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    Have you ever thought that maybe the sum of things is indestructible?

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    I like the phrase "the sum of things". It's from Housman ... "And took their wages, and are dead. ..."

    This is the BEF:

    "Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries" by A.E. Housman

    Who stopped the Germans at Mons:

    British Expeditionary Force (World War I) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    some hundred years ago now.

    I like it, among other things, as a phrase that could stand in for "nature" - a word that has so many meanings it is sometimes worse than useless. Or how about "all there is" or, more narrowly, "all we're aware of" ... or just "how everything goes along for us"?

    So I had a couple of drinks - which probably isn't Primal (and definitely isn't Paleo) - and this is Saturday, and there's some people doing a "the end is nigh" thing in the street.

    This is faintly silly. And even more so when you've had a couple of decent West Country pints. But it does go back a long way, and is fairly harmless in itself.

    To be honest - and I don't think there's any point in being anything else (though I'm not sure many people really think so) - they were actually talking not about the end of things but about sin. It doesn't grab me: if we must go that way I'd sooner something laden with time and art and silence and incense, than a probably not particularly well-educated guy shouting in the street. But, sure, there's some point in this: anyone who hasn't noticed the gap between what we would be and how we fall short hasn't really grasped what life is for us. A "trousered ape" as the saying goes. But you can't help wishing they'd put a cork in it.

    But here's the thing. I'm just walking past these folk, and an elderly woman offers me a leaflet. Now I know WHAT it is. I can see it's about TTIP. But something tickles my sense of fun, and I have to wind her up.

    So I say: "What's this? The end is nigh or TTIP?"

    She replies, "It's much more serious than that," smiling and revealing a really bad set of teeth.

    At this moment I feel a slight sense of disgust, and a quote from George Orwell comes into my mind:

    all that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking towards the smell of ‘progress’ like bluebottles to a dead cat.
    I want to make it clear that I think TTIP is a REALLY bad thing. But, on the other hand, I find I without really meaning to I had trapped that woman into expressing a view that's at once self-satisfied and perhaps over-gloomy. Is all this really more serious than a, very human, sense that we fall all short of what we should be?

    And, actually, I think I probably dislike what TTIP stands for more than most people. But you know what? We can do a heck of a lot of damage - irreparable damage, in some sense, perhaps. But I'm not sure that we shouldn't, at the same time, trust that everything will be all right in the end.
    Last edited by Vainamoinen; 05-30-2015 at 05:03 AM.

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    I'm in favor of free trade about as much as anyone else, but a treaty guaranteeing actual free trade between countries doesn't need to be longer than a page. Treaties like TTIP or TPP are always written by special interest groups to give themselves extra privileges. What they produce is more of a "managed trade."

    Quote Originally Posted by Vainamoinen View Post
    But here's the thing. I'm just walking past these folk, and an elderly woman offers me a leaflet. Now I know WHAT it is. I can see it's about TTIP. But something tickles my sense of fun, and I have to wind her up.

    So I say: "What's this? The end is nigh or TTIP?"

    She replies, "It's much more serious than that," smiling and revealing a really bad set of teeth.
    She was probably just being tongue-in-cheek. But if she was really a "true believer," that's when you just back away slowly .
    In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jefferson1775 View Post
    I'm in favor of free trade about as much as anyone else, but a treaty guaranteeing actual free trade between countries doesn't need to be longer than a page. Treaties like TTIP or TPP are always written by special interest groups to give themselves extra privileges. What they produce is more of a "managed trade."
    This seems to be what has everyone worried:

    TTIP’s ‘regulatory convergence’ agenda will seek to bring EU standards on food safety and the environment closer to those of the US. But US regulations are much less strict, with 70 per cent of all processed foods sold in US supermarkets now containing genetically modified ingredients.
    That's a genuine worry.

    Yes, I like your line about "longer than a page". I don't think it is any more than a line, but it's a good one. It never is possible to make anything comprehensive enough to cover every eventuality. You might just as well make thing brief. Of course, in practice that means your brief screed will need "interpreting" (but then the same will be true of anything, however comprehensive you try to make it, as I just suggested.) Hence the courts always can "find" - and often do - intentions in the U.S. Constitution that certainly would never have entered the heads of its framers.

    She was probably just being tongue-in-cheek. But if she was really a "true believer," that's when you just back away slowly .
    LOL

    She had a handful of TTIP leaflets. She meant her cause was more serious than these silly people's religious beliefs. My quote from Orwell was meant to bring out the kind of woman she came across as.

    Anyway, she didn't actually ring the right bells with me. As I tried to indicate, while I do think there's something risible about the evangelical approach, I do think that "anyone who hasn't noticed the gap between what we would be and how we fall short hasn't really grasped what life is for us". That's a roundabout way of saying that "sin" has meaning for us - and perhaps more so than politics.

    I think one could also make a plausible argument for saying that wolfish companies who want to foist unlabelled GMOs on the public are wicked - and hence, in a sense, it's a "religious" problem rather than merely a political one.

    I have a definite sense that, if put to it, this is what Joel Salatin might well say.

    I'm not really a believer myself, though - like many English people - I'm culturally Anglican (what you'd call Episcopalian in the U.S., I think). But I actually have a tolerance for this kind of street-protestantism. I like your great American short-story writer, Flannery O'Connor. It's not what her own sensibility is at all - she was RC - but she she sees that they see things that certain other types of people miss. A very sharp lady.

    Formal beliefs aside I was also quite serious in saying "I'm not sure that we shouldn't, at the same time, trust that everything will be all right in the end". That's a quasi-religious view I suppose, but none the worse for that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vainamoinen View Post
    I'm not really a believer myself, though - like many English people - I'm culturally Anglican (what you'd call Episcopalian in the U.S., I think). But I actually have a tolerance for this kind of street-protestantism. I like your great American short-story writer, Flannery O'Connor. It's not what her own sensibility is at all - she was RC - but she she sees that they see things that certain other types of people miss. A very sharp lady.
    I try to remember one of her stories in certain situations. It's about a college professor who gets ribbed about his leftish politics at the local good ol' boy barbershop. You feel for the guy because the barbershop guys are stupid, yet smug and patronizing. One day the professor loses his cool and takes a swing. NOW, who's the asshole?

    The funny thing about the Trans-Pacific Partnership is that, while it's gotten some attention, because the left-wing of the Democrats has been critical (Elizabeth Warren, mostly), it hasn't generated as much heat as did NAFTA 20 years ago.

    OTOH, every nutjob is going cuckoo over Jade Helm, which is a fairly usual multi-state military exercise. So, to out-tinfoil the tinfoilers, I posit that Jade Helm was created solely to divert attention away from the TPP, which does have all the hallmarks of conspiracism. The public can't even read the damn thing.

    If I want to go really over the top, I'd say the TPP is more about geo-politics than economics. Bejing just signed 37 agreements with Moscow and is building the New Silk Road that will integrate China with central Asia down to the Indian Ocean. America wants to shore up it's Pacific periphery (Japan, S. Korea, Phillipines, etc...). And then Western Europe.

    Spanning the globe, we can see an American-dominated hemisphere that extends from just off the Chinese coast to Western Russia/Ukraine and a China/Russia-dominated hemisphere that encompasses most of Asia.

    If I then want to go completely around the bend, the U.S. Justice Department indicts a bunch of FIFA ahead of Blatter's ensure re-election to highlight his corruption and set the stage for a European/American boycott of the Russian World Cup, further isolating Moscow. HA.

    Not sure I believe all this. But it sure is fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rojo View Post
    I try to remember one of her stories in certain situations. It's about a college professor who gets ribbed about his leftish politics at the local good ol' boy barbershop. You feel for the guy because the barbershop guys are stupid, yet smug and patronizing. One day the professor loses his cool and takes a swing. NOW, who's the asshole?
    Yes, I remember that one. Just as you say.

    One that quite interests me is "Judgment Day". The main character there is croyant but in a shallow way. You couldn't really say that love is moving in his life. (And I suppose that's what the New Testament is about if it's about anything.) He's actually a pretty unattractive character. But the thought that he might have to face judgment is a reality for him, and it does govern his conduct. You notice, as you read, that he's a man that always looks for negotiated solutions. And, actually, that is something.

    What precipitates his murder is, as it happens, his shallow unreflective racism. But I don't read the story as being about race in any important sense. That's just the immediate cause. The killer - the black actor from the other apartment - grasps that the old man feels himself to be superior to him, and he doesn't like it: but any other pattern of thoughts that had produced the same effect would have done just as well. O'Connor kind of prepares you for this, by the description she gives of the actor's girlfriend looking down at the old man: there's something pitiless, almost reptilian in her disgust for him.

    There's a short story by Buchan - no mean short story writer himself - where a dour Scotsman pulls a man he doesn't respect and whose politics he despises out of a torrent at the risk of his own life, and he just says "A man's a man for aa' that." Somehow, in this story, the young man and the girl don't see that "a man's a man for aa' that." And that's typical of O'Connor's bleakness.

    What I think is key is what the actor says before shoving him headfirst, upside down through the balcony:

    There ain’t no Jesus and there ain’t no God.’
    I think there's the crux of the matter. I think O'Connor is wondering what happens when not only is there no love, but not even any fear of judgment? Anything becomes possible.


    The funny thing about the Trans-Pacific Partnership is that, while it's gotten some attention, because the left-wing of the Democrats has been critical (Elizabeth Warren, mostly), it hasn't generated as much heat as did NAFTA 20 years ago.

    OTOH, every nutjob is going cuckoo over Jade Helm, which is a fairly usual multi-state military exercise. So, to out-tinfoil the tinfoilers, I posit that Jade Helm was created solely to divert attention away from the TPP, which does have all the hallmarks of conspiracism. The public can't even read the damn thing.

    If I want to go really over the top, I'd say the TPP is more about geo-politics than economics. Bejing just signed 37 agreements with Moscow and is building the New Silk Road that will integrate China with central Asia down to the Indian Ocean. America wants to shore up it's Pacific periphery (Japan, S. Korea, Phillipines, etc...). And then Western Europe.

    Spanning the globe, we can see an American-dominated hemisphere that extends from just off the Chinese coast to Western Russia/Ukraine and a China/Russia-dominated hemisphere that encompasses most of Asia.

    If I then want to go completely around the bend, the U.S. Justice Department indicts a bunch of FIFA ahead of Blatter's ensure re-election to highlight his corruption and set the stage for a European/American boycott of the Russian World Cup, further isolating Moscow. HA.

    Not sure I believe all this. But it sure is fun.
    I think you left me well behind. I'm not as well up in it as you. LOL

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vainamoinen View Post
    Yes, I like your line about "longer than a page". I don't think it is any more than a line, but it's a good one. It never is possible to make anything comprehensive enough to cover every eventuality. You might just as well make thing brief. Of course, in practice that means your brief screed will need "interpreting" (but then the same will be true of anything, however comprehensive you try to make it, as I just suggested.) Hence the courts always can "find" - and often do - intentions in the U.S. Constitution that certainly would never have entered the heads of its framers.
    Well, my vision of an actual free trade agreement between two countries would be something where they agree to not tax or prohibit goods imported from the other country. And that would pretty much be the end of it (nothing about food regulations, intellectual property, labor conditions, quotas, or other nonsense).

    Quote Originally Posted by Vainamoinen View Post
    Formal beliefs aside I was also quite serious in saying "I'm not sure that we shouldn't, at the same time, trust that everything will be all right in the end". That's a quasi-religious view I suppose, but none the worse for that.
    I'm not sure what all you're including in "everything", but in general, it's rational to be an optimist. People around the world are a lot better off than they were in the past.
    In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jefferson1775 View Post
    I'm not sure what all you're including in "everything", but in general, it's rational to be an optimist. People around the world are a lot better off than they were in the past.
    I meant it to be as broad as possible, really.

    I think it would easy to get very gloomy about the state of things. Simply being thoughtful about food and where it comes from eventually leads you to some unpleasant realisations. Degradation of topsoil, the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, the mysterious disappearance of honeybees (important pollinators). And it seems that now some scientists are saying that glyphosate will make DDT look like nothing. Though, to be frank, whether anything can be done about the likes of Monsanto is another matter. The political will apparently does not exist - and that's likely to hold whatever party has a majority in the Senate or provides the president.

    Actual nightmare scenarios are literally only a mouseclick away. Climate change, deforestation, pollution of the land, the rivers, even the seas, you name it. There's a hole in the ozone layer:

    Ozone Hole Watch: Latest status of Antarctic ozone

    There's drought threatening California:

    California Drought

    I guess people mostly come here looking to lose a few pounds of weight, but stay long enough and follow enough leads up and they must begin to realise how serious and how intractable many of our problems are.

    I mentioned California, didn't I? So here's something else to reflect on:

    California Geological Survey - Mercury

    California is still heavily polluted with mercury, something like 100 tons of mercury, an after effect of the 1849 Gold Rush:

    Over 150,000 Native Americans lived in California prior to the start of the Gold Rush in 1849. By 1870 disease, forced relocations and massacres had reduced the Native population to an estimated 31,000

    Miners dug up 12 billion tons of earth, and used mercury to extract the gold ore. The amount of mercury required to violate federal health standards is equivalent to one gram in a small lake. Approximately 26,000,000 pounds of mercury was used in gold mining Northern California, mostly in the Sierra Nevada and the Klamath-Trinity Mountain areas. The amount of mercury lost to the Northern California environment from the 1860’s through the early 1900’s is estimated at 3 – 8 million pounds. A University of California at Davis study estimated that Clear Lake, the traditional homeland to Pomo Indian fishing communities, contains over 100 tons of mercury today. ...
    http://calwater.ca.gov/content/docum...er_6-14-05.pdf

    Didn't you have a singer over there - many years ago now - who used to sing "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot" ? That's the least of it. In retrospect it could look very much like the opening up of America has been a process of turning it into a toxic cesspool.

    There. Now I've had to go out of way to try to show you how there would be cause to be anything other than optimistic. And that was only a brief sketching-in to try to make the point. "Optimism" seems facile to me. As for people being "better off" - that's an imponderable. Someone could probably find some statistical basis for "demonstrating" that if he wanted to. It's not really the point. You'd have to get into the consciousness of people from the past, which is actually really difficult to do - to the extent that it can be done at all - even when we're only talking of a couple of generations ago. When we're talking of vanished civilisations radically unlike our own … Were their lives any happier than our own? Quite likely. But that's something that it's hardly possible to determine.

    So, anyway, you have to look at what's been done to the world around us. And you have to think about how that inevitably comes back on us. As someone once said: "Man's the only animal that fouls his own nest."

    And yet I still want to say that we should trust that everything, somehow, will be all right in the end.

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    Didn't you have a singer over there - many years ago now - who used to sing "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot" ?


    "Hey farmer, farmer
    Put away that DDT now
    Give me spots on my apples
    But LEAVE me the birds and the bees
    Please!"

    1970 - Damn hippies.
    "Right is right, even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it." - St. Augustine

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    Quote Originally Posted by JoanieL View Post


    "Hey farmer, farmer
    Put away that DDT now
    Give me spots on my apples
    But LEAVE me the birds and the bees
    Please!"

    1970 - Damn hippies.
    Yes, thank you. There's more than one Joni/Joanie we might want to listen to.

    The accompanying cartoon suggests a universal application, since there are echoes of the Genesis story there. (That is what myth is, isn't it? An imaginative understanding of the world and our place in it, expressed not in concepts but in symbols, symbols that are endlessly fertile and applicable.) I think Joni Mitchell probably quite specifically meant the U.S., though.


    [EDIT: Ah, I see she's Canadian. Casts doubt on that theory - though I guess she may mean North America in general.]


    I think pre-Columbian America could be a violent place to live and we'd not want to idealise it, but at least the land hadn't been robbed out - denuded of game and timber and soil - and then poisoned. I think this has worried thoughtful Americans since at least Fenimore Cooper's time. The Pioneers seems to be the first ecological novel ever written. I'm afraid that's what Europeans did to the New World. One could certainly awaken a sense of nostalgia for something never known, say, by looking at John White paintings:

    http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/...003106mets.xml

    There's a kind of grim fittingness in the sad end of that American icon John Wayne:

    And yet the real repercussions of the film’s production would only emerge in the years to come. In 1953, the year before production started, the US Atomic Energy Commission had tested 11 nuclear weapons at Yucca Flats in Nevada - including two exceptionally “dirty” above ground tests with high degrees of fallout. After each detonation, huge clouds of radioactive dust were blown into the atmosphere before floating downwind and accumulating in the funnel of Snow Canyon, 220km to the west. Or more precisely, exactly where The Conqueror would be shot in 1954.
    The film that killed John Wayne

    No one is going to be able to go wandering around in that area now for a very long time indeed. As I say, I don't want to idealise pre-contact America and its peoples, but they never did anything like that - they hadn't the means, if nothing else.



    "Bees" in Joni's lyrics was prescient. There are mumblings around online about pesticides other than glyphosate being the problem for bees - perhaps the possible fallout from those murmurings are worth it to protect what glyphosate is worth - because it is looking like a strong candidate.



    But perhaps at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter which pesticide. And I suppose it could be a microscopic parasite doing it, as has been mooted recently, too ... but then again how much chance would a parasite have to run amuck in a healthy ecosystem?

    I'm torn here. I think nature is actually very resilient, and I do want to believe that things will be all right in the end. But I think we have at the same time to see what's going on, to realise the damage that's being done, and the suffering that's caused. A merely unscrupulous optimism just won't do. We can't reassure anyone, until we're prepared to acknowledge that the darkness is there and look it in the eye.
    Last edited by Vainamoinen; 05-31-2015 at 06:57 AM.

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    I tend to agree with George Carlin here (I know I'm using very non-intellectual ideas). To paraphrase him: when we say "save the planet," we're really saying "save the human." When we've pushed it too hard, the earth will shake us off like a dog shakes off fleas.

    Nature may very well adapt, becoming something we can't imagine. As just one species, we may not.

    I'm torn here. I think nature is actually very resilient, and I do want to believe that things will be all right in the end. But I think we have at the same time to see what's going on, to realise the damage that's being done, and the suffering that's caused. A merely unscrupulous optimism just won't do. We can't reassure anyone, until we're prepared to acknowledge that the darkness is there and look it in the eye.
    I like that. I tend to see the people who sell poison (and their evil cadre of lawyers, investors, and paid-off legislators) as murderers and accomplices to murder. But I think at this point in time, I see the consumer as having a bent to suicide.

    While it might take a little in-depth thinking to realize that the government/BigFood is surely lying about pesticide safeness and raising animals on foods they were never meant to eat, it certainly doesn't take that much thinking to realize that boxed and prepared foods couldn't be as good for us as the foods we now describe as the perimeter of the store foods. Did anyone really ever pick up a frozen pizza and think it was as nourishing as a home-cooked meal?

    Anyway, I'm not an optimist. I'm pretty sure the planet will survive us. It is, after all, just a big rock moving around a cool heat and light source.

    I'm not as sure that we will survive us. Aren't most of the gains we have in longevity the result of being able to keep more babies alive? But how does that help us in the long run, if we then raise those babies/children to eat foods with few nutrients and many pesticides? Everybody dies of something. But it seems that we're going out of our way to make dying of old age something future generations will remark as, "Did you know that 50 years ago, some people died of old age and not disease?"
    "Right is right, even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it." - St. Augustine

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