Decriminalization is the way to solve opioid crisis

Regarding opioid crisis, I want to begin speaking about three addicts I knew personally. None of them was a criminal. Thinking about them I have realized that the solution may have to be de-criminalization, like in Portugal. Prohibition of alcohol during the 1920’s failed totally. “War on Drugs” has failed too. When the law requires impossibility it emboldens criminals.

Prof. Zenta Watanabe got doctorate in Germany and was a well known Old Testament scholar in Japan when I was at the Tokyo Union Theological Seminary during the 1950’s. He was a heroin addict. It started with prescription after a major surgery. He was persuaded to go for rehabilitation through total abstention. It was so difficult he attempted suicide several times. He said he would never recommend abstention as a solution.

My grand father, Dr. Yukichi Takeda was a veterinarian served in the Japanese Imperial Cavalry during the Ruso-Japan War of early 1900’s. He saw the worst. I found only recently that he was an addict all his life. I guess it’s called PTSD today. He managed to look normal and conducted an active working life until he died at the age of 82. I remember the smell of disinfectant every time I walked into his den. Being a veterinarian, he had an easy access.

I met many damaged souls when I came to Canada. Japanese Canadians were released from internment and gradually returning to the coast. Visiting the Mental Hospital in Fraser Valley was my regular routine. J.O. was addicted to substance but wanted desperately to be rehabilitated. Many times he went into the rehabilitation program; failed every time. He died trying, a few years later.

In the Victorian England, opium was a common recreational drug like alcohol and was sold in any drugstore. Connan Doyle, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Browning, George Elliot and many other prominent people were well known regular users. It was a profitable commodity for the East India Company. England waged a war against China when it tried to stop opium import. England was a world’s biggest drug dealer then.

We take some kinds of substance for recreation. Alcohol for example. Many painkillers contain opioid. Many cultures have used substance of some kind, like qat, coca, cola nuts. Abused them, they are addictive and toxic. But with control they can be medicinal. Current crisis is the result of illegal product of questionable quality produced by criminal elements.

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Why do we have to avoid what we like: FAT, SALT AND SUGAR

WE ARE STILL EVOLVING

Life is unfair. I have to stay away from what we crave. I have to watch the intake of fat, salt, and sugar to stay healthy. I think our body has not evolved to live in time of plenty. Our body is still conditioned to live like hunter gatherers. When you have to run after the animals for meat and walk all day to pick berries and seeds, find edible grass and roots under the hot Sun, you have to consume fat, salt, and sugar whenever you find them. But those things are available easily today; and they are killing us. Like a drug used as effective painkiller is now seen as a curse.

When I was a child in Japan there was a popular caramel candy called “Glico.” It came in the box of ten. I loved it. On the box it said, “One is worth 200 meters” with a picture of a runner. The message is: one candy gives you energy to run 200 meters. But we don’t run 200 meters every time we eat a candy.

Carbohydrate intake turns into sugar. We burn it to generate energy. Surplus sugar turns into fat and is stays in our body. Most of us do not move enough to burn it all up so the amount of stored fat becomes bigger and bigger. Our heart has to work harder to bring oxygen to the increasingly bigger body mass. Consequently obesity has become ubiquitous, and heart decease is now the major cause of death.

Fat is important for survival at the time of want. It supplies source of energy from within. It’s why when food is scarce big people survive better than skinny people. They eat what’s stored in their body. Likewise, salt retains water in our body under the hot Sun: it cools the body and prevents heat-stroke. When I first went to Africa for volunteer work in 1964, the organizer gave everyone anti-malaria pills and salt tablets.

The body of Homo Sapiens has not yet evolved to dislike superfluous nutrient. We lust for big fat juicy hamburger and fries, with sweet soda drinks: all fat, salt, and sugar. We are indulging ourselves to death. So we have to go to gym, to suffer the dictate of diet, and banish natural desire. I know it’s unfair. But that’s life.

SWITZERLAND – I worked for the World University Service in Geneva, Switzerland

WUS INTERNATIONAL, 1975 – 1979

by Tad Mitsui

I was employed by the International Office of the WUS in Geneva, Switzerland from 1975 until 1979. My job title was Associate Secretary for East and Southern Africa. I administered the largest funds in Southern Africa, namely Zimbabwe (as was called Rhodesia then) and South Africa. I was assigned also to keep contact with the national committees in Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Rhodesia, and Lesotho. There was no WUS Committee in South Africa but the WUS International worked directly with the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) for white students and the South African Students Organization (SASO) for blacks. I was also a lead contact with the committees in Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea because of my language ability.

I visited all the above national committees at least twice during my tenure, except for South Africa. When I was hired by the WUS International, I had been a “prohibited immigrant” in South Africa since 1971 following a brief incarceration and expulsion. So, I was not able to visit South Africa from Geneva, though it was where WUS International raised and spent the largest sum; Rhodesia being the number two. I met with South African project holders often in Lesotho. Other times, they came to Geneva.

* I once asked Richard Taylor, General Secretary, to visit all the WUS supported programs in South Africa.  I was very excited that Richard managed to spend time even with Steve Biko who was under house arrest as a  banned person.  Little did we know that Richard was followed by the security police everywhere he went.  We planned the whole excursion on consultation with Craig Williamson, who was working for the IUEF (International University Education Fund) as Deputy Director.  After I left Geneva, in 1980 Williamson was exposed to be a spy for the South African Police, a captain in the Special Branch. 

I was made aware of WUS for the first time by a plaque at the entrance of the university library in Lesotho in 1970. The plaque indicated the building was the donation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the WUS. I tried to find the WUS Committee in Lesotho. There was none. The committee had existed apparently but was disbanded. The relation with WUS was severed after the decision of the WUS General Assembly to establish contacts with anti-Apartheid movements and organizations. The Vice Chancellor at the time was British who did not think that keeping the connection with the organization explicitly against South Africa prudent because of the presence of a large number of South African students. It must have been the sign that a change was happening in WUS. In the 1960s many altruistic and activist organizations were shifting the emphasis towards social justice and away from merely charity and welfare.

In 1974, as Dean of Students of the university I encouraged students to revive the national WUS committee. I thought it would be a way for them to be involved in community and national development. The Committee did revive and was recognized at the 1974 WUS General Assembly. When the WUS Lesotho Committee was recognized, the new University Vice Chancellor was very pleased seeing a WUS national committee as an important channel of international assistance.

Among 12 national committees I was assigned to – nine were in Africa and three in Asia, – I observed that there were three categories of programs being implemented:
(1) Service to the students typically by providing important facilities e.g. libraries, residential accommodations and tuberculises sanatoria;
(2) Assistance to international students particularly refugees and disadvantaged students by unjust policy and system.
(3) participation in community development and popular consciousness raising programs.

Categories 1 and 2 were the original type of WUS programs in Europe after the World War I, which provided opportunity to continue university education for the prisoners of wars and the students with tuberculosis. Scholarships to refugee students displaced by war, civil unrest, and those disadvantaged by unjust society were a part of the category 2.

I classify most of the consciousness raising programs to No.3. They were, for example, the South African Committee for Higher Education (SACHED) and a few community development programs in black townships. There were several programs carried out by Black Consciousness Movement headed by Steve Biko. There was only one rural development program, which was based in an university; it was in Rwanda. I found it interesting that Tanzania and Zambia committees had not found their new niche after the governments introduced university students national service for development. Their Presidents’ (Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda) socialistic philosophy pre-empted WUS’s impetus. They have not found a new direction after ‘bricks and mortar’ foreign aid program in the WUS’ donor community became redundant.

  1. Of the committees I had related to, Sudan, Korea, and Japan focussed more on category one. Student residence s were in Khartoum in Sudan and Seoul in Korea and in Tokyo Japan. I believe Japan had a TB sanatorium as well. It was no longer there when I visited from Geneva.
  2. Scholarships: Burundi, Lesotho, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) administered scholarship program. In South Africa it was implemented by NUSAS which was a scholarship programs for black medical students and political prisoners. Burundi and Uganda administered the scholarships for Tutsi refugee students who escaped violence in Rwanda. They were the victims of the Hutu dominated government’s ethnic cleansing policy. In Lesotho, the WCC took over the WUS scholarship program for South Africans after the national committee was disbanded. WCC transferred the funds directly to the University administration, and it selected the recipients. Because scholarship administration required strict accounting protocol, all scholarship programs had volunteer financial administrators under national committee oversight. Most of my time was spent to keep contact with the administrators in stead of volunteer student committees. Administrators were mostly faculty members.

Program in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe was by far the largest in terms of the size of funds as well as the number of recipients. It was the program to support all black students at the University of Salisbury. Though the university admitted all races on A level school leavers, most black students could not afford the cost which was determined by the average income of white population: Hence the scholarship assistance. Source of funds was the WUS committees in Canada, Denmark, and the U.K. and one government direct, Sweden. WUS committees received their contributions from the government aid agencies also. Even in the implementation of scholarship programs, what should be noted was the shift from emphasis on welfare to social justice. All WUS scholarships were social justice actions fighting political and social injustice..

  1. Participation in development: a shift from welfare programs to an emphasis on social justice must have grown from the mere support of refugee students to include the support of students who were disadvantaged due to discrimination and other unjust practices. This shift towards social action programs included consciousness raising popular education to create more just society, it became massive and effective such as News Paper Education Supplement, and was exemplified by programs such as one created by the South African Committee on Higher Education (SACHED) and the Domestic Workers’ Project to make maids, nannies, and gardeners more aware of their conditions and their rights. The fact that those popular education programs quickly became the target of attack by the South African government proves that it was effective. News paper education supplement and the educators were banned very quickly. All the funds for South African programs were Swedish government grants. SACHED was the biggest program in terms of the size of funds in the WUS International.

One curious twist I found was in Rwanda: There was an active agricultural reserach program implemented by WUS students at the National University of Rwanda directly funded by Canadian government, in Butare in Southern Rwanda. I found it creative and well run. When I visited the university, the student body was exclusively from people of Hutu ethnic group. It might have been the result of civil unrest and exodus of the Tutsi population. It is an interesting question why the violent persecution, even the massacre and resultant exodus of the Tutsis produced an university where students were all Hutu and keenly interested in rural development. Was it accidental? I never had time to solve the puzzle. A decade and a half later, the genocides of the Tutsi by the Hutu government happened.

Another interesting feature of some WUS national committees was the relationship with the Student Christian Movement (SCM). I found this in Japan, Korea, and Zambia. Of course, until 1970, WUS International office was sharing the same building and services such as the receptionist and the custodian on rue Calvin in the historical old Geneva on the hill, with the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), which is the international headquarters of the SCM. Japan and Korea still operated student residences with strong tie with SCM. In Zambia, the WUS committee did not have any WUS program. It looked like a SCM national chapter. I know this because before I joined WUS in 1975, I was Regional Director of the South African UCM (SCM) for Lesotho and Orange Free State.

Finally, let me say a few words about the International office of the WUS in Geneva. The running of the office in Geneva on rue Cointrin was not in my job descriptions. For that reason, I never raised a serious alarm about the existential problem of the WUS International. However, I thought there were two dangerous aspects. Firstly, there was an over-dependence on government funding exclusively for Southern Africa programs; and secondly the source of largest amount of funds for Southern Africa was mostly from one country namely Sweden, where WUS had no national counterpart. Yet, the cost of running the office in Geneva was mainly financed by Swedish government funds as the fee for administration, which created a sort of organizational instability.

EPILOGUE
I conclude with the challenge from the experience of working in the World University Service in regards to the role of Civil Society, such as NGO, in the global human family. There has to be a balance of power between three sectors of global human family: Market, Civil Society, and Government. Margaret Thatcher said, “There is no such thing as SOCIETY. There is only MARKET.” Charles de Gaulle said, “Government has no CAUSE only INTEREST.” The demise of WUS International is the result of NGO losing its independence as it turned into GONGO (Government sponsored NGO.)

PENTECOST: Arrogant word divides. Spirit of Love unites

Genesis 11: 1 – 9, Acts 2: 1 – 12

SERMON FOR PENTECOST 2020
“Arrogance divides, Spirit unites”
Genesis 11: 1-9
Acts 2: 1-13

There is a story about people who were very arrogant in the Book of Genesis, chapter two. They thought they were so clever that they could reach the sky and God. They started to build a very tall tower determined to reach the sky where they thought god lived. The tower never reached the sky because of language difference among the workers. If you think, “I know everything” and dismiss what others say, you are acting like those ancient builders. Different languages were the God’s way to punish arrogant people. Marriage and friendship will not last very long either, if you think you are never wrong and only others are.

You hear the same arrogant words in today’s politics. The man with big ego says: “Whatever I say is always right. Others are “fake news.” He is now the most divisive figure we have ever had. God’s punishment for such arrogance is a divided nation. Canada is not doing any better. When you think you are perfect and never make mistake, you can not hear the truth. That is how a country falls apart. Friendship and marriage fail too. Dalai Lama said, “When you speak you are repeating yourself. When you listen to others you are learning something you didn’t know.”

I don’t think it is language as such that breaks up relationship. It’s the idea behind word that does it. A word is an expression of what you have in mind. When you know another language, you know it is impossible to translate one language into another to say exactly the same thing, because different peoples think differently. You think differently depending on culture and tradition. So your words can never find the one in a foreign language with exactly the same meaning.

For example: 1. At one General Council of the UCC, delegates debated the question of the authority of the Bible. They spent two days debating if the Bible is “an” authority or “the” authority of our faith. I thought it was such a waste of time. Because I didn’t understand what the whole fuss was all about. You see, there is no article as such, definite or indefinite, in Japanese and Sesotho.

  1. There is no such word as “NO” in Japanese and Sesotho. They are polite people. They never say “no” to another person. If you don’t agree, you say something like, “Yes, but.”
  2. On the shore of Lake Galilee, three times the risen Christ asked Peter if he loved him. The word “love” Jesus used (agape) is not in English language. But Peter answered every time using the word people often used for love. He was distressed that Jesus asked the same question three times. The problem here was that there is no one word for love in the Bible: there are at least three: agape, eros, and phileo. They mean three different kinds of love. Peter answered that he “loved” him as we love our parents, children, friends, sisters and brothers. The word is phileo. But Jesus asked if Peter loved him with the kind of love that has no English translation, agape, King James version translated it “charity” not love. The word Jesus used was the kind you give up everything for love. It’s the kind of love even when you don’t like the person.

On the day of Pentecost, the Book of Acts reports people started to speak different languages and different people heard the same messages in their native tongues. It is because they were possessed with the same spirit of the Risen Christ, who lived the life of love. They were possessed with that spirit of Christ. This is spirit that makes many people understand each other despite the difference of language.

People were eager to speak of the Good News of perfect love that the life and teaching of Jesus Christ demonstrated. People saw that such life never dies. They were so possessed by the conviction that Love of Jesus did not end on the cross. So, they were overcome with joy that they could not keep their mouths shut. When you are willing to learn the languages of other people, it means you are showing your willingness to understand and communicate with those people on their terms, not yours.

On the day of Pentecost, people spoke in different languages and understood each other. They understood each other because they felt the spirit of the one who lived God’s love. When there is spirit there will be unity despite language difference.

Bible is a collection of diverse ideas

LATERAL VIEWS OF DIVERSITY

  • How to read Esther, Ruth, Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs –

For many centuries, the Church had tried to see the Bible as the book that would bring unity of faith. Christians believed there was one continual chain of thoughts; ultimately reaching a consensus – one correct doctrine. However, after two thousand years we are discovering that is not possible. The churches are divided as ever. We must realize the Bible is a collection of diverse literature arranged laterally, like a drug store shelf displaying different brands of nutrition supplements. Linear approach to understand it does not work. The Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament is a good example where even opposing views are co-existing side by side.

* When the Hebrew word “wisdom” was translated into Greek, the feminine word “Sophia” was chosen.  It introduces an image of God as a female figure.  So, I believe in the fourth person of God, Wisdom, in addition to God the creator, Jesus the human, and the spirit the friend.

The Old Testament is normally divided into three categories of literature: Torah (Law) – Genesis to Deuteronomy, Prophets (history) – Samuel to Ezekiel and13 minor prophets, and Wisdom Literature. All of them refer extensively but often not factually, to the history of Hebrew people. In this paper, I propose to discuss the thirdt category, Wisdom Literature.

I bundle the following books into one category as Wisdom Literature: Esther, Ruth, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of songs (Song of Solomon.) Some Biblical scholars do it differently by including some prophets and history books as Writings such as Jonah and Daniel in this category because they are mostly fictitious and stand on thinner ice to claim historicity than other Torah and Prophets.

One thing that distinguish them from Torah and Prophet is its diversity of content. For one thing, it is impossible to find any unity of thoughts among them. Esther and Ruth for example. Esther is adamantly Hebrew nationalist, and Ruth is delightfully universalist: totally opposing views. In other words, it is impossible to find any co-relation between them to formulate one cohesive doctrine: Diversity prevents any simple and homogeneous description of one unified faith. In this sense, they are very appropriate to be quoted in our age of diversity and ecumenism (unity as humans, not of one faith as such). This is rather astonishing as we have long considered Judaism as the founding faith of monotheism (belief in one God), such as Christianity and Islam. It is ironical that the two religions are notorious in history for their intolerance and doctrinal conflicts and disputes. Wars have been fought over doctrinal differences and heretics were burned at the stake.

Also they include different types of literature. Psalms are hymns; Esther, Jonah, and Ruth are fictions; Proverbs are exactly that, “proverbs”; Lamentation and Song of Songs are poems; and Ecclesiastes is like a collection of succinct sayings of sages. In other words, they are not related to each other, and they lack of unity of thought. It means they were not compiled in one book in linear sequence but offer lateral thinking. They do not demand “either or” choice but rather “and also” inclusion.

I think there is a reason for this. They were written by people who were exposed to different cultures and the cosmopolitan way of living in a pluralistic society, like ours. All those books I mentioned the above as Wisdom Literature were included in the Hebrew holy books after traumatic experience of defeat and exile as captives in Babylon. ((Circa 600 – 400 B.C.E.) Up until then, the experiences of defeat had not caused to question their faith in their God, Yahweh. In fact, some of them strengthened it because of suffering and made them stronger in their resolve in their faith in one God. Liberation from slavery in Egypt gave them the nature of God as the Law, thus giving them a stronger self-consciousness as the God’s Chosen People. The secret of their strength after Holocaust is another example.

However, the exile in Babylon was different. Unlike enslavement of common masses of labourers by Egyptians, Babylonians selected and removed the Jewish elite; aristocrats, educated, priests, and scribes (scholars) away from the populous. It was a cultural and spiritual genocide, that left the masses without the caretakers of the spiritual foundation and the traditions. Many who remained in Palestine were uneducated and easily became acculturated into pagan spirituality, and intermarried racially and religiously. Furthermore those in captivity were also exposed to different cultures, and often forced to practice different religions. It was impossible not to be influenced by them. Wisdom literature was the result.

When they were liberated by Persian King Cyrus, and were allowed to return to the homeland on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, there were two different groups among the returnees: Nationalist Traditionalists and Cosmopolitan Universalists. The first was led by Ezra and Nehemiah, who gathered people in Jerusalem and read Torah known as the books of Moses in pubic squares. Esther is the fiction representing a typical example of this school of thought. The second group was pluralist who accepted the cultural and religious practices that the traditionalists adamantly rejected such as inter-racial and inter-religious marriages such as Samaritans. Ruth is a good example of that tolerant attitude. It’s intriguing to note that two opposing views are complied into one Holy Book as the Old Testament as we know it.

Also, because those captives were educated elite, they were able to observe foreign culture and spiritual practices of their captors. That experience was devastating, but also educative. Traditionalists rejected to heed the wisdom in those foreign sayings and poetic traditions; insisted on purity of race and spirituality; like Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. But cosmopolitan pluralist recognised the value of foreign traditions, and adopted lot of their wisdom and interracial marriage were valued. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Ruth are the examples. It is interesting to note that today among many religions the same dichotomy exists: Exclusivists and Universalists e.g. Fundamentalist and Liberal Christians; Orthodox and Reform Synagogues, Radical Jihadists and Muslim majority.

WOMEN AND MINORITY ARE TAKING OVER PROFESSIONS

PROFESSIONALS FROM MINORITY GROUPS

When theological schools began to see more women than men, the same trend was unfolding in Law and Medical Schools. That was more than three decades ago. We see the results at the press conference where mostly women are Chief Medical Officers of the Provinces. The same can be said of other professions like dentistry, veterinary, and law: you see more women. Also you see larger number of persons from minority ethnic groups.

Though it is a positive development, there is a dark side to this trend. There are misogynist and racist attacks, at times violent, by angry white men. The attack on Dr. Theresa Tam, the Federal Chief Public Health Officer is an example. This shows some people have not quite caught up with the 21st Century. They will soon find themselves left on the dusty shelf of antiques. They may also find themselves without a family doctor if they insist on being seeing by a white male physician.

Another interesting thing about the trend in question is the reason for larger number of women and persons from minority ethnic groups in the professions. There is an invisible wall built around the big business. For many decades, persons of Jewish ancestry have led the way encouraging their children to go into law and medicine. Americans and Canadians of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean background have followed suit. Why?

According to a Sociologist who specializes in “Sociology of Work,” there is an unspoken protective barrier around the class that controls big corporations. It’s like a transparent plexiglass. For women, it is known as the “glass ceiling.” It prevents them to join the high executive positions and/or membership in the “board rooms” of multi-billion dollar corporations. In Japan, it is often “old boys’ network” of elite universities that controls the board rooms. It’s called “Gakubatsu.” Few people admits its existence, but it’s there. Just look at the number of universities where they come from. The excuse is “collegiality.”.

The result is law and medicine have become the choice for those who are excluded from high executive positions in big corporations, namely women and minorities. In law and medicine, skills count not the connections with “old buddies,” When I came to Canada in 1957, I worked among Japanese Canadians. I saw it was common for parents to encourage their children to go into law and medicine. And they did.

NATURAL RESOURCE IS INHERITANCE

Inheritance

Suppose I inherit a rich uncle’s money: Common sense tells me that I should invest it, and dip into the capital only in an emergency. You live with what you earn. Saving account is for rainy days. Do not plan to live on it. Canada is wealthy thanks to natural resource. But we are taking money out of our inheritance and are living on it.

Canadians are lucky to live in a country with so much natural resource. It is the gifts from God, Mother Nature or whatever. We didn’t earn it. It was gifted to us. It was here when we got here. Generous original inhabitants of the land allowed us settle here to catch, extract, and harvest it. Settlers worked hard with blood and sweat to grow and raise and dig it out. However, rich soil was here to begin with. We cleared the land and put down seeds. Fossils had already been buried under our feet. What have we been doing with them? We must be grateful and treat them with respect as gifts not entitlement. Are we investing it for the future or are we living on it like a spoiled brat? Are we managing it, or harvesting it and driving it into extinction like we did with Atlantic cod and Pacific salmon?

I should also remind ourselves about volatility of resource market. Unsavoury rulers of the countries like Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia often make it the weapon against civilization, like they are doing with oil today. We are only waiting for the tide to change direction. We are vulnerable. It’s humiliating to feel powerless being dependent on unpredictable market.

It’s about time we think seriously about change. Let’s stop fighting people who criticize our way of life. Everyone must try to see other’s point of view. The solution often comes from compromise. Some people argue that coal is almost limitless and oil will last many more decades. I accept their argument only for now. We still have to buy groceries and pay mortgages while changing our way of life. It’s the cost to finance our transformation.

Resource based economy is notoriously uncontrollable as the current crisis in oil market shows. Keystone XL may restart. Bitumen may start flowing over mountains. But it’s only for the short time in transition. Let’s not continue to be a hostage to the unstable economy.

Learning to Grow Old – Canada

ART OF GROWING OLD

In Asian culture, old people are honoured and respected. So when I was ordained to be a minister, I tried to look older. The tenet still dictates my consciousness. I don’t want to be young again with all that struggle with self-confidence and frustration. Nevertheless, getting old is never easy.

The ultimate insult for a Japanese man’s ego is having to ask for a fork at a Japanese restaurant. The muscles of my hands atrophied and can not handle chopsticks any more. I drop things. Body parts are replaced by artificial ones one by one. At the bottom of the staircase, I don’t remember why I came to the basement. “Aging isn’t for a SISSY.” said late Stuart McLean. The most difficult is to be honest with one’s conditions without self-pity and whingeing. Someone who is trying to help you is not insulting you. You must recognize reality with dignity and accept help gracefully.

Once, at a board meeting of a not-for-profit organization, the discussion focussed on the status of one person’s membership on the board, who had become a liability. He seemed to have joined the organization only for power and social standing. The question was: “Why should he stay with us when nobody can work with him?” No one could think of a good reason to keep him. But one person pointed out, “But he’s got money.” The board kept him on.

When libido recedes and stomach shrinks, you find yourself more desperate to hang on to the only thing left, pride. Some men become more greedy: yes, mostly men. There is no more pathetic person than a shrivelling old man obsessed with wealth and power. I notice that the rich and powerful die about the same age as average people. What they crave don’t seem to add even a year to their lifespan. Death lets us know that pleasure, money and power are only for what Japanese call “ukiyo” – the fleeting world. You can not take them with you once you leave this world. Then I have to ask myself, “What for?”

It’s good that I do not make unwise decisions as often as before. It seems accumulated pieces of knowledge have been sifted through a mesh. Trivial and unimportant junk seems to have been deleted with a click. It’s time to sit and wait for the spirit to catch up with me.

We are what we are, not what we do.

GOVERNMENTS ARE PAYING MANY PEOPLE FOR DOING NOTHING during the current crisis. Is this our future?

Once I nearly missed a flight because I got confused with a self-check-in machine and needed a help of an airline attendant. Furthermore there were fewer luggage drop-off counter; the customers had to spend more time in line. Airlines is saving money with smaller staff at the expense of customers’ time. Progress means less people?

A 14 year old geek can handle the automatic checkout with one eye on smart-phone, but not me. I didn’t want to wait in line for just a bunch of green onions. I got all muddled up and an attendant had to come to rescue me. Here again, I noticed there were fewer check out-counters with real persons serving; another case of a business saving money at the expense of customer’s time and grief.

Is all this automation a way to make humans redundant? Thanks to mechanization farmers who constitute 1.7% of population are now producing more food than the time when farmers numbered multiple times more. More is on the way: driver-less cars, parcel delivery by drones, automated factories, self-directing vacuum cleaners. During the Cold War, there were rumours about the development of neutron bomb. Its idea was a weapon that kills humans without damaging physical assets: absolute abomination.

I don’t think Mr. Trump is right to blame trade treaties for unemployment. It is automation, computerization, mechanization, robotics that are making people losing jobs. But humans are not disappearing; if at all we will be more in number. In these circumstances, there has to be a radical paradigm shift with our idea of who we are.

We have to move away from the notion of “We are what we do.” We have to accept ourselves as what we are regardless of what we do. I am a human being whatever I’m doing. When I introduce myself as a retired person, I feel obliged to find a way to justify my existence by describing how I spend my time. If I say, “Actually I do nothing,” people think I am being funny. So I say something like, “I write.” But I should not have to say what I do to win the right to occupy space and eat food. “I don’t apologize,” something like that, said John Wayne. I have a right to live and be loved by simply being alive and cranky.

humans think in story

SYSTEMS CREATED BY IMAGINATION:

“No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot,” said Mark Twain. What troubles me nowadays is what is called “Post-Truth” culture. Facts are called “fake news” when it’s true, scary scientific evidence is dismissed as “unbalanced.” Innocence or guilt is determined by partisan votes. Popular votes are rejected by the “Electoral College” like in 2015. After Japan was defeated in 1945, a bunch of cheeky 7th grade boys voted to resolve “Cheating in exam is acceptable” after a talk by an United States Information Service agent who came to school to explain the principles of democracy. That kind of idiocy is nothing new. “Democracy is the worst form of government,” said Winston Churchill. Hitler was first democratically elected. Does that make us idiots, ready to repeat the same terrible mistakes?

Historian Yuval Harari said, “humans think in stories not in facts, numbers, and equations.” It’s what makes us human. Animals see only facts and do not see beyond what’s apparent. This is also how we make arts and music, come up with new ideas and ideologies, and imagine existence of the power beyond the visible. In other words, we write scripts and stories, and have faith in the system we have created. Money is such a system, a created mechanism. And it works. The value of money is nothing but the trust in the system of exchange we agree on. Without the trust, money is a mere IOU written on a piece of paper. “In God we trust.” says Greenback.

Science is another one; it is the efforts by human persons who try to prove hypothesis to be real by accumulating facts. Human society is built with institutions, mechanisms, organizations, systems, and structures created in the mind of people, and by trust in what is imagined. They can be called ethics, ideals, ideologies, and principles.

Since imagination is invisible, greed and hubris can easily deceive public with “fake news” for the benefit of a few. But deception fails eventually . Like the famous saying: You can fool some people all the time; you can fool all the people some of the time; but you can not fool all the people all the time. Time will come when deception is exposed. Humans think beyond facts. We think and behave according to the common stories we share. Trust works when there is evid4ence of truth in the story. If there isn’t, it fails; often tragically.