Desert

The mystic landscape is the desert. Where the indomitable spirit flourishes and the imperfect turns to dust. There is a lot of sand in the desert.

The endless sky gives refuge to the imposing sImageun and moon. Pagan rituals honor it for its greatness. 

In the desert, animals hide under brush and atop cacti. The Saguaro cactus can withhold many gallons of water for extended periods of time. Ask the Code Talkers.

Much can be said about desert rain. Its fragrance surpasses the most expensive Parisian perfumes … The Creosote bush is the Chanel Nº 5 of the desert.  The overwhelming feeling of joy one gets as the desert sky starts to cry, lash out, and scream.

All that is in the desert is hidden by what is not here. You must look past what isn’t to see what is.

In its empty skies you see the sun set. Through the bare basin you see magnificent mountains. Within the beige you see the green of plant life and pigments of flowers. Engulfed by its silence are the songs of sparrows, rhythms ofrabbits running, and balancing of your breath. As you look out to the desert, you see a reflection of yourself. As if you were looking into an elusive desert pond; seeing yourself looking back at you.

.uoy ta kcab gnikool flesrouy gniees;

Advertisements

Being

I waited 30 secs. for something to happen – then realized nothing ever would.

Not sitting on a park bench or in a railway station, a briefcase not in my hand.

I did not own a trench coat or a hat.

I was not looking down at the pavement.

I didn’t smoke.

 

A group of men made music.

They had no instruments.

They did not sing.

They walked and talked on their cell phones.

It was bad music.   

Questions Involving a Cosmopolitan Utopia

Is a perfect society for “citizens of the cosmos” a juxtaposition? Can a Cosmopolitan Utopia exist? Will disagreements about ethics lead to the utopia’s dismal end? Is a cosmopolitan utopia, in fact, an oxymoron? Universalists (being counter-cosmopolitans) dream of their utopian society with a single moral fabric – therefore, is a utopia, to a cosmopolitan, a dystopia?

If we lived in a cosmos were utopian society was more then a hypothetical, would a Cosmopolitan version exist? To Kwame Anothony Appiah, a professor of philosophy at Princeton University, “cultural purity” which is necessary for a Utopia to exist “is an oxymoron” (Appiah 113) in itself. For a utopia to be a utopia, there must be uniformity and absolute societal morals in the community. Therefore, to a Cosmopolitan (along with all individuals, even including Sir Thomas More, because his perfect society was labeled as “no place” in Greek) a utopia (and subsequently “cultural purity”) can’t exist in the form of a Cosmopolitan Utopia.

Also, a Cosmopolitan Utopia can’t exist because for “the counter-cosmopolitans … universalism issues in uniformity” (Appiah 145). With uniformity in beliefs being essential to a utopia and to the bedrock of counter-cosmopolitan (or universalist) philosophy, the uniformity required for the existence of a utopian society entails that a cosmopolitan utopia is itself an “oxymoron.” According to Cosmopolitans, there are “some basic mental traits that are universal … [and] normal everywhere” (Appiah 96). Is there enough shared moral fabric, however, between all humans in the world to create a microcosm where a cosmopolitan utopia would flourish?

If we were to rewrite the definition of utopia, to were there is a limited uniformity among the beliefs of the citizens, this arises an interesting question. Are we currently living in a Cosmopolitan Utopia? Along with every society that values tolerance? If so, is a cosmopolitan utopia the only plausible “perfect society?”

If a cosmopolitan utopia was to exist, although it appears that the idea of a utopian society is in fact a dystopia to a cosmopolitan, how much strife between two or more belief opposing cosmopolitan utopian micro-societies would be present, and would opposition – or lack of agreement or consensus – between these groups create trouble for the long-term well-being of the utopia? Some would say that “conversations about values”, among the opposing beliefs systems in the cosmopolitan utopia, “are bound to end in disagreement rather than creating understanding” (Appiah 67). The answer is no, however, disagreement among values will not lead to strife. This is because if the utopia was composed solely of cosmopolitans, cosmopolitans understand that “conversation doesn’t have to lead to consensus about anything, especially not values” (Appiah 85), and therefore conflict will not result from a lack of reached consensus.

Citations taken from Kwame Anthony Appiah‘s Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers.  

Ears of Winos, Flesh of Man

In eighth grade, I didn’t have much of a social life.  While most kids were out with friends, I’d be found nose deep in 150 Classics for Romantic Guitar.  My best friends were Mauro Giuliani and Francisco Tárrega; classical guitar was my religion.

The guitar made family dinners a rare occasion in my household.  Most frequently I was fumbling a frozen dinner on my lap while I played.  The guitar: my dinner date (oh, sweet Jasmine!).

Despite hundreds of hours of running up and down scales, I wasn’t much of a performer.  I feared the thought of others assuming me as ostentatious.  Because of this, my only audience was a group of wine-tipsy patio-goers at a small Cuban restaurant.  Frequently, my loving audience would rather socialize about hairstylists and Maseratis than listen to me.  Still, my music found refuge in their ears, but not in their hearts.

Why would they want to listen to a thirteen year old play Tárrega?

They didn’t. They didn’t listen to me, I didn’t play for them.  We only sat close in proximity.   Listening and hearing are two different universes.

There was a mutual agreement among the two parties – the winos and I – I filled their night with music, and I gorged on their hesitant applause (is he finished yet? Are others clapping? I don’t want to clap early and interrupt the song.  I don’t want to embarrass myself like that).

So then, why did I play? I know I didn’t for accolades, or because my mother made me.  I didn’t for scholarships, or to become a professional.  One reason, I guess, is that it was a self acclaimed identity.  I was a guitarist, that’s what I knew myself as.  I had to play, because if I didn’t, I would seize to exist as myself (in my eyes).  If I had quit, I would have been only a B average student attending some second-rate junior high school in Phoenix.  There are ten million of  those lounging around already! So to be me, John Hunter Tromp Priniski, I had to play the guitar. But behind this burden rested a passion (which rooted itself in the flesh of a man).

I also loved proving my guitar teacher wrong.  He would often say to me (on scores of music I was aspiring to play), “This piece is too difficult, let’s go to one earlier in the book – it’s easier.” So, to prove him wrong, I would put in hours of practice (pushing my homework into the late hours of the night) to play that more (difficult) piece for him at my next lesson.

Like clockwork, after I finished playing the song for him, 91 year old Gabe would lean back in his old wicker chair and break out into raspy laughter and applause.  The only applause from my younger years that I cherish from my younger years.

Those are my fondest memories.  Let him rest in peace.

I have lost the spark of my passion, the heat of my flame.  I maintained an art that (for so many years) went unnoticed.  I, and my music, was elusive to nearly everybody.

My playing is more public than ever now.  People applaud me sober.  But the passion that pushed me forward in years past (“The Gabe Years”) is now dead.

It is no more.  It lived its life, and reached its end. It lived in the ears of a dozen winos, and died with the flesh of a single man.  I, like us all, should move forward.

Sources

Bradsher, Keith. “China Said to Weigh Plan to Deal With Failed Banks.” New York Times 14 Dec. 2012: n. pag. Print.

“Doing Business in Guizhou.” Doing Business in Guizhou. Ministry of Commerce The People’s Republic of China, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.

Donaldson, John A. “Why Do Similar Areas Adopt Different Developmental Strategies? A Study Of Two Puzzling Chinese Provinces.” Journal Of Contemporary China 18.60 (2009): 421-444. Humanities International Complete. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.

“Economic Policy.” Country Report. China 3 (2012): 14. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.

Gang, Yi. “China Inflation Cools Amid Signs of Stable Economy Growth.” Bloomberg Businessweek [New York City] 16 Oct. 2012: n. pag. Print.

“Guiyang Economic and Technological Development Zone.” Guiyang Economic and Technological Development Zone. China Knowledge Press, June 2011. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.

“Guizhou.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6Th Edition (2011): 1. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 5 Dec. 2012.

“Guizhou Province.” CBW: Guizhou Province. Chinese Business World, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.

“Guizhou Province Profile.” Helosina.com. CLIPE, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.

Jie Wu, et al. “Gender Inequality And Poverty In Asset Ownership.” Chinese Sociology & Anthropology 40.4 (2008): 49-63. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.

Lodish, Emily. “Thousands Protest in China’s Guizhou Province.” Global Post 12 Aug. 2011: n. pag. Web.

“Macro Regulations Indispensable to China’s Economy.” China.org.cn [Beijing] 9 Jan. 2012: n. pag. Print.

Pan, Philip P. Out of Mao’s Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008. Print.

“Women Play Big Role in China’s Economy.” China Daily [San Francisco] n.d.: n. pag. Web.

Wright, Daniel. “The Other Side Of China’s Prosperity.” China Business Review 26.5 (1999): 22. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 5 Dec. 2012.

“2005 Nanning International Conference On Sustainable Urban Development.” Experiences of Guizhou Province In Urban Construction and Management (2005): 1-9. Apr. 2005. Web.

A Blueprint for Development: Cultivated People Don’t Work the Land

One of two solutions must be reached to allow Guizhou to develop.  Both entail that the Chinese Communist Politburo must cultivate the human capital of the entire society in order to develop the freedoms of those in the Guizhou Province,   By doing this, new opportunities will arise and bring forth agricultural prosperity in the countryside, and economic development in the cities.  These opportunities consist of government-based corn subsidies, a stronger system of education, and a more ongoing relation between Beijing and Guizhou’s provincial leaders. The second plan states that Beijing must implement new agricultural cultivation technologies, such as those that already exist in the United States today, in Guizhou, while re-regulating rural-urban emigration policies, and by provide the citizens with more manufacturing jobs and a stronger system of education.

Of the two plans, the second will bring more prosperity in years to come because it emphasizes removing people from the countryside – where a majority of Chinese poverty resides – and bringing them to the cities – where nearly all economic activity occurs.  However, this is not as easy as simply busing people into cities and immediately putting them to work.  The process begins by allowing people to expect that jobs will be available, and by allowing the government to expect taxation revenue.  In order to accomplish this goal, the government must monitor potential job openings, and carefully document people coming into the cities.  The government will then be able to determine how much work is available, and prepare the city for those incoming residents.  In cases where companies are unable to grow due to economic circumstances, the provincial government will offer public sector jobs for the cities’ immigrants.  Similar to Roosevelt’s plan in the United States in the 1940s, a government based work market not only give jobs to those unable to find it in the cities, the program will also help improve the cities’ infrastructure, which is in a current state of despair.

Today, innumerable Chinese citizens flock to local cities for work, but go unmonitored by the government.  As a result, they don’t pay any form of income taxes.  This tax-population imbalance puts a massive strain on public entities – such as roads, buses, other means of transportation, and public safety authorities like the police and fire departments.  There are too many people and not enough tax returns.  In order for the system to be effective, when the Chinese immigrants come to work in the cities, a system of documentation must have been established in order to collect taxes from every single individual.  By allowing these rural urban-goers into the cities, China will become more productive, because many will be producing more goods in the cities then they would in the countryside as farmers.  This will raise the country’s real gross domestic product.

Despite the massive influx of rural immigrants, many people will still remain in rural villages.   Therefore, the system of agricultural production currently in practice in the countryside needs to be improved.  Development of a system for educating the farmers on modern farming technologies and techniques will help them become more efficient in agricultural production.  This program will ease  the reliance on child labor in the rural workforce and allow more children to go to school.

Along with the establishment of an agricultural school, a water retention system must be developed in the villages.  This fashion of machinery will be cheaper than the water pumps already operating in the cities.  Water retention technology will allow farmers to hydrate their dry land.  Along with educating the people on new agricultural technologies, farmers should be taught about the basics of trade and other simple economic ideas.  Similar to an elementary macro-economics course, the farmers will earn how to trade their goods and remaining crops in the marketplace to return a profit.  Such basic skills will help the farmers develop a life with an expendable income.

Farmers who partake in school will be subsidized for their actions.  If they go to school for one hour daily, they will be reimbursed for time spent in the classroom.  These education subsidies remove the disincentive of losing possible income.  The longevity of this institution is finite because these basic skills will be taught to the elementary students in their schools.

In this context, educating the youth is even more vital for long-term development.  Provincial-level policy makers must remove regulations that require families to pay a fee beginning each school year.  This fee currently prohibits many children from going to school, and precludes their positive contribution to society.  A reality based curriculum should consist of a vocational track, while gifted students receive a more progressive and rigorous education.  These two educational tracks will allow the majority of students to obtain specific skills that will allow them to develop their rural villages, while encouraging academically motivated students to develop China economically as a whole.  The Vocational Education track will teach students the skills enabling them to communicate in Mandarin; because any local dialect would not suffice as the means of transcultural communication.

Elevating one’s human capital, most commonly completed by educating the youth, is crucial for development.  Guizhou, for example, people don’t have the educational resources necessary to cultivate their full potential.  In this case, knowledge of how to cultivate the land, work for a company (most frequently jobs in manufacturing), and the ability to use the official language of the People’s Republic of China are the means of acquiring the goal –  the ends being the liberation from poverty.

Despite the potential economic growth destined to be brought from these changes, if China remains undemocratic, growth, as seen previously with the collapse of the Soviet Union, will be limited.  China’s economy is like a skyscraper built on a poor foundation.  China’s foundation consists of a plethora of “unfreedoms” (Sen) deeply intertwined in modern society, the faulty GDP reports, and unsafe working conditions – seen quite specifically in the coal mines of the Shanxi Province, where dozens lose their lives weekly (Pan).  These faults seem to envelop all of China in a dark plague, leaving a billion plus citizens in an omnipotent socialist shadow.  How can China continue economic growth when the country is built on stilts?

Through education and opportunity, the cumulation of human potential in Guizhou is almost infinite.  By giving every child an education, and then later on, offering them work opportunities, a human capital deficiency will no longer be an issue in the province.  If the means of work opportunities and a strong educational foundation are met, the ends of social and economic development will be reached.

Dehumanizing Smoke: Who (what) are the components of dehumanization?

Before we recognize components of dehumanization, we must first understand our humanistic components.  We must acknowledge the (human) qualities before we reckon those who removes them.  This question, however, (what makes us human) has baffled philosophers for two-and-a-half millennia, therefore, by transitive logic, it is very hard to pin down the exact causes of dehumanization; but in Wiesel’s Night, the causes of dehumanization becomes somewhat clear.  Elie uses succinct sentencing to analyze these forces that killed God in the soul of a child (Wiesel xix).

 

Hitler wanted to eradicate a race.  Those he didn’t send to the crematoria, but rather to the work camps, found much of their human qualities disembodied form them. The first night at the camp Wiesel claims that he had ceased to be a man, that the prisoners all became “different people” (Wiesel 37).  Later Eliezer’s name was taken from him, and replaced with a number: A-7713.  “From then on, [he] had no other name” (Wiesel 42).  Once a boy committed to “the idea of studying Kabbalah” (Wiesel 4), at the camps young Wiesel forgave his religion, and forgot his god.  

 

Human attributes “deloused” at the gates of the camps include those of culture (religion, ethics and beliefs, customs, holidays, etc.), identity (our sense of self, character, our name, belongings, etc), and human emotion (compassion, sympathy, love, etc.)  These absences of humans in the camps, if you will, is exemplified by Elizer’s “ceasing to pray” (Wiesel 45), the Polish “Blockalteste [being] removed … [for being] … judged as too humane” (Wiesel 44), fellow prisoners turning on one another: such as Idek “venting” his fury on Elizer.  Throwing himself on him like a wild beast (Wiesel 53), and the forgiving of personal belongings: leaving all that they carried behind on the cattle cars (Wiesel 28). 

 

Through the lens of Wiesel, the hard question has been answered.   At the camps

 

culture (religion, ethics and beliefs, customs, holidays, etc.);

identity (our sense of self, character, our name, belongings, etc); 

and emotion (compassion, sympathy, love, happiness, etc.)

 

was removed from the souls of the prisoners.  With those three (human) characteristics absent, they were dehumanized.  But what was the cause of their dehumanization?  

 

Throughout Night, Wiesel constantly references the smoke spewing from the crematoria’s chimney.  At the camp, words embody a different connotation (Wiesel ix), a different (symbolic) meaning.  Those under the smoke’s shadow was constantly reminded of their loved ones, and of the ten-million innocent souls, who were persecuted by their very own oppressor.  Those deaths remained as real as the smoke itself.  The smoke was a reminder of the fate they all lingered so close to.  It was the last of their loved ones.  It was the end of their heritage.  But It was only smoke.  Dehumanizing smoke. 

 

How to Deal With Monsters (for we are all one)

What am I to do

about the monstrousness of man?

“Never forget” our victims?

How does that suffice?

 

But to “never forget” must be enough,

because it is all I can do.

For I cannot undo the fabric of time,

and cherish a soul once in despair.

 

So, we shall push forward!

If we linger – even after death –

(although their souls embody the flesh of rabbis and humanitarians in this generation)

they’d be crowned victorious once more.

 

For it’s our obligation:

to the forgotten and deceased,

living and cherished,

to “never forget.”

 

Because if forgotten,

they’d be ash once more.

Silenced by us; murdered by them,

left floating in the night sky.

 

For it also becomes our burden:

to cope with the horrors inside;

and to live beside our brethren,

whose souls are where monsters hide.

Through the Shadow and Into the Light

Even at 14, I knew about the cliché of China taking over the world.  I took Mandarin in ninth grade, to prepare for the so-called inevitable takeover.  China also seemed intriguing, mystical and odd.  Leading up to my junior year, my education had not focused on the Orient, but recently I took the initiative to learn more, enrolling in a 20th century Chinese history course.  In the class we read Out of Mao’s Shadow by Philip Pan.  The book examined the lingering corruption of China’s government after the Chairman’s death; as a result, I started questioning Chinese policy, and most of all, I became even more curious.

Last year I visited China as part of my Mandarin III course.  In Shanghai, I spent many days living with a Chinese student named Ken and his family.  Influenced by Pan’s book, I became interested in hearing Ken’s views on American life, how he felt about realities like soldiers with automatic wapons on street corners, and what he thought about Chinese overall.  I was surprised that unlike older generations, his views and aspirations were similar to mine.  I concluded that much of Ken’s generation is inching towards the light, struggling to pry itself from the fetters of oppression and out of Mao’s waning shadow.

At the same time, it appeared there was a division between those who want Western freedoms and those who still follow the party.  I saw this schism vividly while waiting in line to enter Mao’s tomb, at the Gate of Heavenly Peace, known here as Tiananmen Square.  As we waited, two young girls stood celebrating a song of optimism and unity called 朋友, which literally translated means, “Friend.” Here I saw the strife between the past – those who continue to pay tribute to a man who slaughtered forty million of his own citizens – and the future, those who desperately desire liberation.

As the student leader of my school’s Amnesty International group, I am naturally concerned for the well-being of the Chinese people.  I constantly wonder where their country is headed.  Do the people realize that they’re at a crossroads?  Will the government continue to rule with an iron fist, or consider a path of non-contention? 老子, Lao Tzu, realized that “ruling a country is like cooking a small fish …”; society will fall apart if handled too roughly, but what will Hu Jintao do?  In the words of Philip Pan: “Too much has happened.  Too much has changed.  Too many refuse to forget.”  I, for one, will never forget.  Out of Mao’s Shadow has broadened my perspective regarding the challenges and responsibilities of being a global citizen, and inspire he to encourage others to help create a more balanced, humanistic world for those to come.