Monday, March 10, 2008

An important issue; an utterly disappointing book

Here is my review of the book "The Case Against Adolescence" by Robert Epstein


I have read Dr. Epstein’s interview and an article on the net, and was very excited to read this book. Sadly, while his main idea is liberating and refreshing, the book itself is utterly disappointing. It is full of weak argumentation, selection and substitution of data, poor understanding of cultural context and betrays a certain agenda. In fact, if you are interested in the concept, IMO you can safely skip the book altogether and instead google Dr. Epstein’s articles, “The Myth of Teen Brain” and “Trashing Teens” – you’ll get the salient point and learn about Dr. Epstein novel research methodology, w\o the accompanying eyebrow-raising junk.

Dr. Epstein makes a bad call to foray into the history of childhood in order to support his argument against adolescence. The result is the opposite: he shoots himself in a foot. He follows Aries’s controversial “sentimentalist” point of view that the childhood itself had not existed until recently. He cites, e.g., Jean Ledloff’s and Margaret Mead’s work, which supposedly shows children fully integrated in the adult society, working alongside grown-ups. In reality, Ledloff has observed that yakuana children grouped themselves by age and spend a lot of time with their peers; even the vocabulary of different age groups differed considerably. They certainly weren’t expected to perform to adult’s standards, i.e., weren’t considered fully competent. Mead’s and other researcher’s extensive studies also showed that the maturity gap – the time period between hitting puberty and assuming fill adult responsibilities – has existed in virtually all cultures. It was decidedly much smaller than it is presently in the west, but denying its existence is inaccurate.

Dr. Epstein cheerfully describes traditional cultures, free of adolescent turmoil; apparently he isn’t aware that his accounts of child suffering, labor and war participation look decidedly bleak. One cannot help thinking that if Aries is right and childhood, as well as adolescence, hadn’t existed, than thank God almighty it has been invented. Consider the following passage: “… as many as eleven million young people live on the streets in India [..] young people constitute between 10 and 33 percent of the workforce in various industries [..] Many develop “resiliency” and “self-preservation skills,” but sometimes it means resorting to activities such as pimping, prostitution, theft, drug peddling and begging [..] adolescence is still largely absent in [..] this vast country,” – JEEZ, where do I sign up? %\

Dr. Epstein’s understanding of forces at play in other cultures is very poor. His account of Russia is off base, as is his take on a supposedly trouble-free adolescence in Japan (apparently, he has never heard of hikikomori and NEET). More importantly, Epstein seems to confuse the young adult’s psychological health and well-adjusted behavior with lack of individuation (not to be confused with individualism). The lack of individuation results from authoritative parenting and growing up in the culture where the person has little intrinsic value apart from being a part of the community – a cog in the wheel. When this is beaten into the person’s head from the earliest age, rebellion is simply not an option. Epstein misses this aspect of the problem entirely. While writing about the trouble-free adolescence in Philippines, he mentions the following: “Daughters are more obligated than sons to work abroad to support the family during tough times”. In plain English, that means that young females are routinely sold into human trafficking (prostitution or domestic service=servitude) and are expected to take it in stride for the good of the family. Could it be that THIS is what the Filipino teens are beginning to rebel against?

The latter example illustrates that the traditional trouble-free adolescent experience has been markedly different for young males and females, and that is also lost on Dr. Epstein. As bad as the tendencies in western adolescence have been, they have done away with the exploitative marriages of young females. Dr. Epstein speaks very positively about early marriages, glossing over the fact that those were often done against the woman’s will, and limited the public and historical roles of women. His apparent fixation on barely pubescent brides has made me somewhat uncomfortable, and his reference to Nabokov’s Lolita as “the sexy young siren” has made my jaw drop. I really, really hope that this is not what I think it is, and that Dr. Epstein simply hasn’t read the book he is referring to.

He makes another blunder in his psychological analysis of “The Lord of the Flies” as it pertains to the problem of child competence and adolescence, which borders on ignorance. Let’s for a moment forget the metaphorical nature of the “Lord of the Flies” plot, and accept that it has a literal meaning relevant to our topic. Dr. Epstein states that “the story is an acknowledgment that young people can be tough and self-sufficient, at least when the adults aren’t here to take care of them”. If you are fuzzy on the book’s content, pick it up and you’ll see that those self-sufficient young people self-organize in a brutal way and kill their peers – I can’t believe that Dr. Epstein considers it a sign of those kids’ competence. Second, he states that “the characters never broke down [..] until the adults showed up [..] they were never child-like – until they were expected to be”. I am utterly flabbergasted that a professional psychologist would make such a statement. The kids broke down precisely because everything that was happening to them has just too much, and now they finally didn’t have to hold themselves together on the brink of collapse. Indeed, people can survive unbelievable hardships, but the stress robs the person of vital energy and may irreversibly stunt psychological growth. This has been described multiple times in the literature – surely Dr. Epstein is aware of that?

As if this all wasn’t bad enough, Dr Epstein advocates corporal punishment for teens, and it is here that all of the above comes together. Under the guise of teen liberation it is the same old obey-your-elders, toughen’em up, spare-the-rode-spoil-the-child nonsense, discredited thousand times over.

This ties directly to Epstein’s view of anti-child labor movement as well-meaning but ultimately misguided and harmful to kids. Make no mistake: if Dr. Epstein’s idea were to take hold, you will see young adults and, by extension, children, back in the sweatshops in no time. The looming economic crisis may provide a real necessity for this, and Dr. Epstein’s concept will serve as an ideological basis for such movement. As usual, that will only apply to poor and underprivileged teens and children. Conveniently, those more privileged, such as Dr. Epstein’s own children, have nothing to worry about. For them there will always be wilderness camps where they could be toughened up for a few thousand buck, while their parents are busy raising their “easy” siblings or doing whatever interests them more (see p. 103 of the book for context).

The above, however, is the worst-case scenario. I do not forsee anyone taking Dr. Epstein’s utopian recommendation of competence-based transition to adulthood. While age is indeed the legal barrier of entry into the adult society, it is a proxy not for general maturity but rather for a minimum set of skills. The demand for the actual competence in our fast-paced society changes daily. Therefore, formal degreed education remains a good benchmark for the person’s skills – and as time goes by, more and more education and related experience, including low level work, is needed to prove your worth. Obtaining one’s M.Ds and PhDs and building the CV takes time and effectively shuts young people out of the adult world.

The limitation of the young people’s entry into the society IMO stems not so much from cultural factors but from the structural ones. The western society is getting increasingly complex, while the basic resources, for the first time in the history of humanity, are available almost to all. In such situation, it is more rational for the society to keep some of its members idle rather than try and include them into the structure, jeopardizing its orchestrated work. A similar situation exists in ant colonies and in the communities of other social insects. In any ant hill, the majority of worker ants are idle. Young ants are taught nothing and instead are routinely chased away by older ants. Food is not a limited factor in the colony. But it is risky to disrupt the working groups, where leaders have proven themselves and everyone understands the hierarchial structure and works together. As a result, the young ants learn what they can on their own and create their own groups, which in the opportune times find ways to be useful for the colony.

In my view, the only way to combat the real problem of dysfunctional adolescence in the western world is being a counter-culturist within your own family. This means maintaining close and trusting relationship with your growing children, fighting the influence of media; encouraging your teens to homeschool themselves, take advantage of volunteer opportunities, facilitating their business initiatives – in short, helping them develop self-reliance, resilience and leadership qualities in a nurturing environment.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

so let me recap the whole Eric Pepin story -- it is unbelievable.

First, the guy barely gets out of the nasty lawsuit with molestation and sexual misconduct charges. He gets aquitted on the "reasonable doubt" shtick -- in other words, the defense succeded in painting his accuser as an untrustworthy character and confuses him into contradicting himself.

Obviously, as it is all occuring, this all is published in mainstream media, people talk about it.

People also talk about it on public internet forums. One such discussion occurs on the SOTT forum. People talk about whether his dubious meditation program works, quote the articles about him, make conclusions.

SOTT, if you don't know, is non-profit, and its whole existence is dedicated to public service of educating people about deviant personalities in politics, business and private life.

Pepin then self-publishes a news release where he describes the details of the court and says that his accusers have made it up -- of course, there is no way to check that independently


this appears on February 19th.

On March 5th the SOTT is served a lawsuit.

Around the same time the high-profile links in the guruphiliac blog, in which Pepin's trial is detailed in an unfavorable light, goes dead.

The caches are available for your consideration:

here and


Methinks Eric Pepin doth protesteth too much, as he seems to be instituting a total sweep of the dirt on him that's available on the Internet.

If anything has hurt his business and reputation, it is his own frivolous actions and the media attention to them, and not public discussion of those.

Getting together and talking, comparing notes and sharing information is the ONLY THING that people have in the face of corporate lies and deceit.

So yes, it is a free speech issue, and the precedent would reverberate widely throughout the Internet forums and communities.

Pepin seems to act like a bully. He must have been thinking that slamming people at SOTT with a lawsuit will shut them up. And yet, the opposite has happened -- there is more talk now about the whole affair than never before.

Whatever happens now -- he will regret it, because the informational spill can no longer be contained.

Bad call, Master Eric.

this is BIG:

Internet Free Speech Under Threat! Eric Pepin - Higher Balance Institute Sue SOTT for 4.47 Million Over SOTT Forum Comments!

by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Yesterday, as I was working on finishing up the next installment of the Comet Series of Articles, FedEx delivered a packet of mail from our corporate registered agent in the U.S. It was "Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial" filed in the State of Oregon by Eric Pepin's Higher Balance Institute, LLC. The reason? A discussion on the SOTT Forum that begins HERE.

Well, that was entertaining enough when you think about the fact that the discussion that he objects to was centered on several newspaper articles that describe his close calls with the legal system in Oregon over charges of sex abuse.

The legal document I received is 10 pages long so I'm just going to summarize it here. If you want to read the whole thing (it's hilarious beyond belief!) go HERE for the pdf.


Civil No.: CV '08-0233 HA


Limited Liability Company, dba HIGHER


California corporation, and LAURA
KNIGHT- JADCZYK, Defendants.

Plaintiff Higher Balance LLC, dba Higher Balance Institute ("HBI") files this Complaint against defendants Quantum Future Group, Inc. ("QFG") and Laura Knight-Jadczyk and alleges the following:

...defendants committed intentional torts that were purposefully targeted at HBI within the State of Oregon; defendants knew that HBI is a resident of the State of Oregon; defendants' tortious conduct cause HBI to suffer economic harm within the State of Oregon; HBI's claims arise out of defendants' activities relating to the State of Oregon; and the exercise of jurisdiction over defendants is reasonable in light of their intentional misconduct directed towards a resident of the State of Oregon.

As this Court has specific personal jurisdiction over the defendants, venue is proper in this district and division under 28 U.S.C 1391(a)(3)

General Allegations:

HBI is an Oregon-based company with over 40,000 customers from all over the world. HBI is dedicated to helping its customers relieve stress, reduce anxiety, and achieve emotional balance and spiritual enlightenment through meditation techniques. The majority of HBI's revenues are derived from the online sale of its books and CDs, which are designed to help its customers learn these meditation techniques.


Defendant QFG operates a website known as Signs of the Times ("SOTT"). QFG posts articles and sponsors forums regarding various conspiracy theories and allegedly corrupt organizations on the SOTT website.

Employees and agents of QFG, including defendant Knight-Jadczyk, serve as administrators and moderators of SOTT forums. QFG employees and agents, including defendant Knight-Jadczyk, post comments and analyses in SOTT forums. These employees and agents act within the course and scope of their agency for QFG when serving as administrators and moderators of the SOTT website and when posting comments and analyses on the SOTT website.

SOTT forums are available to the general public online.

...Many of HBI's existing and potential customers read the SOTT website as a source of alternative media....

FIRST CLAIM FOR RELIEF - Defamation - Libel

....Beginning in May 2006, QFG sponsored a forum on the SOTT website concerning HBI under the heading "COINTELPRO."

Beginning in November 2007, defendants intentionally posted several false, baseless, and derogatory accusations concerning HBI on the SOTT website including, but not limited to:

a. HBI is a "front for pedophilia";
b. HBI is a "cointelpro" organization;
c. Meditation, as sold by HBI, is an act of "falling into confluence with a psychopathic reality";
d. Those associated with HBI must be careful to avoid sexual molestation by HBI members;
e. HBI is conning the public;
f. "Fishy sexual conduct is occurring at HBI; and
g. HBI "leads people more deeply into sleep."

By posting these statements in a public internet forum, defendants have published and communicated false and baseless accusations concerning HBI to third parties, including existing and potential HBI customers.

Defendants' statements tend to subject HBI to hatred, contempt, and ridicule and tend to diminish the esteem, respect, goodwill and confidence in which HBI is held by the public and by its customers.

Defendant made these false statements with knowledge of their falsity or with reckless disregard for their truth.

As a result of defendants' false and defamatory statement, HBI suffered general damages in the form of loss of reputation in an amount to be determined at trial, but in any event, not less than $500,000. HBI has also suffered special damages in the form of lost income in amounts to be determined at trial, but in any event, not less than $834,732.

Defendants defamatory statements are still available to the general public on the SOTT website and are easily found through internet searches relating to HBI. Defendants conduct causes HBI irreparable harm, and HBI is entitled to an injunction preventing defendants' continued defamation of HBI.


Defendants intentionally gave publicity to matters concerning HBI that placed HBI in a false light before the public. etc

...economic damages ... not less than $834,732.

THIRD CLAIM FOR RELIEF: Intentional Interference with Economic Relations - Interference with Business Relationships

Defendant intentionally interfered with many of these business relationships by communicating the false and defamatory information listed...

...economic damages ... not less than $97,299.

HBI... has also suffered damages in the form of loss of reputation ... damages .... not less than $500,000.

...Defendants conduct was malicious and warrants punitive damages...

FOURTH CLAIM FOR RELIEF: Intentional Interference With Economic Relations - Prospective Economic Advantage

Defendant's interference has diminished the esteem, respect, goodwill, and confidence in which HBI is held by the general public, thereby hindering HBI's ability to obtain many new customers with whom HBI had a prospective business relationship. ... damages to be determined at trial...

...On its First Claim for Relief, that HBI be awarded general and special damages in amounts to be determined at trial, but in any event, not less than $1,334,732, and that defendants be enjoined from their continued defamation of HBI.

...On its Second Claim for Relief, that HBI be awarded damages in an amount to be determined at trial, but in any event, not less than $1,334,732. and that defendants be enjoined from continuing to place HBI in a false light.

...On its Third Claim for Relief, that HBI be awarded damages in an amount to be determined at trial, but in any event, not less than $597,299. plus punitive damages, and that defendants be enjoined from their coninued interference with HBI's prospective business relationships.

...On its Fourth Claim for Relief, that HBI be awarded damages in an amount to be determined at trial, but in any event, not less than $1,205,000 plus punitive damages, and that defendants be enjoined from their continued interference with HBI's business relationships.

... That HBI be awarded pre-judgment and post-judgment interest on all damages recovered.

...That HBI be awarded its costs and disbursements incurred in this action; ...

Harry and David demands a trial by jury on all issues so triable.

25th day of February, 2008.

Bullivant houser Bailey PC
Renee E. Rothauge
Chad M. Colton
Tel 503.228.6351
Attorneys for Higher Balance Institute

Whoah! That's some heavy duty stuff, eh? Sounds like we just ripped up on that poor guy for no reason at all!

But that's not quite the situation. The original article about Eric Pepin that was brought to our attention on page 5 of the above-mentioned forum thread read as follows:

A 39-year-old Aloha man who promises spiritual awakening through meditation books and CDs he sells on the Internet is facing sex-abuse charges.

Beaverton police Detective Mike Smith said Eric J. Pepin runs what appears to be a cult out of his Higher Balance Institute on Southwest Second Street in Beaverton.

Pepin was arraigned Tuesday in Washington County criminal court on one count of using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct, two counts of second-degree sexual abuse, and four counts of third-degree sexual abuse. He was released after posting $26,750 cash, or 10 percent of $267,500 bail. A trial was set for Sept. 12.

Using a child in a sexual display is a Measure 11 crime punishable by a mandatory minimum of 5 years and 10 months in prison.

Jamison Dwight Priebe, 21, who works for Pepin and lives at the same address in the 19600 block of Southwest Cooperhawk Court in Aloha, also was arrested on one count each of using a child in a sexual display and third-degree sexual abuse.

Priebe and Pepin turned themselves in at the Washington County Jail last week after a grand jury handed down secret indictments. Priebe was released after posting $25,375 cash bail and is awaiting arraignment Monday.

Smith said a man who is now 20 was 17 and working for Pepin when he allegedly was sexually abused at the Higher Balance office in the 11900 block of Southwest Second Street in Beaverton and at Pepin's former home in the city.

A call to the Higher Balance Institute on Wednesday was answered by a "Personal Star Reach Coach," who referred questions to Pepin's private attorney, Sam Kauffman.

"The charges are false, and we are confident Mr. Pepin will be exonerated," Kauffman said.

Pepin's Web site claims he has located more than 100 missing persons and runaways, along with U.S. Navy submarines, through a psychic ability he calls "remote viewing."

Pepin's meditation systems, which sell for $79 to $149, help customers develop their "sixth sense" and apply it "inward to awaken a dimensional universe within the mind," the Web site says.

According to an affidavit Smith filed with a request for a search warrant, the alleged victim told police that Internet customers who rave about Pepin's teachings are men and women usually older than 35. But, the man said Pepin told him he should recruit "good-looking men" between the ages of 18 and 24 to work for him.

The court record also says Pepin knew the man was 17 when he forced him to perform sex acts.

The boy, Smith wrote, "was taught by Pepin to believe that the sexual contact was only a spiritual necessity." But after a while, the affidavit says, the boy decided he was being used by Pepin, who bought him meals and paid him $200 after sex.

The man contacted Beaverton police in January.

Smith said anyone who may have had underage sexual contact with Pepin should call him at 503-526-2280.

Smith said the man accusing Pepin told police he met one of Pepin's followers at Beaverton Town Square in April 2004. He told Smith the recruiter invited him to meet Pepin and see him demonstrate levitation.

Pepin introduced himself dressed in a robe emblazoned with the words "Master Eric" and a triangular symbol and told the victim to take off his shirt, the detective said.

"It's a cult," Smith said, "anytime you have a guy who fancies himself as the master, the leader."

In another story from Associated Press found HERE, we read:

Beaverton police Detective Mike Smith said Pepin operated the Higher Balance Institute in Beaverton. Smith said the ornate robe emblazoned "Master Eric" turned up during a search.

Well, I've been falsely accused of trying to start a cult myself, so I might ordinarily have had sympathy for Pepin, but when I read the bit about the robe, I blew my tea through my nose. I guess that's why I'm such a failure as a cult-leader (aside from the fact that I'm not interested in the job) - I hardly ever wear anything other than sweats and bedroom slippers and spend all my time working!

In any event, even though a grand jury felt that there was enough evidence to indict Pepin, he was eventually acquitted in trial before a judge as the following report informs us:

Institute leader acquitted of sex charges

HOLLY DANKS - HILLSBORO -- A Washington County Circuit judge called the leader of a metaphysical Internet sales company manipulative and controlling and his testimony unbelievable, even as he acquitted him Wednesday of charges that he had sex with an underage boy.

Judge Steven L. Price, after a five-day trial without a jury, found Eric James Pepin, 40, not guilty of two counts of second-degree sexual abuse, four counts of third-degree sexual abuse and one count of using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct.

Also acquitted of third-degree sexual abuse and using a child in a pornographic display was Jamison Dwight Priebe, 21, who has worked for Pepin's Higher Balance Institute since he was 18.

"Everybody has stood by me who knows me," Pepin said Wednesday after hugging supporters. "They had faith in me, prayed for me. I told them I wouldn't let them down. I did nothing of what was alleged. I've been nothing but honorable and impeccable."

However, Price said it was "probable that the conduct alleged in all counts occurred," but he wasn't convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. "There's a lack of strong corroboration," such as a date-stamp on a videotape of the sexual encounter, the judge said.

The accuser testified Pepin had him take off his shirt the first day they met at Pepin's Beaverton home in April 2004.

"He was going to try and fix my energy and he needed me to trust him," the accuser said. Pepin touched the teen's "chakra points" on his heart, head and lower abdomen.

"Eric asked me to tell him everything I had done in my life that I was ashamed about," the teen added.

The accuser said Pepin asked him how old he was the first day they met and that he told him the truth.

"He said students had to be 18 because he didn't like parents fussing around," the accuser said.

But within days the two were having sex, including a three-way encounter with Priebe, the youth testified. Pepin called it "crossing the abyss," the accuser said, "surrendering yourself to your teacher, your master."

Pepin testified he is gay and has had sexual relationships with most of his 11 employees, but not before they were 18. Pepin said he gave his accuser a job, even though the teen was a poor worker, and continued to be intimate with him and give him money after he was fired, to help him out.

Stephen A. Houze, Pepin's private defense attorney, called the accuser a liar more than 100 times in his closing argument and noted that Pepin was "the perfect patsy" because society wants to believe the worst of a gay man. Houze said the accuser brought the charges because he wanted to shake down Pepin.

Pepin's Higher Balance Institute, now on Northwest Saltzman Road in Cedar Mill, reached an annual high of $2 million in Internet sales of meditation CDs, tapes and books before his arrest in July.

Pepin touts himself as a psychic and "remote viewer" who has found lost submarines and missing people, and says he created the "psychic pill" Magneurol6-S that enhances brain function, heals nerve damage, heightens paranormal experiences and relieves stress for $79 a bottle.

Andrew Erwin, deputy district attorney, called Higher Balance nothing more than a sex cult run by a "snake oil" salesman who preys on the troubled.

The accuser had nothing to gain by going to police and turned down $250,000 from Pepin to drop the sex charges, Erwin said.

"I'm disappointed," Erwin said of the verdicts. "The judge wants proof beyond all doubt and that's too high a standard."

And now, Pepin wants to sue QFG and yours truly for talking about these articles, published in a newspaper and scattered across the web (though all of them are no longer on the newspaper's website, wonder what's up with that?)!!

Notice that Pepin, himself, revealed his "sex cult" practices in his own testimony. We'll be trying to get transcripts of the trial to publish so our readers can hear it from the horse's mouth; stay tuned for that.

Notice also that Pepin's attorney, Houze, accused the victim of bringing charges because he wanted to shake down Pepin even though the kid turned down 250 K hush money offered by Pepin. Well, maybe that's what gave Pepin the idea of suing me. Only thing is, he's gonna have a hard time collecting his 4.47 million because I don't own a thing, live in a rented house, drive a used car and QFG rarely has more than a grand in the bank at any given time. When we have fund-raisers, the funds are used almost instantly, repaying loans and covering basic expenses for the site and equipment.

It's also humorous that Pepin is suing QFG which only sponsors a world-wide group of independent researchers who, together, make up QFG doesn't own sott, nor does QFG have any employees nor any official oversight of anything that the researchers say or do.

But the bottom line is this: Eric Pepin is convicted out of his own mouth of being a sexual predator. I mean, what kind of teacher of meditation says that he has sex with all his employees? And all of them young men?

Nope, we aren't backing down. We firmly believe, based on available official documents and court records, that Eric Pepin is a danger to innocent people looking for spiritual guidance. Obviously, young guys just looking for sex and money and a good time will be delighted to take his pills, listen to his tapes and attend his retreats. But the wider public who are not aware of these things in Pepin's background, who are not aware that even the judge who acquitted him regretted having to do so, and that the Prosecutor of the case was also convinced that justice had NOT been done, need to be warned about this sexual predator in our midst.

Maybe Eric Pepin will take down, we don't know. We don't have money for an expensive defense attorney, we barely stay afloat. But even if that happens (and we hope our readers will help us out now as never before), there are others who know and I don't think that Eric Pepin and all his minions can track down and silence all of them.

Even if you can't give to our legal defense fund, I will appreciate letters of support during this trying time. Write to sott(at) and I will try to answer each and every one.

And thanks to all our readers for your constant support and encouragement.

Comment: Oregon police say man abused teen in cult-like operation
"Two Aloha men arrested on sex-abuse charges"
Leader of Washington County Internet company acquitted of sex abuse
Sexual predators in the religious scene

Make no mistake about it: This is an attack on internet freedom and freedom of speech, plain and simple. If Eric Pepin were to win, based on the accusations in the complaint, it would set a precedent that would reverberate across the world. It would make anyone who had a different opinion or view of the world - other than that which is approved by the PTB - subject to suppression and censure. The issues of psychopathy and conspiracy are specifically named in the complaint as well as the connection between religion and making money. If this suit were to succeed, it would significantly chill further discourse about conspiracies, pathological deviance, mind control methods and real cults, including the Judao-Islamo-Christian dominator trio. It would be a disaster.

And so, I think we can begin to notice who is and is not interested in assisting us in publicizing this threat, what so-called "alternative news" sites or "conspiracy theory" sites are willing to come to our aid in facing this threat against all of us on the net.

Certainly there are people and sites that have felt the sting of our critique and we have felt theirs more than once. This is the watershed. As Martin Niemöller said:

"In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew;

And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."

It's time for those who stand for freedom of speech, for our First Amendment Rights, to speak up or forever be silenced. Because that is what will happen if Eric Pepin and the Higher Balance Institute prevail. He will create the precedent for total suppression for the PTB masters whether that is his intention or not.

and the most disgusting adoption ad award goes to ...

this one:

This is selfish, disfunctional and insulting to adoptees worldwide.

Children are not supposed to satisfy the emotional needs of adults. It is the opposite: adults are meant to support and nurture the children.

Sadly, the adoption discourse today often confuses the two. This ad only reflects what many people think adoption is all about.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Survival in Times of Uncertainty: growing up in Russia in the 1990-s

News about political upheavals, signs of impending economic disaster or projected natural catastrophes tend to generate strong “fight or flight” emotional reactions in readers. We want to sell all we own, run for the hills and barricade ourselves in a fully stocked compound -- preferably one with a bomb and meteorite shelter attached to it.

Major changes to our lifestyle are inevitable; yet the time frame and the exact way the changes will occur are uncertain, which only adds to our stress. To put some further food for thought out there, I would like to share what I remember from growing up in Russia during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the accompanying economic upheaval, i.e., during the time of high uncertainty. This will by no means be an exhaustive account. I was 10 when the Perestroika started in 1985. The economic situation got progressively worse, with the very worst hitting in the early 90-s. I admit I don’t remember things as well as I should have. Psychologically and physically, I was sheltered by my age and its petty egotistical concerns, by my parents’ effort to provide for the family, and by living in a close-knit community that had a lot of strength, spirit and intellectual resources. Now that I think about it though, memories and conclusions are coming up that I never thought about. Some of them are unexpected and counterintuitive to the prevailing survivalist mentality; but they may be relevant to the coming changes and end up being useful to someone.

The crisis in Russia was as much ideological as it was economical. People had to let go of everything they believed in, in an unconsciously religious sense. The history of the last 70 years and beyond was completely re-written in my school books, with good guys and bad guys switched around, by the time I was graduating from high-school. People have found themselves in the midst of a national identity crisis, with their cultural background being modified or erased, and together with it, their self-respect based on their country’s achievement. While neither the “democracy” nor the "free market” constitute a truly robust ideology for the masses, people in the US have a sense of entitlement and believe in the superiority in their way of living. Therefore, one might expect some confusion and disorientation when their illusion of the USA being the “beacon of light” for the world collapses in shambles.

The federal government used to plan and control every aspect of one’s life in Russia. While inefficient, it did provide a sense of security and self-righteous comfort. Now this way of life has disappeared in a flash, giving way to a very uncertain future. USA has long-lasting traditions of local control and the entrepreneurial spirit, but people in Russia had to learn those from scratch or rediscover within themselves. However, there was also an upside of the centralized government-run economy. First, there was no major housing crisis. Housing in the USSR was government-owned, and eventually was privatized by residents; quite a few fortunes made and lost, and individual tragedies happened, but the majority of people kept a roof over their heads. Second, not as many people were actually laid off from their jobs. The government institutions and services were hit very hard, the industry was at standstill, and some plants did close. Most, however, simply didn’t pay their workers money for months and there was very little work to do. But things were still moving, public transportation was working, and people still had access to basic medical care and services. In the US, the organizations and enterprises would function more efficiently, but if they don’t, people would simply be thrown out on the street.

The immediate bodily memory from that time that comes to mind is the sensation of cold. Cold winters, faltering heat, cold homes, cold classrooms in college; wearing coats in lecture halls and hallways, pen ink freezing. Warm clothes and small space heaters are a must-have :) Also, vitamins and supplements are great items to have on hand. I remember a large bottle of multivitamins from some western charity’s “humanitarian aid”, and how much better we felt after taking them.

By the time the Soviet Union collapsed in December of 1991, the retail stores were routinely empty. In the winter of 91-92, the starvation on a national scale was narrowly averted. In 1992, “The First Default” hit and the currency took a plunge, obliterating everyone’s savings. I went to college later that year, and my stipend, which long time ago was supposed to cover one's basic living expenses in a free student housing, was just enough to buy a chocolate bar.

To survive, people went to subsistance farming. Everybody had a "dacha" -- a small plot of land, sometimes with a summer house, sometimes not; whoever didn’t have one rushed to get it. A plot of land just over an acre, planted compactly with all kinds of things, plus a smaller plot of potatoes, fed the family of four through the year. Tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage etc were pickled and canned; berries and apples were made into jams and "compot" -- a kind of boiled sweet drink; potatoes and root vegetables were stored in a root cellar.

Those who, before the default, had put their money into tangible media, were able to do better financially. Foreign currency which retained its value was a popular choice. Also, it had proved useful to have at hand some valuable everyday items, such as alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate, followed by soaps, cosmetics, etc. These weren't used as much for bartering as a currency of its own for services rendered.

As I was thinking about this topic, I was struck by the following realization, counterintuitive but supported by evidence. The limiting factor in the survival, on both the level of the individual and the community, was NOT the ability to produce your own products and NOT even the available resources or lack of them. It was transport and infrastructure – the ability to trade, deliver your surplus elsewhere and from there get other things you need.

This is why the countryside and the small town in Russia took a very hard hit in the 90-s, and may never fully recover, as some say. One would think it should be exactly the opposite – people would have gone into the remote villages and lives off the land and the woods. However, even in the most self-sufficient household, one cannot produce or make everything he or she needs. And being in a remote location precludes one from delivering their surplus to other in a timely manner for trading or exchange, especially with the roads being as atrocious as they are (a problem endemic to Russia, but can be an important factor elsewhere as well). Plus, as the government budgets dry up, the collective farm go bust, the village school is closed, the general store (already empty) is closed; there is no library, no cars and no gas for them, no TV reception – in short, absolutely nothing to do other than to drink yourself into oblivion, making bad home-made vodka of your decaying surplus grain – and the sense of community is gone, people are getting away like rats off a sinking ship. The “dachas”, mentioned earlier, were a different matter – they were clustered in suburbs and used by town dwellers, and they were flourishing, but in the villages there are many deserted houses to this day.

A similar thing happened in small towns. E.g., in the town of where my relatives had resided (population 15, 000), the only industrial enterprise – an assembly line for radio-transmitters – had closed; the rest of the industry (a bakery and a milk and cheese processing facility) served local needs only. IN a town such as that, the roads are better, and one can bring in things to trade – but one can only sell as much as people can purchase, and people can’t purchase much since there is no other way to make money besides the meager salaries of teachers and doctors. Again, the sense of community weakens, people begin to leave.

Those who stayed back and managed to work in the new conditions: reorganize the collective farms efficiently, run their own personal farms, organize local industries (my relatives had a small fish-smoking plant that was making good profit) and revitalized their communities through those activities, did well though.

The lesson from this is that the desire to hide out in the boondocks results from a ‘fight or flight’ emotional response to a stressful situation, and in a long run is counterproductive. Instead, a survivor should network within the community, stay just close enough to major traffic routes, keep the transportation lines are open, and have some kind of vehicle in one’s disposal. A truck is good, if there is reliable fuel available (the rising prices of oil should be considered). A horse too, if things get THAT bad. It is best to be by a river or another body of water, it is very good to live by the bridge, ferry or a dock on one’s property, and a boat.

In the 90-s Russia, a lot of people who had bleak job situation and “no marketable skills”, as we would say, got involved in transport and trade, which serves to further emphasize the importance of infrastructure for survival. These people were called “chelnoki” (“chelnok” means “a shuttle”). One could recognize them by the giant striped plastic coffers they were carrying around. In the early days, somebody could board the train, go to the Chinese border, fill the coffers with mass-made cheap flip-flops or hair scrunchies, bring the back to town and resell for profit in retail or in bulk to other traders who would take it further. Other people went to Poland, Bulgaria or Turkey. Very soon, these importing operations became more centralized. Many traders would go to the bulk warehouses in bigger cities, buy whatever they specialize in, and take it to corner markets for miles around, reselling for profit.

This is where having a vehicle really comes in handy. E.g., an acquaintance’s family, through some scheme or other, owned a truck, the size of a small U-haul. At first, the parents were selling clothes form the back of the truck in the market. Later, the father began working as hired driver for a bigger operation, and the mother no longer had to work; with all that, they were earning noticeably more than college professors with extra income, and had no need for a “dacha”, being able to buy everything they need in the market. More often though, the trading, and whatever else, were done on top of the subsistence farming.

One thing that is important to mention is that the organized crime moved in VERY quickly to control all the trade and businesses. Mafia and gangs banded together based on location and\or ethnicity. Therefore, one shouldn’t be afraid so much of people with guns who come to take your food away, but rather of people who come with guns and demand a regularly paid share of your profit or surplus. This is another downside of survival in a remote location: pathocratic organizations can only be countered with an educated and decisive community effort.

To reflect the growing instability, in Russia, personal and corporate security grew as an industry. Many ex-army officers and military conflict veteran got involved into the security business. Self-defense items like Mace, electric shock devices, knifes were sold; martial arts and weight-lifting became popular. People were putting steel doors on deadbolts and steel bars on the windows on their apartments, not paying attention to fire safety. A lot of people got large dogs, a Rottweiler or a German shepherd (which really isn’t a good idea in small apartments), and insisted in training them to attack.

With organized crime comes, well, all kinds of vice and the surrounding industry – gambling, prostitution, drugs and human trafficking. The not-so-glamorous past of some of the top Russian fashion models goes back to those kinds of things. One should be aware of that and protect the most vulnerable in the community.

Another surprisingly counterintuitive point is directly linked to the above, or rather to the underlying general values and the self-serving aspect of the human behavior. The bare necessities were essential, for sure. But they weren’t things that were traded in the most visibly brisk way. Rather, those were the unessential items that symbolized status, from tiny trinkets like chewing gum to jeans, fox fur hats, and entertainment centers to luxuries like certain antics and such. A couple of recent studies, aiming at figuring out correlation between earnings and happiness, showed that isn’t so much the absolute income as the fact that you are earning more than your neighbor that makes people happy. Another reason may be that those things served as a measure of prosperity that made one feel that his or her hard work is paying off. Human nature, I guess. I remember in the winter of 93-94 walking around the city’s main street and going into a store – not the fanciest one either – just to stare at a bottle of liquor that cost more than 1 mln rubles. To get it into a prospective, my straight A monthly stipend was a couple of thousand rubles which could buy me a few large chocolate bars (things have gotten better since 1992 :)). Yet, there was that bottle, waiting for its buyer, and there were people in the city who could have bought it and probably eventually did. This could give us some idea as to what kinds of items may be useful in the coming economic crisis for the trade with the outside. E.g., animal breeders were doing well – and one could understand the demand for large guard dogs, but somehow even in the hardest of times there were people who would sink $100 (yes, dollars, i.e., many monthly stipends) on a rare Persian kitten. Some poor teachers or librarians were literally living off their pets, selling the litter and spinning wool out of the fur and down.

Personal survival and the survival of the family depended on a right mix of flexibility, on one hand, and staying true to oneself on the other. The more invested people were in their job-related identities and past achievements, the worse it was for them. In general, women fared better than men. The elderly were in trouble. When it came to the worldview adjustment, the middle-age men were hit hardest; too many were paralyzed with all the changes and were content to sit around in their cold and empty engineering or accounting offices, drinking tea or stronger drinks and swearing at the government. Oftentimes, it was their wives who buckled down and traveled the railroad with the striped coffers in hand. The birthrate plunged. The children who were born during that time exhibited more language delays and other learning problems (I have seen a crude estimate of 15-20% increase from early education specialists) than those born a decade before or after.

Younger men, those in their 20-s or early 30-s, took the plunge more often, going off the beaten career tracks and into either business or organized crime, or both, as it happened. Some of them were quite successful; I am not talking about oligarchs who had plenty of connections to begin with – just the average folk. Yet, presently, the life span of men in Russia is mid-fifties, 12 years lower than that of women, and there is another demographic gap among the males in their late 30-s and 40-s. A lot of the latter were simply killed off in gang wars of the 90-s; other are now succumbing from the delayed effect of stress: heart attacks and degenerative diseases.

In my community most people worked in academia or research. Those jobs were severely affected by the budget cuts and delayed salary payments. Yet, among the intelligentsia, leaving the academic career to trade goods in the market was viewed as selling one’s soul to the devil. Some people have disregarded that prejudice; and some of those who put a sincere effort in their new endeavors ended up being quite happy with their choices, not marred by their former collegues’ bitterness over their success in their less than noble pursuits.

However, those who stayed in academia approached the situation differently as well. Some just droned day in and day out, accomplishing little. Others looked for opportunities in the industry. A lot of professors and researchers were getting R&D contracts with governmental and business organizations, to help support their budgets. Still others refused to compromise and stuck to their principles of doing what you love, i.e., fundamental research, and doing it well. Those people made an effort to publish in international scientific journals, to go to conferences and make contracts there, i.e., to market their primary skills. From there, foreign grants and joint projects sprouted. It was common for a lead scientist to work most of the time overseas, and with these grants finance the research at home. Many people left and never came back, especially the young people who went to graduate schools and post-doc positions, and then to fulfilling careers abroad.

The value of education didn’t decrease. On the contrary, it increased, especially for certain professions. Often, these fads were misplaced and didn’t correspond to reality. When I was applying to college in early 90-s, many people wanted to major in business, economics or law. These degrees were considered prestigious, but had at the time limited further opportunities in academia, research or corporate work in a provincial town. In truth the most valuable major in my college ended up being geology and geophysics. It was the easiest to get into, but the graduates were snapped up by Russian and foreign corporations in the booming oil and related industry, to do the exploration of natural resources, and have on average done exceedingly well. This is an isolated example, but it does suggest that in times of economic uncertainty when trends can’t be fully unraveled, simply doing what you like best and resisting the peer and cultural pressure – in other words, trusting the process -- may be one’s best bet. And another sure bet, again, is providing infrastructure for people’s choices, whatever they may be: college prep tutors and foreign language teachers have done well for themselves, because no matter which major people choose to pursue, they still need to make the cut.

It seems that in order to survive AND THEN to live (which isn’t the same thing), sometimes you had to balance between being flexible and staying true to whatever your personal convictions are, and sometimes you had to make a hard choice between the two. The latter sometimes is the matter of changing one set of social conventions into another -- and that is a very big thing for many people -- but it can go even deeper to the very essence of the person, I think.

That choice could really go down to the bare bone when the going gets hard. Ernesto Che Guevara remembered the differences between the town dwellers and the villagers in a randomly assembled group of resistance fighters. When some things had to be abandoned, the town folk would leave behind food, but keep articles of personal hygiene, while the villagers would never do such a thing. Clearly, the town people considered the attributes of civilization more important for survival -- not only to help preserve their identity, I suspect, but also to ensure the continuity of societal order in the community via symbolic communication and sticking to their social roles and patterns of behavior.

My grandmother remembers a similar incident. She was coming of age during WWII, in a tiny remote village in the South-Asian part of the USSR. A few families were evacuated from big cities to their village. She remembers seeing them arrive and gawking at a young girl’s fancy coat and real mary janes, way too delicate for the rugged living out there. Later, that family ended up being very clumsy in their household work and seemingly unable to learn. Moreover, certain things they simply refused to do. They wouldn’t heat the house with dry cow dung (there really wasn’t anything else to do it with), saying that “it would stink up the food” (it didn’t), and preferred to sit miserably in their drafty home, cold and hungry. At the same time though, they kept their spirits up with reading, which eventually helped turn my grandmother onto learning and becoming a school teacher. My great-grandmother was barely literate and had little respect for books, but was very proud of her daughters who went to teacher’s college.

In a yet another case that I remember from a magazine article, a young Jewish woman talked about her time in a concentration camp; she was the only one in her ward to washed her stockings every day, as she was used to, no matter what. Other inmates were shrugging their shoulders at that, having abandoned any attempts to preserve hygiene to conserve energy. Yet, she was the only one in her ward to live to see freedom: almost everyone else died during a typhoid epidemic. Whether the washing of the stockings had anything to do with it is debatable, but the fact remains.

The ultimate intertwined dualism of the two choices is best expressed, I think, in the following two stories of survival. A reporter friend once had to interview an elderly woman, an Auschwitz survivor. That lady was one of the Dr. Mengele’s twins, a subject of vivisection. Her identical twin sister had died early from complications of those experiments, but that lady went on to live a fulfilling life. A reporter was amazed by her calm, quiet presence, and asked what gave her strength. The woman basically said that very early on, she looked at everything around (she was a young kid back then) and decided for herself right there that she and her sister would LIVE, and she’ll do whatever she needs to keep them alive; she decided she’d steal if she needs to steal, lie if she needs to lie, hide if she needs to hide, etc – and that’s what has helped her to endure the unendurable.

The opposite view is expressed by Solzhenitsyn in “The Gulag Archipelago”. He talks about feeling gripped by the survival instinct as soon as he got into that system, the instinct that makes one bow to the superiors or the criminal authorities and “market your skills” to them, hoping to deserve better treatment. Yet he is repulsed by this in himself, and talks with shame about having done doing that. Instead, he admires other people who kept their core dignity: professors that would have shared their knowledge with one another in prison cells between brutal beatings; people who strove to help others, neglecting their own interests, those who saw love and beauty around, despite everything, and those who attempted daring escapes against all odds. And it is almost as if, because of their effort and pure intent, sometimes these people got a lucky break -- but even if they didn’t (which I suspect still was the majority of cases), he still feels that they lives were full and meaningful. “Those who refused to survive, lived,” -- says he.

I don’t think it is possible to say which one is “right” – that would be determined by a particular situation, the moment, and the call from the Universe, if we attune ourselves to hear it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

2008 Iowa Caucus: a report from the trenches

This piece has appeared on Signs of the Times website:


Barak Obama has won the 2008 Iowa Democratic caucus with 37% of the popular vote, closely followed by Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, with about 29% each. Mike Huckabee has won the Republican Caucus, with 34% of the popular vote.

Here are some thoughts from an Iowa resident and a witness to the process.

The caucuses were packed! Long-time participants say they don't remember there ever being such a high voter turnout. The town was eerily empty after 6:00 pm, while in the precincts there was no parking for blocks around. A family member, who went to a local democratic caucus, said that there were more than 200 people from our small neighborhood alone, and she has seen almost no one at all that she knew, which is unusual. The same thing was happening in the local republican caucus, which was in the same building. And, once the caucuses started rolling, the decision has been reached very quickly - ours was one of the first in Iowa to come to a conclusion. In short, people seemed to already have made up their minds, and have come out en masse to show it.

Barak Obama's supporters were the most numerous, from all walks of life - middle-age people, college cheerleaders, elderly, young families. They radiated excitement and were obviously on a roll. A lot of young non-voters were there to observe, as well - it was truly a community affair.

Overall, I had two main impressions about the caucuses and the preceeding campaign.

First, both candidates who won, Obama and Huckabee, had the most grass-root support and had largely relied on it to win. Obama's campaign people have by this time bothered the living daylights out of me, having called every week, personally and with prerecorded messages; earlier in the day of the caucus they stopped by no less than 3 times with leaflets and caucus reminders.

Mike Huckabee had also come out of nowhere with very little funding and quickly gained ground because of volunteer support. I don't watch TV and therefore missed his controversial Christmas ad. But apparently he has been courting religious home-schoolers for support and volunteering (after all, they have large families and unlimited schedules; plus, volunteering for a candidate is a great practical addition to any social studies curriculum). However, people have been digging up his record regarding his stand on education, which is less than stellar from the home-schooling prospective.

First, during his tenure as an Arkansas governor, he signed a bill restricting home-schooling freedoms; and second, he has played both sides of the debate, managing to get the endorsement of both the Homeschool Legal Defense Association and their arch-enemy, a teacher's union. This has generated quite a backlash against him, judging from the discussions in my homeschooling groups. Additionally, the conservatives have begun to criticize him for only giving lip service to the traditional values while being a closet "liberal". Still, he seems to have generated enough momentum to rise to the top.

Second, the entertainment factor is really prominent in this election; moreover, it has never been as obvious that the so-called 'democratic process' is simply a part of the 'bread and circus' package for the masses. For example, as the caucuses are rolling across Iowa, there is an exhibit on the history of caucuses through the years in the State Historical Building - made as if to provide a perfect backdrop for the candidates' campaigning efforts.

In addition to that, a show called "Caucus! The musical", written by a local author and presented by local actors and comedians, has opened to rave reviews. It may be in your neighborhood soon, too, as a spin-off of the show is going to be performed during the New Hampshire primaries, and possibly also during the respective party conventions in Denver and Minneapolis.

It seems that Barak Obama, for whatever reason, is perceived as fresh, interesting and glamorous and is able to tap into this demand and stream of supply -- in other words, he has a high entertainment value and this is what drives his rise in the ratings. Otherwise you simply can't explain what's happening. Critics have pointed out long ago that Obama is a nobody with no political experience or accomplishments, that the average person knows very little about him (besides the random facts from his books, including former drug use and school failures, which he managed to spin off in a positive way), that his actual program is wishy-washy and status-quo oriented.

According to some analysts, he is a blank slate on which everyone seems to project whatever hopes and dreams they may have. With the help of the spirit of entertainment, it appears to work very well.

This shows on both corporate and grass root levels. Oprah has endorsed Obama and has personally campaigned for him in Iowa. Of all people, she knows what sells in the industry, and as many lucky people have already learned to their advantage, if she gets behind something, be it a book or a concept, it starts selling like hotcakes.

The grass root support, or, more accurately, perverse fascination, has produced projects like with its "Obama Girl" videos. The whole thing is a joke, or so they say, but the concept reflects some truth, as exemplified in the tongue-and-cheek slogan, "join the political party". The "fun factor" helps to sell both t-shirts and politics.

All of this suggests that many, many people are ready for a sweeping change and are willing to come out and do a show of hands for it - but, being unaware and asleep, they go by their instinctive, visceral likes and dislikes. Nobody votes on issues anymore, and not in the least because there are no real issues on the table by design.

Based on how the Iowa caucus went, I am wondering whether the 'powers that be' have a plan B just for this kind of situation. If both of the obviously evil candidates, Giuliani and Clinton - high on the Israel factor and backed by psychopathic corporations - are overturned by a populist tide and neither of them gets the nomination, then it is very likely that a festive match-up and a hair-split decision between two nobodies, like Obama and Huckabee, will be engineered. Meanwhile the normal sordid business of manipulation of the population will continue as usual. That is of course if this years Presidential election is not stolen out from under the noses of the American people much like the last two were.

All of it remains to be seen. Either way, the prognosis is not good for "the greatest Democracy on earth".

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


While the country is transfixed in horror and grief in the face of a terrible tragedy of the Virginia Tech shooting, nobody seems to be asking an obvious question:

this is SO incredibly improbable, WHO do they think we are to take it at a face value?

In a self defense class, I was told that if a gunman doesn't have a hold of you, your best bet is to run-- because the chance of him hitting a moving target is only about 10%, and even that is overwhelmingly likely not to be deadly.

Even if one practices enough at a shooting range, killing a real person is a while another matter. We have a deeply hard wired biological prohibition against killing, and it takes special training or circumstances to get over it. When it comes to killing a lot of people, circumstances alone are not enough -- one must be used to this kind of thing on a very deep instinctual level, to keep the heart rate down and all reflexes under control. Otherwise, to put it simply, the hands shake too much.

Because of this I don't buy that an average Joe could in a matter of minutes shoot to death 30+ people with a small hand gun that he bought a month ago. This is unhumanly accurate and efficient. This is triple the number of victims in the Columbine shooting (where there were two shooters with some serious bazookas in their hands), and double that of the Texas U massacre of 1966 (where the guy was shooting from the roof using a sniper's rifle).

He obviously has, or has been, trained.

My versions, from the most to the least likely:

1) he played a lot of first person shooter videogames, which are known to desensitize to violence;

2) he was trained in some secret op;

3) he wasn't the real shooter, or there were more shooters, and they are still at large.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

1) if one is in a relationship that one knows\feels isn't working out because of some deep running and subtle irreconcilable differences, or 'just because';

2) but one is afraid to make a move to end it (for the fear of hurting another person, or for the fear of change, or for the fear of being lonely, or for some personal gain etc);

3) than it is the same as covertly "asking" the other person to take the responsibility and end it;

4) than it is very likely that the other person WILL make that move, in a most inopportune time, and chances are pretty high that it will be ugly.

Hind sight is 20\20, but may be this lesson, learned from an old and all-out-wrong relationship, will help someone.

A fundamentalist Christian friend sent this to one of my groups:

> As a side note, we heard on the radio that a group
> of Jewish rabbies
> are looking for sheep to sacrifice in the temple.
> The Muslims have
> possession of the temple right now (from what I
> understand?) so this
> is a big issue. These 71 Jewish rabbies feel that
> Israel needs to
> get back to the sacrifice and they already have a
> red heifer (the
> first one they found was stolen or killed or
> something?). The 71
> rabbies are representative of the 70 judges that
> Moses had to help
> him rule the people of Israel. The Jews have not
> sacrificed in the
> Temple since AD 70. We know this has to happen for
> the last days
> prophecies to be fulfilled, because the antichrist
> will be the one to
> stop the temple sacrifices...3 1/2 years after they
> start (I think
> that's what I remember...correct me if I'm wrong).
> We have all
> heard that we are living in the end of times...but
> when we see the
> last of the last days prophecies being fulfilled, it
> really brings it
> home.

The big problem with this initiative is that the
Temple has not been rebuilt, nor are there any plans
to do so. Temple Mount isn't the same thing as the
temple of Jerusalem. It is a suggested location of the
two previously destroyed jewish temples, and also the
site of two major muslim religious shrines. As a
matter of fact, the Torah prohibits any person "from
entering the site of Temple Mount due to its

Thus, any sacrifices made in that area will represent
sacrelege. Those can only be done in the Temple.
Conservative Jews are taking offense at the blasphemy
of these sacrifices, proposed by what really is a
fringe, extremist group of rabbies.

A similar view is held by some orthodox Jews regarding
the beginnings of the state of Israel
( They believe
that repatriation of Jews in Israel was premature, as
it was led by nationalist secular forces, without an
expressive command from God. This opinion of 'the
true Torah Jews' certainly should be kept in mind when
considering israeli-palestinian conflict and Israel's
political stand in the world.

It is clear that someone is liberally using biblical
references to support a certain political agenda. It
is also clear that the Prophecy is being artificially
rushed to fulfillment. We may, and probably should,
ask two questions:
1) Why?
2) Who benefits?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Colin Wilson qrites in "A Criminal History Of Mankind":

Dominance is a subject of enormous interest to biologists and zoologists because the percentage of dominant animals -- or human beings -- seems to be amazingly constant. [...] biological studies have confirmed [... that ...] for some odd reason, precisely five per cent -- one in twenty -- of any animal group are dominant -- have leadership qualities." [...]

This animal connection is very interesting.

A corresponded told a following story that originally came from an article in some psychology or ethology magazine.

Baboons are highly hierarchial primates, where a dominant male basically mates with all females, and subdominant animals have no chance. A clan of baboons was observed in a national park. They lived by a hotel within the territory and regularly came to rummage in the daily trash, searching for scraps of food. As always, the dominant males were the first to eat, and others got whatever was left, if any.

One day, something was thrown out that has already gone bad. Dominant males, being first to feed, ate it all up and died. The scientists were very interested in observing what would happen to the population now. But nobody could have predicted the results. In the absence of dominant males, no one stepped up to take their position. The other baboons developed an altruistic society, where everyone was pretty much equal, and tended to the sick and the weak. What's still more interesting that the stray males who have joined the community later have also accepted those rules of the game.

These stories and others, I think, go to show that altruism and selfishness are two separate evolutionary paths.

The problem is that any explanations of altruism in animal studies is either trying to pin down some reason why it still may be USEFUL for the individual and the population in some way, or depict altruistic creatures as dumb or sick or, in general, unfit. Here is an example:

A 2-3 year old lioness 'Kamunyak' had adopted a Fledgling young Oryx calf. The news was treated with a lot of skepticism since an Oryx is a type of antelope upon which lions usually prey. [..] The lioness, nicknamed Kamunyak, or The Blessed One, by locals, had protected her adopted young from danger and had allowed them to nurse from their biological mothers. [..]Three years have passed and astonishingly Kamunyak, (the lioness' Samburu name), had in total adopted six Oryx calves. [..] Sometimes even to her expense as she could not effectively hunt so as to keep guard; a fact that emaciated her to a point of near death. [..]

There are several theories that have been proposed to explain this extra ordinary behavior of the female African lion.

1) The question has been raised whether this could have begun on a hunt with an unusually long game of cat and mouse, where after 24 hours she bonded with the calf. [..]
2) The Samburu people suggested Kamunyak is barren. [..]
3) She could have a serious hormonal imbalance, which is triggering this abnormal behavior with another species. [..]T
4) [..]If a lioness' rank affects their endocrinology perhaps a phantom pregnancy is a possible explanation.
5) [..]Oryx calves are remarkably similar in colour to the tawny coat of an African lion, and it is possible that once the lioness had locked onto the smell of "cub" in the calf then it's lack of a feline physique ceased to matter.

Consider also that Darwin was influenced by Smith and Maltus, i.e. economic and social theories of the time, and as shown by Ernst Mayer, his concept of evolution was essentially deductive. Looks like the very method used in biological studies is influenced by certain ideology that glorifies egoism, and, as a result, doesn't offer a concept of altruism as a choice of intrinsic value. Psychopathology everywhere -- no wonder they like game theory so much in population studies.
Another thing worth mentioning is that many equate egoism with general fitness, which implies that egotistic individuals are somehow better.

This is not necessarily true. As Colin Wilson writes: "Inevitably, a percentage of the dominant [types] have no particular talent or gift; some may be downright stupid.” This agrees with studies of sociopaths, natural human egotists. Their IQ is average or slightly lower, when compared to the population average.

This corresponds to what we see in animal studies. I have read recently in the Atlantic Monthly that because of new information, it is clear that a lot of animal communities a great deal more democratic than was previously thought. The leader, or a dominant, doesn't make decisions on when and where to take off and go to new feeding grounds, or to run away from danger. Animals just do it all together when a certain treshold percentage of individuals wants to turn that way, or when someone senses that something's not right.

Thus the 'leader' does not necessarily LEAD anyone. He is not necessarily smarter of wiser or more resilient. He is just bigger and stronger and gets advantage in mating. And the funny part is that he may be bigger and stronger not because of his genetic fitness, but simply because he has been pushing others out of the way all his life and getting more food than they did.

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