Looking for the Air

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

    When looking for something I think is big, as in really, really big, it’s hard for me to know where to start. I’m researching for Intelligent Design which deals with psychology, governments, economy, technology, and different cultures. But, since I have to start somewhere, I start with what I know. As the enormity of the thing I seek increases in scope, basic assumptions as to how things work begin to change. 
    And when the thing I’m looking for is the air? Where do I even begin?

    I was raised in a small rural town called Fallbrook, California. My family had horses when I was young. I remember the smell of horse poop. I remember the smell of orange trees, of the skin of avocados, of the faint and distant smell of the Pacific Ocean 30 miles away, and of the dust of the desert, 30 miles in the other direction.
    I assumed those smells, that thing I took for granted, the flavor of the air, I assumed that was the only flavor of the air. And not just in Fallbrook. It didn’t even occur to me that air could be different.
    Fallbrook wasn’t the first place I lived, but it was the place I lived when ideas of self began to occur to me. As I began to question the nature of reality and ask who/what I am as an entity, I was orbiting Fallbrook. And so, when I began to ask questions of how far exactly the “I” that I assumed was me extended, that naturally leads to questions of, what’s on the other side of “I”. When “I” ends, then what.
    Then there’s the air.
    The Pacific Ocean touches the shore of the western United States at Oceanside, California. It’s about 30 miles south west of Fallbrook. There, the air has more desert, and more ocean. The air gains more humidity, more dust, and a slightly salty taste. The dust probably doesn’t come from the desert, but from Camp Pendleton, a nearby Marine base, of tanks, helicopters, and hovercrafts.
    There’s a thickness to humid air. There’s a stickiness–I sweat as my body tries to cool itself but can’t because my sweat won’t evaporate since the air is already at 100% humidity, which means saturated.
    In rural Western Japan the air is humid, but there’s more to it. It’s got mold. Unlike Oceanside, Japan is an island. There is no desert. It’s green, in a way few places in the continental United States are green.
    Everything in Japan smells slightly of mold. Air conditioning, which has as part of its function a dehumidifier, doesn’t make a difference. It’s long been filled, all the air ducts have mold. All the carpets, all the furniture, all the cars and walls and ceilings. Everything.
    But, it never feels dirty. Instead, like so much of Japan, it feels like it’s in harmony with nature. The mold in Japan is not like the mold in the United States. It doesn’t plague people with allergies and companies with lawsuits. In Japan, the mold is supposed to be there.
    In Taipei the air exists in pools a hundred feet in diameter. Every hundred feet its completely different, scented by a vendor. Here it’s beef, next is noodles, next might be tofu, then stinky tofu, or street-vendor stinky tofu, next sewage, next the sweet salty air of the bay that makes Taipei Taiwan’s capital. It smells of hotels and body odor, of perfume and newly created clothing. It smells tropical, citric again.
    I spent time in Timisoara, Romania. The air there smells of fried dough, of freshly baked bread. Of hay and horses and goats and chickens and industrial-age heavy industry. But, over everything else, until I got about 20 miles outside of the city, everything smelled of burning, of the fire on the edge of the city as the garbage dump burns. I smell traces of that same scent sometimes here in the United States, and whenever I smell it, my mind is instantly back in Romania.
    As a kid, I assumed Fallbrook was the only kind of air. I didn’t even assume it, it was before assumption. It was a reality so central to my experience of this life that I didn’t even question its existence. It never even occurred to me that air was a thing that could smell different.
    Until it did.

    I remember being in kindergarten and the class reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I didn’t know what a pledge was. I didn’t know what allegiance was. I didn’t understand the basic doctrines of the United States except that it was the name of the place I lived in. But, I hadn’t yet traveled internationally so even that “here-ness” was vague.
    Like the air, there were things so central to the way I did life that it never even occurred to me to question. Things like money, capitalism, freedom, freedom of speech, democracy, those were beyond truths, they were things that were as real and natural as the air.
    Until they weren’t.

    The United States military is used to defend the country, to defend the “American” way of life. But, what is that way of life? What is it exactly that the military is defending.
    The normal answer is, “freedom”.
    But, what does that mean? And, if freedom is what’s being defended, do the actions of the military match that defense? Are there underlying infrastructures that are a part of what I define as freedom that, when defended, don’t look like they belong as part of freedom?
    I’ve driven my car across the country. I didn’t need papers to get from Californiato Pennsylvania. I didn’t need to ask permission from the government to travel outside of Orange County’s local jurisdiction. I just got in my car, filled the gas tank, paid the gas station attendant, and drove.
    Intrinsic to my ability to drive across the country is that gasoline be available, and that the U.S. dollar have value.
    Most of the world’s oil, from which we process gasoline, comes from the Middle East. Most of the wars in the world happen in and around the Middle East. These two things are related.
    If the countries of the Middle East gain infrastructure and power and decide to work together, they can and have cut off gasoline to the United States. They can cut off my freedom to drive wherever I want whenever I want. So, in the interest of that freedom, the United States regularly conducts wars, subterfuge, attrition, and general agitation in the Middle East.
    Because, once, in the past, the Middle East gained the infrastructure, in the 70’s. We called those periods energy crises. Because there were two. And they were very different in nature. The first was in 1973 because those countries got organized.    The second energy crisis in 1979 was caused when the Iranians overthrew the dictatorship the United States had put in place. There’s a movie about a small sliver of that incident called Argo. Argo starts out describing how the Iranians had a fair and democratic election and how a C.I.A. operative named Kermit Roosevelt Jr. started a revolution and overthrew that democratically elected president to put into power someone more friendly to U.S. Interests.
    This worked for the C.I.A., but only briefly. It created an extreme hatred for the United States in the eyes of the Iranian people. Eventually they rose up again and threw out the U.S. supported Shah and replaced him with someone the U.S. press constantly demonized called the Ayatollah Khomeini.
    While the result wasn’t what may be seen as supporting U.S. Interests as originally conceived by Kermit, the end was the same, a destabilized Middle East, which means cheap gas for me to drive from California to Pennsylvania.

    It’s easy to demonize one side or the other, but by choosing a side, I’ve found that I become blinded by what I believe to be the a priori of that side, and then I can’t see the truth anymore. 
    It’s easy to say that Ayatollah Khomeini was a monster for subjecting his people to a vicious police state. But, without that police state Kermit or his successor might have crept back in and started another coup.
    It’s easy to paint the United States as an evil empire spreading its cancer to small innocent happy people that get in the way. But, the U.S. got mankind to the Moon. It’s the U.S. Military Industrial Complex in the form of ARPA (later renamed DARPA) that created the Internet, which is bringing humanity together in a way never before possible.

    John D Rockefeller owned Standard Oil and was the world’s richest man for quite a while. In an effort to end his monopoly, the United States broke up Standard Oil, but Rockefeller still owned most of the companies, so he got a lot richer as a result of the breakup. Instead of owning one oil company, he owned many.

    (As a preface, I must say I considered either not posting this section, or this article because I wasn’t sure it was possible to talk about Hitler with any kind of rational discourse. I have friends who are Jews. Some of the rulers of Hollywood are Jewish, and I don’t want to offend either group. 
    But, if we continue to leave the rise of the Nazi party as anathema, we will never learn from their existence. How they rose to power, why they went the way they did… as long as they’re off-limits, we risk repeating their mistakes.)
    We demonize Adolf Hitler so completely that he’s even got his own meme called Godwin’s Law. The problem with demonization, as I implied above, is that once we do it we can’t see things as they are.
    In World War I through a series of treaties, Germany was obligated to attack several countries. A good portion of Europe united against Germany and beat it back down, leaving the German countryside rubble and the German economy in free-fall.
    Adolf Hitler was a young German officer during WWI.
    After WWI, Hitler became an intelligence officer and was charged with spying on the Nazi political party. He liked their politics. They were simple. Make Germany great again. He left the German government and joined the Nazi party, quickly rising to lead it. He promised the German people that their age of destitution would be over, that the worker would again be as valuable as the so-called aristocracy.
    The Nazis succeeded spectacularly.
    Germany was quickly made strong. The German ideal of equality was in direct conflict with to the idea of class as defined by financial wealth. And the Jews were rich. The Jews were politically active and publicly claimed that the Nazi party was unfair and wrong.
    The problem with adopting expansionism as an ideal is that it doesn’t end when its immediate goals are achieved. When the people have been riled up to produce and restore, what happens when production is amazing and cities have been restored? If the people aren’t pointed at something else, apathy quickly sets it, which then leads to discontentment and revolt.
    To avoid that, Hitler created enemies, both internal and external. He invaded Poland, which was the external enemy. And the Jews slowly became demonized internally.
    It’s impossible to attack something we believe to be of equal value to ourselves. Hitler created the Aryan ideal, the white master race. Blacks, Jews, the physically and mentally infirmed, they represented a disease. By demonizing these people it became ethically justified to dispose of them in the most efficient means possible.
    That last part we know. The world has recognized the horror of that logic and we’ve vowed never to go back that way again. 
    But Nazi’s didn’t start out evil. They started out good and made a series of logical choices that naturally led to the holocaust.

    To be elite is to be above. To be wealthy to the extreme is to recognize that all borders, all rules are malleable. Rockefeller’s various oil companies supplied oil to the Allied forces fighting the Nazi’s. They also supplied oil to the Germans. And why not? National values aren’t as important as inherent values. To the elite, power is the highest value, and money is one of the major corporeal expressions of power.

    Memi, my wife, is Japanese-American. She was born in South San Francisco, California. Both her parents are from Japan.
    During one vacation, she and I chose to go visit my new Japanese relatives. While there I learned an enormous amount about Japanese history, from the Japanese. Memi’s grandpa, a man she and I call G-chan, was drafted into the Japanese army as a communications officer and sent to Korea during WWII, shortly after Japan invaded Korea.
    After Japan invaded China, the United States instituted an oil embargo against Japan. In order for Japan to continue to function as an industrialized nation, they needed to find another source of oil. Hitler agreed to sell oil to Japan if they attacked the United States. Hitler’s logic was that the United States couldn’t fight a war on two fronts, probably because Germany hadn’t been able to.
    Japan seems to be the evil one here. 
    That’s the position the U.S. propaganda took. To fight the Japanese, the United States had to demonize them. All of them. 
    But it’s hard to demonize your neighbor. She smiles as she sells you tea, or serves ramen. To effectively demonize them, they had to be isolated. Thus, the U.S. Government sent the Japanese people living in the United States at the time into concentration camps. All their homes/assets were forfeited, taken by their neighbors. 
    No significant restitution has ever been made for this.
    Why didn’t the U.S. institute its oil embargo on Japan after Japan invaded Korea? Why wait until China?
    I’m not going to get into it here because the rabbit hole keeps going. But, if you’d like to know, read about the Opium Wars between China and the U.S./Great Britain.

    The deeper these questions go, the less solid all assumptions of guilt become. The more those assumptions fade, the more humanity is revealed about each of the so-called villains of my youth. I keep looking for solidarity, a unity between law and morals, ethics and mores. And the more I look, the less I find it.
    An example is the word “murder.” Apple’s Dictionary defines murder as “the unlawful premeditate killing of one human being by another.” By that definition, the Nazi’s didn’t murder the Jews because in Germany at the time, it was legal. Later, after the Nazis lost the war and the laws changed with retroactive effects the Nazi party leaders were tried and found guilty. Most of the solders who actually ran the concentration camps remained free until their deaths.

    It isn’t until we start noticing the air that the truths by which we look at the world can be questioned. And it isn’t until we question those fundamental underlying assumptions that we can choose how we want the future to look. And it isn’t until we decide to live differently, to actively choose the future we want that that future will become possible.
    What kinds of responses are possible without jeopardizing the highly integrated system we call modern life?