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Monday, May 28, 2007Truth And Lies From Different Prespective
“655,000 Iraqi civilians have died. Who are the terrorists?”
-Rosie O’Donnell from The View comparing U.S. activities with Islamic terrorism
Since Rosie O’Donnell has recently “got quit” from her job on The View (or rather, had her pre-existing plans for departure greatly accelerated) because of uttering this sentence, it is worth taking a second to explore the voracity of Rosie’s statement.
If we take the total confirmed attacks by Al Queda against the West (broadly understood) we have 5 acts of terrorism in total. The 1993 WTC Bombing which killed 6. The 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole which killed 17. The September 11th attacks which killed 2974. The 2004 Madrid bombings which killed 191. And, lastly, the 2005 bombings in London, England which killed 52.
So, Al Qaeda has claimed a total of 3240 fatalities in the West.
Now America’s activities abroad are far too numerous to either delineate or to quantify, so, for simplicity’s sake, let’s limit it only to US involvement in the country of Iraq since the enactment of UN resolution 667 in 1990 up to the present.
The Gulf War and the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq throughout the 90s up until 2003 killed a total of approximately 1,000,000 (source). And, from 2003 up until the present, according to the best and most thorough statistical project undertaken the U.S. has killed approximately 651,000 in the Iraq War.
Which eye do you CHOOSE for flirting?
It was a warm day in May, and I was sitting on a bench park of Paris. Next to me, there was this beautiful woman that I had just met, and we were chatting about the book she was reading. I was looking into her eyes and she was doing exactly the same.
But there was something wrong.
Every time I was looking into her right eye, I was feeling very awkward. So every time this happened, I broke eye contact and looked around. The same thing kept happening, over and over again, until at some point she told me that she had to leave. I then asked for her number and she gave me a sweet smile: “Non. Je ne donne pas mon numéro aux étrangers”.
Clank! It was over before it even started: I had blown it.
For two minutes I sat there while I was back tracking what we had just said, when it came to me.
6 years in primary school.
6 years in high school.
5 years in University.
1 year for my PhD (two left to go then).
That was a total of 18 years of education.
For 18 years, I was doing exactly what Capitalism asked of me: I learned how to do a job right, I kept performing uber specific tasks that no one really understood, and I was doing them well. But I had no idea how to do the simplest of things:
How to look another human being in the eyes.
Eye contact is the most basic of human non verbal communications. It comes in every flavour and colour:
You have angry ones, you have happy ones and you have sexy ones. There are dark ones, there are blue ones, and there are those happy green ones: They are everywhere.
But for most humans, eye contact remains as mysterious as rocket science.
The importance of eye contact.
There was an experiment done lately and the results that came out were quite stunning. They took a group of people and made them think they were interviewers in what it seemed to be a standard job interview. They told the first half of the interviewed people to avoid eye contact with the interviewers, and the other half to maintain a very confident eye contact. Then they asked the interviewers to write down their opinions: The interviewers were more ready to hire people that maintained good eye contact than those that averted their gaze.
First, before I begin to bore you with the usual sort of things science fiction writers say in speeches, let me bring you official greetings from Disneyland. I consider myself a spokesperson for Disneyland because I live just a few miles from it — and, as if that were not enough, I once had the honour of being interviewed there by Paris TV.
For several weeks after the interview, I was really ill and confined to bed. I think it was the whirling teacups that did it. Elizabeth Antebi, who was the producer of the film, wanted to have me whirling around in one of the giant teacups while discussing the rise of fascism with Norman Spinrad... an old friend of mine who writes excellent science fiction. We also discussed Watergate, but we did that on the deck of Captain Hook's pirate ship. Little children wearing Mickey Mouse hats — those black hats with the ears — kept running up and bumping against us as the cameras whirred away and Elizabeth asked unexpected questions. Norman and I, being preoccupied with tossing little children about, said some extraordinarily stupid things that day. Today, however, I will have to accept full blame for what I tell you, since none of you are wearing Mickey Mouse hats and trying to climb up on me under the impression that I am part of the rigging of a pirate ship.
Science fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can't talk about science, because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful. A few years ago, no college or university would ever have considered inviting one of us to speak. We were mercifully confined to lurid pulp magazines, impressing no one. In those days, friends would say me, "But are you writing anything serious?" meaning "Are you writing anything other than science fiction?" We longed to be accepted. We yearned to be noticed. Then, suddenly, the academic world noticed us, we were invited to give speeches and appear on panels — and immediately we made idiots of ourselves. The problem is simply this: What does a science fiction writer know about? On what topic is he an authority?
It reminds me of a headline that appeared in a California newspaper just before I flew here. SCIENTISTS SAY THAT MICE CANNOT BE MADE TO LOOK LIKE HUMAN BEINGS. It was a federally funded research program, I suppose. Just think: Someone in this world is an authority on the topic of whether mice can or cannot put on two-tone shoes, derby hats, pinstriped shirts, and Dacron pants, and pass as humans.
Well, I will tell you what interests me, what I consider important. I can't claim to be an authority on anything, but I can honestly say that certain matters absolutely fascinate me, and that I write about them all the time. The two basic topics which fascinate me are "What is reality?" and "What constitutes the authentic human being?" Over the twenty-seven years in which I have published novels and stories I have investigated these two interrelated topics over and over again. I consider them important topics. What are we? What is it which surrounds us, that we call the not-me, or the empirical or phenomenal world?
In 1951, when I sold my first story, I had no idea that such fundamental issues could be pursued in the science fiction field. I began to pursue them unconsciously. My first story had to do with a dog who imagined that the garbagemen who came every Friday morning were stealing valuable food which the family had carefully stored away in a safe metal container. Every day, members of the family carried out paper sacks of nice ripe food, stuffed them into the metal container, shut the lid tightly — and when the container was full, these dreadful-looking creatures came and stole everything but the can.
Finally, in the story, the dog begins to imagine that someday the garbagemen will eat the people in the house, as well as stealing their food. Of course, the dog is wrong about this. We all know that garbagemen do not eat people. But the dog's extrapolation was in a sense logical — given the facts at his disposal. The story was about a real dog, and I used to watch him and try to get inside his head and imagine how he saw the world. Certainly, I decided, that dog sees the world quite differently than I do, or any humans do. And then I began to think, Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world, a world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. And that led me wonder, If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn't we really be talking about plural realities?
It was a situation which no amount of training in etiquette could equip you to deal with - not that I have had any such training anyway, as anyone who knows me would affirm.
I was in a waterfront cafe in Shimonoseki, a long-time whaling port.
In front of me was whale meat, from an animal which it is simply unthinkable to eat in Britain - so unthinkable that I had to promise my daughters I would not touch a morsel of it during my time in Japan.
Yet once in Japan, nothing seemed more normal.
Whale meat was not everywhere, as tuna or tofu are, but in every city I visited I came across at least one restaurant which served it in some form.
So what should I do?
I had come to Japan for the BBC's One Planet programme, to look at where whaling sits in the history and culture of a country which gets a huge proportion of its food from the sea.
In most parts of Europe and North America whales have become iconic, sacrosanct, no more to be killed or hurt than your close relative.
Whale meat is accepted in Japan
But in the Japanese view, they are a wild natural resource to be used, just like fish or lobsters or rabbits or boar.
And the more I have thought about it, the more complicated the arguments have grown.
I had spent one full year living in Japan. I had battled with cultural shocks, I had battled my own pre-conceived ideas about life and culture. I had sat on a crowded train carriage, to look around and notice I was the only foreigner around. I had 1 year of ups and downs and sideways curves. 1 year of struggling with the language, and just plain struggling to fit in. 1 year of stress and problems at work caused by Bill and Shane. I wasn’t yet ready to leave Japan, but god was I ready to go back home for a holiday.
When I came to Japan, naturally, I was extremely open to the Japan experience. I was a big Australian sponge, ready and primed to extract meaning and experiences from everything around me. I had eaten lots of Japanese food, I had even studied a smidgeon of Japanese. I had made some Japanese friends in Australia in the weeks prior to my trip to Japan. I was locked and loaded for Japan. As such, when I landed, nothing really took me by surprise. I had no singular “culture-shock”, that all the travel books like to talk about. I said “wow, that’s interesting”, and “hm, that’s a bit different” more times than I could count (and I still do!), but nothing seriously hit me in the face, or took the wind out of me.
When I went into a shop in Japan for the first time, everyone looked at me, smiled, and almost shouted : "Irraishaimase!". I was a bit confused, and had no idea how to appropriately respond, so I simply nodded my head, smiled awkwardly and proceeded with my purchase. I later asked a Japanese person what "Irraishaimase" means. He said : "It is for when you go into a shop. The shop people are welcoming you. If they do not welcome you, it is very rude in Japanese culture, because you are the customer. You don't even need to respond, because you are the customer!" He explained.
Even after he told me that it was not necessary to respond, I still had a lot of trouble with this. Naturally, I was brought up in Australia to respond to people who talk to you. When you walk into a shop, and 3 people drop what they're doing, flash you a big smile, and say heartily "WELCOME TO OUR SHOP!", it's hard to ignore that. Once I tried to reply back. A staff member looked right at me, and said "Irrashaimase!", and I looked back, smiled, and said "Arigatou Gozaimasu!". She looked at me uncomfortably. I looked back. She slowly turned back to her work, obviously unsure of how best to respond. I realised this approach wasn't working either. All I was doing was transferring the awkwardness I was feeling back onto her.