Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Still Equinoctially Inclined - Tracking Inequality

A question at Quora on Saturday had me shuffling through my archives to discover what I was doing 5 years ago from that day (22 September). In 2013, 22 September must have been a Sunday, I hadn't written a post, so I couldn't answer the question, as asked. However, on Saturday 21st September I'd posted a lengthy screed which brought forth some interesting comments. As we're still in equinoctial territory, I'm going to add, here, a summary of that 2013 post and some of the comments, because on re-reading I found it all quite interesting - perhaps another stray passing reader will, also. I'll add a link to the full 2013 post + comments lower down. This a longer post than usual, so will cover the whole of mid-week.

Thoughts at Equinox - Who Laid the Tracks?
(Summarised version).

The USA's version of "middle class" is different from the UK's version. Here in the USA the middle class seems to refer to anyone not living in actual poverty, but not of the 1% of elite bankers, financiers, corporate CEOs, "celebs", multimillionaires and billionaires. In the UK, middle class is understood to relate to the professions: doctors, lawyers, professors, scientists - that sort of thing. Ordinary folk, tradespeople, craftsmen, office workers, factory workers, store assistants etc. are the working class. Bearing that difference in mind, I recntly read an article by Edward McClelland at Salon website.

RIP, the middle class: 1946-2013
The 1 percent hollowed out the middle class and our industrial base. And Washington just let it happen

For the majority of human history – and in the majority of countries today – there have been only two classes: aristocracy and peasantry. It’s an order in which the many toil for subsistence wages to provide luxuries for the few. Twentieth century America temporarily escaped this stratification, but now, as statistics on economic inequality demonstrate, we’re slipping back in that direction.

At this time of equinox, and balance in the natural world, doesn't it seem peculiar that any kind of equinox or balance has never, ever existed for humans - anywhere on Earth? Balance, even partial balance, of the distribution of wealth and bounty of planet earth?

We, in the west at least, have moved in cycles of vicious feudalism/slavery, to a much milder disguised form of the same, back to a variation of the more intense form, under a different name.

Why is this? Why does it have to be like this? Karl Marx and others throughout history must have asked the question and tried to answer it. Their solutions didn't take, anymore than it would be feasible to try stopping a toy train on circular track and causing it to take a different route where no tracks existed.

But who laid those tracks in the first place? The elite (for want of a better description of the planet's early rulers). How did they become rulers, and capable of doing this? Why did they think it was the right thing to do?

If astrology works at all, it has to be something inherent in humans due to our physical position in our solar system. Our very nature must drive us along these already laid tracks, and divides us very unequally into rulers and ruled. I wonder where it says that in planetary language? Is it due to the Sun's rule over life itself? That could explain the need for leaders - a ruler: king, emperor, president, whatever, but it doesn't explain why things are, and have always been, so unbalanced; or when efforts to bring about even minor adjustments are made, results are short-lived at best. We soon veer back to the same old tracks. The part of DNA relating to greed for wealth and control must be fairly rare but very, very powerful.

That little lot spewed, unbidden, right off the top of my head and could well be utter rubbish. I needed to let off some steam.

Some interesting points made by commenters

From "mike"

mike said...

I suspect it's the "survival of the fittest" part of our DNA. We humans have become domesticated and "civilized", but our primal DNA still rules. Seems that all animals have a physically superior alpha-type that aggressively asserts fiefdom over the lesser.

With "civilization" has come the ability to compete with our brain rather than brawn. The ability to out-smart, cheat, lie, steal, and out-maneuver rivals pays dividends and allows an individual to amass superior resources, hence a social dominance. An honest and clever individual will easily succumb to a dishonest and clever individual...particularly when the underlings judge the dispute. Underlings are easily swayed by manipulation and deceit. Just look at how politics are played...it only matters what doubt can be instilled in the public's opinion of an honest individual. Truth does not matter with a manipulated public.

With every group of people, there is always a need for several individuals to assert themselves and vie for leadership. I have seen this need for superiority and desire for leadership at every job I've ever had and within every group I've been a member. We humans and most animals assemble ourselves in a hierarchy.

You said, "The part of DNA relating to greed for wealth and control must be fairly rare but very, very powerful." I think this is a very COMMON attribute of humans. There are leaders and there are followers.

It's ironic that the powerful usually feel superior and condescending toward the followers and lesser individuals. The followers and lesser individuals usually feel contentious and resentful of the powerful. Yet, one begets the other.

Recent findings regarding the neanderthals indicates they were a much more peaceful species than us sapiens. So, maybe the sapiens' DNA is particularly tainted.

There are and have been cultures where leadership did not equate to power, except for collective decision making. Many of the more primitive tribes (hunter-gather) on Earth today, of which there aren't many remaining...most are in S.America's rainforest, and the original Native American tribes did not possess the knowledge of wealth and ownership...they did know rival-tribal warfare, though.

I responded
mike ~ The "survival of the fittest" accounts for part of the story, as it relates to the masses, I agree. Any group of ordinary people does tend to eventually form some kind of hierarchical pattern.
Native Americans had tribal chiefs, as I suppose do other early tribal groups elsewhere in the world.

Perhaps the king/emperor-rulers/peasants pattern has to be just an extension and perhaps, in some ways, a corruption of that innate hierarchical pattern of ours.....maybe dictated by the planets.....maybe not.

Ideally the leaders should protect the followers. In the past there was some of this going on. Now, not so much....in fact not at all. The pattern has been corrupted.

I like your last point - that homo sapiens DNA come have become somehow tainted; neanderthals, derided as they usually are, could have, if they had survived, aeons later might have brought us to a better place.

"LB" said, quoting from Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress :

"Civilization is an experiment, a very recent way of life in the human career, and it has a habit of walking into what I am calling progress traps. A small village on good land beside a river is a good idea; but when the village grows into a city and paves over the good land, it becomes a bad idea. While prevention might have been easy, a cure may be impossible: a city isn't easily moved. This human inability to foresee -- or to watch out for -- long-range consequences may be inherent to our kind, shaped by the millions of years when we lived from hand to mouth by hunting and gathering. It may also be little more than a mix of inertia, greed, and foolishness encouraged by the shape of the social pyramid. The concentration of power at the top of large-scale societies gives the elite a vested interest in the status quo; they continue to prosper in darkening times long after the environment and general populace begin to suffer. (109)"

LB - I think mike makes some good points about some (not all) of society's more successful leaders and the ways in which we're easily manipulated, at least initially. Whether it's politics, business, medicine, church, or even within our chosen spiritual or social-groups, studies have suggested people lacking conscience (those with sociopathic/psychopathic tendencies) are more likely to hold positions of power.

Which isn't to let those of us who are led completely off the hook. Sometimes, though not always, there's a choice involved. We often most admire those self-made men and women (frequently ruthless) who've risen to the top, holding them up as shining examples of self-sufficiency and what it takes to make it in our world.

Or, we readily mistake charm for character and/or place a higher value on quick fixes that promise us MORE of something -more convenience, more power, more money, more success, more happiness, more immediate gratification- and in the process lose sight of a longer range vision that includes truth, personal integrity and compassion, a vision that honors our connectedness by including and caring for *all* members of society - especially the "least among us". Nothing worthwhile is ever gained without restraint and sacrifice, words we seldom like to hear.

I responded
LB ~ You wrote studies have suggested people lacking conscience (those with sociopathic/psychopathic tendencies) are more likely to hold positions of power.

This has to be the crux of what I see as a corruption of the old straight-forward leader/follower pattern. Maybe the occasionally sociopathic tendency found in humans is what defines homo sapiens as against neanderthals, maybe that was the "gift" sapiens gave us.

As you say, those being led bear some blame for allowing corruption to spread, by being naive, lazy or manipulated by brain-wash.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a time-lapse-type movie of history from the very first leader/king we know of, to discover how he came to be king or leader, and follow through all of history until now, in a chosen group of countries - those which would best illustrate how it all developed. Massive, impossible job, though, delving too far back into mists of time to be in any way accurate.

From "Juno"
A good friend of mine (much older and wiser, in his mid 60's now) said back in the 90's when NAFTA passed, "They are not satisfied - not until they destroy the middle class." He has referring to the corporate elite and the politicians that colluded with them. My friend, an old Labour type, saw teh beginning of the end when the Soviet Union collapsed, because the U.S. no longer had to present an alternate economic model. Marx may have promised a worker's paradise, but here in the U.S. we actually had it.

I responded
Yes, I've come to understand from my husband that "things were not always like this here". Which means, logically, that things will not always remain as they are now , because we do move in cycles.

Let's hope that we're experiencing a relatively short cycle which could end with another collapse somewhere, somehow (I hope it will not be our own collapse, but....)


“Equality may perhaps be a right, but no power on earth can turn it into a fact.”
― Honoré de Balzac
“If human equality is to be for ever averted — if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently — then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.”
― George Orwell, 1984

Monday, September 24, 2018

Music Monday's Ups and Downs

We are currently making our way through sets of DVDs of that old British TV series from the early 1970s, Upstairs Downstairs. It's a far better series, in my opinion, than the much-lauded Downton Abbey - a series that might never have existed without inspiration from its predecessor.

For Music Monday, do take a listen to the pleasant theme music from the show. It was composed by Alexander Faris, who died some three years ago, aged 94. An obituary piece from The Independent is HERE.

The rather courtly, early part of the theme reflects the times depicted in Upstairs Downstairs - London, around the turn of 19th/20th centuries. At 1 minute 36 seconds in, there's a change of rhythm and a more jaunty, cheeky theme develops - an echo of the song, "What are we going to do with Uncle Arthur?"
sung in the show by "Sarah", played with much verve by Pauline Collins.

Clips of the song:

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Equinox is Here Again!

Are we there yet? We are indeed - but you wouldn't know it, in Oklahoma. It'll be many more weeks before the leaves begin to turn colour and fall, or before temperatures start to tumble too. Yet, officially we are here...

“But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
― Stephen King, 'Salem's Lot

Here's an autumnal equinox-related oddity I hadn't not come across before - from the ancient Roman world:

Equinox and medical theory

The Aëtius parapegma is an almanac that appears as a chapter in the 6th-century Tetrabiblos of Aëtius of Amida. It treats the rising and setting of constellations, weather forecasting, and medical advice as closely intertwined, and notes of the equinox (placed on September 25) that -
There is the greatest disturbance in the air for three days previous. Thus it is necessary to be careful neither to phlebotomize, nor purge, nor otherwise to change the body violently from the 15th of September through the 24th.
The passage is presented as advice for physicians, based on the principle that "the bodies of healthy people, and especially those of sick people, change with the condition of the air".

So, blood-letting and purging are not recommended. Alrighty then!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Arty Farty Friday ~ Merciless Pursuit of Colour

Two interesting articles, about past methods of creating the colours yellow and blue, have lingered in my bookmarks, awaiting a suitable Arty Farty Friday.

The Murky History of the Colour Yellow, by Kelly Grovier. The full piece, available from the link, contains images of relevant paintings, and tells that:
Yellow is the cruellest colour. Long before it came to signify cowardice sometime in the middle of the 19th Century (the later insult “yellow-bellied” is from the Jazz age), yellow was the colour most often reached for by Medieval and Renaissance artists when cloaking the callous betrayer, Judas Iscariot, whose duplicitous kiss singled Christ out for the tortures of crucifixion.

If legend is to be believed, some of the most memorable instances of yellow in art history – from the transcendent shimmers of JMW Turner’s lucent landscapes to the troubled music of Vincent van Gogh’s whorling constellations – are caked in cruelty, said to be fashioned from the sickly urine of malnourished cows.

The waste of wasting beasts that had been force-fed nothing other than mango leaves in the Bengalese city of Monghyr was reputedly caught in terracotta pots and clarified to a syrup over an open flame. Believed to be filtered, dried, and clenched into pigment clumps called ‘piuri’ that were then sold to artists, the chalky spheres were crumbled onto the palettes of every artist from Turner to Van Gogh, who in turn smeared their lurid lemony luminescence across the surfaces of their iconic canvases and into cultural consciousness.

All that glistens is not gold

Allegedly born of abuse, surviving vestiges of so-called 'Indian Yellow' glisten with an obscene poignancy from the walls of museums all around the world. When seen in such unsettling light, masterpieces such as Turner’s The Angel Standing in the Sun (1846) and Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889) take on a different sheen, appearing to be steeped in the enduring residue of bygone brutality. No longer merely a metaphor for inner unrest, Van Gogh’s whorling stars, painted a month after the artist admitted himself to the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in May 1889, become gritty and real in their aching yellow glister.
...... the process was finally outlawed in Bengal and its use abandoned in Europe....

The second piece:

"The Bible described it as the perfect, pure blue. And then for nearly 2,000 years, everyone forgot what it looked like"
By Noga Tarnopolsky
Forty-nine times the Bible mentions a perfect, pure blue, a color so magnificent and transcendent that it was all but impossible to describe. Yet, for most of the last 2,000 years, nobody has known exactly what “biblical blue” — called tekhelet in Hebrew — actually looked like or how it could be re-created.
At the time of the Second Temple, which towered above Jerusalem until it was destroyed by the Romans, a blue dye of the same name was used to color the fabric used in the clothing of the high priests. Jewish men are still commanded to use a tekhelet-tinted thread in the knotted fringes of their prayer shawls, though what that might look like remained unclear for years....

A possible clue to the ingredients that combined to make tekhelet came from the Talmud, the canonical body of rabbinic texts, in which a man named Abaye asked an elder “this thread of tekhelet, how do you dye it?” He was told that “the blood of the snail and chemicals” (apparently caustic soda or sodium carbonate) had to be boiled together to create the dye. Knowing that the dunes of Dor Beach, a popular spot on Israel’s northern Mediterranean shore, hid ruins of ancient dyeing vats and unexplained mounds of discarded snail shells, the explorers set off in the mid-1980s to identify the species of sea snail they believed might hold the key to finally revealing what tekhelet looked like.

Dor Beach’s Murex trunculus snails seemed promising, but the purplish ink produced by secretions of their glands ended up dyeing cloth yellow. It fell to Otto Elsner, a chemist at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design near Tel Aviv, to discover that when the ink extracted from the snails was exposed to the sun, it transformed into “deep sky blue.”

Was it, finally, tekhelet? With a blue similar to that of a flawless sapphire, tekhelet was an arresting hue, and everyone seemed satisfied that the mythic color had finally reappeared......

From earliest human history, from the Levant to North Africa, blue has been considered a lucky color. It is still common to see shutters or rooftops painted bright blue as a protective amulet. One legend has it that as the evil eye descends toward Earth, a flash of sky-blue disorients it, sending it away. The superstition reached Europe, and from there the New World. An 1898 compilation of British customs published in the quarterly journal Folk-Lore explains that the “something old” and “something blue” a bride wears “are devices to baffle the Evil Eye,” without which the malevolent forces would “render her barren.”........

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Accelerated Pace!

Further to yesterday's post...

Our trip to the Hospital in Oklahoma City went smoothly and more speedily than we expected. Left home 7 AM, arrived at the hospital around 8.35 AM. Registration was fairly quick; not long after 9 AM we were already in the Cath Lab, Himself in hospital gown and socks waiting for a catheter to be fixed up. No blood work was needed (contrary to our expectations). After a wait of about an hour the doctor who was to perform the procedure - a very pleasant guy he was too - came to have a few words with us (husband, me and K. - husband's daughter). After another short wait husband was off to have his pacemaker "seen to".

We joined our other companion, K's husband, for a wait of some 30 minutes, then returned to the Catheter Lab to await husband's return. The doctor came first, reassured us that all had gone well, according to plan, and confirmed that, after an hour or so, husband would be able to leave.

Amazingly, we were back home by 3 PM, after having a spot of lunch at a Greek restaurant on the way out of The City. Husband has to take it easy on his left arm for a day or two, and should be alright to drive after a couple of days.

So all's well. Husband has a new companion too, a magic 'box' which somehow monitors his pacemaker and sends messages, once every 24 hours, to some place beyond the back of beyond. Ideally it is to be kept close to his bed. If by any chance he's not around his bed when box attempts to contact his pacemaker, sometime in the early hours, it will "search for it" - and for him. Yeah - I know!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Pace Changing... Again

What's happening, for us, today is a sequel to what was described in this post from October 2010, some 8 years ago:

Change of Pace for Mañana

Around 10 days ago husband's pacemaker went into "safe mode" - he noticed, when monitoring his blood pressure, that his heart rate was always spot on 65 - this went on for several consecutive days. We looked for information online and discovered the likely reason: new pacemaker battery/generator needed!

First stop was at our family doctor's office, husband was given an appointment within a couple of hours, then and referred straight away to the nearby local hospital where, fortunately, a cardiologist was present, on one of his duty days there. The cardiologist confirmed that our findings were correct. Next step was to get the pacemaker "interrogated" by a representative technician from the pacemaker's manufacturer. This was done the next day, a quick job, just to confirm there was no malfunctioning going on.

An appointment to have a new generator inserted was made. This has to be done at a hospital in Oklahoma City - as was the case in 2010. So, that's where we'll be today. Husband's daughter and son-in-law will drive us to The City. We understand the procedure will be fairly routine, with local aesthetic this time, small incision - out with the old bits, in with the new. Including registration, waiting time, and a bit of bed rest and monitoring for the husband afterwards, it'll be an all day job - 9 to 5 at least.

Husband's pacemaker has given sterling service for the past 8 years; we shall be wildly optimistic and with glass half full say, "Here's to the next 8!" (Husband was 81 in March by the way.)