Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sociology: Un-chimplike Humans

This is a post on July 20, 2014 from my friend Justin Clay's facebook page Good Morning Creatures. For more such posts, read Justin Clay's entries on facebook:

Good morning creatures,

I often find that suddenly, after a week or two of just filling my head with nonsense, I suddenly have the compulsion to say things again. 

About half if the week, usually, I don't really want to speak. I just want to observe, or inundate myself with ideas/stories/circumstances and I don't want to comment on it, I just want to take it all in... I don't want to talk yet, but then, like the ding of a microwave I suddenly have this strange urge to open my face hole and try and make noise, noise that I hope will articulate the frothy goolash of chemicals I have produced by force feeding my mind.

It's quite remarkable that we can speak, I mean, it's quite a miracle. Instead of gestures and eye contact, which our chimpanzee cousins still use, we can avoid potentially hostile social interactions by making a series of noises. Amazing really.

And on another level, THIS...this little series of symbols, little lines and squiggles, that are all very similar, can be used to essentially take a snapshot of the noise we make and preserve it, and then deliver it to eachother in a portable format. Astounding!

So... On that note,

It's amazing how little we talk to eachother. Could we be afraid? I mean, this morning I encountered a brand new human being who was working the counter behind the gas station, a buckys... Eeesh... Of all places... And this was a middle aged lady with tired eyes, she avoided eye contact with me and when I walked up and said hello, she did not respond to my greeting. If i was a chimpanzee this would have already set off some red flags. The first thing a chimp does when meeting a new chimp is thrust it's face close to the other chimp and make direct eye contact... That's assuming they are already not shrieking at eachother simply because they are strangers, but lets just say there was no overt hostility when they approached eachother, so naturally, the first thing they do to kind of establish a sense of ease is make direct and unmistakeable eye contact. If this is not done, there will be trouble. They might part ways making slightly uneasy gestures and noise. But lets just say, even minus the eye contact, the chimp makes a gesture of friendly greeting, a little pant hoot, and reaches out limply and touches the other chimp. If the chimp does not respond and still makes no eye contact, there is a chance the chimp that initiated the greeting will be set off. It might now perceive this unresponsive stranger as a threat, and will flee or might even try and run off the unresponsive chimp aggressively.

But this is not what happend with me and the gas station lady this morning, I did not start shrieking and run out of the store in fear, looking back every few steps and howling, trying to make sure she wasn't following me, no

All I said was , " can I get 20 on number 6"

Then, still with not even the slightest eye contact, we proceeded with a little ritual with my plastic card ( which is just to strange to get into now) and without a word from her, and prompted by the little robot card reader, I left, I managed to say, " thanks, have a good one" without even checking if she responded, which she probably didn't. She was actually preoccupied with her little robot phone.

This could have gone so many different ways, had I uttered different noises. I find this pretty interesting. I could have said, " excuse me, can you tell me how far it is to heaven, oh and I need 20 on number 6" and man! What a different response I would have likely gotten.

But alas, I acted like a robot, an extension of my car, an extension of my job, an extension of my society... An uninterested, soulless machine, a brainless transaction, a function. And we go our separate ways.

But it's ok, because I will certainly have the chance to greet hundreds of other noisy apes today. Plenty of strangers to test my flight or fight responses on.

Could this voluntary lack of connection be some residual primeval fear left over from the brutal days of our ancestors when death was a possibility when meeting a stranger, or is it a conditioned, learned behavior,

I can tell you this, my little son has no problem staring at people and telling them what's on his mind, nor do many old folks I've met.

So, my sacred primate companions, who are capable of making fascinating noise, where are you? And how come we aren't communicating with eachother?

Is it fear, is is laziness? Is it simply that we feel we don't have the time, are we distracted?

I think that we should all assume, it's not that dangerous to communicate, I mean, we manage to runn around most days without getting killed, but at what price? And do we really need to be robots to accomplish this? Cause really, we still do fight, so there's no reason to try and cower behind the distractions of this culture,

I think we should all try and tell eachother a story.

My son just learned how to say " I love you" with confidence recently, and he says it a lot now

So consider this a stare in the face

I'm looking at you

For more such posts, read Justin Clay's entries on facebook:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sociology: Fools in the Old Days

This is a post on July 19, 2014 from my friend Justin Clay's facebook page Good Morning Creatures. For more such posts, read Justin Clay's entries on facebook:

Good morning creatures,

I recall a very great little tome I snatched from the Galveston library, I owed late fees on it, and a book about owls and some really cheesy travel DVDs I had checked out in June of 2008, but alas, I would not return these items, or pay the late fees because a hurricane rolled through town and demolished the library and my little garage apartment. So I wound up unintentionally saving a book of Yiddish folk tales. A reoccurring story in the book was the tale of Ashem, Ashem the fool. The story always went the same,

Ashem used to utter autistic things and hurt himself accidentally, and often times it was some sort of play on words, like, " they told Ashem to fetch a pail of water and put it on the stove. So Ashem grabbed the pail and poured it on the stove and filled the house with steam."

Every time he did something foolish he was, and I would like to directly quote this because it was the most memorable part of the book... Yes, every time he did one of his foolish things he was, " beaten soundly"

I don't remember if it even explained who beat him. It just wanted you to know he was corporealy punished for his foolishness. And I have to say, it was pretty entertaining, in a wry and grim sort of way.

But to be a fool. I mean, a fool, so foolish you have made it into legend, wow, what an accomplishment.

There isn't much space for fools nowadays is there? They would likely be given aderol or taken to counseling, or just plain ignored.

But in the Middle Ages, was not the fool an integral part of the power structure? Every king had a court fool. A professional fool. A fool that used to frolick around like a pied ninny with bells and make fart jokes and juggle and skirt on the edges of offense and entertainment.

I can see there are some who are trying to revive the concept of making a living being a fool, but it is a fine line, you see, the fool of the Middle Ages played for two audiences at once, and a true craftsmen he was, because if he failed, if he offended the king I guess they would decapitate him or at the very least throw him in the dungeon. I think the guys in Jackass would have all been sentenced to death by now, cause, they're not fools, they're jackasses.

But I think the fools of yor, even Ashem, were quite cunning, they told riddles with their skits, they made examples of everyone equally, they were the pioneers of that archetypal fool hearty quality of the human spirit that rushes headlong off the ravine of society and pretends as they fall that they are a bird, and then...

They actually fly. Or they fall with such a grace and good humor that the overall effect is like they flew.

This is a post on July 19, 2014 from my friend Justin Clay's facebook page Good Morning Creatures. For more such posts, read Justin Clay's entries on facebook:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Literature: Sirens of the Sky

Out beyond infinity's edge
Far above the terrestrial ledge
Above -- diamond dancing lights
Below -- silent sleeping vertigo
Chasing the world from far above
Drifting up into the endless night

To the stars -- to the brightest stars
Let's cross the purest darkness
Leaving all reason far behind
Nothing else on my mind
Only your desire sets me free
Let us drift above, all alone

I cannot resist your call
We will set our wings and fly
Let us be the sirens of the sky

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Politics: Shoot Japanese Devils Game

I heard recently that the Chinese newspaper People's Daily recently put up an online video game where the player shoots Japanese "devils", world war war criminals. Worsening relationships between the two countries have made it perfectly legal to throw the anger at Japanese. "Japanese devil" is a common racial slur for China's regional rivals. The game marked the same day as the Chinese government approved two national days, September 3 to mark Japan's defeat in World War II and December 13 to commemorate the victims of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, where six weeks of slaughter ensued on the wartime capital of China and ultimately culminated in over 200,000 casualties.

Both my parents attended university in Nanjing and my parents have many friends and some relatives there. My feeling about this is that neither country should stir up angry popular sentiment like this. The Japanese should stop paying respects to war criminals at the Yasukuni shrine where 14 class A war criminals are honored. Mutual respect requires both sides to own up to history and not continually bring up the past to assault the other.

If you're curious, the game can be found here. The game is all in Chinese.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Politics: American Immigration and Mars

On the talk show Here and Now right now, there's a well-educated fellow who says that we should reduce immigration of foreigners to the United States. Dan Stein is his name and he is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). He seeks to control illegal immigration and reduce legal immigration to "levels consistent with the national interest of the United States". I agree that reform is needed but what needs to be addressed is not on reducing all immigration but reducing low-skilled immigration.

Just earlier today, I was re-reading the final chapters of the book Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin. Zubrin was saying that without a frontier to colonize such as Mars, America will be heading down towards stagnation. He revealed several specifics, among which dealt with immigration. In the past (from its inception until early 20th century), America welcomed immigrants since there was a limited work force. The western frontier presented a constant labor shortage. Today, however, "far from prizing each additional citizen, anti-immigrant attitudes are on the rise...thus in the late twentieth century, and increasingly in the twenty-first, each additional citizen is and will be regarded as a burden".

High-Skilled Immigration
More recently in 2012, Robert Zubrin wrote an interesting article called "Towards an Intelligent Immigration Policy" in the National Review where he dispels the pervasive but mistaken notion that increased foreign immigration destroys the prospect of Americans attaining jobs. Currently, many young foreigners who graduate from American universities or have demonstrable capabilities independent of American universities have to jump through many barriers to attain residency or citizenship despite their skills and desire to work in America. The rationality for denying these individuals the right to quickly attain citizenship is labor protectionism. Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, was archetypal of this view when she wrote,
"As for stapling the green card to the STEM diploma, this is little more than a marketing tool for U.S. universities to attract more foreign students into paying for degrees in fields that are already saturated. There is no shortage of STEM professionals in the United States; on the contrary, the census shows that there are 1.8 million American engineers who are unemployed or working in other professions."
This woman believes that the number of jobs is a fixed resource and that the American unemployment rates are caused by overpopulation. She fails to realize that jobs are created by people. Statistics show immigrants are highly entrepreneurial. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, they are 13% of the American population but yet own 18% of small businesses. and were responsible for 30% of the growth of U.S. small businesses over the last 20 years.

As Robert Zubrin also points out, foreign students typically pay much more than their American counterparts for the same education. If the incentive of a green card upon graduation is assured for foreign students, many more foreigners will apply which means the education system can be subsidized to be made much more affordable for Americans.

Low-Skilled Immigration
On the matter of lower-skilled workers, I have to strongly disagree with Robert Zubrin. He believes that low-skilled immigrants should also be allowed in. He uses the example of U.S farm workers. Currently, over half of U.S. farm workers are illegal immigrants from Mexico. These people are willing to work long hours in the hot sun so that you don't have to. If they are all deported back to Mexico, America will starve.

Yet, he fails to note that most low-skilled immigrants provides not only no benefit but cost for society. Though there are many hardworking low-skilled immigrants, there are an equal number if not more of criminals or lazy immigrants who would love to live on welfare. The National Research Council (NRC) conducted a detailed study in 1997 which shows that since most Latin Americans immigrating to America are uneducated, they are creating a negative net annual fiscal impact more than offsetting the positive impact from Asians, Canadians, and Europeans. Using Zubrin's specific case for Mexicans, for the year 2000, 67% are dropouts, 21% are high school graduates, and only 12% have some college. The NRC study of 1997 found that the fiscal effect are -$99,919 for dropouts, -$14,122 for high school education, and +$163,452 for those with some college.

Take a look at the United Kingdom which has opened its doors to mass immigration where no skills are required. Their economy is increasingly a welfare state. California is also suffering due to their immigration policy.Consider the alternative of Canada and Australia where prospective citizens must prove they have skills or are financially self-sufficient. Many of my parents's friends have chosen to go to Canada instead of America since they know acquiring a citizenship in Canada is much easier than acquiring one in America with their skilled professions.


Americans constitute only 4% of the world's population but are responsible for half its inventions in the last century. I will argue that this is significantly due to attracting highly qualified immigrants and giving them the opportunity to flourish. The brain drain encountered in many other countries have been a significant boon for this country. Let us continue with this.