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North Korea carries out Nuclear Test (Nobody is That Stupid Pt. II) October 9, 2006

Posted by earthlingconcerned in north korea, Nuclear Weapons.
92 comments

I wasn’t planning on writing a follow-up to my last surprisingly popular post (The World Can Be Turned Off with the Flick of a Switch (But Nobody is that Stupid)) but considering the recent news coming out of North Korea, I felt it somewhat relevant to keep the discussion going. If you haven’t heard yet, North Korea has gone through with their first nuclear weapons test. The Korean Central News Agency reported the following:

The field of scientific research in the DPRK successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on October 9, 2006, at a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great, prosperous, powerful socialist nation. It has been confirmed that there was no such danger as radioactive emission in the course of the nuclear test as it was carried out under scientific consideration and careful calculation. The nuclear test was conducted with indigenous wisdom and technology 100 percent. It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the KPA and people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defense capability. It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it.

It appears that the fears of much of world have finally been realized. Is the threat of nuclear Armageddon closer today than it was yesterday? kimjung.PNGStanding by what I wrote in my last post, I would say we’re just about as endangered today as we were yesterday. How can I say this? North Korea has been thought of as the bigger threat, when compared to Iraq/Iran, by most of the western world. But I remain firm in my stance nonetheless.

Not wanting to sound like I defend anything North Korea does, I’ll make it perfectly clear that I think the regime is being run in a fairly horrible way. There is nothing in there that suggests the country is being run for their population (like one would hope a ruling regime would do). Kim Jong-Il came into power by means of dynastic succession, a type of rule that doesn’t require keeping the population happy, as long as it’s controlled. It’s an extremely closed society, in an internationally isolated sense, as well as in the Karl Popper sense (re: The Open Society and Its Enemies). All of this this leads to big-headedness, delusions of grandeur, and in this case, a starving population. Let them eat cake (or grass). I see a potential for a new arms race in eastern Asia. I see some more sanctions, but nothing that would cripple the country. Cutting off the oil flow or the food aid would merely promote the destabilization of an already fragile country. Something will be done, but that something will probably end up hurting their economy ever so slightly, but they will still have nuclear weapons capabilities after the rest of the world begins to forget about what took place today. Think about what happened to India after their last tests in the late 90s (and if you can’t remember what happened, that would reaffirm my point in a way). But I’m barely an expert, browse the web for more detailed news, watch what’s happening live on the news, and ultimately wait for things to unfold and history will write itself. I still don’t believe that this news will endanger the world’s population in the long run.

I’ll refer back to my sketchy analogy about the room with the light bulb from my last post. Pandora’s box had been opened when Hiroshima was bombed in 1945. The information needed to produce the weapon is available, the materials required to put the information to use can be obtained with enough effort. North KoreaMore and more people in the room with the light will whisper or overhear the secret of flipping the switch. One element that remains unchanged with all of the North Korean news is that having the bomb is useless if ever used internationally today. Because the moment its used, the retaliation/response will most likely (no, I can’t predict the future) result in that country no longer having nuclear capabilities and simultaneously with that country not being around in any recognizable form. Then there’s the big argument that not everyone is a rational being and therefore ability to do some pretty horrible things regardless of consequence.

As mentioned before, and barring a polarized set of serious military alliances on a global level (like during the NATO/Warsaw Pact days), a nuclear attack against a north Korean neighbor would be horrible for that country and also North Korea, but barely anyone else. So irrationality is automatically thwarted in a way. There is the argument that modern terrorism is so scattered and decentralized that things would be drastically different if, let’s just use Al-Quaida as a popular example, got their hands on a nuke. In this hypothetical world of the future, this terrorist group bombed a major city somewhere in the world. It is true that there would be no specific country to retaliate against, but realistically, the middle east would just be bombed. Wrongfully so, maybe, but the stereotypes of the 9/11 world puts the entire region at risk if the initial attack were ever to happen. This horribly unacceptable clumping together of the entire region simply turns it into a possible target. This of course is all hypothetical, just as everything anyone may have to say about the topic. That’s the nature of the beast known as the future.

But these modern terrorist cells as the worst possible enemy is an idea based entirely on what certain governments force onto their populations. I really hate dabbling into that never ending debate but here I am. The war on terror, George Orwell, George Dubya, my cat, and a bowl of cheerios as the new world enemy. The word propaganda has been used to describe the actions by both sides of every conflict in recent memory. Freedom fighter or terrorist. Who decides? I’m slowly falling off my thought train but let’s just say that to this day there have only been two atomic bombs dropped against an enemy in a war. Nearly every day since that moment, the possibility of nuclear armageddon was something that could have happened. But nothing has happened. Maybe I’m just an optimist, but my original opinion remains unchanged. Humanity is stupid, just not that stupid.

The World Can Be Turned Off With the Flick of a Switch (But Nobody is That Stupid) October 6, 2006

Posted by earthlingconcerned in north korea, Nuclear Weapons.
148 comments

The nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea have been making headlines for years now. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists his nuclear ambitions are peaceful and that anyone who believes otherwise (most of the western world) are under the spell of the American Empire. Then there’s Kim Jong-il, who wants to make it perfectly clear that North Korea is a force to be reckoned with. Unlike Iran, North Korea claims to already have these weapons in place and nuke.PNGwill test these weapons in the not too distant future. How does the world respond? Sanction this, sanction that, and eventually the test will happen regardless. Just like when he tested, and failed, those long range rockets earlier this year, Kim Jong-il will most likely go through with the nuke tests. And if he succeeds? What then?

I would imagine the same thing that has happened when the other nuclear weapon states learned how to blow the world up. Nothing. As of today, there are nine countries with nuclear weapons capabilities. Depending where you are in the world, most of these countries are, or at least have been, looked upon with great suspicion since they’ve declared themselves ready to play with the big boys. Here they are:

  1. United States (5,735 active/9,960 total): The majority of the world has a lot of problems with how the States is being run today.
  2. Russia (5,830 active/16,000 total): Largest nuclear threat, other than the United States, throughout the cold war. Continues to have largest arsenal out there and their economy/government isn’t exactly the most stable (not that this has anything to do with nuclear intentions)
  3. United Kingdom (200 total): Frowned upon by much of the world because of its ongoing involvement with Iraq. Not exactly a major world power (sorry).
  4. France (350 total): French fries weren’t even invented in France.
  5. China (130 total): Quickly becoming the next super power in the world. Happens to be communist (sort of) and history shows communists and capitalists don’t typically get along.
  6. India (75-115): Worlds second fastest growing economy and population (China is number 1 in both). Just like most of the powers mentioned above, there’s no real danger here. Granted, they aren’t best friends with Pakistan.
  7. Pakistan (65-90): Run by military leader, president, and author Pervez Musharraf in a very undemocratic fashion. Yet, cooperates with the US and is therefore seen as being one of the good guys.
  8. North Korea (0-10): Isn’t clear if they have nukes. We’ll find out soon enough. Closed off country run by someone who considers himself chosen to rule over his people by God. Supposedly he has to prove himself whenever he can. Insecure? I can’t say for certain, I’ve never met the guy.
  9. Israel (75-200): Nothing officially declared yet, but read up on the Vela incident if you have a second. It’s likely they are nuclear ready. Loved by every country in the world, so they pose no threat whatsoever. That last line was something I call a joke (I chuckled to myself while writing it but failed to blow milk out of my nose because I realized the seriousness of not wanting to get destroyed because of an interpretation of God).

Of course there will be concern over another country gaining access to the most powerful weapon ever devised by humanity. Especially when it comes out of closed and paranoid nation like North Korea (I’m still not convinced Iran is any more of a threat then most of the “good guys” on the list of current nuclear powerhouses). But I’m not worried about anything happening because if anything did ever happen, nothing would matter anyways. Thus, the title of this entry.

Imagine the following if you will. The world is a simple room, nothing is in the room but all of humanity and a single light bulb to which there is no replacement for. The light bulb is, and has always been at the ON position. There is however a switch, the plight-bulb-275h.gifroverbial red button, that has an off position. Sadly, for those curious in the room, the switch is one way and cannot be turned back on once turned off. Over the history of this room, the people have played around with the circuitry of the switch and have consequently paid dearly for it. People tried hitting the switch with rocks, and spears, shot at it with arrows and bullets. They’ve tried throwing water and fire at it with mixed results. They’ve even tried gassing it, throwing planes at it, and so on. But the light merely flickered a bit before returning to its beautiful, irreplaceable state of existence. Then one day, someone found a method of moving the light in the direction they saw fit. One day, this person decided to turn off the light for a large portion of Japanese people in the room and they perished as a result. Sadly (or luckily?), the room wasn’t very big and other people saw what this person was doing and soon learned how to do as he did. As time went on, just like gossip in the hallways, everyone knew how to flip the switch, but the switch was never flipped again (except against some birds, fish and possibly desert animals that also supposedly lived in the room).

If you skipped that whole analogy the rest of this entry would still make sense, but I thought it was cute so I left it in. Basically, if anyone uses nuclear weapons in the polarized world we live in, nothing would matter. In 1959, US President Dwight Eisenhower once insisted that if war came, “you might as well go out and shoot everyone you see and then shoot yourself.” There is no rational use for nuclear warfare and both the Soviets and the Americans knew this throughout the Cold War. That’s why the strategy for the US through most of the cold war was one based on the idea of all or nothing. MAD, or “Mutual Assured Destruction” was a policy suggesting that if a nuke was ever launched (in this case, from any Warsaw Pact country onto any NATO member), it would be lights out for everyone. The cold has technically ended, but the cat is out of the bag. The gossip will continue, and the knowledge will spread. There’s no turning back.

But the world is still around and nobody is nuking anyone. There is the idea that things are different now. North Korea or the terrorists (watch out behind you!) don’t follow the same rules as did the Soviets and Americans during the second half of the 20th century. They don’t follow the same rules? Everyone and their grandmother knows that humanity has the capacity to destroy itself at the blink of an eye. We are all following the same rules. So whoever you are, go about your life like you always have (unless you’ve lived your life in fear from nuclear attack, then you should probably change your approach). It’s all rhetoric, fear mongering, propaganda and the like. Remember, sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me. Those are some wise words I heard some time ago. Live by them.

Rife, it’s the Quarter-Life October 5, 2006

Posted by earthlingconcerned in quarter-life crisis.
1 comment so far

Tyler: My dad never went to college, so it was really important that I’d go.
Jack:
Sounds familiar.
Tyler:
So I graduate, I called him a long distance and asked: “Dad, now what?”, he says “Get a job”.
Jack:
Same here.
Tyler:
When I turned twenty five, my yearly call again “Dad, now what?”, he says “I don’t know, get married!”
Jack: I
can’t get married, I’m a thirty-year-old boy!
Fight Club

Growing up, I was always aware of a something called the mid-life crisis. The idea was and remains simple. As people approach their 40s and 50s, they often conclude that everything they’ve ever dreamed of is not being realized, that the invincibility of youth is fading away, and that there’s no better time than now to make the most of it before the platter of experiences empties before their eyes. So go ahead, buy the fancy new sports car, and run away with the secretary (or the pool boy for that matter) is what may be rationalized. But does this crisis actually exist? Studies (Baruch, 1984) have shown that women in their 20s were more likely to be uncertain and dissatisfied than were women at midlife. It suggested that normative developmental milestones such as marriage, childbirth, or menopause were rarely part of any major stress in the life of those studied. Instead, it was found that traumatic, unexpected events that have little to do with age, such as divorce and job transfers were the primary contributors to middle age stress. frustration.jpgIt’s been suggested that the a midlife crisis may not even exist in the way it’s commonly thought of today; that it is instead a blend of expectations prevalent in the population and general problems of psychopathology that may have always existed within the individual.

So what you have today is a generation of baby boomers growing up with the notion that at some point in their 50s, something will click and a crisis will have to be discovered and ultimately resolved. This expectation may be comforting to some. It’s another piece of predictive information that might assist those less sure of themselves. The idea is that if something is supposed to happen, it might as well. It takes the onus off any dissatisfying aspect of life and puts the blame onto age, on biology, instead of on one’s own self. It clumps a group of individuals, based on age, into a category that seemingly excuses themselves to act in accepted mid-life ways.

In regards to putting people into categories based on age, let me introduce to you one Erik Erikson, one of the most renowned developmental psychologists of the 20th century. Some time ago, he came up with the eight stages of psychological development. With this, he broke down the life of a human being into the following stages:

erikson.PNG

The mid-life crisis can easily be seen as a transition from adulthood into old age. Simply put, it’s denying the inevitability of aging. But if the mid-life crisis is indeed a myth, and that it occurs (in the typical pop-culture sense) only too those left unsatisfied in life up until that point, why is there so much talk about it? I would say Erikson’s model makes sense to me (using whatever knowledge I’ve gained in the first 24 years of my life), but I also believe that only a smidgen of it can be accepted universally. To me, and please accept that I am forcibly biased due to my age, I would like to suggest that there is one stage that continues to be neglected as a whole. During the early stages of the adulthood, there is a quarter-life crisis that remains largely ignored.

Up until that stage of one’s life, providing the preceding generation has done their job, there is a guiding hand that promotes a typical growth. The rules and restrictions one is prescribed after birth until their adolescence seems routine, if not government sponsored. Kindergarten turns into elementary school, which is followed by high school, and then, if all remains fine and dandy, there is a post secondary education. Throughout all of this, one receives an adequate guiding hand as to what one should expect next. However, all along, it is suggested that this is simply a training phase for something called the real world. So after 5/8th of your developmental cycle as a human is laid out for you, it’s up to you to decide for yourself happens next. I suppose this is what youth wants all along. Until the age of adulthood is reached, the desire to be granted the freedoms generally associated with the age of majority is of high priority (teenage rebellion, etc.). Once the moment of supposed independence is reached, however, you find yourself tiptoeing at the edge of a plank looking straight into a dark and endless ocean. You understand that there is plenty of opportunity therein, but also begin to wonder about the urgency of jumping from a perfectly good ship. It’s the choice to live in an agonizing limbo or in uncertain independence. Realistically, and rightfully so, everyone has to walk the plank and take the dive into the unknown. This is the beginning of the quarter life crisis (if there is such a thing).

So what characterises this crisis? Wikipedia suggests the following are typical for someone in their mid 20s:

  • confusion of identity
  • insecurity regarding the near future
  • insecurity regarding present accomplishments
  • re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships
  • disappointment with one’s job
  • nostalgia for university or college life
  • tendency to hold stronger opinions
  • boredom with social interactions
  • financially-rooted stress
  • loneliness
  • desire to have children

Many of these bullets seem to blend parts 5 and 6 of Erikson’s psychological development chart rather nicely. This may show that the crisis is of a transitional nature. I would suggest that it is a significant simply because it is the first phase of one’s life where the guiding hand is removed (the degree to which this applies is situation dependant).

In the 1961 classic The Lonely Crowd, David Riesman suggested that there exists three types of drive that can be found in a person (all of which depend on the population growth pattern of a period). Within these three types, there exists unique afrustration.gifmbitions that may or may not have been present in the preceding generation. There is the tradition-directed person, who is said to exist during periods of large population growth with a relatively short lifespan. As the name suggests, this persons drive is one of following tradition, growing up without question providing the world is as it always was.

The next two types of society, the inner-directed, and the other-directed people are of a more modern caste, associated in this case (granted, the book is a wee bit dated) with the western world.These types differ in ambition to a lesser degree. Here are a few quotes that may, vaguely at best, explain the work ambitions for the inner-directed person:

The ambitious note in the inner-directed person’s attitude toward work in the phase of transitional growth of population was expressed in the schoolbook proverb: ad astra per aspera. The stars were far away, but still he aimed from them, in terms of a lifetime of effort. He could afford such a long-term commitment because of the generality of the aim: he wanted money or power or fame or some lasting achievement in the arts or the profession. He wanted to leave a reputation, a memorial, something tangible.

Further down the page, it continues:

As recently as 1920 an American boy of the middle class was not too worried about the problem of committing himself to a career. If he came of a good family, he could count on connections; if not, he could count on the credit of his social–that is, his visibly inner-directed—character. He could dream of long-term goals because the mere problem of career entry and survival was not acute; that he might for long be out of a job did not occur to him. He could orient himself, if he chose a profession, by his daydreaming identification with the stars in his field. A young doctor might think of Osler, a young lawyer of Choate or Elihu Root or Justice Holmes, a young scientist of Agassiz or Pasteur, a young painter or writer of Renoir or Tolstoy. Yet there is often tragedy in store for the inner-directed person who may fail to live up to grandiose dreams and who may have to struggle in vain against both the intractability of the material and the limitation of his own powers. He will be held, and hold himself, to his commitment. Satirists from Cervantes on have commented on this disparity between pursuing the stars and stumbling over the mere earthiness of earth.

The first of the two quotes is more of an outline of what an inner-directed person strives for and the second, one which is more in tune with the overall topic of this article, discusses a potential flaw in realizing the goal. To me, it definitely describes someone who is at a crossroads in their quarter-life. It’s reaching for the sky, not knowing where it is.

Next up, I will throw out a few lines about the ambition of an other-directed person. This time around, similar ambitions are present but the sensitivities of others and the importance of being accepted by all is paramount (think of the politically correctness that has taken place in recent decades):

The inner-directed man, socialized with reference to an older model, might choose for emulation a star from the heroes of his field. By contrast, the other-directed person does not so often think of his life in terms of an individualized career. He seeks not fame, which represents limited transcendence of a particular peer-group or a particular culture, but the respect and, more than the respect, the affection, of an amorphous and shifting, through contemporary, jury of peers.

In regards to how an other-directed person would run a business:

The older men have come up through the shop or through a technical school with no pretensions in the field of human relations. The younger ones are imbued with the new ethic. They seem still to be concerned about making money, and to some extent they are, but they are also concerned with turning their company into the model which they learned at business school.

Basically the other-directed person requires the support and congratulations of his peers before he can move on. He is less independent but subsequently, due to those around him, just as able. But what does all of this really have to do with the questions one faces during the quarter-life? I would suggest that it matters in the sense that a lot of the question marks surrounding a young adult are based on an uncertainty with which road to follow, but also that every generation has a certain newness to it. As a result of this newness, the road you choose may still need to be paved. And so on, and so forth. Providing these aforementioned groupings exist, I should fall into the other-directed category if I understand myself and my surroundings correctly. With that in mind, here’s a little story.

I’ve been feeling the weight of the world pushing down on me in recent months (re: everything I’ve written above) and am more uncertain about what exactly my future holds than I have ever been. Regardless, life goes on. My parable begins with me at a local pub with some friends when a chance encounter puts me face to face with an old high-school acquaintance. He rambles on about how he remembers me as being really smart and how he now regrets putting too much effort into fitting in with the “cool” crowd. He regretted not going to university and seemed rather worried about where his life may be heading. After reassuring him that my university experience had given me little in terms of a direction in life, he mentioned that he had started a landscaping business with a friend. I told him that I was currently only working part-time and that my personal monetary situation had seen better days. We continued on, assuring each other that whatever we were doing was fine and dandy and that was that. What pray tell, is the moral of this rendezvous? Simply that this was an example of other-directed reassurance. If the mid-life crisis is a myth, and that it depends entirely on the state of the person existing in that period, it makes sense to suggest that the quarter-life crisis is in the same boat. Assurances like these may just need to come from the outside to keep the modern adult content. Many of the characteristics taken from Wikipedia (see above) about the quarter-life crisis can be resolved with a little bit of outside assurance. In the eye of the beholder, that sort of thing. Granted, this sort of praise won’t answer any of the larger questions, but they do take a lot of the pressure away. A remedy for the glaucoma that is life.

So I think of Erik Erikson and his 8 stages of life and realize that I’m in one of them. Possibly, one of the tougher ones. I scan through the quarter-life crisis characteristics and see myself. But realize, based on interactions with others, that I am no more alone, or insecure, or stressed, or bored, or nostalgic, or confused than any one of my peers. I am just part of the lonely crowd. There will always be someone who is more accomplished in certain aspects of life, someone who is less, someone who seems to have it all figured out, someone who seems to have given up. There will always be some aspects of all of that within everyone. If advancing beyond young adulthood is like learning a new language, so be it, time to learn it.

Free at Last? September 26, 2006

Posted by earthlingconcerned in Richard Nixon.
8 comments

I haven’t written anything for a while, and for that, do apologize. I am working on something and it should hopefully see the light within the next day or two. But in the mean time, here’s a wee little breakdown about something I found humorous while reading The Fate of Africa: From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair (Martin Meredith):

GhanaIn 1957, Ghana became the first black African country to gain independence from the shackles of colonialism. This was the beginning of the eventual independence of the entire continent which since then had gone through growing pains that are barely improving today. Not wanting to enter into the discussion about the mistakes that have transpired since those early days of independence, I will like to bring you back to the hope and joy that were present early on.

After Britain pronounced the country’s independence on 6 March 1957, messages of congratulation came in from leaders around the world. Delegations arrived from fifty-six countries exuding warmth and goodwill. Britain sent the Duchess of Kent; the Chinese sent a general in a turquoise blue uniform; the Russians, a junior minister, with a fistful of invitations to Moscow and South Africa sent a delegation (albeit, an all white one). The United States made one of the largest gestures of respect by sending then Vice President Richard Nixon as a representative.

It was said that his enthusiasm was shown through his consistent handshaking, hugging local chiefs, holding babies while posing for photographs and so and such. At some point during all of this commotion, he slapped one man on the shoulder and asked him how it felt to be free. To which he replied, “I wouldn’t know, sir, I’m from Alabama.

What a world it was, and still is.