Tag Archives: politics

5 reasons I choose not to talk about politics

I choose not to talk about politics because

  1. it generally does not change the outcome of elections, especially elsewhere
  2. it fuels so many unnecessary arguments
  3. I do not understand everything in politics (nor do I want to)
  4. I feel politicians never work for the benefit of the people … no matter what they say
  5. this is what The Buddha had meant by Right Speech
  6. [bonus reason] there are other more important things to worry about in this 13-billion-year-old universe with my less-than-hundred-year long lifespan.

Time to shut up. I have said too much about politics already.

The transcript of the Emperor Akihito’s speech indicating his wish to “abdicate”

 

The following is the English transcript (followed by the Japanese original) of the speech given by Emperor Akihito on August 8, 2016. It hints at his wish to abdicate, something which has never happened in the history of the Imperial Family. His Majesty’s decision to make such a request has been seen by some as his disapproval of Prime Minister Abe’s recent actions which have loosened Japan’s stance for peace. Many see Japan as heading again down the path towards militarism. The atmosphere and character of now is similar to that of the years leading up to WW2.


A major milestone year marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has passed, and in two years we will be welcoming the 30th year of Heisei.

As I am now more than 80 years old and there are times when I feel various constraints such as in my physical fitness, in the last few years I have started to reflect on my years as the Emperor, and contemplate on my role and my duties as the Emperor in the days to come.

As we are in the midst of a rapidly aging society, I would like to talk to you today about what would be a desirable role of the Emperor in a time when the Emperor, too, becomes advanced in age. While, being in the position of the Emperor, I must refrain from making any specific comments on the existing Imperial system, I would like to tell you what I, as an individual, have been thinking about. 

Ever since my accession to the throne, I have carried out the acts of the Emperor in matters of state, and at the same time I have spent my days searching for and contemplating on what is the desirable role of the Emperor, who is designated to be the symbol of the State by the Constitution of Japan. As one who has inherited a long tradition, I have always felt a deep sense of responsibility to protect this tradition. At the same time, in a nation and in a world which are constantly changing, I have continued to think to this day about how the Japanese Imperial Family can put its traditions to good use in the present age and be an active and inherent part of society, responding to the expectations of the people.  Continue reading

A message from David Suzuki of the David Suzuki Foundation

Dear friends,
Some of you may have seen media coverage about my decision to step off the board of directors of the David Suzuki Foundation. I am writing to tell you more about this and what it means.

After my children and grandchildren, my greatest pride is the David Suzuki Foundation.

I am fiercely proud of how the Foundation brings science and solutions to environment problems. I’m determined to ensure that the Foundation continues to have the ability to solve critical environmental issues and bring hope for the future.

But I have reached a point in my life where I would like to consider myself an elder. I want to speak freely without fear that my words will be deemed too political, and harm the organization of which I am so proud. I am keenly aware that some governments, industries and special interest groups are working hard to silence us. They use threats to the Foundation’s charitable status in attempts to mute its powerful voice on issues that matter deeply to you and many other Canadians.

This bullying demonstrates how important it is to speak out.

The Foundation’s science-based, solutions-oriented research and educational work has enriched our democracy and reflected Canadian values for two decades. While not always happily received by governments or industrial interests, this work is strictly non-partisan, as required by the laws governing charities, and has made the Foundation one of the most trusted environmental voices in Canada.

Our opponents, however, are redoubling their efforts to marginalize the Foundation by getting at me, personally.

So last year, I made the decision to step off the board of directors of the David Suzuki Foundation. I remain one of its most active volunteers and committed major donors. This way I can fulfill my personal mission and the Foundation can continue to build on its inspiring work—for us and our grandchildren—in finding solutions to our shared, and very real, environmental challenges.

I hope you understand this decision and will continue to show your, steadfast support for my work in this concrete way:

Please share this letter with your family and friends and, at this critical moment, invite them to become supporters of the David Suzuki Foundation, by joining our online community or donating today.

Sincerely,
David Suzuki

Vietnam uses monks to take territory

This is why I hate politics.

Vietnam has decided to send monks to the Spratly Islands to lay claim to the Islands as their territory. But why not just send civilians? And I don’t think much of monks who would agree to go over probably knowing full well why their task is. It isn’t Buddhism and Buddhism has nothing to do with this.

It is a human shield in not so much as a disguise. Atrocious.

Money blinds people to nuclear risks – pro-nuclear mayor re-elected

Shigemi Kashiwabara, the mayor of Kaminoseki City in Yamaguchi Prefecture, has been reelected. He won his seat on a pro-nulcear platform. It is a shame that people still buy into carrots dangled in front of them. This was the first municipal election held in Japan since the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Very democratic but not very Buddhist – cigarettes in Bhutan

Buddhism has never been a religion (is it a religion?) about forcing someone to do things they do not want to do.

The restrictions of sales and use of cigarettes in Bhutan with its five year jail sentence is not only excessive it is counterproductive. The forming of a black market is an indication of how liberalism can go wrong. Moving to a democracy does not mean a better life. It is simply different. And different does not mean better though ‘better’ is what advocates of liberalism and democracy want you to believe.

Politics and government are not easy and lighthearted tasks. I still wish Bhutan good luck. But I also believe their move to democratic rule was wrong. Let’s just hope GNH will not turn into GNU (Gross National Unhappiness).

This death is brought to you by…

So I am checking out the US death toll statistics in the War Against Terror and I am bombarded by:

  • a car advertisement,
  • a jewellery advertisement, and
  • an internet phone advertisement.

Not to mention there was a pop-up ad which my browser had blocked for me.

So my friend asks me why I hate advertising so much? And here is the answer. Some things are just tasteless and this is one of them.

Do we need to rush into biofuel?

It does not surprise me that our leaders want to rush headlong into untested “solutions” for our sustainability problems. They are not working for us but rather it is all about a paycheck which demands action and results rather than wisdom and judgment. But once in a while the opposition does speak out for us (humanity, whatever that means today) even if they do not have the power or listened to. But it is exactly because they have no power that we should listen to them; they do not have vested interests like most in positions of power.

The very reason why those who speak sense are not heard should be looked at seriously as a problem of society. The very systems which are supposed to be working for us are failing us. So when I ask “do we need to rush into biofuel?” one must also ask just exactly who is the “we” that is being represented? I certainly do not feel it is me or any of the other sustainability advocates out there.

50 facts that should change the world

I have been reading 50 facts that should change the world by Jessica Williams. She is a television producer for the BBC. She fleshes out each fact with a 3-5 page essay. Well worth a read. Here I have only given the facts without the essay. Hopefully these 50 facts will change the world.

1. The average Japanese woman can expect to live to be 84. The average Batswana will reach just 39.

2. A third of the world’s obese people live in the developing world.

3. The US and Britain have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world.

4. China has 44 million missing women.

5. Brazil has more Avon ladies than members of its armed services.

6. Eighty-one percent of the world’s executions in 2005 took place in just four countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the USA.

7. British supermarkets know more about their consumers than the British government does.

8. Every cow in the European Union is subsidised by $2.50 a day. That’s more than what 75 per cent of Africans have to live on.

9. In more than 70 countries, same-sex relationships are illegal. In nine countries, the penalty is death.

10. One in five of the world’s people live on less than a $1 a day.

11. More than 12,000 women are killed each year in Russia as a result of domestic violence.

12. In 2006, 16 million Americans had some form of plastic surgery.

13. Landmines kill or maim at least one person every hour.

14. There are 44 million child labourers in India.

15. People in industrialised countries eat between fourteen and fifteen pounds of food additives every year.

16. David Beckham’s deal with the LA Galaxy Football team will earn him $100 every minute.

17. Seven million American women and 1 million American men suffer from eating disorder.

18. Twenty-eight percent of American teenagers have tried illegal drugs and more than a quarter are regular cigarette smokers.

19. One million people become new mobile subscribers everyday. some eighty-five percent of them live in emerging markets.

20. Cars kill two people every minute.

21. Since 1977, there have been nearly 120,000 acts of violence or disruption at abortion clinics in North America.

22. Global warming already kills 150,000 every year.

23. In Kenya, bribery payments make up a third of the average household budget.

24. The world’s trade in illegal drugs is estimated to be worth around $400 billion – about the same as the world’s legal pharmaceutical industry.

25. A third of Americans believe aliens have landed on Earth.

26. More than 150 countries use torture.

27. Everyday, one in five of the world’s population – some 800 million people – go hungry.

28. Black men born in the US today stand a one in three chance of going to jail.

29. A third of the world’s population is at war.

30. The world’s oil reserves could be exhausted by 2040.

31. Eighty-two percent of the world’s smokers live in developing countries.

32. Britons buy 3 million items of clothing every year – an average of 50 pieces each. Most of which end up being thrown away.

33. A quarter of the world’s armed conflicts of recent years have involved a struggle for natural resources.

34. Some 30 million people in Africa are HIV-positive.

35. Ten languages die out every year.

36. More people die each year from suicide than in all world’s armed conflicts.

37. Every week, an average of 54 children are expelled from American schools for bringing a gun to class.

38. There are at least 300,000 prisoners of conscience in the world.

39. Two million girls and women are subjected to female genital mutilation each year.

40. There are 300,000 child soldiers fighting conflicts around the world.

41. Nearly 26 million people voted in 2001 British General Election. More than 32 million votes were cast in the first season of Pop Idol.

42. One in six English teenagers believe that reality television will make them famous.

43. In 2005, the US spent $554 billion on its military. This is 29 times the combined military spending of the six “rogue states”.

44. There are 27 million slaves in the world today.

45. Americans discard 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. That’s enough bottles to reach all the way to the moon every three weeks.

46. The average urban Briton is caught on camera up to 300 times a day.

47. Some 120,000 women and girls are trafficked into Western Europe every year.

48. A kiwi fruit flown from New Zealand to Britain emits five times its own weight in greenhouse gases.

49. The US owes the United Nations more than $1 billion in unpaid dues.

50. Children living in poverty are three times more likely to suffer a mental illness than children from wealthy families.

Population growth, governments and the media

After a two week break, a computer breakdown and the start of a new university term I am finally back online. I apologize for the long absence.

Every second, five people are born and two people die, for a net gain of three people each second. That means that 12 people were added to the worlds population in the time it took you to read the previous sentence. The world is adding about 78 million more people every year: the population of France, Greece and Sweden combined, or a city the size of San Francisco every three days. (from “The Environment” by Simon Ross and Joseph Kerski, 2005)

These are absolutely phenomenal numbers. I am ashamed to say that in my youth I had thought, “Great for human beings. It shows our strength as a species”. But today I know better than to think population growth has anything to do with a people or nation’s greatness. It is only culture, nationhood and species-hood that makes us think this way.

So you have to wonder why people think population growth is such a great thing. Headlines like “An Egyptian is born every 23 seconds“, the way in which the US Census Bureau keeps counting, or the panic Japan feels because the opposite is happening are all indications of an attitude which is egotistical and defies logic.

So how to understand population growth? Any population is regulated or controlled by its finite resource-based habitat. And human population does not stand outside this model. So looking at how population regulation and control occurs is useful. There are three ways (according to the Ross-Kerski book) in which population regulation can viewed.

Density dependent and independent
One is to see the density-dependent vs. density-independent mechanisms. An example of a density-independent mechanism is a flash flood which devastates an area. An ant colony within this area may lose ten members of its population or ten million. Therefore the flash flood is a density-independent. In layman’s terms it is all about chance. And a density-dependent mechanism is one where a population peaks because its supply of food (example: the predators’ prey) is finite. So due to this food shortage and certain number of the population die out. Density-independent events are unpredictable while density-dependent occurrences – to some degree – are. And the true model is is probably a mixture of both.

Intrinsic and extrinsic regulation
Growth and regulation can also be seen through the idea of intrinsic or extrinsic. An example of intrinsic regulation is spacing. Some animals prefer a certain area to be their own territory this inherent need to for space. This in-built characteristic means the density of an area is regulated by this animal’s need. Extrinsic regulation of this same animal will come from, for example, predation or fire. The distinction between the two at times can be difficult, since the need for space drives the animal to go beyond its normal boundaries in which it may perish due to accident. But this accident may not have occurred if the intrinsic mechanism did not push it beyond this limit. Therefore the death, though extrinsic, is a caused by an intrinsic incident.

Birth and death rate regulation
Crude birth and death rate, and population density is the third way in which we can look at population. As population increases beyond the means of an area to support it success of survival (death rate) decreases therefore regulating the population size. Birth rates are regulated also if the living population see the area and its density to population ratio as potentially not conducive of rearing.

How should we see global human population?
For the entire planet model looking at crude birth and death rate is the most common way to view population since we do not have increase from immigration or decrease by emigration. And the intrinsic-extrinsic model is seen as not applicable to the human species since he has all but “eliminated” his extrinsic influence. This I will argue because we may have rid themselves of predation, but in fact we are predators. This is why the density-dependent/independent model is a more accurate way of seeing population.

In the end the human species still depends on his environment for survival. We have reached a point we are using more than the planet can provide and no amount of technology can help. Producing more food per area of land may seem logical but really that can only happen by doing so need to bring in more resources from the outside to sustain such a model. Agricultural land simply becomes exhausted from the taxing methods we impose upon them.

So the reality is there will be a time when we will have food shortage. And when that happens the relative peacefulness the better half of the planet will use their power to secure their survival and the still poor will suffer for their actions.

We must change our view of population now. This also entails that we change our attitude from one that is economic-based to one that is non-economic. Money may seem to make the world go around, but in the end, whether there a single person on Earth to spend that money or not the planet still spins. It has done so for four billion years and it will do so for another four.

Technology isn’t the answer

If you have been following this blog then you would know I dislike technology. You may be saying, “Well, if you dislike it so much then why are you using the internet?” A good question and one I will have to answer.

For me technology and science are not the same thing. You might be here thinking I am stating the obvious but I am not. Technology and science, of course, has a lot to do with each other. Many, if not all, of the great scientific discoveries have gone on to change our lives. But changing our lives can be done in many ways. A scientific discovery may help our understanding of our world. But there is a definite push, today, towards applying what we have learned and know to manipulate the world.

A while back I had read an excellent biography on Isaac Newton (of that title) by James Gleick. The feeling I get from this biography about the man (and the period) was that our concerns were – largely – about the knowledge and understanding of the nature of the world. While, of course, Newton was worried about credit due to him (he was a very secretive person) it was the knowledge that was important.

But this all seemed to have changed with the Industrial Revolution. Today in our concerns are on “how we can make the most everything”. Whether it is the money in our pockets, the time on our hands (or sometimes even the love that we receive). The word we use is efficiency. But our usage of it is misleading. We used to use the word to indicate little wastage. But before we can understand what we had meant by efficiency we will have to look at this word, waste, because this word also has metamorphosed over time.

It seems waste once had meant not using more than we need to. While we still use it in this sense we apply it to different values. The question is what? Not really that hard. I do not need to do an Z-score corpus analysis of the word to guess that “waste” these days collocates with “time”, “money” and “energy” (as in “a waste of time”). Otherwise it collocates with adjectives like “toxic”, disposal” and “radioactive” (as in “radioactive waste”). This second usage is interesting because it is now a product, a noun, and cannot be made into a verb. It no longer is an action but a thing.

I am just amused that no one actually has come out and say something like “All this waste is a waste”.

But coming back to efficiency. Waste and efficiency are not the same thing, though they are seen confusingly as such. Efficiency is about getting the most out of use. Waste (as a verb) is about using less of what is there. The philosophy is like the “half empty or half full” glass question. And the assumption with efficiency is that what is there is for us to use. And this way of thinking has rubbed off onto waste also. We can only see waste as mostly being about one’s time, money or energy.

No, the world around us is not there to be used indiscriminately by us. It may seem that way. But that is what the old fashioned capitalists, neo-liberalists and cultural imperialists want you to believe. Because it is about the money and the power to make the money.

I’ve strayed from the topic here a little.

If we use science to learn and understand the world we live in and how we should relate to it then we are on a safe and wise path. But we turn science into technology for profit and manipulation then we are losing our grip on the reality and respect for our home. The more I think about it the more that it is for money. The ability to manipulate the inanimate and animate world is for money.

Yes, with what I say, the livelihood of millions are at stake here. No, technology is not the answer. It is not even the real cause of all our woes (though it is the direct physical cause of the environmental problems). The origin is in the philosophy of technology which is manipulated by the philosophy of economics. This in turn has to do with our attitude. The story is complex and beyond a one thousand word post.

But let’s take a quick look at one recent article on technology and the environment. I found this in last week’s Daily Yomiuri – recordings of endangered species to use as cell phone ring tones to spread awareness. The creators of the ring tones, Center for Biological Diversity, believes that if people hear more of these sounds they will be inspired to do something about the environment.

But no, this isn’t the answer either. There are enough people out there, including me, who are getting people to notice. I wouldn’t say the message is falling on deaf ears. But rather we have dug ourselves so deep into this rely-on-technology hole that we cannot get out of it even if we want to.

That we have done without the mobile phones for a million years until now of human history, I think we can go without it for at least a day. And I certainly do not need a ring tone to know that the planet is in trouble.

So coming back to the internet. What am I doing online if I am so against it? Again, I am not against the internet as such but its indiscriminate use. I choose to use it not for entertainment but for learning and teaching (I can see the abuses coming in from this post now). Every person has a choice. I choose not to waste the tremendous energy required to run the internet for wasteful games, cheap laughs or loveless porn (no, there is no such thing as porn with love).

I choose to use it for the environment.

A green politican acts and speaks big

This is a great little interview from the BBC with Derek Wall. He is the ‘principal speaker’ for the British Green Party. If only I were English I’d vote for this guy. I didn’t think it would be possible but you can be a politican and be genuine and honest as well. It just means you don’t get very far. But at least one’s integrity is still in tact.

Saddam’s death and karma

Saddam’s death seem to bring joy to most, and hate and vengence to others. So just when is this karma going to stop?

While his death may have been his own doing through his karma, it is not for us to continue our own by rejoicing his death. Our own karma will only come back to us.

This is why I hate politics.

We can only work to free ourselves and no one else.

Books

Infrastructure – A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape, by Brian Hayes. W. W. Norton, 512pp.
This 500-plus page book entitled Infrastructure documents and explains everything manmade from oil refineries to manhole covers. It will even explain things like why US telephone exchanges are windowless (because the were thought during the cold war to better withstand a nuclear attack). Sounds like more of a homage to human ingenuity than postmodern critique. gleamed from the 16 September 2006 print edition of the Daily Yomiuri

A Moment of Crisis: Jimmy Carter, The Power of a Peacemaker, and North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions by Marion Creekmore Jr. PublicAffairs, 406pp.
A look at how Jimmy Carter’s diplomacy saved the day in 1994. Only available in hardcover. gleamed from the 16 September 2006 print edition of the Daily Yomiuri

Scientific American Special Issue: Energy’s Future Beyond Carbon, September 2006.
An excellent special issue on “how to power the economy and still fight global warming”.

How to host a world religion congress and become known to the world

I really love the BBC. They may have their scandals and problems but they are still world leaders in news reportage.

So Kazakhstan hosted a conference for world religions this week. Religious leaders from around the world gathered in this small former-Soviet country to talk about harmony and tolerance. Yet the BBC is nice enough to remind us that the host country has neither.

Undemocratic elections, strictly controlled state media and religious intolerance are some of the problems the host country is currently facing. Yet it chooses to host an event like this in the face of criticism. This is nothing new of course. Countries around the world play host these kinds of events all the time in the hope that their country will come out in the better light.

That is why we have postmodern theory – to expose these fraudsters. And I really do not know how these people face themselves in the mirror everyday. Just what do they see in themselves? Perhaps a nice clean “well-suited” image of themselves but not the ugly heart beneath the sleep’s clothes.

In the end it was nice to have the conferences of this type but sometimes I just wish we do them in places with more integrity. Or may be this was a message for revolution in a small country with its own problems? The door swings both ways I guess.