Practicality as a conundrum: when you can't advocate solutions

Let's start with climate change. My position on climate change was encapsulated in a paper I wrote some time ago. "Climate Change Mitigation in Fantasy and Reality" (the password is AddletonAP2009 to open the PDF document) argues that there's no actual mitigation of climate change to be found in "environmental accounting," which totals up good deeds within corporate society with an implicit expectation that all of the good-deed-doing will amount to something. Instead, I argue, we need to be asking what kind of society would be able to mitigate climate change. Clearly, our society would have to commit to being a sort of "ecotopia," a society dedicated to sustainability, not of the corporate deed-totaling sort, but rather of the whole society, and of a global, wholistic estimate of what sort of society would be able to survive the compound crisis. After all, if the whole society isn't going to survive, then nothing within it can be called sustainable.

But practical people don't advocate that. Practical people advocate X amount of public dollars spent on alternative energy, energy efficiency, and so on. Practical people don't advocate that at some point all fossil fuel extraction cease. Why, the corporations would never agree to that, much less Saudi Arabia. So what else can be done, and not just done to satisfy the egos and the fat wallets of the doers, but done effectively, to mitigate climate change. "When the Last Tree Is Cut Down, the Last Fish Eaten, and the Last Stream Poisoned, You Will Realize That You Cannot Eat Money" is not advice we give to investors.

Or, well, how about COVID-19. For instance, you've got states like North Dakota whose governors couldn't be bothered to ask residents to wear masks, and you've got states like Pennsylvania where health care workers are abused in other ways. These places are asking for ever-worsening disaster, devouring the lives of those who have been certified to save lives. What should be done? The practical thing to do would be to strike, and to call a general strike, until a proactive regime of COVID-19 emergency assistance could be established. Does anyone want to do this? Lots of people would die, and their deaths would be blamed on those who were striking. But, at the same time, such a strike appears as the one practical way to avoid an even greater death toll.

"Overpopulation" has long since been a bugaboo of Malthusians and neo-Malthusians. The worry is that there are too many people in the world, and that by dint of sheer numbers the human race will suffer a population crash. The "overpopulation" bugaboo is easily dismissed -- the complaint that there are too many people in the world is an elite complaint about the smelly masses, you know, if they keep breeding like rabbits they'll invade our golf courses or something like that. All those people can successfully be fed and integrated into the world -- with socialism. You see otherwise intelligent people in historical writing -- my favorite is Aldous Huxley -- complaining about overpopulation, and then stopping support of any dire prediction of its effects or any proposal of a solution.

Well the obvious and quick "practical solution" to overpopulation, assuming that one poses overpopulation as a practical problem in need of a direct solution, would be to kill a lot of people. To be practical, however, one would first have to propose such a thing, and nobody's going to do that. Nobody should do that. And then there's the additional problem of empowering the horrible specimens of (in)humanity you'd have to recruit to do such a thing -- to be sure, our governments of today had and have no problem recruiting people to fight pointless wars so that weapons manufacturers can achieve profits. But such wars don't really change anything; that's not their purpose. And then of course even if you were to reduce human population in such a direct and brutal way, the people would come back thereafter. Such a line of reasoning, however, points to the real problem with overpopulation. If there are too many people in the world, that's too many tragedies that can occur when governmental malfeasance of some sort or another, usually involving the recruitment and employment of people who shouldn't be that way in the first place, kills those people off. And nobody going to come out and say they want that, either. Birth, however, remains the leading cause of death.

The obvious reality is that "overpopulation" is a problem without a practical solution. Oh sure, we can advocate birth control and such. But that's it, and it's not much. What I've been suggesting, as I write my book, is that when we encounter problems without practical solutions, the last line of defense should be the utopian dream -- we should all dream of the world we want to see, and then work together to achieve that dream. If our dreams differ, we should discuss that matter with each other until we can reach a consensus on the right utopian dream to have, and act on that. Then maybe we find a way of making the impractical problem into a practical one. The thing is, utopian dreams are usually able to achieve things upon the momentum of other such dreams, within the historical purview of an Age of Utopian Dreaming, an era of history in which ideas of utopia ("progress," "development," what have you) permeate our ideas of the future. We haven't lived in an Age of Utopian Dreaming since the Seventies. We're kind of stuck that way. I'm up for a revival, though.

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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

I'm surprised you dismiss it to the degree that you do. 8 billion humans on this planet is TOO MANY.

I for one, think mandatory sterilization (both sexes) after one's second child is a hell of a lot better than water wars (and anyone who has many more than that is effectively weaponizing their reproductive system anyways).

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In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is declared insane when he speaks of colors.

@The Liberal Moonbat

annihilate the masses

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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

@QMS "The bad thing of war is, that it makes more evil people than it can take away."
- Immanuel Kant

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8 users have voted.

In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is declared insane when he speaks of colors.

@The Liberal Moonbat

check your sources

teaching us that evil is a human trait
is one of the wonders of the new war
being displayed as this years most
shiny and desirable thing

the marketeers are evil in their lust
for money and power

has nothing to do with human nature

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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

@QMS You're not implying I think otherwise, do you?

Of course, your formatting is a little funny...if you're trying to send me a secret message, I'm afraid I don't get it.

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In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is declared insane when he speaks of colors.

lotlizard's picture

@The Liberal Moonbat  
after Archy the cockroach (a reincarnated “verse libre bard” / free-verse poet)?

http://infogalactic.com/info/Archy_and_Mehitabel

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@lotlizard

Because he was a cockroach, Archy was unable to operate the shift key on the typewriter

I can relate.

Proper syntax disturbs me for some odd reasons.

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lotlizard's picture

@QMS  

this is the song of mehitabel
of mehitabel the alley cat
as i wrote you before boss
mehitabel is a believer
in the pythagorean
theory of the transmigration
of the soul and she claims
that formerly her spirit
was incarnated in the body
of cleopatra
that was a long time ago
and one must not be
surprised if mehitabel
has forgotten some of her
more regal manners
i have had my ups and downs
but wotthehell wotthehell
yesterday sceptres and crowns
fried oysters and velvet gowns
and today i herd with bums
but wotthehell wotthehell
i wake the world from sleep
as i caper and sing and leap
when i sing my wild free tune
wotthehell wotthehell
under the blear eyed moon
i am pelted with cast off shoon
but wotthehell wotthehell

do you think that i would change
my present freedom to range
for a castle or moated grange
wotthehell wotthehell
cage me and i d go frantic
my life is so romantic
capricious and corybantic
and i m toujours gai toujours gai

i know that i am bound
for a journey down the sound
in the midst of a refuse mound
but wotthehell wotthehell
oh i should worry and fret
death and i will coquette
there s a dance in the old dame yet
toujours gai toujours gai

i once was an innocent kit
wotthehell wotthehell
with a ribbon my neck to fit
and bells tied onto it
o wotthehell wotthehell
but a maltese cat came by
with a come hither look in his eye
and a song that soared to the sky
and wotthehell wotthehell
and i followed adown the street
the pad of his rhythmical feet
o permit me again to repeat
wotthehell wotthehell
my youth i shall never forget
but there s nothing i really regret
wotthehell wotthehell
there s a dance in the old dame yet
toujours gai toujours gai

the things that i had not ought to
i do because i ve gotto
wotthehell wotthehell
and i end with my favorite motto
toujours gai toujours gai

boss sometimes i think
that our friend mehitabel
is a trifle too gay

https://www.poetrynook.com/poem/song-mehitabel

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@The Liberal Moonbat

know the lines put down don't follow normal rules
write like it thinks, out in spurts
thanks for understanding Wink

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Cassiodorus's picture

@The Liberal Moonbat then get back to us about heavy-handed solutions to overpopulation.

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"Every election is fake." -- Janna Ordonia, from "Star vs. the Forces of Evil"

We have really hit the brick wall. Look at our response to the Covid pandemic. Pathetic. Or any issue of economic justice and social justice. Two problems should scare the hell out of you - global thermonuclear war and the Climate Crisis. With your leave, Cass, I would like to quote you -

This essay will argue that, instead of pursuing the paths dictated by environmental accounting and accumulating tiny changes which won’t make a difference, we start by understanding what measures (and concomitant utopian visions) are necessary to produce physical climate change and proceed through a utopian conversation of what sort of society could enact those measures.

I'm an engineer by training and I have solved many problems. I start by analyzing the problem and then I propose a solution that will solve the problem and engineer a product. We are stuck in a totally dysfunctional methodology. You need to start at the top, not start out with a set of incremental, politically correct solutions. I can say without hesitancy that there is no way in hell that we are going to avoid a complete environmental disaster with the way that we are attacking the problem. Is anyone else here acutely aware of the problem that the CO2 curve is continuing to rise, in fact, accelerating. You have to believe that the methods that we have put in place will cause the curve to begin to flatten, then reach a peak and then start to decrease. This is a global physical phenomena with enormous inertia. Add to that our political-economic systems not only have huge inertia but are incapable of taking the required actions, for instance, the fossil fuel corporations are counting on 60 more years of extracting carbon. Their wealth is in the ground, and they will not tolerate the government taking this away from them. And in a capitalist system wealth equals power.

In my opinion the basic cause of this inability to solve systemic problems is capitalism. We are incapable of acting as a coherent society. The government can't decide winners and losers, is the mantra. Well, in the extreme the government can't determine that humanity should be the winner. It sets the table so that only wealthy oligarchs can compete to decide who will be the winners. What is so amazing to me is that so many Libruls perform mental gymnastics to convince themselves that that they are dealing with real solutions. The perfect example is believing that you can get social and economic justice through pushing identity issues. Or that the number one solution to the Climate Crisis is sex education for teenage girls! Yeah, really!

I think that it really boils down to the fact that we have reached the end of the post WWII world order. If we don't replace it with something that works, then we are finished. We need to entirely rebuild our world, nothing less. We need to have the smarts to do this, the courage to do it and then find the means.

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Capitalism has always been the rule of the people by the oligarchs. You only have two choices, eliminate them or restrict their power.

The Liberal Moonbat's picture

@The Wizard It was an unprecedented miracle, it worked like nothing ever did before, and its full potential was only beginning to be revealed; the problem is that it was SABOTAGED, practically from the get-go. We must not replace it, we must RESTORE it.

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In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is declared insane when he speaks of colors.

RantingRooster's picture

we should all dream of the world we want to see, and then work together to achieve that dream.

I think back to all those times in school I got in trouble for "day dreaming". All the report cards would read, "He's a bright student, but he day dreams too much".

I wasn't day dreaming about Susie the cheerleader sitting next to me, I was thinking about the problems in our society that I saw, and why "grown ups" always would say things like, "life just isn't fair, and there's not much we can really do about it".

I was always "day dreaming" about, how to answer the question of why is "life just isn't fair, and there's not much we can really do about it".

Fundamentally, it would require to somehow change or shift in perception if you will, from accepting the fundamental of existence life, of a society is based on competition and wage labor, to one of collaboration is key to, not only to survival, but, dare I say, growth and prosperity.

By which I mean, population growth and raised living standards in a sustainable way, that fundamental ensures our ability to deal with these problems, which our current thinking, tramped in this economic fetishization of existence is threatening to extinguish all life in the universe.

Even without using the Dakara superweapon.

"It is not only capable of destroying the Replicators but all life in the galaxy."
―Ba'al

But seriously, a basic observation of life on this planet, in this reality, in this universe, informs me, humans need each other to not only survive, but thrive, and propagate and evolve as a species. We can not just go about our business, looking for gratification through "consumption", once popped out from our mother's womb.

We are not cattle. We are not commodities. Life is not a revenue stream. Money and value are merely perceptions predicated on a false premise to benign with.

I envision a trifecta if you will, at the root of unifying humanity's "purpose" for existence. (for lack of a better description. Holy Trinity? lol)

This trifecta encompasses the following as;

  • Human Health
  • Earth Resources
  • Space Exploration
  • These three fundamental elements if you will, united in common purpose are essential, imho, for our species continued survival, and importatly evolution. (Drone murdering people on the other side of the planet, is not evolving humanity.)

    Each three fundamental elements if you will, are intertwined and interdependent with one another. All are interwoven in a kind of scientific symbiotic fabric of reality (for lack of better description...), with no need for myths or religious connotations.

    We would have to acknowledge Capitalism, fundamentally wastes vast, I'm talking vast amounts of resources and human power (labor / intellectual) that have nothing to do with the betterment of society.

    We have reached a point in human "civilization" that, imho, civilization is actually preventing humanity as a species, the ability if you will, to properly evolve.

    We are constrained by "economic thinking". That everything, and all life revolves around, and is based on some “perceived” value? That the buying and selling of good and services, i.e. Capitalism, IS the very purpose of our existence? The fundamental purpose of life on this planet is the accumulation of wealth?

    That is bat shit crazy thinking to me. Always has been.

    Good human health depends on good food, which depend on good soil, which depend on good knowledge, of our earth resources. The space technologies we have today could easily reshape our food production processes and distribution to support good human health, and eliminate poverty planet wide. Instead of profits for a few to live a lavish and gluttonous life style.

    Over population can ultimately be solved via space exploration, which requires good human health, and the good management of our earth resources. Our planet with high efficiency food production and distribution could support up to 30 billion people on this planet. We currently waste 40% of the food we produce for "consumerism".

    Good human health requires "knowledge", which should be free and available to everyone, as a "human right".

    All knowledge should be open sourced in collaborative frameworks, and that anyone and everyone can access and contribute, each to their ability. Each can access and learn at their own pace.

    AI, robotics, driver-less vehicles, 3d printing, automated manufacturing... all could help bring these kind of "dreams" to fruition if, and it's big if, we can pull our collective heads out of the economics of buy and selling of good and services, as a way of life, as the very means of our existence.

    Think for a moment, how many plumbing and construction contractors in Michigan are out of work or sitting idle, because no one has any money? And think about how much construction and re-plumbing that needs to be done in Flint to provide clean drinking water to its residents?

    How has the current "unifying purpose" of humanity (economics / cost accounting / wage & debt slavery) solved this problem?

    It's so dehumanizing to think about how badly it is failing most of humanity.

    It's really not about "economics" but the correct management of our existing resources. Why does a family of 2,3,4 "need" a 10,000 sqft house? We have homeless populations all around the country, and the world for that matter, but we also have a inventory of empty house, apartments, hotel rooms, etc...

    It's a complete waste of resources that creates poverty because, well, capitalism demands winners and losers by golly and T.I.N.A., and all that...

    To me, let's face it, the "purpose" of self interest (economics) as the unifying purpose of humanity's existence so far, has not produced a better society, especially when we are facing the existential, and very real, threat of extinction as a species, not to mention possibly extinguishing the final embers of life in the entire universe.

    We're going to need our space technologies for living on our own planet because it will be so hot, chaotic, as well as ultimately the oceans and the air will become toxic. It will be like living on a planet in outer space, here on earth, for a limited few to carry our species into the future beyond 2100, if we don't snuff out these final embers of life before hand.

    "This isn't Utopia, friend” | Scene from Peter Joseph’s InterReflections"
    (it's an art house film so...YMMV)

    Drinks

    (Well, I admitt, Susie the cheerleader or my 7th grade social studies teacher, was nice to day dream about every now then... but one learns quickly not to dwell on such topics for too long, because biology has this way of taking over and it can be a bit embarrassing Blush )

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    C99, my refuge from an insane world. #ForceTheVote

    @RantingRooster

    many of my friends there have lost hope
    stringing it out as the best they can
    another waste of resource
    and life

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    RantingRooster's picture

    @QMS

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    C99, my refuge from an insane world. #ForceTheVote

    @RantingRooster

    an important commodity
    change your world

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    that government doesn't work for us anymore. For others, yes, but not for us. We keep looking for it to change but it never does. It's responsive to capitalism. It picks winners and losers, creates opportunities for some and exploits others. Capitalism has evolved into a coercive movement, one that individuals must engage in for survival. That appears to be it's sole function today. It's a burden instead of something to be part of, proud of.

    There is no way our government will respond to climate change in any meaningful way. As individuals we can do small things to make changes. It would take a counter movement to start to make a difference, and capitalism and our government won't allow it. It cannot envision what life will be like for us, because it's function is not centred on us.

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    Pluto's Republic's picture

    ...Overpopulation. There is nothing impractical or terribly challenging about dealing with it. Indeed, if we don't, this species will die from it.

    The obvious reality is that "overpopulation" is a problem without a practical solution. Oh sure, we can advocate birth control and such. But that's it, and it's not much. What I've been suggesting, as I write my book, is that when we encounter problems without practical solutions, the last line of defense should be the utopian dream -- we should all dream of the world we want to see, and then work together to achieve that dream.

    .

    The Chinese had a utopian dream about sustainability, scientific mastery, and the eradication of poverty. It was not a big surprise that overpopulation made that dream impossible to achieve. And that impossibility was magnified each year it was not addressed, pushing their aspirations further and further away.

    So they did something extremely practical and logical. They limited the number of times couples could reproduce for several decades as they worked toward their national goals and utopian dreams. Had they not adopted that logical and practical solution, their population would be twice what it is now, and they would be cycling through constant famines in abject poverty.

    This has always been a no-brainer. Any nation can improve their condition by pushing back against the Root Cause of their problems. It's the Capitalists, the Corporations, and the Church that have tricked humanity into endless expansion and the evils that it causes.

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    "There will be no end to the troubles of States, or of Humanity itself, until Philosophers become Kings in this world — or until those we now call kings and rulers truly become Philosophers." — Plato
    Cassiodorus's picture

    @Pluto's Republic Read Ma Jian's "The Dark Road," which is about just such Chinese policies, and get back to everyone here.

    I'll provide a footnote to all this. Ma Jian, an exile living in London whose novels are all banned in China and who is prohibited from re-entry, argued, and no doubt argues, that the primary problem is that the Chinese government has "infantilized" its subjects. So that, then, is the primary problem in the Chinese context -- you have governments which infantilize their subjects, and then impose "population programs" upon them after it's too late.

    Here's an alternative project: ending the infantilization of the human species. Yes, let's all be grown-ups. For a place like China this means some sort of democracy; for the United States this means the end of what Sheldon Wolin calls "inverted totalitarianism," and the general prostration of culture toward capitalism. It means, everywhere, the end of patriarchy -- this is India's primary problem. It also means broader notions of family planning than what we've encouraged so far, you might be encouraged to note. (One additional side-point: when you grant adulthood to some people in a global society, not only do they stop procreating, they stop having sex altogether.)

    The argument I've posted in my diary above stands. In a world in which government and society have gone to shit, more people being born means more people who can die off, thus more tragedy.

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    "Every election is fake." -- Janna Ordonia, from "Star vs. the Forces of Evil"

    Pluto's Republic's picture

    @Cassiodorus

    ...and it was more nuanced that implied. For example, parents who were only children were largely excluded. Anyway, that is an old issue under an old Leader. And good for China. No other nation has done more to mitigate global warming.

    Parents who insist on reproducing themselves over and over again — acting against the wellbeing of society — are no different that people who won't wear masks or isolate temporarily to curb the pandemic. People must pull together to survive.

    Ask the Chinese if they want democracy like the US has.

    The CCP is not necessarily undemocatic. The Party has close to two thousand members from all over China who participate in China's central legislation and national planning. China chooses them the same way it has for thousands of years. They locate the best and the brightest through national testing or meritocracy from their accomplishments in every field of human endeavor. The most respected and learned people in the sciences, agriculture, technology, the humanities, arts, literature, law, and philosophy are invited to become part of the deterministic body for the visions proposed by the Leaders. They carefully develop five-, ten-, and fifteen-year Plans and then oversee their completion. This kind of selection process discriminates against morons, of course, so in that way it is not a democracy like the United States has.

    There are many different leaders and many levels of leadership councils. The Party must reach a consensus. It's about as far as one can get from the fake democracy of duopoly totalitarianism in the US. In China, action toward each prioritized goal is achieved through multi-year Plans with very specific deadlines. The Chinese People are very proud of these achievements, and they are pretty magnificent. This type of planning has catapulted China ahead of most nations in the world in education, productivity, economic growth, and innovation. China has a modern constitution that is quite liberal and fair, as constitutions go. China's government has multiple streams of government revenue so that the Chinese People and Chinese businesses are never over-burdened with with taxes.

    As the first signer of the Declaration of Human rights at the UN General Assembly in 1948, China incorporates those same rights into their own Constitution. Apart from overseeing China's national sovereignty, there is only one over-arching goal for the Chinese government: To protect and benefit the lives of the Chinese People. To steadily improve their standard of living. Enhance their environment. Assure economic sustainability. To confer human rights to all. Support the family. Provide subsidies in order to eradicate poverty, homelessness, and medical neglect. To assure a secure old age. And to abolish corruption in every corner of government. The CCP has twelve million independent Inspector Generals.

    Just about everything you think you know about China is US propaganda. There seems to be no other source of information about China in the US. China did not prosecute and imprison the Uyghurs, they did not abort Uyghur fetuses. China made a public declaration that they would not punish muslims for their bloody terrorist attack on the Chinese people in Xinjiang province, because they didn't want a terrible outcome like the one that Americans brought down upon themselves. China did expel the ISIS infiltrators that the US sent to China as "spiritual advisors" in order to push religious radicalism on China's western flank. But China did not expel native Uyghurs, whom China regards as citizens. They taught the Uyghurs to speak Chinese, instead.

    The Uyghurs were mostly uneducated farmers, barely scratching out a living. Their grown children could not sustain themselves through farm work. So the Chinese taught the younger men and women valuable skills in technology and business and construction. Homes and apartments were found for young Uyghur families, and advisors taught many of them how to use computers and start home businesses. The Chinese Army came into Xinjiang and rebuilt the Uyghur farms, one by one, connecting many to utilities for the very first time. Farmers were supplied with new technologies like drones for more efficient farming, and networks into China's larger markets were opened for Uyghurs so they could sell their produce for better prices. The Army expanded the available farmlands so that the farmers could expand their businesses. Farmers were taught how to keep records and file annual reports so that future expansions could be more easily funded, and to help them apply for subsidies they might need to keep them going. Permanent farm field offices were opened and operated by a China-Uyghur cooperative.

    Younger Uyghurs who completed their training were encouraged to travel on China's high speed railroad system to get to know their country. The most talented were offered trial jobs in China's technology industry located in cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Some were offered scholarships to universities. Others enrolled in nearby colleges. Elementary schools and community centers were built for Uyghur families. Many women opened businesses producing folk art or selling fashions and works by local artists. Restaurants and venues for music and performances opened. Uyghur districts slowly became tourist attractions for their Chinese neighbors.

    Many serious documentaries (not propaganda screeds) were made during this long transformation, with extensive interviews with everyone involved. It was by no means an easy transition, but certainly better than Guantanamo. It required hard work and determination. The teachers were strict but dedicated to their success. Documentaries followed many individual Uyghurs though the training centers as they learned new skills and a new language. Both women and men attended parenting and early development classes. Students spoke frankly about their former lives on the farm and their hopes for the future. Couples discussed how their relationships changed under religious radicalism, and changed again after they received training and were empowered to make their own way in China.

    This final transformation, which is culminating in 2020, happened to coincide with China's ambitious Five Year Plan to eradicate poverty throughout China, which officially and successfully ends in January 2021.

    In China, corporations have much less influence over the lives and wellbeing of the people, and much less influence in the Chinese government — compared to the US. But China still produces just as many billionaires and the US does. China and the US both spy on their people and track their activities. No winner there. But I think that after 5,000 years of continuous government and continuous civilization — the Chinese people are perfectly capable of choosing the kind of government that they want. They've seen the rest. They've seen the flaws. They like what they have. And they have had it up to 'here' with the degrading insults and threats coming from the West.

    China's sovereignty policy pertaining to Hong Kong is no different from US policy pertaining to Alaska. Hong Kong's constitution is not being violated. It fully accommodates China's national sovereignty and protections. The same is true for Alaska's constitution, which grants the US sovereignty.

    China's sovereignty policy pertaining to Taiwan is no different from US policy pertaining to Hawaii. I do support Hawaii's right to become an independent nation through self-determination. I think neither China nor the US would approve of my view.

    I think it is wrong for the US to weaponize Taiwan against China.
    I think it is wrong to China to weaponize Hawaii against the US.

    I believe in both positive and negative parity in international affairs.

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    "There will be no end to the troubles of States, or of Humanity itself, until Philosophers become Kings in this world — or until those we now call kings and rulers truly become Philosophers." — Plato