October 19, 2010

Natural progress is violent and uncivilized

MSNBC: Aggressive Goat Kills Hiker
MSNBC: Leaping Fish Injures Kayaker

Over the past couple weeks here in Japan there have been a number of programs about wild animals causing havoc in villages and towns. In one case a wild boar tore through a convenience store and in another a bear was shot after it refused to leave someone's garden. With this sudden upsurge in reports of dangerous wild animals it might seem nature has suddenly gone a little crazy or something. Wild conspiracy theories could get started about nature seeking revenge on evil humanity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Natural systems and environments are not some kind of mystic energy cycles or spiritual havens of peace and tranquility. They have peaceful moments, and their beauty can inspire mystic connections, but those experiences are the exception not the rule. The natural world is a highly competitive place where life or death is decided on a daily basis. Systems collapse and are replaced with great frequency. Places like Yellowstone or Yosemite are not static eco-systems that need careful maintenance and preservation. They are not gardens. The natural world is complex, dynamic, and constantly changing, often in ways that are detrimental to humans. We are part and parcel of this highly competitive world and this is one of the reasons, perhaps even the main reason, that so many of us are naturally violent and aggressive. Rape, murder, terrorism, these are not "unnatural" acts of "insane" people (often men, but not always). These are survival skills that have brought our species through two billion years of evolution. Even though these behaviors are indeed undesirable and destructive in the midst of a civilized society, as long as we are human we will never be completely free of them.

The problem that arises is when we pack tens of thousands (or millions) of people into cities. A city is not a natural environment at all. It is far less natural than an ant hill, and far more destructive. Nonetheless, if we are ever going to succeed in taking the next step and freeing our species from the limits of this planet then cities are a necessary stepping stone. Densely populated cities not only concentrate our best and brightest in a single place, allowing them to work their magic and create the means for us to reach the stars, they also concentrate our most violent and most destructive. This is why crime is never going to be eliminated. The safest cities in the world still have their share of homicides, rapes, assaults, and other violent crimes.

Nature is not rebelling against us, nor have we abandoned our natural roots. The filthy, polluted, dangerous cities of our world are our best hope for a real future beyond the limited lifespan of this one planet. The best and brightest among us are also sometimes the most violent, but that violence must be reined in and controlled long enough to allow them to create new means of propulsion, new ways of preserving life, new ways of reaching out to the distant stars.

Everything works together. We must have cities, therefore we will have greater frequency of violence while at the same time seeking ways of controlling that violence. Some individuals are more violent than others, and they must have constructive outlets for that violence. When those outlets fail, each individual they encounter must have both the freedom and the means to defend themselves. Regardless of whether we are hiking a familiar trail, kayaking in shallow waters, or stopping alongside a highway, we must remain vigilant and we must be armed and trained in the use of those arms. There is never going to be an end to violence, therefore we must always practice vigilance and this will still be true once we leave this planet and head out among the stars.

We will eventually encounter another species, like ourselves, who has risen to the top of their own planet's evolutionary chain. When we do, it is certain this new "alien" humanity will share both our best traits and our worst. They will be intelligent, creative, intuitive, violent and destructive. If they were not, they could never break free of the bonds of gravity and environment.

Our modern "green" movement is not based on any kind of realistic assessment of the natural world. If this insane drive to force the bulk of the world's population to live in poverty (pardon me, "limited consumption of resources") succeeds the only real-world result is that no one will ever develop the technologies we must have to cross the vastness of outer space. The "green" movement's success would condemn us to spiraling populations, greater pollution, and even more destruction of the natural world. By denying the bulk of the world's population access to clean housing, pure water, healthy food, abundant energy, and comfortable material surroundings, you also destroy their freedom to think, imagine, and dream up new ideas. Everyone, regardless of where they are born, needs access to education and opportunities to put that education to work realizing their dreams. Denying them these things, or even taking away these things from those who already have them in order to arbitrarily pass them to someone who does not, will destroy humanity's ability to reach for the stars.

We don't need more "Earth-friendly" technologies when those technologies produce greater human suffering and limit the ability of any given individual to study, learn, and imagine a better future. We don't need socialist governments that shelter the "unfortunate" in a warm cocoon of minimal subsistence while simultaneously denying them the freedom to escape that cocoon. The one thing we do need is creation of social standards and judicial systems that target corrupt, self-centered elitists who by birth, education, or plain old narcissism honestly believe that they and they alone are entitled to the benefits of a civilized society while bearing none of the responsibilities. We need better ways of eliminating criminal politicians, criminal business leaders, and criminal educators who use their positions for personal self-aggrandizement and sensual indulgence. Corruption and the abuse of power are the real enemies of human society, not poverty, and most certainly not individual freedom.

What we really need to be planning, executing, and developing is a space-based, free-market economy that will provide opportunities and stimulate education in places like North Korea, Myanmar, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Eqypt, Palestine, and throughout the African continent.

October 05, 2010

Death throes of a once great and mighty giant

I found this short, sad article on the PlayNC website today:
On October 5, 2010, all of the Lineage II servers will be merged. The eight existing servers will become two servers, one based in North America and one based in Europe.

•Aria, Bartz, Devianne, Phoenix and Sayha will merge and become Chronos (NA).

•Franz, Luna and Teon will merge and become Naia (EU).

I first encountered Lineage II at the 2003 Tokyo Game Show. I have written many posts about my experiences with Lineage II. Here are a few of them:

Play the Game, Don't Work It!
Nightfall, Crossdressing, and Genderbending
Normal People Have Real Lives
Meditations on the Day
Ruminitions and Ruminations
Little People with Big Agendas
Back in Action
Meditating on a Migraine

If you go back and read through the posts linked above you will find that even in games I have spent endless hours fighting against elitism, hypocrisy, and presumption. Lineage II is dying. Any game that merges eight servers into two with litte or no warning has reached a point of no return. No online game in history has ever recovered from such a loss of available ingame real estate. The same thing is driving people away from Lineage II that drove them away from Ultima Online, away from Tabula Rasa, and away from dozens, possibly hundreds of other games: arrogance and the sadism it encourages.

Games are competitive by design. Naturally Gamers are also competitive. Competition is what makes games, games. However, the true heart of what makes games enjoyable is something the real world lacks, namely, a sense of fair play. In a game, everyone competes on the basis of a fixed set of rules that are specifically designed to insure skill becomes the deciding factor in determining who wins and who loses. Games also allow a safe environment for wanton, liberal experimentation with situations that in the real world are fraught with peril. This is why so very many games are based in fantasy worlds of swords, sorcery, monsters, and dragons. Even if these things did exist, they would be far too dangerous for anyone without years of specialized training, and even then, many would die or suffer grievous bodily harm. Such a world would not be fun for ordinary people to live in.

Unfortunately, a fair percentage of human beings are not nice people. Whether genetics, upbringing, culture, or some other variable determines both who is nice and how it is defined is something I will deal with on another day. Today I want to focus on extreme gamers, the legendary "hardcore" gamers, especially those who feel their superior hardware or superior tactile dexterity entitle them to demean other players and destroy their ingame experience. There are far too many hardcore gamers who gain their pleasure not from succeeding within the rules of the game, but from bending those rules in ways that allow them to dominate and oppress other players.

That this group exists is something no one denies, not even those who belong to this group. That this group is terribly destructive of a game community is something that gets repeatedly pointed out, but unfortunately, sometimes there are people in positions of influence who not only sympathize with sadistic elitists, they idolize them. Many of the top people in the design and management team for Lineage II began their gaming experience playing Ultima Online. Many of them were banned or blocked from playing because of their ingame behavior. As a result, many of them pay lip service to "casual players" while doing everything in their power to discourage casual players from staying in Lineage II. For example, many management decisions which are ostensibly aimed at eliminating the seconadary market actually accomplish just the opposite. By design, and what appears to be deliberate intent, these mangers seek out and eliminate only those secondary market participants who challenge or threaten the players and guilds they favor. The management team encourages and indirectly aids the ingame experience of the worst behaved players because when they were players, this was their preferred playstyle. In their minds, casual players are insane, deluded, naive, and foolish. To them, the only purpose of a game is domination, complete domination. It is the only type of gameplay they enjoyed, and the only type they encourage.

Over time, even if they love the game they are playing, anyone who does not subscribe to the complete domination gameplay model is forced out of the game. They are stalked, harassed, repeatedly attacked by groups of players who are not only higher levels and better equipped, they outnumber the besieged casual player by at least three to one, and often by ten, fifteen, or twenty to one. Any casual player who objects to this treatment is told they must either join the sadists or find a different game.

Does this sound familiar? Have you noticed any similarities between the group of players I am describing and the problems that are destroying Western civilization? You should, because the same priority system that drives liberal progressivism and radical Islam is driving these players. The assumption of any individual that they alone possess the right, proper, correct view of life while any who disagree are ignorant, insane, or deluded is the core of everything that is wrong with the modern world. That such people run in packs should not come as a surprise. Was not the theme of the October 2nd rally "One Nation"? It is the same theme shared by the most sadistic, domineering Lineage II guilds as well as those members of the Lineage II management team who encourage these guilds. In the minds of such people, whether they are gamers, game managers, business managers, or politicians, there are only two kinds of people in the world: the smart, "enlightened" ones who agree with them, and those who do not deserve to share their world.

This is the final hour

Glenn Beck brings to the forefront what most of us already know: this is the final hour, the final season of choice. November's election will transform our country for another generation, maybe two. Will we transform it into a land of limited government where individuals can reach for the stars or collapse into obscurity with equal ease, or will we transform it into a land where the majority live on the edge of survival while an educated elite dictates every moment of their waking life?

There is no utopia. Will we choose a dystopian future that allows individuals of skill, drive, and initiative to succeed, or will we choose a dystopia with government domination of daily life? There will always be the poor, the unfortunate, and the foolish but only one future will insure that those who have the will to succeed will also have the freedom to do so. The ideology of progressivism has a track record of consistent failure. The ideology of freedom has a track record of stunning successes broken by the occasional dismal failure. Both futures will bring pain and suffering because pain and suffering is part and parcel of the human condition. There is no way to avoid it.

The one thing you can do is this: you can choose a future that allows success and rewards those who succeed. Then through hard work and dedication you can participate in that same system of success and reward. It won't be heaven on earth, but it will be far better than the hell that progressivism has always produced.

Progress isn't progress because no one is left behind. Progress is progress because those who have the drive and ability to move forward also have the freedom to do so and having done so, they are allowed to keep the rewards they earn. "Progressivism" with it's promise of utopia achieved through total control and total elimination of the rewards of hard work and ambition is not "progress" at all. It is a return to feudalism where birth determines who has access to the fruits of everyone else's hard work.

October 04, 2010

Sometimes I wish hindsight were blind

In 1992 I worked for Berlitz Schools of Languages in Japan. During the seven or eight years I worked for Berlitz I met English teachers from dozens of countries. One woman I worked with was named Samantha Nicole Ridgway. Over time she and I become very good friends. We often had lunch together, and once or twice we went drinking together. Everyone else called her "Sam", but I called her "Nicole" because I just could not bring myself to calling someone so feminine, so vibrant, and so alive "Sam". She was quite thrilled that I chose to call her by her middle name. She told me on several occasions that when she was young she hated being called "Sam" but no one wanted to call her Nicole. I remember she explained the reason to me, but now, all these years later, I cannot recall what it was about "Nicole" that she liked so much but everyone she knew disliked.

One day she called me in a bit of a panic. She needed someone to talk to who was neutral. Her sister Carita, who was also in Tokyo, had disappeared and no one seemed to know where she was. We talked for awhile, and I tried to encourage her, reminding her that Tokyo was one of the safest cities in the world, at least officially. What people who live here know intimately, what the press likes to ignore, and what never makes it into the official figures, is that the vast majority of crime in Tokyo does not get reported. On those rare occasions when someone does report it, the police insert themselves as negotiators, some form of compensation is arrived at, and the crime itself goes unrecorded. This can even occur in violent crimes such as rape or murder, although it is rare (at least officially). One thing I learned early on in Japan is to never, ever trust any kind of "official" statistics the government publishes. The numbers are always massaged to present whatever agenda is being put forward by either the government itself or the person doing the presenting. Truth is a rare commodity in modern Japan, so rare that even those who have access to it will often pretend it does not exist at all.

Nicole's sister reappeared on Monday. Someone named "Nishida" had checked her into a Kichijoji hospital. Her sister died later that night. The official prognosis at the time was that "Nishida" had given her a "muscle relaxant" after she had been heavily drinking wine without realizing that the wine in her system would react with the muscle relaxant, causing permanent liver failure. Nicole was despondent. Over the next few days I met her mother and spent time with both women trying to offer them my condolences in any way possible. Nicole had a Japanese boyfriend and he helped them through most of the paperwork and procedures to arrange for the cremation of Carita's body and the release that would allow them to take her ashes back to Australia. It is one of my darkest memories of Japan and will forever taint my perspective on the people and culture.

Over time, Nicole and I both moved from place to place and we eventually lost touch. The very last I heard she was marrying an American and trying to become a stewardess. I don't know if she ever succeeded, but I have always wished her well and I think of her often. From time to time, I plug her name into various internet search engines trying to see if she has shown up somewhere in cyberspace. After all, to one extent or another, everyone is in here somewhere!

This time I was horrified to discover these:

Japan Times: Trail to Obara Overlooked in '92 Death
The Age: A Tale of Rape, Murder, and a Japanese Playboy
Brisbane Times: Evil Behind Tokyo's Lights
Sydney Morning Herald: Father May Accept $1 Million from Daughter's Killer

I just spent this morning looking into the grotesque 10:10 commercial on global warming. A commercial so revolting I will not even link to it. Now I discover that Nicole's sister Carita, whom I never met, was raped and murdered by the same man who killed Lucie Blackman! The "muscle relaxant" was not a pill at all! It was chloroform and he overdosed her, leading to her death.

You know, if God Almighty were to ask my opinion of humanity here and now...but he won't.

There are many good, beautiful spirits in people in this world. Samantha Nicole Ridgway was, and no doubt remains, one of them. I never met her sister Carita, but knowing Nicole and having met her mother, I imagine she was just as vibrant and deserving of life as the two of them. Why her father would ever consider accepting blood money is beyond my comprehension, especially since here in Japan accepting that money would probably get Joji Obara's sentence cut in half because the money would be seen as clear recompense for the loss of his daughter. There are at least two, and probably dozens of families who lost daughters to the depravity of Joji Obara. To my mind, he deserves the death penalty, but Japan no longer has a death sentence, in no small part because of its barbaric application to political enemies in the not so distant past.

Nicole, wherever you are, if you stumble across this blog I want you to know that I still think of you often and fondly. I wish I could have been there to help you through the painful period where the events surrounding your sister's death were dragged out and paraded before an incredulous and disbelieving public. I cannot begin to imagine the pain that must have caused. I am so sorry that Japan took so much from you. I don't know if it is any condolence, but the death of your sister still darkens my own memory of life in Japan, even though I never met her. I'm sorry I wasn't there when you needed me to be there. I hope someone was. I hope beyond hope that somehow, despite all this pain, you still look out on each new day with optimism and joy.

October 03, 2010

Is a Mumbai-style Attack Coming to Europe?

Back in March, 2009 I wrote this: A Deadly, Persistent Swarm of Gnats. To be successful, this kind of attack takes considerably more planning and logistical preparation than most people realize. It has been two years since a small band of terrorists made a mockery of Indian gun control laws and police forces. The key to their success was the sure knowledge that no one other than the local police would be armed, and they would only be lightly armed. Apparently, a Chicago man named David Headley helped scout the area some time prior to the attack itself. A footnote to be sure, but one which clearly illustrates how complex the planning and preparation is for this style assault on a soft target.

According to the MSNBC report above, there is considerable evidence that such an attack might now be planned for Europe. One might ask why Europe? Why not New York or Chicago? If I might offer an opinion, my suspicion is that the terrorists know full well that there are far more armed Americans running around with concealed weapons permits than there are Europeans. Even though the number is still relatively small, it is large enough that anyone planning a swarm-style attack on shopping malls, residential neighborhoods, and so on would have to take into consideration the very real possibility that their men might pull out AK-47s and grenades only to find themselves facing man for man well-armed, equally competent American men and women who are both willing and able to end their assualt before it even begins.

This kind of threat is very real. The first and best line of defense against such an attack has always been, and still remains, an armed and trained populace. Next time someone tells you that Americans don't need their "sick" fascination with guns, remind them that if half a dozen terrorists armed with AK-47s and grenades show up at their local shopping mall it would be very helpful to have a equal number of "crazy gun nuts" scattered through the crowd enjoying a day out with their families. The presence of such men and women would save lives by ending the attack while it was still in the opening stages.

Radical terrorists of all stripes be warned. If you try a swarm attack in my hometown I'll be there waiting for you, and I will not be alone.