Thursday, July 31, 2008
File this under "weird things thriving in the dark corners of the Internet."
The Church of Euthanasia (www.churchofeuthanasia.org) is a non-profit "educational foundation" whose only commandment is "thou shalt not procreate." The group reminds humans of their responsibility for balancing the planet's natural resources and encourages them to pitch in through the four pillars - suicide, abortion, cannibalism and sodomy - all in the name of saving the planet.
The whole thing would seem like some sort of sick, deadpan joke on anyone who comes across the site - if it wasn't done so well and so thoroughly. Along with a ticker keeping track of the Earth's overpopulation, the site offers helpful hints on how to kill yourself, having fun with of all types of sodomy and getting emergency contraception.
The group's quarterly webzine (cleverly titled "Snuff It") is a treasure-trove of suggestions on how you too can contribute to the slow but certain decimation of the human species.
The site's most offensive feature (or most hilarious, depending on your viewpoint) would have to be the video for "I Like to Watch," a pop song by the church's Rev. Chris Korda about masturbating to footage of the twin towers coming down. A sample line? "That plane-shaped hole/Really gets me hot/But the big ball of fire/Is the money shot/I like to watch."
It somehow makes sense that people bent on doing away with all humanity would be into techno music.
For $8 you can become one of the church's hundreds of card-carrying members. Or, if you're feeling cheap, you can just go to the "family album" section and get a vicarious thrill browsing photos of the group's many festivals, protests and demonstrations. My favorite? The Fetus Barbecue featuring baby dolls on the grill and signs like "Thank You For Not Breeding" and "Eat a Queer Fetus For Jesus."
You just don't see really funny shock-art like that anymore.
Taken with a grain of salt and a little detached bemusement, the site is hilarious. But, as the "press" section illustrates in dozens of articles from newspapers and magazines all over the country, some are blaming the site for the deaths of their loved ones and the corruption of youth. Which seems like a light insult to hurl at a group that's encouraging people to stop breeding and off themselves so that we can do away with civilisation as we know it.
British couples should consider having no more than two children to help reduce the environmental impact of the rising global population, doctors have said.
An editorial in the British Medical Journal today calls on GPs to encourage the view that bigger families are as environmentally dubious as owning a patio heater or driving a gas-guzzler.
Writing in the journal, John Guillebaud, professor of family planning at University College, London and Pip Hayes, a GP based in Exeter, urge doctors to "break a deafening silence" over the use of family planning to curb the rise in population, which has been viewed by many in the community as a taboo subject.
Managing the impact of a soaring human population will be one of the most politically fraught issues governments will have to grapple with in coming decades. Although the rate of population growth has slowed since the 80s, the UN estimates the world's population has increased by about 76 million a year this century, which drives up greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbates the destruction of wildlife habitats.
Previous efforts to limit population growth in India in the 70s and in China, with its one child policy, have made any attempt to raise the issue in Britain highly controversial.
The authors call on schools and GPs to develop education programmes to explain how a rising population is environmentally unsustainable, and how families who have no more than two children will help ensure the population remains steady or even falls.
Government figures for 2007 show that average fertility rates in England and Wales were 1.91, meaning there were 191 children born for every 100 women, but that rate has been rising since 2001.
Guillebaud argues that bringing the fertility rate down to 1.7 would lead to a halving of the population within six generations.
"Should we now explain to UK couples who plan a family that stopping at two children, or at least having one less than first intended, is the simplest and biggest contribution anyone can make to leaving a habitable planet for our grandchildren?" the editorial asks. "We must not put pressure on people, but by providing information on the population and the environment, and appropriate contraception for everyone ... doctors should help to bring family size into the arena of environmental ethics, analogous to avoiding patio heaters and high-carbon cars."
The authors emphasise that couples should never be coerced into having fewer children than they wish, but the environment should become part of a couple's decision making. The doctors, both of whom are linked to the Optimum Population Trust, a thinktank that researches the impacts of a rising population, claim that every new birth in the UK produces 160 times more greenhouse gas emissions than one in Ethiopia.
"We are not criticising those people in Britain who had large families in the past, because a lot of people had no inkling about the sustainability implications," Guillebaud told the Guardian. "The decision that needs to be made is one that balances rights. It's people's right to have the size of family they choose, but surely that should be balanced against the rights of future generations."
But the debate is complex, as a sharply falling population would have considerable economic, fiscal and social impact.
The editorial calls for improved availability of contraceptives in the developing world, where the biggest rises in population are anticipated. The authors cite the impact of widely available contraception in countries such as Costa Rica and Iran, which have cut their fertility rates.
Chris West, director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, said that while there were good environmental reasons for halting the rise in human population, it would not deliver sufficient cuts in greenhouse emissions quickly enough. "If we had a way to reduce the population ... it would be one way to address climate change, but in the current circumstances, it's not a very effective way," he said. "For all sorts of other reasons ... we probably need to be aiming at zero population growth, but it's not going to deliver emission reductions on anything like the timescale we need."
Humans have struggled with overpopulation since antiquity, when the Greeks were forced to set up colonies across the Mediterranean to reduce pressure on resources back home. According to some accounts, they also encouraged sexual abstinence, delayed fatherhood and introduced basic forms of abortion. In modern times, India began to control its population growth in the 50s in an attempt to alleviate poverty, but stepped up efforts in the 70s, with education programmes and state-sponsored birth control. In China it is estimated that the one-child policy brought in during the late 70s has prevented nearly half a billion births. In many countries, simply providing contraception has been enough to bring fertility rates below the figure needed to maintain a stable population, as people choose to have fewer children. In his 1729 satirical pamphlet, A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift suggested that Irish families might alleviate their poverty by choosing to sell their children to the rich for food. But nothing has been as effective in reducing the human population as the flu virus. The 1918 strain is believed to have killed more than 20 million people.
A "brain chip" could be used to replace the "memory centre" in patients affected by strokes, epilepsy or Alzheimer's disease, it has been claimed.
US scientists say a silicon chip could be used to replace the hippocampus, where the storage of memories is co-ordinated.
They are due to start testing the device on rats' brains shortly.
If that goes well, the Californian researchers will test the artificial hippocampus in live rats within six months and then monkeys trained to carry out memory tasks before progressing to human trials once the chip has been proved to be safe.
The researchers are aware that their work could provoke controversy because the brain affects mood, awareness and consciousness, as well as memory - areas directly linked to a person's identity.
But Theodore Berger, from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, US, who has been leading the research, said this was a test case.
He said: "If you can't do it with the hippocampus, you can't do it with anything."
Input and output
The hippocampus is an area at the base of the brain in humans, close to the junction with the spinal cord.
It is believed it "encodes" experiences so they can be stored as long-term memories in another part of the brain.
Dr Berger told New Scientist magazine: "If you lose your hippocampus you only lose the ability to store new memories.
"That offers a relatively simple and safe way to test the device. If someone with the prosthesis regains the ability to store new memories, then it's safe to assume that it works."
The researchers have spent 10 years developing the artificial hippocampus.
Scientists do not know exactly how the hippocampus works. So the Californian team simply copied its behaviour.
Slices of rat hippocampus were stimulated with electrical signals millions of times, until scientists could be sure which input produced a corresponding output.
Putting the information from each slide together, the researchers were able to devise a mathematical model of a whole hippocampus.
The model was then programmed on to a chip. They suggest the chip would sit on a patient's skull, rather than inside the brain.
It would communicate with the brain via two arrays of electrodes, placed on either side of the damaged attitude.
One would record the electrical activity coming from the rest of the brain, while the other would send out the necessary instructions back to the brain.
The researchers say that, because the hippocampus can be seen as a series of similar circuits that work in parallel, it should be possible to bypass the damaged area.
They are shortly going to carry out the tests on the slices of rat brains kept alive in cerebrospinal fluid.
Dr Berger said: "It's a very important step because it's the first time we have put all the pieces together."
Once those trials are complete, the researchers will begin tests on monkeys where they stop part of the hippocampus working and by-pass it with the chip.
Sam Deadwyler, of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who will conduct the animal trials commented: "The real proof will be if the animal's behaviour changes or is maintained."
Bernard Williams, a philosopher at Oxford University, UK, who is an expert in personal identity, said people might find the technology hard to accept at first.
But he added: "Initially, people thought heart transplants were an abomination because they assumed that having the heart you were born with was an important part of who you are."
Making a difference
Dimitri Kullmann, professor of neurology at the Institute of Neurology, UK, told BBC News Online the chip was "miles away" from being used in human brains.
He said the researchers appeared to have concentrated on the electrical signals going into and out of the hippocampus and not the other complex activity seen within the area.
Professor Kullmann added: "I think they would run into major difficulties in testing this in any sensible way because taking out the existing hippocampus and wiring this device in somehow would cause damage.
"Proving conclusively the chip, as opposed to just leaving a hole, makes a difference is going to be difficult."
The research is to be presented to a neural engineering conference in Capri, Italy, next week.
An pill-sized brain chip has allowed a quadriplegic man to check e-mail and play computer games using his thoughts. The device can tap into a hundred neurons at a time, and is the most sophisticated such implant tested in humans so far.
In June 2004, surgeons implanted a device containing 100 electrodes into the motor cortex of a 24-year-old quadriplegic. The device, called the BrainGate, was developed by the company Cyberkinetics, based in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Each electrode taps into a neuron in the patient’s brain.
The BrainGate allowed the patient to control a computer or television using his mind, even when doing other things at the same time. Researchers report for example that he could control his television while talking and moving his head.
People in Haiti have become so desperate for food that many are eating mud, U.N. officials said.
U.N. officials say that food is available in the impoverished Caribbean nation, The Guardian reported. But prices are rising so fast that the Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that food will cost 80 percent more at the end of the year than it did in January.
The high prices come in a country where much of the population is already living on the edge. The United Nations says that two-thirds of Haitians live on less than $1 a day.
In normal times, pregnant women use mud cakes as a source of calcium. Now, they are famine food.
"It stops the hunger," said Marie-Carmelle Baptiste, who makes mud cakes. "You eat them when you have to."The cakes' raw material comes from a clay deposit outside Port-au-Prince. Baptiste said they have become more expensive to make, but she does not want to raise her prices until she has to because she knows that, for her customers, the cakes are the last resort.
An implantable device in live animals that can record signals from one part of the brain and send impulses to other. In the process neural connections are reshaped. It is believed to pave way for restoring motor and cognitive function in the wake of brain injuries and strokes. Also it promises for returning limited motor functions to patients with spinal cord injuries.
Scientists are now building a device that records brain signals and transmits them to paralyzed muscles, potentially returning muscle control to severely paralyzed patients. In the prosthetic system, which is still in early development, a brain chip records neural signals from the part of the brain that controls movement. The chip then processes those signals, sending precise messages to wires implanted in different muscles of the patient's arm or hand, triggering the paralyzed limb to grab a glass or scratch the nose.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Steve Conigio had been a sophomore student in my World History class. We ran into each other quite by accident. It's one of those occasions experienced by teachers when they least expect. You're walking down the street, eating at a secluded restaurant, or buying some underwear when all of a sudden an ex-student pops up to say hello. In this case it was Steve running down the street shouting "Mr. Jones, Mr. Jones." In an embarrassed hug we greet. I had to stop for a minute to remember. Who is this young man hugging me? He calls me Mr. Jones. Must be a former student. What's his name? In the split second of my race back in time Steve sensed my questioning and backed up. Then smiled, and slowly raised a hand in a cupped position. My God He's a member of the Third Wave. It's Steve, Steve Conigio. He sat in the second row. He was a sensitive and bright student. Played guitar and enjoyed drama.
We just stood there exchanging smiles when without a conscious command I raised my hand in curved position. The salute was give. Two comrades had met long after the war. The Third Wave was still alive. "Mr. Jones do you remember the Third Wave?" I sure do, it was one of the most frightening events I ever experienced In the classroom. It was also the genesis of a secret that I and two hundred students would sadly share for the rest of our lives.
We talked and laughed about the Third Wave for the next few hours. Then it was time to part. It's strange, you most a past student In these chance ways, You catch a few moments of your life. Hold them tight. Then say goodbye. Not knowing when and if you'd ever see each other again. Oh, you make promises to call each other but It won't happen. Steve will continue to grow and change. I will remain an ageless benchmark in his life. A presence that will not change. I am Mr. Jones. Steve turns and gives a quiet salute. Hand raised upward in a shape of a curling wave. Hand curved in a similar fashion I return the gesture.
The Third Wave. Well at last it can be talked about. Here I’ve met a student and we've talked for hours about this nightmare. The secret must finally be waning. It's taken three years. I can tell you and anyone else about the Third Wave. It's now just a dream, something to remember, no it's something we tried to forget. That's how it all started. By strange coincidence I think it was Steve who started the Third Ways with a question
. We were studying Nazi Germany and in the middle of a lecture I was interrupted by the question. How could the German populace claim ignorance of the slaughter of the Jewish people. How could the townspeople, railroad conductors, teachers, doctors, claim they knew nothing about concentration camps and human carnage. How can people who were neighbors and maybe even friends of the Jewish citizen say they weren't there when it happened. it was a good question. I didn't know the answer.
In as such as there were several months still to go in the school year and I was already at World War II, I decided to take a week and explore the question.
To experience the power of discipline, I invited, no I commanded the class to exercise and use a new seating posture; I described how proper sitting posture assists mandatory concentration and strengthens the will. in fact I instructed the class in a sitting posture. This posture started with feet flat on the floor, hands placed flat across the small of the back to force a straight alignment of the spine. "There can't you breath more easily? You're more alert. Don't you feel better."
We practiced this new attention position over and over. I walked up and down the aisles of seated students pointing out small flaws, making improvements. Proper seating became the most important aspect of learning. I would dismiss the class allowing them to leave their desks and then call them abruptly back to an attention sitting position. In speed drills the class learned to move from standing position to attention sitting in fifteen seconds. In focus drills I concentrated attention on the feet being parallel and flat, ankles locked, knees bent at ninety degree angles, hands flat and crossed against the back, spine straight, chin down, head forward. We did noise drills in which talking was allowed only to be shown as a detraction. Following minutes of progressive drill assignments the class could move from standing positions outside the room to attention sitting positions at their desks without making a sound. The maneuver took five seconds.
It was strange how quickly the students took to this uniform code of behavior I began to wonder just how far they could be pushed. Was this display of obedience a momentary game we were all playing, or was it something else. Was the desire for discipline and uniformity a natural need? A societal instinct we hide within our franchise restaurants and T.V. programming.
I decided to push the tolerance of the class for regimented action. In the final twenty-five minutes of the class I introduced some new rules. Students must be sitting in class at the attention position before the late bell; all students Must carry pencils and paper for note taking; when asking or answering questions a student must stand at the side of their desk; the first word given in answering or asking a question is "Mr. Jones." We practiced short "silent reading" sessions. Students who responded in a sluggish manner were reprimanded and in every case made to repeat their behavior until it was a model of punctuality and respect. The intensity of the response became more important than the content. To accentuate this, I requested answers to be given in three words or less. Students were rewarded for making an effort at answering or asking questions. They were also acknowledged for doing this in a crisp and attentive manner. Soon everyone in the class began popping up with answers and questions. The involvement level in the class moved from the few who always dominated discussions to the entire class. Even stranger was the gradual improvement in the quality of answers. Everyone seemed to be listening more intently. New people were speaking. Answers *tarted to stretch out as students usually hesitant to speak found support for their effort.
As for my part in this exercise, I had nothing but questions. Why hadn't I thought of this technique before. Students seemed intent on the assignment and displayed Accurate recitation of facts and concepts. They even seemed to be asking better questions and treating each other with more compassion. How could this be? Here I was enacting an authoritarian learning environment and it seemed very productive. I now began to ponder not just how far this class could be pushed but how such I would change my basic beliefs toward an open classroom and self directed learning. Was all my belief in Carl Rogers to shrivel and die? Where was this experiment leading?
While the class sat in stern silence I began to talk lecture sermonize about the value of community. At this stage of the game I was debating in my own mind whether to stop the experiment or continue. I hadn't planned such intensity or compliance. In fact I was surprised to find the ideas on discipline enacted at all. While debating whether to stop or go on with the experiment I talked on and on about community. I made up stories from my experiences as an athlete, coach and historian. It was easy. Community is that bond between individuals who work and struggle together. It's raising a barn with your neighbors, it's feeling that you are a part of something beyond yourself, a movement, a team, La Raza, a cause.
It was too late to step back. I now can appreciate why the astronomer turns relentlessly to the telescope. I was probing deeper and deeper into my own perceptions and the motivations for group and individual action. There was much more to see and try to understand. Many questions haunted me. Why did the students accept the authority I was imposing? Where is their curiosity or resistance to this marshal behavior. When and how will this end?
Following my description of community I once again told the class that community like discipline must be experienced if it is to be understood. To provide an encounter with community I had the class recite in unison "Strength Through Discipline." "Strength Through Community." First I would have two students stand and call back our motto. Then add two more until finally the whole class was standing and reciting. It was fun. The students began to look at each other and sense the power of belonging. Everyone was capable and equal. They were doing something together. We worked on this simple act for the entire class period. We would repeat the mottos in a rotating chorus. or say then with various degrees of loudness. Always we said them together, emphasizing the proper way to sit, stand, and talk.
I began to think of myself as a part of the experiment. I enjoyed the unified action demonstrated by the students. It was rewarding to see their satisfaction and excitement to do more. I found it harder and harder to extract myself from the momentum and identity that the class was developing. I was following the group dictate as much as I was directing it.
As the class period was ending and without forethought I created a class salute. It was for class members only. To make the salute you brought your right hand up toward the right shoulder in a curled position. I called it the Third Wave salute because the hand resembled a wave about to top over. The idea for the three came from beach lore that waves travel in chains, the third wave being the last and largest of each series. Since we had a salute I made it a rule to salute all class members outside the classroom. When the bell sounded ending the period I asked the class for complete silence. With everyone sitting at attention I slowly raised my arm and with a cupped hand I saluted. It was a silent signal of recognition. They were something special. Without command the entire group of students returned the salute.
Throughout the next few days students in the class would exchange this greeting. You would be walking down the hall when all of a sudden three classmates would turn your way each flashing a quick salute. In the library or in gym students would be seen giving this strange hand jive. You would hear a crash of cafeteria food only to have it followed by two classmates saluting each other. The mystique of thirty individuals doing this strange gyration soon brought more attention to the class and its experiment into the German personality. Many students outside the class asked if they could join.
At this point students stood without prompting and began to give what amounted to testimonials. "Mr. Jones, for the first time I'm learning lots of things." "Mr. Jones, why don't you teach like this all the time." I was shocked! Yes, I had been pushing information at them in an extremely controlled setting but the fact that they found it comfortable and acceptable was startling. It was equally disconcerting to realize that complex and time consuming written homework assignments on German life were being completed and even enlarged on by students. Performance in academic skill areas was significantly improving. They were learning more. And they seemed to want more. I began to think that the students might do anything I assigned. I decided to find out.
To allow students the experience of direct action I gave each individual a specific verbal assignment. "It's your task to design a Third Wave Banner. You are responsible for stopping any student that is not a Third Wave member from entering this room. I want you to remember and be able to recite by tomorrow the name and address of every Third Wave Member. You are assigned the problem of training and convincing at least twenty children in the adjacent elementary school that our sitting posture is necessary for better learning. It's your job to read this pamphlet and report its entire content to the class before the period ends. I want each of you to give me the name and address of one reliable friend that you think might want to join the Third Wave."...
To conclude the session on direct action, I instructed students in a simple procedure for initiating new members. It went like this. A new member had only to be recommended by an existing member and issued a card by me. Upon receiving this card the new member had to demonstrate knowledge of our rules and pledge obedience to them. My announcement unleashed a fervor.
The school was alive with conjecture and curiosity. It affected everyone. The school cook asked what a Third Wave cookie looked like. I said chocolate chip of course. Our principal came into an afternoon faculty meeting and gave me the Third Wave salute. I saluted back. The Librarian thanked me for the 30' banner on learning which she placed above the library entrance. By the end of the day over two hundred students were admitted into the order. I felt very alone and a little scared.
Most of my fear emanated from the incidence of "tattletaling". Though I formally appointed only three students to report deviate behavior, approximately twenty students came to me with reports about how Allan didn't salute, or Georgine was talking critically about our experiment. This incidence of monitoring meant that half the class now considered it their duty to observe and report on members of their class. Within this avalanche of reporting one legitimate conspiracy did seem underway ....
Three women in the class had told their parents all about our classroom activities. These three young women were by far the most intelligent students in the class. As friends they chummed together. They possessed a silent confidence and took pleasure in a school setting that gave them academic and leadership opportunity. During the days of the experiment I was curious how they would respond to the equalitarian and physical reshaping of the class. The rewards they were accustomed to winning just didn't exist in the experiment. The intellectual skills of questioning and reasoning were non existent. In the martial atmosphere of the class they seemed stunned and pensive. Now that I look back, they appeared much like the child with so called learning disability. They watched the activities and participated in a mechanical fashion. Whereas others jumped in, they held back, watching.
In telling their parents of the experiment they set up a brief chain of events. The rabbi for one of the parents called me at home. He was polite and condescending. I told him we were merely studying the German personality. He seemed delighted and told me not to worry. He would talk to the parents and calm their concern. In concluding this conversation I envisioned similar conversations throughout history in which the clergy accepted and apologized for untenable conditions. If only he would have raged in anger or simply investigated the situation I could point the students to an example of righteous rebellion. But no. The rabbi became a part of the experiment In remaining ignorant of the oppression in the experiment he became an accomplice and advocate.
By the end of the third day I was exhausted. I was tearing apart. The balance between role playing and directed behavior became indistinguishable. Many of the students were completely into being Third Wave Members. They demanded strict obedience of the rules from other students and bullied those that took the experiment lightly. Others simply sunk into the activity and took self assigned roles. I particularly remember Robert. Robert was big for his age and displayed very few academic skills. Oh he tried harder than anyone I know to be successful. He handed in elaborate weekly reports copied word for word from the reference books in the library. Robert is like so many kids in school that don't excel or cause trouble. They aren't bright, they can't make the athletic teams, and don't strike out for attention. They are lost. invisible. The only reason I came to know Robert at all is that I found him eating lunch in my classroom. He always ate lunch alone.
Well, the Third Wave gave Robert a place in school. At least he was equal to everyone. He could do something. Take part. Be meaningful. That's just what Robert did. Late Wednesday afternoon I found Robert following me and asked what in the world was he doing. He smiled (I don't think I had ever seen him smile) and announced, "Mr. Jones I'm your bodyguard. I'm afraid something will happen to you.
Can I do it Kr. Jones, please?" Given that assurance and smile I couldn't say no. I had a bodyguard. All day long he opened and closed doors for me. He walked always on my right. Just smiling and saluting other class members. He followed me every- where. In the faculty room (closed to students) he stood at silent attention while I gulped some coffee. When accosted by an English teacher for being a student in the "teachers' room" her just smiled and informed the faculty member that he wasn't a student. he was a body guard.
The other option of just letting the experiment run its course was also out of the question. Things were already getting out of control. Wednesday evening someone had broken into the room and ransacked the place. (I later found out it was the father of one of the students. He was a retired air force colonel who had spent time in a German prisoner of war camp. Upon hearing of our activity he simply lost control Late in the evening he broke into the room and tore it apart. I found him that morning propped up against the classroom door. He told me about his friends that had been killed in Germany. He was holding on to me and shaking. In staccato words he pleaded that I understand and help him get home. I called his wife and with the help of a neighbor walked him home. We spent hours later talking about what he felt and did, but from that moment on Thursday morning I was more concerned with what might be happening at school.
I was increasingly worried about how our activity was affecting the faculty and other students in the school. The Third Wave was disrupting normal learning. Students were cutting class to participate and the school counselors were beginning to question every student in the class. The real gestapo in the school was at work. Faced with this experiment exploding in one hundred directions, I decided to try an old basketball strategy. When you're playing against all the odds the best action to take is to try the unexpected. That's what I did.
By Thursday the class had swollen in size to over eighty students. The only thing that allowed them all to fit was the enforced discipline of sitting in silence at attention. A strange calm is in effect when a room full of people sit in quite observation and anticipation. It helped me approach them in a deliberate way. I talked about pride. "Pride is more than banners or salutes. Pride Is something no one can take from you. Pride is knowing you are the best... It can't be destroyed ..."
In the midst of this crescendo I abruptly changed and lowered my voice to announce the real reason for the Third Wave. In slow methodic tone I explained what was behind the Third Wave. "The Third Wave isn't just an experiment or classroom activity. It's far more important than that. The Third Wave Is a nationwide program to find students who are willing to fight for political change in this country. That's right. This activity we have been doing has been practice for the real thing. Across the country teachers like myself have been recruiting and training a youth brigade capable of showing the nation a better society through discipline, community. pride, and action. If we can change the way that school is run, we can change the way that factories, stores, universities and all the other institutions are run. You are a selected group of young people chosen to help in this cause. If you will stand up and display what You have learned in the past four days...we can change the destiny of this nation. We can bring it a new sense of order. community, pride and action. A new purpose. Everything rests with you and your willingness to take a stand."
To give validity to the seriousness of my words I turned to the three women in the class whom I knew had questioned the Third Wave. I demanded that they leave the room. I explained why I acted and then assigned four guards to escort the women to the library and to restrain them from entering the class an Friday. Then in dramatic style I informed the class of a special noon rally to take place on Friday. This would be a rally for Third Wave Members only.
It was a wild gamble. I just kept talking. Afraid that if I stopped someone would laugh or ask a question and the grand scheme would dissolve in chaos. I explained how at noon on Friday a national candidate for president would announce the formation of a Third Wave Youth Program. Simultaneous to this announcement over 1000 youth groups from every part of the country would stand up and display their support for such a movement. I confided that they were the students selected to represent their area. I also questioned if they could make a good showing, because the press had been invited to record the event. No one laughed. There was not a murmur of resistance. quite the contrary. A fever pitch of excitement swelled across the room. "We can do it!" "Should we wear white shirts?" "Can we bring friends?" "Mr. Jones, have you seen this advertisement in Time magazine?"
The clincher came quite by accident. It was a full page color advertisement in the current issue of Time for some lumber products. The advertiser identified his product as the Third Wave. The advertisement proclaimed in big red, white and blue letters, "The Third Wave is coming." ''Is this part of the campaign, Mr. Jones?" "Is it a code or something?" "Yes.1' "Now listen carefully."
"It's all set for tomorrow. Be in the small auditorium ten minutes before 12:00. Be seated. Be ready to display the discipline, community, and pride you have learned. Don't talk to anyone about this. This rally is for members only."
"Before turning on the national press conference, which begins in five minutes, I want to demonstrate to the press the extent of our training." With that, I gave the salute followed automatically by two hundred arms stabbing a reply. I then said the words "Strength Through Discipline" followed by a repetitive chorus. We did this again, and again. Each time the response was louder. The photographers were circling the ritual snapping pictures but by now they were ignored. I reiterated the importance of this event and asked once more for a show of allegiance. It was the last time I would ask anyone to recite. The room rocked with a guttural cry, "Strength Through Discipline."
It was 12:05. I turned off the lights in the room and walked quickly to the television set. The air in the room seemed to be drying up. It felt hard to breathe and even harder to talk. It was as if the climax of shouting souls had pushed everything out of' the room. I switched the television set on. I was now standing next to the television directly facing the room full of people. The machine came to life producing a luminous field of phosphorus light. Robert was at my side. I whispered to him to watch closely and pay attention to the next few minutes. The only light in the room was coming from the television and it played against the faces in the room. Eyes strained and pulled at the light but the pattern didn't change. The room stayed deadly still. Waiting. There was a mental tug of war between the people in the room and the television. The television won. The white glow of the test pattern didn't snap into the vision of a political candidate. It just whined on. Still the viewers persisted. There must be a program. It must be coming on. Where is it? The trance with the television continued for what seemed like hours. It was 12:07. Nothing. A blank field of white. It's not going to happen. Anticipation turned to anxiety and then to frustration. Someone stood up and shouted.
"There isn't any leader is there?" "Everyone turned in shock. first to the despondent student and then back to the television. Their faces held looks of disbelief.
In the confusion of the moment I moved slowly toward the television. I turned it off. I felt air rush back into the room. The room remained in fixed silence but for the first time I could sense people breathing. Students were withdrawing their arms from behind their chairs. I expected a flood of questions, but instead got intense quietness. I began to talk. Every word seemed to be taken and absorbed.
"Listen closely, I have something important to tell you." "Sit down." "There is no leader! There is no such thing as a national youth movement called the Third Wave. You have been used. Manipulated. Shoved by your own desires into the place you now find yourself. You are no better or worse than the German Nazis we have been studying."
"You thought that you were the elect. That you were better than those outside this room. You bargained your freedom for the comfort of discipline and superiority. You chose to accept that group's will and the big lie over your own conviction. Oh, you think to yourself that you were just going along for the fun. That you could extricate yourself at any moment. But where were you heading? How far would you have gone? Let me show you your future."
With that I switched on a rear screen projector. It quickly illuminated a white drop cloth hanging behind the television. Large numbers appeared in a countdown. The roar of the Nuremberg Rally blasted into vision. My heart was pounding. In ghostly images the history of the Third Reich paraded into the room. The discipline. The march of super race. The big lie. Arrogance, violence, terror. People being pushed into vans. The visual stench of death camps. Faces without eyes. The trials. The plea of ignorance. I was only doing my job. My job. As abruptly as it started the film froze to a halt on a single written frame. "Everyone must accept the blame No one can claim that they didn't in some way take part."
The room stayed dark as the final footage of film flapped against the projector. I felt sick to my stomach. The room sweat and smelt like a locker room. No one moved. It was as if everyone wanted to dissect the moment, figure out what had happened. Like awakening from a dream and deep sleep, the entire room of people took one last look back into their consciousness. I waited for several minutes to let everyone catch up. Finally questions began to emerge. All of the questions probed at imaginary situations and sought to discover the meaning of this event.
In the still darkened room I began the explanation. I confessed my feeling of sickness and remorse. I told the assembly that a full explanation would take quite a while. But to start. I sensed myself moving from an introspective participant in the event toward the role of teacher. It's easier being a teacher. In objective terms I began to describe the past events.
"Through the experience of the past week we have all tasted what it was like to live and act in Nazi Germany. We learned what it felt like to create a disciplined social environment. To build a special society. Pledge allegiance to that society. Replace reason with rules. Yes, we would all have made good Germans. We would have put on the uniform. Turned our head as friends and neighbors were cursed and then persecuted. Pulled the locks shut. Worked in the "defense" plants. Burned ideas. Yes, we know in a small way what it feels like to find a hero. To grab quick solution. Feel strong and in control of destiny. We know the fear of being left out. The pleasure of doing something right and being rewarded. To be number one. To be right. Taken to an extreme we have seen and perhaps felt what these actions will lead to. we each have witnessed something over the past week. We have seen that fascism is not just something those other people did. No. it's right here. In this room. In our own personal habits and way of life. Scratch the surface and it appears. Something in all of us. We carry it like a disease. The belief that human beings are basically evil and therefore unable to act well toward each other. A belief that demands a strong leader and discipline to preserve social order. And there is something else. The act of apology.
"This is the final lesson to be experienced. This last lesson is perhaps the one of greatest importance. This lesson was the question that started our plunge in studying Nazi life. Do you remember the question? It concerned a bewilderment at the German populace claiming ignorance and non-involvement in the Nazi movement. If I remember the question. it went something like this. How could the German soldier, teacher, railroad conductor, nurse. tax collector. the average citizen, claim at the end of the Third Reich that they knew nothing of what was going on. How can a people be a part of something and then claim at the demise that they were not really involved' What causes people to blank out their own history? In the next few minutes and perhaps years, you will have an opportunity to answer this question."
"If our enactment of the Fascist mentality is complete not one of you will ever admit to being at this final Third Wave rally. Like the Germans, you will have trouble admitting to yourself that you come this far. You will not allow your friends and parents to know that you were willing to give up individual freedom and power for the dictates of order and unseen leaders. You can't admit to being manipulated. Being a follower. To accepting the Third Wave as a way of life. You won't admit to participating in this madness. You will keep this day and this rally a secret. It's a secret I shall share with you."
I took the film from the three cameras in the room and pulled the celluloid into the exposing light. The deed was concluded. The trial was over. The Third Wave had ended. I glanced over my shoulder. Robert was crying. Students slowly rose from their Chairs and without words filed into the outdoor light. I walked over to Robert and threw my arms around him. Robert was sobbing. Taking in large uncontrollable gulps of air. "It's over." it's all right." In our consoling each other we became a rock in the stream of exiting students. Some swirled back to momentarily hold Robert and me. Others cried openly and then brushed away tears to carry on. Human beings circling and holding each other. Moving toward the door and the world outside.
For a week in the middle of a school year we had shared fully in life. And as predicted we also shared a deep secret. In the four years I taught at Cubberley High School no one ever admitted to attending the Third Wave Rally. Oh, we talked and studied our actions intently. But the rally itself. No. It was something we all wanted to forget.
Too much tofu may affect a man's fertility, according to a study linking soya and low sperm count.
Scientists found that even modest consumption of soya products, such as meat and dairy substitutes and bean curd, can have a significant impact on sperm count.
Men who ate an average of half a serving of soya food a day had lower concentrations of sperm than those who did not.
Low sperm count is known to make it harder for a man to conceive.
Soya compounds called isoflavones, which mimic the female sex hormone oestrogen, are thought to be behind the effect. Animal studies have linked high consumption of isoflavones with infertility, but until now there has been little evidence of their impact on human reproduction.
Sperm count ranges between 80 and 120 million sperm per millilitre (million/ml) of semen for normal healthy men.
But researchers in the US found that among the men they studied, those with the highest soya intake produced much less sperm. On average their counts were 41 million/ml lower than those of men who did not consume soya products.
The scientists, led by Dr Jorge Chavarro, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, questioned 99 men seeking help for fertility problems about their consumption of 15 soya-based foods.
Each man was asked about his diet in the previous three months. The foods included tofu, tempeh, soy sausages, bacon, burgers and mince, soy milk, cheese, yoghurt and ice cream, and other soya products such as roasted nuts, drinks, powders and energy bars.
The scientists varied serving sizes to take account of the fact that different foods contained different levels of isoflavones. A standard serving of tofu was said to be 115 grams, and for soya milk, one 240 millilitre cup. Factors such as age, body mass index (BMI) which relates weight and height, smoking, alcohol and caffeine intake, and the length of time since last producing semen, were adjusted for.
Householders face a bill of nearly half a billion pounds after water companies have been asked to slash the amount of water they take from rivers and aquifers and find alternative supplies.
The price rises follow a review by the Environment Agency, which found widespread damage and threats to wildlife, including precious chalk rivers and wetlands, and other protected habitats for water voles, salmon and other wildlife.
The move raises the prospect of new investment in controversial schemes including pumping water from the wet north of England and Wales to the south, energy-hungry desalination plants, and new reservoirs.
The Consumer Council for Water said customers faced price rises of up to £30 a year in the worst affected areas. The rises come on top of big hikes in the price of domestic energy, fuel and food. Deryck Hall, the council's policy manager, said in the worst cases customers faced the threat of more hosepipe bans, more drought orders on businesses like car washes and sports grounds, and even water supplies to homes running out.
One water company has been asked to reduce the amount it takes from a river supplying 740,000 people by half during the summer months.
"The threat to public supply is big one," said Hall. "We know there needs to be a balance between the environment and public supply... but it needs to be done in a very sensitive and pragmatic way, and in some cases, unless the agency and companies come together and work out what needs to be done, we end up with some difficulties facing public water supply."
The Environment Agency said that to protect public supplies, the government had agreed that companies could ask the water regulator, Ofwat, to increase bills to pay for alternative supplies.
Water UK, the industry body, said it expected the bill to top £450m because of problems finding new supplies. Affected companies tend to be in dry areas where other rivers and groundwater are already tapped to the limit, and alternatives such as piping-in water, new reservoirs and desalination face opposition because of high energy use and threats to habitats.
Water bills could rise even further because the first round of licence cuts is only to help sites designated a priority.
The Environment Agency carried out two reviews of so-called abstraction licences owned by water companies, farmers and other businesses in England and Wales, the first review of its kind for a generation. The "habitats directive" review looked at thousands of abstraction points near protected sites, and found more than one in 10 were causing damage, or a threat.
Another, wider review of all 20,000 abstraction licences on rivers and groundwater found 15% were over-abstracted and already causing damage, 18% were over-licenced and so posed a threat if the quotas were fully used, and one-third were on the limit.
Damage was caused when water dried up or fell so low that plants and other species were unable to thrive in more polluted and warmer water, or choked by sediment, said Kathryn Tanner, an Environment Agency policy advisor. "You might find you'd go from a nice big wetland to something which was mixed grasses, those sort of things, which may be less valuable in terms of its biodiversity," said Tanner.
The cost so far would add £20 a year to the average £157 water and £174 sewage bill. However, customers of the worst affected water companies are expected to have to pay more. Problem areas are thought to include those covered by Anglian Water, Southern Water, Thames Water and South West Water, said the CCW. Northumbria and Yorkshire are believed to have few or no cases of over-abstraction.
One of the most extreme problems found was on the Lower Itchen river in Hampshire, which supplies 740,000 Southern Water customers. The company has been asked to reduce water withdrawal by up to half in the summer, and estimates it will cost £70m-£100m to replace the supply from this one site alone. A company spokeswoman said they were proposing compulsory metering to reduce demand, but would also need other measures.
Other sites studied included the Ouse Washes and the rivers Derwent, Avon and Usk, though the EA has not said if problems were found at these sites.
If alternative supplies were not found and drought measures failed, consumers faced reductions in supplies to homes, said Deryck Hall, of the Consumer Council for Water.
At the end of older water mains, water could literally dry up, while in more modern homes built on ring mains they could to see a drop in pressure, he said. "They would see a reduction in pressure and possibly a trickle of water coming through rather than the full flow they are used to getting."
Ofwat will rule next year on how much companies can increase bills to pay for new supplies and other demands, including higher water-quality standards and better sewers and drains to protect against urban flooding. The new charges would come in from April 2010.
Anglian Water said it could transfer water from the wetter northern part of its region, and was also proposing a new reservoir in Lincolnshire.
South West Water said so far it had only been asked to reduce abstraction at one site, on Dartmoor, and by "not a large amount".
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
On June 5, 1873, in a letter to The Times, Sir Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin and a distinguished African explorer in his own right, outlined a daring (if by today's standards utterly offensive) new method to 'tame' and colonise what was then known as the Dark Continent.
'My proposal is to make the encouragement of Chinese settlements of Africa a part of our national policy, in the belief that the Chinese immigrants would not only maintain their position, but that they would multiply and their descendants supplant the inferior Negro race,' wrote Galton.'I should expect that the African seaboard, now sparsely occupied by lazy, palavering savages, might in a few years be tenanted by industrious, order-loving Chinese, living either as a semidetached dependency of China, or else in perfect freedom under their own law.' Close relations: Chinese President Hu Jintao accompanies Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
Despite an outcry in Parliament and heated debate in the august salons of the Royal Geographic Society, Galton insisted that 'the history of the world tells the tale of the continual displacement of populations, each by a worthier successor, and humanity gains thereby'.
A controversial figure, Galton was also the pioneer of eugenics, the theory that was used by Hitler to try to fulfil his mad dreams of a German Master Race.
Eventually, Galton's grand resettlement plans fizzled out because there were much more exciting things going on in Africa.
But that was more than 100 years ago, and with legendary explorers such as Livingstone, Speke and Burton still battling to find the source of the Nile - and new discoveries of exotic species of birds and animals featuring regularly on newspaper front pages - vast swathes of the continent had not even been 'discovered'.
Yet Sir Francis Galton, it now appears, was ahead of his time. His vision is coming true - if not in the way he imagined. An astonishing invasion of Africa is now under way.
In the greatest movement of people the world has ever seen, China is secretly working to turn the entire continent into a new colony.
Reminiscent of the West's imperial push in the 18th and 19th centuries - but on a much more dramatic, determined scale - China's rulers believe Africa can become a 'satellite' state, solving its own problems of over-population and shortage of natural resources at a stroke.
With little fanfare, a staggering 750,000 Chinese have settled in Africa over the past decade. More are on the way.
The strategy has been carefully devised by officials in Beijing, where one expert has estimated that China will eventually need to send 300 million people to Africa to solve the problems of over-population and pollution.
The plans appear on track. Across Africa, the red flag of China is flying. Lucrative deals are being struck to buy its commodities - oil, platinum, gold and minerals. New embassies and air routes are opening up. The continent's new Chinese elite can be seen everywhere, shopping at their own expensive boutiques, driving Mercedes and BMW limousines, sending their children to exclusive private schools.
The pot-holed roads are cluttered with Chinese buses, taking people to markets filled with cheap Chinese goods. More than a thousand miles of new Chinese railroads are crisscrossing the continent, carrying billions of tons of illegally-logged timber, diamonds and gold.
The trains are linked to ports dotted around the coast, waiting to carry the goods back to Beijing after unloading cargoes of cheap toys made in China.
Confucius Institutes (state-funded Chinese 'cultural centres') have sprung up throughout Africa, as far afield as the tiny land-locked countries of Burundi and Rwanda, teaching baffled local people how to do business in Mandarin and Cantonese.
Massive dams are being built, flooding nature reserves. The land is scarred with giant Chinese mines, with 'slave' labourers paid less than £1 a day to extract ore and minerals.
Pristine forests are being destroyed, with China taking up to 70 per cent of all timber from Africa.
All over this great continent, the Chinese presence is swelling into a flood. Angola has its own 'Chinatown', as do great African cities such as Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.
Exclusive, gated compounds, serving only Chinese food, and where no blacks are allowed, are being built all over the continent. 'African cloths' sold in markets on the continent are now almost always imported, bearing the legend: 'Made in China'.
From Nigeria in the north, to Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Angola in the west, across Chad and Sudan in the east, and south through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, China has seized a vice-like grip on a continent which officials have decided is crucial to the superpower's long-term survival.
'The Chinese are all over the place,' says Trevor Ncube, a prominent African businessman with publishing interests around the continent. 'If the British were our masters yesterday, the Chinese have taken their place.'
Likened to one race deciding to adopt a new home on another planet, Beijing has launched its so-called 'One China In Africa' policy because of crippling pressure on its own natural resources in a country where the population has almost trebled from 500 million to 1.3 billion in 50 years.
China is hungry - for land, food and energy. While accounting for a fifth of the world's population, its oil consumption has risen 35-fold in the past decade and Africa is now providing a third of it; imports of steel, copper and aluminium have also shot up, with Beijing devouring 80 per cent of world supplies.
Fuelling its own boom at home, China is also desperate for new markets to sell goods. And Africa, with non-existent health and safety rules to protect against shoddy and dangerous goods, is the perfect destination.
The result of China's demand for raw materials and its sales of products to Africa is that turnover in trade between Africa and China has risen from £5million annually a decade ago to £6billion today.
However, there is a lethal price to pay. There is a sinister aspect to this invasion. Chinese-made war planes roar through the African sky, bombing opponents. Chinese-made assault rifles and grenades are being used to fuel countless murderous civil wars, often over the materials the Chinese are desperate to buy.
Take, for example, Zimbabwe. Recently, a giant container ship from China was due to deliver its cargo of three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 3,000 rocket-propelled grenades and 1,500 mortars to President Robert Mugabe's regime.
After an international outcry, the vessel, the An Yue Jiang, was forced to return to China, despite Beijing's insistence that the arms consignment was a 'normal commercial deal'.
Indeed, the 77-ton arms shipment would have been small beer - a fraction of China's help to Mugabe. He already has high-tech, Chinese-built helicopter gunships and fighter jets to use against his people.
Ever since the U.S. and Britain imposed sanctions in 2003, Mugabe has courted the Chinese, offering mining concessions for arms and currency.
While flying regularly to Beijing as a high-ranking guest, the 84-year-old dictator rants at 'small dots' such as Britain and America.
He can afford to. Mugabe is orchestrating his campaign of terror from a 25-bedroom, pagoda-style mansion built by the Chinese. Much of his estimated £1billion fortune is believed to have been siphoned off from Chinese 'loans'.
The imposing grey building of ZANU-PF, his ruling party, was paid for and built by the Chinese. Mugabe received £200 million last year alone from China, enabling him to buy loyalty from the army.
In another disturbing illustration of the warm relations between China and the ageing dictator, a platoon of the China People's Liberation Army has been out on the streets of Mutare, a city near the border with Mozambique, which voted against the president in the recent, disputed election.
Almost 30 years ago, Britain pulled out of Zimbabwe - as it had done already out of the rest of Africa, in the wake of Harold Macmillan's 'wind of change' speech. Today, Mugabe says: 'We have turned East, where the sun rises, and given our backs to the West, where the sun sets.'
Despite Britain's commendable colonial legacy of a network of roads, railways and schools, the British are now being shunned.
According to one veteran diplomat: 'China is easier to do business with because it doesn't care about human rights in Africa - just as it doesn't care about them in its own country. All the Chinese care about is money.'
Nowhere is that more true than Sudan. Branded 'Africa's Killing Fields', the massive oil-rich East African state is in the throes of the genocide and slaughter of hundreds of thousands of black, non-Arab peasants in southern Sudan.In effect, through its supplies of arms and support, China has been accused of underwriting a humanitarian scandal. The atrocities in Sudan have been described by the U.S. as 'the worst human rights crisis in the world today'.
The government in Khartoum has helped the feared Janjaweed militia to rape, murder and burn to death more than 350,000 people.
The Chinese - who now buy half of all Sudan's oil - have happily provided armoured vehicles, aircraft and millions of bullets and grenades in return for lucrative deals. Indeed, an estimated £1billion of Chinese cash has been spent on weapons.
According to Human Rights First, a leading human rights advocacy organisation, Chinese-made AK-47 assault rifles, grenade launchers and ammunition for rifles and heavy machine guns are continuing to flow into Darfur, which is dotted with giant refugee camps, each containing hundreds of thousands of people.
Between 2003 and 2006, China sold Sudan $55 million worth of small arms, flouting a United Nations weapons embargo.
With new warnings that the cycle of killing is intensifying, an estimated two thirds of the non-Arab population has lost at least one member of their families in Darfur.
Although two million people have been uprooted from their homes in the conflict, China has repeatedly thwarted United Nations denunciations of the Sudanese regime.
While the Sudanese slaughter has attracted worldwide condemnation, prompting Hollywood film-maker Steven Spielberg to quit as artistic director of the Beijing Olympics, few parts of Africa are now untouched by China.
In Congo, more than £2billion has been 'loaned' to the government. In Angola, £3 billion has been paid in exchange for oil. In Nigeria, more than £5billion has been handed over.
In Equatorial Guinea, where the president publicly hung his predecessor from a cage suspended in a theatre before having him shot, Chinese firms are helping the dictator build an entirely new capital, full of gleaming skyscrapers and, of course, Chinese restaurants.
After battling for years against the white colonial powers of Britain, France, Belgium and Germany, post-independence African leaders are happy to do business with China for a straightforward reason: cash.
With western loans linked to an insistence on democratic reforms and the need for 'transparency' in using the money (diplomatic language for rules to ensure dictators do not pocket millions), the Chinese have proved much more relaxed about what their billions are used for.
Certainly, little of it reaches the continent's impoverished 800 million people. Much of it goes straight into the pockets of dictators. In Africa, corruption is a multi-billion pound industry and many experts believe that China is fuelling the cancer.
The Chinese are contemptuous of such criticism. To them, Africa is about pragmatism, not human rights. 'Business is business,' says Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong, adding that Beijing should not interfere in 'internal' affairs. 'We try to separate politics from business.'
While the bounty has, not surprisingly, been welcomed by African dictators, the people of Africa are less impressed. At a market in Zimbabwe recently, where Chinese goods were on sale at nearly every stall, one woman told me she would not waste her money on 'Zing-Zong' products.
'They go Zing when they work, and then they quickly go Zong and break,' she said. 'They are a waste of money. But there's nothing else. China is the only country that will do business with us.'
There have also been riots in Zambia, Angola and Congo over the flood of Chinese immigrant workers. The Chinese do not use African labour where possible, saying black Africans are lazy and unskilled.
In Angola, the government has agreed that 70 per cent of tendered public works must go to Chinese firms, most of which do not employ Angolans.
As well as enticing hundreds of thousands to settle in Africa, they have even shipped Chinese prisoners to produce the goods cheaply.
In Kenya, for example, only ten textile factories are still producing, compared with 200 factories five years ago, as China undercuts locals in the production of 'African' souvenirs.
Where will it all end? As far as Beijing is concerned, it will stop only when Africa no longer has any minerals or oil to be extracted from the continent.
A century after Sir Francis Galton outlined his vision for Africa, the Chinese are here to stay. More will come.
The people of this bewitching, beautiful continent, where humankind first emerged from the Great Rift Valley, desperately need progress. The Chinese are not here for that.
They are here for plunder. After centuries of pain and war, Africa deserves better.
Africa For The Chinese.
To The Editor of The Times.
Sir, - In a few days Sir Bartle Frere will return to England, and public attention will be directed to the East Coast of Africa. I am desirous of availing myself of the opportunity to ventilate some speculations of my own, which you may, perhaps, consider of sufficient interest to deserve publication in the Times. My proposal is to make the encouragement of the Chinese settlements at one or more suitable places on the East Coast of Africa a par of our national policy, in the belief that the Chinese immigrants would not only maintain their position, but that they would multiply and their descendants supplant the inferior Negro race. I should expect the large part of the African seaboard, now sparsely occupied by lazy, palavering savages living under the nominal sovereignty of the Zanzibar, or Portugal, might in a few years be tenanted by industrious, order loving Chinese, living either as a semi-detached dependency of China, or else in perfect freedom under their own law. In the latter case their would be similar to that of the inhabitants of Liberia, in West Africa, the territory which was purchased 50 years ago and set apart as an independent State for the reception of freed negroes from America.
The opinion of the public on the real worth of the Negro race has halted between the extreme views which have been long and loudly proclaimed. It refuses to follow those of the early abolitionists, that all the barbarities in Africa are to be traced to the effects of a foreign slave trade, because travelers continually speak of similar barbarities existing in regions to which the slave trade has not penetrated. Captain Colomb has written a well-argued chapter on this matter, in his recent volume. On the other hand, the opinion of the present day repudiates the belief that the negro is an extremely inferior being, because there are notorious instances of negroes possessing high intelligence and culture, some of whom acquire large fortunes in commerce, and others become considerable men in other walks of life. The truth appears to be that individuals of the mental caliber I have just described are much more exceptional in the negro than in the Anglo-Saxon race, and that average negroes possess too little intellect, self-reliance, and self-control to make it possible for them to sustain the burden of any respectable form of civilization without a large measure of external guidance and support. The Chinaman is a being of another kind, who is endowed with a remarkable aptitude for a high material civilization. He is seen to the least advantage in his own country, where a temporary dark age still prevails, which has not sapped the genius of the race, though it has stunted the developed the of each member of it, by the rigid enforcement of an effete system of classical education which treats originality as a social crime. All the bad parts of his character, as his lying and servility, spring from timidity due to an education that has cowed him, and no treatment is better calculated to remedy that evil than location in a free settlement. The natural capacity of the Chinaman shows itself by the success with which, notwithstanding his timidity, he competes with strangers, wherever he may reside. The Chinese emigrants possess an extraordinary instinct for political and social organization; they contrive to establish for themselves a police and internal government, and they give no trouble to their rulers so long as they are left to manage those matters by themselves. They are good-tempered, frugal, industrious, saving, commercially inclined, and extraordinarily prolific. They thrive in all countries, the natives of the Southern provinces being perfectly able to labor and multiply in the hottest climates. Of all known varieties or mankind there is none so appropriate as the Chinaman to become the future occupant of the enormous regions which lie between the tropics, whose extent is far more vast than it appears, from the cramped manner in which those latitudes are pictured in the ordinary maps of the world. But take a globe and examine it, and consider the huge but poorly-peopled bulk of Africa, by whose side the areas of India and of China look insignificant, and think what a field lies there for the development of a suitable race. The Hindoo cannot fulfil the required conditions nearly as well as the Chinaman, for he is inferior to him in strength, industry, aptitude for saving, business habits, and prolific power. The Arab is little more than an eater up of other men’s produce; he is a destroyer rather than a creator, and he is unprolific.
The history of the world tells a tale of the continual displacement of populations, each by a worthier successor, and humanity gains thereby. We ourselves are no descendents of the aborigines of Britain, and our colonists were invaders of the regions they now occupy as their lawful home. But the countries into which the Anglo-Saxon race can be transfused are restricted to those where the climate is temperate. The Tropics are not for us, to inhabit permanently; the greater part of Africa is the heritage of people differently constituted to ourselves. On that continent, as elsewhere, one population continually drives out another. Consider its history as it extends over successive centuries. We note how Arab, Tuarick, Fellatah, Negroes of uncounted varieties, Cadre, Hottentot surge and reel to and fro in the struggle for existence. It is into this free flight among all present that I wish to see a new competitor introduced-namely, the Chinaman. The gain would be immense to the whole civilized world if we were to out-breed and finally displace the negro, as completely as the latter has displaced the aborigines of the West Indies. The magnitude of the gain may be partly estimated by making the converse supposition –namely, the loss that would ensue if China were somehow to be depopulated and restocked by negroes.
The pressure of population in China is enormous, and its outflow is great and increasing. There is no lack of material for a suitable immigration into Africa. I do not say that it would be possible at any moment to persuade communities of men and women from Southern China to establish themselves in Africa; but I am assured, by excellent authorities, that occasions of political disturbances frequently arise when it would be practicable to do so by the promise of a free, or nearly free, grant of land. The Chinese have a land hunger, as well as a love for petty traffic, and they would find a field in which to gratify both of these tastes on the East African Coast. There are many Chinese capitalists resident in foreign parts who might speculate in such a system and warmly encourage it. If once successfully started, it ought to maintain itself. The colonist could not starve; and when they began to succeed they would send money to their relatives to enable them to follow, just as they now do from the many other parts of the world where they are located. For these reasons it is probable that the streams of emigration from China have sufficient "head" to enable them to reach and overflow the coasts of Eastern Africa if they were watched and judiciously diverted in that direction.
I have finally to speak of the political effort necessary to secure a free right of occupancy and of settlement at suitable points on the coast. No very serious obstacle seems to stand in the way; certainly none was met with when Liberia was founded. It is probable that as the success of such an enterprise would be of equally great value to all nations commercially interested in those parts, no national jealousy would be excited by its promotion, and the necessary territory could be obtained with little difficulty and at a small cost, to be advanced in the first instance as a charge on the land and hereafter to be redeemed.
Scheherazade in the White House:
How George Bush’s wartime administration used
a magician, Hollywood designers and Karl Rove
telling 1,001 stories to sell the invasion of Iraq.
CHRISTIAN SALMON / Le Monde diplomatique (Paris, France) 1jan2008
A few days before the 2004 presidential election, Ron Suskind, a columnist who had been investigating the White House and its communications for years, wrote in The New York Times about a conversation he had with a presidential adviser in 2002. “The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community’, which he defined as people ‘who believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality’. I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors.. and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do’ ” (1).
Suskind’s article was a sensation, which the paper called an intellectual scoop. Columnists and bloggers seized on the phrase “reality-based community” which spread across the internet. Google had nearly a million hits for it in July 2007. Wikipedia created a page dedicated to it. According to Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at New York University: “Many on the left adopted the term. ‘Proud Member of the Reality-Based Community’, their blogs said. The right then jeered at the left’s self-description. (‘They’re reality-based? Yeah, right…’)” (2).
The remarks, which were probably made by Karl Rove a few months before the Iraq war, are not just cynical and Machiavellian. They sound like they come from the theatre rather than from an office in the White House. Not content with renewing the ancient problems discussed in cabinet offices, pitting idealists against pragmatists, moralists against realists, pacifists against warmongers or, in 2002, defenders of international law against supporters of the use of force, they display a new concept of the relationship between politics and reality. The leaders of the world’s superpower were not just moving away from realpolitik but also from realism to become creators of their own reality, the masters of appearance, demanding a realpolitik of fiction.
Disney to the rescue
The US invasion of Iraq in March 2003 provided a spectacular illustration of the White House’s desire to create its own reality. Pentagon departments, keen not to repeat the mistakes of the first Gulf war in 1991, paid particular attention to their communications strategy. As well as 500 embedded journalists integrated into sections of the armed services, great attention was paid to the design of the press room at US forces headquarters in Qatar: for a million dollars, a storage hangar was transformed into an ultramodern television studio with stage, plasma screens and all the electronic equipment needed to produce videos, geographic maps and diagrams for real time combat.
A scene in which the US army spokesman, General Tommy Franks, addressed journalists cost $200,000 and was produced by a designer who had worked for Disney, Metro Goldwyn Mayer and the television programme Good Morning America. In 2001 the White House had put him in charge of creating background designs for presidential speeches – unsurprising to those aware of the ties between the Pentagon and Hollywood.
More surprising was the Pentagon decision to recruit David Blaine for interior design; he is a magician famous in the US for his TV show and for conjuring tricks such as levitating or being shut in a cage without food. Blaine claimed in a book in 2002 that he was the successor to Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, a 19th century magician who agreed to go to Algeria at the French government’s request to help it quell an uprising by showing that his magic was better than that of the rebels (3). It is not known whether that is what the Pentagon expected from Blaine but it seems that use was made of his illusionist talents for special effects.
Scott Sforza, a former ABC TV producer who worked within the Republican propaganda machine, created many backgrounds against which Bush made important statements during his terms of office. On 1 May 2003 he stage-managed the presidential speech on the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier before a sign reading “Mission accomplished: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”
The show didn’t end there. Bush landed aboard the carrier in a fighter plane renamed Navy One; on it was written “George Bush, Commander-in-Chief”. He was seen leaving the cockpit dressed in a flight suit, his helmet under his arm as if he were returning from war in a remake of Top Gun (the film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who is a familiar face in Hollywood-Pentagon operations; he made a reality TV show, Profiles from the Front Line, on the war in Afghanistan).
The former New York Times theatre critic, Frank Rich, described the television coverage of this event and said it was fantastic – like theatre. David Broder of The Washington Post was captivated by what he called Bush’s physical posture (4). Sforza had to stage the scene carefully so that the city of San Diego, about 60km away, was not seen on the horizon when the carrier was supposed to be out in open sea in the combat zone.
But the staging was never as explicit as on 15 August 2002 when Bush solemnly spoke of national security in front of Mount Rushmore with its sculptures of the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. During his speech the cameras were placed at an angle that allowed Bush to be filmed in profile, his face superimposed on to those of his predecessors.
The image becomes the story For Bush’s speech on the first anniversary of 9/11, in which he prepared US public opinion for the Iraq invasion by glorifying the “great struggle that tests our strength and even more our resolve”, Sforza rented three barges to take the team to the foot of the Statue of Liberty, which he had lit from below. He chose the camera angles so that the statue appeared in the background during the speech. Frank Rich, commenting on this, quoted Michael Deaver, who stage-managed Ronald Reagan’s declaration of candidacy speech in 1980 with the Statue of Liberty in the background. According to Deaver, people understood that what was around the speaker’s head was as important as the head itself (5).
What is around the head turns an image into a legend: “Mission accomplished”, the Founding Fathers, the Statue of Liberty – over time the image becomes the story. But the event must resonate with the viewer, must make two moments interact: what is represented in the image and the actual moment it is seen. This resonance produces the desired emotion. For Americans in 2002 nothing could have had a greater emotional impact than a speech on war on the first anniversary of 9/11. The country had just come back from summer holidays and was ready to concentrate on important matters.
According to Ira Chernus, professor at the University of Colorado, Karl Rove applied the “Scheherazade strategy”: “When policy dooms you, start telling stories – stories so fabulous, so gripping, so spellbinding that the king (or, in this case, the American citizen who theoretically rules our country) forgets all about a lethal policy. It plays on the insecurity of Americans who feel that their lives are out of control” (6). Rove did this with much success in 2004 when Bush was re-elected, diverting voters’ attention away from the state of the war by evoking the great collective myths of the US imagination.
As Chernus explains, Rove was “betting that the voters will be mesmerised by John Wayne-style tales of real men fighting evil on the frontier – at least enough Americans to avoid the death sentence that the voters might otherwise pronounce on the party that brought us the disaster in Iraq.” Chernus believed that Rove invented simplistic good-against-evil stories for his candidates to tell and tried to turn every election into a moral drama, a contest of Republican moral clarity versus Democratic moral confusion. “The Scheherazade strategy is a great scam, built on the illusion that moralistic tales can make us feel secure, no matter what’s actually going on out there in the world. Rove wants every vote for a Republican to be a symbolic statement” (7). This August Rove was forced to resign by Democrat members of Congress. He announced his decision with an admission which could have applied to all his work: “I feel like I’m Moby Dick… they’re after me.”
Translated by Morag Young
Christian Salmon wrote Storytelling, la machine à fabriquer des histoires, La Découverte, Paris, 2007
(1) Ron Suskind, “Without a Doubt: Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W Bush”, The New York Times, 17 October 2004.
(2) Jay Rosen, “The Retreat from Empiricism and Ron Suskind’s Intellectual Scoop”, The Huffington Post, 4 July 2007.
(3) David Blaine, Mysterious Stranger. A Book of Magic, Villard Books, New York, 2002.
(4) Frank Rich, The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Penguin Books, New York, 2007.
(6) Ira Chernus, “Karl Rove’s Scheherazade Strategy”, Tomdispatch.com, 7 July 2006.