A human being was trampled to death by a crowd of “shoppers” stampeding into Wal-Mart this Friday. He was thirty-four years old.
This makes me feel sick, but it does not surprise me.
Since becoming Lost obsessed, I’ve started to fly differently. Once calm and comfortable with air travel, I now take special note of who is around me, and fearfully wonder who among my fellow passengers might make a good boar hunter and who’d be the first to suffer a fatal accident should we crash-land on a mysterious island somewhere in the south pacific…
I worry about comparatively more mundane accidents as well (like running out of fuel mid-flight and not being able to land safely, of getting large and destructive airborne objects caught in the engine and falling downwards through the sky). Or fires. Luckily, the Times provides tips for surviving that last dreadful scenario.
They’re few, and pretty obvious: sit in an aisle seat within five aisles of an emergency exit. But it’s nice to know numbers.
Passengers sitting towards the front of the aircraft had a 65 per cent chance of escaping a fire, while the survival rate for those at the rear was 53 per cent. The survival rate in aisle seats was 64 per cent, compared with 58 per cent for other passengers.
The study found that the passengers who died were on average sitting more than twice as far away from a usable exit as those who survived. Some of the dead, most of whom were killed by toxic fumes, were sitting 15 rows from the nearest usable exit.
Now don’t be fighting me for those seats!
Actual headline: “Whales Suffer From Loneliness Due to Over-Hunting, Might Lose Will to Live.”
Well, that’s certainly the most heartbreaking news I’ve heard today. From the article:
. . .According to Yves Paccalet, a French naturalist, over-hunting is causing loneliness in the surviving whales and can even make them “lose the will to live”. The highly intelligent and sociable mammals could be “so exhausted from their combat with humankind that they have simply have given up the fight,” according to him.
Paccalet, who worked with world famous marine pioneer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, explains: “To reproduce, whales need a large number of individuals to ensure that they meet, frolic and excite each other. Otherwise, the species may give in to a kind of sexual melancholy and simply stop breeding.”
There is absolutely no excuse for this.
Photo from gwooford’s Flickr photostream.
THINGS I WANT TO ASK WHILE I STILL CAN* (UNEDITED)
What is your favorite song?
Who was your closest friend?
What is your single favorite book?
Single favorite artist (in any medium)? Or piece of art?
Why did you marry him? Were you in love?
Did he break your heart? Did you break his?
Why didn’t you ever remarry?
Were you ever in love with anyone else?
In what city were you happiest?
What were the names of your grandmothers?
What decisions do you regret?
What decisions do you not regret at all?
What is the most important thing you have learned from life?
Do you believe in God? Has this changed over the years?
Do you believe in ghosts?
Do you believe in fate?
Do you know that I’m a lesbian? Do you care?
Do you care that my girlfriend isn’t Jewish?
Do you hate that I’m American?
What is your worst memory?
What is your best memory?
What pieces of knowledge do you most want me to pass on to your great-grandchildren?
What do you think is most important? Least important?
Whom do you think of at dusk while listening to sad music?
What do you dream about? What dreams, good or bad, do you remember?
In what language do you usually dream?
Have you ever had a supernatural experience?
Have you ever almost died?
What is the story of my mother’s birth?
What are the great recurring themes, images, or questions of your life?
What is the story you tell yourself? (about anything)
And what is your favorite flower?
* But probably will not. God forgive me.
Coco Wang has been collecting stories of rescue and attempted rescue of those hurt, injured, and killed by the recent earthquake in China and turning them into powerful comic strips which tell tales of painful determination, sacrifice, and even humor. The stories shine through the simple style and the medium; lots is conveyed very quickly and seemingly effortlessly. Check them out.
This is what it comes down to.
For those of us who find ourselves in positions of power, there is exactly one right course. There is only one acceptable use of power. We must protect those who cannot protect themselves. We must help those in need. We must never, never, use our might to harm those weaker than ourselves. This is our unshakable obligation. This is the one just use for strength.
And that is exactly where we have failed as a species. That is why the damage we have done to the biosphere is so wrong. Forget that we have plundered and destroyed the pristine and the beautiful, forget even that we are endangering our own children: the havoc we wreak on the planet is wrong because we chose to use our power in the wrong way. We could have done better, but we didn’t — we chose not to.
We are the stewards of the Earth. This is not because an omniscient creator-god made us so, gave us dominion over the animals, but because it is humandkind, alone among creatures, with the incredible power to change, pollute, pillage, and destroy the world. No one can deny that we posses this power. We are, so far, incredibly powerful. Alone among species, we control our fate, and the fate of all of creation. We can and we do overpower non-human animals. We can and we do destroy ecosystems, contaminate water and air supplies, turn forests into deserts.
This makes us the stewards of the Earth. We must be the stewards of the planet, for the only alternative is to be its oppressors. We can be caretakers or we can be despots.
There is, of course, exactly one right choice. What is the right choice when an adult encounters an infant? What is the right choice when a child plays with a kitten? When one comes upon a person who is badly hurt?
We must be guardians. If we fail in this regard, we have failed as human beings, exactly as parent who kills a child has failed as a father or mother.
Edited to add on: And so power, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. Power can be an incredible force for justice, when used that way.
That’s not to say that unjust power imbalances — like say, between genders or races — are ever okay, or can ever be a force of good. But those that are unavoidable, such as the gap between parents and children, or between people and fish, can be very good. I don’t believe we will ever have egalitarianism amongst species, but I don’t believe we have to in order to have liberty and justice for all.
Permalink Comments Off on On Stewardship And A Just Use Of Power
I am not usually one for conspiracy theories. I do believe that we landed on the moon, that dinosaurs no longer walk the earth, and that it was a single crazed gunman who murdered John F. Kennedy. Feel free to disagree with me on any point. However, the main conspiracy theory that I do put validity in is that cars are part of the root of modern day evil. I understand that this is not a commonly held belief, and my disclaimer on these posts is that it is MY belief, and I am not asking anyone to share it, simply to consider it as another point of view.
There will be more evidence to back me up later, but for now let me present point in case number one, straight from Boing Boing, namely that cities make red-light cameras more profitable by making them less safe.
Red light cameras cause more accidents, and not just because drivers slam their brakes to avoid getting a robo-ticket — also because the optimal money-making strategy for red-light cams is to make them less safe.
If city planners want to reduce traffic accidents at intersections, the best practice is to make the yellow last longer and insert a pause between the red signal on one side and the green on the other. However, if the objective is to make as much money as possible from red-light cameras, the best thing to do is shorten the yellow signal, eliminate the pause, and enrich the city coffers (even as you kill its citizens).
Leftlane reports that six cities have been caught turning down the yellows to make more money.
originally Via /.
Everything about cars, from the manufacturing to the safety measures to why we even need them, was guaranteed made for maximum profit and NEVER for maximum safety. I am not saying that cars are made specifically to be UNsafe, per say, but it is certainly never the first consideration. It is always about money. Human life is assigned a certain amount of cash value, and if the car companies will lose more than that total cash value amounts to by implementing certain expensive safety measures then they will not do it, and a preset percentage of people will die. And they know this beforehand, and it doesn’t matter, because their life is worth less than the amount of money it would have taken to build better set-belts, or a stronger car frame. And the above link supports evidence that even a cities’ government would rather increase the risk of automobile death or injury in order to be able to fine unsafe drivers rather than using sane, rational methods to cut down on dangerous driving entirely.
This lovely rant will probably be continued.
First off, for information about the struggle of the Tibetan people and the worldwide effort against the Chinese occupation and of Tibet in exile, check out Students for a Free Tibet, an international, widespread organization started by students in 1994 and dedicated to the cause of the Tibetan people ever since.
For more on China’s response and the riots in general, check out coverage from Aljazeera.
Permalink Comments Off on Tibet in Crisis
I found myself writing a book review for class today and figured it was high time we had another one of these, so this one is serving double duty.
If you’re only going to read one book about the Holocaust, make it The Diary of Anne Frank (I prefer the Definitive Edition). If you’re going to read two books, though, you should read The Kingdom Of Auschwitz, by Otto Friedrich. It’s concise, complex, and powerful. I read the entire thing while listening to In The Aeroplane Over The Sea; I recommend you do so as well.
The review, most of it below the fold:
“The truth about Auschwitz?” Józef Cyrankiewicz once reflected. “There is no person who could tell the whole truth about Auschwitz.” (Friedrich 102)
The Kingdom of Auschwitz, by Otto Friedrich, is not a new book — it was first published in 1982. During the last twenty-six year, however, is has only grown more relevant. In this moment of constant demonization of the other by zealots in both Middle America and the Middle East, Friedrich’s is one of the few messages with the power to stop people in their tracks before we go any farther along the road that leads to atrocities. Friedrich’s complex portrait of evil does not fall into the convenient and dangerous trap of disregarding Nazism as aberrant or insane. He does the brave thing, exploring the humanizing idiosyncrasies of Auschwitz. Friedrich’s point is that there isn’t a clear point to be inferred, that we must make room ambiguity and live with the unknowable — valuable insights for those who would attempt to understand the word by reducing it to separate spheres of good and evil.
Friedrich explores the many perplexing events surrounding Auschwitz. One particularly impenetrable happening occurred in May of 1944, when Adolf Eichmann made a deranged offer to the Allies. Hungarian Jews were about to be transported to Auschwitz; Eichmann announced that all of them could emigrate freely in exchange for ten thousand military trucks from the allies (68). Joel Brand, working on behalf of the Joint Distribution Committee — an American nonprofit helping to move European Jews — desperately tried to convince the Allies to comply, but they would not (68). Brand’s attempts were very much in vain: “Even while Brand’s hopeless negotiations continued, there was no interruption in the trains to Auschwitz” (68).
This anecdote is a microcosm of the larger story of the death camp as Friedrich tells it. Eichmann’s offer was crueler for its suggestion of mercy, for the Allies could never accept it. Brand’s efforts were obviously futile, yet he could not abandon them with some 400,000 lives (66) hanging in the balance. The Allies response was brutal — how could the lives of forty innocent people be worth less than one truck? Yet they had no real choice. Read the rest of this entry »
Permalink Comments Off on Dead Tree Book Log: The Kingdom Of Auschwitz by Otto Friedrich
19-year-old Medhi Kazemi left Iran to study in Britain in 2005. In 2006, a boy with whom he’d been in a relationship in Tehran was arrested and hanged for sodomy. Afraid to face a similar fate should he return home, he appealed for asylum in Britain but was denied his claim because Britain’s Home Office does not believe that a return to Iran poses a serious threat to Medhi Kazemi’s life. It does.
Medhi sought refuge in the Netherlands for a while, but was denied asylum there too and is to be sent back to the UK where, due to the international campaign that has arisen to demand safety for him and countless others who would be persecuted for their sexuality, a temporary stay on Medhi’s deportation has been announced…but he’s not yet in the clear.
Check here for more info, petitions to sign and notice of other opportunities for action to take on Medhi Kazemi’s behalf.
Alert via God is for Suckers!