Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Modern Chinese History (second part)

The revolutionaries although were following Liang's philosophy, saw things differently. For them, nationalism meant to exclude all manchurian leaders and replace them by Han Chinese. Eventually students and intellectuals adopted the language of race and self-determination, the nation-state. Clearly, if all people were to share this philosophy, China would of been torn apart in pieces, all the ethnicities having their own state.

After the Revolution of 1911 the idea of a multiethnic China started to get shape. It is important to mention that from the beginning of the 20th century the new generation of intellectuals started to borrow even more of the Western way of life and culture. By now the old class of 'shi' was virtually gone and Confucianism was left behind. Works of fiction began to be written, vernacular chinese was adopted and local capitalists started to appear.

The May Fourth Movement revived political activism and in the course the 1920's the Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist Party appear. The nationalists (Guamindang) were lead by Sun Yat-sen who considered that the large scale poverty had roots in the lack of productivity not from inequality. The country still had an economy based on agriculture, not even a mechanized agriculture. Only about 1.5 milion Chinese worked in large factories, at the rail roads and as sea merchants. We should not forget that this period was not a fortunate one for the country.

In March 1925, Sun Yat-sen dies and leader of the nationalists becomes Chiang Kai-shek (foto right), a charismatic figure that succeeded in imposig law in China and kept the local warlords under some kind of control. In 1928 Chiang led the Northern Expedition to unify the country under a single government. The Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 marked the start of even harder times.

The Communists were close to extinction with the exception of a few local leaders from the very poor regions. The help reveived from the USSR in their fight against the Japanese, and the Nationalists, was fundamental.

(The first photo is from 16 June 1924 with Sun Yat-sen in the middle and Chiang Kai-shek in uniform on stage at the founding of Whampoa Military Academy)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Freedom Tower

The Iranian Freedom Tower is a masterpiece designed by architect Hossein Amanat. The monument is located in the center of a large plaza forming a symbolic entrance-complex in Tehran. The structure is comprised of four huge columns joined on top and forming four arches, two wider and taller ones and another smaller two.

It is build from eight thousand blocks of white marble stone transported from Esfahan region. The main financing came from a number of iranian industrialists. The monument was opened on 16 octomber 1971 and it stands 50 meters tall. It's best to let the images speak.

Maquam E` chahid, the algerian monument commemorating their war for independence is strongly influenced by the Borj-e Azid.



Sunday, April 25, 2010

Modern Chinese History (first part)

When we say China we should know that the name of the country comes from the Qing dynasty which united vast portions of land under a single flag (the Chinese call their country `Zhangguo` and it means `the middle kingdom` in the sense of center of the world). The peoples living on those lands were not, and still are not as united as we think.

China`s road to modernity is sinuous and why not say it, transited by misfortune in both directions. In the imperial period, there were four different classes, `shi` (gentry), `Nong` (farmers), `Gong` (artists) and `Shang` (merchants). We will focus on the gentry. This nobility was made out of people who primarily studied Confucius and through exams took different administrative positions. Most of them were not wealthy but they were respected for their knowledge.

In the 19th century, China knew in some extent economic growth, but in spite of this the general situation quickly started to decline. The political situation dragged down the society, the country being a semi-colony, at the hands of the great powers. This means that many key areas were indirectly or even directly controlled from abroad.

Although the beginning of the 20th century knew widespread instability we can recognize three important moments of change, the revolutions of 1911, 1928 and 1949. Kang Youwei (1858 - 1927), a `radical Confucian` wanted China to become a constitutional monarchy that eventually would lead to democracy. With the support of emperor Guangxu`s court, Kang and his disciples started what would be called `the 100 days of reform` in the summer of 1898. By the end of the year the reforms were halted. Soon after the Boxer Uprising started as a response to ever increasing foreign intervention in internal affairs. In the north, the empire lost its authority.

The shi, which now were in the process of becoming the modern intellectual class, began to search for solutions to the crises. Liang Quichao (1873 - 1929) was an important figure of this new generation. Because of the turmoil he fled to Japan where he gave up on the Confucian philosophy saying that `truth is more important`. Between 1989 and the Revolution of 1911 talks began on the topic of European political thought. Liang plead for nationalism and the rejection of traditional cosmology which linked the emperor, the heavens and humanity. He also saw that their present could be best described through Darwinism, only the strong will survive. For Liang, every member of the stat needed to be active, courageous and loyal.

Friday, April 23, 2010

New World - Why Change?

I will leave aside prophecies like the Revelation and Nostradamus in this article because i would like to cover the subject of a `new world` only through our immediate reality through things like society, history, politics, science.

I would like to begin by saying that through the course of history humanity had a number of periods of change, in fact in a more linear perspective, our history, the present and the future is in permanent change and times of stagnation do not actually exist. Even so, we can find periods when change is in the air, when old institutions are torn down to make room for new ones.

Our present is often described to be a transition between the old and the new. At our current position we do not have a clear view of `what was` because we are still living in it and we can`t see the future, but we could guess. Many make an error trying to say that `change` is only on a spiritual level, this is just one part of what being human means, and neglect things like society, technology, even behavior and politics. Also we must try to investigate why we change.

Things like scientific breakthrough drive our current society and most likely technology will be the base of the future. Space travel will soon bring a new dimension in our lives, just like the age of discovery forever marked the face of humanity. We will not be able tomorrow to travel to other planets, but in a couple of hundreds of years this will be like traveling from Berlin to Beijing and back. Cloning and genetics are also two very debated subjects. The idea of a human clone is hard to grasp by many of us, primarily because of our religious background and ethics. Even for me is hard to imagine being face to face with `me` and cloning people just for their organs is nothing more than genocide, anybody seen The Island?

Those are two scientific changes that will and begin to have an impact, we will now talk about changes in our society that are not directly linked to science. Think of aliens, a couple of decades ago martians were the subject of many sci-fi movies and books and the subject was never thought to be `serious`. Now things have changed, hardly no one dismisses the existence of extra-terrestrials, we just need to find them. The literature on this subject is vast, take your pick. Now think of God, here the New Age movement claims its right to be the spirituality of the future, a theory that i do not share. This is a vast subject so i will leave it for a standalone article.

There are a great number of other elements that can and will influence change, we should not forget the role of politics and politicians which rarely act in favor of humanity. The action of `change` is in nobody`s hands, instead the secret is in all of us, we dictate how the future looks like.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Next in Space

As you probably know, the Space Shuttle fleet will be retired this year and this means only two countries will still have the power to put man in space... well, not quite. It seams that Obama after he scraped the Constellation program launched the idea of commercial space flight. This means that instead of government owned human space programs we will have corporations pumping the liquid hydrogen in the rockets. This may not be a bad thing but i think we are rushing things.

Are the companies ready for space travel? I don`t think so, but competition should heighten scientific breakthroughs once the wheels start turning. As Obama put it, NASA will take its hands off direct human space travel but it will offer some kind of consulting and will continue its research. I hope i did not create the image of private companies incapable of human space flught, i said that they are not ready yet. Tests are underway for a number of spaceships that will eventually send men farther and faster.

VSS Enterprise, of the Space Ship Two class, is the first commercial spaceship being built for Virgin Galactic by Scaled Composites. In 2011 it will enter service and one trip will cost around 200.000, clearly most of us will have to wait for a discount.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In Search of the Miraculous

Some time ago in my hands fell "In Search of the Miraculous", two volumes wrote by P. D. Ouspensky. He was an important russian philosopher, one of the best pupils of Gurdjieff. The text begins with Ouspensky revealing to us his immeasurable need for knowledge. A need that never left him.

He traveled to places rich with history like Egypt and India, but time eventually came to return to Russia, doing so he met Gurdjieff in the year 1915. About his works that predate this important meeting i hope to talk as soon as time will let me.

After this short introduction i feel it is time to start with some facts about Gurdjieff. He was part greek part armenian and lived most of his early life in Russia were he headed a school dedicated to esoteric knowledge. '
In Search of the Miraculous' was writen by Ouspensky after he participated in this school and after years of being around Gurdjieff. It was published in 1947.

While i was studying this book i could not ask why knowledge must be controlled, kept secret. I eventually got an answer that at list in some part satisfied my search. In the first place, knowledge is not kept secret and second, that by definition, by its nature, knowledge can not become a public good. It must be treated like something material (
'knowledge is material and this means it has all the characteristics of materiality'). Small quantities of information in the possession of a large group don`t lead to nothing, only the holding of an adequate quantity by a small group gives a result (if knowledge is reserved to a few, each will receive enough of it, not only for keeping what he earned but also to increase it). Gurdjieff adds 'in fact, the majority of people do not want any kind of knowledge, they refuse their bit of knowledge, they neglect even to take,at the general repartition, what they need for a normal life'. It is important to remark that for Gurdjieff knowledge is material, here i must disagree. While it is true that the vast majority of people are not attracted to the idea of evolution, knowledge, by no means has the properties of a material object.

Another paragraph that stirred my attention is this one '
The masses do not want nor even search for knowledge, and their political leaders, by selfish reasons, act only to strenghten the masses fear and aversion to all that is new and unknown. This state of slavery in which humanity seems to be drowning is based on this fear.' This, i must admit, hit me like a rock in the head. The truth is so obvious and no one seems to try to change this situation. Don`t let fear rule you. 'Nobody hides nothing; there i not even the smallest mystery. But obtaining and transmitting true knowledge takes hard working and great effort, both from the one receiving and the one giving.' If you want something you have to fight for it, nobody receives nothing for free, you must earn it, your actions must deserve it. Maybe that is why the ones who manage to accumulate great wealth in a short time with little effort lose it just as fast.

History podcasts

Dan Carlin`s Hardcore History

I will not make it a habit out of talking about other peoples projects but Hardcore History is something you will want and like to hear. What you should do is get your iPod/Blackberry ready for some interesting history lessons. You can download the episodes from here.

Mike Duncan`s History of Rome

If you are into Ancient Rome the you would love this. This is the first ever podcast i really listened to and belive me, you have what to listen to. Click here to take a look.

Monday, April 19, 2010

How to Manipulate Man

The origins of this article are in a book written by Bogdan Ficeac which I recommend as a basic reading for all those who are interested in this topic (it is written in romanian). Mind control is on the agenda of many organizations and governments and let`s face it, the electoral campaigns are a mind control fiesta.

In the first place access to information is of great importance in trying to manipulate someone or a group of people. The presence of only one information source can amplify to the maximum the effects of mind control. For example let`s take the radio show named 'War of the Worlds' hosted by Orson Wells. In one of his shows he simulated an alien invasion which brought panic in the hearts of listeners. Maybe you don`t know this but the romanian revolution of 1989 which brought down the communist reign, was largely a televised event. A group of people got control of the central television station and manipulated the romanian nation in the way most favorable for them. That is why now it is unofficial called a coup d`etat. Totalitarian regimes, like the fascist and the communist systems, strictly control all kinds of information, for example read about the Google conflict with the Chinese government.

"In critical moments, people prefer to be guided by feelings and instincts dictated by their sens of conservation."

In terms of social psychology we can talk about mind control when a social situation is created for the purpose of influencing the behavior of the ones manipulated in the way the "ruler" wants.

Let us talk about totalitarian systems now. In this case uniformity is a standard, there is very little motivation, the leveling of the human mind/thought creates vulnerability. Those who promote this kind of government see humans as an amorphous mass, depersonalized, ready to be remodeled. When we talk about communication we forget that a tipe of dialogue is done with our own mind, this too can be observed. Think about the secret police which has tendencies to construct a mentality where you are not allowed and you do not wish to question yourself or to ask questions in the sens of finding the truth. In totalitarian regimes there are no shades, everything is black and white and a kind of language appears, a ''wooden tongue'' as it is called in romanian. Simplicity is also sought for in this societies because it does not encourage thinking.

"We must get out of obscurity, let them swear us, let them acclaim us, let them beat us, it is important to hear about us" - Goebbels (photo left)

The most powerfull types of mind control are achieved by isolating the individual. To completely manipulate someone, his thinking, his behavior and his feelings must be controlled with the pure purpose to create a citizen incapable of making his own decisions.

"The essence of obedience is that a person comes to believe in himself as an instrument of fulfilling the wishes and orders of another person and therefore is no longer responsible for his own actions" - Stanley Milgram

Leon Frostinger had arrived to the conclusion that the identity of an individual is composed out of thought, feelings and his actions (behavior). The individual can bear only minor differences between this three components. When a major discrepancy appears we have a sense of discomfort, this being cognitive dissonance. This means that someone can change from the exterior one of the components and the two left will modify themselves to achieve harmony once again.

Controlling the behavior is determined by the control of the physical reality in which one lives, think about rituals and strict schedules. To manipulate someones emotions we have to induce feelings of guilt or fear (terrorism, or the fear of terrorism).

Unfreeze, change and refreeze are the three steps that make a change sustainable. The total destruction of the old behavior, putting a new one in its place and then freezing the new personality. The general lines of this model were drawn by Kurt Lewin (foto right) in the 40`s and in the 60`s Edgar Schein and Rober Jay Lifton developed the concept.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The European Problem

Most do not consider the EU as a state, this is true, we deal mainly with a common market and collaboration on various levels, most of the time economical, political and social. It is not a state in the traditional sense, not even a federation, but things slowly evolve in the idea of a federation based on the U.S.A. model.

Politically, there are two main directions, the interguvernamentalists and the federalists. The first category is caracteristic to France and Britain, do not forget that the French people rejected the EU reforms in 2005 through a referendum, and the British even now have the pound, I will not go into details now. As we see, these interguvernamentalists go on believing that the European project is purely a collaboration between states, with a clearly defined and minimal interference in internal affairs. At the opposite pole are the Federalists, largely the rest of Europe, which rely on an increased level of cooperation, possibly leading to a federation with a single global voice.

There are problems on both sides, in the first case the EU becomes useless, and in the second differences of opinion can halt progress or even lead to conflict. Economic problems generate intense debate, we now again make two camps, those who want an economy "directed" this is the French model, and the market economy of laissez faire which is the British model. These differences lead to absurd decisions, the desire for economic reform without drastic job and salary cuts. The French government often supports the local industry in violation of certain european regulations and five-year plans which aim at great things are contrary to a free economy. Defense is another problem area, to take one example, the EU relation to Russia, the Baltic states, Poland and Romania have opinions different from countries like France or Germany, these differences lead to ineffective decisions or even lack of cooperation, remember the Russian-Georgian conflict and the European officials ”sedated” intervention.

From the outset the problems Europe faces are at most postponed while the underlying architecture is rotten, unless they decide to reform the danger of collapse is near. It is sad to see a potentially great state fall before it is even born.