Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Photo courtesy www.topleftpixel.com. Posted by Picasa

Kunstler: Legitimacy

January 30, 2006,
Practically everyone I know spends hours each day wringing his hands over George W. Bush becoming a fascist despot. But Bush is not the one to worry about as far as that goes -- anymore than Louis XVI was capable of acting like Napoleon Bonaparte. What they had in common was something different. Their regimes ushered in a loss of legitimacy.

Legitimacy is the quality that society vests in the individuals and institutions who run things, the belief that their authority is credible and deserved. Legitimacy can slip out from under authority all of a sudden, as a critical mass of the public loses faith at a deep level in the people in charge. Sometimes the result is the overthrow of government. Sometimes cultural authority goes out the window, too, as happened in the aftermath of the First World War in Europe, which produced a kind of nervous breakdown in the arts as well as the death of three dynasties (the Hohenzollerns, the Hapsburgs, and the Romanovs).

The last loss of legitimacy in American political life climaxed in Richard Nixon's resignation. It was an orderly process, enabled by the ingenious framework of the US Constitution, but the institution of the presidency suffered, too -- and that is one of the reasons why Baby Boomers who lived through it are among the greatest hand-wringers over Bush. To many of us over fifty, all presidents after JFK are to some degree assholes.

It is easy to see the potential loss of legitimacy among all the authorities in American life today. In government, it is the astounding denial of such obvious dangers as global warming, recklessness in finance, and the gathering permanent energy crisis. The news media also fritters away its legitimacy, as when CBS's "60 Minutes" show broadcast a mendacious segment telling the public that the tar sands of Alberta would immunize us from a global energy shock. The arts lost their legitimacy decades ago, leaving little besides irony over their failings.

But if the American public becomes subject to political despotism in the years ahead, it will come from somebody other than Bush and it will come because the public will demand it. The American public itself has been so grossly passive, complacent, and irresponsible in its raptures of credit-card shopping, infotainment, and easy motoring, that when our society runs into trouble due to the things we have ignored, the public will beg to be pushed around, they will crave to be directed toward some purposeful action to save their asses.

That's why I think it's ridiculous to waste time wringing our hands over Bush. One day, very soon, for instance, we will find ourselves in a gasoline crisis that will not end. We will not be able to transport people and the goods they need around our country. Our railroad system will be a shambles because leaders like John Kerry were too busy wringing their hands over other things -- so we'll be stuck with no alternative to the interstate highway system. Likewise when the housing bubble implodes and the public discovers that an economy based on cheap oil suburbs and credit for the uncreditworthy can't continue, and nobody warned them about it.

At some point not far away, we'll have a president who puts children in uniforms because their parents will have been scared to death by their own lifetime of slovenliness. It may not get us anything, except the illusion that we can regain what has been lost forever. And it may not last long, as the illusions finally fall away and we are left with only what we can do for ourselves locally. But it will not come from George W. Bush. It will come because of our own fantastic inattention to the things that really matter.

from www.kunstler.com


Imagine if the war in Iraq is not won by Insurgents, or even Americans, but by the pernicious effects of disease - Bird Flu. It's in Iraq and given the crumbling infrastructure, one wonders where it will go from there.

I have to say, the H5N1 appears to be exceptionally mobile now. It appears to be popping up all over, despite for months and years being localised in south east Asia.

It's a concern.

Associated Press
Update 7: First Bird Flu Death Confirmed in Iraq
By YAHYA BARZANJI , 01.30.2006, 04:49 PM

Battered by rampant violence and political instability, a new threat in Iraq was confirmed Monday - the first case of the deadly bird flu virus in the Middle East.

A 15-year-old Kurdish girl who died this month had the deadly H5N1 strain, Iraq and U.N. health officials said. The discovery prompted a large-scale slaughter of domestic birds in the northern area where the teen died as the World Health Organization formed an emergency team to try to contain the disease's spread.

"We regretfully announce that the first case of bird flu has appeared in Iraq," Iraqi Health Minister Abdel Mutalib Mohammed told reporters.

Photo courtesy www.topleftpixel.com. I hope to return with a few hundred beautiful photos. I should be back online by Thursday at the latest. Remember: We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.

- Sam Keen, from To Love and Be Loved Posted by Picasa

Coming Around The Mountain

R345 is what it cost to fill up the Isuzu. I'm leaving tomorrow just after noon. It feels like a bit of an adventure, although I feel like I need a navigator, just to remember all the places I need to drop off magazines, and snap photos and so on.

On the other hand it may just be a case of finding the places of interest anyway - I mean, the most interesting places ought to capture one's attention anyway.

I'm feeling really tired today as a result of:
Run: 1:06
Distance: 10km
This was done in the heat of the day.

Swim: 0:59
Distance: 2.5km
Best 50m: 0:33
Best 250m: 3:24

Weight: 84.55kg

Good to see the weight coming down. Am also feeling very comfortable in the water. Slight tinge in my left leg.
Was good to swim with some very good swimmers in the pool today - a young guy and girl, both berry brown and just rippling muscle - the girl too. Felt even better when they got out before I did (although I'm sure they swam earlier in the day too).
It's funny, over here you can wait for a lane to open (ie one person in a lane means you wait until it is empty). In Korea, it's not uncommon to swim with 10 or more people in your lane.

I've arranged to cycle at 5:15am tomorrow. I'll need to sleep very peacefully for that to happen. I'd also like to get in a swim and a gym session so I go to the mountains feeling sore and needing the two days rest that are coming - well, active rest.

It's going to be good to see this Big Country again, from a Big Vehicle.

Monday, January 30, 2006

 Posted by Picasa

Can You Feel This?

 Posted by PicasaHad an off day today, in part because of the exhaustion from yesterday. It is also unsually humid. I intended to cycle and swim for about an hour, in the end Fransa and I ran together (with our iPod's) around the block.

Run: 0:35
Distance: 5km
My heart beat barely skipped over 115, and poor Fransa looked stricken with pain. She said afterwards that smoking causes something like a poison to rise up your throat...she didn't want to eat afterwards and felt sick.

We wouldn't have run at all if we'd had dinner with Ruth, as planned, except, just as my dad was leaving he had the graciousness to say, "If you keep making mistakes, you're not going to be living here much longer." Or words to that effect. Wasn't a nice thing to hear. Seemed a bit unnecessary and overly drammatic.

But it got me thinking...

After our run I asked Fransa - she has a friend who is a shrink - to ask Rene what sort of personality type is a person who is always blaming everyone else.

So I was wondering what personality type always ends up blaming everyone else for things going wrong.
Fransa said she didn't need to ask Rene, because she replied that someone who is always blaming other people, someone incapable of feeling empathy, is basically a psychopath.

I found these characteristics interesting. Some of them seemed relevant to me - GASP - like 'lack of realistic long term goals'. Is being a writer realistic? And others: being impulsive, and repeatedly breaking parole. (That last one was a joke;-)

Characteristics of a Psychopath


superficial charm (hang on...me.)

self-centered & self-important (me)

need for stimulation & prone to boredom (me)

deceptive behavior & lying (Yes I have a job/I have money/I don't have any money)

conning & manipulative (hmmm - only when working in advertising)

little remorse or guilt (Does going back to save a tortoise from certain death on a highway cancel that one out?)

shallow emotional response (I sometimes insult fat people behind their backs...)

callous with a lack of empathy (See above)

living off others or predatory attitude (Can I bum a cigarette? You don't smoke. Oh...right.)

poor self-control (I gave up porn years ago...or did I?)

promiscuous sexual behavior (Can you be promiscuous with one person?)

early behavioral problems (Does wearing braces for 7 years count. I'm pretty sure it does.)

lack of realistic long term goals (I want to write a book)

impulsive lifestyle (Nice boobs, can I- SLAP!)

irresponsible behavior (But I just wanted to see what the microwave would do to a kitten...)

blaming others for their actions

short term relationships (So you don't like this shirt - see ya.)

juvenile delinquency (Maybe I am gay, I haven't tried that yet...)

breaking parole or probation (Get busy living, or get busy dying.)

varied criminal activity (What credit card bill?)

I wonder what effect a psychopathic, or let's just say, a parent lacking in empathy, has on a child. Now I'm not implying anything about my parents, I'm just wondering aloud, trying to form a hypothesis. I think all of us, in some ways, are psychopathic about some things. Maybe some people would say I train like a psychopath, having no empathy for my own body, the pain I put my own self through. Some might call it healthy, others might not. Certainly, some forms of it are pretty despicable.
But is it conditioned or is it, well, inherited. Or both? I went to google to find out (click on the title of this post to link directly to this article).

A psychopath will use people for excitement, entertainment, to build their self-esteem and they invariably value people in terms of their material value (e.g. money, property, comfort, etc..). They can involve and get other people into trouble quickly and they seem to have no regret for their actions. To date there is no checklist of behavior and symptoms that will tell you with certainty whether or not a person is a psychopath. But there are warning signs. The following warning signs are based on my experience but primarily research conducted by Robert Hare, Ph.D - the leading expert on the Psychopathic Personality.

The idea that psychopaths eat people is a myth. In reality, a person with a psychopathic personality can lead what appears to be an ordinary life. They can have jobs, get married and they can break the law like anyone else. But their jobs and marriages usually don’t last and their life is usually on the verge of personal chaos. They are almost always in some kind of trouble or they are not far from it.

A psychopath is usually a subtle manipulator. They do this by playing to the emotions of others. They typically have high verbal intelligence, but they lack what is commonly referred to as "emotional intelligence". There is always a shallow quality to the emotional aspect of their stories. In particular they have difficulty describing how they felt, why they felt that way, or how others may feel and why. In many cases you almost have to explain it to them. Close friends and parents will often end up explaining to the psychopath how they feel and how others feel who have been hurt by him or her. They can do this over and over with no significant change in the person's choices and behavior. They don't understand or appreciate the impact that their behavior has on others.

They do appreciate what it means when they are caught breaking rules or the law even though they seem to end up in trouble again. They desperately avoid incarceration and loss of freedom but continue to act as if they can get away with breaking the rules. They don't learn from these consequences. They seem to react with feelings and regret when they are caught. But their regret is not so much for other people as it is for the consequences that their behavior has had on them, their freedom, their resources and their so called "friends." They can be very sad for their self.

A psychopath is always in it for their self even when it seems like they are caring for and helping others. The definition of their "friends" are people who support the psychopath and protect them from the consequence of their own antisocial behavior. Shallow friendships, low emotional intelligence, using people, antisocial attitudes and failure to learn from the repeated consequences of their choices and actions help identify the psychopath.

Psychopaths with low intelligence or a poor education seem to end up in jail more than ones with a higher education. The lack of emotional insight is the first good sign you may be involved with a psychopath. The second best sign is a history of criminal behavior in which a person does not seem to learn from their experience, but merely thinks about ways to not get caught.

So what happens to these poor kids if they don’t learn right from wrong? Parents with a child like this usually end up angry and frustrated. They will often shield their child from the consequences of their decisions and take the role of continuously trying to educate their child as to right and wrong. The child is always in trouble and doesn’t seem to learn. Their parents may begin to excuse their child's behavior believing their child will eventually "get it." When they don't, many parents resort to punishment. But what these children need is intensive guidance, instruction, training, choices, consequences and supervision. Severe and repeated punishment alone is the worst thing you can do. Letting a child like this run around unsupervised with violent and antisocial children is almost as bad. And child abuse is a sure way to create a social misfit or a monster.

There is a growing discussion among researchers to suggest there may be a genetic influence that creates a psychopathic personality. The psychopath may lack the ability to physically feel what others identify as the physical sensation of guilt. They can feel fear, anger, sadness in the moment but not guilt for what they did or what they are about to do.

Some sociologists believe that a sexually promiscuous psychopath who can live off others is a survivor and may represent one of many genes for survival in the human species. Even more surprising has been the observation that many adult psychopaths do not seem to benefit from support, counseling or therapy and may in fact commit crimes again and sooner because of it. Research using brain scanning technology has revealed that the brain of a psychopath functions and processes information differently. One famous brain imaging study showed that psychopaths can remain calm looking photos of dead bodies in automobile accidents where as other people were clearly upset. They don't use their brain they way others do. This suggests that they may be physically different from normal people.

Are you involved with a psychopath? You may not know because they can be very charming and friendly until you get close and disappoint them. Don’t assume anyone is a psychopath based on their behavior alone. It is the pattern of their life and many other factors. Please don’t go around assuming or calling someone a psychopath just because they may have some of the warning signs. Get a professional opinion from a qualified mental health professional if you think you are involved with a psychopath.

For more information on the psychopathic personality and Dr. Hare's book "Without Conscience", see www.Hare.Org

Hereth endeth the lesson. What I think is interesting is that some behaviour probably creates a psychopathic tendency in a person, which may numb a few centres of the brain, while other centres continue to be sensitive. What do I mean?

Prostitutes or sexually adventurous people - sorry, very promiscuous people - probably lose a sense of what is precious about sexual intimacy, and loyalty becomes incidental.

Very rich people may be unable to appreciate the value in things or in people - although often it is the very rich who do appreciate value, this is why they are rich. Possibly, it is people who inherited wealth or it came to them in some or other way, and so nothing holds any value because it all comes virtually free.

Depressed people form a huge echelon of psychopathic behaviour. This is because so much energy goes into feeling sorry for themselves, chewing on the bone, and just being stuff, that very little remains for basic human decency. I'd guess this last one is the most common.

Depressed people are also exceeding hard to deal with, because in dealing with them, you risk contaminating yourself with their depression and mental malaise.
This may sound reckless, but I'd recommend to depressed people a healthy diet of exercise and nutrients. Fresh fruit, water - not coffee and sugar rich foods. Plenty of exercise.

Meanwhile...I'm back on my road to a home. I thought I'd find my own place when the next edition came out and my South African scenario became a bit clearer. It may be prudent to be somewhere else sooner rather than later.

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

Man vs Nature

 Posted by PicasaYesterday we drove over 400km, and although our goal was to watch an offroad triathlon - we ended up watching something altogether different, and far more awesome.

We headed towards a dark blue grey wall of cloud. It looked like rain, but it looked fairly benign. We passed thousands of cauliflower ships, bumping into each other while the sun blasted their backs.

As we arrived at Xterra we noticed plenty of vehicles evacuating. When we got there, muddy rivers were flowing all over the place, kids were playing in the mud, and competitors were rushing their bikes to shelter, as though carrying victims of an emergency.

We didn't stay long. About a minute. Just enough time to exchange a few words with a friend who was running around the transition area, trying to get his gear somewhere warm and dry.

When we headed back, the storm really flexed its muscles. It is hard to believe rain can come down so hard. At one stage small hail pebbles drummed the car. At other times visibility was reduced to zero. It was like being in a swimming pool. You couldn't see anything and it was impossibleto tell which lane you were in, or where the road was going...so the car slowed down to zero. This lasted a few moments and then a gale would blow ghosts of water in front of us, and I'd look to the right and see a curtain of water lift to reveal the road and a white line under an inch of eyebrow plucked water.

Several times we slowed down to a crawl. We passed a sign that warned of high wind. In a lesser vehicle, we would have pulled over (we saw many other cars doing this)and waited with baited breath. But we were high off the ground in a big, solid Isuzu. My only worry was a sudden torrent of water gushing over the road.

Finally we reached the edge of the violence, and whenever we stopped to take photos, the barrelling clouds seemed to catch us. It had the appearance of a front, because the great churning system appeared like a black tsunami, wiping out the blue, stretching from eastern horison to the hills of the west.
It seems it wasn't a front after all because no storm system moved over Bloemfontein - at least 100km north. Perhaps it was just a very powerful storm system.

Sitting in a silver machine, with aircon and a cd player running, it wasn't hard to imagine that nature was capable of overturning us or drowning us. I was a bit frightened at one point. But it made the trip all the more fun and exciting. On a whim, the ghosts pulled apart and let sun like silk begin to dress the red wounds in the soil. Everywhere the fields appeared greener than I think I have ever seen them.

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

I like the softness of the light in this picture. Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

Cowboy in a Wetsuit

Bumped into an old friend (Benedictus Kok) at the Xterra Championships (cancelled because of the storm). He was running around in a wetsuit and a hat while the rain pelted down. Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa