"But, in general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade."

Karl Marx on globalization, closing paragraph, in the 1848 Discourse on Free Trade referenced in Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy
Original thoughts?

No such thing.

If you think you're the only person thinking a miraculous thought, sorry, it has probably already been tried. If you think that you have all the answers and you'd like to help some others with what you're thinking, you might be wrong. Instead, you could be poisoning others with your thoughts. And this is not to put a negative on yourself - on the contrary.

Let me explain.

Your thoughts are not a testament of what could be, although you can think big about your life and yourself and those around you. The fact of the matter is, if you think your thoughts are original, go ahead and think otherwise.

Because we are all but just a puny scratch of the scratch of the scratch in what we call the universe, thinking that we are so big is just plain arrogance.

Instead, look to other resources for answers. Look to those who have MADE IT. Sometimes the act of searching creates more certainty than just thinking.

There's a saying: "Act into a new way of thinking instead of the other way around."

I shut off my old thoughts and search for new ones. Everyday, I listen to CDs full of wisdom, hoping to get one more nugget that will propel myself and those around me into a better way of living. The constant search, while tireless, never becomes tiresome.

While others spend needless amount of money on music CDs, making stars that provide only entertainment value and not learning value all very wealthy, I spend my money on people who will help me think right.

But of course, that is only my perspective.

So really, what am I trying to say here?

We are what we think. We're even more about what we act.

Let me steal a couple of phrases:

"We are where we are because of what we know. You don't know what you don't know, that's why you don't have. If you knew what you didn't know, you'd have. And to know and not to do, is not to know."

"If you knew better, you'd do better."

  • Saw Hotel Rwanda. Great, powerful film. I'll be noding it soon. I was totally going to go off on an anti-Oscars rant, but it seems it was nominated... twice. Didn't win anything, though. Anyway, the movie kinda piqued a morbid interest, so I went off to Borders and picked up Philip Gourevitch's book with the rather unwieldy title of "We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families". It was apparently a New York Times bestseller when it came out in '98. I didn't know that, though; I picked it up because it was the only book Borders had on the subject. I also bought The Salmon of Doubt (because the HGTG movie is coming out at the end of next month, and to celebrate I'm going to reread all of Douglas Adams' novels), and the first volume of Azumanga Daioh, which I'll comment on a bit later.

  • I will never understand why people get rid of the jewel cases, and hell, even the instructions and CD inserts to games. I regret getting rid of my old PC game boxes as it is, but that at least was a space issue; I can't imagine having so little space I can't spare some for some jewel cases. Anyway, the EB at Arizona Mills mall apparently brought out its surplus Dreamcast games. If I had gotten every game there I wanted, I would've racked up a bill of $100 or more, but as it is I only bought Soul Reaver, Toy Commander, and Sonic Adventure. I paid two bucks extra for the Soul Reaver that had the front insert/manual. I suppose I could've swapped them real quick, but that would've been dishonest. On the other hand, once I got to my car, I realized the register biscuit had given me SA2 instead of SA1. All complaints I've heard about the former aside, it's a lot more expensive to get on the DC than the original, and I would've gotten it anyway to try out for myself. I may be scrupulous, but that doesn't include making up for the stupidity of others. Besides, it was a long walk back to EB.

  • The humorous thing about those "gay/lesbian interest" sections that are all the rage in bookstores these days is watching some guy stand right outside one, nervously looking around and shifting directions back and forth, as if he can't make up his mind what to do. It's never a woman you see doing that. Probably because lesbianism is a little more palatable to your average Joe and Jane Bagofdonuts, and so gay guys are likely to be more insecure. ...It's still funny, though.

  • I read through the entire first volume of Azumanga Daioh. ...I'd say that maybe some of the humor gets lost in the translation, but I don't think many of the people I know who rave about it read Japanese to any great extent. Don't get me wrong, there were some parts I laughed at, but most of it was just plain weird, not funny-weird. The fact that there's a lot of awkward language construction going on there doesn't help. Nor does the fact that I find it very difficult to tell many of the characters apart.

  • I don't know if I mentioned it, and I certainly doubt anyone cares, but I'm going to have a "new" car in about two days. Actually, I technically already have it; I'm just driving my old beat-up Malibu because I had a full tank of gas in it. It's a '94 Toyota Tercel. Nothing special, but better than driving a crumbling beast that's old enough to be my elder brother. Plus it was free, which is always a good price.
  • Well, I've not been here for a while, time to try out my freshly mindted typing skills, see if I can node and do so with a much reduced typo rate. Type slowly, that's the trick, why does that remind me of a Pavement song? Well, no matter. The years wander along, I started on this site while I lived in New York, then I moved back to Ireland, a stint in Germany and now I find myself in The Netherlands. Is is that e2 begins to become one of the most standard constants in my life? Think of that, how odd is that, pieces of my life scattered throughout these pages! And when I am scattered as ashes, as silicon memory becomes ubiquitous, and cheap and everywhere, The sugars that the ATP in the muscles in my fingertips are eating, the sodium channels in my brian, thousands of them firing in the span of this writing, they, all of them, are finding a chance of finite imortality. In these pages.
    Well, my goodness, I am not so sure about what I should Think about that, on this day, early in March, when holland is gripped in an unseasonal blizzard, when I take a step more towards being a little closer to this community.
    After a few days of waiting nervously, Making Cocoa For Kingsley Amis arrived in my mailbox. The trains to work were not running. I had to travel via Gouda, take a stop at Rotterdam, a pase of twenty minutes, well spent reading.

    Forty-eight hours turns into a week, and we move to a new neighborhood, further North within the city, in the middle of the night. Intel has given us a target house, and the plan is to detain our target and use his house as a patrol base. Our combat engineer has made us some breaching charges out of det cord, and everyone's pretty excited, it seems. Except me.

    I'm unexcited because I'm tired and filthy and still pretty sick, and we were supposed to have been back a long, long time ago. In addition, none of the breaching charges we've used so far have managed to open a door, and I doubt the double size of this one will make a difference. But most of all, I'm unexcited because those fucking retarded POGs in the Intel shop have never given us a single solid piece of intel the entire time we've been in this country.

    We roll up in good time and scouts dismount and stack on the objective smoothly, the charge is set, the fuse lit, and we wait in tense silence.

    The boom is pretty big and shatters the windows on our entire half of the house. But the deadbolt is in the wrong place and the door remains locked.

    Lcpl V_____ finds an alternate entry and simply kicks the door in and we pour into a living room full of women and children. We quickly clear the rest of the house, tying up and blindfolding the three males in the house and we find a rifle and a pistol.

    Of course, our target, a supposed anti-coalitionist, isn't there, and the three males turn out to be between the ages of fifteen and eighteen. There are two middle-aged women, a tiny, stooped elderly one who looks about a hundred years old, a young teenaged girl, and three elementary school aged girls. I quickly realize that the older of the two middle-aged women is currently the head of the household and begin to question her.

    I can't seem to make clear to her exactly how limited my Arabic is, and she starts to babble at me at a million words a minute, to which I can only respond, over and over again: "I speak only a little Arabic," and "I don't understand, please speak slowly." Periodically, the entire group, including the little girls, start to babble at me all at once and I am completely inundated, overwhelmed just trying to pick out a word here and there.

    I manage to gather that the man of the house, her husband or brother, I'm not sure which, is a cop, that he has a permit for the pistol, but I can't get exactly where he is. After passing what information we can gather up to higher, we leave a team to occupy the house while we go and begin our patrol, searching houses and trying to find one suitable for a patrol base.

    That's when the bullshit begins. We're given orders over the radio that we are going to continue as planned, that we're going to use the first target house as our patrol base, that we're going to kick out the family that lives there. And of course that responsibility falls on me.

    Sgt. W_____ tells me to go ahead and start thinking about how to tell the family and I am incredulous as we patrol back to the house.

    Once there, I have trouble meeting the woman's eyes as I ask her if she has any family in the neighborhood.

    I think the word I use for 'family' actually translates as 'direct family' as opposed to 'relatives,' I'm not sure I've got the right word for 'neighborhood,' and I'm sure I'm misusing prepositions left and right, and I keep forgetting to address her in the feminine. In any case, she doesn't understand so I try again.

    "Aunt, is there a house you can go to for two days?" I ask her. I'm not sure she gets it, but she starts babbling at me again.

    By this time we're behind on our patrol schedule, and Sgt. W_____ tells me to just tell them to go somewhere. V_____ a little while later, also impatient, tells me to just kick them the fuck out, but, of course, neither of them have to look them in the eye and tell these people that they have to leave their house in the middle of the night because some violent foreign soldiers want to use it.

    Exasperated, I close the door and when I turn back, two of the little girls start crying and they all hold their palms out toward me, begging me not to do something. When I realize they're asking me not to kill them, I almost cry. I realize exactly what we've done, and that they've all been terrified out of their minds this entire time, from the moment that fucking det cord went off.

    "Peace, peace," I tell them as I sling my rifle behind me and take off my helmet.

    All the exhaustion, all the pain and loneliness, all the moral uncertainty, and all of the doubts, all the madness, the anger, the frustration, the isolation, all of the misery I have accrued during this deployment hits me then like a blow to the chest, and suddenly I feel like the worst kind of person, who has done the worst kind of thing. Suddenly I'm sure that I've done more harm than good in this country, that this place would be better off had I stayed thousands of miles away.

    "Aunt," I address her. "Aunt, I am sorry. I am very sorry we American soldiers come here late at night while you sleep. Aunt, you must go to a different house now. You, with your family, must go. I am sorry, I have military orders."

    She babbles at me and points to their bare feet, asking if she can get shoes.

    "Yes, yes," I say, and I follow her into another room. She points to her jacket, and I respond by indicating the whole room, opening the closet and making packing motions, trying to tell her to take anything she needs.

    As she packs, she finds a bag of candy and, unbelievably, offers it to me. She finishes packing and goes back into the living room. She takes the old woman, who is apparently nearly blind, by the arm, and they prepare to leave.

    When they get outside, they're afraid to pass in front of our vehicles which are parked in front, so Lcpl B_____ offers to escort them past.

    Before they go, I touch the woman's arm and tell her again:

    "Aunt, I'm sorry."

    She shows me a sad smile, places her right hand over her heart and tells me:

    "I understand. It is not a problem. God be with you."

    And those are the first words she has spoken that I understand entirely, and I am stunned.

    After they're gone, I take post on the roof with B_____, and wracked with guilt and anger, I begin to chain-smoke shitty cigarettes we bought from a local store a few days earlier.

    B_____ tries to tell me it's not my fault, that I was only following orders, but I know better. What we've done here tonight is fucked up.

    As dawn approaches, it gets a lot colder and more than ever I just want it all to be over. We shouldn't even be here right now. This whole thing should have been over after Haklania, but instead we came to Haditha only to find that there isn't any insurgent activity here, that all the intel was bogus, as usual, as always.

    For the rest of the day I'm pissed off. I tell my scouts I'd better not catch them fucking with any shit in this house, and I rant at length about how retarded and fucked up this op was. I turn around to find my Platoon Sergeant standing behind me, but I don't care, and he actually looks a bit mollified.

    On patrol, the friendliness of the neighborhood and the inquisitive children brighten my mood a bit. This is a much poorer neighborhood than the one we previously occupied, but the people are still very open and cooperative. They invite us to tea, and show us their little ones, laughing when the very young children are frightened of us. But every house we search confirms the total incompetence of our intel shop, of intel in general, and I wish someone with a shiny collar would just go on a patrol with us instead of looking at pictures from spy drones or listening to cell phone calls, look at the people's faces, look into their eyes and understand that these are not our enemy.

    As we return to the patrol base, I see one of the boys we displaced, and I wave to him, but he only stares at me impassively. I doubt I'd be able to show that much restraint.

    I hope I can get a shower soon. I hope I can change my socks and underwear, get into a clean uniform soon. I hope we go back to the dam so I can eat some decent chow, get a full night's sleep, even just four solid hours.

    But more than all these things, I hope upon hope that we haven't created an insurgent today.

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