully the appearance of this blog by posting before and after pictures. Instead I have posted a selection of the new skins at the top of this post.

Now, I take some pride in my SL store and my reputation as a SL merchant. So, once the shock was over I decided to update my entire store inventory. Which is what I have been doing full time for the past 3 or 4 weeks. I am now done. Only very few things left, and I am not sure that I will actually bother with those since they were never very big sellers.

Everyone, who can provide proof of purchase will get an update on things they paid good money to buy. Especially things that they bought since the advent of mesh avatars. I can just imagine how disappointed they must have been when they put on the skins and outfits. Akin to how one feels when something that one has ordered online arrives and turns out to be nothing but crap. I feel really ashamed. And whatever I can do to make it up to these folks I will do. Obviously the place to announce this is in SL itself, through the alpha.tribe group. Which I will do very shortly. But, if you are an alpha.tribe customer, send a screenshot of your inventory for every item you purchased from alpha.tribe to alphaauer@gmail.com and I will see to it that you get your update (and my big apologies) shortly. 
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Kokopelli

I love it when a software gives me ideas. And Sculptris does so. While I am playing around with the clay suddenly it looks like something and...

So, here we have the trickster god Kokopelli, who had been on my mind before as a figure I might want to look into a bit more. But, I never knew exactly how. I even tried a few things in photoshop last year but they went nowhere. And I know why: I started out with that intention, and that never works for me. I need to go in round about ways in order to catch the thing that is in my mind's eye.

I don't know if Kokopelli had dogs but I decided to give him a whole pack anyway. Will probably add a few more too.

And it isn't only Kokopelli that I have encountered in Sculptris. The other day, those fat ladies I made. They are a bit like Kybele. Not that I want to get all mythological here or anything. I will continue to play and see where it all leads.

But, I have come out of the creative doldrums - and that's a fact! And one that I am totally thrilled about, of course.
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And very well behaved they are...

Yesterday I finally got over all my inhibitions and went into 3D software, after remembering that Cica Ghost had once told me that she was using Sculptris. And after muddling around for quite a while, watching a lot of tutorials, I did get some results - the critters in the photo here. Had a hellish time with uploading the textures that I had also made for them into OpenSim (which is where I am testing all this before I spend a fortune in SL), at which point further investigation told me I had no other option but to install the dreaded loathsome Blender. And from there I could actually export the models with the embedded textures.

Not that I stuck around in Blender. I was in and out so fast I left skid marks. Just long enough to learn how to import an obj file, add the texture and export to collada. Which is probably all I need for now because Sculptris is really great. Because guess what? It is intuitive! Which is the thing that has always bugged me about 3D software. That one has to be methodical somehow.

I suppose one can do really detailed things in it too. But, I don't want to do that. Couldn't if I tried anyway. But luckily that is not what I had in mind to begin with. I want to make a whole bunch of these thingies, both 2 and 4 legged that can then populate the minimal world I have been thinking about for a while anyway.

So, today, for the first time in a long time I am once again happy with what I do.

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The dumbing down of the World Mind



I have been teaching graphic design at 3 universities, good ones that are tough to get into, for 26 years. The thing about graphic design is that it is a complex field to be an instructor in. Contrary to popular misconception graphic design is not about visuality, it is actually about words. Or rather it is a field that lies at the intersection of words and images since the job of a graphic designer is to transform the spoken word into a visual artifact. Which is a highly sophisticated process, of course. How to go about doing that is what you teach. So, naturally, this involves going into all sorts of adjacent fields such as art, literature, cultural studies, history, mythology, semiotics, philosophy and so forth. In short, it involves an intertwining with the Humanities.

My students are not only local kids. In every class that I have recently taught there have been international students since my current employer is a part of the European Erasmus exchange program. So, I have had the opportunity to observe at first hand what the effects of the post Powell memorandum educational system are, not just on young people here but on European youth as well. I have been able to do so since, as I said, my field of expertise relies on an application of knowledge that is based in the Humanities. 

How many students do I encounter who are familiar with Greek mythology, for example? How many know what the Peloponnesian wars were all about? How many know that before adopting Islam the Iranians had a vast Zoroastrian empire that goes back for millennia? And what is Zoroastrianism to begin with? How many of them have read Balzac? Or Omar Khayyam? Or Kafka? Or Dostoyevsky? How many know why the first world war happened? Just random topics here, I can extend this list of unknowns ad infinitum, but I think this much is enough to make my point. They will know about these things to the extent that they are covered in popular culture, TV series and the like. But, unlike my generation, they did not learn about this stuff as part of their high school curriculum.

Not their fault that they don’t know, or mostly don’t even have much interest in this stuff. They are usually bright kids (whizz math test results, most of them) who are simply victims of an educational strategy that diverted almost all of their attention to STEM subjects.

I have observed this. But, I did not know exactly why taking the Humanities out of the curriculum had been deemed to be a good thing to do. I did not even know that there had been a deliberate policy to do this. Maybe, I thought, it was just an outcome of an increased interest in STEM. But, then I encountered a historian named Ellen Schrecker. And things fell into place.

There is a fascinating interview with her that I would advise all who are patient enough to be reading this ramble of mine to listen to from start to end. (To American friends who may be reading this and are worried about Russia these days: Yes, this is on RT, but please bear with me on this one. She is an emeritus professor at Yeshiva University, which is hardly the sort of institution that would foster untoward or dubious activity of any kind...)

What Schrecker (who, incidentally, is also the one who inspired me to use the term "dumbing down" as a title for this post) tells us is that education, particularly higher education, was changed quite deliberately to exclude the Humanities and the qualitative part of the social sciences beginning from the 1970s. She is talking about the US, but I know from personal experience that the strategy that originated there spread to the these parts of the world very quickly. 

In my own country this was a big part of what the 1980 coup was all about. Turks who went through the educational system before the coup, learned completely different things than those who went to school after 1980. A very large part of the curriculum for the pre-1980 generations were literature and history. After 1980 these were whittled down to a bare minimum. Before 1980 literature and history classes meant not just Turkish history and literature but world history and literature. So, we spent the whole first year of high school studying antique history, for example. That is why someone my age who received a high school education in Turkey will know about the Peloponnesian wars, or the Zoroastrian Empire. Whereas the poor kids post 1980 will have no idea.

Why was this eliminated? It was proclaimed that it spread communistic, internationalist ideas, that was why. The student movements and the workers union movements that led up to the coup would not have happened if these people had not heard about such things. Had not read Dickens and Maxim Gorky. So, they had to go. They were replaced largely by STEM classes that focused on solving tests rather than on scientific inquiry, and then added to that were a small selection of classes which were more in the nature of nationalistic indoctrination sessions rather than the sort of education in history and literature that we had received. The result is the mess that we are in today.

According to Schrecker a similar thing happened in the US, where the political activism of the 1960s led to great concern among the ruling elite who looked at the educational system as the root cause of a questioning generation. While they talk Chris Hedges mentions the Powell memorandum and she says “exactly!” and then explains what happened, how corporate interests reshaped intellectual life starting from the 1970s onto today. Her concern is mainly higher education, that is what she talks about – how universities were transformed from being the repositories of knowledge into STEM cultures in which for decades now only quantitative research and teaching have curried favor and have gotten funded. 

And, as part of this destruction, she goes into the Humanities in detail: She adds to the all-important mission of the Humanities, which is learning “how to think” rather than “what to think” (an issue that Chris Hedges brings up during the interview), by quoting from a book by Martha Nussbaum where it is said that the humanities give a “taste for the other” by getting into the head of the other through literature, through history and even through disciplines such as sociology. And this, Schrecker says, makes you a better person, one who can relate to others which is something that leads to “good citizenship” in that it gives a solid foundation for looking for connections with others that go beyond just “me me me.” And that, she says, is what is being lost. 

It may have originated in the US and the things that Powell proposed may well have been the strategy that was implemented. Was the strategy then deliberately spread out to countries like mine? That were seen to be prone to communist influences? Did European countries adopt it to curb their own rebellious youth? After all, one of the biggest student revolts of the 1960s happened in France and Germany. Big enough a revolt to give a name to that whole generation – the generation of 1968.

Something happened to education over the past 50 years. And Schrecker gives me a huge insight into what that something may have been. That it wasn’t just a random thing. Or that it came out of a bigger need for STEM education for which the Humanities had to be sacrificed. That it was a well-intentioned search for something better. But you see, I have never been a big believer in the good intentions of rulers anyway. And Schrecker validates this belief of mine: What took place was a deliberate quest to dumb down the populace.

And the effects of it are devastating. The level of contemporary political discourse, for example (something which I intend to go into in some detail in the next post). The isolation. The loss of purpose. The confusion. The apathy. The “hypernormalisation” that Adam Curtis talks about. You cannot explain any of that without looking at what appears to be a planned strategy (and here I am going to humbly add to Ellen Schrecker) that at the end of the day, aimed to eliminate “good citizenship” altogether. Because good citizens tend to want to come together and instigate social change. They are capable of going beyond “me me me.” But “me me me” is probably exactly where they wanted us to be and where they want us to remain. 
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Change the light - and...

The alpha.tribe sim keeps niggling at me. It is making me face my shortcomings. But something that I did today helped. Well, helped a bit.

Binge watching Adam Curtis - but critically...

Well, binge watching is an exaggeration. But I did watch the episodes of a series called "the power of nightmares" back to back. And I have also watched "hypernormalisation" - but that was a while ago.

Obviously they are extremely well made documentaries. And obviously Adam Curtis identifies some very important things. But, therein lies the rub: He just identifies them. Nothing further. Or nothing deeper I should say.

He nibbles around the edges of a huge amount of stuff. Tries to connect it. And, because he does not reveal the underlying web that instigated most of what he identifies, he fails. He especially fails in almost all that he has to say about the Muslim world. The ideologies that brought forth jihadists and suicide bombers did not grow out of local influences. They were enforced from the outside. Or rather they came into being due to regime changes that were forced upon their countries from the outside. They are the direct result of a big green plan to counteract the rapid spread of socialist movements and leaders in the Muslim world, that was implemented especially from the 1950s to the1980s - and then continued even after the Soviet Union had collapsed. Onto today really.

The grandiose idea was to pump Islam to defeat communism. There was even a NATO-like pact called CENTO among a number of Muslim countries (led by the UK and the USA of course - God forbid that they should be left to their own devices) to do this with. Happened right here in my own country. Turkey was a part of that pact. That is what the 1980 coup here was all about.

That is why Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was overthrown and replaced with an Islamist Junta in Pakistan. Mossadegh in Iran - same thing. Get rid of the PLO (a marxist movement), replace it with Hammas... And on and on it goes. Until we get to Gaddafi who wanted to break away from the Euro and establish a gold based Dinar for African oil trade.

Adam Curtis doesn't (or can't - he does work for the BBC after all, which is hardly a monument of truth when it comes to matters of 'empire') go into any of this. And so, it doesn't gel. Doesn't come together. At all, if you ask me.

And I think all the really remarkable things that he identifies as malaises in Western societies don't come together for the very same reason. Hypernormalisation (or hyperindividualisation, as he calls it in an interview somewhere) didn't just happen. It was made to happen when the Anti-War and Civil Rights movements got to be too left-leaning to be tolerable for the Western power elite. When the issue of 'class' began to enter their discourse. They had to be squelched. First and foremost by changing the educational system. Then the academic world. The media. Setting up think tanks to control public opinion. I don't think you can look at any of this stuff without reading the Powell memorandum first.

Which, I am certain he did read. Just as I am certain that he knows that a whole bunch of secular governments with socialist agendas (that had been elected by their own people no less) throughout the Muslim world did not just get randomly overthrown or dismantled; after which their countries turned into failed States. That didn't just happen by itself. It was made to happen quite intentionally. To stop the spread of what was perceived to be a communist threat (as in the case of Bhutto in Pakistan), or to stop these nations from controlling their own natural resources (as in the case of Mossadegh and Gaddafi). Or both, in many cases.

And then out of that chaos and desperation came the jihadists and the suicide bombers. Just as hypernormalisation in the West is the result of a deliberate 'dumbing down'* strategy implemented over many decades. Sure, he knows all of that.

But...

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* I owe this term 'dumbing down' to Ellen Schrecker. And I intend to talk more about what I learned from listening to her at some point.

** Two days later: I just listened to one of Robert Scheer's brilliant podcasts. If you go to the 23rd minute, the interviewee Professor Juan Cole from Michigan University says something that confirms what I said above about the nature of Muslim societies before regime change wars dismantled them; saying that if one were to read Iraqi newspapers from the years before the Gulf war and the subsequent invasion one would see that the discussion was not about Muslim sectarianism but about political and economic issues revolving around communism versus capitalism.