The Uygurs of China

The American Media is almost useless when reporting on events outside the US. It knows Americans have no interest in this, and so it tells them what they want to hear – which is almost nothing. In the case of news from China, it seems like the Chinese media is looking over their shoulder, telling them what to write – which is natural, because American and China have similar objectives: global hegemony. We are busy scratching each other’s backs – while pretending to be competitors. American business has invested so heavily in China, it is practically the same economy. This is not so say there are not conflicts, there certainly are, but the mutual accommodations are greater.

Both have large militaries. The US uses them mainly outside its borders, because it see its enemies out there. China uses them inside its borders, because it sees its enemies in here. But other than that, the methods are similar: ruthless suppression. The National Geographic has an excellent article on the Uygurs in its December issue.

The story is entitled The Other Tibet, because it highlights the similarities between the two conflicts. Indigenous populations are being suppressed by China and heavy Chinese immigration is swamping their culture. I have even seen this on the Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua: heavy Hispanic immigration has swamped the Black, English-speaking culture entirely. The local resources, seafood and lumber, are being exploited ruthlessly.

As always, a map is essential for understanding what is going on, and the Geographic maps, as always, are excellent. See the one on page 42-43. This territory is critical, located as it is between China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan (central Asia), and Russia. It contains much of China’s coal, oil, and gas, and construction is booming. The Uygurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) are fast being overwhelmed; they don’t like it; and some of them are fighting back. That’s the story in a nutshell.

Adventures of a London Call Girl

New Scientist

Yes, my mind is in the gutter, where else would you expect it to be? And I suspect yours is too, since you are reading this.

The article starts out this way:

The trends in thyroid carcinomas in young women in north-west England show a consistent rise since the late 1980s. But our research also shows an increase in areas that didn’t receive fallout from Chernobyl, so there may be other causes at work.

But then it gets down to what we really wanted to hear:

The particular situation I was in was far less dangerous than streetwalking and paid sufficiently well that I didn’t have to do it for very long. Also I met fewer men than a streetwalker would in the same period and again that decreased the chances of a bad experience. I trusted my instincts and the agency was very good about vetting clients as well. Let’s be frank, postdocs are not well paid – being debt-free enabled me to continue to choose science jobs I love rather than changing career.

She wrote the book Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl to support her career in science, but had intended to remain anonymous.

Foreign Affairs Backs State Capitalism

Foreign Affairs

This is a new development. Previously Foreign Affairs followed the official line by disparaging state capitalism, insisting the American model was better. It is now obvious, even to it, that the Chinese model is better.

Just as China promoted domestic growth by combining state intervention with private investment, it is now applying this same policy strategy to countries across Africa. The results have been impressive, and the United States and others would do well to start paying attention.

Over the past few decades, China has managed to move hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty by combining state intervention with economic incentives to attract private investment — the kind of experimentation that the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping once described as “crossing the river by feeling the stones.” Today, China is feeling the stones again but this time in its economic engagement across Africa. Its current experiment in Africa mixes a hard-nosed but clear-eyed self-interest with the lessons of China’s own successful development and of decades of its failed aid projects in Africa.

Longest migratory journey of any insect in the world

TED talks (video)

While living and working as a marine biologist in Maldives, Charles Anderson noticed sudden explosions of dragonflies at certain times of year. He explains how he carefully tracked the path of a plain, little dragonfly called the Globe Skimmer, Pantala flavescens, only to discover that it had the longest migratory journey of any insect in the world.

I have been in the Maldives myself, and it was an interesting experience – like going back in the world several centuries.

The Divine Supermarket

I bought this book because the title intrigued me. I like-new used one only cost $10, plus $3 shipping to Miami. I was surprised by how much it cost to get it to Costa Rica, however: $9.60 – because it was a hard-back and weighed more.

I opened it on my bus ride from Cartago to Orosi. To my surprise, I found I was reading about Mormonism. Four chapters of the book are devoted to this. So I settled in to read about the period when the Mormons settled my home town: Nauvoo, Illinois. My family were Missouri Mormons, and I was familiar with most of the history he was talking about. His overview was one of the best I have read, I only wished he had been more historical and used footnotes to back up what he said in detail. I think he made up some of the details himself to flesh out a good story.

The following is for members of my extended family, who are all still loyal to the church. I am the only one I know of who has decided it was insignificant, and went to the trouble of leaving it officially.

Malise Ruthven, who wrote this book in 1989, compares the division between Utah (LDS) and Missouri (RLDS) Mormons to the Sunni-Shia split in Islam. The Utah Mormons, like the Sunnis, comprise the vast majority and derive their legitimacy from the election of the Prophet’s successor – in this case, Brigham Young, Smith’s colleague, but not a relative. The minority Reorganites – like the Shi’a – hold that leadership is vested in the Prophet’s family. (Page 82)

On page 95 he has an interview with Paul Edwards of the RLDS , who is being amazingly frank. I think my family will be surprised by what he says:

“Family legitimacy was crucial up to 1915,” Paul said. “After that the Reorganization became protestantised. I think it has enough identity now to survive without a Smith at the head.”

He went on to elaborate. The Utah people had..expanded at an unbelievable rate. The RLDS remained a comparatively small elitist group of about a quarter of a million. “Our church is an aristocracy,” said Paul. “We’ve got the princes and princesses of the royal blood; but we also have a whole range of dukes, and duchesses, lords and ladies, whose fathers or grandfathers held important positions in the church…My impression is that the family aristocracy is a much stronger source of allegiance than any particular belief. “

The author asked about the Book of Mormon.

We don’t teach it much in our schools. Our people believe in it, but they don’t believe it. It’s important as a symbol.

I think the Book of Mormon is something we’ve got to live with. It’s a story, a myth, who knows what? For most people I know, it’s got nothing to do with anything.

How could someone like him remain in the church?

The church has some social and I think, in a very small sense, some religious meaning, and I don’t want to see it destroyed. I’m a member of the church despite the Book of Mormon, not because of it. But it’s totally unacceptable to say this officially.

About the relationship between the two churches:

The people at the top don’t talk to each other and the people at the bottom don’t talk to each other. (My summary) But division heads like myself who run fairly significant divisions but don’t have the power to affect theology, we get along great. We talk all the time, we inter-relate, we exchange information and material.

By contrast, based on what little I hear from my family, who are definitely not dukes and duchesses of the church, they still will not have anything to do with them.

The Loss of Financial Independence

Financial independence was what attracted many young men from the Mid-West back to farming after WWII. They wanted to be their own boss; and they thought this right was part of what being an American was. They found out, to their sorrow, that this was no longer the case. America was no longer a land of the free, it was a land of the organization, where the individual was no longer important.

I cannot imagine a shocking state of affairs – but something even more shocking was true: nobody noticed it was happening. Most loved this new state of affairs, tailor-fit for nobodies. The previous state of affairs, I hardly need say, was made for somebodies – the strong, proud, people who made America in the first place – who were also financially independent.

I can hear your objection now: “The world has changed in the last two hundred years. What is needed now are persons who can fit into our modern life-style. If this causes some loss of independence, so be it. The world moves on, and people have to move with it, whether they like it or not.”

What you are saying is exactly what I am saying: the individual is no longer important. And the very notion of this kind of person, who is interested in the Common Good, now seems quaint and unrealistic.

In his place is the person who is only in it for himself, and the Devil damn the hindmost.

We Can Make Reality to Suit Ourselves

This is one of the points Boorstin makes in his book The Image. We have become so used to substituting images for reality, we think they constitute reality. This is nothing new, people have always substituted their beliefs and their myths for reality. The Greeks had the idea that reality was something different, and not man-made – but most thought this was nonsense. And in our time, we still think this is nonsense. Reality (including morality) is whatever we make it to be, and what we can agree on. Nothing else.

Boorstin made a well-thought-out and interesting case back in 1961, one that has never been seriously challenged. But we have not changed, and still prefer our illusions to the real thing.

Modern thinking agreed with the Greeks: that there was an objective reality, and we had to understand it on its terms if we wanted to prosper. And modern people (Northern Europe and its descendants) prospered to a degree no one could have imagined. The rest of the world (including Latin America) did not.

This period of prosperity is ending, for a number of reasons, but primarily because we are no longer interested in what is real outside of ourselves.