Friday, May 22, 2015

Some blathering...

What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.

Napoleon Hill

If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.

Napoleon Hill

Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.

Napoleon Hill

See? See? Now this is what I'm talking about. Or have been blathering on and on and on about for most of my life. What I'm blathering about is the pseudo-positivity that attracts so many people to absolute negativity. Bad stuff. Evil.

I'm not saying I'm normal but when I read the thing about that poor guy who sold his 10% ownership in Apple for 800 bucks I think that is a good deal of money and he's better off ridding himself of any association with the evil empire Apple is. But that's just me... Then I look at that impossible to understand number at the bottom. If 10% of Apple is now worth that much, you multiply that number by 10 and that's what Apple is worth now. That's right, folks, over half a trillion bucks. And as we all know, these big businesses don't disclose the ACTUAL numbers. Apple makes more than we know and probably has trillions in Swiss or Cayman Island accounts not benefitting the country and people who have made the company rich.

Napoleon Hill was a well known how-to-get-rich life coach long before Tony Robbins was born. His book, "Think and Grow Rich," was published in 1937 and is s bestseller still quoted as motivation by corporate scumbags the way the Bible is a bestseller quoted by suicide cult leaders and killers. Cherry-pickers, all of them. Unfortunately for Hill, the reason his book is abused so widely today is because people are applying the very philosophies outlined in it, TO it. It's a self-defeating publication. Let me splain. No, is too much, let me sum up:

Hill preached repitition of thought, a kind of self-hypnosis, believe and achieve so that people would block out the doubt and through mental self-battery create a sort of placebo effect on themselves. The mind is very powerful and it is perhaps most effective on itself. As you can see from the quote about selfishness above, Hill was not all about corporate capitalism and greed. Yet so many "successful" gozillionaires out there have followed his teachings and give credit to them for their success. How can this be? Well let's delve deeper, shall we?

The original idea for his book was suggested by Andrew Carnegie, who was very impressed with the young Napoleon Hill. Carnegie suggested that hill interview a wide variety of "successful" people and try to distill the secrets of their success in a concise, easy to understand book that could be used by others to help them succeed. I put quotes around success because this seems to have been the disconnect between Hill and Carnegie and probably a lot of the Hill followers since. Again I must splain.

We need to know a little about Andrew Carnegie before we can understand what HE meant by success. Andrew Carnegie was a filthy rich steel magnate in the 19th century. He had hundreds of millions when people were still impressed by millionaires. Incredibly rich! And nobody will say he didn't earn his money. He went from rags to riches. The epitome of the American Dream. What did he do with that money? Maybe more to the point, why was he earning that money? What was his motivation? Was it the simple douchebaggery and greed that is the motivation for so many modern businessmen? Nope. Carnegie called it, "The Gospel of Wealth." He used his money, (350 million bucks, about 90% of his fortune), to improve society. That may not sound like a lot to us now in the trillion generation, but in our money that is estimated to be about 4.76 billion. That's a buttload of philanthropy! And that was his goal all along. People mattered to Carnegie. Other people. He was not selfish. He was not just interested in capital, he was interested in society and his community. You see what I did there? Eh? Eh?

Henry Ford believed that mass production, getting richer and richer, and consumerism were the keys to world peace. He also believed that the Jews, (who he called "financiers"), caused both world wars so that they could profit from both sides of them. For this he despised the Jews, yet the Ford Motor Company was instrumental in aircraft production in the U.S. as well as vehicle production in its German factories during WWII. It is said that slave labour was used in the German plants. Adolf Hitler called Ford his "inspiration" and had a life-sized portrait of him next to his desk in Munich. Ford supported Hitler's theories and did his best to spread them throughout America. Ford was awarded the highest military medal a non-German could achieve: the Grand Cross of the German Eagle.
This mutual respect between Hitler and Ford may have lead to his famous quote, "History is bunk." He was against trade unions because they gave people too much power over company owners. He didn't invent the car, he stole the idea. He didn't invent the production line either but was responsible for sentencing millions to this dehumanizing, mind-numbing conveyor belt, production line work. Ford got his start as an engineer in Thomas Edison's Illumination Company.

Thomas Edison as we all know was a prolific inventor with over 1000 patents to his name. What we don't know is how many of those he bought or just stole from other people. He is famous for saying 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration lead to his inventions, but there was a certain percentage of prevarication in there as the far greater inventor, (in my humble estimation), Nikola Tesla could tell you. Edison reportedly offered Tesla 50,000 dollars to improve on his direct current. When Tesla came up with alternating current, which is a definite improvement, and asked for payment, Edison said he was joking and that Tesla just didn't understand American humour. That's about a million dollars today and anyone who knew Edison could tell you he never joked about sums of money like that. In fact he never joked at all. Edison stole Tesla's x-ray invention and spent a lot of time and money misinforming people that alternating current was dangerous.

Harvey S. Firestone, along with Edison and Ford, was a member of the threesome they called "The Millionaires Club." The three would often meet, work, and vacation together. This is a spectacular movie of the three of them pretty much outlining the gist of Napoleon Hill's book. Firestone, as you can tell from the vid., was loaded with energy and a tireless worker. His integrity and fire rubbed off on his co-workers and this kind of modeling was his strategy for success. He once said, "I believe fundamental honesty is the keystone to business." He also believed that keeping his workers well taken care of and happy was instrumental to his and the company's success.

John D. Rockefeller was a man after Carnegie's heart. Though he was an oil man, (Standard Oil), he was renowned for his philanthropy. When he died in 1937 his fortune was worth the equivalent of 336 billion dollars, which was mainly used to fund medical research, education and science.

There are obvious similarities between all these rich, "successful" men, but there are some dissimilarities that are more important. All of their lives were contributing studies to Napoleon Hill's book, but two of the five, it seems to me, are the examples of how modern corporate capitalism has interpreted Hill's writings. The other three, which seem to have been what Hill was trying to write about, are relics from the past. I'm sure there are rich people with integrity but they are the exception to the rule.

If the true meaning of success includes, as it should, personal happiness, which of these men were truly successful. I challenge you to find a picture of Edison in which he doesn't look like the grumpy, old codger that he was. Henry Ford was a man full of hate and if you watch the video closely, which of the three would you guess to be the happier? If you read Napoleon Hill's book carefully, which of the three would you choose as the best example of his success philosophies?

I would suggest to you that no man has ever become happy or successful by getting, only by giving. This is far from an original concept. You will find it said by Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Jesus, probably even Napoleon Hill. It's just ignored. Or is it just something that people have trained themselves to ignore? Like self-hypnotized themselves, a la Napoleon Hill, to ignore? In his book he trains people to use their minds against their minds for good. But bad people use their minds against their minds to block out the good. That's why I believe it is a self-defeating publication. Greed has replaced charity and philanthropy. Greed is selfishness, the stated opponent to great achievement in Hill's book. "NO, don't look at that line. I will believe in my mind that that line doesn't exist. It was never written. It is disappearing now... poof, it's gone."

When are we going to legislate a limit to greed? This was my original thought when looking at Apple's value. How much more money can they make while people are flat broke? Should any company be allowed to hoard half a trillion dollars of worth while the majority of people on the earth are poor or working their asses off just to get by? It seems to me the obvious answer is no. Now let's follow Napoleon Hills advice and batter our minds into believing this and achieving some sort of solution! Like maybe a ceiling on corporate profit at which point they enter the 100% tax bracket. And a complete, and equitable restructuring of taxation and government use of tax money so the massive influx of corporate tax won't just be re-routed straight back to them.

It's a huge mountain to climb, but if we just conceive and believe, we can achieve it. Napoleon Hill says so.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Little Blue Blogging

The following will include coarse language. If you are highly sensative to that sort of thing, you've been warned.

I see good signs in the world. I think a lot of them are brought on by the once bitten twice shy phenomenon coupled with the extraordinary information repository called the internet. People get lied to, ripped off, cheated and treated like dog poop all the time. Not the hard stuff that's easy to scoop either. I'm talking about dog fed from the table dog poop. I mean the abandoned burrito-eating dog poop. The steaming, smudge the grass, smell it all the way across the yard, pooper scooper staining dog poop. Who likes that? Nobody, that's who! Yet we all have been treated like that directly or indirectly. For a long time. Whether we've noticed or not.

*** At this point I will have to ask anyone in the billionaire class to stop reading my blog because this has never happened to you. But it is high time it did. With any luck it WILL happen soon. But please stop reading now. Adios, Scrotie McGoldbrickers! ***

We've all been told the fairy tales designed to keep us working and consuming while not really getting anywhere. Like wealth will trickle down. Survey said... BZZZT! Fell for that one and don't believe it any more. In fact we the unvarnished have our own saying and at the risk of overscatologizing my blog I shall now type it: "Shit rolls downhill." No money, just shit. And not the hard stuff that's easy to scoop either. The half roll of toilet paper, stain the bowl, courtesy flush, chocolate soft serve type you might have after chicken wings and beer. So it doesn't really "roll" it sort of creeps like a landslide or molten lava. One might even say SHIT trickles down, but not wealth. Certainly not wealth. We've fallen for that placebo before.

Then there are the placating phrases and cliches that have outlived their misdirecting efficacy such as "tax shelter," "government," "bank," "capitalism," and so on. I read recently that we know of 199 B-B-B-Billion dollars of Canadian money being hidden in the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, Barbadoes and places like that with "relaxed" banking regulations. Those places continue to exist BECAUSE OF those regulations! We're not idiots! We know that for all the money we know of there is a lot that we don't as well. These places are the playgrounds of the super rich. They ain't cheap!

Government... Is that even happening any more? Are we being governed or exploited? Most countries nowadays are run exactly like corporations. Bring up the fact that there is at least 199 billion Canadian bucks not bing taxed and how much good the tax on that money could do for Canadians, (if tax money were actually used to help Canadians), and some jagoff will pipe up and say that according to corporate, and much more ambiguously, capitalist definitions, those money hoarding corporations as well as the governments who allow them to stash that filthy lucre away, have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders and electorate respectively to do exactly what they are doing. A shark is a shark. Corporations and capitalism are both designed to concentrate all efforts on one thing: money. "Capital" means money, folks. Buddhism is a lifetime devotion to Buddha. Taoism is when you give your life to the pursuit of the "tao" or the "way." So what, then, is capitalism, Grasshopper? "Capitalism is capitalism." "It's just business." Heard the shit outta that... tired of it... how 'bout let's change it? Duh? Hiding money overseas so it won't be taxed is illegal. Bam! New law. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. While we're at it let's patch up all the gaping holes available to the rich in the Canadian tax code and let's make sure what is supposed to be done with tax money IS what is done with tax money.

And where do banks fall into this web of deceit? They're not banks. They're loan sharks. A shark is a shark. Government, banks and corporations are highly glorified gangsters. "You need us to govern you or something bad might happen in your neighbourhood." I can just see Harper confronted about this 199 billion in the voice of Fat Tony from the Simpsons, (and Joey Zasa from the Godfather, Joe Montegna), saying, "Tax shelter? What is tax? What does shelter mean?"

You might ask, "If it's really that simple, how can they get away with it?" Well for years all it took was a reasonable control on radio, newspaper and TV to make sure we were more interested in the Brady Bunch to notice what was going on. Now, with easy access to all kinds of damning information a mouse click away, things had to literally get more complicated. Bury the average citizen in a mountain of paperwork every time he/she has to apply for a job, drive a car, go fishing, buy a house, build a house, improve a house, vote, get a bank account, travel, get married, pay taxes... take a shit!!!! and they are so awfully tired of paperwork, they just won't have the time, energy or inclination to read your 1500 page tax code and find out that taxes are illegally levied; or read any of the giant "omnibus" bills, ( "omnibus" is Latin for thick enough to choke a mule ), and find the sneaky, little addendums or riders or whatever they're called that DE-protect Canadian waters or get us into a 99-year economic enslavement deal with China. Combined with the longer workweeks Canadians need to put in to stay in the black, the gangsters who own us probably thought they were safe for a while longer.

But people are finding out! The internet is power! Gee, wonder why governments are in such an all fired hurry to get control of THAT too! But it ain't gonna happen! This is a spectacular speech given by, gasp, a politician from parliament discussing how transparent the C-51 anti-terrorism, control the people by manufacturing fear bill is. If we don't want to sacrifice our Canada, our birthright, our "home and native land," to the money-grubbing capitalists and make it easier for them to ravage it, we're now "enemies of the state." So what do you do to enemies of the state if you're a dispicable group of gangsters? Well, it's difficult and costly to kill them. Creating wars isn't as easy as it used to be. And in Canada, it's really a tough sell. So you throw money at them. Taxpayer's money cuz you've collected WAAAAAAYYY too much of it! And STILL there are heroic groups of Canadians who are saying, "Nope. Been down this road before. Not happening again. Take your money and shove it up the hole in your soul." I absolutely loved reading THIS story! Those guys, the Lax Kw'alaams aren't too far from Smithers. Homeboys! Woot! Turned down 267,000 bucks apiece to give a big old fuck you to Malaysian energy company Petronas. And the Harper government who were no doubt falling all over themselves to expedite the Petronas blight on our pristine, Northern B.C. wilderness.

It's encouraging to see this stuff! Both in Canada and the U.S. Support for Bernie Sanders is gaining momentum. With any luck he'll be the next POTUS and subject the poor American people to the socialist hell of free education, affordable healthcare, equitable taxation, proper care for elderly, vets and the poor, lowering unemployment by improving infrastructure, maybe 4 years or more of reasonable government. He's got all kinds of obvious ideas. That's why he's probably considered and enemy of the state as well. I'd like to see him get in though. I really would. Maybe if Canada could get someone into government like Bernie Sanders, and if we could unfuck all of what Harper fucked, then do the obvious things that need to be done, I'd return to Canada.

Meanwhile I've been in Korea for a month now. Time sure is flying! And speaking of mountains of paperwork to get anything done, I think the Koreans might be following the experts in Canada in this way. I can't get a phone, my own place, a bank account, and definitely a job without following a lot of torturously unnecessary rules. Mostly involving forms filled out and sent somewhere, (along with payment of course), and a healthy waiting period. I have sent away for my criminal record check and hope to get it late this week or early next week. That would be the two weeks I was promised. It did take 5 days for my fingerprints to arrive at the agency that is doing the CRC so I'll allow for that much more time. When I finally get that document I'll be taken seriously by people advertising teaching jobs over here. HOWEVER, I don't yet know of the procedure I'll have to go through to get the proper work visa to do any work here. Since I'm just visiting Korea it's going to be more complicated. I'll probably have to leave Korea for a day to get a visa. Then if it's a kid's camp it might be a different visa than a one-year contract. When I get a one-year contract I may have to do another visa run to Japan or wherever. I'd go down to the Canadian embassy in Korea to ask them what my options are, but the Canadian embassy in Korea, where they deal with this stuff, has been moved to Manila. I've sent them an email asking about all this but as yet have received no reply. This may be why those advertising teaching jobs here prefer people with visas already. That's right, I may have to get a job to get a job!

But I know I can always work at a hagwon. Trouble is, I'd like to work at a college or university. I've been applying to those jobs but they all start in Sept. I'd like to work at a hagwon or part time gig until September but most of those places want one year contracts or people who already have one year contracts. The camps want people already working here or people who are in other countries. It's easier to do the visas. GGGRRRRRRRR!!!!

So the plan is to get my CRC, scan that bad boy, then submit it to as many jobs as I can including jobs I've already applied to and recruiters, and see what happens. I'm positive I'll get lots of offers to teach triple splits from 5 AM to 10 PM working with kindy and elementary kids for 1.5 million a month 60 hours a week. But I'll try to find something a little bit better than that. I think I'll be able to work at YBM or Pagoda hagwons but they'll want me for the entire year and may not let me break the contract if I get a uni. job in September. I am hoping things will work out soon though because I am sliding deeper and deeper into debt every day here.

I'm having fun here though. My friends have been really great! They're keeping me entertained. I know they'd like to see my freeloading arse get working as much as I would though.

As far as Indonesia goes, I am still a few weeks away from work there. They still want me but since almost anything over here would be preferable in many ways, the second I get a halfway decent job offer I'll forget all about Indonesia and Wall Street. Although, I just might apply to Wall Street here in Korea. That would be hilarious! I'll let you all know when I get the CRC and start doing interviews. Shouldn't be long now...

Sunday, May 3, 2015

What the hell, bro?

What the hell, bro? I find myself regurgitating this classic Jack Black cameo line from "Anchorman" a lot these days. Somebody driving sefishly - What the hell, bro? Some agonizingly tedious bureaucratic procedure - What the hell, bro? Continuing to wait for my KITAS to clear - What the hell, bro? Applying for jobs in Korea that are two tiers below the jobs listed on my resume and not even receiving a PFO e-mail - What the hell bro? If you're asking yourself, "PFO? Just dropping that acronym like I'm supposed to know what it means? What the hell, bro?" It means please fuck off. What most prospective employers, at least the good ones, have been saying to me for years now. That is, if they don't just completely ignore me. I much prefer PFO to being ignored. I take the time to restructure my resume for what you ask for in your job ad; I personalize the cover letter citing everything I think you are looking for; I include all appropriate documents; I send a sample lesson of my own making and an outline of an entire curriculum I have designed; I tailor all aspects of my application to your specifications taking several hours of my time and I get nothing. What the hell, bro?

I've been told it's because I am not including a criminal record check that is less than 6 months old in my application packages. This is a new thing here. Time was in Korea when a worker held at least a few of the cards in the deck. No more. Now the ESL institutes here in Korea receive so many applications that employers can look through and see if the applicant has every last piece of documentation and can work instantly before they give him/her any indication at all of their interest. I am told I can procure said criminal record check in two weeks. I'm a mere two weeks away from legal employability in this country. Surely if they look at my qualifications and call me in for an interview, that combined with whatever decision time they require would be more than two weeks so I would be all papered up before such time as they need me to be. Instead the people who check all the application emails are saying, "No recent criminal record check - delete." What the hell, bro?

But I can't pretend things have ever been that easy on the employment front in Korea or anywhere. It's the multi-buffer system every business seems to employ nowadays. Regular Joe Blows are the ones who invariably suffer the consequences of the accidental/on purpose unnecessary inconveniences in the work world. You go to your supervisor with a problem that is empirically wrong and has a no-brainer solution and that supervisor always shrugs his/her shoulders, puts his/her arms out like the sacrificial whipping boy he is and says something placating like, "You are one hundred and one percent right," followed by something corporate like, "... but I haven't been given the power to make this change," or "... this is not within my occupational purview," or "... I wish I could help." Then goes back to other buffering responsibilities. You get really indignant and go to that person's supervisor despite being strictly forbidden from doing so. That person usually isn't as angry at your uppety attitude. I've done this before. The reason being, he/she spent many years as the first buffer before solidifying the job as the second buffer. Her skills are impeccable. "Well I am very glad you came to me with this issue and you can rest assured that the company is very interested in the comfort and happiness of each and every one of our employees. This is an issue that needs to be dealt with and I personally commend your perseverence and sticktoitiveness. The company looks favourably upon self-starters and those with initiative. This will be a benefit to your record. Now, it is against company policy for you to seek an audience with me personally but I will allow it this one time, given the gravity of you circumstances. I will personally see to this matter. Please let my assistant show you out and I hope that we will have no need for future encounters such as this. Thank you for your valued input." Then she does absolutely nothing about it and depends on you being too afraid to confront her again.

But you go one better and talk to HER supervisor. He suggests a beer. You go out and get a little bit drunk with him and he says, "Dog gone it you, my boy, you are on the fast track to success in this here company of ours! It took real balls to come into my office today and that's what we like here at Blahblahblah industries. Balls, my boy and you've got huge ones. I don't want you wasting any more of your time in the lower echelons of Blahblahblah industries when you have skills we can use in the next level." He offers you a raise, a better office and a job shrugging your shoulders and appologizing for your inability to help with anything. And of course no solution to your situation. THIS is what we have to aspire to in the corporate ratrace of today. THIS is what's called moving up in the world. What the hell, bro?

No matter what school I go into here and no matter how high up a person I can gain access to, if I tell them to just look at my qualifications and forget just for a second that I don't have a criminal record check, they'll just give me the "it's against company policy" shrug and bufferage. I can pull out the logic bombs of, "How could a Canadian CRC be of any use since I haven't been there for the past year and HERE is a CRC from the year before that saying my record in Canada is clean?" Or I can dazzle them with something nobody in Korea has taken the time to find out: a name-based CRC, which is cheaper and easier to acquire, is just as good. If it came back negative there are no crimes of any kind attached to my name. Only if it comes back incomplete is there a need to do the time-wasting fingerprint-based CRC to search mostly for crimes committed as a minor, or the ones Korea is concerned with, crimes committed against a minor, for which names are hidden to protect the innocent. I could even tell them that I have an agency guaranteeing me delivery within 14 days and their ad said the starting date isn't for another month or two. I will definitely have the CRC before then. It does me no good to tell anyone in a buffer zone about this flaw in their policy that will cost them a chance to hire a very good teacher. It appears that even the short term, part time jobs want people who are already in possession of a valid visa or at least have all their documentation in order. I will just have to blog about this, and get on with life.

So that's what I'm doing. I'm trying a different route. I've been visiting friends to see if I can't find me an inside man, someone who has some associations with an educational facility or two, someone who knows the spectacular teaching gifts I have to bestow upon a lucky employer and someone who is not just a buffer and will realize that all I'm looking for is a place that will give me some consideration NOW and if they like me they can hire me AFTER I get this cursed CRC. Unfortunately, it's hard to bust into the finely honed university buffering systems like that but I have agents and friends making inquiries as we speak into a job teaching kids. I've taught kids at camps and public schools here and met people in school boards who would be more than happy to employ me longer term if the situation arose. I'm just hoping the situation will arise.

In the mean time I've been enjoying myself doing some of the things I never had the chance to do while I was here. I had a really fun, musical night in I Tae Won with my drummer buddy Dwayne and my other fellow Canadian friend Lance and his band. They rocked the Thunderhorse, which Dwayne owns. I've rocked with the LRD band before but the Thunderhorse was new to me. I went to the National Museum with Mike, Heather and family. I dunno why or how I could have been here 10 years without doing that, but I was. It was pretty cool. I did a trivia night and sports with Amber. That was great! Guns, Ju Ok and I watched our beloved Kia Tigers WIN a dramatic game in the late stages at their new Champions Stadium. Not crazy about the stadium name but loved the game. And yesterday I met Gun's sister and her family and we all went wandering around the green tea fields of Bosung. Then had sam gyup sal, shrimp, sausage and potatoes on the barbecue while listening to music and playing with the kids. I even got to watch the Pac-man/Money fight on Korean TV. They get these fights on regular TV here. Have for a long time. So while people were going to bars or paying 100 bucks on pay per view at home, I watched on TV and paid nothing. And got my money's worth. Almost. What the hell, bro? Those guys didn't even need to shower after that fight! I've seen better hockey fights! Imagine how ripped off people who attended felt! I heard tickets were up to half a million bucks! What a travesty!

All my friends have been extremely hospitable and they have kept me well fed, watered and washed. I hope I can do the same for them someday. But I gotta get me a job first. It seems to be getting harder to do as I get more and more experience. What the hell, bro?

Still no updates on the visa situation in Indonesia. If I dont end up finding work here it will have been a nice, refreshing vacation and I will be energized for another year in Indonesia. If I can find something here in Korea that looks more permanent, then I'll have to decide whether or not to just scrap the whole Indonesian odyssey. But we'll blow up that bridge when we come to it. Further updates as events warrant.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Home to Korea

Well I'm back in the land of kimchi, soju and blazing fast internet! I've been in Korea almost a week now and already my body is thanking me for it. One solid year of being hot and sweaty is not good for a guy with what more than one Korean has called, "weak skin." Oddly enough because of its white, almost transparency, I've had more than one offer to trade skins made to me by a Korean with blemishless, brown skin that will forever be only a dream to me. I guess it's gotta be a case of the grass always being greener.

At any rate all signs of the rash I got on my weak, white skin while I was sick, sweaty and feverish a month or so ago have finally disappeared. I have slept through the entire night a few times because I didn't wake up sweaty and uncomfortable. It's nice and cool here! My co-favourite season in Korea is spring. It's tied for my fave with fall. I wish every day could be like yesterday. Amber and I went for a walk around the city of Incheon to Inha University where she works and we tried to play tennis but because I didn't think to pack the proper tennis playing footwear, we got booted off the courts and had to settle for playing catch with the baseball. But just being out for a few hours in the sun, moving around, actually exercising without sweating like the pilot from Airplane!, what a pleasure!

Doing something sporty, also a pleasure! The closest I got to that in Indonesia was the weightroom at Gandaria Apartments. But it hasn't been all sleeping and playing. I've put my name in for dozens of part time and full time jobs around here but Korea always has its surprises. They went and made it even more difficult to get a job over here. At least for Canadians. I knew that to get a job here I'd need a criminal record check but what I didn't know is how hard it would be to get one. I remember my last year in Korea all I had to do was get fingerprinted from a local Korean police station on the proper RCMP fingerprint form, which you needed to download and print out from the RCMP website. In fact I didn't even do that. I just got the Korean cops to fingerprint me on one of their forms. Even though it was all in Korean, it was fine. And the cops were friendly and glad to do it for free. After that I had to download the application for the CRC from the RCMP website and fill it out. Then I had to get a certified check. Impossible to do now for me in Korea because you need a bank account and to get one of those you need an alien registration card. To get the ARC I need a job. Can't get a job cuz no CRC and in order to get that I need a certified check, which I can't get because.... Ah, we meet again, Korean Catch 22! No worries, I doubt I'd be able to find a place to get a certified check in Canadian currency anyway. I remember THAT was a real challenge last time I tried.

Back in 2010 I had an alien registration card so I got the check and sent the application. I seem to remember the check being for 130 bucks. That was including faster mail. Only drawback, and the reason I had to leave Korea, was that it took almost 5 months even with the faster mail. It arrived too late to use for my visa application for a job at Dongshin University. So I decided to go back to Canada. It wasn't more than a couple days late otherwise I think I may still be working here in Korea, possibly at Dongshin University. But the hand of Fate would have it otherwise...

So NOW, since September of 2014, Canada has decided to make things easier for people seeking CRC's. Uh-oh. You KNOW what happens when the government does anything "for your convenience." They have now instituted a fingerprint digitizing rule and chosen some RCMP approved companies to do the digitizing. So instead of sending the originals to the RCMP, you send the originals to one of the approved digitizing companies, and give them their fee for the service, OF COURSE. Then they send them to the RCMP. Somehow you pay the RCMP to convert your newly digitized fingerprints into a fingerprint-based criminal record check and mail it back to you. Plus you pay the RCMP their fee for doing that, OF COURSE. THEN, you send the whole works to a friend or family member who has absolutely nothing better to do and would be only too delighted to run in to the one Korean embassy located VERY close to his/her house and get the criminal record check notarized by the Korean consular general she/he finds there. And, OF COURSE, don't forget about his share of the whole scam, I mean process. All in all it's considerably LESS convenient, and let's face it, that's what the government is for, and considerably more expensive. I am probably wrong but "digitizing" just means photocopying, scanning, taking a pic with your smartphone or somehow turning them into a digital picture that can be sent electronically. I'm sure most of us have the technology easily available to do that but when I asked the guy at one of these digitizing places he, of course trying to justify his existence, said, "Oh no, that pixellates them and makes them unusable for the RCMP computer." Is it me? Does this sound like total BULLSHIT to anyone else?

OR, you could get fingerprinted and send the prints along with a filled out RCMP CRC request form to one of these newly formed businesses that do all this for Canadians who are in Korea and finding it impossible to get all this tedius, anal, unnecessary BULL SHEEIT done back in Canada. I found one called "Reliability Screening." It will only cost me 400 dollars to have this done! Yay! And then there is no guarantee that I'll find the job I want in the 6 months that this thing will do me any good. If I don't get a job in 6 months, the CRC becomes unacceptable here in Korea and I have to do this MERDE DE LE VACHE all over again. Even if I find a job at the 5 month and 29 day mark, we go to immigration at the 6 month and one day mark, they will say, "Cannot. Must be less than 6 months old."

But here's the fun part: I've been sending resumes out all over the place to all kinds of jobs. Some that might be wishful thinking but many that I think I'm almost overqualified for. And nothing. Absolutely nothing. I finally got an email from the director of adult studies at YBM, a major private school chain in Korea, a guy named Greg, and he said places get so many resumes nowadays that nobody even looks at your application package unless it has all the required documentation including the CRC that's less than 6 months old. And even THEN you're just in the running, there's no guarantee you'll get anything.

FURTHERMORE, I've had criminal record checks done for every job I've had for the past 20 years in Canada, Japan, and Korea. This last year I've been in Indonesia where it's awfully difficult to commit a crime in Canada. It's the only year of my adult life I haven't documented with multiple official RCMP criminal record checks. In fact, and I have no idea what this means, some of my security guard checks were higher level criminal record checks than the ones done for work in Korea.

All of this means exactly nothing to anyone. People need my money. I can't work anywhere without paying someone for the job. Money trumps reason every time. Why can't we stop being dicks to each other? Why does everything like this require diving into and swimming through olympic sized swimming pools full of BULL SHIT???

Okay, I'll move on. Another thing that sort of surprised me, but not really, was my phone. It's a little, low tech, 2G Nokia. I was pretty sure I'd be able to just buy a new simcard for it here and I'd be reachable by friends or prospective employers. I might even be able to keep the same number. But I went with Amber and with DB, (the two folks who hath fed, clothed and yay they didst giveth unto me succor in my destitution), to several phone shops who all said they don't have 2G simcards. The one at the airport said there are none in the country any more. One place we went to the girl behind the counter instantly started giggling when she saw my trusty, yellow Nokia. I was expecting that, but not expecting the total lack of service for stupidphones. Nothing but smartphones here I guess. But I haven't given up. I know Yongsan electronics market will have something! At least they will if it's like it was when I was last there. Things change. I might not even be able to get a cheap pair of glasses at Nam Dae Moon! I sure hope so cuz the glasses I have, which were bought there for less than 20 bucks frames, lenses and eye exam, are old, worn out and the wrong prescription.

Anyway, I'm headed to Seoul tomorrow and hope to maybe solve some of these problems. I'll visit Heather and Mike and family. Can't wait to meet Iryna and Kelly! Then I'll do a bit of a visit slash job hunt with friends in the area and see if I can't come up with something temporary or even something more long term. I might be able to drop into a hagwon or two and ask them the best way to solve my CRC issues. They might know a few tricks.

John from Wall Street told me that I need to hang in for about two more weeks here and Wall Street will pay my way back to Indonesia and get me set up and working there. But he's been saying that for 3 months. I'll believe it when I see it. Until then I'll have to treat Korea as my new place of residence and keep on trying to get some work here.

Any help would be much appreciated.

Updates will follow as events warrant.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ward of Wall Street

For any who read my Friday the 13th post from back in February, in it I said that I had signed contracts with Wall Street almost two months ago. So I think it was either late December or early January when I signed on to work at the same place at which I started this Indonesian Odyssey almost a year ago. You see, I have many reasons to like Wall Street. This may sound like overcompensation for misery, but even though they brought me over here under false pretenses; even though they kept from me the fact that I'd be working illegally on a business visa instead of legally working on a proper work visa; even though instead of a year of legal work I only got two months of illegal work from them, I was happy working there and I was impressed with the corporate responsibility the company showed to all the foreigners with business visas they had to let go. I was offered, (and was told that all the other teachers were offered the same), either a job at another Wall Street in another country, or a plane ticket home. I had only just arrived a month before this offer was made so I didn't want to turn around and go back to Canada. And though I contacted several different Wall Streets in other countries, I wanted to stay in Indonesia. Besides, a ticket to Calgary would have cost the company a couple thousand bucks. Why not take a job here and save them some dough? I was offered a job and a proper work visa, (KITAS), by English Today. The owner said I'd have it in a couple of months and then I'd be working legally here. Which is what I came over for.

I worked for several months with English Today and the boss gave me several reasons why he had to postpone the application for my KITAS. Because of this and the nature of the job, too much Jakarta traffic time and not enough teaching time/salary, I phased myself out of the company and started freelancing. As a freelancer I had to be careful of advertising online or posting ads in apartment buildings or places of prominence because either could increase my chances of being caught working without the proper visa, blacklisted so I couldn't work again in Indonesia, and deported or even thrown in jail. Indonesian jail. So I kept my client list small. This kept my profits small, but I was able to pay the bills. Barely.

The signing of the new contracts with Wall Street and the insistence of everyone I talked to there that I would be getting my KITAS soon and working legally again soon was something I didn't hide from my clients. I was honest and told them I could only teach temporarily. I gave them the timetable Wall Street gave to me. For this reason some of my students cancelled when my KITAS was supposed to come in. But it didn't come in and I had to renew my business visa again. Although I was contracted to work at Wall Street, they told me that they don't pay for outbound flights. It's a policy of their's. I found that odd considering every foreigner working here when Wall Street got busted for bringing us over on business visas was offered outbound flights to other Wall Streets in other countries or back to their countries of origin. I also know that during the many years they had practiced this illegal, but very common business tactic over here, it often took more than two months to get workers the proper visas so they paid for visa renewal runs to Singapore, which included the outbound flight to Singapore, not just the flight back. See the business visa lasts for a year, but needs to be renewed every 60 days. NOT every two months, as I learned the hard way.

Anyway, I renewed my visa back in mid February. I had to go into debt to do it, but got 'er done. I was told at the airport immigration gate that that renewal, (my 4th), would be my last. He suspected that I had been working illegally on the wrong visa. Why else would anyone spend that length of time in Indonesia on a business visa. I lied to him and said I had been going to meetings and receiving training. I also had to do things like go for physical check-ups and there had been many delays in the process. For instance my first medical check-up was deemed unsatisfactory so I had to go get another one. I told him what I had been told by Wall Street: that I would definitely receive my KITAS before this new 60-day renewal expired. He reluctantly believed me but told me that it was unlikely that I would be allowed back into the country on anything BUT a KITAS. For instance if, at the end of the new 60 days, (April 18th), I tried to re-enter Indonesia on a tourist or visitor visa, it would be denied. When that happened I would be blacklisted and unable to ever work in Indonesia again. I told him I would get my KITAS soon. So I was allowed back into Indonesia.

For the past almost 60 days I have been VERY anxiously awaiting my KITAS and working very few hours due to more cancellations and the inability to sign new students because I would soon be working for Wall Street and have to cancel our classes. So the money wasn't exactly rolling in. I was generously offered a place to stay by one of my students and that saved my bacon because I couldn't have made rent payments if he hadn't, but it also eliminated another paying client. The maid who cleans three times a week at the apartment where I live is making double what I am right now. Maids here make notoriously low wages. But I kept waiting for Wall Street and trusting that the KITAS would come soon.

I got a text from John, from Wall Street, a little while ago saying, "Good news! We are now in the final stages of your KITAS! It should only be about one more month!" I didn't have a month left on my visa. In fact I think he sent this message to me around the end of March or beginning of April when I had less than 3 weeks left on it. So I sent back a reply asking what we would do if I didn't get the KITAS before my visa ran out. I told John that I didn't have the money for another visa run to Singapore and that I doubted I'd be able to do one. It took several days before I really got a response to this. I guess Wall Street didn't see the urgency. John said they'd look into it and look into paying for another visa run or if that wasn't possible maybe doing something else. Then I waited some more.

I sprinkled a little more urgency into my text messages, emails and phone calls and finally just a few days ago I got an email from John suggesting that our best course of action would be for me to go to another country for a couple three weeks, up to a month until the KITAS was processed. Then Wall Street would pay my way back, sign me up, get me a place and give me start-up allowance like they had last year when I first started working for them. How was I supposed to afford this if I couldn't even afford a visa run?

So I called John up and got a bit MORE forceful with my words. I mentioned that Wall Street had offered me a ticket back to Canada as reparations for what they had done illegally bringing me over here and misleading me into believing I'd be working a year legally when in fact I only worked 2 months illegally. That hasn't changed. I am still here for that reason. Why can't they offer me a similar type of reparation NOW in the form of a ticket to Korea and some money to spend while I'm there for a month. The ticket home would have been at least 2 thousand. I suggested a thousand for the month in Korea. I have to admit, while having this conversation I really wished I had taken that plane ticket, cashed it in and used the money to help me through the very lean ensuing 10 months.

Well John got into the fact that I had taken another job. Yeah, which I said saved Wall Street a couple grand. It didn't remove their ethical responsibility or liability towards me. I was just doing something that would have saved them money is all. So John said he didn't want to play the blame game. I told him that I had interviews and meetings and phone calls with SEVERAL of the businesses over here in Indonesia that I could have worked for and every one of them wanted to just hire me on my business visa. I KNOW it's not really all that unethical or evil or whatever, and if I thought it was I wouldn't be re-applying to Wall Street. But I DO think they still have a responsibility, morally, ethically, logically and legally towards me. I am still, until I get working legally over here, a virtual ward of Wall Street.

So then John mentioned that it would be a hard sell to convince the HR and Finance departments at Wall Street to give me money to go to a country where I have worked and lived for so many years. Pay is better, food is better, technology is incomparably better, weather is better, job is better, so many things are better there and I'm used to them. Not to mention I have lots of friends in Korea. He said Wall Street would worry that I'd just take the money and stay in Korea. He suggested I just borrow from friends. So I said that I had been here less than a year. How many friends of less than a year do YOU have who would hear you ask, "Hey, buddy old pal... Could I borrow a few hundred bucks so that I can leave the country where you are and make it really difficult for you to collect it?" and then start shelling out the money. It'd be a very tough sell to even old friends. But I feel Wall Street should do this for me. Not just because of their corporate responsibility towards me, forget that and let's just think logically. I know when you get a large, segmented business and you try to mix reason and money this is hard to do but let's look at this for a second. Wall Street has already paid a couple hundred bucks for my medical checks and they've paid for the KITAS to get processed. I think that's a thousand or two. Not to mention all the time. If I can't find a loan and Wall Street doesn't pay I can't work. The company will have to hire someone else, maybe bring them over from another country and pay for a new visa and plane ticket. Paying for me to go to Korea for a month will actually SAVE them money!

He didn't think they'd see it that way so I said then how about just LENDING me the money. I'll be working here and they could just take the money out of my paychecks. So finally John agreed to talk to the higher-ups and see if they'd agree to help me out. That was the morning of my birthday. I waited all day on pins and needles for his reply.

My friend, Mr. Yoo, came over to take me out for a Korean feast on my birthday and a few beers. While we were discussing my situation I got the message from John saying that corporate had declined my request. Boy did THAT put a damper on the festivities!

So now I'm shopping around for a ticket to Korea. I found one on Air Asia that's going to be about 400 bucks. Including other travel expenses I need about 500 bucks. If I don't find it I will overstay my visa and forfeit my ability to work in this country. I will also be forced to find the money to allow them to deport me. Wall Street won't even LOAN me the money so that I can avoid this massive disaster and earn them whatever they would make from a year of my teaching. Where the hell did that corporate responsibility go? 10 months ago they were all appologetic offering me jobs and plane tickets and money... now they won't even give me 500 bucks to keep me out of jail. For a crime THEY committed. And this is Indonesian jail we're talking here.

I have friends I can stay with in Korea and borrow money from there. I think I'll be able to extremely reluctantly borrow the money from some friends to pay for the ticket. Believe it or not I STILL think that if Wall Street gets my KITAS and calls me back from Korea I will go because I have signed contracts and I don't break contracts. But MAN am I ever thinking hard about just staying in Korea now! The problem with that is I'm at least a month away from legal work in Korea because I need a criminal record check for that. The only work I could find in Korea for the next month would be illegal and that what I've been trying to avoid for the past year! Again, I can't for the life of me figure out why Wall Street won't help me out here knowing all of this. I'm starting to suspect that maybe THEY don't think my visa will be approved and they just don't have the stones to tell me. This is their amazingly irresponsible way of getting rid of me.

I've contacted the Canadian Embassy here and a couple other organizations that help Canadians overseas but they cannot intervene in issues of immigration, visas, national autonomy and so on and so forth. All they can do is ensure that I'm treated okay while I'm languishing in prison. A couple agencies, however, DID provide a list of lawyers here in Jakarta who deal with matters such as these. If I don't get my KITAS and go back to work for Wall Street, or maybe even if I do, they told me that I have legal recourse. I don't know if it would be worthwhile because it seldom is, but it might be something to look into. The problem I can forsee with THAT course of action would be that I can't afford a lawyer either. And if I could find one to work without pay, any settlement I might be able to get would most likely just be enough to cover his/her salary. This has been my experience with the law in Canada, never mind what might be the case over here! It would probably be handled the way things are handled over here. I'd most likely get hooked up with the law firm of Rush, Rush and Delay.

So that's what's going on now. What would my life, or this blog, be without all my travel drama?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sometimes I wish you would stop talking about freedom of speech

I get up early around here. Like around 8. To me that's early considering I don't have to get up for anything. I just bounce outta bed like when I was a kid wondering what the world had in store for me. The other day I got up, did some laundry, had some coffee, checked the hockey scores and watched a bit of the Canuck game. I started to get hungry and realized there was nothing in the house. So I decided to go down to Lotte Mart to get some groceries. I didn't realize what time it was. It was only 9:30 and Lotte Mart doesn't open till 10:00.

But I wasn't the only one. There were lots of people waiting outside the rolling, garage-type doors that were still closed. Most of the doors are just like horizontal bars so you can see what is going on inside. I expected to see people stocking shelves or mopping floors or readying the place for the customers. I was amazed by what I saw instead. Easily 100 employees lined up across the entire width of the store from entrance to entrance at the checkout counter floor standing there listening to some young, thin dudes. One was wearing a hip hop style oversized, flat brimmed ball cap, a tight tanktop and some kind of wrist scarf thingy. If he wasn't gay I'm Bill Gates. You know when you hear someone speaking a language and even though you may only understand one of every ten words, you can tell he's gay? There's regional accents, linguistic accents and then there's the gay accent. And intonation and exaggeratedly effeminate gesticulation. Anyway, I really didn't need the last four lines. I could have just said, he, and his cohorts, were aerobics instructors. There they were readying the troops for their morning dancing. A one and a two and a "players gonna play play play play and haters gonna hate hate hate hate, shake it off, I shake it off!" And almost all the hundred or so employees danced right along with these thin but muscly dance leaders. It wouldn't have been such a sight, I don't think, if it weren't for the hijabs. About 2/3 of the female employees were wearing the Lotte uniform and their Muslim headware and they were dancing right along with Taylor Swift and the Lotte wake-up beatboys.

While in Korea and Japan I had seen the morning rituals such as these designed not just to wake up the employees and get the blood flowing in the ones who stayed up too late or might be hungover. It's a sort of company membership exercise in which you can show your loyalty and probably be rewarded for doing so. But never with the hijab. I had heard that music and dancing were frowned upon by the religion of Islam. That they were idle pursuits. But there these gals were not just dancing but mouthing the words to the song as well. Having fun! And I enjoyed watching them.

On a similar note, today while walking home from teaching Ah In and Jooh Ah, I saw something even MORE shocking! I was going up a flight of stairs to get into the mall which my apartment is attached to and coming down the stairs was a young, Muslim chick with what I thought was an ingenius use for her hijab. She had her cell phone tucked into it and was blabbing away to someone totally hands free! Like this:

My point is I like to see people who believe in God. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I think even my atheist friends would agree. It's when you get dogmatic leaders who think that any variance, no matter how slight, in the religious routines is deterioration rather than adaptation. Those are the extremist creators. Those are the people who give religions bad names. People change. Times change. Cultures change. EVERYthing changes. Why can't religions change too? Well, they can. Do you know how even MORE messed up our world would be if all religions practiced the laws of their respective churches without ever changing? Here's an example: Football would be a different game. Christians are forbidden from eating or touching the flesh of pigs. Can't touch the pigskin. No post T.D. point to the heavens. Those guys would be playing some other sport. No kneeling in the endzone for a quick prayer after scoring either. No locker room pre-game prayer. No Teebowing! Hockey would be different too. There was a time when a mullet haircut was known as "hockey hair." But Christians are technically not supposed to round off the side growth of their hair. Whatever the heck that means. As I often am, I am reminded of the Simpsons. The episode where Burns hired major league ball players to play in the company softball game vs. Shelbyville. Burns keeps telling Don Mattingly he looks like a hippy and to get rid of his sideburns. Mattingly shaves both sides of his head but it still doesn't satisfy Burns so he kicks him off the team. Remember that one?

At any rate, there are crazy, old laws and rules in practically every religion. I'm glad the Muslims of Indonesia are not all dwelling in the distant past like some extremist would like them to. I'm glad, even though we can't see if they have "hella good hair" under their hijabs, at least those Muslim gals can shake shake shake shake it off, shake it off.

So anyhoo, the doors opened and most of the workers stayed at the front of the aisles. I went in the door by electronics so I had to go all the way across the store to get to the food. EVERY person said, "Salamat pagi," to me! Some bowed extra politely, most smiled. I was saying, "Salamat pagi. Salamat pagi. Good morning. Yeap pagi. Pagi. Pagi. Selamat pagi. Pagi...AAARRGGGHhh!" I just turned down any aisle so I could give these greeters the, ahem, shake. I headed for the beginning of the food. By coincidence, not design, the beer section is at the beginning of the food aisles to that's where I went first. I needed water and beer. But the beer was gone! Water was still there but the beer was gone! So I asked one of the freshly exercised, extraordinarily friendly workers in Indonesian where the beer was. She gave me directions to where I had just come from. I told her in Indonesian that there was no beer there. And, of course, we went to the beer section, which still had no beer and she was as confused as I. So she then said to me that there was no beer. They were fresh out. I had been in the store the day before and there was plenty. I knew they weren't out. She was just not into helping me as much as getting rid of me.

So I started thinking as I thanked her and continued on, that I had heard something about beer being removed from convenience stores like 7-11's and Indomaret and Alphamarts. Maybe this rule was being enforced in Lotte Marts too. But that turned out NOT to be the case. As I searched for a check-out till I saw the beer near the entrance at the spot where the huge line-up for cigarettes was. Indonesians are serious about their smoking. A cigarette company is the richest Indonesian owned company I think. You look around on the streets and you won't look long before you find someone crouched under a tree fiendishly enjoying a smoke. Or some old guys sitting at the table outside 7-11 sucking on some cigs. Their love for alcohol has been slower to develop, however, being unclean in the Muslim religion. But maybe now that it will be more closely associated with cigarettes it might encourage a little extra-religious experimentation. Probably not but maybe.

Anyhoo, where was I going with this? I got my groceries and got some beer and went home. Then I started to think a bit about history. Should we just forget it and move on, remember it and learn from it, or dwell in it? Then I got to thinking about what we have been conditioned by the media to label all willy nilly like, without checking our history, as "terrorism." Should we be calling the people we call terrorists "terrorists?" Or would that change if we threw a little historical perspective into the mix? In fact it's not always "history," I'd say in a lot of cases it's just, "a history," that would change the label somewhat. Maybe to "avengers" or "lynch mobs" or "insurrection squads" or something that still sounds bad but not totally evil. Because, let's face it, if your country was invaded by, let's say Canada, (ha ha), and the Canadians killed your family for no reason other than economics and extraction of natural resources that are the rightful property of the people of your country... then years later, even a generation or two later, you went to Canada, climbed out onto the edge of the CN Tower in Toronto and started throwing handfuls of change, (because you've been in Canada for a week now and you have about three tons of it), which accellerates to massive speeds before hitting innocent Canadians below killing them, would you be called a "terrorist?" You bet your ass you would! By Canadians and Canadian allies. But would you be? Are you committing a completely unprovoked act of violence? Terrorism?

Let me just say, I know you can't kill people that way, it's an old wivestale. It was, what I thought would be a poetic way to kill Canadians. I'd make a bad terrorist, what can I say?

Anyway, first, (and of course by "first" I mean after they killed you), the Canadian authorities and government would find out where you're from. "He's from Lupshevnia? Didn't we kill about a million people there for their shlubodinium deposits? Oh, that's right, 1.5 million. Oh it's coming back to me now. Shlubodinium is highly explosive. We didn't want to risk our expensive machinery and no normal miners would mine the stuff so we forced the Lupshevnians to extract it. The ones we didn't exterminate." Then the damage control begins. "Hello, media? I'll be your best friend if you don't run any references to the Canadian genocide in Lupshevnia for a little while. Oh, all right, I'll give you a million dollars." "Hello, America? I'll be your friend if you help us make an emotional stand against, just a sec... What are we making a stand against? Oh yeah... and emotional rally in support of the railroads of Canada." "No? Oh, all right I'll give you a billion dollars. Great! See you Thursday." "Okay, we'll put the story out that this crazed lunatic, with no provocation or justification, killed Canadians from the CN Tower to protest the CN, (Canadian National), railroad because there were some... what religion was he? Oh yeah... some 7th Day Adventists who worked on the railroad and were mistreated. Then on Thursday we'll get some fellow politicians and pay a handful of local bystanders to have a rally in support of the unification that came through joining the great people of this great country via the construction of the Canadian National Railroad. That oughta do it."

You might think this sort of thing doesn't actually happen, that I'm having a laugh and exaggerating here, but what do we know about the Charlie Hebdo killings? CH was a magazine that printed cartoons and articles mocking the Muslim religion. The "terrorists" were Muslim. Well it must be totally about religion then. Case closed. Religion all on its own is responsible for yet another attrocity in the world. I saw roundtables at the time on the BBC of supposedly smart fellows virtually parrotting this very line of reason. It was momentarily brought up that maybe, just maybe something in French foreign relations and foreign policies might have something to do with this event and the roundtable just said, "Nope. Absolutely impossible. Let's move on." And nobody but me smelled a rat. I was, I admit, wondering if the tragedy could have anything to do with French foreign interests before I saw the roundtable discussion but when these "experts" all agreed French international relations had nothing whatsoever to do with this event, about the only thing they agreed so absolutely about in the whole show, my bullshit metter was red lining.

I made the mistake of bringing it up with some of my atheist friends but was seen as a wet blanket thrown over the roaring fire of anti-religious rhetoric that was gaining ground worldwide at the time. Many people out there wanted religion, or more specifically, Islam, to be the culprit. So much so that it was easy for many important reasons behind the killing of the 17 CH employees to go with the shooters to their graves. There were a couple of things that were mentioned I thought without any of the gravity and "HEY-LISTEN-TO-THIS" that I thought they warranted. The major one was the nationality of the brothers. They were Algerian. At least that's where their parents were from. Look at the history between France and Algeria and you will see terrorism. You will see torture, attrocities, beheadings, attempted genocide, slavery, all of these things we hate committed by the French against the people of Algeria. Why? They just decided to move on into the country and use the land for cotton fields either killing the residents or forcing them to work the fields. This was not a million years ago either! 1830. There are records written by the French generals of the time talking about the only good "Arab," (as they called them), being a dead Arab. One guy said any French soldier who doesn't use the edge of his sword on every filthy Arab he sees will get the flat side of my sword. I'm paraphrasing but something like that. I read about the French trying to force the Muslims to renounce their faith or die. I even saw pictures of French attrocities against the Algerians. THIS, my friends, all done for cotton, the oil of the day, THIS was terrorism. I saw lots of information about how awful the French were to the Algerians during their struggle for independance from the French. I read that the number of people killed was somewhere between 350,000, (a number, not surprisingly, that the French accept as correct), and 1.2 million. Somewhere in between is the probable total but whatever it is, it's a far cry from 17! I read and I wondered... with all those people slaughtered, beheaded, enslaved, tortured, forced to renounce their religion and who knows what else, is it possible for any family from Algeria to have escaped the attrocities of the French altogether? Could any family make the claim that they have no relatives or loved ones that were harmed in any way by the French? I doubted it. Then I thought of the Charlie Hebdo killers. Do you suppose their parents had no stories to tell them about the French attrocities at that time?

I don't think that religion was just incidental and that the CH cartoons had nothing to do with it and that the CH attackers were not wrong for so many reasons for doing what they did, but I re-evaluated the term "terrorist," a little bit. Then I thought about the link to Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen. The fact is this whole thing was reportedly financed by a guy I have written about here before, who was imprisoned for 18 months without a charge, hearing, or any proper due process, radicalized by long-term solitary confinement and after release and involvement with Al-Qaeda in Yemen he was drone bombed again without a charge, a trial or any proof of anything. These are the things that create the mentality in extremist groups, along with personal experiences that are similar, that allow them to do such dispicable acts. The thing about most, "terrorists," is they are killed before the world gets to find out their list of motivations. Not a coincidence, that.

I think history, and past events too recent to be called history yet, should be studied and people should be made aware of the terrorism, the ACTUAL terrorism that has been routinely committed in the past, (and continues in the present), by rich countries against less powerful countries for their natural resources and we need to understand how that translates into the extremist actions that are erroneously called "terrorism." It plays no small part and it would seem almost too obvious to state but if we could put a stop to economic terrorism, which is more wide spread and dangerous than we know, these attrocities committed against rich countries that are immediately labeled as "terrorism" just might come to a stop as well. Too often, I believe, acts of violence are blamed on religion by the people who committed them or people who dislike religion and are readily convinced of its culpability. I'm not saying it never happens. Relax. What I'm saying is I wish we could get at all the causes of what we call "terrorism" nowadays and put a stop to them.

I bring it up because I am still seeing people talking about the Charlie Hebdo incident. Saying how religion is the enemy of freedom of speech. Yes, religion is part of some terrorism. Yes religion can limit freedom of speech. But sometimes I think we should try to concentrate on some of the many issues besides religion and freedom of speech involved in acts of extremism and terrorism around the world. Like shut up about freedom of speech already! We get you! (ar ar)

The Kenyan slaughter of 148 people at Garissa University: Yes, there were people asked if they are Christian and shot because of it so religion is definitely part of it but I really hope the authorities search for all the motivations. Al Shabaab are undoubtedly influenced by recent and historical violence in Somalia and the wide variety of areas the members come from too. Are they motivated solely by religion? Like did all the members find themselves reading the Koran one day then suddenly decide they need to commit extreme acts of violence? It seems to me there might be a step or two in between that turns them into such violent people. But violent people can sometimes be convinced to stop violent behaviour. Even after long traditions of it.

And if you say it could never happen, that people will never forget history, never move on or progress with the times, take a look at the top of this post. It can happen. It happens all the time actually. I think there are some people who just need some very VERY strong encouragement to change. And don't kid yourself, the people motivated by money and greed are the ones who will need the stronger encouregement. You can take THAT to the bank.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

You Are Here

I'll never forget the day I first went to the bus stop just down the road from where I lived with my brother Andy and family in Victoria. Langford to be exact. I was waiting to take the bus to a shift at my new job as a security guard working the 7 PM to 7 AM shift guarding two office buildings and the Save On Foods strip mall. I didn't have the usual experience with vagrancy or poverty-induced crime that one might expect as a bus station story. There was a map of Langford bus routes at this particular bus stop. On the map was a circled star marked, "You are here." On the sidewalk just outside the busdriver shack there was a corresponding circled star marked, "You are here." I saw the pavement circled star before the map circled star and it blew my mind!

"You are here." I remember at first standing there staring at the circled star at my feet and thinking something pretentious to myself, (how bad a person are you if you are self-pretentious?), like, "How existential!" Oh ho ho ho. "Pretentious? Moi?" I chuckled aloud at my rapist wit. (a little Dumb and Dumber to lower the brow of the humour)

But then, as I am wont to do at the beginning of what I am positive will be a long, long night guarding empty buildings and walking empty streets and parking lots, I pulled the starter chord on the old neurons and started hammering this thought around in my head like it was a raquetball... ball... and my skull was a court. "I AM HERE!" (Italics mine) "I'm not anywhere else as far as I know. I'm here. Now. Right here. Right now. And right now you should listen to Eddie Van Halen's guitar solo." Actually in the video, (for Van Hagar's "Right Now"), it says, "Right now you should pay attention to the lyrics." And the lyrics that followed, if I may, were, "Miss a beat, you lose the rhythm. And nothing falls into place. Only missed by a fraction. Slipped a little off your pace. The more things you get, the more you want. Just trade in one for another. Workin' so hard to make it easy. EASY! Woah! Got to turn, come on, turn this thing around right now! Hey, it's your tomorrow. Right now. Come on, it's everything. Right now. Catch that magic moment. Do it right here and now. It means everything."

Yeah! Inspiring! It DOES mean everything! "Why am I working this job I hate, for people I hate and sometimes WITH people I hate?" I thought. "Is THIS my tomorrow? I'm workin' hard but I'm getting 120 bucks for this shift while my boss is getting 5 grand! No matter how hard I work for a prick like that it won't get easy. It'll never get easy. In fact as the cost of living goes up and my salary doesn't, it's just going to get harder." And I was pretty sure being right there, right then I was not going to be catching any magic moments. It was not my tomorrow. I had missed a beat and lost the rhythm. So I turned that thing around and got outta there. Eventually I ended up in Indonesia. I really loved teaching English in Korea but I found myself shooting for a goal that was monetary there. I was making my fortune and not my future. I was pretty sure there were no fortunes to be made in Indonesia and sitting here with about 50 bucks to my name I can honestly say I'm back in the rhythm. Hoping things fall into place.

I also trust that writing will figure largely in my tomorrow. It's my real vocation. Teaching English just pays the bills. JUST pays the bills. This is my work on this earth. It certainly won't strap me with the burden of becoming acquisitive and wanting more and more stuff, replacing one thing with another! I just moved a couple weeks ago. In a taxi! One trip!

So the other day I had a sort of deja vu. I was standing on the streets of Jakarta looking down at my feet as though there were a circled star at them. There wasn't, but where I was and what I was doing right there and then got the old neurons firing. I was waiting to cross the street on the way home from teaching my two seven-year-olds Ah In and Joon Ah. They're so cute! Anyway, there was slow moving traffic stopping me from crossing but I noticed that it did nothing to dissuade the locals from crossing. They just threw up their hands in a combination sorry/thank you wave if the driver stopped, and head protection if the driver did not stop. I was determined to test a theory. Ghandi-like, I waited and waited receiving one odd look after another from the people who had taken their lives in their hands and crossed in front of me. I knew what those looks meant. They were aspectually, (is that a word?), informing me that I should just do what they had done because nobody was going to stop and wave me across. But I have high aspirations for the people of Indonesia. Some of the people of Indonesia might say they're too high, but I remained undaunted. I was determined to give some motorist the uplifting feeling of proffering kindness onto another raising his status from stranger to brother. I've been saying for blogs and blogs that we should all at least try to act more like brothers and less like competitors in this human race. I'll repeat: "Proffering kindness onto another raises his status from stranger to brother." What a wonderful world this would be if we all kept this in mind, no?

I waited and waited...

What does it say about yourself and your culture if you don't expect kindness from other people? Because you expect them to be too selfish to stop and let you cross the street, then catch up to traffic in a few seconds, essentially losing NO time at all on their trip but saving you some time on yours, you actually repay their selfishness with some of your own by jumping in front of them and forcing them to stop for you? Is this what the old pioneers and explorers termed, "unrefined," "uncivilized," even, "savage" behaviour in the people of newly visited lands?

What do we mean when we talk about "civilized" society? Are we talking about refined, well-mannered, well-educated, elegant, erudite, polished, urbane, sophisticated, intrepid, suave, debonair David Nivens or Catherine Hepburns? Or is it something else? Well ask yourself this: would David or Catherine ever jump out into traffic in order to cross a street or elbow their way to the front of a line-up? I submit to you that finishing school and proper breeding notwithstanding, pretty much anybody would do either under the right, (or more to the point, WRONG), circumstances. Would Catherine or David ever blow a fart in public? You fill them up with Indian food and trap them in an elevator I could see either of them lighting up a cigarette, (in a long holder of course), and saying, "I appologize profusely and preemptively for what I am about to do," before gracefully currifying the elevator air. Afterwards there might ensue a truly enlightening discourse on gastro-intestinal functions and their necessity to personal health and well being.

I waited some more...

I'd say it comes down to something as Harper-supporter simple as the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. There are variations of this in every culture and country. It's not a secret. Why then is practically the whole world pretending that the golden rule is "He who has the gold makes the rules?" Why are we working harder and harder for less and less? Isn't this exactly what our forefathers and foremothers worked and fought so hard to insure us against? The people I'm talking about ACTUALLY fought. In wars. Were they fighting for some abstract concept like freedom, justice, or the other crap we're told to think? No. They wanted their kids to have it easy. They figured that by now we'd have so much wealth that we'd all have VERY nice houses, several cars, swimming pools and such and all on the income of a single breadwinner working a 10 hour week. They were dead wrong! Weren't they? Well it turns out they were right on the money. There IS enough for us all to have the good life they worked and fought and died for. In America there's enough for every man woman and child to get over 200,000 a year. Imagine how much that's gonna be if there's only one breadwinner per family!

So what happened? Who highjacked the dreams of our forefathers and foremothers? I want to know why when I live in Canada, for which my ancestors worked and fought many years, why I have to work 7 PM to 7 AM for minimum wage. I'm educated. I'm a good worker. I'm smart. I want to know why I don't have the good life my ancestors earned for me. I want to know why the hell I don't have a swimming pool!!!

I continued waiting as the cars and motorbikes slowly passed.

I thought of Canada. In my country you can stand on a street and expect a motorist to kindly wave you across the street in front of them. In fact I think it's practically a law. At least it's understood and widespread driving etiquette in Canada to do this. Canadians must be a genteel and superior people!

After many years in Asia going back to Canada for a couple years, THIS was one of the hardest things for me to get used to. I would be walking and I'd have a road crossing carefully timed. Right after this car passes in front of me I'll have an opening and I'll make it easily. Then the car slows down and stops completely closing the opening and making other motorists stop on your account unnecesarily. And admit it, Canadian motorists, it may not be the human decency in your soul but actually the rule or the law that makes you stop and wave me across. And while I'm walking you may not say so but I can sense you thinking, "Come on, move it slowpoke! Knees and elbows! Get the lead out, I didn't stop so you could sashay across the street like you're on a catwalk. Yeah I'll wave back to you. You're welcome. You're welcome to hurry the hell up!"

But having said that, I still think it's a positive thing. Even though Canadians mostly do acts of kindness and gentility through force of law or convention, at least we're doing them. And before long we get used to doing them. And isn't that nice for everyone? I don't know how often I really took notice of the manners and courtesy, fake or genuine, that we have the luxury of practicing in Canada. I know they were more appreciated after many years in Asia. But this is not to say I believe Canadians are superior folk, (though I might hee hee), I believe it has a lot to do with one factor that Canada has going for it that most Asian nations don't: proper population density. I don't care what Apu Nehasapimapetilon thinks, ("I've noticed that America is dangerously underpopulated!"), Asian people need to put on a condom once in a while! TOO MANY PEOPLE! And one of the seemingly unavoidable biproducts of overpopulation is the rude, selfish, screw-everybody-but-me driving and walking styles. Is it self-preservation or are people just too lazy to practice common courtesy? Just look at the Chinese!

Oh, and by the way, Canada, take advantage of the common courtesy we have in our country now because discourteous walking, driving, (and other things), styles of other countries are some of the things we get with the massive immigration policies in Canada. What do you think will happen, Canadians will influence newcomers to walk and drive politely or Canadians will be influenced by newcomers to walk and drive like selfish madmen? I wonder if this Thai lady didn't eventually shove her way through to get her refund...

I waited some more. Then I waited some more...

I was at the Lotte Mart yesterday. Right in the mall where I live. It's SO convenient! I don't even have to go outside to get groceries! I went to get butter. That's all. Just butter. It's a far cry from what shopping was before I moved here! I'd make sure the cupboards were empty before shopping. Now I just go for a pound of butter. Half pound even!

So anyway, I see a check out counter with a pretty short line-up and start walking towards it. As I am doing so, a lady in the line-up for the check out counter right beside mine notices the short line. Then she notices me. I don't know if this Indonesian lady had ever played football in her life, probably not, but she was like a running back who saw a hole and she made straight for it like Tony Dorsett. I believe if I had not slowed my pace as she cut in front of me I would have receive a Walter Peyton stiff-arm too! So now I have to grumble under my breath and act like she hasn't committed an etiquette attrocity against my person, and she has to stand in front of me and pretend like she STILL doesn't know I exist. It could have gone differently. We could have met half way to the check out counter and one of us could have acted in a distinguished and unselfish manner offering the spot to the other. Then we could have engaged in conversation. We could have discovered that we both live in Gandaria Heights. Maybe we would have chatted about the facilities and our conversation may have come around to the gym. She would have mentioned that she works out and I would have mentioned tha I do too. We could have become exercise buddies, and, who knows, possibly long-time friends. One simple act of decorum is all that it required.

I was starting to get a little impatient, but waited some more...

I got to wondering how often social connections are sacrificed in modern society on the hollow altar of survival of the fittest. I thought of all the energy expended on the ratrace that we believe is just a sad fact of life but which is just a hamster wheel our owners have put into our cages so they can have the pleasure of watching us waste our time and energy while they get rich. Life doesn't have to be like this. We could have kindness, courtesy, brotherhood, genuine friendships with our neighbours and we could have to leisure time as well as the money to nourish those friendships. All we need to do is expend a fraction of the energy we use now eking out our livings, and put it into some national and international money and resource equitable re-dispersal. It would only take a few really determined and patient people to start a movement such as this. Funneling all the money to the very few people, the super rich, at the top of the capitalism ladder has made this world more stressful, selfish and UNcivilized. We do not behave as gentlemen and gentlewomen to each other as our ancestors wanted. We have progressed backward into a state of perpetual competition with even close friends. Our behaviour to each other is sickening, and it only feeds the very few at the top. Who are the people who will start the revolution we so desperately need? Who will civilize an uncivil civilization?

I jumped out in front of a car flailing my arms and forcing it to stop while saying aloud, "Bunch of savages," and I continued on my way home.