Thursday, August 6, 2020

States of Change Chapter 28: Friendship (Texas)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged unique societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.

For the second year in a row, the finals of Amarillo's debate tourney pits two long-time augment bubble colleagues against each other. The arbiter AI measures their experience and track record and then announces the proposition. 

"Today's debate between Wei Le Sanchez and Timithia Wong asserts that ancestor worship is not an effective life philosophy." 

Nearly ten thousand virtual onlookers across Amerasia stream the feed, most from the Texas Ed Collective as assigned by their augment bubble committees. Wei Le opens her argument in favor of the proposition. 

"Thank you, arbiter. I'll concede from the start that human evolution research indicates familial and tribal instincts are part of our programming makeup. In addition, what we learn from our parents and elders establishes our life mindset to a great degree. Still the vast majority of knowledge and wisdom has been generated, refined and upkept by those of our species distantly related to us. Indeed, the current generation of humanity, being the stewards of our communities and planet, must continually adjust and validate those lessons learned independently of their origin. In the past, worldwide cultures too often have put faith in ancestor conclusions and priorities that came before them, resulting in bad outcomes. I admit some respect ought to be allotted to our ancestors, to acknowledge their efforts and the role genetic inheritance plays in our lives. Nevertheless those gifts are mostly serendipitous, and we should not be afraid to reject completely ideas that were accepted by our parents from their parents. Whether it be conquest, racism, capitalism, or god worship, it is our duty to strike down injustice and bad data so that civilization can progress. Conversely, ancestor worship represents the epitome of moving backwards. Sure, let's respect our parents, not by blind admiration, but by taking the baton from them and forging a future better than they permitted themselves to imagine."

Across Texas, the debate has been trending in real-time, in part due to a handful of influencers that have taken next-gen advocacy to heart. Acknowledging this, Timithia consults the mixed response infographics on her VisAR and counters the opening argument with a solid retort. 

"On the face of it, the phrase 'ancestor worship' has a harsh tone to it. However, the respect of our elders is the true baton that needs to be passed on for our society to remain effective and strong. The great State of Texas demonstrates how for decades now the cultural celebration of Eastern culture instilled by our elders has been beyond successful to numerous standards . Were our grandparents not to have organized the Zhuānzhù to bring Americans of Asian heritage to our State, the fall of Oosa would have likely suppressed the accumulated knowledge our ancestors, throwing Texan society into a cultural plague. Without our ancestor's effort the Second Enlightenment that thrives strong here would never have occured. And so, though I agree the future of our State and its impact across the planet are the current generation's responsibility, we must keep the sacred nature of our ancestry strong so as to ensure their legacy carries forward in the minds of our children and grandchildren."

Online, the debate's popularity has achieved historic popularity. Queued views have almost ensured it will reach viral status. Wei Le concedes internally that this proposition won't be resolved today, still the importance of the topic inspires her to take a different tact.

"Your points have some merit, and I agree we should respect our elders, but more importantly we should reject their less desirable notions. This is the antithesis of worship. Worship, by its very nature, surrenders critical thinking and progressive ethical considerations to the wayside just as the guru religions have. Do we want to end up in the mindless throes of a near-theocratic state like Oosa or the African Order? Furthermore, Oosa is the ancestral nation-state of the Texan Commonwealth. Does it deserve respect and admiration? To be sure, I don't deny the notion that a historical paradigm forgotten is one damned to recur. So, by all means like Newton, we can stand on the shoulders of giants before us, but rather than celebrate the turtles that recede below, let us unfurl our wings and soar much higher."

Timithia consults the dynamic net-critique projections. Virtual onlooker statistics swirl in turmoil, indicating high uncertainty in demographic subgroup alignment with the proposition. Even though polarization across Amerasian districts have only shifted modestly away from societal norms, she shifts her response technique to circle up the outliers.

"Seriously? The idea that Oosa was our ancestor is an utterly false analogy. If anything, the vitriolic atmosphere of that country disregarded its enlightenment ancestry outright. And the fact it did so to turn a profit for its elite for generations, that is what encouraged our elders, elders of every station I might add, to look to Eastern culture and its deep respect for their ancestors to bring stability to our society. Only by drawing upon the teachings of Lao Tzu, Siddartha and Confucius were they able to solidify the governing communities of Texas into a peaceable whole. In as much as their teachings aren't infallible, they embody deeply good teachings that deserve to be passed down like blood bringing oxygen to the the flesh of our future. Remember, great ideas are but abstractions destined to wither alone. They will only thrive if they are conveyed down the generations in the sinews and synapses of humankind. So perhaps we need to redefine worship as a sacred deference to what we find important as a society. Surely our ancestors sacrificed their lives enough to deserve that much, so that we might honor them, following the essence of their desires with integrity."

The arbiter's mellifluous voice interjects. "Wonderful thoughts both, delightfully capturing the core of Amerasian principles especially in regards to respectful, heartfelt parley. You now each have thirty seconds to conclude."

Wei Le inhales, waving away the statistical sidebar on her VisAR.

"It should be clear. The worship of ancestors is a completely outdated paradigm. Further, worship is a term that ought to be retired to the fiction shelves just like god, magic and supply-side economics. If you believe that ethical ideas are as immutable as quarks, then we are as lost as the Judeo-christian culture was lost to their perceived moral righteousness. If you believe that the future of Texas and of the planet depend on the best human reason and compassion have to offer, then I kindly ask you to support the proposition that ancestor worship is not an effective world view."

Timithia smiles inwardly, if only for being able to put the last word in.

"My colleague would have you believe the current generation can stand strong without the accumulated wisdom that our ancestors refined over millennia. Of course, thinking reasonably and compassionately for yourself is beneficial, but without drawing upon the experience and connection to our elders, our society will indeed be destined down the path that Oosa wandered, down a path to fracture, malevolence and self-destruction. In the end, the proposition that our ancestors deserve respect at the level of worship has deeply good and meaningful roots. We simply should never forget where we came from if we want to walk forward with confidence."

The online commentary, and arbiter scoring proceeds with typical fanfare. After the arbiter announces the winner, it closes the stream leaving the channel open for the debaters per long tradition. Wei Le and Timithia face each other virtual eye to eye.

"A bit of grandstanding I must say, but a solid debate! So, hey, are we still on for some tennis tomorrow?"

"It'll be a hot one, but no rain means we got game! I'll bring the balls, if you bring some of your family's famous dragon punch. That and we both agree to leave our arguments in the locker room."

They both laugh.

"Done. Sayonara!"


Friday, July 31, 2020

States of Change Chapter 27: Sunshine (Florida)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged unique societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.

Beneath the mid-summer sun refugees stream North on the I-95 tarmac like so much flotsam and jetsam. Families huddle together amid cyclists with trailers, and grocery-cart vagabonds both alone and aligned for the day. Each bubble community chatters over the possible admission into one of the Florida highland tribes or, less likely, passage beyond the border wall to Georgia. Exhausted from pushing my cart as much as from the nervous cacophony of wishful thinking, I veer to the shoulder. On the overpass I park my cart alongside a modular barrier the color of month old orange peels. Under my battered umbrella I take in the sun scorched view to the East.

Maybe ten miles distant, beyond a myriad of makeshift rafts and ragged sailboats, I see the remains of launch structures jutting from the watery expanse of the drowned Kennedy Space Center complex.  Wispy shadows are all that remain of the Oosa space vision, now corroding in the swirls of aquamarine shallows and brown sandbars. I reminisce back to a time before twenty feet of ocean rise overwhelmed the eastern seaboard and more than half of the Sunshine State. In my youth only the most pessimistic imagined that the release of sequestered methane would change things so dramatically over the span of a single generation. Alas, the the laws of physics are a harem of harsh mistresses. Clad in the sheer fabrics of denial, science illiteracy and irrational civilization planning, the eternal harem seems to have turned on all of Earth with masochistic aplomb.

I remind myself there was a time when space exploration reigned as if in a dream. The frequent launches to explore space seemed to herald the epitome of human cooperation and curiosity. My VisAR confirms it was 56 years ago today that the Perseverance rover had launched from here to Mars to follow in the footsteps of so many earlier probes. So many promising destinations: Mars, Titan, Europa and Enceladus, each a distant world that had begun delivering bits and pieces of evidence that life existed beyond Earth's demesne. In due course, NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and WSO squandered their resources and trillions of dollars on politically inspired manned missions. Eventually, economic reality steamrolled the space race over, smooth as a Flat Earther's wet dream. 

Tapping my VisAR, AI conspiracy theory touch-points from the wiki-reddit sphere overlay the ocean grave before me. Their spidery meta-links weigh on my psyche, but hard times leave little space for contemplating esoteric stories of cyber-insurgence. Thankfully, Brazilia and Chinese Ethiopia maintain the world's satellite grid now. No one bothers to speculate why the New Empire countries foot the bill for the fallen first world. So long as we have cloud access to prospective refugee routes, archived infotainment, including ARporn of course. Personally, I find my escape in the old 2D nature documentaries you can still find in the corners of the Wayback.  Occasionally, I'll bring up some of the fantasy films from the Plastic Era. Space opera trilogies, planetary colonization serials, and Simulated Universe sagas take the edge off refugee subsistence. 

My VisAR blinks red, so I remove the headset and place it in my cart's child-seat. The solar charger will need a couple hours to juice up. It's for times like this that I keep a treebook in my stash handy as a backup. The cover is more than a bit ragged, exchanged a dozen times while I squatted in the Hills of Hobe Sound for the past decade. Still, the brown stained pages feel substantial in my hands. And Heinlein's classic Have Space Suit -- Will Travel is just what the doctAR ordered. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Acceptance and Toleration: Subtle Enemies?

In my contemplation of the best path for myself as both individual and part of humanity, I've resoundingly found compassion and reason to be the the primary components of pursuing an effective ethical journey toward the goal of sustaining a healthy planet at all levels for all of its constituents.

In the cultivation of relationships, I've been much less successful at finding a process that is as fully encompassing, leaving me to suspect that achieving positive human connections remains more of a black art. In particular, I've come across sources that favor simple acceptance as the core to achieving successful human connections. Toleration on the other hand harbors the nuance of holding a state of judgement to another's non-violent behaviors or beliefs in addition to accepting the person's right to hold them. Toleration might also imply the desire to influence the other to change.

I appreciate the hands off approach of acceptance as being fully non-confrontational with acquaintances and everyday people that pass only briefly through my sphere.  "Live and let live" might be the bold libertarian core to such acceptance that transmits the feeling caring egalitarianism.

And yet, I have a hard time seeing why one with well reasoned, evidence-based, and compassionate positions wouldn't feel obliged to inspire others and community policy to ratchet up human ethical mindsets. Perhaps, direct influence of individuals is simply at odds with human nature, unless coming from a perceived divine source. Perhaps, when it comes to personal relationships there is a benefit to simply ignoring differences of opinion to facilitate cooperation on an unrelated project, whether that effort is in the workplace, friendscape or family network.

All of which leads me to the conclusion, sometimes things can be overthought and overwrought. Perhaps, radiating goodness and laughing joyfully in our daily is simply a solid fine starting point for living daily life.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020


Under the guise of patriotism and holiness

Declare war!

Funnel thine wealth to the war machine
That thou may hold onto and gain greater wealth
Train your army and brainwash them well
Focus the violence of their nature, neo-vicious
Hone chivalry to boost morale and cleanse the murder they reap
Then, unleash the rules of war

Rule One: outnumber your enemy
Kill them faster and you’ll outnumber them more

Rule One: keep your rifle polished
But not the bullets; infection is a plus

Rule One: shoot first
And shoot often, civilians, soldiers (or self)

Rule One: never surrender
Death is the only white flag lacking disgrace

Rule One: pay them well and defund everything else
Worry not, you’ll still get the military vote

Rule One: send the poor to do the fighting
When they die it’s a win win outcome

Rule Omega: last man standing wins
Now start building the war machine up again

[the silence between anger and indifference]

Rule Zero: create enemies wherever you go
it's the only excuse you need to declare war

Monday, July 6, 2020

Life as a Pyramid Scheme

"Life is precious" is an often repeated adage. Since the humans who share that sentiment are living things themselves it feels to me inherently biased. Taking a step back from the apparent beauty of life around us, as I though experiment, I wonder if there might be a more nuanced perspective.

Throughout our lives we too frequently take for granted the other living things that are killed to sustain our health, personal growth and entertainment. Whether it is the life of a juvenile pig slaughtered for protein, the hectares of crops that we plant where wildlife once thrived, or the trees we turn into paper for our books (or burn as biomass to charge our e-readers), the nearly eight billion consumers in our species dramatically continue to change the natural landscape in devastating ways.

In part, because the Earth is rather large we have ignored human impact. In part, because we've all be acculturated to the norms around us we focus on our selfish individual goals and desires. To be sure, humans are atop the pyramid of life when it comes to extracting the energy and resources from all other living things on this planet, by far, by magnitudes, by ginormous proportions unmatched. 

Still, nearly every life-form consumes below it, ostensibly to further its own life and the lives of its offspring. Are we so different? Can we cite "oh it's just the cycle of life" when we overlook the billions of sentient creatures in the deadly human processing scheme?

I think not. If there is one thing that sets humans apart from the animals it is the too often unharnessed ability of bringing philosophy, reason, empathy, science and compassion actively into our decision trees. No other creature has the power to reach beyond its evolutionary trajectory. Humans have access to wisdom in such large and varied quantities, that it often competes with itself, in particular with ancient ideas that don't stand up to modern analyses.

Standing from atop the pyramid, I am privileged to conjecture and to share the resulting ideas across the world here on my blog. Perhaps in some small measure that will have influence globally as well, but in the end my daily action and inaction in the world are what determine the goodness of the pyramid I in part am building.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Of Ghosts and Ghouls

Relationships at any level can be challenging to manage, especially when one person wishes to discontinue the connection. In recent years, ghosting has gotten a lot of negative attention, especially with the increased ability to silently end things over text or email. As with so many complex issues, a spectrum of scenarios correlate to a spectrum of responses. There is no single formula that can contend with every separation situation out there.

That said, a good rule of thumb is to communicate with sufficient kindness and personal contact commensurate with the depth of the relationship.

If the beginnings of a connection had barely got started online or resulted in a less than energizing first meeting, then a simple texted "Thank you. I wish you luck in your pursuits." feels more than adequate. And if both parties are fully silent then the mutual ghosting may simply reflect insufficient interest on either side, no slights implied. Even long-term friends can silently drift apart without damage in rare instances.

In general, should a connection grow to the degree that there is a mutual friendship, the expectation for ending things, or canceling hanging out, rises as well. An in-person or extended written or spoken reply that relates honestly and kindly the gist of the reasoning seems sufficiently appropriate. The challenge rises when both parties want to stay in contact but at significantly different levels. 

Ultimately it takes compassion and understanding from both sides. If a friend senses their counterpart consistently wants a greater connection, a verbal normalizing of expectations may be warranted. And if one party continually cancels or fails to respond reasonably to the other's attempts to converse, then it is a sad reality that for emotional health, things may have to end quietly. I like the use of "namaste" to indicate well wishes for a positive journey to that special person who has decided to allow the connection to fade.

And finally, for the longest term relationships, whether with family members, longtime friends or intimate lovers it would be simply ghoulish to end things silently when an opportunity to have a conversation exists. Realistically, people and circumstances change. Where at all possible, gentle attentiveness should be applied when such deep emotional bonds are to be broken. In many cases, a professional mediator may be conscripted to repair the bonds or ease the transition toward separation as desired.

We must keep in mind every relationship is its unique phenomenon. Given this modern age has so many communication methods and styles, each of us can be a little forgiving before condemning someone for ghosting. We can never know completely what's going on in another's head, even if  we believe we do. As with so many gut-level judgments we should consider giving pause to first assess how our own verbal actions have influenced the moment. Often, when we can, it may simply be time to start looking for a new friendship or romance that better meets our needs.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Veg Vexations

Reflecting on several years of being vegan. 

You'd think that choosing a lifestyle that eschews the profit-making and indifference to non-human animal captivity, abuse and killing would reduce ones stress over time. Alas, when you swim against the current of common, culturally baked-in behavior, it can be a rough ride.

In retrospect, sharing meals with omnivore friends and family members is the most consistent frustration. Too often, conversation gravitates around the objectively inhumane entrees being consumed. A varied set of conversational topics would better distract, sure, but one must also contend with the unspoken rule that one better not bring up the environmental impacts, the animal cruelty or relatively healthier options offered by plant based eating. 

I get it. "Live and let live" is a cornerstone adage of western liberated society. Unfortunately, when it comes to liberty if we're not talking humans, cats or dogs, very little concern or compassion is engaged actively for the majority of our beautiful planet, let alone in conversation. Still, choosing a connection with family and friends is so important. As with any liberation from oppressive belief one cannot attack the sensitive area too directly to be effective. Better to behave at a higher ethical level with silent toleration and wait for that one in a hundred opportunity to share a positivie, Socratic contemplation that questions carnist norms.

There are other challenges, but in general the vegan existence over the past decade has only improved. There are more options in grocery stores and restaurant menus. Serious journalism on environmental impacts, plant based nutrition, and animal welfare, especially given the context of the Corona Virus. All in all, the vegan movement is a long-term effort, of which I am one tiny participant. To be sure, global changes cannot come quick enough to solve these issues. Nevertheless, it feels good to be part of the solution, while occasionally encouraging others to consider ideas that ratchet up our species' aggregate treatment of the world we live in.