Asymmetry, an essay by robert wolff

You can read other essays by robert here.

For many years I have pondered the growing asymmetry in our world. I’ve never used the word ‘pondered’ before, it is a ponderous word and I don’t feel ponderous. But perhaps it is the right word to describe a kind of thinking that is more of a tuning in, somewhere in the back of my mind, to what is beginning to have a word. It is still not easy to focus, it has so many facets, so
many manifestations. I think of it now as asymmetry, everything out of proportion with many faces, different forms.
Today it is easy to learn what is going on almost everywhere on the globe. Official ‘news’ is for an American public that is not much interested in what makes news beyond our borders. Fortunately the internet opens (almost) all the rest of the world up, in as much detail as one seeks.

Asymmetrical wars have become the face of war. Enormously disproportionate power of attackers against virtually unarmed attacked. Huge air power, money, equipment, against civilians and a few ‘insurgents’ as we call resisters now. Undeclared wars (illegal according to our own Constitution and international law) in two or three or four (we don’t even know how many) countries. Overarmed police with the most modern weapons, usually more than one, against unarmed non-violent activists. Prison terms immensely out of proportion to the seriousness of the crime, leading inevitably to ‘detainees’ who have no rights whatsoever, have not been tried, let alone accused, after being tortured must be hidden presumably for the rest of their life.
Banks that juggle imaginary ‘instruments‘ with super-inflated values gambled into never before dreamed fortunes with nine and more zeroes. Winning in one year more than was spent in fifty years by all the rich countries for development assistance to poor countries. Is that still winning,
or theft? We at the bottom know very well that the billions, trillions, were stolen from us. Our government has spent so much rescuing the banks that there is nothing left for the fifteen million unemployed. The banks sit on their zeroes, hoarding the wealth of the millions of homes that were taken out from under us. The three richest men in the world owning more than the
forty-nine poorest countries together. Truly obscene differences between the incomes of the richest and the poorest in this country and many others. A financial collapse clearly the work of a few out of control banks who get bailed out for trillions of borrowed dollars and then have the best year in their entire history.

All but two States of the fifty United States on the brink of unsurmountable debts that they are not allowed to have, by law. They must reduce services like schools, libraries, emergency medical care, close prisons, reduce the number of fire fighters, raise the tuition of universities by 300%…
The country that pays twice as much per person on so-called health care is rated below the WHO ‘health’ ratings of 16 other countries — all of them with considerably less wealth per person if an average, or even median, wealth were computed.
The nation that thinks itself the richest and most powerful nation on earth whipped into a permanent hysterical fear of ‘terror’. A nation whose only response to any threat is the full force of its considerable armies in the air, on land, and in the dark. An ever more bizarre security search of people, their clothes and their luggage at airports—even for 20 minute flights..
Unable to think about consequences of the mere presence of a hundred thousand armed troops at the other end of the world in a country whose languages we do not speak. We tell each other that we are there to win the hearts and minds of the people while our Supreme Court declared that even just talking to anyone labeled by someone ‘terrorist‘ is a felony. Can we imagine what we would feel, or do, if Afghan troops had checkpoints in our cities, kicked house doors in at 3 AM to search our homes for weapons, all too often randomly shooting, killing women, children…
But of course that is unimaginable. The latest plans are to sweep away a vaguely defined Movement so that then a clean Afghan government will take over as a healthy democratic state. We, their saviors, forever friends. The American Dream.
Domestic violence, violence against women, seems to be increasing everywhere. Everyone must know about the war against women in the Congo, but now and then there are news items about violence against women in Brazil, and other countries in South America.

So-called modern agriculture, modern meat production, food made in factories, more examples of a crazy overdoing of common sense, human ethics, health. And it would not take long to add
a hundred other asymmetries.
The wars, the increasing violence of armed-to-the-teeth police; the ‘Bubble‘ that lead to a planet-wide financial meltdown, an immense sucking up of wealth to the top; the severe overmedication and reliance on exotic machinery of modern medicine; the ecological disasters caused by our frantic greed for resources plundered from the earth — all utterly out of proportion to
attainment, solution, consequence, healing.
A remarkable aspect of all that is that few people see asymmetry as a problem. Not too difficult to find out that the CEO makes 200, 400, 600 times as much as the secretary in the pool or the worker in his factory. Does it bother anyone?

The various wars that we are conducting are always presented as necessary for our national security; rarely questioned.
Hardly ever any reporting from the point of view of ‘the other side.‘ We know how many American brave soldiers were killed but we were told many years ago that ‘we don’t count enemy dead’. Clever psychology: it seeps into our subconscious that civilian dead could have been, must have been, enemy anyway.
That the minority party, a minority of Senators representing mostly small States, 30% of all Americans, can block and stop any and all actions of Congress is difficult to understand. How can that be? Apparently there is nothing the president or the administration can do about it. A Supreme Court that consistently votes 5 to 4 decisions that are extreme, to say the least. For
instance, corporations are persons, and article One of the Constitution guarantees free speech, interpreted to mean freedom to spend unlimited amounts of money to support a human person of their choice in any election. From down here it seems obvious that corporations, most or all of
them international, are really running this country and probably many others as well.
But perhaps it has always been like this. The pyramids were built, it is said, by slaves 4000 years ago. There were empires in Africa, South and East Asia, South and Central America, a thousand years ago. The American war of eradication of the land and people of a continent was waged a few hundred years ago. A hunded years ago most of the world’s now countries were
colonies of a few European natons and America. The history we learn is asymmetrical. Modern humankind probably believes that greed, lust, arrogance, violence, and the other Cardinal Sins, are the norm; be happy don’t worry.
No, it wasn’t always like that. Historians record battles and disasters, newsworthy events, but most of humankind spends its days searching for food, water, shelter; for most of historical time in small groups scattered over what land could support a group of people. In order to survive we had to help each other, cooperate. We would not have survived if we had lived with the kind of
asymmetries we have now. By inference that means, I think, that the current worldwide asymmetries, getting more asymmetrical all the time, spell the end of, or at least a major catastrophe for, humankind and considerable changes for the planet we think of as our exclusive property.
Of course very few individuals orchestrate, practice and promote, the kind of unlimited capitalism that drives all modern asymmetries. But those few have become so powerful that they not only own but run the economies of the world, and so, run governments.

Resistance, insurgency and its violence, is a response to what is felt as oppression. When the few feel threatened they respond to the response with the overwhelming utterly asymmetrical power they wield. Force always and inevitably begets counterforce and today a little force begets overwhelming super force. That strengthens resistance. And that leads to black hole practices, torture, no-law detainees, eternal prisons and always more force. The logic of force-counterforce requires ‘they started it.‘ Who started what can of course be put anywhere, any date, any battle, any action, at any yesterday.

The Cold War was a never fought battle of perceived threat and counter-threat. We think we won it, when the other collapsed after putting all its eggs in one basket: more and more military spending. The enemy in the Cold War drowned in its debt. Now we are doing the exact same thing even though the threats and perceived threats are not another powerful nation, but very few individuals who have a grudge, an idea. Nevertheless we attack them with all the might of our planes, drones, Marines, Special Forces, mercenary armies, sixteen different secret services.

We not only strengthen but give huge worldwide importance to a few individuals who have ideas and a fraction of our power and money. We choose this enormous asymmetry. Or could it be that our Military/Industrial Complex needs wars to make money?

Sociologists who have studied societies with extreme inequalities of wealth tell us that asymmetry does not work, it makes for an unstable society. Sooner or later the people rebel. Americans it seems have a greater tolerance for extreme inequality than, for instance, western Europeans even though the American revolution preceded the French revolution by a few years.
Marie Antoinette said ‘let them eat cakes;‘ recently a woman who may well be elected to the Senate declared that the 15 million now destitute unemployed Americans are ‘spoiled and do not want to work’.

Ecologists tell us that ecologies constantly adjust asymmetries; asymmetry disturbs, destroys the dynamic balance. An ecology in which one species has acquired the power to eradicate all its enemies (except the tiniest ones we cannot see with our eyes) and then uses that power to severely reduce biodiversity cannot be. That ecology crashes.
Is there a who or what behind all this? Or, how could this have happened, that is the question I have asked myself for the past at least forty years. My experiences with non-western peoples is not unique, the majority of humans is not western. I grew up in two worlds, speaking two very different languages, being aware even as a young boy that I had to communicate with people of
the two worlds differently. Not only different words, but different thinking, different values. All children growing up in a bilingual two culture world learn that early.

The world of my parents was difficult to understand because it was abstract, in pictures, a life style that obviously did not fit the smells and temperatures of where we were, with commands and values (good/bad) that did not make much sense. The world of the people of the little town and in school—at our house ‘in the back‘—was easier to understand because it was all around in the trees and
animals, in the sounds and smell of people who knew themselves a part of all Life, all Nature. Closely related, integrated in, the world of rain and sun, things that grew and lived, that I could feel and touch. It was more comfortable because I was accepted for what I was.

In contrast, my parents groomed me to be someone they imagined. Being accepted without expectations was a relief. The world of my parents was somewhere very far away, came to us after a four-week boat voyage, knowable only from books. Things from that world were imported at great cost.

My mother was concerned that I was becoming too native. She sent me away to her world when I was eleven. What a shock! I failed in school although until then I had skipped two classes because I have a high IQ, whatever that means. I came back more native than before. She sent me away again after I finished high school, landing in the Netherlands two weeks before the start of WWII. In S.E.Asia we had not known much about what was happening in Europe.
I’ve been a nomad ever since. After a while I have the urge to move on. I’m very good at making a new home, making new friends, often creating a new me, always making a very alive garden, also always getting rid of a lot of stuff. I’ve lived in many countries in all continents except Australia, and the Antarctic if that is a continent. Everywhere I was attracted to simple. People at the bottom of the heap, the poor, a minority, the indigenous, and, if they were to be found, First People (aborigines).

Over the years I learned that the great majority of all humans live on the edges or even outside the elaborate human structures we have created to rule each other. Every government has a way of getting to the top and labyrinthine bureaucracies; we do not see the ones outside.

A generation ago law enforcers stood on street corners to remind us that there were rules. Today’s law enforcers often initiate action rather than wait for crimes to be committed.

My father had a saying, ‘Everyone regulates her/his own breathing’. I learned that most of the time most of the people regulate their own behavior. I have seen that it works just fine without any form or kind of ‘governing’. The chaos that is Nature works because trees, plants, animals, relate to each other making a balanced dynamic whole. When we knew ourselves part of that whole, we related to trees, plants, animals, as family. Long before we invented governments, even before we imagined bosses, we lived in small groups working together, helping each other.
That is the nature of human nature. My guess is that criminal behavior is learned, as killing other humans must be learned. Left to ourselves in the real world WE survived.For some time now we have left the real world to find ourselves on our own, thinking ME. Life became about winning. Some win, very few win big, most of us lose. Asymmetry followed our divorce from nature. The root asymmetry is the impact of our ability to imagine what never was.
We can invent and we can lie. Once we fantasized ourselves separate from the real world we spun ever more ethereal virtual webs that calcified into brittle human-made structures.

Our much vaunted minds came up with owning, a concept never before known, an unthinkable idea in the real world. What hubris to think we can own Mother Earth. In evolution, even non-physical evolution, one thing leads to another. The imagination that we could own begat hierarchies, some humans better than others, leading to a strange new idea: leaders. A succession of tyrants led to a multitude of styles of government born of ideas about how we ought to live, prosper, grow, increase — survival of the species was never included in
our pipe dreams. Owning land, the ultimate unnatural, made nations with arbitrary borders. Helping each other became barter, then trade, and so, money. We spun civilizations out of ambition and thin air. Now we’re locked into illusionary illusions within illusions. We busy ourselves patching up and adding to the flimsy structures we think are “the world” and killing each other for an infinity of imagined causes.

Anything real, like an oil-spewing volcano on an ocean floor, is an irritating reminder that there is a real world underneath our man-made one. We
don’t want to be reminded that polar caps and glaciers are melting. The economy, fighting terror, scheming dreams to get rich, are more important than having to worry about things we want to keep background noise. The real world, however, is talking back at our plunder. We may
think it is background noise, but in truth the noise is us.
So now there are a few of us who take owning the earth to its logical end: experiments trying to cool a warming planet. Geo-engineering. I’ve heard from three people in different parts of the world. that secretly technologies and chemicals are being tried on live cities with live people—who, of course are not told.
Of those who can read this, the literate, most say there must be hope. We’re running the planet, aren’t we? Somehow, someone, some time, will figure out how to stop bad things from happening so that we (at most 5% of the almost 7 billion of us) can go on living in the style we’re now accustomed to (as before, on the backs of the rest of all fellow-humans). Free to do whatever; never worry about food, home, energy, the future, or … asymmetry.

Homo Sapiens, whose imagining enabled lying (and flying), whose thoughtless rush ignoring consequences upset all balances, its swollen forebrain tipping the scales.
robert wolff, 19 july 2010

Tips For Saving Money

The text below this paragraph was not written by me, but was found on facebook. Though I don’t really like facebook, it does have it’s uses. For instance, this article was actually quite informative. Hope you find some use out of it.
This is awesome
THIS IS LONG BUT SO INFORMATIVE!!!!!Most people are watching their dollars and working off a budget to make ends meet. Many are also now looking for natural alternatives to live a more wholesome and chemical free life. Following are a few ways in which you can have both of the above. These uses are becoming more prevalent and are easy to do it yourself. So, here are great easy uses for common household items to make your life more chemical free and your wallet a little fatter. SHARE WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND VISIT FOR MORE AWESOME TIPS!

1) Toothpaste: Buff a CD/DVD
Apply toothpaste to a cotton ball and wipe the disc. Wash with water afterwards and you’ve got a brand new disc!

2) Cornstarch: Untangle Knots
Sprinkling cornstarch into tough knots, such as shoe laces helps loosen them.

3) Walnut: Buff Dings out of Wood Furniture
Get rid of unsightly scratches and dings on wood furniture by rubbing a walnut on the areas. The blemishes will vanish quickly and your furniture and pocket book will be saved.

4) Club Soda: Make Your Breads Fluffier
When baking, where recipes call for water, add club soda instead to make pancakes, waffles and any other breads fluffier.

5) Salt: Keep Windows Frost Free
Pour a cup of salt into a liter of water. Sponge the liquid onto the inside of window to prevent frost from forming during the winter months.

6) Rubbing Alcohol: Remove Permanent Marker
Dab the surface that has the permanent marker on it with a cloth or cotton ball covered in rubbing alcohol to make it disappear quickly.

7) Chap stick: Stops Bleeding When Nicked Shaving
Cut yourself shaving? Just swipe some chap stick over the cut to stop that constant bleeding. No more tissue squares!

8) Apple Juice: Removes Dandruff
Don’t ask how it works, but it does! Instead of buying a special shampoo, just wash your hair in apple juice to rid your scalp of pesky dandruff.

9) Aspirin: Get Rid of Armpit Stains on T-Shirts
Grind up an aspirin tablet or two, then make a paste out of it using water, lemon or vinegar. Spread the paste on the stained area and let sit for an hour before washing.

10) Olive Oil: Make Pets’ Coat Shinier
Add a bit of olive oil to your pet’s food to give them a healthier, shinier coat of fur.

11) Newspapers: Clean Windows and Mirrors
Instead of using a spray and a streaky cloth, use only newspaper to clean off your mirrors and windows for a streak-free finish.

12) Baking Soda: Remove Bugs from Windshield
Mix baking soda with warm water to make a paste. Spread the paste over your windshield for fifteen minutes. Then wipe or spray off with a hose.

13) Bleach: Extend Life of Flowers in Vase
Add a few drops of bleach to vase water to prevent the build-up of the slime caused by bacteria. It works just like chlorine in a swimming pool.

14) Kitchen Dish Soap: Flea-Killing Dog Shampoo
Kitchen dish soap (not dish detergent) can double as dog shampoo for its flea killing abilities.

15) Coke: Remove Blood Stains from Clothing
Soak the stain in coke until the stain is dissolved, then wash the clothing as usual. Wash before the coke dries, though.

16) Honey: Remove Blemish Overnight
Have a blemish you need to get rid of by tomorrow? Put a dab of honey on the blemish and cover it up (it’s best to use a Band-Aid) and the honey’s natural antibacterial properties will clean out the bacteria by the morning.

17) Wax Paper: Clean Can Opener Gears
Run a few small strips of wax paper through the can opener to clean out of the bits and pieces that have built up in the gears throughout the year. The wax will also rub off on the gears to protect for future use as well.

18) WD-40: Remove Crayons from Walls
Use the lubricant and a cloth to remove stubborn crayon marks from the walls just by spraying the wall and wiping with a cloth.

19) Chalk: Keep Ants and Slugs Out of the House
Ants and Slugs Won’t Touch Chalk. So, simply draw a line in front of your doorway where you are having problems with these pesky critters and they won’t cross it, meaning they won’t be able to get into your house.

20) Vinegar: Kills Weeds and Helps Flowers Grow
Vinegar is a magic wonder when it comes to gardening. It not only kills weeds but they help flowers grow as well. Douse vinegar all around your garden to prevent weeds from popping up and to help your flowers to grow healthy and strong.

21) Mayonnaise: Remove Bumper Sticker
Spread mayonnaise on the bumper sticker and let sit for at least thirty minutes. Then, rub the sticker off with a towel, leaving a clean bumper!

22) Tin Foil Ball: Replace Dryer Sheets Permanently
Instead of using a dryer sheet ball up one or a few sheets of tin foil and toss it in the dryer. It removes the static electricity from your clothes and one can last up to a year.

23) Banana Peel: Polish Leather Shoes
Use the inside of a banana peel to give shoes a professional and natural shine that will last for quite some time.

24) Mouthwash: Cure Athlete’s Foot
Pour mouthwash on cotton balls and then swab your feet. The alcohol will disinfect the bacteria completely if you continue this for a week or so.

25) Baking Soda: Clean BBQ Grill
Mix a cup of baking soda with half a cup water to make a paste. Dip your brush into the paste and scrub the grill. The caked on pieces and black residue will come off much quicker and using baking soda is much safer and cheaper than using cleaning chemicals.

26) Coffee Grounds: Fertilizer
Coffee is full of nutrients and vitamins that are very beneficial to soil. That’s why some people include it in compost piles. If you want to get the most out of your coffee, pour the grounds on areas where you want more grass or flowers.

27) Olive Oil: Shaving Cream
The smoothness of the oil can replace the need for shaving cream, and it also provides great moisture.

28) Dryer Sheets: Gets Rid of Static Electricity
Use dryer sheets to remove static electricity from things such as clothing, TV screens or your own hair. Tame fly away strands by running a dryer sheet over them.

29) Freezer: Freeze Candles to Make Them Last Longer
Put candles in the freezer for at least 2 hours before using. Once you burn them, the wax will melt at a much slower pace, making them last much longer!

30) Two glasses of water: Cure Headache
Water is the cure to most common headaches. To make the headache go away quickly, drink two cups of water very quickly.

31) Lemons: Deodorize Garbage Disposal
Toss whole slices of lemon into the garbage disposal then run it. The acidity of the lemon will rid your sink of all odors and leave a fresh scent that usually lasts for a few months.

32) Alka Seltzer: Remove Burnt-On Grease and Food Stains
When letting your pots and pans soak, throw in one or two Alka Seltzer tablets and the caked on residue from cooking will come off easily when you scrub/wash.

33) Apple Cider Vinegar: Relieve Diarrhea
Mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into eight ounces of water to soothe your stomach. The taste may not be the greatest, but the antibacterial properties of the vinegar will end the unpleasantness of the bowel problems.

34) Toothpaste: Remove Scratches from Glass
Apply toothpaste to scratch, then rub with a cloth until the scratch is gone. Make sure the glass is clean beforehand.

35) Cheerios: Relieve Pain from Poison Ivy, Chickenpox and Sunburns
Pound one to four cups of Cheerios into a powder and add to your bath to soothe your skin while you soak. You may not feel relief while in the tub, but you will soon after.

36) Buttons: Sort Earrings
Organize your earrings and prevent them from becoming entangled by using spare buttons as holders for each pair.

37) Corn Oil: Prevent Hairballs for Pets
Add a few drops of corn oil to your pets’ food to prevent hairballs from forming. The thick oil helps the fur pass through the animal’s system much quicker and easily.

38) Whipped Cream: Remove Gum from Hair
There are many remedies for removing gum from hair, but this is a lesser known one. Give it a try rather than peanut butter the next time you’re in need.

39) Coke: Remove Oil Stains from the Driveway
Oil stains are very difficult to remove pavement, but one method guaranteed to work is Coke. The highly acidic drink will eat away at the oil until clean.

40) Brown Sugar: Facial Scrub
A scrub is good to do about once a month to remove dead skin and bacteria built up in pores and remove excess oil from the skin. Brown sugar does just as well as expensive products and will definitely result in a clearer and smoother complexion.

41) Dryer Sheet: Lint Brush
You already know that dryer sheets remove lint in the dryer. Well, it can do the same thing out of the dryer, too. When you’re in a fix, use a dryer sheet. It works just as well as a lint brush, and if you like the scent, it’s an added bonus.

42) Newspaper: Deodorize food containers and Food Drawers in the Refrigerator
For that stinky Tupperware or smelly refrigerator drawer that is too much to deal with, toss in a sheet of newspaper overnight before you deal with it. The paper will absorb the smell greatly reducing it or eliminating it completely.

43) Olive Oil: Unstick a Zipper
The oil will help the zipper slide more easily, fixing the problem!

44) Salt: Cool Something Quickly
You know that feeling when you’re having a BBQ and someone asks for a drink and you realize that no one has put them in the cooler? There’s nothing worse than a warm drink on a hot day. Chill a drink quickly, by adding salt and water to your ice. The drinks will be cold in a matter of minutes; saving your party and making you look smart all at once.

45) Scotch Tape: Prevent Wall from Chipping When Nailing
The wall can leave unsightly chips when hammering in a nail. Prevent this by simply placing a piece of scotch tape over the area you’re going to nail. The wall will be held tighter, preventing chips from occurring.

46) Alka Seltzer: Soothe Insect Bites
Dissolve two tablets into a glass of water. Then use a cloth or cotton ball to apply it to the affected area. The red will go down and most importantly, the itchiness will vanish usually in fifteen minutes.

47) Lemon: Whitens Whites
Add about half a cup of lemon juice to your load of whites to makes them extra white. You can use lemon juice with bleach or detergent, so don’t worry about mixing chemicals with the acidic lemon.

48) Banana Peel: Whiten Teeth
This may sound a little odd, but rub the inside of a banana peel on your teeth twice a day for two weeks and you will receive the same effect from a teeth-whitening kit. Plus, you’ll save yourself money and the hassle of using chemicals.

49) Hair Dryer: Free Photos Stuck on Pages
If you have a photo stuck on a page that you can’t get free, try using a blow dryer on the back of the page. It will loosen the photo from the page and the adhesive holding it there.

50) Banana Peel: Heal Most Skin Problems
Bananas are the magical fruit, because they heal many common problems on the skin. By rubbing the peel on your skin, you can heal bruises and cuts and eliminate rashes, itching and warts. Basically if you have a common skin problem, it can be cured by this fruit.

I hope you can put some or all of these to good use to save money and make your home a safer environment. There are tons more DIY uses for common household items like these. make sure to share the info with your friends!