9/20/13

Finding love at a personal branding consultants' convention


Two professional personal branding consultants attending a personal branding consultants' convention fall in love at the cocktail reception.

"Hi! Name's Chad... says right here on the old name tag!"

"Hi Chad, great to meet you, I'm Sally! Wow, terrific handshake you have there, firm yet warm, I get the feeling you're a confident, trustworthy kind of individual. How's the evening treated you so far?"

"Fantastic! What did you think of that 'Putting the You in You-niverse' seminar? Wasn't it mind-blowing? There's so much positive energy in this room, I really feel pumped to be able to harmonize with all this constructive synergy!"

"I know, I can tell from your big white gleaming toothy smile that you too are having a great time!"

"So I take it then that you are too?"

"Oh absolutely! But I guess you could already tell from these big gleaming teeth I get whitened regularly!"

"Of course I could, and it's so important too, because, as you yourself know all too well, a confident bright smile projects the confidence you have within you and inspires confidence and trust in the person opposite you as well. In this case, the You is Me!"

"I could not agree more, Chad. It is you. Notice how I maintain eye contact to increase a sense of sincere conviviality between us while also making you feel desired and interesting? This increases your sense of trust in me which will be great when I try to sell you something or convince you to do business with me."

"Congratulations, great eye contact, I certainly do feel special already, and we're only a few seconds into the conversation! I would be very open to anything you say right about now. Well done! I also make sure to maintain eye contact, and also proceed to ask questions about you so as to make you feel important, desired and interesting as well, which means you'll warm up to me and like me quicker, so I too can pedal my own inevitable money-making agenda. Here's one of those questions I've already lined up beforehand: Where do you workout? You have a fantastic physique!"

"Oh I like how you both asked a question to show that you show interest in me, Chad, and also added a cleverly disguised compliment in there designed to flatter me! I do indeed workout Chad, five times a week, in fact... mostly Crossfit, but also Tae-Bo and Pilates... Your avid head nodding and unflinching smile make me feel like I'm the center of interest and that you're genuinely enthralled by my answer, thereby encouraging me to continue on the same topic."

"Please tell me more about your Crossfit training, and also your Paleo diet... Excuse me for presuming you're on the Paleo diet, but..."

"I am! I am on the Paleo diet, good guess, although I suppose everyone at this convention is also on the same diet, considering we were all on the same Atkin's Diet at the 2002 convention. But I did not find it too presumptuous of you to mention it Chad, because I'm keeping things positive! An outward appearance of positivity is crucial because I find that how you look on the outside inspires a positive reaction in the people around you while also projecting confidence and power, thus making you a desirable person other people will want to get to know, thereby transforming you into a brand that people will want to consume and will simply not get enough of! Don't you agree Chad?"

"Absolutely, Sally. Say, have you read that book 'How to Influence People and...'?"

"'WIN FRIENDS! YES, oh my God, I love that book! I feel like those 12 step goals have made people genuinely interested in me, increasing my influence over them and..."

"...winning you friends, wow, I can't believe I knew you were going to say that... High five! Isn't life great Sally?"

"Oh it most certainly is great Chad! Cheers to life, and also cheers to standing out from the crowd in life! It feels really special to be part of this whole crowd of people here at this convention where every single person stands out from the crowd!"

"It sure does. Achieving your personal goals on a daily basis and seeing yourself transform into a person who projects confidence and charisma at ever increasing gradations through a pre-scheduled and intricately planned span of time is certainly what makes me happy to be alive, Sally!"

"I think I can second that, Chad!"

"Don't second it, FIRST it!"

"Ha ha, terrific!"

"By the way, Sally, aren't you impressed with how often we repeat our names to each other? Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language."

"I know! That's from 'Six Ways to Make People Like You', isn't it? I love that quote!"

"Yes it is! I totally agree with it too, because it's very important to maintain the appearance of being absolutely engaged wholeheartedly in the conversation you're in, thereby gaining that person's confidence, attention and attraction, all of which translates to making YOU a more attractive person as well, and, dare I say it, a more desirable brand that others would love to consume!"

"Yes! Although I'm pretty sure I said exactly the same thing a few minutes ago, didn't I?"

"Did you? Of course you did! I am listening very carefully to everything you say so as to gain your trust. But I guess we've been reading all the same books so sometimes we say the same things and maybe repeat ourselves and even repeat what the other person also says without knowing, even though we're listening very carefully to each other and also looking like we're listening very carefully to each other!"

"Yes, doing all that is very important while constantly repeating each other's name through the conversation. I guess that's what makes you an attractive person!"

"Me?"

"Yes, well... you and me, actually, both of us... I mean, you use my name and, you know, make me feel special, and I use..."

"Okay okay, yes, I got it now, you weren't talking about me in particular, it was just a general you..."

"Well yeah, but no, it was kinda both... in this particular instance 'You' is you, even though it's actually kind of a general impersonal You that I meant, depending on who I'm talking to, kind of a faceless nameless conceptual You... anyway... "

"Yes, okay I understand Chad, but back to our conversation... While we obviously always project our best selves to others and thereby increase our personal brand awareness and prestige in the eyes of others, I think we could also help each other out by maybe pointing out a few areas where we could improve?"

"Oh of course, we could always improve, nobody's perfect, improvement is an ongoing process, life is about..."

"Yes yes, I know the spiel Chad, no need to repeat it to me here, you were about to quote '20 Ways To Project A Rock Star Personality'... Sorry if I sounded a little impatient there, but remember how we said we've read all the same things? So yeah, you don't need to repeat all that golden advice to each other..."

"Okay sorry"

"No no no, never say you're sorry, that just projects a sense of doubt and lack of confidence about yourself. That's a big no no Chad, especially at a personal branding consultants' convention! People can see right through that here!"

"Oh yes, I forgot for a moment, I had my guard down... well maybe that was a positive reinforcement on your part, because you just helped me by pointing out one of the problems... err, I mean challenges I face in terms of me becoming the best personal brand of me that I can be?"

"Oh absolutely, although the questioning inflection at the end of that sentence also projected a sense of self doubt and insecurity, just another little thing I thought I'd point out, but then that's why we're all here, to help each other become better personal branding consultants, right?"

"Right, but now you're doing the same thing, there was a questioning tone at the end of your sentence too..."

"Yes yes, I know I know, I got that, I was just, you know, making a point, otherwise I would've ended that with a more confident, in-charge-of-conversation kind of tone... but I feel like I'm correcting you too much..."

"Yeah you do come across as a liiiiiittle... what's a positive way to put this? Um.. patronizing?"

"PATRONIZING?! That's the positive way of putting it?! Do you even know what positive means?"

"Whoa whoa, now you're sounding very negative, Sally... and dare I say it, sarcastic as well... sarcasm is for losers, remember?"

"I'm surprised you could even tell considering you don't seem to even know what the word 'positive' means... okay, sorry, that was uncalled for, I lost my temper there for a second, I know I'm a better person than that... I need to project a sense of self-confidence to inspire a sense of brand reliability and trust, and that just sounded cruel, bitter, and weak... I apologize, because apologizing need not be a sign of weakness if we have learnt to confront the weakness that underlies it and have dedicated ourselves to eradicating it and all such negativities from our personalities."

"Okay, apology accepted Sally."

"Alright, good... although... you accepting my apology sounded a little patronizing too though, you know, just saying..."

"Oh, sorry..."

"Don't apologize, remember, never... ugh, I feel like we're going in circles."

"Yeah, sometimes it's hard being a personal branding consultant and a human being at the same time."

"Not hard, perhaps... just a challenge."

"Yeah yeah, that's what I meant... I need another drink"

"You sounded like you said something heartfelt and sincere there Chad when you mentioned being 'a human being'. Good tactic!"

"Oh... thanks, I guess."

"Okay anyway, now perhaps you can do the same for me, Chad? What is something you think I can improve about myself as a personal branding consultant?"

"Well, okay... your smile is great, fantastic... but it's a bit too intense..."

"Oh, too intense is it?"

"Yeah like, right now, you're kind of freaking me out... But not in a negative way, just, you know, it's a bit challenging."

"Oh no no, I think we've both learned to erase that word from our vocabularies"

"What, challenging?"

"No no, the N-word, we do not use the N-word"

"What? Geez! I never used the N-word, I'm not a racist, I'm just very very white..."

"No no, not that N-word, I mean NEGATIVE, we don't use the word 'negative'.."

"Oh right, yes yes, sorry, I got confused there for a second"

"You said 'sorry' again"

"Okay, that was a mistake... I mean, that was a challenge, it was a challenge that I can overcome, not a mistake..."

"That's right, 'mistake' sounds like something you don't want associated with your personal brand"

"Yeah, anyway, I was just saying, Sally, that your smile can be a bit intense... there it is again... your eyes are a little too wide, I shouldn't be able to see the whites all around... and it kind of looks like your nostrils are flaring... I don't mean to sound, you know, N-ish, but your eye contact is now kind of like a threatening stare"

"OH IS IT? MM HMM? YOU FEEL I LOOK THREATENING, CHAD? DO YOU FEEL THREATENED BY ME NOW? MAYBE IT'S YOUR OWN INSECURITIES THAT CREATE THAT SENSE OF THREAT?"

"Oh no no no, I mean one may feel threatened if one were so inclined, but I don't feel threatened personally, I'm self confident enough to not feel threatened in any situation, being threatened, as you know, projects a sense of meekness in the face of adversity, and that's a very unattractive quality for us to have, it's not something you want associated with your own personal brand, it makes you less attractive to others"

"Yes, yes it is, very bad... but bad is such an N-ish word too, let's say it's... improvable"

"What, like, can't be proved? I'm confused"

"No Chad, it can be improved, is what I meant, again you're just thinking negatively"

"Oooo you used that word!"

"Yep, my slip there, you caught me out on that one Brad"

"Chad"

"Yes yes, Chad..."

... awkward silence... both gulp their white wine... looking around room... cold sweat...

"Look, Sally, I have to admit, I'm kinda new to this personal branding consultancy thing..."

"It's okay, it's okay, it takes time to build our own personal brands as personal brand consultants, I mean, I was a... a..."

"Life coach, right? You were about to say life coach? Yeah me too... we all were weren't we, I mean it's like a gateway job into this personal branding stuff..."

"Yeah... it's not something any of us are too proud of, is it... I mean, let's face it, life coaching is just something that people who don't know what to do with themselves do for people who don't know what to do with their money, right? This is off the record... I'm not talking as a personal branding consultant now, I just want to be a normal person for a change... I just want to talk honestly and not worry about how I'm affecting my personal brand with every goddamn thing I say. I just want to not be a brand or a product for a bit. I want to be a shitty, messed up, fucked up, confused human being..."

"Yeah, no kidding..."

"...And I want another drink... and I want to smoke a fucking cigarette... Wanna get another drink?"

"Yes, hell yes... I feel exhausted, and I hate wearing these clothes. I'm wearing an argyle cardigan for christ's sake. Who does that?"

"Psychopaths."

"Exactly. Everything I wear is ironed, everything's clean, everything's crisp... I feel like I'm constantly living out a lunatic's OCD nightmare"

"Yeah, that's exactly it. Constantly trying to project confidence, reliability, power, perfection... it's insane... It's inhuman. Do you know how many nervous breakdowns I've had since my divorce, Brad, or Chad or whatever the fuck your name is? Three... that's three nervous breakdowns in two years. And I'm not even counting the panic attacks."

"You think that's bad? I chew on a leather belt when I'm alone. My real name isn't Chad, it's Reginald. I owned a sporting goods store that went bankrupt two years ago. Also, I'm addicted to porn."

"Really? Fuck it. I've got so many prescription drugs running through my system right now my urine smells like a retirement home."

"I think those guys behind you can hear us..."

"Who cares, they're all deranged. YEAH, YOU HEARD ME! Now take off your name tag and let's get out of here, find a bar, and then go fuck in a motel, Reginald."

"Call me Reg. And you know what? I actually like you. It's the first thing I've said all night that I haven't read in some shitty self-help book. It's also the first thing I've said in two years that I actually mean. I. Like. You."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

They tongue. Right there. At the cocktail. 

8/15/13

Correcting history with hindsight


Left: You shouldn't have pissed this guy off

Have you ever read about something in history and with the wonderful benefit of hindsight thought "I wouldn't have done that if I were them"? Hindsight is very underrated. Everyone thinks "Oh yeah, you can say that with the benefit of hindsight, but what would you have done if you were there at that moment in time without the advantage of knowing what the outcome would be?" But isn't that the beauty of hindsight? The fact that you DO know exactly what DID happen means you could know EXACTLY what you should or shouldn't have done if you were there. Hindsight is PERFECT. So here's my list of things I wouldn't have done and what I would've done instead, thanks to the miracle of 20/20 hindsight:

1) What I wouldn't have done: Been the wise man who brought gold. 
It seems like the wise men who brought frankincense and myrrh were a little wiser than the guy who brought gold, don't you think? First of all, baby Jesus is not going to care what present you give him anyway, not just because he's a baby, but because he's Jesus and he doesn't care about earthly possessions. He's the son of god, he doesn't need presents, let alone gold. He'd say "the real gold is the kingdom of heaven" or something Jesusy like that. Plus I bet the other two guys poked fun at the guy who brought gold. He probably saw the bushels of fragrant weeds the others had brought just as they were handing it to Jesus and was like "You've got to be kidding me". But it would've been too late because baby Jesus was probably already being all polite and thanking them for their gifts because he's Jesus and Jesus probably doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings (yes, he could talk as a baby apparently--I know, creepy).
What I would've done instead: Brought some oregano or basil. 

2) What I wouldn't have done: Invaded Russia.
This is a no-brainer. It's huge, it's cold, it's full of crazy vodka-drinking fatalistic Russians, nobody else is going to want you to have it so they'll just side with Russia to screw up your invasion, the whole thing sounds like it could result in nothing short of disaster. Okay, Napoleon was brilliant and ambitious, and he actually went as far as occupying Moscow, but he went with half a million men and came back with barely ten thousand. As for Hitler, he was no military genius or anything, but you'd think he'd have at least learnt from Napoleon. Then there was the Russian Civil War where dozens of countries sent forces in to fight the Bolsheviks, but they all messed up and the Red Army won. Moral of the story: don't the fuck invade Russia.
What I would've done instead: Literally anything else.

3) What I wouldn't have done: Pissed off Genghis Khan.
Among the things to not do, it seems like fucking with Genghis Khan would be very high on the list. You're talking about a guy who probably waged the only successful genocide in history when he wiped out the original Tatars. So what does the Khwarezmian Sultan do? He executes a delegation of Mongol ambassadors and then refuses to apologize. Nice. Guess what Genghis Khan does? He invades (obviously), and then goes totally ape shit on everyone's ass. Example: he has all his Khwarezmian prisoners' legs chopped off from the knees and then frozen onto the walls of the city that he's besieging so they can be used as ladders for his troops to climb. Then once he's taken a city, he systematically exterminates entire civilian populations. The Khwarezmian Empire is obliterated within two years. The whole brutal campaign inspires Nazi Blitzkrieg tactics.
What I would've done instead: Gee, I don't know. APOLOGIZED?!

4) What I wouldn't have done: Crucified Christ.
Don't you see that crucifixion was what god planned all along? He would send his son to earth and have him go through excruciating torment for the salvation of humankind. That was the plan, that was the whole gist. You Romans played right into his hand by crucifying him. I bet Jupiter was rolling his eyes at you the whole time. In fact I'm pretty sure that giant storm that perpetually revolves around Jupiter is Jupiter's wide open mouth screaming "IDIOTS!" Okay, yes, technically the Romans didn't give a shit, to them it was all a bizarre local matter among Jews concerning messiahs and priests and blasphemy and what not, but still, if they hadn't crucified him, St. Paul would've had a pretty thin foundation for creating Christianity later on. I mean, you can't really expect to move people into joining a new religion with a slogan like "Jesus was put under house arrest for your sins!" Of course, some other salvation-offering religion would've taken Christianity's place, like Manichaeism or Mithraism, but they seemed kind of cooler anyway, without all that "meek shall inherit the earth" stuff, which the Romans certainly would've appreciated, because they didn't want no meek people rising up and inheriting their earth.
What I would've done instead: I would've just banished Jesus to India. He would've fit right into India (and he probably would've just become Buddhist), the Jewish priests would've been satisfied because their authority would remain intact, and Pontius Pilate could've got some well-needed rest after having to deal with yet another big complicated Middle Eastern religious mess.

5) What I wouldn't have done: Sacrificed people and animals to gods
The Mayans and Aztecs ripped still-beating hearts of people and animals out of their chests; the Canaanites threw screaming children into a burning furnace inside a massive statue of Moloch in the valley of Gehenna; Hebrew mythology refers to the pre-Judaic practice of human sacrifice (Jacob & Abraham); the Arcadians sacrificed people to their wolf cult and the rest of Greek mythology is rife with human sacrifice and cannibalism (Pelops & Tantalus, Iphigenia, Atreus, Cronus, Polyphemus, etc.), not to mention hecatombs that involved the ritual slaughter of a hundred cattle, sheep, goats, etc. So how about this idea: don't kill anyone and see what happens? If the world keeps turning and if everyone doesn't get struck down by lightning and if ten-headed serpent demons don't come tearing up from the bowels of the earth to devour mankind because you didn't throw a virgin in a volcano, then maybe human sacrifice was unnecessary all along?
What I would've done instead: Just skip a human sacrifice and see what happens. When you see that the sky doesn't come falling down, you can focus your energy on something more productive, like pottery.

6) What I wouldn't have done: Alchemy
Turning metals into gold? Really? Trying to find the elixir of eternal life? Seriously? Do you know how desperately greedy you alchemists come across? Why can't you just be satisfied with plain old chemistry (which is still pretty incredible) and a reasonable lifespan? Why do you need to turn things into gold? Why can't you be content with a roof over your head, the company of loved ones, a nice warm meal everyday, and whatever time you have to enjoy life? Do you just roll out of bed in the morning all depressed, whining like a spoilt little princess going "I wish that metal doorknob were gold, stupid metal doorknob, boo... I wish I could live forever... Why can't I just live forever and ever? It that too much to ask? Meh, hmph..."? You know what you jerks should've been searching for instead? Penicillin.
What I would've done instead: Hanged myself for being a shitty person.

7) What I wouldn't have done: Welcomed the pilgrims
Gee, that turned out well, didn't it native Americans? You welcomed them and gave them yam and a big roast turkey and said "Hi, how's it going, would you like to share a meal with us?" and they ate all your food and then wiped you out. Sounds like a fair trade! You give them food, they give you smallpox and then eventually a reservation with a casino.
What I would've done instead: KILLED AS MANY PILGRIMS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE AS THEY CAME ASHORE FROM THEIR BOATS, and then fled, obviously, because they had steel and gunpowder and super mutant germs.

8) What I wouldn't have done: Still not surrendered after getting nuked.
Was Hiroshima necessary? They obviously were not bluffing with Nagasaki. In fact, was Nagasaki even necessary? If someone said "Hey, we have a bomb that can wipe out an entire city and look, here's some footage of us testing that bomb in a desert back home. You sure you want us to drop this on you?" shouldn't you just realize it's time to say "Okay okay, you guys win"? I mean, it's not like defeat would be that bad anyway because you'll get to be an economic superpower again within a few decades, and you even get to keep your emperor and everything, so what are you complaining about?
What I would've done instead: Surrendered, and then, I don't know, committed seppuku or something I guess, because I would've been Japanese so I would've had that whole honor thing going (unfortunately).

9) What I wouldn't have done: Explored continents, jungles, mountains, sources of rivers, arctic poles and other super dangerous places people have no business being in.
When you consider all the deathly encounters with animals, hostile tribes, thirst, hunger, heat and cold exposure, disease, climate, and a million other things, you'd think you'd just wait for the invention of satellites that can pinpoint and map out all that shit without you having to fend off death every second for months on end as you go there by foot. In fact I'm pretty sure Ernest Shackleton said something along those lines after rowing his way back to civilization following a year trapped in Antarctic ice. He said [and I'm paraphrasing a bit]: "Fuck doing that again, I'll wait till they invent skycraft and fly over it".
What I would've done instead: Used the word skycraft instead of airplane, it's way better. 

10) What I wouldn't have done: Showed the Spaniards any gold
Showing off your gold to a 16th century Spaniard in the Americas pretty much ensured your civilization would be destroyed and your entire population would be forced to work as slaves in gold mines. We're talking about a greedy (but also admittedly very brave and very tough) bunch of conquerors who erased two mighty empires, the Aztec and the Incan, for the sake of gold. They sent hopeless, futile, mad expeditions into jungles and mountains searching for fabled golden cities. Mexican sources from the time of the conquest describe the Spanish conquerors as being "like wild beasts that salivate when they see gold". And it wasn't even worth it in the end, because all the gold they took back to Europe just led to gold inflation and bankrupted the Spanish monarchy, leading to its gradual decline.
What I would've done instead: Hid all the gold and just greeted them with some colorful beads and feathers. 

Ah, that's better. History seems a lot better already!

6/27/13

Hey, I got an email from the Interest Rate Lobby


For weeks the world has been baffled by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his various government ministers' vague references to an "Interest Rate Lobby" (read JEWS) that has apparently masterminded and orchestrated the recent Gezi Park protests in Turkey so as to keep interest rates high in the country. I was skeptical at first, but when I received this email from a member of the aforementioned lobby, I knew that our government was (yet again) right all along, and that I was (yet again) a confused pawn in the hands of foreign conspirators plotting to destroy our country. Here is the written evidence we've all been waiting for that proves we were manipulated into protesting against our own government through the international interest rate lobby's sinister and manipulative plans to bring Turkey to its knees:

Dear Madam/Sir/Dupe/Pawn,

I hope this email finds you restive and mischievous, as well it should. As you know, you are a useless good-for-nothing alcoholic atheist traitor to your country, and have therefore been specially selected by us, the Interest Rate Lobby, to take to the streets for no apparent reason whatsoever in order create an air of instability, mayhem and chaos as you plunder, maraud and loot for the sake of undermining your government and low-interest-rate-pushing leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan... the ultimate aim being, of course, to keep interest rates high. If you're wondering who it is that "we" are, we are of course secret members of the Illuminati, Opus Dei, Rosicrucians, the Union of Grand Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons, Bankers, Financiers, Christians, Alevis, Israel, The Elders of Zion, The Vatican, Nazis, Lufthansa, NATO, the EU, the American Enterprise Institute, and of course Satan.

Now I know your puny little puppet brain is thinking "why would I want to take to the streets against a government that has done nothing more than capture the judiciary through constitutional tinkering; purge the armed forces of officers based on spurious charges of forming some kind of ultranationalist cabal; silence all independent media and free speech through intimidation, threats and bullying over the past ten years; instill religious propaganda throughout society; trample any law or institution it sees fit when it is in its interests; ransack and sell off state enterprises to the highest bidder; tear down historic buildings and neighborhoods so their business cronies can make a handsome profit building tacky malls and gaudy urban monstrosities; rip up parks to build an endless procession of shopping centers; install their sons, associates, friends and fellow religious sect members in key positions of the government; funnel money from charities to the government and their associates and drop charges against them in courts; hand key contracts to business conglomerates that openly side with the government; meddle in the internal affairs of neighboring states; openly arm Islamic fundamentalist terrorist cells in foreign countries; belittle art and artists; meddle in the everyday lives of its own citizens to the point of telling them how many kids they should have and how and where and when and if they can drink alcohol; overlook crimes, murders and torture committed by police and security forces passing them off as accidents, isolated incidents or committed in self-defense; murderously crack down on peaceful protesters, killing, wounding, maiming, blinding, suffocating, gassing, beating, humiliating with abandon; and just generally dividing the country between those who are for them and those who are against them?"

Who in their right minds would take offense to these kinds of people? Indeed, why would you let us brainwash and manipulate you into believing you have a bone to pick with such a regime?

Here's why: Erdogan and the AKP are a shining beacon of democracy and perfection, and this bothers us, which is why we are commanding you to be bothered by it too. He has to be brought down, you have to chant for him to be brought down. We are the true rulers of the earth, not him. Look how good the economy is, thanks to policies implemented by Kemal Derviş before the AKP even came to power, but whose work the AKP has nevertheless taken credit for and continued through an IMF-directed program of fiscal and monetary discipline. Look how they have used majoritarianism to bully the 53% of the population that didn't vote for them in the last general elections. Look how they allow no criticism, no open dialogue, no dissent, no questioning. Look at your huge current account deficit that is sustained by the same hot money and short-term portfolios on the part of speculative investors (hey that's us!) that the government will no doubt hypocritically blame for causing the protests we'll have called for in Turkey, even though that same flow of hot money attracted by the high interest rates maintained by none other than the Turkish Central Bank itself has played a key role in Turkey receiving an investment grade rating from Moody's and Fitch, which the government is very proud of. It's all so convenient! Use hot money when it's in your interest (pun intended), blame it for your troubles when it isn't. Naturally we need to stop all this, throw a wrench in the works, cut them to size, sabotage it all. How? By ordering you and millions like you to take to the streets against your will, like the puppets and dupes you are, and to protest Erdogan, even though he has obviously never done anything wrong, and has 47% of the vote, which means he can do whatever he wants anyway, so fuck you. Besides, with a double-digit inflation rate, the natural thing to do is to of course go against all principles of rational economics and keep interest rates low like the prime minister wants. That way, under-capitalized Anatolian businesses close to the government can continue to have access to cheap credit, even as the current account deficit and inflation rate spiral away as short-term investors lose appetite and an overabundance of cheap credit overheats the economy... But, whatever, our evil plans to keep interest rates high will continue, so when the government falters it can blame us, because let's face it, they don't have to explain anything with any clarity to their supporters who will support them regardless of the inconsistencies and downright absurdities of their position, as long as they're led to believe that the real culprits of the economy's imminent rough landing will have been outside powers like us, the Interest Rate Lobby, which definitely exists and is a real thing like the government says it is. That's why I'm writing this to you as a real outside conspirator and provocateur. I mean, if I didn't exist, you wouldn't have received this email, right? I rest my case.

And that's why we need you, you worthless impressionable idiot. We need you to get out there with no weapons, to just stand and sit in a park, hand the cops flowers, and remain on the streets and in the parks and squares in silent protest if you have to, like the TERRORIST that you are. "Wait", I hear you say, "terrorists don't demonstrate peacefully, they chop heads off people who don't agree with them". Oh really? That means groups like the Al-Nusra Front which the AKP is arming in Syria, and who have been documented cutting their opponents' heads off in recent video footage, would be considered terrorists, when CLEARLY they are peace-loving freedom fighters. You and your murderous ilk, however, with your flowers, and carnations, and books, and tents, and blankets, and gas masks, and guitars, and pianos, and songs, and condoms, are the true terrorists. You know it, we know it, the government knows it.

But that's where we come in. We come in to spread the lie that YOU are the good guys. HAHAHAHA. You! Our job is to make you murderous, terrorist, traitorous, good for nothing, alcoholic, atheist, Satanist scum buckets look like YOU'RE the good guys fighting against tyranny. Crazy, right? But we have a cunning plan. First of all, we will give the command to our global media puppets at the CNN, BBC, Reuters, etc. to take your side. They are on standby as we speak, awaiting our word. Secondly, we have given orders to the various Christian, Jewish and Alevi/Shiite governments we control to speak critically and denounce the peaceful democratic regime of Erdogan and the AKP. They too merely await our command. Thirdly, we have held a secret meeting with ten million private investors, financiers, capitalists, industrialists and bankers to unite our efforts in creating an environment of chaos in Turkey so that interest rates can go up, thereby ensuring that we can continue to take advantage of Turkey in our global interest rate arbitrage and carry trade schemes, borrowing money in low interest countries, investing it in bonds in developing countries with high-interest returns, making a sneaky unearned buck in the process through the evil, God-forbidden usurious institution that is interest. So why do we do it? Because we're freemasons, Jews and Satanists bent on the destruction of all things good. Duh! And that's why we're using you in our plans, because you too are evil, just like us, which means we have to join our efforts to fight the forces of Goodness, of Holiness, of God, which is of course manifest in the benevolent and gleaming purity of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP.

Now since you've been brainwashed by us, the Jewish, Satanist, Interest Rate Lobby and our evil media, you're probably thinking "how could millions of people around the world with wildly different interests suddenly coordinate and plan a mass outpouring of people against those peoples' will to the point where they can make them risk their own lives, jobs and security for the sake of our sneaky, evil plans for mischief, profit and mayhem?" Easy! Because, we can do everything! Here's how it works, although you have to promise to keep this a secret: We all meet once a month in a secret underground palace made of gold and diamonds under the Vatican, and everyone gets there through an intricate subterranean network of tunnels that spans the entire globe. There we serve refreshments -- alcoholic, of course! -- and eat pig sandwiches as we fiendishly rub our hands and salivate and snicker while we discuss the ways we will undermine various completely legitimate and totally democratic regimes like Erdogan's, Putin's, Assad's, or any Arab country's. Then we rush back through our underground network of tunnels in our specially built underground Rolls Royce's fueled by the blood of Sunni babies, as we give orders to media, business and government magnates in our respective countries to do what they need to do to undermine the shining, benevolent, peace-loving, democratic ruler of the month. Today it's Erdogan, a few months ago it was Assad, before that it was Kim Jong Il, before that we had Mugabe, Bashir, Putin, Chavez, Mubarak, Ahmadinejad, Karzai, Al Maliki, Qaddafi, Karimov, Turkmenbashi, Nazarbayev, Aliyev, Bush, Ben Ali, Saleh, and that guy in Belarus, what's his name... gee, it's hard to keep track sometimes! Those guys are smart, because they all know WE are the reason there is any opposition to them at all, but we do our job so well that nobody takes them seriously when they point their fingers at us and scream conspiracy.

So, in short, please begin your preparations to take to the streets on our command. You and other useless good-for-nothing traitorous alcoholic atheist pawns like you will be receiving commands soon on Twitter and Facebook; just follow the Twitter hashtag #worldconspiracyplans or join the Facebook group called Interest Rate Lobby Conspiracy To Stir Trouble in Turkey. Remember to Star/Retweet/Like!

Now the Turkish government will of course start using the protests we've provoked as an excuse to extend their Ergenekon-style government purge into the business world where pro-secular corporations that are not aligned with them will be hunted down, demonized, accused of conspiring with us murky foreign conspirators, and their holdings and assets will eventually be cannibalized by pro-government Islamist interests and conglomerates. But we don't care, because we'll just move on to the next country and, say, stir trouble in Brazil where we could, oh I don't know, try and fool youths into believing bus fares are a liiiiittle too high? Not that we know what "too high" is, it's not like any of us has ever ridden a bus, but whatever.

Raise the interest rates! Raise the interest rates! Raise the interest rates!

Yours conspiratorially,

Baron George Avi Soros von Rothschild XIII, Most Worshipful Grand Dragon of the Free and Accepted Masons, Minervan Owl Master of the Illuminati, Luminous Studious Zelator Major of the Rosicrucarians, Most Demonic Priest of the Church of Satan, Eldest Elder of the Zions, Most Magnatious Magnate of the United World Industries, Biggest Banker of the Banks, Fanciest Financer of Financial Finesse, Biggest Supreme Pizza of the Huts, Chief Grand Mac of the Donalds, King of the Burgers, Magnanimous Colonel Chicken of Kentuckies, King of the World, and President of Everything, including your FACE.

6/1/13

Freedom of CENSORED



If you have something to say, just run it by your local Turkish Republic First Criminal Court of Peace first, and if they’re cool with it, then say it!

Freedom of CENSORED is one of our fundamental human rights, along with the right to CENSORED, CENSORED and of course CENSORED. Guaranteeing and upholding these rights is today universally considered the duty of any civilized modern polity, let alone one that is seeking full membership of the prestigious political playpen that is the European Union. After all, if we were to deny one another the freedom to CENSORED, what would we have left? How would anything change for the better? How could we develop and debate new ideas with which to overcome our shortcomings and progress on to bigger and better things? We couldn’t, not without this fundamental freedom, this birthright, this natural faculty that enables each and every one of us to CENSORED as we please.

Thankfully we live in a country in which we can CENSORED what we like within strict parameters set by the constitution. If we so desired, we could start a blog on CENSORED or CENSORED, two of the biggest and most popular websites in the world for bloggers, as long as what we wrote complied fully with the limits set by our national Internet Security Law. On these sites we could CENSORED anything that the Telecommunications Directorate allowed us to. Furthermore, if we were so inclined, we could make a TV or radio program and broadcast whatever the Radio and Television Supreme Council deemed fit for air. If we wanted we could even publish our ideas in book format, as long as they don’t run counter to the national penal code. In short, the sky is the limit, as long as we don’t wander too far above the troposphere and keep away from the stratosphere altogether. It’s so liberating to be able to CENSORED like this!

We are of course not the only country with such all encompassing freedom of CENSORED. We are part of an elite league that includes such distinguished company as Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Sudan, Zimbabwe and North Korea. Citizens of all of these countries also enjoy the freedom to CENSORED what they please, as long as they take into account the possibility of imprisonment, and the slight risk of decapitation. But other than that, in these countries too, some of the sky is the limit! And we too, just like them, can CENSORED whatever state-sanctioned thing we please as long as we don’t publicly denigrate Turkishness, the Republic, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the Government of the Republic of Turkey, the judicial institutions of the State, the military or security organizations, all of which are punishable by imprisonment of between six months and two years, as set out in Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. So what are you waiting for, CENSORED freely!

The right to CENSORED your mind and be able to form and express your very own opinions comes with its own rewards. You too could be heckled and spat at by flag-waving nationalists on your way into the palace of justice in Kadıköy just like Elif Şafak; or face imprisonment and exile like Yaşar Kemal, Yılmaz Güney or Nazım Hikmet; or even have to effectively flee your country in the face of death threats, like Orhan Pamuk. And that’s if you even get to keep your life at all! But that’s not it. If I may CENSORED frankly, there’s also the satisfaction of knowing that you are participating in the open and free exchange of ideas, all of which is guaranteed in a country that is ranked 103rd in the world press freedom rankings, making it the proud holder of a ‘Partially Free’ designation. That’s semi-good! Not as good as, for example, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is ranked 51st, but half-way there.

But freedom of CENSORED isn’t the only domain in which our country excels in terms of providing a free, open and enlightened society for its flock of citizens in need of direction. Let’s not forget the freedom to ban alcohol in all municipal restaurants and social facilities with a further proposal to remove all alcohol-serving establishments to ‘Red Zones’ on the outskirts of urban areas; the freedom to teach creationism as a viable alternative to evolution in public schools; the freedom to impose compulsory religion classes on all students; the freedom to protect ‘family and national values’ by banning more than 1,100 websites and thousands of books, without any explanation given… All of these fundamental freedoms aren’t just left to theory but applied on a thorough, day-to-day basis. After all, actions CENSORED louder than words!

But let’s not CENSORED too soon because there are factors that threaten the totality of these fine state-imposed freedoms that protect our national moral virtue. For example, our freedom to impose restrictions on those who might unashamedly try to take an evil stance that runs counter to official state doctrine – a freedom granted by Article 301 – could be in danger of running counter to none other than Article 301 itself. After all, what could denigrate and humiliate Turkey more in the eyes of the civilized world than a law that states that denigrating Turkishness is against the law? That means that Article 301 is in danger of canceling itself out. And that in turn means anarchy, chaos, panic, and the end of our freedom to restrict freedoms that the almighty state is free to deem harmful to our freedom. That means something has to be done to guarantee that none of this gets out, which means we should cease to CENSORED of it altogether, and that of course means access to this sentence is banned by the Telecommunications Directorate according to the order of Ankara First Criminal Court of Peace, 05.05.2008 of 2008/402.

Hey, the system works!

5/27/13

International citizens of the world, separate then unite!




It's time to throw off our national shackles and finally become official passport-holding international citizens.

It's a common scene at any airport. You're waiting in line at the passport control, patiently standing there in a pair of Havaianas with your Macbook slung over your shoulder and a copy of the International Herald Tribune tucked under your arm (with crossword proudly completed, even though it's only a Monday), downloading a podcast of the latest TED lecture on creative solutions to Sub-Saharan soil erosion while tapping your feet to the indie-ska playlist on your iPod. But, try as you might to recreate a secluded bubble miniverse of your refined postmodern lifestyle-in-transit, you're unable to drown out the stinging awareness of a shoddy herd of your fellow nationals who have plodded off the same flight and who now form a fleshy ring of redundant DNA around your snug little aural orbit. You flup-flup to your Chopin playlist for comfort and perform some meditative breathing exercises you picked up in Yoga class. But it all falls short as the vacant-eyed family bickers loudly in a painfully intelligible language--your language--about who ate the last pack of complimentary airplane peanuts while their chubby offspring repeatedly scream and crash into your legs with jerky high-fructose-corn-syrup-fueled spasms of stubborn attention-deprived insistence. The walls have been breached, the barbarians are clumsily lumbering through.

Whether we are Americans or Italians or Turks or Indians or Mexicans, we have all been through those moments. We have all on those occasions looked out across and beyond that depressing snare of fellow nationals in the hope of catching the eyes of some other sparkling doppelganger for wonderful-hip-sophisticated Us. We feel that those rare gems we spot here and there, those exquisite dead ringers for super cool you and me, are our real fellow nationals, regardless of their actual nationality, and we wonder despairingly why it is that our bureaucratic and statistical fate has instead become intertwined with that semi-educated clan of soft-drink-guzzling, white-bread eating neanderthals simply because they were born within the same political parameters as us.

Why, we reason further, can we--who often define ourselves as "international citizens" anyway--not become actual official international citizens of the world?

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Let's face it, nationality is no longer an accepted mode of identification for many of us. At best, it's trite and meaningless. At worst, it's the primary root of war, atrocity and genocide in the modern age (although religion gives it a good run for its money, which is why they usually go hand in hand). Look at any modern polity, and you'll find that those who still lend any credence to nationalism as a political movement are the least educated, most bigoted, and most latently or outright racist segments of that society. As a partial reaction to this, these days the more sophisticated members of those societies use terms like "citizen of the world", "international citizen" or "global nomad" to define themselves. These are people who feel more in common with those who share similar lifestyles and socio-cultural frames of reference--regardless of ethnicity or nationality--than they do with those who were born and live in the same country as them.

And rightly so. After all, the only thing that really ties you to fellow nationals is that you happen to be born under the rule of the same state power, which you're all thereby condemned to pay money, time, labor and even your life to (in the form of military service and wage labor) in return for an endless stream of bills that charge you for basic human necessities like water, heat, education and health. But that's not all. You also get an incessant lifetime bombardment of cunning and manipulative advertising devices that are always trying to sucker you into spending money or going into debt; you get the possibility of war over some stupid piece of land somewhere that you could give two shits about; and you get the threat of imprisonment if you decide not to bow to the norm and accept your subservience to flag, country and credit cards. Meanwhile, as you're standing in line at your local bank trying to pay a late bill so the water authority can turn your water back on, your government will be spending billions of that money on tanks, fighter jets, vote-enticing white elephants, and entertainment expenses for the visiting criminal head of state of Oilandgasistan, in between bailing out billionaire bankers who did a little whoopsy daisy with everybody's money.

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But is there no real substance to nationality? What about language? Sure, speaking a common language is an important bond, considering that language is what we construct our thoughts upon--and essentially the semantic mortarboard that our modern nation states were built with--but anyone who's had a good education and has traveled around and lived in a foreign country or two would be expected to speak up to two or three foreign languages anyway--at least one of them probably well enough to work, write, argue, fight and fuck in. So then what's so special about your mother tongue? Besides, you don't feel any more of a "national" bond with someone from a foreign country whom you can perfectly speak a common foreign language with, so why should you necessarily feel any more of a politically-binding sentiment with a person you speak your native language with?

But what about the case for shared traditions and customs? Yes, these are fundamental to creating the sense of intimate bonds that are crucial for maintaining a friction-free society where you buy gifts on birthdays and attend weddings and visit aunts and uncles on official holidays, and pronounce stock slogans of affection and well-wishing on precisely outlined occasions, kissing hands, rubbing cheeks, etc. But for those with creative and inquisitive spirits, things like traditions and customs are oppressive and time-consuming ritualistic social burdens that are fine for people who need some kind of safe and standard set of ready-made rules and practices to abide by with the least possible mental exertion demanded, but which fall far short of satisfying those who have better things to do with their lives. Rather than be content with simply acting out hollow manifestations for the give and take of respect, love, gratitude and sorrow for the sake of running a well-oiled social network, some people seek to experience such emotions and acts in sincere, challenging and authentic conditions, perhaps even to question the whole ethical and behavioral fabric upon which the society they've been born into is founded upon, and maybe even to experience how different societies do things--if not to actually even create their own way of doing things. So traditions are fine if you need some cheap filler for all those long tedious stretches of the average human existence. But for those few who have things to do beyond mere labor-giving and child-bearing, their lives are way too short to spend on forced togethernesses and fake happy occasions that have been circled on calendars and RSVP'ed three months in advance.

What about religion? Religion sort of fits into national customs and traditions anyway. Although many customs and traditions don't have their origins in religious practices or dogma, they are eventually co-opted by and melded into them. But the very idea of dogma--though obviously useful and precious to many--is woefully unsatisfactory to those who want to experience life without being tied down with precious lists of holy dos and don'ts, eternal rewards and punishments, sacred carrots and sticks, and simplistic "God made it so, therefore it is so" kinds of arguments that seem like an insult to intelligence and nature. Common prayers, surreal religious buildings, choral music, codified morals, sanctified art, stories of miracles and mystery are all well and good enough for those who have to get on with their lives without the time to waste on fancy philosophizing and existential questioning when there's a living that has to be made and children that have to be fed and raised... But for others, that sort of stuff is just not going to cut it, and will merely be of anthropological interest at best. Let's face it, smart people don't want to live with a giant metaphysical nanny called God anymore, let alone all that religious hocus-pocus that comes with it. We read about quantum mechanics now, not angels.

On a profaner note, how about education? We are all bombarded with references to our common national destiny and identity through education (and in the media--which is an auxiliary arm of the education machine), but this is little more than propaganda to give the illusion of commonality to better justify and legitimize state coercion. The very idea of a "nation", (Latin "nascere", to be born, as in "those of the same womb") implies that we are all of a common origin*. Our state-controlled education takes this concept of common origins one step further, by anachronistically inserting a relatively recent political and ideological phenomenon (nationalism and nation states have only been around for the past 200 odd years) into thousands of years of history, so that your "nation" seems retrospectively to have existed in some form even back in times when nobody referred to themselves as being a member of that nation, or even knew what a nation was, often defining themselves on tribal, religious or clan lines instead. And that's if they "defined" themselves at all, since concepts like "identity" and "definition" are relatively modern (or arguably now postmodern) terms. So we read our modern identity into great achievements in history (while conveniently blurring over the great atrocities), believing that there is somehow some proto-nation that has existed all along, doing this and building that and conquering here and moving over there, until bam, your country is finally founded--like the shining predestined historic culmination of a millennial teleology that has become a self-fulfilling prophesy in reverse. In other words, hooey.

And the media? The media just props up the propaganda ingrained in us through education, replenishing and reproducing it with every news and social affairs item that we are nudged into feeling we should identify with and care about. The media is like the light protective surface sheen that's there to maintain a fresh gloss over the hard, ugly, sturdy brainwashing meted out during a decade of state education in our vulnerable and formative childhood years. Education gives a vertical depth to the myth of national bonds, while the media gives it horizontal reach and scope. Its power is that it even brings in seemingly trivial aspects of life into the orbit of nationalist agitprop. It ties us all in as a nation through seemingly trifling items of news that have moral and existential dimensions, with the aim of eliciting from us an opinion on everything, because we believe that everything concerns "us" as [insert plural form of your nationality's name here]--the earthquake in so-and-so, the war in over-yonder, the genocide out-in-what's-it-called, and the man who cheated on his wife and sold his child's kidney on what's-her-face's talk show. Even the weather report gives the sense of common national destiny ("Get out your umbrellas Ireland, it's going to be rainy!"). And so your opinion for or against becomes irrelevant, because it's enough to simply draw you into the debate in the first place so that you have an opinion at all. And once you have an opinion, you've become a part of the imaginary national discourse as yet another "concerned individual" trapped in an endless 24-7 barrage of current affairs. You have become part of a market, and the greater the extent of that market, the greater the audience, the better the ratings, the more receptive the ideologically-molded populace, and thus the more the revenue to be made from a population that is involved with little more than rapid sequential images on a screen.

Sports also works to uphold the national varnish, though more as an addendum to education and media (since sports by itself cannot forge a sense of nationhood--with the possible exception of Australia) as it facilitates a great means of forming a bonding frame of identification without actually verbalizing it. You can talk about a team or a player at length, and even argue and dispute each others' views, but what's really going on underneath is a kind of sexual (mostly male), social, regional and national bonding depending on what competition or team is being identified with and discussed at a given time. The ritual of watching a game with your national team playing the world championships in blah-blah-ball as you wave a flag alongside someone you would probably never even talk to or meet in day-to-day life, is a powerful one, which is why these rituals are evenly and consistently spaced out at regular intervals on international and national blahblah-ball calendars.

Perhaps the most that nationalism has going for it is land and economy. After all, the food people buy and the water they drink has to come from somewhere. There have to be fields where corn and potatoes and wheat and rice grow, and there have to be rivers that are dammed for electricity, water and irrigation. Then you have to build the necessary transportation and logistic infrastructure to bring it all to the cities. This has until now formed a strong and practical bond upon which to build a political entity and a national identity. But is that still the case? Economy has by now far-transcended national boundaries. These days we talk about the world economy. The food being grown and raised 100 kilometers from you is probably being exported somewhere else, feeding South Africans or Malaysians or Japanese. Most of the food you eat may also be coming from other countries, and so too with electricity. Also, few countries have a complete monopoly on major water resources, most of which necessitate international sharing. International market prices and currency exchange rates determine what you pay and what you consume. Technology like refrigeration, air and sea and rail transport, international commodity markets, the internet, all make a mockery of distance. That's not to say some states don't still strive for truly national economies, but they're all outcast hermit misfits like North Korea, Iran or Cuba, none of which can be seriously termed overall success stories. A Polish farmer is happy to grow food that may be going to Venezuela, and someone living in Warsaw is fine with buying a couch that was made in Sweden. So too a British company will build its factory wherever the labor is cheapest and not necessarily in Britain. If Turkish olive oil was cheaper than Greek, the Greeks would be gulping it down. So, if anything, modern economics has eroded the bonds of nationality, and with the technological advancements in logistics and finance, the importance of geographic boundaries has diminished.

So then what's left to uphold the nation? Precious little beyond dissimulation and thaumaturgy. The guy you hugged and draped the flag around during last night's match is probably the guy you're looking at disdainfully from the corner of your eye on the metro. The woman with cheap perfume and a mole under her nose standing in line with you in the same supermarket queue while shouting into her cell phone in a grating rustic accent, buying a big disgusting bag of junk food for her children, is supposed to be considered to be from the same distant womb as you. And the guy trying to rip off a tourist with sleazy advances is someone you will stand shoulder to shoulder with when the time comes to defend your country from the big bad [insert your particular national enemy here].

Well, fuck all that. It's time for an alternative. It's time for an international citizenry of like-minded people who will carry human civilization on to a new stage of socio-political evolution by calling bullshit on all institutionalized modes of systematic ideological manipulation and deceit.

It's time for official international passport holding World Citizens.

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Consider people from New York, London, Istanbul, Paris, Mexico City, Sydney, Johannesburg, Mumbai or Tokyo. They would have more in common with each other than they would with their fellow nationals who live just 50 kilometers away in some small town where most people die where they're born, where flags are waved on national days, and where bumper stickers declare pride in vapid heroic national slogans that are founded on pointless idealized slaughterfests that wasted millions of lives in the name of national "causes" (i.e. politicians' power interests). Instead, those sophisticated cosmopolitan denizens of the great metropolises of the world would have similar lifestyles to each other, regardless of country or geographic proximity. They would work in similar jobs, eat similar foods, watch similar things on TV, see similar films at the cinema, travel to similar places for vacations, engage in similar pastimes, sports, recreation and hobbies in their spare time, and they would all enjoy and have access to the best that civilization has to offer in terms of art, design, architecture and overall style-of-living. In other words, they would be defined and identified by a common way of life that can perhaps be identified (albeit rather pompously) as the "art of living".

A typical day for these global metropolitans would include some Starbucks Ethiopian Blend coffee in the morning in front of the TV while clicking through the BBC news site on their iMacs with maybe the National Geographic channel or CNN on the flat screen Hi-Def TV in the background, before setting off to their own design studio or architectural firm or academic or corporate position in a state-of-the-art office located in a high-tech eco-friendly building designed by a famous architect, and then driving home in their hybrid car where they'll download a film-festival award-winner from Netflix or iTunes while listening to some nu-jazz streaming through their invisible Bose speakers as they cook up a nice light Thai curry that they'll enjoy with a fine Australian Riesling wine on the side, while waiting for their photographer girlfriend whose flight is about to arrive from Berlin and who should text them on their Blackberry as soon as they land.

Of course, when I refer to a day in the life of this certain "someone", I don't mean just anyone. I mean someone who defines themselves as a "world citizen". Someone who abides by that admittedly peppy yet apposite mantra of thinking global and acting local; someone who defines themselves as an international citizen; someone who has the education, social awareness, cultural accumulation, aesthetic refinement, economic wherewithal, and lifestyle tastes that distinguishes them from the norm. Someone for whom business, family and pleasure are holistically intertwined into a sense of life and living as an artistic and creative endeavor.

These are people whose lives take them all over the world, people for whom boundaries are not only meaningless, but an outright obstacle to their need to live without boundaries. These people want to move to Hong Kong for a couple of years if they have to, or go to Rio de Janeiro for a friend's wedding, or decide to travel around Australia for six months, or want to get together with friends from other world cities for a week's skiing in Val d'Isere, or who move to Shanghai to be both nearer to a dynamic financial market and also to satisfy their need to be in a place where they can pursue their love of Wing Chun while also being better located to set off for some scuba-diving getaways in Micronesia. In short, these are people for whom political boundaries are not only pointless but a nuisance, for whom national passports and visa regulations are a royal pain in the ass, and for whom nationality is a mere bureaucratic hindrance. Isn't it time that these self-described international citizens became official International Citizens, with the necessary legal rights that cater to their own unique lifestyle? Isn't it time to do away with the heavy lugubrious nation-state bureaucracies that have become comical and arcane Swiftian satires in the postmodern world? Isn't it time to lift this giant red-ink-blotched paperweight off our collective backs to finally enable us to pursue a lighter, freer, more productive way of life?

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So how do we implement international citizenship? There will obviously be some major obstacles, not least of which is why a state would willingly let go of tax-paying, labor-giving, soldier-forming, crap-buying subjects. Furthermore, wouldn't this be a mockery of all the ideals a nation-state stands for? Not necessarily. Well, actually, yes... but not to the extent that one might think.

First of all, the people who would be eligible for international citizenship would be those people who would not want to give their time--let alone their lives--for any national cause like war or even military service anyway, so why have reluctant half-ass troops? Plus they'd be too intelligent (and probably soft) to make either expendable or good troops out of, so good riddance to them. Secondly, they are not the morons who buy processed food and drink gallons of carbonated sludge and buy shit they see off infomercials--in other words, they're quite a small minority of the population--so they're not part of that massive population of brainwashed drones that giant companies can make their money off of. Thirdly, they are not usually the kind of people who engage in wage labor. More likely they're freelancers or independent agents who do their own thing, and whose job and business probably has a pretty international scope anyway.

But there are a few obvious problems: 1) it seems elitist, 2) you lose a tax-source, 3) you lose qualified, educated citizens in a kind of brain drain that would have obvious deleterious effects on the national economy, and 4) the ideological foundation of your nation state would be seriously challenged and hurt, because if the best and brightest are bailing out from the nationality illusion, then all the sacred symbolic and ritual foundations upon which the whole ideological edifice has been built could come tumbling down... Let's face it, it's hard to argue in favor of national duty and personal sacrifice for the greater national good in defense of the mother/father/homeland if there are those among you who have the option to just say "No thanks!" to the whole thing and opt out of the club. Finally, 5) what sort of bureaucratic framework has to be established for an institution that is meant to circumvent bureaucracy in the first place?

So considering these issues, how could you build a workable foundation in which international citizenship could become a reality and nation states would agree to such an innovation?

Let's start with the last question first. Obviously some kind of bureaucracy is needed because we can't realistically be expected to return to the golden age of travel in the 19th century when technological innovation in rapid and comfortable transport happened to felicitously coincide with free and open borders (modern countries were really just coming into existence) and little or no documentation required to cross them, nor any limits on how long you could stay in a foreign country. People in those days assumed that anyone who had the wherewithal for travel was probably the sort of person you wouldn't mind having around in your country. Even in the 1970s, if you missed a flight you could just jump on the next one with no questions asked, even if it was a different airline! Of course, this is sadly no longer the case. Now people are treated as statistics, and all considered guilty until proven innocent. If you are not from a white and affluent country, you're subjected to the racist humiliation of having to get a visa. That means you have to go through the disgrace of having to declare that you are NOT a terrorist, and you even have to provide them with your bank account details to prove that you have money... plus you have to provide a list of all your possessions, a bill under your name to prove you have a house, and a copy of your company payroll to prove not only that you have a job but that you have a well-paying job. Then you have to wait at least a week for the White Gods of Whiteland to deliberate on whether you are worthy of visiting their precious little country. And even then you can't stay more than a set period of time, and at a predetermined address. And as if that wasn't enough to make you feel like scum, you even need a letter of guarantee from a national of Legoland who has to state officially that they vouch for you and take full responsibility in the event that you turn out to be not a human being but an evil jackal-headed demon. Governments are so aware of the arrogant affront to human dignity that the entire disgraceful visa process represents, that they take care that you are never actually in contact with their own nationals. They instead hire locals from the country in which the visa application is being made -- either as staff in the embassy or through private companies that carry out the visa process for the embassy -- just so you have no target to vent your frustration and anger toward, and you only end up getting angry at your own nationals. In other words, they even deprive you of the pleasure of being able to call them racists to their faces. And as if that wasn't enough, you also have to pay hundreds of dollars once you succeed in actually getting the visa.

International citizenship is meant to help people get around this whole horrific system. Why should only diplomats get to go wherever they please with their shiny red passports? If anything, they're the ones who should be made to suffer the same indignity that is meted out on mankind by the very states they represent. So here's what I propose:

- A department of International Citizenry at the U.N. could be set up. All international ID/passports will be issued, regulated and controlled by this organization. It will not be subject to any national jurisdiction.

- The tax issue could be resolved if the international citizen pays part of their annual international citizenship fees to the national government from which they have seceded. Furthermore, international citizens would maybe be required to pay a little income tax or residency tax (or both) to the country in which they reside/work (the aim being to get nation states on board with the project).

- You are considered an international citizen in whichever country you reside, wherever you travel and wherever you work. Your embassy in any country will be the U.N. embassy. However, in criminal proceedings, you will be subject to the laws of the country you reside in.

- Your passport is actually more like an international identity card, and it's also good for traveling anywhere and everywhere without a visa. You may reside and work anywhere in the world without need of a residency permit. Your international citizenship fees and income and residency taxes will suffice.

- To become an international citizen, there will necessarily be tough criteria that will be invigilated by the United Nations Department of International Citizenry, or U.N.D.I.C. Criteria may include a university degree, a standardized written and oral exam, interviews, and knowledge of several languages -- at least two of which must be major internationally spoken languages (English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Russian, etc.), plus the means to pay for an international lifestyle, fees, residency tax, income tax, etc.

- Certain professions get automatic international citizenship, including accomplished scientists, academics, writers, sportspeople, artists, musicians, etc.

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Naturally, some of the problems I mentioned earlier will need to be addressed. Among those problems is the adverse effect international citizenship would have on national sentiment and ideology, the elitism of international citizenship, and the brain drain effect. Let's take each case one by one.

If we take the brain drain situation first, we'll find that although it looks like a nation is losing a brain, it's actually gaining many brains. International citizens can and will live and work anywhere they like, so it will be up to individual countries to continue attracting the best and the brightest to their educational, industrial, technological and scientific institutions. International citizens will welcome not having to deal with all the usual red tape of residency permits, work permits, passports, visas and what not, so really nation states will benefit in the long term -- plus these international citizens will be paying their income and residency taxes too, a share of which will go to the host country. Some may argue that international citizens will still be paying taxes, which isn't much different to paying for residency permits and visas and passports and the like now, but I think international citizens will be much better off because they will not have to deal with the national bureaucracy of the host country. They will only deal with U.N.D.I.C. Furthermore, although they will still be required to pay taxes, these will be a standard amount that applies everywhere, so at least they will know exactly how much is paid when, and the payments will all be between the international citizen and the U.N.D.I.C. All of this saves much time and hassle and stress for the international citizen.

Another problem is the adverse effect the prospect of international citizenship will have on national identity, national ideology, and the idea of national polities in general. After all, the idea of "national bonds" is sort of meant to mean that you are bound by birth, history, origin and destiny to your fellow nationals. There never really has been an opt-out clause until now. But in a postmodern age of critical deconstruction, nationalism is not what it used to be. In fact, nationalism has become rather more of a myth or a superstition to most people, much like religion. This is probably why more extreme forms of religiosity and nationalism are coming more and more into the fore, because those who once occupied the middle ground (at least in affluent countries with a large, prosperous and educated middle class) have shifted leftward or at least toward the cynical side. In the age of Foucault and Derrida, Said and Chomsky, in the age of the internet and globalization, nobody really believes in a "nation" being something either natural or sacrosanct. If anything, it's now known even by average citizens to be just another ideological system relying on a state power apparatus to exert its sway over a passive population, bolstered by a bunch of fairy tales and myths about great national accomplishments and origins. It's now known to be just another way of wielding power over large masses of people, and one that competes against other ideological systems. So if this is the case already, why should those for whom national bonds mean little or nothing anymore be forced to continue to pledge allegiance to flags, to sing national anthems, to celebrate glorified episodes of bloodshed, slaughter and mass murder in the past, if none of this means anything anymore? Instead, those who consider themselves international citizens already -- and many other people across the world -- would rather believe in universal values than national ones. The importance and meaning of national history has already in the minds of many been superceded by Human history. Many of us can identify with -- and take pride in -- all the accomplishments of mankind. A Mexican can take pride in the accomplishments of the Greeks and the Chinese. Humans built the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China and the Suez Canal. Humans mapped the human genome and the Milky Way galaxy, sent robots to the far ends of the solar system, compiled the Encyclopedia Britannica, invented the microchip, composed the Ode to Joy symphony, and delved into the incredible world of quantum physics. These people were of many nationalities, but who cares? Focusing on nationality in an age like this seems like mere nitpicking. Humans have also committed atrocities like the Holocaust, slavery, terrorism, mass destruction, torture, and racism... does nationality matter there as well? In short, many more people now than ever in human history identify themselves not as a certain nationality or religion or with a particular region, but first and foremost as Humans. It's time to recognize this and cater to their needs. If people do not feel like they can give their lives for shortsighted and absurd national ideals, then isn't it time these people's rights were officially represented? Today, ALL the land on earth has been appropriated and divided up by nation states. People are born forced into being of a certain nationality. This skews and deranges them for the rest of their lives. They are given a "national" education. They are brainwashed into putting a nation above all other nations, and a national identity above even their humanity. We have even reached the point where human atrocity is not only considered appropriate but even normal if it's committed in the name of "national interest". Just like drugs are considered a poison of the human body, just as religion is now more and more being considered a poisoning of the human mind, so too nationalism should be considered a poison. You have the option now of being an atheist. You don't have to go to church or pray or be religious. We have finally accomplished this great achievement. You can get treatment for substance abuse and be cured of alcoholism, nicotine addiction or other drug addictions. But there is still no way out of nationality. You are born into a nation state and are under its oppressive sway for the rest of your life. International citizenship is not just an elitist luxury, it's in fact a human right.

And if it hurts national sentiment, is it a bad thing? Besides, the nationalists have their favorite mantra: "Love it or leave it!" they scream. So why not do just that? If you don't love this hateful, poisonous, criminal blight that has plagued the mind and soul of humankind for the past few centuries, why can't you just leave it? It's time to leave it. It's time for the age of International Citizenship.

Besides, could you imagine how fun it would be to beat up one of these smug little international citizens?

4/29/13

Relationships are all about winning



A Machiavellian guide to dating

Dating is the ultimate competition, a dog-eat-dog race to see who’ll come out trumps in the battle for self-worth and self-esteem between two partners (rivals) eager to get as much sex and commitment out of each other as possible without compromising too much in return. Whereas sports generally test a competitor’s talent under pressure and their ability to perform a certain regimented task within carefully delineated parameters, the relationship is an ultimate challenge without any set rules of conduct that pits a person’s very being and dignity against that of another. In a relationship, you’re not just being judged on how good a runner or swimmer or strategist you are, you’re being judged on how good a human being you are and whether you’re good enough to create new human beings with.

In a relationship, it’s the entire person being put to the test, your whole character, your whole personality, the whole gamut of qualities that make you who you are and that determine your worth not only in the eyes of your partner/rival but in the recognition to be gained by those around you – and not least of all by the partnerivals you’ve defeated in previous relationships, who usually end up being obsessed with the partnerival they lost to, sometimes for the rest of their lives. At stake in the merciless relationship contest is more than a check or a trophy or a ranking. At stake is the chance to procreate and attain a meaningful and loving companionship for life, and, most importantly, gain a solid reputation in your extended circle of acquaintances as a relationship-winner. That’s why it’s important to defeat your partnerival. The more you win and the more teary-eyed exes you leave behind choking on your libidinous contrail, broken and defeated and humiliated, the more people will admire you.

Winning a relationship isn’t easy, of course, but if you know certain tricks and stick to them, you stand a good chance of victory. And for ultimate victory, you have to start strategizing early. The key is to keep in mind one basic rule: always make it look like you’re into your partnerival a little less than they’re into you. After all, liking someone is to show a weakness, to make it seem like you need that person because they make you feel good about yourself. But when you look like you don’t like the person as much as they like you, it means you’re not as needy as that person is, and thus are stronger, better, more dignified than your partnerival, since you’re obviously more secure in your sense of self-love. This means that when push comes to shove, your partnerival knows that you’d have fewer scruples about walking away than they would, and thus you both know that you would be willing to compromise less for the sake of making the relationship work than they would. Since you’ll both be aware of this unspoken dynamic, you will generally get your way more than your partnerival will, and by giving away less, so you’ll always stay one step ahead.

By seeming less into your partnerival than they are into you, you gain some important leverage when the inevitable fights and discord set in as you both get more and more bored with each other over time, and increasingly eager to look for excuses to call it quits and date other people (this being the inevitable fate of any relationship). To win a relationship is therefore crucial in terms of being able to move on and date other people so as to get more notches on your relationship belt. That’s why when you're dating someone, you should always do so with future dates and partnerivals in mind. After all, a loser is always insecure and lacking in self-confidence – and with a handicap like that, you have no business entering into a new relationship contest. You have to get a lot of victories to become a relationship blackbelt because if there’s one thing a potential partnerival seeks it’s a challenge; the challenge of engaging and then either defeating or conquering the best of the best, the one no-one else has conquered until then: the ultimate 20-wins-and-above-notch relationship blackbelt.

We can call the rule of less-liking ‘one-downmanship’, viz. to be one tier below your partnerival in terms of how much you like each other (but no more, because if you’re two-downing or more your partnerival will bail early, seeing not enough respect and affection from you to even consider continuing and thus calling it off prematurely which gives your partnerival an early win - or at best a stalemate - thereby leaving you licking the wounds of your misplaced strategizing). It’s important to start this one-downing early on, because eventually your relationship is going to hit the love-declaration stage. Once an ‘I love you’ has been thrown out there, things will never be the same again. So you have to be prepared early on, and consistency is crucial.

The ‘I love you’ stage is critical. Whoever declares this foolhardy statement first (usually the female who needs stability, security and commitment for the sake of her future offspring who are always foremost in her mind) is in serious danger of losing the relationship unless they are confident enough in its reciprocation. And even then they’re still taking a big risk simply by being the first to proclaim it. This is why it’s always best never to tell a partnerival that you love them, even – and especially – if you actually do love them. In fact, it’s just best to try and avoid falling in love altogether since it’s an enormous inconvenience and probably overall the single greatest hindrance to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Plus it’s known as a gateway emotion to jealousy, depression, self-contempt, ridicule, humiliation, anger, heartache, and a host of other annoying things life is best lived without. So try and date partnerivals you’re not in love with, since the one-downmanship will be that much easier to carry out.

Here are some other rules of thumb for winning a relationship:

Have cooler friends than your partnerival
Always come up trumps in the Cool Friends category. Whoever has the most and coolest friends is always going to be in the driver’s seat, because you’ll mostly end up hanging out with your own friends with a clear conscience. But every time you hang out with your partnerival’s less cool friends, your partnerival will feel a little guilty that they’re subjecting you to them - which can work to your advantage, because you know that your partnerival is feeling a degree of gratitude toward you for putting up with them even though they know you'd rather be somewhere - anywhere - else. Your sacrifice will be rewarded. NOTE: It’s important NOT to ever complain about your partnerival’s friends otherwise you will have leveled the playing field by giving your partnerival the chance to use the “well, I go out with YOUR friends” line, which is a trap, because it’s assumed that your friends are all equals, and so you can’t argue against that without stating the unspoken secret understanding between you two, which is that your friends are cooler and better than your partnerival’s. But of course, that is NEVER to be said until the end of the relationship when you’re breaking up. In fact the only time the truth will ever be said in a relationship is when breaking up.

Be thinner than your partnerival
Self-esteem is a key factor in a relationship, and nothing helps the self-esteem more than being thin, especially being thinner than your partnerival. This is another one of those unspoken and secret bits of knowledge shared by all but which remains unsayable. People will notice that your partnerival is fatter than you, and your partnerival will also notice this fact and the fact that people can notice this fact, and so you will both be aware that you’re better than your partnerival. If your partnerival – in their insecurity – should ask the standard “do you think I’m fat?” question, just smile and say “no, you’re fine” and give your fat partnerival a condescending hug as you emit cutesy pampering noises interlaced with pet names, like you would do if you were handling a chubby little baby or a puppy. This will increase their insecurity and make them even more dependent and desperate for your support, recognition, respect, and comfort. That means you’ve just pulled ahead of your partnerival and are in the driver’s seat.

Make your partnerival think that something might happen between you and your partnerival’s best friend if the right (or wrong) opportunity should present itself
You have to keep your partnerival on their toes, and nothing makes a partnerival more insecure than an implied attraction between you and your partnerival’s best friend. Because our best friends are usually those whom we admire the most and whom we want to associate with and be associated with the most, they are also by that fact the people we are capable of being jealous and envious of the most. And so we always instinctively and fearfully wonder if the person we’re dating is not also – or rather – attracted to our best friend. This attraction is natural, as they are usually spending a lot of time around each other through you, and there is a total lack of tension since there is officially no chance of their being sexually involved, which makes their interaction that much more sincere, open and comfortable. This situation naturally creates a perfect environment for sexual innuendo and even some slightly physical horseplay and joking that insinuates that they might hook up behind your back, beneath which lies a grain of truth and an overwhelming unspoken “what if?”. So it’s best to exploit this situation to your benefit, but without seeming too obvious about it of course (because that would make you a bit of a creep). This will keep your partnerival on their toes, prevent them from ever taking you for granted, and let it be known that they have to keep working hard at making this relationship work if they want any hope of staying in contention, let alone winning it in the end. Ideally, you should bring it to the point where your partnerival actually has to say something embarrassing to you out of desperation and jealousy, like “you don’t like my friend, do you?”

Win the jealousy game against your partnerival
When one of the partnerivals senses that the other’s interest in them is flagging, that partnerival will bring up the jealousy test. This will involve the partnerival flirtatiously speaking to someone of the opposite sex – usually an ex of theirs – while you’re right there. The message of course is “Look, you’d better start stepping up to the plate and realize what you’ve got before you lose it.” Here’s what you do: call their bluff and act even more disinterested. If your partnerival is sincere in their fondness for you they will feel guilty that maybe they are pushing you away with their attempt at making you jealous, which is never what they intended, and so they make it up to you with all the more affection and fawning, which wins you some crucial points and puts you ahead early in the relationship. On the other hand, if they decide to call your bluff of their bluff so that they don’t feel (or at least act) guilty as they continue their flirtation and act as disinterested as you act in a drawn out battle of don’t-care attrition, then they’re not worth the effort, and you two are not meant to be together. You both just take the stalemate and end the relationship. You don’t win, but you at least don’t lose either.

Be smarter than your partnerival
Knowledge is power, and that was never truer than in a relationship. Simply put, if your partnerival feels dumber than you, they will feel inferior to you, and that’s great in terms of giving you extra points on the path to victory. TIP: If you don’t have time to actually read books and do proper research, then at least develop some superficial smartness through the Internet. For example, you can become Google-savvy and Wiki-smart. Do browses for quick and easy information that can pass for genuine knowledge, especially useful in smart emailing/facebooking/skypeing/chatting/smsing/forum-writing. When actually with your partnerival in person or among people, use silence to convey a false sense of wisdom and maturity. Make sure always to have a disinterested and self-confident expression on your face when being silent. The aim is to seem like you don’t want to stoop down to the level of conversation being conducted, and thus avoid revealing that you’re actually pretty stupid yourself and are out of your depth in terms of the topic of debate going on around you.

Make your compliments to your partnerival slightly insulting
Throw out the occasional “You look great today!” or “You’re really good at charades!”. When your partnerival responds with a “Don’t I look good everyday?” or “You don’t think I’m good at anything else but charades?” give a flippant guffaw followed by a patronizing hug and an emphatic (but not totally sincere) “of COURSE you are”, that still keeps the doubt in your partnerival’s mind along with a level of insecurity that can continue feeding their sense of inferiority and lack of self-confidence, all of which can be conveniently exploited by you at will. For practice, try this out on your younger sibling.

Make your partnerival emotionally dependent on you, and use that dependence as leverage in the relationship
The more secure your partnerival is in terms of family and friends, the less dependent they will be on your companionship. That’s why it’s important to find a needy and emotionally imbalanced partnerival, so that they will be all the more dependent on you. If you are a girl, this is your chance to make your boyfriend dependent on your maternality, and if you are a guy, this is the chance to make your girlfriend dependent on your strong, take-charge paternalism. Besides, emotionally and familially unbalanced partnerivals make for great bedfellows since they compensate their lack of family security with an overabundance of clingy affection to their partnerival, often to the point of self-degradation, which of course makes for great sex. NOTE: Such partnerivals are partially psychotic, and so even though you’re pretty much assured of winning this relationship, you also have a tough winning process (viz. ‘break up’) ahead of you. We’re talking harassment through phone calls, unexpected house visits where your partnerival “happened to be in the neighborhood”, attempts at forcing their way back into having sex with you, threatening suicide, and boiling your pet bunny rabbit.

Listen to the songs your partnerival sings to themselves when around you
Nobody really tells each other sincerely and honestly and openly what they really feel, because the feeling usually never lives up to the displays of affection that keep a relationship going. You’ll be kissing and holding hands and walking in a park with your partnerival’s head on your shoulders while in your mind you’ll be wondering if your partnerival’s ass is too big and whether they’re not a little too loud and obnoxious when they drink too much around your friends. That’s why it’s important to pay attention when your partnerival sings songs to themselves around you. What happens is your partnerival will be thinking stuff about you or the relationship which they know is potentially hurtful and not to be spoken out loud, but that suppressed thought often triggers the memory of a song with similar words to the thought that one is suppressing. For example, if your partnerival is thinking ‘It’s over’, they might start nervously (but seemingly nonchalantly) singing, whistling, or humming Roxette’s ‘It must have been love / but it’s over now’, or if your partnerival is thinking ‘I have to get out of here’ they might start singing the Beatles’ ‘Get back / get back / get back to where you once belong’ or perhaps The Animals' ‘We gotta get out of this place / if it’s the last thing we ever do’, etc. So pay attention to your partnerival’s parapraxical unconscious utterings and be prepared to take the initiative in either dumping them first (if you think it unsalvageable) or at least staying one step ahead by anticipating their next move. Also, if your partnerival actually does sing a song - any song - by Roxette without any hint of irony, that means that you should dump them right there anyway because of their terrible taste in music.

Win the victory
Even after you actually win the relationship, it’s important to “win the victory”, as it were. That means you have to continue playing the after-victory psychological war of words/gossip/rumors. Always seem like the magnanimous one, and always have only good things to say about your ex-partnerival – albeit with carefully hidden insults that should be crafted with enough subtlety to seem ingenuous and uncontrived, even natural. For example, you can say things like “I loved them as a person, and I stayed by their side, because I know they’ve been hurt a lot in the past, and they needed my support, even though I knew our relationship was over”, which makes your ex-partnerival look like an emotional needy mess and you like a benevolent and exceedingly attractive and desirable superhuman god/goddess. Winning the victory is crucial because you’re actually sowing the seeds of luring future partnerivals – which means winning more victories in the future, and continuing on the road to being a respectable and beloved member of society who is secure in the belief that the narcissism, vanity and self-love will be amply rewarded in return.

In the meantime, enjoy the dating game!

(If you'd like an example of the horrors of losing a relationship, then just read My Worst New Year's Eve Ever)